LIST all chapters
READ previous chapter
READ next chapter

20: Shalisa hospitality

In from the sea came adventurous seamen
Down the rough coast People brought their canoes
So came lost wanderers seeking safe refuge
Close by the fine beach their dwellings arose
Here in this place rested Spirits and Old Ones
Those who had always called this haven home
Welcomed the strangers with generous kindness
Bidding them share in the bounty of Bay

grandfather's placeFitz stood on a high promontory, a good wind blowing through his hair, while the five children around him passed his binoculars from hand to hand. A sailboat which had just come into sight at a distance was getting conned and assessed as to generics. Boat watching had become a favourite game for the young people after the flow of waterborne traffic toward the village had been discovered by Fitz and the twins on a climb up a slope which overlooked the water.

     On that occasion the three had immediately noticed that, where only the occasional commercial or pleasure craft had added visual punctuation to the distance before, there was now a more plentiful supply of periods and exclamation marks appearing on the horizon cruising the waters, most of them bound for Shalisa Creek Village.

     The observers were after the exclamation marks!

     The object of their game was to identify the rigs on the sailboats which appeared. They would look through the binoculars while Fitz pointed out to them that sloops have a single mast accommodating a large mainsail, a ketch has two masts—its main mast being taller than the aft mizzen mast—often gaff-rigged like JOLLY ROSE, that a cutter-rigged two-master with its shorter mast well aft, which he called a jigger, was likely a yawl, such as TJUTELA, and... .

     “By golly—see that motor sailer out there just coming into sight? We couldn’t see it before because it was around the point, and it’s obviously not heading for the village. It’s powering under bare poles on a day which is ideal for all sail aloft and, unless I’ve forgotten what she looks like, that’s surely CRUSTY LADY LILY heading for the Gap.”

     There were shouts of delight from the children as the fact was verified by all of them, as each in turn had a look, and the game was immediately forgotten.

     “Oh goody—Aunty Betty and Uncle Bounce!” exclaimed Therése excitedly.

     “How long will it take them to get here do you think?” asked Morgan.

     “Well, depending on how fast they’re pushing it, maybe an hour. Once you get around that shoulder of land you’re just about here—at least by motor. She’s a fast boat if she’s given a chance, and if I know Harry she’ll get one. Sail’s something else.”

     “Oh wowsie!” shouted Walter.

     “Let’s go down and get ready to meet them,” suggested Isabel.

     “Eee-yes!” agreed Therése. “We’ll pick some flowers for them on the way.”

     A fast scramble in the direction of down started, which Fitz tried to control with cautionary remarks of,

     “Not too fast now. We don’t want you falling and skinning your knees again.”

     Nobody slowed down, although there were ‘okays’ thrown back at him. He followed, laughing to himself in defeat, figuring scraped knees and gravel-laced hands were all part of the growing up experience.

     When Bettina and Harry motored past Bay Guardian with a wave of acknowledgement—having learned that this token of respect was expected from old friends—and headed for the barge, the welcoming committee of five children was rowing out in their old dinghy to meet them, raising flowers over their heads and shouting greetings.

     “Hey,” grinned Harry, “This is better than Hawaii.”

     “And the flowers are real,” laughed Bettina. “Hi kids!”

     The children followed along until CRUSTY LADY LILY was being tied up next to LEGER DE MAIN, then, with an expected invitation from the two arrivals, they fastened their painter astern of the motor-sailer and scrambled aboard, mobbing Bettina and Harry with hugs and thrusting the flowers at them with shouts of,

     “Hi Uncle Bounce!” and “Here’s some flowers and a big hug Aunty Betty!”

     “Can’t remember when anybody’s been that glad to see me,” laughed Harry.

     “It’s so good to be back,” said Bettina, as Shiro and Fitz reached out from the barge and helped secure their lines.

     “It’s good to see you too,” responded Rose who was standing aside out of the way with Tashakawa. “Did you have a good sail up?”

     “It was blowing a bit out there. Sure glad we had a steady boat.”

     “Not just a short visit I hope?” she asked, pleased with the advent of company.

     “Not if we can help it,” Harry told them as he looked up into two unfamiliar faces looking down from beside Rose and Fitz. “I see you’ve got company.”

     “Yes, we’re all here on the barge for an occasion like this. We don’t get visitors every day. Come on up and meet Tashakawa and Shiro.”

     “Couldn’t get along without country sights and sounds any longer,” Harry told them as they came up the boarding ramp. “We’re through with city life for good. Got rid of all our junk, sold the house, and we’re ready to sit still and enjoy peace and quiet away from all that.”

     “We thought we’d buy a nice little house in the village,” explained Bettina. “We really liked the atmosphere there that time we came with David.”

     Remembering David’s tale about the pub happenings, this different slant on the story made Rose laugh.

     “It’s quite a place,” she agreed, “But you may find a few changes since you were there last. It depends on what kind of house you want and how much you’re willing to pay now.”

     “We’re here because we weren’t willing to pay,” admitted Shiro.

     “Let’s have a beer while we catch up on things,” suggested Harry.

     Comfortably gathered on the barge’s stern deck, with the Currie’s homemade beer and some popcorn the children made, the arrivals heard from the others about the changes which were taking place at their choice of a spot for laid-back living.

     They both smiled and said philosophically that they figured things would settle down shortly, as a lot of those buyers of fabulous property had probably taken on more than they could manage in mortgages, and lots of those expensive places would be empty and up for sale soon. They’d seen it all happen before.

- - -

This optimistic view of change abruptly and quickly came up for review when the two refugees from rush and push made a trip into the village, seeking a ‘nice little house’. There were some nice little houses for sale—with big price tags prominently displayed, listed in the advertising space of local real estate office windows. After a few days of unproductive searching, they returned to Shalisa Creek Bay, downhearted and discouraged.

     “Everybody’s gone mad!” exclaimed Bettina indignantly. “Real estate is sure the right term for it. Every little old rundown cottage on a piece of land a little bigger than a city lot is being touted as a mansion with privacy and lots of space. They want almost more than what we got for the place we sold.”

     “Well, don’t worry too much,” Rose tried encouraging them. “Maybe you can find something a little farther from town.”

     “Been that route,” Harry told her. “Same thing. More rundown ‘mansions’—on ‘hobby farms’. One of the places was actually an old barn sitting on property which had been subdivided. We were told that it would make a great studio—in fact there was supposed to be an artist getting ready to make a whopping offer on it so we’d better be quick if we wanted it.”

     “Looked like sheep and goats had cropped the land bald for years,” observed Bettina in disgust. “It was dust. We could imagine what it looked like when it rained. As for the barn... !”

     Trying to add a little comfort to the situation, Rose had them to a little dinner and suggested that they should just sit around a couple of days and consider their options—maybe something farther up the coast.

     After dinner, reviewing in her mind the conversation she’d had with the Curries, Rose thought of the children aboard ELFINSHOE, and about Tashakawa and Shiro living frugally on their fishing boat.

     She sat in the kitchen of her comfortable little house regarding the other small buildings along the shore, sitting abandoned and forlorn, and she let her mind see those houses, warm and tight against the weather as they once had been, smoke lifting from the chimneys, gardens, people coming and going and caring for it all.

     She remembered her own feelings of loneliness when she had arrived, on seeing this place which had once been so full of life, the buildings now deserted, housing emptiness and showing the wear of relentless Time and searching Weather. She recalled how grateful she’d been when Fitz had welcomed her aboard the barge with coffee and the warmth of the fireplace, and how Charm had curled up in her lap, and it occurred to her that she had so much while others around her had so little.

     It was a quick and pleasant walk she made to Grandfather’s place later, with her step and thoughts lighter than they had been on the previous occasion when she’d wondered what she could do to turn her anger and subsequent acceptance of ‘progress’ into something more productive.

     Standing in the circle of light which shone into the little cleared space among the old trees, she collected her thoughts and began,

     “Old Ones—Grandfather—and everyone I love whom I’ve brought home again—it was totally inexcusable of me to come here whining and complaining about being nothing and not being able to do anything about it. I have plenty to do, and a lot to offer. I have an idea I want you to hear about and I know you’ll approve of what I’m going to do. I want our place to be happy and productive again and to have our houses filled with the laughter of people once more. Grandfather, it won’t be easy, but I’ll do my best to remember what you’ve taught me as I try to teach it to others. Help me to be wise and let me always follow the ways of peace—even if I do lose my temper sometimes.”

     Sun shone bright on the earnest face of the young woman, as those who had gone before heard, and smiled, and Grandfather nodded his approval, knowing the path his granddaughter had chosen would be hard and difficult, but through it all—satisfying and rewarding to a thoughtful, intelligent, open-minded spirit.

     The next morning Rose asked Fitz if she could have a meeting aboard the barge.

     “I’ll bring the cookies if you’ll make the coffee,” she bargained.

     “That’s a good deal,” agreed Fitz, as Rose turned away to ask the others if they’d come aboard LEGER DE MAIN for coffee.

     The children, ever interested in the goings and comings aboard the barge, trooped along too, and Rose hoped that they also would be included in what she had to say.

     “I hope you won’t think I’m interfering in your lives,” she began, regarding the questioning faces before her, “But I can’t help feeling that I have a solution to some problems here. You people can’t find reasonably priced housing in town, while I’ve got lots of little old rundown cottages you can have for nothing if you want to fix them up.”

     Seeing the astounded looks on their faces, she enlarged on her offer.

     “Well—it’s not all cake,” she cautioned. “Everything needs fixing. I don’t know if you want to tackle a housing project like this but—maybe you’d like somewhere to live without having to worry about paying for it, and I just hate to see my old home grounds going to pot this way. I can’t put it all back together myself, and even if I could, I can’t live in all the houses at the same time. This was a great little community once and it could be again. It’s just that everybody has to pitch in and help. If you want to, please do. You get the bad with the good and—I’d be pretty happy about it.”

     “Really?!” Bettina got out at last.

     “Yes—I mean it. We all help each other out and everybody profits. Jump in and take your pick.”

     “Oh, Rose—we’d love to!” came Bettina’s immediate acceptance without consulting Harry, whose smile told her what his answer would be.

     “This is so generous of you!” Tashakawa told her, hardly able to believe the offer.

     “Well—maybe,” replied Rose a little hesitantly, “Lots of hard work and not much else. Everything’s kind of falling apart, and there’s no electricity unless you get a generator—water by gravity, heat by any method you choose, like wood or oil or propane—but you’re welcome to it if you want it. Lots of people working together can get a lot done.”

     “Cheers to that!” declared Harry, and the coffee cups clinked, as Therése chimed in with,

     “Oh fantastic! We’ll have such fun! Maybe we can fix up some of the bunkhouse for us. We can call it Pirate’s Port.”

     The ‘we’ doing the fixing was plainly going to include every adult who happened to be around, because those more mature members present knew that although the efforts of five children might equal and surpass them where enthusiasm and energy levels were measured, such a group of young hands and minds would very likely be attempting more than they could adequately handle.

     “Wowsie!” came from the twins, and the children clinked their apple juice glasses along with the coffee mugs, happily forgetting their precarious situation in the ongoing life of the bay.

- - -

When Guardian of the Gap let the old tug WESTMAN WILL and the sixty foot sailing coastal schooner METHUSELAH pass through without challenge one evening at high tide, it was not from carelessness. The two arrivals were expected, and were familiar with the kind of respect which should be accorded that narrow and dangerous entry into the bay and the Spirit who watched over it so closely—they’d exchanged insults with her often enough before now and the three had come to a wary détente along the way.

     The schooner motored through first with careful slowness, followed by the tug which threw its greater wash pushing against the submerged reef, sending soggers dancing up and down on the tide.

     Both boats pulled cautiously over to the old wharf where Shiro stood waiting to help as they tied up gingerly, their skippers casting doubtful eyes on the old pilings.

     “Guess it’ll do for a short while but maybe we should anchor out, or else we need to get busy here fast, Armand,” laughed the tug operator, his voice carrying ashore.

     “Plainly, it hasn’t improved with age, but the work will keep us in shape,” came the reply as the skipper of the schooner vaulted onto the old boards of the wharf and was introduced to Fitz by Shiro, and as they shook hands the structure shook with them. “It’s good to see you again Shiro. We’ve missed you in town. Morning coffee at the ‘Sea Urchin’ isn’t the same without you.”

     “Coffee here in the morning is much better,” smiled Shiro. “It’s made to my taste and brought by a lovely attendant, and furthermore, she joins me in interesting conversations and tells me how everything in the world can be fixed with a little kindness.”

     “That takes both sides,” observed Fitz, adding hard reality to the tongue-in-cheek statement.

     “Maybe I can entice Tashakawa to make café au lait once in awhile,” laughed the schooner skipper, as he looked out over the shining water pushing high up the beach. “I’m so glad you spoke to Miss Hold about us. Let’s go now and thank her for letting us moor in her bay.”

     They waited for the big tugboat captain to come up to them, and then the four men walked in a group to Rose’s house where the kerosene lamps were already pushing back dark shadows along the path to her door.

     “Welcome to Shalisa Creek Bay,” she smiled as they came in, and as her eyes met the tug captain’s, the recollection of their first meeting, when she and Fitz had deterred him from hauling away the barge, made her smile more welcoming.

     “Hello Bud. We have coffee and chaser waiting on LEGER DE MAIN, and Bettina and Harry Currie are there, along with the children.”

     “Sounds good to me,” agreed the big man, “And this is Doc de Marincourt.”

     “Armand,” smiled the doctor, taking Rose’s hand and with lively mischief kissing it in the old, gracious salute of a cavalier.

     Rose kept her amused amazement behind her smile. In the past she’d received suggestive glances at her lips as an appropriate place for such a gesture, been bear-hugged, kissed on both cheeks, pummelled in comradely acceptance, and had her hand deliberately squashed to see if she’d flinch. Armand’s approach was a delightful first.

     “Thank you so much for having us,” continued Armand. “I’m certainly glad Shiro mentioned our problem to you. The village seems to be for the rich now. We peasants must do without there, and are dispossessed unless we bring bags of gold.”

     “Don’t let him fool you with all that ‘peasant’ talk,” warned Bud, laughing. “People used to call him ‘sir’ in France.”

     “It was meant as an insult,” corrected the doctor. “But unknowingly the village landlords have done us a favour. It’s so much more beautiful here. Surprising what a person can get used to and think they’re well off. I hope you won’t mind when my wife joins me later. She’s in France visiting our daughter-in-law and our two grandchildren—and their father.”

     “There’s certainly room for her,” returned Rose, but she couldn’t help wondering about the look Shiro and Bud exchanged behind Armand’s back, and why he had referred to ‘their father’. “Shall we go over to the barge? I can see the twins hanging over the railing.”

     Bud, Armand and Fitz went first and Rose managed to slow Shiro down enough to ask,

     “Is there something I should know before I put my foot in it?”

     “Armand has a lovely wife, but he’s very stubborn, and so is she. It’s a family thing. They had a bit of a go about their son and she left—to visit the grandchildren, he said.”

     “Oh—I hope it’s not a permanent break.”

     “I hope not too,” Shiro replied a little doubtfully as they reached the barge and Armand turned back, saying,

     “Miss Hold, Shiro has told me you’re something of a herbalist. We should have an in depth discussion about this.”

     “I’d like that, and by the way, I’m just called Rose here.”

     Aboard the barge, as the children came forward and then the Currie’s were introduced, Harry, looking at the three men before him asked, puzzling,

     “Haven’t we met before—like—in the town pub?”

     “Ah—oh—it’s you,” exclaimed Armand.

     “Yeah, I remember now,” laughed Bud. “We were throwing out rascals.”

     “There was a young man who had a broken leg with you—your son?” asked Armand.

     “No, he’s not our son,” replied Bettina, “Although he’d be a great one to have. Just a good friend. He was teaching us how to sail.”

     “He’s a gutsy guy,” commented Bud, recalling the pub brouhaha.

     Rose wondered if Bud would have been so generous with his praise had he known that the ‘gutsy guy’ was none other than the debt dodging piker who hadn’t paid the towing bill for LEGER DE MAIN. She kept silent on the subject.

     Shiro also had nothing to say, not having mentioned the fracas to Tashakawa.

     “Why don’t we have coffee,” he suggested quickly, wanting the subject gone.

     Fitz’s welcoming table got the attention next and the gathering became a reunion party. LEGER DE MAIN felt as happy as when casino guests had gathered on her decks to laugh and play cards—even happier, because these would be people who would appreciate her, not just as a transient pleasure palace but as a permanent part of their lives.

- - -

fixing generatorThe next morning Harry headed for the old workshed which housed the inoperative generator. A discussion with Rose about the machinery during the reunion get-together had led to the conclusion he had hoped for.

     “Oh, please! Do fix it if you can. We can all pitch in to pay for the diesel fuel. It would be so great to have electricity in the houses again, and running water and—well—the possibilities are in the minds of those who want to use it. We could run the washing machine more than once a week and—maybe have a community shower and—do you think it might get running before the cold weather? I know things take time but—oh—get busy Harry—fast!”

     “Thanks Rose,” grinned Harry. “You know, I thought a lot about that machine while we were away, and I have a pretty good idea of how to get it going. I’ll see what I can do.”

     Although Rose was fond of the light her kerosene lamps gave to the evenings, warm and close, helping to shut out the too intrusive world which was suddenly arriving in the village so close to the bay, lack of the facilities which she’d enjoyed in the city, and the physical effort put into maintaining a poor imitation of them here, made her anticipation of the results from Harry’s efforts soar.

     <I can still use my lamps. It’s just that sometimes I need more light for some things, especially when the days start getting shorter and the darkness closes in earlier. It’ll be good for the kids too. Safer than fuel lamps. Even though they’re careful, accidents happen, and we don’t need that.>

     As Harry, wearing a pleased smile, turned away to go tell the other men about what he had in mind, Bettina explained to Rose in a quiet voice,

     “He’s obsessed with that thing. He sat at home and made drawings and researched old manuals and kept saying—’Maybe if we took another trip to Shalisa Creek Bay I could do something with it’. He can’t help it. He just can’t stand to see a broken down diesel engine—and it’ll keep him happy for awhile—until it’s fixed. Then he’ll start looking for something else.”

     “Aren’t we lucky we have him,” came the appreciative reply.

     Therefore, early that next morning, Harry, tool box in hand, walked quickly to the shed door, opened it, stepped in and called cheerfully,

     “Hi there, I’m back. Glad to see me? You’re my restoration project. We’ll have a great time together getting you going.”

     Total silence met this verbal assault.

     He went over to the machine, put his tool box down on the cement floor with a clang and ran his hands up and down his freshly laundered coveralls with purposeful motions, knowing that now he could wipe his fingers all over them again and be assured of not getting more grease on than he was trying to get off. He liked his coveralls. They made him feel competent—which he was. He hadn’t had them on for awhile and this had begun to make him feel a bit like a cigarette smoker cut off from tobacco. He tapped his fingers up and down on the cast iron monster as he leaned against it, making little thudding sounds, deciding exactly where to begin.

     The startled machine, nudged out of comfortable obscurity in this noisy fashion, transferred some sticky oil to Harry’s fingertips and the elbow of his coveralls and got ready to return to permanent hibernation once more, confronting Harry with its unwillingness to be part of his ridiculous scheme. It hulked itself there, cold and old and saturated with the remnants of its last successful defence of its downtime and prepared to retaliate with a show of total indifference.

     “Now,” said Harry, addressing his unwilling subject, as he gave it some comforting pats, “This isn’t going to hurt a bit.”

     <Hurt—a bit? Hey man, get lost. Nobody can fix me. I’m permanently broke.>

     Harry lifted a big, shiny socket wrench from his tool box.

     “Think we’ll start right here. Don’t worry. I’ve given this lots of thought and research. You’re gonna be whizzing along in no time.”

     <Are you crazy!? The last guy who tried it paid for his interference. You want some of the same?>

     “Um,” considered Harry, about to apply strength to the wrench he had fitted nicely to a big dirt and oil caked nut, “Think I’ll just make sure the diesel fuel is turned off first.”

     <Ulp! What have I got here? Some sort of cagey amateur? Okay, I’m not worrying—I’ll get you some other way then.”

     Harry began to hum, smiling as he applied force.

     “There, one down and lots to go. Oh boy—this is really good steel. We’ll get along fine. Have you stuck back together in perfect working order in no time.”

     <Get off my case you big overstuffed bully! Put that back. I don’t need you prying me around. I’m already stuck together—really good. It suits me just fine—and I’m not going to work!>

     “Hm,” observed Harry, trying the next nut, “Seems to be a bit stuck. No problem. Little squirt of this here and there and we’ll have all your joints loosened up in no time.”

     <Quit that! It’s cold and icky and it’s running all over me.>

     “We’ll just let that soak in a bit and go on with something else. Wiring looks okay—bit worn here and there but—fixable. Been chewed on by little four-footed friends. They get hungry—they’ll eat anything, including your grease. Good thing I’ve got lots of that with me. Looks like your fuel lines are okay from what I can see. Think maybe we’ll find a couple of gear teeth gone and probably a broken piece of something else somewhere inside. Let’s get you opened up.”

     <Ouch! You gonna rip me all apart and I don’t even get an anaesthetic? You’re inhuman!>

     “Yeah,” breathed Harry, backing off nuts with a quick, strong, back and forth motion, “This is gonna be fun!”

     The outside world was forgotten as pieces of heavy metal were laid out around the complaining machine and Harry, like a happy kid taking apart an old meccano set, coaxed the protesting components apart and pried into the generator’s interior. When he quit for lunch the nice clean coveralls looked like what they were intended for—at least what Harry thought they were intended for—wiping greasy hands and tools on.

     The reluctant old generator seemed to be losing this contest. Once it had been like a defiant old bear, roaring and growling, working sporadically, and resisting attempts to get it operating properly until at last it had broken down completely and any attemptees had left defeated, planting a kick on the old curmudgeon’s flank, which hurt the foot administering the blow more than it did the diesel. In fact the machine took this as a seal of approval for its siege tactics.

     Harry’s approach was more positive, more thorough and more effective. He knew what he was doing and he wasn’t afraid to do it. Others, perhaps with fainter hearts, less knowledge and maybe the wrong tools, had thrown up their hands in defeat as the machinery rebuffed each effort time after time, but Harry was determined that this was going to be another triumph—for Harry.

     Seeing the generator dismembered and lying about in pieces made the water pump beside it shrink in horror. It too had the distinction of being a Sogger of Machinery. It shuddered and tried to be a little less conspicuous under its coating of dirt and spider webs, hoping it might be overlooked as totally useless.

     Interest in the ‘shed’ project began to grow as Harry’s declaration of intention began to gain credence. Everybody started visiting the site, asking how things were coming along, slowing down the work with suggestions, long discussions, and additions of the Currie’s good beer. Rose went every day, with high hopes. Fitz, Shiro, Bud and Armand all poked their noses around, hoping to pick up a few pointers from an expert. Bettina and Tashakawa approached cautiously and retreated the same way, smiling at each other and making remarks such as, ‘Well he has to do something to keep busy’, and ‘I’ve seen enough of this with Shiro and HAI-SO’s engine’.

     The five young pirates were into it all the time, and not having coveralls, they got covered with grease, oil and grunge, especially Isabel and Morgan, as they tried to learn something about diesel engines, laughingly declaring that together they could probably fix up the motor on ELFINSHOE—if she had one.

gear notes     The twins were of the opinion that, if Harry couldn’t get it back together again, some of the nice shiny parts would look great decorating their bunkhouse project, and Therése said she could make some of it look like musical notes on the wall if Isabel would paint in above them the semihemidemisemiquavers, a term she had learned from her mother and never forgotten, always hoping an occasion would arise for her to use it, however inappropriate it might be.

     Altogether, it was a lively, interesting and—if somewhat unintended—leisurely project.

     Eventually, what had looked like oil-covered scrap iron lying around, soon became shaped into shining replacement parts, as Harry was often jumping into his little runabout and heading for the village with a couple of the children whenever he found the part he was working on was hopelessly unfixable and had to be abandoned.

     They would go first to the ‘Sea Urchin’ to fill up on fries and accompanying delightful junk food before getting down to the serious work of the trip. Lots of the newcomers in the café would look with distaste at the round man in his greasy blue coveralls and black hands, and the laughter of the children in their tee shirts and faded, frayed cut-offs was a bothersome noise to them. Frankly, they wished that sort of people would clean up before they came to town, instead of sitting there spilling food and spreading grease all over the tables and making an uncivilised racket.

     Harry, thoroughly enjoying himself like a man with his own grandchildren along, wasn’t even aware that such ordinary behaviour would be a source of problems to anyone. He was too happy. He’d discovered a welding and machine shop stuffed into a big, tottering structure behind a house, where the one man owner-operator did everything himself and always understood exactly what it was Harry wanted, even letting him do some of his own work on the lathe, and who didn’t mind kids poking around into everything. He had grandchildren of his own.

     They would always arrive back at the bay with something for those who hadn’t gone along, unloading groceries or shopping which Bettina, Tashakawa or Rose had asked him to get, burgers and fries for the members of the younger generation, a bit cold and clotted by the time they were delivered, but received with just as much enthusiasm as though they were sizzling, and with the part or piece Harry had gone for wrapped carefully in a well greased cloth.

     Before putting everything back together, Harry carefully and thoroughly cleaned everything, adding generous gobs of fresh grease where necessary, which to him meant just about everywhere, and talking to the generator as though it had large and sensitive ears.

     “Look at this. Isn’t it the most beautiful big new gear you’ve ever seen—except for the original? Boy, you’re going to be a prize when we get through here. Just wait.”

     Everybody waited, as the generator hulked and sulked and refused to join in the enthusiasm. Harry refitted and repacked and rechecked everything. Everything, that is, which had to do with the machinery. In his usual way, anything outside of the genuine engineering had to wait its turn. Ancillary parts got looked at with a somewhat cursory eye, as Harry decided that most of the rest of the necessities were in darn good shape.

     “I guess,” he surmised, “David replaced a lot of fuel lines and stuff.”

     Had David been there he might have told Harry never to presume anything. The generator had won that hand. Calculated risks—yes, but—when verification is possible—use it. Pretty sure bets were to be avoided.

     Came the day for the great occasion.

     Everybody arrived and stood around in the machine shed waiting for that first surge of power from the battery which would start the whole mysterious process of electricity generation which they all desired—the children standing in front so that they could see better.

     Fitz though, being a cautious seaman, backed off a bit and stood behind the crowd. He’d seen launchings and celebrations before, and some of the unsuccessful ones still stuck in his memory, not quite washed away by the intended celebration champagne.

     “Okay—hold on here while I turn on the fuel—now—everybody count down. Three—two—one—hit it!

     Out went Harry’s hand with its first digit extended as he bent to push the button, posing for one dramatic moment so that Bettina could snap a photo.

     Then—Harry pushed the button.

     There was a rush of fuel along the lines, a whish, then a whoosh, then a stream of diesel fuel shot into the air, spread into a graceful, fluid, circular fountain and descended as a pelting viscous shower onto Harry’s ignominious head.

     The audience, shrieking with laughter and surprise, bolted for the door—Fitz first—as Harry, eyes squinched shut, groped blindly for the power switch and pushed it off, a vision of David Godwin’s oil-soaked curls now becoming in his mind a portrait of his own anointed locks.

     Harry had forgotten that history has a habit of reforming and repeating itself in same but slightly different forms if no attention is paid to it. The same difficult to get at, out of sight, fractured fuel line which had sent David Godwin stumbling and cursing from the shed had just triumphantly soused Harry.

     <Hah!> exulted the generator, <Didn’t check on all the fuel lines did you? Well, yeah, the quadrupeds were here, but they just got the wiring. I got another dummy. HAH!>

oil spray     “Awright,” Harry addressed the generator, regretfully abandoning his mental video of proudly delivering the little speech he had made up to commemorate the occasion, while he wiped the clean inside of his sleeve across his face as the oil trickled down, “David warned me that you were a bad spirit but I’m of the opinion that everybody needs another chance and I figured I could change your attitude, and I still think I can. I’m not going to get mad—much.” (This was said to the accompanying sounds of uncontrolled hilarity from outside the shed.) “You’ve made real progress and I thought you’d appreciate that. Now look what you’ve gone and done—messed everything all up again. Shame on you! I should think you’d be proud of yourself, all got up with new gears and stuff and all nice and shiny and clean and everything. Okay—you and I are going to come to an understanding here. You are going to work! You are! You’re gonna work if I have to get a plumber to go over every bit of fuel line and pipe you own, so just quit sitting there snickering. We need you here. So—you just sit there and think it over—because I’ll be back!”

     Harry turned and went outside to face the music, which didn’t resemble that which came from David’s flute in any way whatsoever.

     The generator sat there, pleased with itself.

     <Sure got him good.>

     But after awhile it began to consider,

     <Maybe I was a bit of a snark. Guess it is kind of cool to be all spiffed up and operational. Yeah! I’ll be useful again—employed—appreciated. Never thought of it that way. Everybody’ll think I’m one great hunk of machinery instead of a rusty old slacker. Yeah! Good stuff! Hey, you dirty old lazy water pump! Don’t lump there looking envious. Wanna bet you’re not his next project?>