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44: Standoff



We took a wrong turn when first we started
     along this path of no return
It may be the time that now we parted
     a lesson hard for us to learn
We both made mistakes as on we stumbled
     jostling for standing room
But brothers we are though we have tumbled
     cut from cloth of single loom
So let us stand back to view each other
     both with thoughtful caring glance
And take a short rest so we recover
     amity in this advance


Kelp floating along shoreline

Shalisa Creek Bay had been settling in for a day of quiet, insular restfulness. Wind was out playing on Sea beyond Bay, and the fresh, cool briskness had brought Fog to loiter in front of Gap, twisting and turning in a lazy dance of swirling vapour, reaching arms high up and stroking Cliff face with cool slender fingers.

     Cliff enjoyed the attention Fog was giving. It made the rocks there take on a depth of colour that dryness never allowed them to display. As well, all of the sturdy little grasses and flowers, with their roots twining and reaching into the cracks and crevices of his rugged surface, eagerly drank in the moisture Fog threw over them, which brightened them up to shine along with the rocks.

     In days gone by Fog’s presence would have told the bay dwellers that there was no need to keep watch on The Old One’s Footprint this afternoon, as no boat would knowingly intrude on that wall of blinding greyness unless its master was totally ignorant of what lay behind it. Disaster usually followed any shipping unfortunate enough to choose such a course.

     Rose and the twins had gone down to Beach waiting for Tide to throw himself along the sandy shallows, bringing with him seaweed torn from rocks and fastholds beyond the bay, which they wanted to collect for the gardens.

     That was when that the faint throb of a boat engine and then the definite sound of contact between craft and rock resounded from the cliffs, reaching those on shore.

     Rose looked up, startled, while the twins, not too concerned, carried on with their search for interesting shells. She turned her gaze to the Gap, and as she waited, puzzled, she was shocked to see, emerging from Fog and riding the surging wild crest of Tide’s advance, a sailboat surfing forward through Gap, almost sideways to Cliff, hurried and harried along by Tide’s eager and rowdy advance.

     “Oh my!” she exclaimed in disbelief, “What idiot is this?”

     Then, as she watched, the vessel took control of itself, turning away from Cliff and heading purposefully into Bay.

     She got another shock when she realised that the boat was the yawl TJUTELA.

     “Has he gone crazy?!” she asked aloud.

     Just then Bernice looked up, saw the yawl and said,

     “Oh—look—there’s a boat coming in.”

     “It’s TJUTELA,” she told them, still not quite believing it herself.

     “Oh wowsie!” yelled Walter.

     “Uncle Twimby!” shouted Bernice, neither child being aware of the danger the boat had been in.

     “Damned lucky fool!” breathed Rose softly, “Now what’s he doing?”

     Instead of heading for the wharf or the barge, the sailboat began a slow, large circling manoeuvre, and it was a surprise to her when she became aware that the man at the helm was not David—he didn’t have enough hair.

     Scanning the boat from that distance she made out David’s visible mark of identification coming out from the pilot house to the cockpit. She surprised herself next with the relief she felt at that sight. Seeing someone else at the wheel of the yawl had definitely given her a bad feeling, and as she looked at the sailboat it appeared to have an untidy air about it where it was usually so trim and neat. The sails were tied to their booms in lumpy disorder—and there was David sitting by the companionway, leaving control of TJUTELA in someone else’s hands.

     As she stood watching she became even more perplexed when the boat began its second slow circle, but then it cut the expected orb in half and headed in toward the wharf. Rose saw the yawl’s anchor being set by David, then Ulf and Gurth leapt off the deck, seemingly by invitation.

     When the two samoyeds hit the water and started swimming for the beach, Bernice and Walter, seeing where they would come ashore, ran along the sand to meet them, shouting an encouraging invitation of ‘let’s have fun’.

     Then the dinghy was lowered, the two men got into it, the little boat rocking from side to side as David’s companion boarded, then David himself stepped into it and took the oars.

     As they pulled away from the sailboat she started for the old wharf, wondering who David might have brought with him, reaching it as the rowboat came up, while the twins, with Ulf and Gurth, were running back along the beach leaping up and down shouting,

     “Hi Uncle Twimby!

     “Well, this is a surprise!” Rose greeted the two men, noting with silent concern the skipper’s swollen and discoloured face, “We weren’t expecting you.

     “Sorry—forgot to call ahead,” apologised David, “Hope we’re welcome.”

     “Always,” she told him with a sincere smile, waiting for further information.

     Instead, David queried,

     “You remember my brother Howie?”

     “Of course! Welcome to the bay, Howard.”

     “Hi,” returned Howard briefly.

     “Is this going to turn into a team effort in future?” she asked with approving interest, still holding her curiosity about David’s face in check.

     “Getting slam-dunked onto his tub wasn’t my idea,” snorted Howard, “Captain Bligh here can do it himself in future.”

     Rose was a little taken aback by that remark, but thinking it had something to do with their uncontrolled entry from seaward, and mystified as to what had happened which would have made David do anything so recklessly foolish when he was usually so careful about choosing his time for entering the bay, she asked,

     “Tell me—what the devil are you two doing shooting the Gap when it’s running full force—and in a fog ?

     “Slight miscalculation,” explained David, not looking at her as he handed her the dinghy’s painter and then, taking the oars inboard, he added, “Things didn’t quite go according to plan.”

     Not at all enlightened by those words, she started to tie up just as Howard jumped out, banging onto the old boards and almost upsetting the dinghy which reacted by jerking the line out of Rose’s grasp as it rocked.

     “Solid ground at last!” exclaimed the young man, and started walking away without looking back.

     “Ooops!” exclaimed the skipper, grabbing for the toe rail to hold the dinghy from being pushed away from the wharf, “Excuse please—new hand aboard.”

     “Seems like it was an exciting trip around the Horn, Captain,” she observed with a laugh and, unable to contain her curiosity longer, she asked, “How did you manage to mangle your face?”

     “The boom hit me,” he said briefly, with a lopsided smile.

     Seeing Howard stalking off she told him,

     “Something’s not adding up here. You don’t tell us you’re coming, you hit the Gap in a fog with the worst tide possible, you got knocked in the face with the boom—and your brother doesn’t really seem too concerned.”

     “He needn’t be. We made it, and I’m not dead—just slightly mangled.”

     “I see you have a fat arm too.”

     “Yeah, that’s why I’m not dead I think.”

     “That must have been quite a whack. When did that happen?” she asked, containing her concern about the word ‘dead’.

     “A few miles back. Knocked me flat for a bit. That’s why we hit the Gap at the wrong time. Howie was doing helm and navigating while I was below. Did a good job. Hit the Gap right on. Just bad timing. Went a bit too fast. We got a bit too close too soon.”

     “You hit the rocks didn’t you,” she stated with conviction, “That must have been the sound the twins and I heard.”

     “Just a little bit,” he admitted, “I couldn’t see too well in the fog, and it was too late to turn back after the tide got us. I was caught between choosing Gap or Cliff. Not much choice really. Tide makes more knots than our engine. Getting trapped against the cliff is really disaster—bad rocky shallows and no way to get out of it with the tide and wind against us. We’d have been beaten into splinters. I had to tackle the Gap. I’ve sailed through it before but Cliff objects to that manoeuvre being tried on him.”

     “Quite the seaman, getting through against those odds,” she told him with admiration in her voice after she heard the explanation.

     “Bloody desperation,” he told her with feeling, then continued, as he fastened the dinghy’s painter himself, “You’ll have to excuse me if I seem a bit short but—I’ll tell you right off—I’m in a very bad space at the moment, I have a horrendous headache, and my ability for dealing with anything more demanding than basics is now just about zero. Do you think you could make me some of your good coffee?”

     “Oh—sure—but—maybe you’d better talk to Armand first,” she suggested gathering from his conversation that his injury was quite recent, “You look like you could use his help.”

     “He’ll just tell me to take a pill and I’ve already done that.”

     “Well maybe he has a better one,” she smiled.

     “Nah—I’m okay,” he told her with a shrug, watching Howard’s progress along the wharf toward the twins.

     Dressed as he was in the shorts and tee-shirt David had supplied him with, both of which were a little too big, the real Howard was somewhat hidden behind the appearance of a fellow Sogger as he approached the two, and they took him for that—except for his hair.

     “Hi, I’m Walter and this is Bernice,” the little boy introduced himself immediately with a big smile.

     “I’m nohow and outta here,” flung out Howard, coming to a stop because his progress had been blocked by the youngsters and the two wet samoyeds.

     “If you came with Uncle Twimby then you must be a pirate,” stated the boy with pleased certainty.

     “Uncle Twimby?!” queried Howard.

     “You know—him,” clarified Bernice, pointing to David.

     “Tchuh! That’s just my dumb brother,” he informed them, as though that person had no worth whatsoever.

     “You’re his brother?” asked Bernice, plainly pleased with that fact, “Are you a pirate captain like him too then?”

     “No,” came the reply with a derisive laugh.

     The twins looked at each other and continued their investigating questions.

     “Then I guess you’re a magician?”

     “Or a dragon?”

     “I’m not into that crap either,” came the scornful answer from a young man who also wasn’t into kids.

     Young blue eyes searched each other again, a bit puzzled, gauging the qualities of this decidedly different being. They scanned him up and down and Walter’s gaze settled on his hair, which certainly differed from any they’d seen around.

     “You’re a space pirate then!” was his delighted conclusion. “I can tell from your funny hair.”

     “You’re from another galaxy!” came Bernice’s excited assessment.

     “Oh—fuddle!” exploded Howard, in as bad a humour as his brother, “Yeah—judging from what’s assaulting my senses right now around here I guess you banged me right on with that one. This has to be another planet than the one I got deleted from.”

     “You talk funny too,” Bernice added, not having understood some of the more colourful language he was using.

     “Why don’t you two weirdos go play with the dogs or something,” ordered Howard rudely, “You look like you belong together—animals of a kind.”

     “Oh, we do,” Bernice told him seriously, “We always play together with them. They’re our friends.”

     “Great—so go get lost with them,” came the agreement, “I’ve had enough of that hairy pair to last me for the rest of my life.”

     “You can come too,” offered Walter, not quite getting the message.

     “We all share everything here,” Bernice told him, thinking a pirate from outer space must be unfamiliar with everything happening around him.

     “Oh—piss off—go on, or I’ll vapourise both of you!” he told them, keying into their fantasy, glaring at them and batting around himself as though to invoke a spell for that purpose.

     The twins weren’t quite sure if he could do what he threatened, but they looked at each other and decided they wouldn’t wait to find out.

     “Okay—we’ll go,” said Walter prudently, getting hold of his sister’s arm.

     As they turned and ran off with Ulf and Gurth who were waiting to ‘have fun’, Howard heard Bernice ask her brother,

     “What did he say his name was?”

     “Nohow—I bet he’s fun like Uncle Twimby. He can tell us lots of stories about outer space an’ stuff,” Walter told her in happy tones.

     “Oh sure—that’ll be lots of fun,” muttered Howard between his teeth.

     Spirits of the Bay, regarding this unexpected and uncivil visitor, decided that perhaps he needed to be banged right on with a few more things which he hadn’t been slam-dunked with yet.

     As he started along the ricketty wharf an old, insecure board shifted under his feet. He teetered, lost his balance and fell off, making a tremendous splash as he hit the water with an inelegant bellyflop and an angry shout of,

     “Agh!screw it!

     Tide treated that remark with utter disdain. His cold, muscular, forceful saltiness rolled over the young man and threw him against an old barnacle and mussel covered piling, which raked along his shoulder until he got his head out of water and swam for shore.

Howard wading ashore      “Fuddle it! Fuddle it! Fuddle it!” came the shout from the beach as he reached the shallows and finished his swim by wading in, rubbing his shoulder, while Rose, David and the twins, having heard something hit the water, turned around in startled surprise to see what all the noise was about.

     <Think I’ll have to have a word with him about his mouth>, David told himself, as he got out of the dinghy in a manner not quite as vigorous and sprightly as Rose was used to seeing—he stumbled a bit.

     She put out her hand to steady him and when she let go of his arm he began to walk along the wharf in the wrong direction.

     “I don’t know where you think you’re going,” she told him, alarmed, “But unless you’re planning to take the deep six off the end of the wharf you’d better turn around.”

     “Not quite myself yet,” he excused himself as he implemented her instructions.

     “That’s for sure. I think that right about now we go get Armand to look you over,” she told him, trying to keep the concern out of her voice, “Don’t argue with me on this one please. We’ll have a get-together with everyone on the barge after but you really should just talk to him about it now. Good?”

     “I’m okay—really,” he persisted, “Just a little disoriented at the moment.”

     “Oh sure. You’re staggering around like a drunk.”

     David considered that evaluation of his condition, thought of the bang his head had taken, added into the equation the stiff drink he’d had, along with the pills he’d swallowed with it for his headache, decided that all of it plus an empty stomach was certainly having an effect, and told her,

     “Good diagnostician. Let’s go.”

     “We’d better collect Howard on the way,” she decided, “He can fill Armand in on details.”

     “Whatever,” agreed David glumly , “He hasn’t been able to fill me in on much.”

     Rose got the definite impression that ‘bad space’ was a mild indication of what was happening between David and Howard. Having seen the connection between the two when she’d been at the after-symphony party, she knew the relationship hadn’t been that cordial. She’d been puzzled when the yawl had circled around the bay in that unusual fashion after being flushed out of the Gap, and now David’s last remark left her even more so as she wondered just what the two were doing aboard TJUTELA together anyway.

     As they headed for METHUSELAH she decided she’d have to wait and see how things progressed before she could figure out what was going on.

- - -

”Good to see you again Howard,” Armand smiled as the three came aboard the big schooner, “Morning swims are always delightful. You’ll have to forgive our wharf. We’re still trying to persuade it to behave.”

     “Think you could try a little harder?” queried Howard with a sheepish wry grin, realising that everybody around had seen his unintended and ungraceful plunge.

     “Well it’s certainly nice to have young, energetic help arrive to give the project impetus,” returned Armand with a meaningful smile, then, turning to TJUTELA’s skipper, “You’re always treating us to your interesting experiences David. Shooting the Gap with the tide at full bore, and in a fog?!”

     “More than one kind,” laughed the skipper, “Sure glad I had enough wits left to get us through it. Howie wasn’t too pleased about it and neither was TJUTELA.”

     “And yourself?”

     “Can’t give my opinion in public. Let’s just say I didn’t plan on it and I wouldn’t choose to do it again either.”

     “Well, your gambler’s luck seems to be holding, since you managed,” Armand told him with a smile.

     A bit out of it in the head control department, and still thinking of his aborted happy arrival, David murmured as he looked at Rose,

     “Lucky at cards, unlucky in love—guess that means the love department is out in the cold.”

     She didn’t miss the allusion. As Howard and Armand also looked at her, with interested and amused eyes, she told him, thinking fast, and hoping to send the remark off at a different angle,

     “I thought your love affair with TJUTELA was set for life.”

     Catching the hint and himself, David returned,

     “Yeah, but now I’m not so sure about TJUTELA’s take of the situation. She needs to be checked out right away to see what the damage is.”

     “Perhaps,” agreed Armand, looking at David, who seemed to be more concerned for his yawl than for himself, “But since my expertise is not consultations for boats, so let me guess—you’re here about your face.”

     “Rose conned me into it,” grinned he. “It’s just a bruise.”

     “Mmhm,” murmured Armand, “If you don’t look in a mirror too soon you might convince yourself of that description. How did this happen?”

     “I had a little difference of opinion with the boom.”

     “You got hit by the boom? How long ago was this?” Armand asked, thinking of the weightiness of TJUTELA’s spars.

     “Uh—,” David hesitated, frowning a little, and Howard filled in with,

     “About two hours ago. He doesn’t remember because he got knocked out.”

     “Indeed? For how long?”

     “Not long,” supplied David quickly.

     “How long is ‘not long’?” queried Armand, looking for specifics.

     “I don’t really know,” confessed the skipper at last, after a long pause, “You better ask Howie. Maybe he was doing the timing.”

     “Oh, it was just—maybe four or five minutes,” estimated Howard.

     “He was quite wide awake after it?”

     “He sure was when he woke up and barfed all over the boat,” reported the young man.

     “Not all over,” corrected David, “Just over the side.”

     “Yeah, and I had to clean it off,” commented his brother with a look of distaste on his face.

     “That’s what crew is for,” grinned the skipper.

     “You barfed,” repeated Armand matter-of-factly, getting back to his pursuit of facts, “Then what? You just carried on?”

     “No he didn’t,” Howard recounted, “He went below and passed out for an hour or so.”

     “I didn’t pass out,” objected David, “I just laid down for a bit.”

     “You were out of it,” contradicted Howard, “You didn’t even know when I took the keys out of your pocket.”

     “Is that so? Did you speak to each other at that time?” enquired the doctor.

     “Well, he sort of mumbled a bit when I looked for the keys, and told me to get away,” said Howard.

     “Ah, then he was just in a stupor, not out cold. That’s good. Do you remember that David?”

     David said nothing, trying to remember if he remembered.

     “Well what do you remember?” asked Armand.

     “The boom coming for me,” recalled David.

     “And before that?”

     “Well—,” there was hesitation again, then, “Lunch I guess. That must have been an hour or so before. Don’t remember much after that—just that I saw the boom coming at me. When I came to I threw up—and then I went below.”

     “He didn’t even know what was going on when he came to at first,” added Howard, then, seeing the puzzled look David was giving him he enlarged, “He asked me what I was doing aboard.”

     Armand was silent for a few moments, considering, then concluded,

     “Well you obviously knew what you were doing when you came through the Gap. Have you ever been knocked out before?”

     “No.”

     “One good point. See if you can avoid any such encounters with booms in the future, or any other heavy hard object for that matter. Once is enough. Did you have a nose bleed?”

     “No.”

     “Let’s have a look then,” said Armand, got out his old medical bag and did just that, eyes, ears, and finally stethoscope to chest.

     “Geeze!” commented David jokingly, “Do we need these medical students standing around taking it all in?”

     “We’re just part of the scenery,” Rose told him, “And anyway I’ve seen it all before—not quite as banged up though.”

     Howard snickered to himself at that remark, not knowing the ‘dress optional’ choice in effect at the bay.

     Armand had David counting backward, then asked him some questions to which he should readily have the answers and to which he did.

     “You seem to be most fortunate,” the doctor told him at last, “You may never remember what happened between lunch and the boom incident but perhaps that isn’t a great loss. You’ll probably have unsteadiness, loss of balance and maybe dizziness now and then—and a headache for awhile. No doubt you’ve taken something for that?”

     “I took some pills just after we got through the Gap.”

     “Some?” was the prompt question.

     “Well—two—or—maybe three—I didn’t count,” admitted the somewhat confused skipper.

     “You drank something to get them down? Water—I hope?” was the next enquiry.

     “I took them with brandy,” confessed David.

     “Yeah,” Howard put in, “He swallowed a huge shot of brandy before we came in, just before we anchored—like almost half a bottle.”

     Armand regarded David with questioning surprise.

Medications to ease the pain      “All that and pills too? I would have thought you knew better,” he remarked with a little laugh.

     “Geeze! Big mouth,” growled David, giving his brother a warning glance, “It wasn’t that huge. Sounds like the one you had is having an effect too.” Then he added, to justify himself, “Actually I do know better. It was just—when I woke up with that bloody headache I wanted it gone and—after the Gap—well—I just wanted a drink—so I took the two things together. Guess I wasn’t thinking too clearly.”

     “I’m not surprised,” commiserated the doctor.

     “You sure pigged out,” said his brother with a bit of taunting in his voice.

     Seeing Howard rubbing his shoulder David suggested quickly,

     “How about looking at his shoulder to get him off my back, Armand. He’s bleeding all over my tee shirt—what’s left of it.”

     “It’s just a little scratch,” protested Howard, becoming the immediate focus of the doctor’s attention.

     He took off the torn tee shirt as Armand requested, to reveal a well-scored area of skin.

     “Mmmm,” murmured Armand, “But these things can get infected—and don’t think you can sneak off that way David, because I’m not finished with you yet. Don’t take any more pills, liquor or even coffee. Sounds like you’ve had quite enough of everything already. It’s enough to make you barf all over the place again and your crew may not be so handy next time. You should go lie down and rest right now.”

     “I can’t do that,” objected David, “I have to check out TJUTELA’s hull. There may be a bad gouge needing attention.”

     “You’re still not thinking too clearly,” Armand told him, “So as a friend and physician I’ll advise you not to go diving to check out the bottom of your boat, or go swimming around her, or climbing the mast, or any of those other feats of resourcefulness you indulge in—at least not for a few days. You should take it very easy for awhile—and I mean it when I say no more drinking or coffee—and ask me about pills.”

     “Aw come on! I just got a whack on the head, that’s all,” was David’s reaction to that advice.

     “Batting your brain around is not a laughing matter,” he was told firmly, “You’re fortunate indeed if it takes only a few days to clear it up. You’re lucky no bones got broken. Look at your face and arm and then consider what the inside of your head got. No doubt you’ve seen representations of how well an earthquake can shake earth? Now imagine that happening in a confined space—your skull. Everything gets shaken like the contents of a cocktail mixer. Even a small collision can shake and bruise your brain.”

     “If he’s got one,” commented Howard.

     The remark brought laughter from them all, which lessened the serious atmosphere, and Armand finished with,

     “TJUTELA will have to wait for her first-aid. You get priority.”

     David relapsed into thoughtful silence.

     “I can go see about the bottom,” Howard offered, glad of a chance to do something, “I’ll just borrow your diving gear.”

     Confronted with this offer, David was reluctant to accept. He wasn’t in the habit of lending gear which he considered his life depended on when he needed it, and particularly not to a novice.

     Armand, noting the hesitation, thought that perhaps David didn’t feel his brother was able to assess the damage, and decided Howard needed some backup.

     “I could buddy him up David. I’ve been under METHUSELAH plenty of times.”

     Wanting very much to know what had happened to his boat, and considering Armand’s advice that he was in no shape to go looking himself right then, David decided to agree.

     “Okay—thanks guys. That would be great. As for lying down—think you got that right. After I’ve said hello to everybody I’ll head for TJUTELA.”

     “Somewhere ashore,” demurred Armand, wanting David closer to hand for observation, “Stability would be nice—oh, and one other thing.”

     Armand paused, knowing that what he was going to say next would be almost more distressing than anything else David would have to refrain from, then told him,

     “No flute playing please—you’ll aggravate your headache.”

     “Awgeeze—no boat, no beer, no doing anything—not even my flute?! Some great holiday! Okay, I’ll go throw myself under a tree and sleep it off.”

     This outburst, which somewhat reflected Howard’s previous summing up of his own situation, was the finality in David’s low spirits.

     Rose and Armand exchanged glances, and then Rose said quickly,

     “You can come have a lie down at my place for awhile. We’ll think of something better later when you’re more yourself.”

     “Hey, good deal,” laughed Howard. “I’m a patient who needs that kind of help too. I’ll come along and we can make it a pas de trois.”

     The startled silence from the other three which met his words let Howard know that he had definitely said something wrong. Used to making those kinds of remarks to the people he associated with, in fact, thinking it was pretty mild considering some of the things which were said elsewhere, he got a bit of a jolt at this silent treatment. He had thought, considering what he’d heard about his brother’s reputation, that something like that would evoke laughter.

     “Right about now,” said David, giving his brother a hard look, “My funny bone is a bit bent out of shape. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t laugh.”

     <The guy sucks up liquor like a large-sized elephant in a pool of water, runs around with women more than I do, gambles, smokes cigars and probably pot for all I know, and he’s got the nerve to tell me how to behave.>

      This view of his brother plainly hadn’t been formed from his own observations, but he decided quickly that he had better adjust his view of the company he was in, if not that of his brother.

     “Sorry,” he apologised, “Guess that was a faux pas. I was just—joking.”

     “Perhaps,” Armand interjected, hoping to bridge the awkwardness before the other man could reply, “A good rest will restore your bent humerus. Here, I’ll give you some witch hazel—soak cloths in it and put it on your face and arm. It’ll help take down the swelling and discolouration and it will heal more quickly. Put some cold cloths on first. That’ll be good—and for your head, cold cloths as well—and rest, rest, rest. I’ll allow you to say your ‘hellos’ to the others before you go lie down, but I’d suggest you don’t take too long. If what Howard tells us is correct you’ve somewhat over-medicated yourself and no doubt all that adrenalin you churned up to get you through the Gap is adding to the lot, so go take a rest before you fall down. Howard and I can take care of TJUTELA.”

     “Yuh,” agreed a very subdued David, feeling reassured that Armand was certainly competent to assess the damage to the yawl, “Let’s go Rose.”

     “A couple of pillows to elevate your head and shoulders would be fine ,” Armand added to his instructions, as the two went out onto the deck,”You shouldn’t lie too flat out.”

     Howard restrained himself from commenting on that piece of advice, having found that his smart remarks were obviously not appreciated here.

     As the two got off METHUSELAH onto the wharf, Armand was left laughing silently to himself as he heard David saying in an aside to Rose,

     “I sure hope you have lots of cloths and cold water, because I don’t have either of them on me right about now, not to mention pillows.”

     The two started away from the schooner but then David turned back saying,

      “Hold on a minute—gotta have a word with Howie about the diving gear. Hey—How?”

     Howard came out on deck and David told him in a quiet voice,

     “Take it easy on my new gear huh, and don’t sling the face mask around—if you use the tanks they’re full—and,” here he lowered his voice even more, “Could you clean your mouth up? I know some of the company you keep takes all that stuff you’re spouting for granted and we’re all adults but—at least not in front of the kids eh?”

     “Sorry,” said Howard, not sorry at all as he turned his back, “Didn’t realise I’d landed in a nursery—like Armand said—go take a nap.”

     Armand, hearing the exchange and noting the tone of voice, took into consideration the strain which he felt existed between the two brothers and, folding his stethoscope into his old medical bag, told Howard when he came below again,

     “He’ll take a nap after he’s seen everyone. I’ll find you some dry clothes while you hop into the shower and take a fast three minute pickup. It’ll clean off the salt and help the cuts. We’ll go join the rest of them after I take care of it. We’re not a bad bunch once you get to know us.”

     That suggestion did please Howard who went quickly to stand under the shower, soaping himself up with lots of hot water.

     With his shoulder attended to, and wearing a second set of borrowed clothing, Howard started for the barge with Armand. The doctor, sensing the young man’s tense stance, began a conversation, trying to get him to loosen up.

     “We’ll wait until the tide has settled down a bit before we check out the yawl and I’ll stick a waterproof patch over those cuts before we go in. Have you been diving long?”

     “Well—haven’t been doing much lately but—David taught me how.”

     “Oh, then you’ve had the best of teachers,” applauded Armand, “You and I should be able to do a good job together.”

     “Hope so,” returned Howard, with doubt in his voice, “I think he’s kind of fussy.”

     “We all are when it comes to our boats, Howie,” he was told, “Our lives depend on it. I guess you do a lot of sailing?”

     “Well—yeah—I go out on my father’s boat a lot, but it’s not a sailboat.”

     “Oh.” There was surprise voiced in the small word. “I had thought that perhaps you and David went out together.”

     “Um—no—we don’t.”

     The reply was a bit lame without explanation and Armand decided to leave the subject alone.

     “Here we are,” and as Howard looked around for a way to get aboard the barge, Armand prompted, “We take the stern ladder. The boarding ladder requires a boat or a swim.”

     The doctor was getting the impression that this young man was not quite into all the things which his brother was so familiarly engaged in. As he followed Howard up he reminded himself to take extra care in checking everything when the two of them went under TJUTELA.

- - -

Getting his first sight of the formerly much publicised and notorious barge, Howard was impressed as he went aboard and walked into the big room with its fireplace at the far end. He hadn’t imagined it would be such a striking construction. His opinion of his brother went up a notch, a bit grudgingly, but there nevertheless.

     In spite of its obvious past abuse the repairs which had been made and everything the entire community of residents had added to it, gave the place a cheerful and carefree feeling of welcome, and the big beanbag chairs set before the hearth invited him to sit in one, he, all unknowing that it was Charm’s favourite.

     She, having sensed that something was going on, came down from the spire, entered the room, saw a young stranger sitting in her chair and stopped in her advance.

Howard trying to entice Charm to come to him

”Hi Puss,” smiled Howard, who did like cats, putting out his hand in a friendly gesture.

     It was not the approach this particular ‘Puss’ liked. Here was a stranger sitting in her chair and trying to entice her to come closer. She gave him a displeased look, turned and marched off, switching her tail, out to the deck to sit on the top step and watch things from that vantage point.

     “Tchuh!” he exploded, feeling rejected, “Thanks for nothing.”

     Ulf, Gurth and the twins came in just then by way of the ramp, wet and dripping, having collected the other four young people who climbed aboard from the stern ladder, and they all immediately headed for the newcomer.

     “This is Isabel an’ Heron an’ Morgan an’ Therése an’ we’ve told them all about you, an’ how you’re a pirate from another galaxy, an’ guess what Uncle Nohow?” began Bernice.

     “What?” growled Howard, giving the expected answer and not at all happy to have been turned into ‘Uncle Nohow’ for what he considered to be this lot of young rabble.

     “We’re going to get some little chickens!” she announced, bursting with the news, plainly delighted at the prospect, and pleased at being able to tell someone who didn’t already know about it, “They’re all nice an’ fuzzy an’ yellow an’ go ‘cheep cheep’.”

     “Hey!” was Howard’s reaction, “Great idea. Fresh fricaséed and roasted chicken is really good stuff.”

     Twin sets of young and startled eyes stared at him in disbelief as imaginations began to work overtime.

     “Not for eating,” Isabel, told him with disgust in her voice, “For pets—and eggs.”

     “Oh—well,” realising his mistake Howard offered, “Fresh eggs are great too. Tell them to hurry up and lay some so we can at least eat something.”

     “Maybe you won’t get anything to eat if you keep talking like that,” warned Therése indignantly.

     “Huh,” retorted the offender, not in the least concerned with that remark, “Ever heard of grocery stores? I’ll go buy some there and eat them all myself while you watch.”

     “Hope they’re not so big that you choke on them while you’re at it,” mused Morgan with an angelic smile.

     “Have a good walk,” said Isabel, “The road’s that way. It’s only a few miles to the store.”

     “As Raven flies,” added Heron.

     The whole group then turned away from him and went over to David where he sat, leaning with his left arm on the bar.

     “Hi gang,” he greeted them, a little uneasy with the reception Howard had received from the youngsters, after having heard the exchange.

     “Oh wow!” exclaimed Morgan, “What happened to you?”

These chicks are not for eating!     At that point some of the other bay residents came aboard, forcing Howard to be a little more civil as he met Fitz, Tashakawa, Hiro and Dancing Water but, in between the introductions, he caught some of the conversation going on among the young people around David, which went,

     “Uncle Nohow sure seems to live up to his name,” this from Morgan.

     “He knows a lot huh?” query from David.

     “Uh uh—enn-oh-how—he don’t seem to know nothin’ nohow.”

     Howard had just got the first inkling of what was going to happen to him if he took on this sextet of youngsters. They might be country cousins in his opinion, but they definitely knew how to handle a city boy. He stood there chagrined, while an old, familiar expression rose to the fore of his thoughts.

     <Smart-assed little brats.>

     The adults couldn’t help overhearing Morgan’s remark. While the others did the best they could to ignore it Fitz, who had long been recognised as the major domo of the barge from his first occupation and refurbishing of it, started quickly over to make coffee, remarking loudly on his mission as he went, and the young man swallowed the cutting remark as best he could, saying that coffee right then would sure hit the spot.

     With the two brothers separated by more space than they’d had during four days aboard the boat something like a truce began to exist between the two—a cessation of hostilities, at least while they were in the company of others. Like David, Howard also was suffering from post traumatic letdown, although his injuries were more of the psychological variety, and he was glad of the opportunity to relinquish somewhat the onboard self-imposed marathon of stress.

     The smell of the coffee brewing brightened one new arrival with the prospects of a hot mugful while the other, conscious of Friend Physician present, had to content himself with the tantalising aroma and a glass of water for sipping on.

     When Rose and David left the barge, Howard turned to Armand and asked with ill-concealed anxiety,

     “Is he going to be okay? He’s sort of—crabby.”

     “He’ll be fine,” Armand assured him, “And I guess we’d be a bit crabby too with the headache he must have right now. These things just take rest and time. It appears that his arm took most of the force from the blow. It’s surprising that it wasn’t broken, but it seems you young people are mostly made of rubber. I once looked after a young man who had accidentally stepped off a cliff and landed at the bottom with only a broken heel and a few scratches and bruises. Don’t worry about it. He’ll probably be his old self after a couple of days.”

     “Oh, great—maybe I should hit him again,” groaned Howard, not seeing the startled surprise in the doctor’s face at that remark.

     His guilty but sincere concern allayed and, relieved to be told that his brother hadn’t been seriously injured, Howard became more relaxed with the company he found himself in, comforted by the fact that no permanent damage had been done by his irresponsible action.

     David, having dutifully soaked face and arm in cold cloths and then witch hazel, lying himself gratefully down on Rose’s comfortable bed at last, asked drowsily as he settled himself,

     “Would you mind checking on Howard for me? That was a bit of a bad gash he got on his shoulder and Armand said something about it might get infected.”

     “It really didn’t look too bad,” Rose told him, “And infection takes more than a couple of hours. I’m sure Armand has taken care of it, but I’ll check for you.”

     “Thanks. I’m in enough trouble with the home scene already, without having to explain that kind of thing to the parents. I’m afraid you’ll have to make allowances for his behaviour. He’s just acting like a big spoiled kid. It’s not his fault really. He came to the family late and he was such a damned cute little guy we all spoiled him stupid.”

     “Don’t be too concerned,” laughed Rose, “I’m sure Howard’s not being as difficult as you imagine. I’ll go back to the barge now and leave you in peace and quiet so you can have a good sleep.”

     Angry with each other the brothers might have been, but their concern for one another had surfaced as each thought of the other’s injury and that the fault lay with themselves—Howard, for having released the boom, and David, for having brought him aboard against his will with the result that the journey had ended in a serious situation from which they’d been fortunate to escape, mostly unharmed.

     He went to sleep hoping that a short rest would restore him to normality and then things would be the way they always were when he came to Shalisa Creek Bay—undemanding, relaxing and full of warm, lazy, sunny days.