The two colourful butterflies hadnt intended to lure David Godwin away from the serious business he had turned his business into lately. They had flown over from the area of young, wild green growth which the marina owner had been encouraging along the edges of his waterfront property, where he had thrown in among the grasses and young hopeful indigenous trees which were once again taking root there, seeds he had brought back from Shalisa Creek Bay the year before, gathered from the wild flowers of the peninsula.
The marina owner was also hopeful. He hoped to encourage birds and other small wild creatures to make their homes there, as he tried to create around his daily life a mini-Bay type area to relieve the press of what he considered to be too much city. He had already been rewarded by a visit from hummingbirds on their way through to a more suitable environment.
The butterflies had also obliged, becoming as permanent a resident in the green area as their short lives could make it. When they flew over to the little barge they were intending just to have a small cruise out over the water where it was cooler, and where they could play their courting games in an updraft to ease the fun along.
The gulls, paddling in their immaculate grey and white water wear, determined not to be displaced by urban noise and sprawl, were busy enjoying the relative quiet in front of the little floating office, as the man sitting on the deck eating his lunch there watched with a little bit of envy, resisting the temptation to throw himself in with them.
To his way of thinking, the barge deck, and lunch he made himself, far outclassed any commercial enterprise of the culinary sort he could think of in the immediate area. He had chosen the bench on the cool side of the barge to enjoy his meal recalling how, earlier on in the month, he had watched with amused pleasure as a pair of peach-breasted swallows investigated his eaves for a home, had found the space completely to their liking and had consummated their nuptials immediately on the spot.
The following busy building efforts and the sight of Mom Swallow peering over the edge of her nest, anxiously eyeing him as he came and went, was followed later by the sound of small voices, and the racing back and forth of the pair as they did their best to meet the unceasing and ever noisier demands of four loud and gaping mouths requiring foodmore food!
Thenthe culmination of all this effortthe solo flights.
The recollection of the excited twittering of four small Swallow replicas, interspersed with the encouraging calls of the parents, as one by one the little birds had braved the skies, leaving the safe surrounds of the nest, had inevitably brought to mind his own first solo flight. That feeling ofwings, all mine, and endless sky to try them out inwas never to be forgotten. He wondered if the little birds would also remember that experience later in their lives when responsibilities arrived to harness their own just fledged wingéd freedom.
With smiling regret and a certain feeling of nostalgia, he had watched the family leave his friendly barge to fly off into summer blue and a plethora of opportune insect hordes, wishing his own solo flight had been such a happily shared affair. Hed called his mother as soon as hed landed, still exhilarated with the accomplishmenthey, I got my wings, I can fly!listening to her praises and hoping that hed hear his fathers voice join in at last, but it hadnt happened. It would have meant so much at that moment.
He sat on the edge of the barge, swinging his feet and eating his lunch, as he reminisced about these and other things, enjoying this warm summer time to himself.
It was then that the two butterflies soared in on their gorgeously painted wings, interrupting his reflective mood.
The hanging baskets of flowers and the tubs of them around the barges perimeter caught the attention of the two lovers fluttering and gliding. The fuchsias swaying in the breeze which was gently rocking the baskets halted their dalliance for a few brief moments as they refreshed themselves with the nectar there, and then it was down to the flowers blooming in the tubs which had also been been grown from the wild seeda bright blush of rose campion, along with daisies, pearly everlasting, and white yarrow. Three kinds of the flowers represented those which Rose Hold had given each new member as shed brought the children and Dancing Water into the Shalisa familyand the yarrow was there to remind him of words from his childhood, when Yu Ching Li had told him that flying could be done in so many ways, and the magic of dragons, music and imagination had become part of his airborne repertoire. Slender, dried yarrow stalks were the medium of divination for countless generations of the Chinese people, a forecast of hope, or warnings, or advice.
These were touchstone memories, live in a tub, which could lift him away from his work and responsibilities whenever he wanted that, even for just a few minutes of playing his flute. Many a harassing day had been soothed into smoothness with such a small flight.
He had just played his flute before starting his lunch.
Brighter than the flowers they had landed on, the two beautifully arrayed visitors began a dazzling performance on air as they joined in their helix-fashioned flashing dance of love, round and round and up and down with such intense concentration that they were oblivious of their fascinated audience sitting there while their whirling, passionate invitation to one another went on before him.
Rainbows before his eyes, cool breeze, flowersand the sudden recalled rush of Waterfall plunging down and down in the sunlightas these two dancers brought to him once again her song, with their awareness of her always open offering.
all things are one here,
Shalisa Creek Bay appeared, bright and green and flowery and welcoming, bringing with it the magic which that space offered him. There was no denying the ripple which went through him as he watched the graceful, free, uninhibited dance of the butterflies.
Suddenly Bay beckonedthis time with the enticing and sensuous overtones of the two colourful lovers and the remembered siren call of Waterfall. At that moment he admitted it to himself. It wasnt just the magic of the place which drew him now. Rose Hold was there and she had held more than a little of his thoughts since that evening at the symphony and his visit to Grandfathers Place.
Lunch lost its interest. He offered the rest of it to Ulf and Gurth and the paddling gulls.
<OkayIm outta here. Time for a holiday.>
He walked into the office and picked up the phone.
Hey Gram, just decided I need a break. Have you planned anything around me for the next week or two?
Ohthis is a surprise! Let me thinknoIm just counting on your usual happy, useful and delightful self, and maybe your efforts in curbing young Howard from his mad career of self-destruction, but Im sure that can wait. It seems to need time anyway.
Umguess youre right. The only influence I seem to have there is just dragging him away from neighbourhood raves before the cops arrive at the door to do the dragging.
Ever since the term ended, his grandmother remarked, Hes done nothing but laze around, sleep around, and get high. It does worry me a bit, but I guess hell survive somehow without you as his keeper. His parents seem to feel hell straighten out on his own.
Well, maybe theyre right, was the reply with overtones of surrender in it, Anyway, I guess a couple of weeks or so wont hurt, considering whats gone before. Im off to the Bay once I set things up here. Think Ill leave tomorrow on the late tide. Okay with you?
I think its a great idea. Youve been on the treadmill far too long. Im beginning to worry about you. The two of you are on either extreme swing of the pendulum with nothing in between. On the other hand, I did see you smoking a cigar yesterday with Li.
YeahwellI kind of deserted the straight path for a little bend here and there, admitted David. Makes it more interesting because I cant see whats around the next corner all the time, there not being any corners in a straight line, which gets to be pretty boring stuff after awhile when I know nothing is going to happen except what I expect.
As long as it doesnt turn into benders, laughed Edith.
That remains to be seen, but not at the moment. Ill pack it in early here I think and start getting TJUTELA ready for tomorrow.
Early dinner then.
Ill be there.
David hung up just in time to see the two butterflies drift off toward his growing green buttress against the hard cement world.
- - -
The last days of June were being kind to sailors. The weather forecast was for sunny and mild with steady winds and, looking into the future, not a hint of rain for awhilethe opportune window for any sailor to glide through, and David Godwin wasnt going to let it close this time before he got through it.
Taking a sailing holiday to Shalisa Creek Bay was always a delight for the yawl TJUTELA. Waiting there by the little barge office as she was readied for the trip, she took stock of what was being stored aboard as Ulf and Gurth helped with the work, checking out their own particular responsibilitiestheir food larder, bowls, leashes, balls, brush and comb, treatsall there. Lots of good food for Friend Davidtwice as much as usual in fact. Extra bedding and a duffle bag of spare clothingodd. Just the usual amount of potent potables thoughand the bar locker had beenlocked.
The yawl was getting her suspicions up. Just who was going to share this trip to Shalisa Creek? Another one of those females who smelled everything up with potions and lotions and kept saying the galley and head and everything else wasnt adequate because they were used to shoreside facilities?
So far her skipper had shown enough sense not to take one of those on a sail to the Bay. Theyd come along on overnighters, or for a couple of days only. Hadnt been any of those trips for some time though, and TJUTELA had begun to feel that maybe hed given that up, which pleased her. After all, shed been handing him negative signals about that every time hed done it.
The interference and questionable presence of another female, telling boat and skipper what to do and how to do it when the guests themselves didnt even know what they were talking about had not been to her liking. After all, she was here to take care of all that and to guide them along the right sailing paths. She was not going to encourage competition of that sort. It had always been her duty to see to it that her charge got the best of help and advice she could give, under any circumstances.
It hadnt always been so easy and enjoyable with those shed been given to guide at the beginning of her career. It had been more like being pressed into servitude. Now though, since she and David had become partners on the water, life was a happy breeze.
The very first hand on her helm had been anything but what she had expected when shed been launched, and subsequent uncaring as well as rough handlers had been even worse. They seemed to have the idea that they were totally in charge.
She had known better, but they hadnt understood.
A power boat passing by out in deeper water scanned her with binoculars, admiring the yawl being readied at the floating marine office. Her sweet curves might have pleased the eyes of a prince, and she had been built to do just that for a prince of sortsthe son of a wealthy man of international commerce.
This birthday gift for coming of age had not been generosity alone on the fathers part. It could be used as a tax shelter.
The yard through which she had been commissioned had spared no expense or skill to see that she turned out the way shed been ordered up. Nothing but the best for everything, from planning to maiden sail. Her delivery and launching had been shining affairs, well doused with the expected magic liquids, for her bows and her decksto please any gods of the sea who found her among their companyas well as for the interiors of those who attended the occasion.
Two or three parties later though, it was found by her first and youthful charge that she seemed to lack the space for packing aboard all the people and stores he plainly expected to load her up with.
His new toy was inadequate for his purposes.
He complained constantly about her, and she in turn bridled indignantly against him, refusing to take dangerous or ignorant orders from the helm, trying her best to get the sails where they ought to be according to the weather and sea conditions available, and finding that the hand in command had other conflicting and unknowing ideas, so that she was constantly heading up into the wind to avoid disaster, or being asked to cross a heavy tide or swift current at right angles which she knew was wrong, or found herself heeled over at a dangerous and unnecessary inclination because the young skipper seemed to think that more heel meant more speed. She knew where her best angle of heel was for a swift passage. He didnt, and had never bothered to find out.
The two did not get along, and the reason the young skipper gave for the bad behaviour of the boat was that it couldnt be sailed by anybody because it was ill-conceived and badly constructed.
TJUTELA felt the same way about her first skipper, who seemed to have the idea that he owned her. She knew that boats, horses, dogs and cats were never owned by anyone. They were individuals in their own right. It was a caring, considerate relationship or nothing at all.
Unfortunately, she had found herself in the nothing at all category.
He had now decided that hed really wanted something much larger than a boat which actually could be handled by one mansomething with more power and less work attached if he did get around to taking the helm himself.
In fact, a power boat.
It was finally suggested that perhaps another boat should be commissioned, and when that was ready the flawed jewel could be soldor written off as a loss. This pleased the young manand the yawlexcept that she was insulted that the blame had been placed on her. However, she looked forward to having a new colleagueperhaps one with more knowledge and understanding than the one who now ignorantly misused her.
The replacement plan was implemented, and so she came into the hands of a lesser house, but one still able to maintain her as shed come to expect. The hand on her helm now though, however competent, seldom came to visit her and didnt really seem to care whether she happened to be there or not when he arrived for a sail with friends.
For a time she lounged in a boathouse, taken out mostly during the summer months, and usually for little jaunts when her skipper was accompanied by friends with charming companions who called the boat cute and pretty and got clumsily on board with much solicitous attention from their host.
Polished and primped, she was displayed a lot and used little, while she herself longed to be out with a bone in her teeth doing what she had been built forsailing. During the off-season she was turned over to caretakers who made a lot of money maintaining her to an expected standard.
She was well maintained.
At last she was brought out and put up for sale again, but now her quality structure with its seemingly time-consuming and expensive upkeep made her an unattractive item when she was stacked up against all the new and technologically updated, low-maintenance, as well as relatively inexpensive fibreglass models which had begun to flood the market and catch the fancy of the boating public.
Wooden boats were out.
Her owner was anxious to sell. He wanted one of the new models himself. Old girlfriends were not to his liking. It seemed that other sailing enthusiasts had the same idea, as the yawl sat at her berth, speculating on her next responsibility. It finally occurred to the one she had that perhaps the market across the ocean was a better and more lucrative place to rid himself of his costly white elephant.
A crew was hired and she was sailed across to unfamiliar shores, where people unfamiliar with such quality and the price which went along with it, looked at her and went away shaking their heads, saying they could have a new boat built for them with a lot less expense than that.
Her price began to drop as her age didnt.
She went through three purchasers in quick succession who bought her for prestige and found that they couldnt maintain such costly egotism. Had they been at all handy they might have discovered that she was in such good shape she didnt need much in the way of maintenance, but they knew nothing of boats apart from the fact that they were good for business meetings, parties, clandestine tête-à-têtesand tax breaks.
Marine brokers began to dread the sight of her, sitting there taking up space and requiring care while her current seller demanded an outrageous price which always had to come down considerably before she got moved again.
She waited and waited until an ambitious couple decided her opulence was just what their rising careers needed, and they sailed her off with a mortgage and no crew attached.
Then she hosted cocktail parties for high-flying business men and low crawling wheelers and dealers, one of whom managed to deal the pair right out of their boat.
He also dealt in illicit substances, smoked brown paper cigars, presided over coarse, bawdy parties during which food and drink were spilled liberally around while people climbed on board from a swim to sit, dripping salt water on her fine upholstery below decks, butted smokes everywhere and anywhere, or threw up from ingesting too much party fare wherever it happened that the necessity presented itself.
She was now totally neglected as to her own person.
Her arrival at a marina always brought groans from the staff. Loud noisy parties, demands for special treatment, and complaints from other marina patrons always came with her. A steady stream of party-goers, coming and going quickly all night made for a lot of traffic and arguments in the marina parking lot as party-fare got bought and sold. Some of these altercations turned violent, requiring the immediate attention of local authority.
As a spectacular finale to the catalogue of insults her dignity suffered, this owner fell overboard and drowned one night, dead drunk, or overdosed, or both, depending on which version was most acceptable to the listener.
Some said under their breaths that the boat had finally had enough and had helped him over the side. Others said it had been someone more likely made of flesh and blood who had taken a hand in the demise of the obnoxious man.
The cause of death, tentatively listed as drowning, was never quite discovered, as it was shrouded in underworld misinformation or none at all. The only fact found was that he was quite deadfrom whatever cause or combination of such, and nobody knew how, when or whynor did too many care except those who now had to find someone else to argue with in the marina parking lots.
After that there seemed to be little interest by the purchasing public in having a boat with the stigma of possible homicide attached to her.
When some considerable time had elapsed without an offer to buy, she was moved up coast where her history was not so well known, and the price fell within reach of two men who were competitive and ambitious and wanted her for racing because they were told that she had won some rather surprising contests overseas, even though shed actually been built for comfortable cruising. They believed this, as her rig and hull seemed to suggest that she could indeed win races. They were too busy to check out her offshore history.
As well, they were vain and proud enough to feel that her questionable past enhanced their projected characters. They were-up-and coming macho, and under their reckless and daring handlingmore often than not disputedshe actually won some races, usually against local enthusiasts not used to sharp tactics. The shout of foul became something of a clarion call of discontent around her, and each race she finished was protested and called into question even though she did win some of them fairly and by her own merits.
She became something of a notorious presence within the circle she frequented, until a siren with a shining, smooth skin of fibreglass, a hull and rig designed specifically for racing and a skipper determined to get his due, trounced her soundly and continued to do so with every following contest.
Her two disillusioned owners, not able to either outsail or outsmart this new threat to their grasp on the top, entered her one last time, and voiced their intentions of putting her up for grabs when they returned if she did no better than she had been doing.
She did worse.
As they came out from the lee of a small island a vicious gust of wind swept around its point, catching them unprepared, and in the near knockdown which followed, both men went overboard. She righted herself while a committee boat retrieved her crew and put them back on her deck.
True to their word, she was put up for sale, only this time she had the added onus of being called a rogue.
For awhile her reputation followed her and inhibited other would-be purchasers, for sailors are generally considered to be a superstitious lot, and her past history spoke to them of bad luck, rather than bad management, but as it is with all notoriety, time swept the stories aside. Except for the fact that shed been built for a baron of commerce, the brokers never spoke of where else shed been or what shed been up to unless they were pressed for the information and then the tales became very nicely vague and innocuous.
Once again she was just another expensive boat with anxious sellers and a negotiable price, looking for a buyer.
This next one gave her as a marriage gift to a couple who didnt really want her. The female half of the pair was more interested in real estate and other more visible items able to be displayed closer to home. She had no intentions of being hauled around getting cold and windblown on some wretched scow.
Her male partner wanted a contemporary flashy piece of sailing equipment, not that old wooden thing, and he told his wife it was too bad her father hadnt had better taste than thator maybe her Daddy was too cheap to give them anything better.
Many such like remarks led the woman to accuse him of marrying her for her wealth. This argumentative beginning to their marital bliss soon deteriorated into vitriol and spite, after which the two split in very short order, fighting over money and who owned what.
Although she had been cleaned up and now had a semblance of the fine presence shed once had, the yawl in question being argued over simply wanted to find someone who would actually appreciate her and take her sailing, and perhaps even listen to some of her good advice along the way, although she was beginning to despair of ever enjoying this program for boat happiness with someone who knew what that was.
At last she met him at a boatyard she had been taken to for a little cosmetic surgery where it was hoped a buyer could be found with enough money to get her off the hands of a salesman as sharp as her owners.
Something between man and boat immediately drew the two together.
It was instant affection. She was beautiful, and it hardly took much of an assessment below decks to convince him that she was as worthy as her looks before hed decided she had to be his. Although his later thorough enquiries turned up all of her inglorious past he felt he had no right to hold that against her, since he was considered something of a rogue himself.
The yawl was ecstatic when he made a deal for heras ecstatic as he himself was over the trade hed negotiated.
Now she waited, readied for a holiday, as early evening came. The vague remark her skipper had made to the samoyeds about maybe somebody else coming aboard for this trip and that they might have to give up their favourite bunk for awhile had left her wondering. She hoped that she wouldnt have to discourage the next visitor aboard as had happened with so many of the others, whom she had felt werent up to the standards she demanded of those who came aboard her, which demand included the skipper himself. If the new crew couldnt put up with TJUTELA she was quite convinced that they couldnt put up with him.
- - -
David took a sip of his madeira and told Edith Godwin,
Im all set Gram, and Im sure looking forward to this trip. That little touch-down when I took Rose and Armand back sure whetted my appetite for more.
Its about time you took a holiday, she smiled as she poured tea, You really have been keeping your nose to the grindstone lately.
Yuh, not too much of it left, he agreed. Maybe I need to grow it back by sticking it into somebody elses business. I probably shouldnt butdo you think you could find out where Howie is tonight?
The question surprised her. She put down her teapot and regarded her grandson with more than a little curiosity.
Why the sudden interest in your young brother at this late hour in your plans? she asked.
Not sudden, David answered, Ongoing. I thought he might like to take a sailing holiday with me.
Edith shook her head at that reply.
How many times have you asked him to go with you somewhere and how many times has he said no? she asked.
Well, thats a lot for him and zero for me, but I thought this time Id change my tactics if not his mind.
Youre up to something, she observed with certainty.
Yeah, he grinned, I thought Id him sail him off to the Bay with me where the most he can get into is some home-made beer and some good people. Sort of away from all the problems and temptations hes embroiled in now. Maybe he can work off some of his misdirected energies without hurting himselfor anybody else for that matter. I dont like the direction of the path hes headed down, so, who knows? He might even like this one instead.
Edith added lemon to her tea before replying,
None of us like it, but its his life in spite of our opinions and leverings.
Thought Id get a bit heavy on the end of my lever, he told her. A little legerdemain on my part. Itll help my nose grow longer.
Are magicians considered to be liars, then? she asked, tongue-in-cheek.
Certainly not, he defended himself, We just make appearances appear in a different way.
If thats how it is, youll have to find some other way to grow your nose then, she advised. Are you planning on convincing him this very evening?
If I can, he told her, It would sure be easier than trying it in daylight when hes sane and soberwellat least somewhat sober. Skip the sanity bit.
Im surprised you havent thought of this before now, she returned. I did, but I hate to interfere. I kept hoping youd get around to doing something, before I had to suggest it.
Too bloody selfishly busy with my own affairs, he admitted, But, since you brought the matter to my attention yesterday Ive been thinking about it, and Im glad you approve, because Ill need you to convince Mom and Dad that he came along willingly.
You mean he wont be doing that?
Like you said, has he ever shown the slightest interest in getting on that boat with me? Youll have to be my cover until I press-gang him aboard with a bit of my much vaunted legerdemain.
Im sure hell be impressed if you manage that, she smiled, And as for coveringoh yestheir two sons disappear somewhere around midnighttheir youngest who is their darling, and their eldestwho is that tooexcept with him its always a game of wits and upmanship for them. They love to get you, because youre always getting them in your own odd ways, but it keeps them from becoming complacentand I do believe you get a kick out of needling them just for fun.
Davids laughter hit the cup of tea he had just raised to his lips and he had to put it down to avoid spilling it.
I love your thumbnail sketches of what goes on in our family. Youre always so damned right.
Ill have no problem at all covering for you, she assured him. Theyll know Im dodging anyway when they find out whats happenedjust as long as they know hes safe. Uhhe will be wont he?
Gram! Would I hurt my little brother?
Wellmaybe a swat or two here and therejust to set him straight.
Guess I have wrestled with him a couple of times when he deserved it, admitted David, But Im hoping to use brains over brawn this time. Do you happen to know where he might be found, somewhere about now?
No, but I could phone his parents and ask if they know.
Maybe you could do it diplomatically so no one knows the informations for me. If you mention my name theyll probably ship him off to Paris or something, to keep him away from my bad influence.
Ill phone right now.
They smiled at each other and then David leaned back in his chair, hands behind head, while his grandmother phoned her daughter-in-law, asking casually into the conversation how the boys were and what they were up to.
Well, she informed him when she returned, Freddie and Art are with their families and, of course, she doesnt know what David is up tofortunately for usbut Howard is over at that nasty little Lewiss placesome sort of birthday celebration. Probably kite high by now. I think taking him to the Bay would be a really good thing. Theres something magic about that place, and maybe some of it will rub off on him. I remember feeling it myself when I was there in your casino with Li and Ana.
More than we know, smiled David. Maybe I should go offer to drive him home. I hate to think of him smashing up that nice new car of his.
Not to mention himself.
That too. Think I could get him to go out to the marina with me tonight?
With you, anything is possible.
You really are the best confidence builder I know, grinned her grandson. Ill just enjoy my tea for awhile and then go get him. Ill keep you posted as things progress. If were lucky Ill hit the outgoing tide tonight and by morning well be long gone.
Oh goody! Another wonderful game of evading the issue with your parents. Its such fun. Ill look forward to it.
- - -
When David strolled into the roomful of young people, heads turned, Howard Godwins included. The appearance of his eldest brother always got attention, especially from himself, generally accompanied by apprehension.
The young men regarded this tanned adult with his unpressed appearance and his meadow of fair hair floating in all directions, and felt threatened and uneasy. They thought that kind of competition was unfair. They wished he hadnt come and that hed go away quickly before all the females present turned their eyes in his direction.
They also never knew whether he was going to smile and have a drink with them while quietly persuading Howard to leave their gathering, or whether it would be a more bodily type encounter before they were deprived of the company of the younger man as he was removed from their presence, collar and seat of the pants style. That depended on whether or not Howard had previously ingested something which his big brother disapproved of and the two disagreed as to whether it had actually happened or not.
Much of the feminine half of this gathering looked on the intruder as an exciting, older masculine presence which made their young men seem tame and inexperienced by comparison. Theyd heard all about him. The idea of a liaison with such an older man seemed to hold a fascination which they often discussed among themselves.
Right now the party-crashing villain was standing close to the door with his hands in his pockets, definitely looking for Howard. That young man was looking for a door to disappear through but he wasnt fast enough, his reflexes being somewhat dumbed down by getting on the outside of some of those things disapproved of by his brother.
David picked him out of the crowd and walked quickly over while space appeared before him as he came and then cleared around the two brothers the way chickens scatter from a predatory fox who has broken into the chicken coop and singled out his chosen victim. Only his girlfriend stayed by Howard, and that was because she was interested in David.
Hi Div, smiled Howard bravely, using the name hed given his brother since childhood. Thought you were off somewhere on the boat. Want a drink?
Is it legal? came the question.
Oh yeah. Just rum and cokecola, he corrected himself quickly, Your kind of stuff.
Ill go for that, David agreed, looked at the girl who was standing beside them gazing at him with stars in her eyes, and asked, Do you think you could find one for me?
He waited until she smiled herself away before he asked,
So what else is going down with you?
The unbelieving steady grey eyes of his brother bore him down.
Just a little pot, came the reluctant admission at last. Dad said hed cut my money off if I didnt smarten up right away.
Dads very wise with his hindsight, observed David. Im here because Gram was talking to Mom and Dad and theyre expecting you to come home clean, and she imagined that if you stayed here much longer somebody would have to carry you home after you got into trouble, so I volunteered. I thought you might like to sleep it off on the boat, away from prying eyes. They might get annoyed at your choice of bed for the night, but at least they know Im straight.
Howard tried to fathom what the implications were.
<Another row at home or another lecture from David. Well, at least he has no influence over my finances, and right now he seems concerned about saving me from parental wrath. Sometimes that comes in handy, and hes driven all this way, hasnt he? Better go with him this time. I can simply close my ears and get off into my own dreams while he yaps at me.>
Im not really ready to leave yet, he tried anyway.
Yes you are.
<Damn! Another humiliating scene in front of my friends, getting dragged away like a kid. Better to go gracefully.>
Okay, you damned bully.
Thats my boy. Keep smiling.
They headed for the door, but bumped into the young woman who had procured a drink for David.
Here you arewhere are you going?
Howie forgottheres a race coming up tomorrow and hes going to crew on my boat, smiled David before his brother could say anything. Cant have him staying up too late.
<Im not lying. There is a race tomorrow andhe will be crewing on my boat, but not in the race.>
He reached out for the drink but found his hand closing around the girls as she held on. Glass and hand disappeared, surrounded by his big, long-fingered grip, and the look she gave him as he raised the drink didnt go past him while she tried to brush her fingers against his lips when he went to take a sip.
<Shes trying to have you on. Shes much too young, and Ive been taken in by that kind of delightful predation too often and too early in my life to get hooked by it at this late date in my career.>
He touched the tip of his tongue to the liquid, then let go quickly.
Good stuff, he smiled at her, Thanks. Have to go now or well miss the tide and that would never do.
Well thank you, she replied indignantly. I guess that leaves me high and dryunless I can come too.
High maybenot so dry, grinned David, Andsorryexperienced crew only. See you. Got to get my man in shapewere winners.
Obviously, but I guess that makes me a loser. How do I get home?
Ohwell drop you off if you like, he offered, not too pleased with the idea.
She hesitated, but decided it wouldnt be any fun with both of them there.
Dont bother, she declined the offer, Its much too early to leave.
Im awfully sorry Jan, apologised Howard earnestly, I forgot all about the race... .
She was already turning away.
You better not screw me up with her, he complained as David started him toward the door.
If she likes you shell be around, his big brother advised, If not, no matter, because shes an outrageous little flirt, and with girls and drinks like that youre better off alone.
I thought you liked rum, countered Howard.
It wasnt mixed too well.
Howard wasnt quite sure what that meant, but he thought his brother suspected that Jan had laced the drink.
Shes not a flirt, he stated as they went outside, Im getting serious about her.
AghHowieyoud better notshell have you for dessert and find someone else for breakfast. Dont you know anything at all about wine and women? Youve been around Freddie and Art too longto say nothing of Dad. Your education is sadly lacking, but I guess we could catch you up.
Yeaheverybody has heard about your educationDon Juan Godwin.
Really? I must have lost quite a bit of my memory somewhere. Doesnt sound like me at all. Im into avoidance. I knowtheyre talking about somebody elsemy names David, not Don.
What about my car? Howard protested as David walked them past it and toward his own.
It wont run away, David assured him. Well pick it up later. You dont want to get caught driving under the influence. Theyll lift your licence and you wont have anything to impress the girls with.
Theyre impressed with me, not my car, retorted Howie, his youthful pride wounded.
Oh sure, thats what I thought when I got my first set of wheels, laughed David. Didnt last long thoughneither did the wheels.
By the time they reached the marina Howard was feeling more at ease. His big brother didnt seem to have twigged to the fact that it was something other than pot he was off on. Their conversation was pleasant and easy, about the TJUTELA, about Shalisa Creek Bay where David usually went now whenever he took off in the boat, about music and amusing little incidents from his sailing.
<I really like David, if only hed quit picking on me and embarrassing me in front of everybody all the time. Ive always been closer to him than the other two. Freddie and Art are such drones and somehow David has always been doing something interesting. Even after he left home to stay with Gram he always looked out for me. Now though, maybe he should lay off a bit. Im not a kid anymore.>
Howie didnt really retain much of the talk, just the general run of it. He was happily off in his own thoughts. They went aboard TJUTELA and had chocolate and brandy, Davids favourite when he was with people he really liked, and it pleased Howard that it had been the choice tonight. The evening was warm, the moon was heading toward full, its light was beautiful on the water and he was off on his own flying carpetwith Janwishing she were there with themwith himalone.
He wasnt quite sure when he got into the comfortable bunk, feeling really pampered, but there he was, being wished a goodnight by his big brother, which was a change and a relief. Hed expected lectures and threats.
He went peacefully to sleep.
- - -
David was meticulously trimming the mainsail when Howard stumbled out of the aft cabin and went up on deck, blinking in morning sunshine. He looked dully around, then realised that the boat was not at its berth in the marina.
There was nothing in sight but water and a distant horizon to starboard.
Good-morning Howie, smiled David.
Howard blinked some more.
Ugh! Not really. Some race. Didnt even know wed taken off. Wheres everybody else?
Out of sight.
Were winning huh? He sat down heavily in the cockpit and added, Guess well be getting back soon.
Dont see any markers. Where we headed?
Eventually well wind up at Shalisa Creek Bay, his brother told him, Once youre cleaned up. Meanwhile, the horizon looks pretty nice and empty dont you think? We have it all to ourselves. Good sailing today.
Howard pondered over those words.
<Shalisa Creek Bay? Once Imcleaned up?!>
Then he knew that his kind brother had sailed off with himto clean him up.
You son-of-a-bitch! he swore bitterly in a low voice. You lousy bastard!
Youre insulting our mother and turning our father into a cuckold, came the reaction in a calm voice. Would you like some coffee?
Ohokay. I just thought you might like something better than cold turkey. It isnt very appetising, returned David, not without sympathy.
You miserable beggar! screamed Howard and threw himself down the companion-way and into his bunk again.
David flinched, pulled a face and said to Ulf and Gurth, who had quickly vacated the place Howard seemed to have chosen for himself as hed flung himself onto the bunk,
Dont worry about it guys. Hell feel better soon and well have a great sail to the Bay. Sorry about getting you turfed out but well manage somehow, okay?
It wasnt okay but there wasnt much they could do about it. They decided to lie down, one on either side of the cockpit as usual, and get set to enjoy the sail, even if Howard wouldnt.