25: August heat
August sailed in to Shalisa Creek Bay, surveyed the area and decided that this was the perfect place to spend some of her summer time. She set her anchor close to the barge, leaned back into her warm hammock of air, water and earth and got set to enjoy herself.
Blue Sky and bright Sun welcomed her arrival with happy enthusiasm. They formed a trio, tuned their instruments of clear weather, sunshine and warm days and nights into perfect pitch and held a festival of encouragement for the ripening berries and fruit which were burgeoning happily on Bush and Tree, proof that in Spring the fancy of young Bee had seriously turned to Blossom, with inevitable and obvious results.
Appreciative birds, seeing this booming crop, got set to hold their own gala, planning to utilise the whole production for a banquet, including the bay gardens. Unfortunately for them, trees and garden were netted to keep them from taking the entire lot, and they had to be content with gorging on the feast offered outside the fence. Wasps got at the plums. Apples and cherries were eyed longingly by raccoons, although none of the wild folk seemed to want the pears which at this point were too hard, too green and maybe too acidic.
Wild, tall Himalayan blackberry bushes whose ancestors had migrated from long ago domestic gardens with the assistance of brigand avians, finding themselves deposited willy nilly at the old Shalisa Creek Bay company site, had decided the place was delightfully to their liking. They had pushed their way in, argued with the indigenous, low profile thorny residents there and tried to take over, with more or less success. Their hopeful progeny were now beginning to glow with a heavy load of deep-dark, ripened, enticing fruit, waiting for assistance which might further enhance their familys travelling history.
Elderberries, not to be thought of as unappreciative of the harmonious weather, hung big clusters of small red globes enticingly in reach of birds and people with the same idea of a symbiotic relationship developing for the benefit of all.
This was a summer to be remembered for its sunshine, high temperatures and lack of rain. Lizards and snakes lazed on warm rocks. Frogs found mud and dug in against the siege of dryness. Trees sank roots deep for water. Smaller plants drooped and panted. Lichens and mosses went into dry, crisp hibernation, hoping for rain, which ran against the prevailing opinion of the human residents who were delighted with the ongoing days of great weather. Even ground-hugging, water-frugal succulents found their carefully stored reservoirs of moisture pushed to the limit.
Forest populations retreated to shady places by small ponds which were ruffled by the occasional drowsy breeze, or close to Waterfalls rocky environs which were always cool and fresh with mist from her forceful downward path. Deer, now busy with their young, didnt mind the quiet rest in dappled shadow. They had enough to do now and werent looking forward to chasing growing youngsters, who had more curiosity and less sense, all over the area after theyd disobeyed orders to stay put while Mother went for lunch.
Only early Morning and approaching Dusk heard birdsong now, as the airborne residents regrew feathers from moulting, and fledglings, now fledged, learned that hot afternoon was no time to forage. Napping and loafing quietly was the way to go until later hours brought a little less heat to the day.
Exposed earth dried and baked into dust. The garden was the scene of bucket brigades, and everyone was thankful that Harry had fixed the Old Curmudgeon, because it saved a lot of carrying from the creek. Dry bracken was spread between the domestic plantings to retard the moisture loss, and a strategy for planting clover and other similarly beneficial live mulch friends in the garden was seriously considered for prevention of water and nutrient loss.
Busy barefoot twins lugged dripping, half-full buckets of water to flowers and vegetables long after everyone else had left that occupation for the day. They were dedicated gardeners, working under the notion that the well-tended plants would suffer irreparable damage if the bucket brigade was neglected. They watered with a will and a purpose.
Taking note of this fact, feeling that the two were almost too conscientious and were missing out on fun and free time, Rose and BRIGHT LEAF returned from the village one afternoon, bringing with them two garden hoses, which drew cheers from everyone. A pipe was run into the garden area, accommodating two stand taps. Not only did the garden get thoroughly watered very quickly after that, so did the whole area. The twins held a damping down ceremony which included dousing everything and everyone within reach of the hoses.
Charm was not amused!
Into the daily score of music from Tide, Breeze and Creek a new voice insinuated itself. The sound of a violin being determinedly harassed rasped on Cliff and over Bay as Therése spent a lot of time practising, with more or less success. She had decided that the old violin hadnt received enough of her attention when compared to the other small instruments available, and shed set herself to rectifying the neglect.
The twins retreated from this would be virtuoso, holding their ears and making faces, and were often found asleep together wherever they happened to get tired. They took the good life for granted, getting up when they pleased, playing all day when they werent watering the garden, and being totally devoid of any responsibility except any they might assume themselves, and that which was imposed by Isabels rule on and off ELFINSHOE.
None of the grownups around seemed the least bit interested in discipline for its own sake and it proved surprisingly unnecessary anyway, because the twins respected Isabel in the same way they had been guided by their mother. If she frowned on their actions the withdrawal of her approval was enough to put them in their place.
While Rose and Bettina were showing the children how to make whistles from elderberry branches one morning, the older woman, running her eyes over the prospects of such a crop of these and nearby blackberry bushes, asked Rose if maybe they shouldnt use some for making jam, juice andmaybe some wine?
This suggestion brought stories of harvests from other years.
The logging company owner and his wife had always received lots more visitors with willing hands just when the dandelions were blooming all around come Spring, and also later on when Summer was gone and sampling time had arrived for the liquid product from the last years harvest. Then there had been the annual berry picking party when Rose had been a child, with family and friends taking advantage of this bonanza offered by Mother Nature. Everybody available had participated in the co-operative fun and effort, and benefitted from the edibles generated by the concerted effort.
The annual berry picking party was immediately reinstated, the twins insisting on taking a metal pail to beat on as they went along, with which to scare awaythe bears. No one was sure if any bears got frightened off but everything else certainly did, and the forest citizens looked forward to the time when berry harvesting would finally be over and peace and quiet would return to Meadow, Cliff and Forest.
- - -
Undulating waves of heat curled up from city streets as they were baked along with the human and automotive traffic which used them. Blacktopped parking lots turned into unwanted tarry gum which stuck to everything and anything it contacted. Shopping malls with air-conditioning got lots of browsers, and David decided now was the time to head for Shalisa Creek Bay.
The park where he took the dogs for a run was turning into a like-minded traffic jam, and beaches were blanketted with end-to-end people reeking of sun screen and tanning lotions. TJUTELA found herself surrounded by water traffic wherever she went in the environs close to the city which were reachable for an evening.
Whenever hed been out for such an evening, or had taken people with him on the boat for a couple of hours, or had been diving with friends, he always found after such occasions that the thought foremost in his mind was that Shalisa Creek Bay was out there, green and quiet.
<Down time! Three slow, easy, relaxing days under sail will get me theretwo by being a little more ambitiousor one long, hard, fast day pushing it from first light until past midnight with lots of help from the engine. Bit too demanding, and that would get me to the Gap in darknessno thanks. Orjust a short hop in the plane as the crow fliesexceptI had that little busmans holiday earlier. It was a great boost, but this time Ulf and Gurth and I want a real one, with TJUTELA to back us up.>
There was no reason why he shouldnt go, he told himself, rationalising a visit at this time. It was nearing the tail-end of August, hed done nothing but mostly work, which had been good in its own way, helping him to scrub off the greyness which Li had pointed out was collecting on his scales. He felt as though the oil deposited there by his swim in the dark sea caused by the casino charge, chafe from the constant press of business, Tinas leftover fingerprints on his personal life, and the rub marks from the cast of his broken leg hadnt all been removed yet.
Work, though, seemed to have been just the right abrasive cleaning powder when applied with due diligence and concentration. He had begun to spend more time closer to home with Gram, Li, Ana and his two samoyed friends, all of whom had remarked in various ways that he did seem to be shining a lot more lately. At least, it had kept his mind away from other thingsto such an extent that he now was more than convinced that a Bay holiday would add a final finish to the polishing process.
Just in case his conscience needed anymore placating he reminded himself,
<Itll be a working trip too. I really should start repairing the barge before another winter sets in. LEGER DE MAIN seems to hold as much importance for the residents of the bay as it does for me, although in different ways, and after all its my responsibility.>
His foraging for windows had come up with a collection of mismatched panels which he figured could be retrofitted with a little ingenious framework. Hed given in and bought the white paint for the walls after finding that most old paint was usually too old to be called that anymore.
He stood on the deck of his floating office, looking out over the inlet which graced the citys location, anticipating the delight this weather would be if he were somewhere else. He weighed the choices which would bring him to the barge with his raffish castle and good friends, and the longed for tranquillity he never seemed to be able to find anywhere else. Then, cell phone in hand, arranged with the sea truck operatorsrelatives of his former building crewto take the repair material to the Bay. He put his yard foreman in charge of the marine ways, told his mother that her tourists would have to find another airline for awhile, got a lecture from her on straight and steady, laughed and told her he loved her, then started getting TJUTELA ready for a cruise.
<Three days of laid back summer sailingyeah!>
Instead, the favouring strong and willing wind which carried him to Shalisa Creek Bay held steady for the complete journey north. Accepting this gift from the good spirits at the outset, he decided to use sail as much as possible and not be so laid back.
<So the trip will be faster. Great! >
Most of the first days journey was swift smooth downwind sailing which was easy to take, allowing sail to be set wung out with barely a change necessary until it was time to anchor for the night, but some of the joy of the passage was definitely dampened by other travellers.
He hadnt expected to see many boats heading in his direction as he came close to finishing the first leg of his journey. Used to having the sea mostly to himself along this stretch of shore, it came as an irritation to find that the considerable amount of traffic he encountered was moving with him in the direction of his destination. Most of them were big, fast, expensive power boats of the kind which he had once welcomed to his casino.
Their method of operating, as the huge wakes they created hit TJUTELA, and her skipper manoeuvred to take them with the least force, had her throwing spray back into the cockpit. More than one operator who caused her to do this found himself getting the one-fingered salute or a blast of five from an angry and harassed sailor who was getting more so as time and annoyance progressed.
<Damned uncaring, ignorant, arrogant twits! Do they think theyre running the Indy on water? If just one more of those idiots roars up beside me ten feet away going full bore Ill start throwing water bombsexcept Im too damned busy preventing a knockdown. Dont they know how destructive their wake is, or do they do it deliberately for the fun of watching me scramble to keep TJUTELA off her beam ends?>
He didnt like to see Ulf and Gurth constantly crouching down and bracing themselves against the force of yet another thumping which sometimes threw them around for a bruising. He was glad hed secured things below decks at the start, rather more from habit than from expectations of what was now happening.
For his evening layover he chose a small, unfrequented shallow bight, set his anchor close to shore counting on continuing good weather, rowed to the little confined beach and turned Ulf and Gurth loose to do the best they could in the small high-banked space. Tide was out, the shell beach had been washed clean by receding water, and Sun was warming the site before heading down to Australia.
David sat there looking out over the water, letting the surroundings soothe him with the peaceful sight of grebes just offshore diving for their evening meal, and the gentle sound of incoming tide lapping around and over little rocks close by, until he felt the alert tightness which had followed him from the city slowly seeping out of him like vapour evaporating into the brightness of Sky. He had brought his old flute with him but the harmony he found here was enough at that moment, and his friend lay beside him, restfully silent, soaking up melodious sounds for use at a future occasion.
<Ah, peace of mind. Im just going to forget things for awhile.>
It was a well-intended thought, easier to conjure up than to put into effect, but it carried him through his evening meal and into a good nights sleep.
He was on the move the next morning just as Sun tipped a glow over the horizon. Having travelled from early morning until late into the evening the first day, and continuing that pace the next, he cut his original estimated sailing time in half and, instead of requiring three days to cover the distance from home port to bay, afternoon of the second day brought him the welcome sight of the vertical cleft in the cliff which marked the Gap entrance.
Some of the press of boats he had encountered the day before stayed with him until he began to close on the Bay, and then it fell behind at about the point where they could turn in toward the village of Shalisa Creek, so TJUTELA came about unaccompanied, heading for Soggers Gap. Her skipper was glad of that because he had looked forward to a quiet stay. A stream of traffic hadnt been in his plans, and hed found himself getting resentful that all this flotilla was invading his quiet cruising grounds.
He aligned himself with the green cleft marker, happy to have reached his destination as he looked forward to seeing everyone again. In spite of his decision at the outset to take it easy hed been pushing himself for two days, taking advantage of the wind, and now he was beginning to feel just a little tired.
Soggers tide had just turned to head out of the bay but he took a chance, knowing that if he didnt hed have a long wait outside before he could get through. Engine assisted, he sailed past watchful Guardian, being careful not to arouse her expectations as he slid TJUTELA carefully through the Gap, anxiously watching soggers swirling past, and headed for a spot close to the barge. He gave himself a few warning words as he did so.
<Dont think Ill try that too often. I can feel the churning going on under the hull and its pretty powerful, and dodging soggers in this current isnt my idea of a great game of chicken. Guardian came too damned close when we got pushed that way. Thats exactly what happens when tired skippers get brave and careless within sight of their anchorage, so smarten up.>
By the time hed lowered sail and set the anchor, Morgan, Walter and Bernice, who had been hailing him from the edge of the beach, were swimming out to the boat. Rose, fearing that the twins had attempted more than they could handle, set out after them, and David came from bow to stern as Morgan swam alongside, then the twins, shepherded by Rose.
No need to ask how the water is, David grinned down at them.
Its really fantastic, replied Morgan enthusiastically. Its been warming up all summer.
Well three cheers for that. I can use a swim. Ive been bugged all day, by a pack of racing car drivers swarming me like a herd of speed mad maniacs who wanted to have a closer look at something which moved without an engine.
Youre earlier than we thought youd be, but then youve certainly had the wind with you all the way, called Rose.
Best sail Ive had for a long time. Welcome aboard.
Weve all been watching for you ever since you reached Fitz on his radio telephone, Morgan told him as the swimmers accepted his invitation, and after wet hugs and happy woofs and laughter David told them,
Hey guys, I was cleaning out my room and I found a few things I dont use anymore so I thought you youngsters might be able to do something with them. Come on into the pilothouse.
The children were quick to follow as David brought out his offerings.
These pastels and drawing pad are for Isabel. Had em left over from my casino projectand I graduated from all this sheet music a long time ago so I thought maybe Therése might like it.
If it helps to eliminate all that screeching shes been doing on the violin well take anything, agreed Morgan.
Well, we all have to learn, laughed David. I recall that some offkey discord snuck in with the good stuff sometimes and I got yelled at for practising too. Okay you two, these are for you. Magnifying glasses so you can get a really close look at all those mosses and shells and stones and bugs and stuff youre always peering at. Those lanyards are for keeping them safejust loop them around your wrist. Hold em like this. Got it? Just move them up and down until they focus. Thats it.
They make your eye all big! shouted Walter, watching his sister lift hers to her face and move it back and forth.
Here Morgan, but dont get it wet. Its a little computer I dont use anymore and I figured you could do the basics on it for a beginning. Theres an instruction manual with it, and you can all learn together. Its a fun thing and no doubt youve been at Roses, so itll give her unit a bit of a breather. Guess youll have to take all that ashore in the dinghy. Maybe we can find a waterproof bag to keep it all dry. Yuh. Here we are.
Theres nothing for Heron, said Bernice, suddenly stopping in her rush toward the companionway.
He wasnt here last time you were.
Another permanent visitor, explained Rose.
Never mind, came Morgans solution. We can all share everything.
So whats Herons love in life? asked David.
He makes things, said Walter.
He carves, said Bernice.
He reads, said Morgan. Hes always taking off with one of our books and then coming back and telling us all about what he thinks it means.
Hes smart, the twins said together.
Where does he stand in the pyramid of years?enquired David.
Walter and Bernice looked at each other, caught on the unknown word until Morgan said,
Hes about six and a half.
A carver and a literature swallowhead huh? Got just the thing, decided David as he rummaged in a locker. This is a pretty good knifekeeps a good edge. I know carvers need better tools than this butwhat do you think?
Great! came Morgans verdict. Hes just got an old dull rusty thing.
Okay. Heres the sheath.
David paused. On his bookshelf was a small cardboard-covered sheaf of paper, bright with ballpoint pen drawings overlaid with coloured pencils. It was his spare time project aboard TJUTELA, a rewrite in his own irreverent terms of various legends and stories about flight. Hed been working on it for his nieces and nephews, but he seldom saw them now because hed actually been requested to stay away from his brothers homes after the casino raid.
The covers of his playful work had a wrap-around dragon, depicted hovering over the sea, with a background of clouds, both of which elements the dragon seemed to dominate with a brilliantly flaming and gleeful grin. Between the cardboard waited Pegasus, a flying carpet, Aladdins lamp, the Bottle Imp, a swirl of music from a flute, every note transporting a flower to a meadow, Icarus, with his melted wings but this time having a safe landingeach separate story intended to illustrate the delight flights of fancy could create. Reality was also there in butterflies and dragonflies, birds, and dandelion seeds wafted by the wind, colourful French balloons with basket gondolas, Chinese box kites with riders aboard trailing gossamer ribbons, and an antique aircraft in which the pilot had to lie prone to facilitate operations with hands and feet.
The collection hadnt been finished. Hed intended to bring it up to the present with a bit about his own plane, now so aptly named Dragon Wings by Therése, and something about spacecraft and satellites which he also considered to be flights of fancy pirated by reality, but the joy of the work had suffered a hard pancake landing from the harsh edict of his brothers.
He smiled, lifted the little hand-made book from the shelf and said,
Maybe hed like this too. He can probably add a few tales to it himself, along with the rest of you. Solets get the dinghy over.
The dinghy was launched, loaded carefully, and the three excited youngsters got in, the twins holding their new possessions firmly, lanyards around their wrists. Morgan, computer and paper goods carefully stowed in waterproof bagging, pulled for shore.
Neat way to get rid of excess stuff dont you think? he asked Rose as they watched the dinghy heading in, Recycling. Im a bit of a pack rathate to part with things even when I dont use them anymorebut when I know theyre going to a good home I force myself.
Very nice idea, agreed Rose, And the kids seem to think so too.
Ohalmost forgot! he exclaimed as he took a plastic-bagged flower pot from its place between books where it had been lashed to the restraining rails. I was told to take extra care of this. Its for you. This is a root cutting from one of Grams favourite roses. Its deep velvet red with a gorgeous fragrance. Been in her garden since shes owned the place.
What a lovely thought. Thank you David.
Gram thought youd like it, he corrected carefully, not wanting the connotation of the gift of a red rose to be misconstrued. She thinks everybodys as interested in accumulating plants as she is.
Rose noted the explanation.
Ill have to call and thank her. I think I know just the spot for it by my place. Itll be lovely right by my door to remind me that city gardens can be beautiful too.
Gramp gave it to her. She said to tell you she knows this isnt the season to be planting it, but she figures you can pull it off. Here, its your responsibility now. Ive probably watered it to death along the waytaking extra care. Hows your garden getting along anyway? Last time I got a viewing the potatoes were looking pretty good.
We all have really great gardens, what with all the work everybody puts into them. The kids are really enthusiastic helpers.
So whats happened here in the Trolls Keep since I was around last? enquired David. Heron?
Well, he arrived with his Grandmother, Dancing Water. They decided they needed a change of venue since the place they were in didnt offer much of a future. Ill tell you about it later if you like. Enough to saythey ran away.
David gave her a surprised smile.
I think your bay is turning into a refuge for put upon people.
Great. I could certainly do worseand welcome to the refuge.
Davids smile got warmer as he replied,
Im sure glad to hear that. I used to think of it as a place to restore my sanity when I came here alone. Just about lost it when I couldnt come while I was prohibited from leaving town. Sure could have used a break then. Fortunately, Gram and Li kept me level.
You seem to have made it, Rose comforted him. Everybody loves your trolls castle. I think we see it rather like our centre of sanity too. It lets us be kids again along with the kidsgets rid of a lot of inhibitions which weve all collected along the way whether we wanted to acquire them or not. Also seems to set our wits free when a crisis arises. We all get together and think it out.
Not too many of those around here I guess, remarked David, unknowing. Got a couple of sea trucks coming, probably in the next couple of days. Maybe we can get the windows in before the heavy rains start.
That would really be nice, returned Rose with pleased surprise. Itll keep the place tight and warm and itll stop it from further ruin too. Everybodys working hard to make their places that way. Weve been picking blackberries all day for jam, and Bettinas going to make an aperitif which she tells me is exquisite. Well have to wait and see. Tasting is a year away. Weve all been trying to wash off the blue stains from our hands and faces.
Swiped the stock and got caught with incriminating evidence huh? asked David, looking at her berry-dyed hands.
All of uswho could resist? laughed Rose, replacing the flower pot into its safe haven. I think wed better come back for the rose bush later though, because it wont like salt water and it looks like well have to swim for it because you launched the dinghy and left us stranded. Last one ashore gets all wet.
Rose went off the stern with hardly a ripple but David, flanked by Ulf and Gurth, made up for her quiet entry as the three of them hit the water in an abandoned, one-two-three-go, synchronised and spectacular feet first splash.
Ulf caught up to Rose as she reached the beach and Gurth came in close behind, but David, doing a breast stroke with not much effort put into it, took time to enjoy his swim and got all wet.
Were going to the steamy house Uncle Twimby, Bernice informed him when he finally got ashore and the twins ran up. Were all blue from berries an thorns in our fingers and maybe that will fix it all up.
The sauna, Rose told him. Another of Tash and Shiros works of art. Its attached to the bath house. I think theyre used to bathing twelve times a day and steaming themselves like clams afterwards or something and they thought everybody else would like to as well.
Yeah, agreed Walter. Its like being in a big hot pot of fog. Its real fun.
Its the nicest place, added Bernice. Aunty Flower and Uncle Hero and Uncle Bounce an everybody built it.
Sounds like you found work for a good dragonheating up the water, remarked David regressing to kidhood again.
I never looked to see who heated it, confessed Bernice, surprised by that idea. We should look, Walter.
I thought it was wood, returned her brother in the same tone of interest.
Oh theres probably wood burning all right, but I bet if you look into it really carefully youll see a dragon hiding there in the coals, working away like mad, puffing and blowing and keeping the steam coming and making sure you dont put out the glow when you throw water on.
Uncle Twimby knows about lots of things, Walter said admiringly. Come on Bernice, lets go get the towels an see if we can find the dragon. Isabel an everybodys already there.
As the two ran off on their errand Rose looked at David and laughed.
Uncle Twimby has a fabulous imagination. Quite an idea, making dragons work.
Well, shrugged David with a grin, Good employmentecologically soundkeep the rascal out of trouble. Besides, some dragons are nice guys and like to help. Sounds like the kind of job I wouldnt mind getting stuck withif I ever took on a job.
Care to look over what the competition is doing?
Why not? Wash the salt and stress of my trip off.
I really enjoy it. Shades of glass tower living.
Lets go for that, guys, called David.
As they started for the beginning of the path Ulf and Gurth charged up from the beach with Bernice and Walter running after them, breathless, arms full of towels.
Bernice loves it, smiled Rose, as the little girl led the way, after the twins distributed towels all around. She and Walter and Therése and Heron hand-picked all the little pebbles for the pathway and around the place. Not just any stone would do. Apparently each one got questioned and had to say the right things because the twins didnt want any naughty ones, I was told. They also had to be just the right size and colour to pass inspection. Isabel and Morgan did a lot of the landscaping with Tashs help. Havent they made everything pretty? They just took the plants which were growing along the way and helped them to look more beautiful with a bit of coaxing, cleaning up and pruning, along with a few additions of their own.
Yeah, thats a huge fernouchhard on the feet, complained David, towel over shoulder as he followed gingerly, flanked by Ulf and Gurth.
Youve been in the city too long, commented Rose as she, the twins and the two dogs advanced along the winding path without complaint. But dont worry. Well soon have it tramped down smooth. Were making sandals, carved from cedar, with rope thongs. Tash is showing us how to make them fit just right so they... .
The sudden barking of the dogs made her break off what she was saying, startled as they came face to face with two people coming along the pathway from the other direction, entirely clothed and now looking entirely flabbergasted.
Ohyou gave me a bit of a shock, was Roses greeting, as she wrapped her towel quickly around herself while David followed suit with his, motioning the two samoyeds to heel and silence.
Yeah, agreed Walter and Bernice, standing there clothed only in the innocence of childhood.
Not as much as you gave me, came the reply as the woman was about to turn and leave quickly, but the man held his ground and said,
We were told this property was for sale so we came to have a look.
Telling Ulf and Gurth to stay, David walked forward to stand beside Rose as she explained,
You must be after the land around the point. This is private property and not for sale.
She was about to give directions for reaching some property she knew was posted when the man broke in with,
Well, the real estate agent sent us here, Im sure.
No, this is private land, she reiterated.
She heard the womans undertone remark that it wasnt as private as some people would like to think.
Yep, youre looking at the wrong territory, interjected David. Thats what the No Trespassing signs I put up are forso people will read themmaybe even heed them. If you just go back to the main road and head south for the village, thatll get you where you want to go.
Oh. Well, okay.
The would be purchaser turned then and started after his wife and they heard her say,
They should be ashamed, and with children too. I dont care if it is private property. There ought to be a law to stop that sort of thing.
David looked at Rose who pulled a stage face of guilt and said in a soft undertone,
Caught with our pants down.
At least off, he returned, and they both started to laugh softly.
Are they mad because they cant buy your place Rose? asked Bernice.
Thats about the speed of it, little one.
Forget it, David dismissed it as the couple retreated. Like Therése says, they plainly dont know any better. Okay Bernice, lets go look at the sauna.
Unintentionally, their conversation had carried to the two departing people, which succeeded in creating enemies of what had merely been moral judges before.
As they reached the bath house Rose assessed things, coming up with the conclusion,
The showers busysos the tuband the sauna.
Guess well have to wait our turn, replied David with not much philosophy but plenty of fact.
Walter and I dont have to wait, said Bernice confidently. We can sit on the floor cause were small.
Yeah, lets, agreed Walter and the two entered the covetted confines, as shouts of close the door and you cant come in here without showering first and this is getting worse than a phone booth cramming, came from within.
Never mind, we think of everything here, Rose informed David with a smile, and headed for a bench which was placed under the shade of a drunkenly leaning willow tree looking as though it were inebriated from sucking up too much moisture to offset the drought. Its a Fitz original, flower carvings by Heron.
Put that up for auction and you could make a fortune, exclaimed David admiring the craftsmanship.
What have you been up to lately? she asked as they sat down to wait.
Mostly working, he told her, Which reminds me to ask youwhen do you think I ought to start taking back my assets? Im getting tired of standing on street corners playing my flute with my nice new cap upside down on the sidewalk beside me asking for donations. Its afraid itll get repossessed, and my inverted wings pinned there dont look so good crashing on cement. Bad advertising for my airline route.
You could unpin them, was Roses suggestion of the obvious, And Im sure Edith Godwin will give you any amount you want. All you have to do is ask.
Yeah, thats the problem. I feel like a schoolboy asking for candy money. Id like to be an adult again.
I thought you could pull money out of a hat, she laughed.
The problem with that trick is that I have to put it in first.
Youre giving away trade secrets, and I also seem to recall you said you had little hoards you could get into any old time, so I doubt that youre waiting in food bank lineups.
David started laughing too as he answered without looking at her,
OkayIm not starvingI eat at home with Gram, and I do have little hoards stashed away here and there which I keep for real emergencies, butI need my capital for deals.
It seems to me you certainly cleared up a lot of things without your capital not so long ago, including your bet with Fitz, or do you consider that to be seed potatoes? How did you swing that?
He brought his eyes back and saw the questioning in hers.
<How can I explain that when I was here before I went into the barge office and lifted a board andshell really think Im a nut.>
So he told her,
Dont look so sceptical. So help me, I dont rob banks or something. Its nice clean money and I dont launder it. Its returns on an old investment.
Im glad to hear that.
I thought you believed me when I said Im not a liar, he told her with a disappointed tone.
I do believe you. Its just that sometimes I feel Im only getting half the story to believe.
David smiled blandly and deliberately ignored that remark, which fortified her suspicions, as he continued with,
I need my capital for future expansion. Returns are justreturns. Pin money. Im standing still running in one place.
Well think of something with that brilliant brain of yours.
Oh yeah. The latest circulating con seems to beI should take on a lucrative executive position for awhile and inveigle the CEO into constantly disagreeing with me until he hates my guts, then hell kick me out to get rid of me, and Ill blackmail them into giving me a big payoff so I dont sue them for wrongful dismissalexcept that Im not a con man. Too bad.
Save us from that! exclaimed Rose, putting up her hands in mock horror. Id have to work overtime just to keep you out on the street. Its enough dealing with your problems when youre honest.
Im honest? grinned David. Did I hear you say that? You do believe me.
Believe it, agreed Rose. But, about the assetsId let things calm down a bit more before I broke out with too much. Maybe take it back a bit at a time. Your original long-knives are still out there and they might be con men.
That leaves me in the hands of my managers again.
YeahGram and Li. Theyve been managing me since I was a kid and it took me years to discover thats what they were up to. Now theyve got me again butgood thing they were around or I might not be. Ill take your advice. Whats one more manager in the game?
Im not your manager, just your lawyer, she objected, Its not a crap shoot, and you can dump me any old time.
Oh noyoure not getting out of it that easily, David informed her. Youre stuck in the mud along with them now and I think Ill leave it that way for awhile. I can just sit back, loaf, and get fat eating and drinking and enjoying myself while you three worry about what to do with my finances nextshould have thought of delegating a long time ago, especially with such trustworthy and intelligent manipulators. Maybe returns on investments isnt such a bad idea.
I should have known anyone who smoked cigars and threw money around was big trouble, she told him, remembering their first contact in the restaurant.
So youve got it. Incidentally, when I first met you I recall you smoked cigars and didnt give any indication of being penurious yourself, if your office was any indication of your financial status.
Maybe youd better start thinking of how to manage big trouble yourself then, she laughed.
Agh, geeze! Never argue with your big sister, especially when shes smarter than you are, he surrendered. Lets just steam our heads for awhilethat is, if some of those Hoggers would get out and let us get in.
Since were already steamed up it might not be such a bad idea to sit outside here and cool off a bit.
Oh yeahbet they use all the hot watercold showers coming up, predicted David.
Its good for you.
Who said so? he enquired. Some masochistic health freak trying to upmanship everybody else, very likelyand will you please quit pushing good things at me? Just let me be a decadent, licentious, incorrigible, reprobate like everybody expects me to be.
Huh! Got news for you. Around hereimpossible! was Roses unexpected response, accompanied with a wry face and an ironic little laugh.
Her tone of voice and expression made David give Rose a look of surprised and interested speculation. After a moments silence he came up with his assessment of her words.
I just got the definite impression that youre trying too damned hard to do whats right so you can live up to what you think are Grandfathers expectations. I bet youd just love to buy into one of my poker games, smoke a cigar, guzzle some good brandy, eat chocolates and go to the symphony all got up in pretty stuff just to impress the good-looking guys youd come across there.
Why dont you, Rose told him in archly authoritative and indignant tones as she turned her head away, Just shut up and steam off.
<Hah! Gottcha in spades!>
- - -
Before Davids arrival, Augusts presence in the bay had been welcomed, her terms for remainingno rain, more warm weatherhad been accepted, and requirements for dealing with them were met in the best way they could be managed. The meadow showed brown, small ponds dried up, the garden continued to hold the impression of small bare feet between its rows, and fires were now forbidden until rain should come again and wet everything down.
Everyone living in the bay knew with deep conviction what one spark could do to a tinder dry forest. Bud, Shiro and Armand had helped to fight such flaming disasters elsewhere in the past. The awesome sound, sight, smell, searing heat and overwhelming destructive ferocity of such a conflagration was permanently imprinted on their memories as a reminder of the untamable power of fire roaring free with unlimited fuel around to feed it and a hurricane of its own making urging it on.
Although fire was forbidden it was not forgotten. The bay dwellers also knew that fine weather was wood gathering time. Everyone was aware that they were late getting the harvest in. Spring was really the time for that, while there would be months of good drying time for the wood before it had to be used, but there hadnt been that many people around early in the year and the supply needed, which Fitz, Rose and the children collected as the weather warmed up had seemed adequate for them.
Now the head count had gone up to such an extent that everyone knew something had to be done. Where once each person had looked after their own needs more or less, it now became a shared effort, and the work was progressing with energy and enthusiasm and just a slight touch of urgency. Fixing windows and painting interiors had been judged by all to be less of a necessity, and the work of getting in the winters supply of fuel began.
Several trees which had been victimised by wind the previous year were located, and the process of turning them into firewood got underway. They were considered to be already partially seasoned by having lain drying on the ground for a year and more. A large fir which had fallen along the shoreline, its roots having been undermined by stormy high tides, was the first of those chosen for removal on the morning which began Davids third day at Shalisa Creek Bay.
With a chainsaw Bud had limbed the fallen tree, and was bucking the trunk into short rounds which became Shiro and Davids responsibility to split with sledgehammers applied to mauls and wedges. These irregular chunks of wood pie were taken by Harry and Armand and further reduced with axes into bite-sized sticks for the house stoves. Some was made smaller, to fit into the little units every boat there at the wharf owned, while awkward chunks of hard knots and twisted pieces were to be utilised by the barge fireplace, helping to round out its store of wood. Branches were left for future processing as kindling.
The sorting was being looked after by Dancing Water, and Fitz was responsible for loading up the hand carts which had been constructed of odds and ends and old wheelbarrow parts. These were being trundled back and forth between shore and storage shed by Rose, Bettina and Tashakawa.
Fitz had taken on the loading job because he could see that the women were piling huge loads onto the barrows themselves and, in spite of convincing demonstrations to the contrary in his life, he was still of the opinion that women should be given help and consideration where physical tasks were concerned and shouldnt work that hard.
He was making sure that by the time Rose arrived with her empty conveyance he had only half loaded Tashakawa or Bettinas, causing one of the women to pause for a rest each time. Then hed start on the next one before the first became too heavy, saying Tash had more than enough, while he good-naturedly took the laughing remarks from the other men about his getting out of shape, although they knew very well what he was up to.
The young people had left an hour before the wood gathering job had been decided on, going off for a tramp with the two samoyeds, but now, over the noise of saw, sledgehammers and axes came the sound of young voices singing.
Summertime and the sogging is easy...
Whats the lunch bunch been up to? asked David, resting on the handle of his sledgehammer with his gloved hands as the others stopped to listen too.
Havent heard that version before, commented Rose, throwing the long braid of her hair back over her shoulder as she paused in her work.
Sounds like theyve been having fun, laughed Bud, as the six trooped down the old logging road to the beach, led by Ulf and Gurth.
Hi, Morgan greeted them, Can we help?
May we, corrected the twins.
Nothis time its can, agreed Isabel.
Two small confused faces stared at her.
I explained it to you before. Can means youre able tomay is asking permission.
Well maybe we should saycan may we, then, suggested Therése.
OhI give up! exploded Isabel in exasperation.
Good, returned Morgan, Then we wont have to argue over that anymore.
We never refuse help, accepted Armand, hoping to end the debate, No matter in which way it is offered. Then, looking more closely at Morgans face he enquired, What did you run into, eh?
We were fighting, Walter informed them with a pleased grin before the others could shut him up, as he bent his legs to better display a pair of skinned and bleeding knees.
You and Morgan had a fight?! asked Tashakawa, incredulous.
It was some other kids, offered Morgan. We met them on our road and they started throwing stones at Ulf and Gurth and one of them hit Bernice, so Walter ran and pushed him and they knocked him down, so... .
You really shouldnt fight, began Rose as Morgan stopped speaking, but then David turned aside to hide his laughter and she saw the amusement the other men were trying to hold back, so she didnt continue with her own opinion.
Well were not going to see the twins get picked on, Isabel defended the group.
They called us dirty deadhead Soggers, Therése told them indignantly.
Well Id rather be a Sogger any old day than stupid, mean Hillers like them, said Morgan with definite pride in his voice.
Dancing Water, observing the dirt on Heron, clothes and person, shook her head and said reprovingly,
That is not the way of the Shalisa.
Heron dropped his eyes and said nothing but Fitz detected a certain unrepentant upward tilt to his mouth. Even Ulf and Gurth, standing there smiling, seemed happily pleased with themselves.
What did the other bunch look like at the finish? he asked, trying to lighten the situation.
We cleaned up on them, returned Isabel with a straight face and great satisfaction in her voice.
Way to go! applauded Bud, while Harry had a hard time not joining in only because he could see Bettina eyeing him.
Then one of their mothers came along and screamed all kinds of awful things at us, put in Therése, And when I told her she shouldnt say those things she hit me.
No one has the right to do that! exclaimed Rose, And I guess you have to defend yourselves.
Then, pausing to consider how best to terminate the affair before it was blown out of all proportion to its importance, she continued,
Armand, do you think you could find a bit of ice for Morgans lip, and kind of clean out the dirt from Walters kneesand youve got a bump on the head little one? as Bernice rubbed her forehead, with tears beginning to start down her cheeks. Are you and Isabel all right Therése? and getting a nod from the two, Heron, you look like you could use some cold water to cool off a bit. Maybe you should all go with Armand and clean yourselves up.
Come on, mes enfants, laughed Armand. We go fix it up.
He put his arms around Bernice and Walter and shepherded them toward METHUSELAH. The other four and the dogs followed, while Bettina and Tashakawa gave the men hard looks and finally Tashakawa said,
You shouldnt encourage them to fight. Sometimes self-discipline is good. Its better to negotiate.
Sometimes, said Bud, still laughing, A good set of knuckles in the teeth is the only kind of negotiating some people understand, especially when the self-discipline is all one-sided.
Oh, you men think all you have to do is punch people out and everything is all right, scoffed Bettina.
David, remembering the sight of Bettina, chair in hand, charging a man in a pub, laughed harder and said,
I can think of at least one woman who isnt too heavily into pacification, especially in a pub brawl.
Bettina, caught by a witness, returned,
Wellthe men started it.
Never mind, said Rose, through the laughter, Well just get on with what were doing and maybe I can talk to them later.
It was only a little kids scrap, Shiro tried to dismiss it.
Soggers, huh? interjected Bud. And what did Morgan call themHillers? Hope it doesnt turn into a gang war.
They just didnt understand each other, reasoned Shiro. Theyd probably get along fine under different circumstances. The rumbles you used to get into when you were a kid were something else.
Seems to me I had some good company to rumble with, commented Bud, giving Shiro a meaningful glance.
Maybe Grandfather could help, suggested David, trying pacifism himself as he set to work again. He was a man of peace. Maybe we could tell them the story of how he saved the bay from destruction by being reasonable.
He probably had someone else who was reasonable to deal with, was Buds opinion, picking up his saw again as the group on the wharf reached METHUSELAH and went aboard for needed repairs.
- - -
The end of the day saw the wood requirements well met, with neat rows of split wood, fragrant with fir pitch, stacked in a spare outbuilding, and a second pile left in the open, prepared to shelter from inclement weather under old tarps.
There was also a group of people thoroughly tired out from their day long efforts. Early evening found everyone well-bathed, steamed, overfed and relaxed. It was in this mood of well-being that some of them decided to head for the village and a little socialising.
Hey Rose, came the cheerful invitation as David stuck his head in her open window, A couple of us are heading in to the pub for a brew or two. Coming along?
Rose looked up from her computer, hesitated, then replied,
No thanks, David. Saturday night at the Rascals is off my visiting list.
Ohokay. Harrys decided that a little salt spray is just what he needs for exercise, so were taking his runabout, and Buds been going on about seeing how the familys getting along without him so hes cranking up his Zodiac. Guess we shouldnt be too long.
Saytwo in the morning, corrected Rose. Think they start throwing rascals out the door about then.
If not earlier, from my experience, grinned David. See you, and he left, whistling.
Shiro, Fitz and Armand, who had all been sitting gazing idly and somnolently at the beautiful approach of evening, saw the two small boats being readied and, when the invitation came, the three figured that a trip to town was just what the doctor should order right about then, which Armand did very promptly. They couldnt convince the women to go with them though, so the six men set off, their laughter and conversation drifting back to those left behind.
Boys night out, smiled Bettina as the wake from the boats shimmered and settled against the beach. Im too lazy to go.
I hope they will not make too much party, commented Dancing Water doubtfully, painful memories coming to the fore in her mind.
Dont worry, Rose assured her. Theyre a good bunch. They worked pretty hard on the wood today so I guess they deserve a little fun.
Ill get the pilot berth ready for Shirohe always snores when hes had one or two too many and I cant sleep with that noise, confessed Tashakawa. Itll be nice to have some peace and quiet to do my own things for awhile tonight.
I dont suppose theyll be back before midnight, surmised Bettina, and the others laughingly agreed.
It came as a bit of a surprise therefore when, only a couple of hours later, they heard the sound of the engine from Harrys runabout and saw the running lights heading into the bay.
Hi, Harry greeted them in a subdued tone as the women came out to the wharf with flashlights.
Well, that was a short visit, returned Rose. Wheres Bud?
Hell be back tomorrow, Fitz told them. Right now I think we have a bit of an emergency to discuss.
Hearing their murmured concern he reassured them,
Oh, its not that badbutbad enough we think.
We heard some people in the pub talking about us, explained Shiro. Guess they didnt know we were there. Seems the kids were the last straw for them. Theyve called the cops on us.
They what?! exploded Rose.
Yeah. Theyve laid all kinds of complaints against us, David elaborated, Like, were operating a bawdy houseexcuse it, ladiesand there are two vicious dogs running around here biting people, and some hooligan kids attacking their little darlings, and were polluting the waters with our effluent, and were a bunch of squatters, were growing pot and selling it, and who knows what the hell else.
Rose started to laugh.
Thats crazy. Who would lay charges that that silly? she asked in amused disbelief.
The parents of those kids our bunch conquered, said Shiro, And its a good thing Bud wasnt there to hear it or hed have taken on the whole group and wed all be up for creating a disturbance in a public place.
Not just Bud, put in Armand. We had a hard time restraining ourselves, but luckily wed only had a couple and we thought discretion was the better part, so we kept our mouths shut and headed back here.
One of them was that fellow who came wandering down to the bath house path with his wife a while ago, David told them. They all seemed to be old friends. They said the police would be coming tomorrow, because they insisted something be done about us right now.
Well we shouldnt just stand here, said Tashakawa in an alarmed voice. Lets go up to the barge and make some coffee and discuss this.
Our policy maker, joked Shiro, behind Tashakawas back. Takes after her father.
As Rose stood there trying to hide her concern she felt the spirits of the bay around her rouse themselves with watchful uneasiness.
<Here comes the provocation I was hoping would never happen. How do I deal with this?>