45: Culture shock
Wind and Sun were having fun time cruising with the little wind-indicator ship which sailed at the very pinnacle of LEGER DE MAINs spire. It was a sturdy miniature of TJUTELA, launched in a sea of carved, frothy waves which were as busy as Tide when rushing into Bay. Its well-shaped wooden hull carried a complement of curved sails made from old aluminum window flashing, mast stays of slender wire, with the rest of the rigging made from the same material. The project had been sealed against the weather carefully and thoroughly with many coats of paintthe little yawl itself with TJUTELAs own colours.
The original windsock which David had topped the spire with as a wind vane for his flights had finally given in to the assaults of Wind and Weather, although it had hung on there, clutching its tattered remnants, still bravely trying to do its job. It looked so harassed and put upon that Fitz and the children decided it needed to retire, so they had made the new replacement.
The little models shining pennants now flew stiffly in any hint of wind, as though that element was always boisterous when it chose to visit the bay. Even a slight breeze kept the well-balanced little ship busy tacking this way and that, so that it served its purpose well.
This early morning Wind was being light and variable, wanting to take things easy, making fair sailing without stress for the little craft. Sun, on the way up, crowned metal pennant and sails as it hit the highest point of the barge castle first, lit up deck and painted waves, then encircled the spire and slid on down the shingles, slipping on the window glass with a scattering of shimmering little heat waves, and then bouncing off the sills on the way to the catwalk which surrounded the sunny little room. It was a game Sun revelled in.
The new, very visible, bowsprit-into-the-wind direction guide had pleased David immensely. The first time hed seen it he had flown a circle around the spire just to get a better look at it.
In the light of this early morning though, his eyes were not on the little replica, but were turned toward TJUTELA where she swung to her anchor there in the bay.
Leaving Bjorn Behring aboard, charged with the task of caring for the yawl while her skipper was on shore leave, David had appropriated the sunny little room under the spire as his onshore retreat, and had spent the next two days doing what Armand had advisednothing.
He hadnt felt like doing much else anyway.
There he had installed his sleeping bag, his backpack with essentials, and his flute. This old friend he hadnt played, but he had fingered it a lot, realising just how much his music meant to him when he was deprived of it, particularly here at the bay, in the small space where the acoustics were so different.
His headache had subsided considerably with the help of Armands pills and he had ben advised that if he walked carefully, with a toe first step, there was less of a jarring motion to be transferred upward along his spine to his head than when he used his usual heel first manner of walking. The swelling of his face and arm had also retreated to a degree, but the colouring there was an interesting purple-blue which he knew would become even more colourful as it turned toward yellow at a later stage in the healing process.
Now, standing out on the catwalk, leaning on the railing with the early morning sunlight bright on his less-aching head, he whistled very softly to himself, a pensive, subdued sound which accompanied his frown as he looked at his yawl and its untidy appearance, sails awry on swaying booms, dinghy tied too close to its mother ship, nosing in against the hull as the tide moved it.
Howard, it seemed, hadnt yet learned that dinghies needed a little more leeway, requiring much more painter to be let out.
It wasnt just the appearance of the sailboat which had his attention. He was still pondering the problem of what had gone wrong with the mainsail when it had come loose and dropped the boom on him. It worried him that something wasnt working properly. To his mind, unreliable gear aboard was dangerous and not to be tolerated.
After some time of standing there, leaning and whistling, he decided that he had done nothing for long enough. BRIGHT LEAF was lounging there on the sand and he figured that a gentle paddle in the canoe to visit TJUTELA wouldnt be all that strenuous.
Working on that theory he went down the steps from the spire using his careful new method of walking, climbed off the barge and continued on down the beach. He said good-morning to the canoe, asked to be allowed to make a short journey out to the yawl without permission of its owner, settled himself gently in, paddled leisurely and slowly to the sailboat and climbed carefully aboard.
The disorder he found there brought a flinch and a wry grin to his face.
In the cockpit, beer and pop cans were rolling around among food crumbs and a pair each of socks and sneakers. There was a cap hung on the wheel and below it one of Davids tee shirts had been arranged, wheel spindles through outspread arms, scarecrow fashion, mimicking a captain at the helm. It was the shirt his marina crew had presented him with on the day the chandlery had opened, printed with a large ace of hearts playing card, across which was emblazoned, Ace of Parts. He kept it on the boat to wear whenever any of them came aboard to let them know he got the inference. This message from Howard seemed to have a different tone to it though.
<Is he calling me a big p....? That rat!>
All the empty beer cans raised the interesting possibility in his mind as to whether Howard could actually outdrink Harry, because Bettina thought the young man was such a sweetheart she gave him anything he asked for, which requests had been heavily weighted toward the liquid type. David had to admit that when Howard wanted to be, he was pretty irresistibleat least to the ladies.
The pilot house hadnt fared any better. The bar was open and showing signs of much useparticularly the brandy bottlesone of which was empty. Books were scattered around on seats and floor where they had been tossed, indicating impatience with contents. The cell phone, looking as though it expected something to happen, was resting on the chart table in the middle of the last consulted open chart, an empty coffee mug beside it.
Below decks the galley had dishes and food littering the counter space and the sink contained the butts from some of Davids cigars. The coffee pot rocked gently back and forth on the stove between loosened fiddles. David couldnt help wondering why food aboard was necessary when his brother ate so much at everybody elses place ashore.
Clothes and damp towels were hung and thrown around the head space. The shower was dripping warm water. The soap container was almost empty. The one for shampoo was. His borrowed shaving items sat where they had been put, lounging in sticky puddles around the hand basin. He rubbed his own stubbly left cheek and decided hed leave that pursuit to his brother anyway, because the other side of his face was too fat and tender to manage right about then.
He found Howard still asleep in his bunk, taking full advantage of his lone occupation of the boat. Not being the tidiest person at the best of times, his sojourn aboard did not include cleaning up after himself.
He was used to having someone else do that.
David stood for a moment, looking at the sleeping culprit, shook his head with a half smile of disbelief and went to his own cabin to pick up some clothes. There, sitting on the pillow of his rumpled bunk, which apparently had been slept in and used for snacking, was Bjorn Behring, an empty beer can under each arm, seamans cap at a rakish angle over one ear, his usual wide happy smile seeming even broader than usual. This whimsical piece of mischief by his brother brought a quiet laugh from David.
He took the cans away, and lifted his old friend up, telling him softly,
Looks like youve been living it up along with Howard. I should have known better than to leave you here alone with him. You were probably nice enough to tell him which food locker the beer was in.
Taking clothes and Bjorn with him he went out to the cockpit again and stood surveying the bundled sails, willing to forgive his brother that bit of untidiness, considering the circumstances under which the work had been done. He was glad that he himself had set the anchor, because he was sure that Howard considered the boat to be a floating hotel and bunked down to sleep soundly all night, never checking on the safety of anything.
Going to the mizzen boom he undid the badly fastened ties, raised the sail and lowered it, flaking it neatly as it came down. He then went to the mainsail and paused, regarding the headboard. He examined it thoroughly. It was in perfect condition. So was the shackle which fastened it to the halyard. He raised the sail, lowered it and raised it again, yanking on the halyard with hefty strength as he did so. Everything held firm, including the sheet stopper through which the halyard was led into the cockpit.
<So it wasnt gear failure. That idiot! He didnt listen to a thing Id said. I told him not to touch the main, and to let go the port jib sheet and haul it in starboard side. He must have let go the main sheet and reached over and grabbed the main halyard instead of the jib sheet and didnt even know what hed done. Aghforget it. It was an accident. Im just glad it wasnt worse than it was. Hes going to get hell about the mess here though. How could he trash everything so fast? Hes only been aboard for two days by himself.>
Howard, being awakened by the sound of things happening on deck, got sleepily out of his bunk and headed topsides. Stretching, yawning and rubbing the back of his neck he greeted David with,
Ohits just youhi.
Hi doesnt cut it at the moment, David told him, getting ready to dress him down for the onboard untidiness. You have some explaining to do.
Half asleep, Howard totally misunderstood that last remark. He stared at David standing there with his arm over the boomthe one which had caused so much havoc.
Whaddya mean? he asked apprehensively.
Well, just think about it for a minute, was the request.
The two looked steadily at each other until Howard could no longer sustain the contest because his guilty conscience rose up and got the better of him. He thought he was being accused of his irresponsible action with the boom. He felt panic rising.
He decided to confess.
I didnt mean to hurt you David, he blurted, Honest. I didnt know it would get you like that when I let it go. I did it for a joke. I thought it would just dump sail all over you and knock you off your feet. It scared the hell out of me. I thought you were dead.
Puzzled at this unexpected response to his remarks, David stood nonplussed for a moment, then realised Howard had just told him that the boom had been dropped on him, not by incompetence but by deliberation.
Bewildered shock set in. He had just come to accept completely the idea that it had been an accident. He closed his eyes and rubbed his aching head. Confusion began. This was his much treasured little brother he was dealing with.
<I wouldnt dump him because hes been a pain in the butt for a week and has messed up the boat buthes hit me with a boom and just about killed mefor fun? It scared the hell out of him? Apparently not enough.>
He stayed in silence wrestling with himself but at last he opened his eyes and looked at the guilty young man in front of him saying,
Awgeeze Howie! Dont you know any better than that? You really could kill a man that way.
Im sorry, pleaded Howard, Its justyou were being such a pompous ass.
David gave a small, snorting, laughing sound.
Pompous ass huh? A man never sees himself until someone tells him honestly what he looks like. Guess that tee shirt on the wheel is calling me a prick is it?
So okayIm the stupid prick. Im really sorry. Believe meplease!
David was tired, knowing that he was slow and uncertain, his thought processes dulled by pain killers. He didnt want to start discussing the incident with Howard, afraid hed say something he didnt really mean and would regret it afterward. Right at that moment he felt only deep disappointment with his brother and he wanted an end to the situation he had created with his misdirected attempt to show Howard a different path.
Okay How, he said finally, Its my fault. I shouldnt have dragged you here like I did. I tricked youyou got me back. Lets call it quits. If you want Ill get Harry to take you into the village in his runabout and you can take the bus home.
Theres a bus? asked Howard, startled.
It was a totally unexpected option.
One every morning. If you hurry up you can get it.
David stepped away from the boom, gathered his belongings in the cockpit together and climbed over the stern to get into the canoe again.
Where are you going?! demanded Howard, not having expected the matter to end with such abrupt finality.
Im going ashore to play being a pirate with the kids. Want to join in?
You just told me to take the bus home.
No I didnt. Staygodo whatever you want to How. Im leaving your direction up to you now. Ive just found out where mine is and it seems to be taking my nose out of your business.
Howard and TJUTELA watched as David got into the canoe and started to paddle away, both with a feeling of having been deserted. The young man looked around and it got to him that he had actually been enjoying himself here.
Angry frustration hit him. He didnt want to go home. He got the definite feeling that he had just been hoist with his own petard. His adversarial attitude toward his brother about everything had backfired. It had just now been politely suggested that he could take his little cannon and go blow something up somewhere else if he didnt like it at the bay because David wasnt going to play that game anymore.
Damn! Fuddle it!
He picked up a beer can, crushing it in the middle, and hurled it after his brother, shouting, as a disclaimer to taking responsibility for the choice,
You got me here, you sonnova bitch and you can damned well take me back!
The beer can hit the water ahead of the canoe. The paddler paused as he overtook the bobbing, half-sunk container, reached over, picked it up without looking back and continued on his way, calling out,
Could you at least tidy the boat up a bit? It looks like a pigsty.
- - -
Howard bumped the dinghy onto the sand, dragged it up a bit out of Tides grasp and, hands stuffed in pockets, he took a walk by himself, eyes down, angrily kicking shells and stones in the sand as he went along. Having quickly rejected the idea of taking a long, boring bus ride home, he mulled over the last couple of days hed spent at the bay.
He had found that in this place of no telephones, electricity generated by an antique iron monster, water contributed by its equally ancient water pump companion, and groceries miles away, there seemed to be enough of everything to keep the bay dwellers here happy and contented.
His participation in sun, sand, swimming in warm sea, shower, sauna, great food, good company, all the beer he wanted, a private crash pad aboard TJUTELA loaded with everything, a beautiful uncrowded beach and quiet, peaceful, natural surroundings for which others would pay enormous entrance fees to enjoy had turned out to be much more than he had expected.
The obvious and material charm of the bay had begun to reach him.
Other circumstances presented themselves next. He had been allowed to be himself all to himself and no one had criticised anything he did. Even the children had simply rebuffed him at first, not because they wanted him to behave their way, but because of his uncaring attitude, and they hadnt carried a grudge. He had been accepted as he was, and no one had asked him to change his behaviour or do anything else he didnt want to.
Certainly it had been impressed on him that life was much less stressful here than back in the busy scene he had been conned away from at home.
He had enjoyed assessing the damage to TJUTELAs hull with Armand, and hed been impressed with the doctors athletic skill and diplomatic manner.
Armand, deferring to the younger man as the leader of the expedition, had enquired, politely suggestive,
I guess you know just where she got hit. How shall we go at thisport side first and around, or?
Howard certainly did remember the sounds of contact. He also recognised the graciousness of a man who undoubtedly knew infinitely more about diving than he did.
Pleased, he responded,
There were three dingsstarboard, port and stern. Maybe stern first and thenyeahport to starboard.
The water had been colder than he had expected. Having wallowed in the warmth which the shallow beach offered, it surprised him. Armand didnt seem to notice. The trailing edge of the keel had suffered abrasion from dragging across the sharp reef. They had found a large gouge to port, but fortunately not serious enough to allow leakage. As they had continued around the bow Howard had been startled into rapid backward motion as a harbour seal, curious about the intruders, cruised up and peered with bright eyes and whiskered face close to the young man, then did a swift and graceful retreat. Howard had relished the moment. Following Armand around the bow to starboard, they had found a long but not deep scar.
Davids call for help to Guardian of the Gap appeared to have been made at the right moment and she, hearing the plea, had restrained herself from exacting her usual toll, to the disappointment of her resident rocks who had already licked the icing on the sumptuous cake they had expected to eat.
Back aboard the yawl Armand jerked off his diving jacket, smiling at Howard who was doing the same with his and told him,
David will be happy to know that theres no really bad damage to TJUTELA. The worst is that gouge on the port side. The scrape on the trailing edge of the keel and that long scar to starboard will be easily enough repaired. The gouge will take a little more, but when he has her back to the yard theyll be able to take care of it. We could easily put her ashore and treat it with paint to prevent further deterioration but its probably not necessary. You were lucky to get away with just that. Its not a piece of water too many can manage under the circumstances the two of you had.
I thought he was screwy doing that, grinned Howard. I got pretty mad at him, but I guess we didnt have any choice.
People may think hes a laughing joker all the time, but hes pretty level-headed when it comes to put-up-or-shut-up, Armand remarked. Lets take our gear ashore and wash it off, and then hit the sauna. You could probably use a bit of relaxation.
You have a sauna?!
Tashakawa and Hiro built us that nice piece of refinement. Its wonderful for just sitting and considering, when things need that. Gets everything all loosened up, including our heads.
Oh yeah! Lets go! agreed Howard, dropping his gear into the dinghy which was swinging alongside the yawl, and totally forgetting Davids caution about taking care as it clattered down.
Armand had come across as a great guy, and everybody else seemed to be pretty good company too. The jarring attitude with the young people which he had set in motion on first contact had softened into good-natured banter with his sojourn in the sauna, when the entrance of Morgan, Heron and Therése had made him reach hastily for a towel, until the young girl had given him a puzzled look and then told him,
Its okayyou dont have to hidewere all family here.
Being accepted as family had been a peace offering he hadnt looked for, and his shock at seeing the youngsters entering the sauna unabashedly unclad before himself and Armand, unsettling at first, became simply an acceptance of togetherness, as explanations of showering together to save hot water, and related conversations about sharing and being careful of resources resolved the issue as family economies and an every day unstrained relationship among the bay inhabitants.
Then there were the two gross roly-polies who had quickly become identified as Aunty Bett and Uncle Bounce, dispensing all the beer and food he wanted with prodigal generosity. Uncle Bounce, he discovered, liked beer as much as he did. The gross part was dropped.
Nothing to do but enjoy himself, and for two days he had been doing just that while David took it easy and slept a lot, under the influence of Armands careful eye. A sense of other world had begun to settle on Howard, such as that which people imagine a holiday on some forgotten exotic island would supplycarefree and uninhibited.
Now he had been brought up against reality again. His hard line had been presented for his own judgement.
<Stay or goits up to you.>
Following a path without caring where it led as he pondered, he was brought up short when a doe and her young fawn scrambled quickly to their feet and bounded off. He found himself on the edge of a mossy ridge, looking into the tops of fir, maple and arbutus. There was an old fallen tree close to where the deer had been resting and he went to sit on it, brooding over his situation and over what had happened on the sailing trip here, and what was happening now.
<If he hadnt been such an arrogant bastard I wouldnt have dropped the boom on him. Maybe I have been kind of living it up too much at home, butwhat else is there to do? All Dad ever does is yap about my futureyeahmine! Anybody would think it was his. What am I supposed to do? Wind up like Freddie and Art? So theyre happy. Good for them. I want something else.>
Those last four words lingered in his mind.
<So what else? I dont knowbut not that day-after-day gee arent we great crap they keep bragging about. Sometimes I wish Id run off like David did, but what for? The damned fool just got himself in trouble.>
He reflected on that line of reasoning.
<OkayIm comfortable where I am. What sort of idiot would take off and go penniless when he doesnt have to?>
It didnt occur to him that the antagonistic stance between David and their father had been entirely different from the secure, indulgent situation he himself occupied at home.
He sat there feeling sorry for himself.
Ah, here is young Howard.
Startled, Howard turned around to find Dancing Water coming up.
Ohhi, was his uncertain greeting, as he wished she hadnt shown up.
If it is that you would rather be alone, she smiled, knowing what he felt, I will understand.
Its okay, replied Howard, not wanting to appear rude to this older woman.
We call this place Deer Ridge, Dancing Water told him as she came to sit by him. I come here many times alone to think. It is a good place. It helps to heal many wounds with its friendly trees and busy little Forest people.
He hadnt really noticed anything when hed sat down. It had just been the end of the trail and he hadnt felt like walking any farther, particularly along the edge of a cliff. Looking around him now, with sunlight and moving shadows over and around him, he saw the rich green of thick moss on the rocks, shining arbutus leaves reflecting light, fir branches swinging gently in the breeze and, running along the sprawling branches of a maple, a little red squirrel, eyes wary and observant, tail curved up, disappeared behind the trees trunk, peeking occasionally from behind it.
Yeah, its a nice place, he admitted, now having actually looked around.
It is often that Deer also comes to sit and be at peace here, she added conversationally.
Ohyeah? I just saw a couple of them take offa little one with its mother.
As she settled herself beside him a large garter snake, moving swiftly to avoid her footsteps, slithered around Howards foot in its bid to escape.
The young man jumped up, backing off, and almost went over the cliff, except that Dancing Water, swift herself, caught him by the arm and pulled him back.
It is just Snake, she told him with a soft laugh as they sat back down again. He means no harm. We have disturbed his morning rest.
Thanks for grabbing me, he offered, trying to slow his accelerated breathing. I didnt realise it was so slippery.
Old moss such as this peels easily from rocks, she explained. It is very thick and looks so solid, but it is not. Deer knows this and stays well back behind this fallen tree. You have not been out in forest places much?
Wellnot like this, he admitted, thinking of the meticulously well-groomed country retreat the family owned, as devoid of such wild things as it was possible to make it.
This is a gentle place, she smiled, hoping to reassure him. Here is not much to hurt us except a few insects which seek people out everywhere on earth. Snake is considered a helpful friend in gardensbutsometimes I am puzzled that ones who love gardens, and who also wish harmony and peace among all, feel that snake is so good. It would seem he does not honour Grandfathers rule for Bay of not preying on others, and busies himself with seeking slugs and snails and bugs for his daily food. Gardeners see this as good because then the growing things are unharmed, but I am not sure Father Slug and Mother Insect think so.
This last was said with a smile as Dancing Water continued,
Spider with close spun net, Hawk who flies so swiftly through Sky, and Owl on silent soft wings, also hunt others, as do many around us. It is not because they do not listen when Grandfather asks for a peaceful place where all share and none suffer, and no harm is done to these where we live. He knows there are different ways put here by The Old One who makes this place so beautiful and who sees much wider and farther than we can.
It is a kind and loving way which Grandfather asks of us. What Snake does is the way of things along his own path. We have learned to choose, but Snake does not have this possibility. So it is I feel we must accept this puzzle and be the best we can here while others do what is required of them in their daily life, which is so unlike our own. It would be fine if all things could live peacefully without fear, but it is perhaps not for us to think we know all.
Grandfather understands this and speaks only to we who can choose, living here in this bay which is under his protection. He does not wish this for all creatures. He would not want to tell others to do things they know nothing of or could not do. The Old One has made it so and this we all accept.
This honest and open exposition of Dancing Waters way of thinking took Howard by surprise. He wasnt in the habit of analysing his surroundings. Bugs got done away with because they were pests, burgers and fried chicken were tasty things to eat, and whether snakes did their own thing or not hadnt concerned himhe just didnt like them to run across his feet.
He also wasnt sure which one of the bay residents might be referred to as Grandfather.
Of course, I forget you might not know these things, she smiled. Grandfather was leader before granddaughter Rose became so. He is with the Old Ones now, but his wish for all to be at peace is still honoured here. I knew him as a child visiting the Shalisa, and he is indeed kind and gentle and wise and understands many things I know nothing of.
Howard now wondered about Old Ones, and gathered that she meant Grandfather was dead along with all the others who had gone before him. It interested him that she spoke of this man as though he were still alive. While he thought a bit about this he was asked,
Are you liking your visit to Shalisa Creek Bay with your brother?
The question was unexpected, and he knew if he said yes his insincerity would certainly show.
No, he told her bluntly, The bay and everybody is great, but David and I havent been getting along so it kind of spoils things.
I have seen this, she replied honestly, It is sad that two such fine brothers disagree.
Once more unprepared for this straightforward attitude he told her,
Wellhe kind ofdragged me here, and I guess Ive been kind ofput off about the whole thing.
We are all pleased that he brings his young brother to visit us, she told him, He speaks of you with much fun and love. It is of a little boat built by all brothers and used much by you both that he tells us. You have done much together.
Howard hadnt thought that David might have told everyone about his family, and he hadnt expected that the information given would be so favourable. That thought took him in a different direction than feeling sorry for himself.
<Is that why he hauled me off? Maybe he figured Id like to go sailing with him the way we used to when we were kidsbut he could have asked me firstcourse Id have said no.>
Umwell we used to do a lotwhen we were kidsbut not lately, he told her at last.
We all grow and go our own ways, but fondness remains even when we are apart, she comforted him. My brother up north writes much and we still are with each other from these words. Also my nephew and his family remember well young Heron and myself. Perhaps it is only that you have not talked together for some time.
Howard considered. Much of the talking which had gone on between himself and David for some time had been more in the line of remarks about Howards behaviour, and his own defensive retorts.
Yeahwellguess we havent talked muchjust kind of yelled at each other mostly.
Is it so? asked Dancing Water with concern. We have not heard David yell too much. Perhaps it would be wise for you both not to yell and to find out what it is causing you to do so.
Howard was disturbed by this frank suggestion. He knew very well what it was, but he didnt want to tell this dignified woman that David seemed to think he was a lazy layabout who smoked questionable materials, drank to excess, took drugs and slept around too much, and that he himself thought his big brother was an interfering bully who acted in a worse fashion than his own and ought to be more careful with the way he himself behaved.
Something of embarrassment sifted over Howard. He had never been called to account without angry words before, but this woman had done so without using that sort of exchange.
Maybe you could tell him that, he suggested at last.
Dancing Water regarded the young man beside her and told him gently,
It is not for another to do so. I know a young brother does not like to disagree with the older, but if there is injustice you must be firm and tell him so. I am sure he would understand. He is very honest and fair and perhaps does not see this problem too clearly at this time, having had such a blow to the head from the accident on the boat.
Howard felt his embarrassment turning to shame. He knew that there wasnt injustice, just differing opinions which had not been triggered by this recent event but were of a longer standing duration. Not only thathe had been responsible for Davids injury, unintentional, but there neverthelessand the act, however initiated, had caused further problems. He had not been firm enough to own up to what he had done and had only admitted it because hed thought David had figured it out.
Never thought of it that way, he admitted, I guess he is sort of not himself right now.
Dancing Water noticed that Howard was aware David was not himself. She was pleased that the younger man was not so angry that he didnt care.
It is indeed not good to be injured, she replied, But I think it is more spirit than body which hurts now. He is troubled by something and, being a solitary spirit, needs to be alone sometimes for thought and to gain harmony with self. He is very quiet for two days now and I believe this has helped.
Howard had never regarded David as solitary. He had always seen his eldest brother as busy, happy and carefree, leading his own life and doing his own things the way he wanted to, surrounded by people who liked him. Thinking over the idea she had put forth, he began to see another part of his brother which had been quite unknown to him before.
It was true that he went off by himself a lot. Flying a plane was of necessity a one person occupation at times. Sailing the boat away on his own was certainly a lone pleasure, with just the company of Ulf and Gurth. Seeing him play his flute, Howard had often thought that he was somewhere off in a space by himself. The word solitary had never presented itself, but this woman who had not known David for that long had seen something which twenty years of brotherhood had never presented to Howard.
He didnt want to tell Dancing Water that his big brother had left home as a teenager while he himself had been only six years old, and that lately David had been discouraged from visiting the family because in their eyes the casino affair had been seen as a disgraceful thing which had reflected on them.
Here on this old log, looking into the treetops, in the presence of this quiet, thoughtful woman who spoke of Old Ones, Grandfather, and Rose who carried on her elders wishes even though he was gone, the ban seemed somehowa petty thing to admit to.
We dont really see much of each other nowadays, he attempted an explanation. Hes kind of busy and... .
Ah, it is different in the city of course, she laughed. People do not live so close to each other, but here we know all about what is happening with us.
Unused to this kind of understanding conversation, he looked at Dancing Water and saw now more than just the old granny he had watched coming down to the beach when he had arrived.
Age seemed to have disappeared and instead a kind and knowledgeable woman sat there beside him on the old fallen tree, giving him a perspective which he hadnt had before.
You know a lot about this place and everything here, dont you? he queried, Like the snake and moss and things.
It is so when one lives long and is allowed the time to be at one with what is hereyes, learning goes on and on.
I guess you thought I was pretty stupid jumping up from the snake.
Oh no, she reassured him, Snake many times startles us, so we must learn not to jump from him. It is ourselves who come upon him unexpectedly and he has as much surprise as we do.
Seeing it in that light Howard laughed a little.
Yeah, guess youre right.
Along the ridge, Sun created shadow-leaves in the space where they sat, a young man and an elder, now conversing easily and pleasantly in the quiet afternoon, each finding the other to be an interesting and absorbing companion.
It was when they were on their way back, getting close to the gardens, that Howards sight became snagged by a tall, graceful, sturdy plant, growing far back behind other wild plants in a sunny spot some distance away from the cultivated places.
An escaped, wayward child from the horticultural efforts of two previous gardeners at the bay, it smiled and waved its many palmated, seven-fingered hands at him, beckoning to him as he went by. The more he looked the more he saw of these happily wild and free plant Soggers there, far away from garden space.
<Holy shmit! I dont believe it. Do they smoke pot here at the bay? It sure didnt get there by accident because thats no wild variety.>
Then, wondering if the crop had been deliberately planted by the bay residents, he suggested warily to Dancing Water,
Interesting plants around here.
Yes, there are many fine things which Mother Nature has given us, she agreed. Here is climbing honeysuckle which Hummingbird loves. There down low grows Deers Foot. It is a fine plant even when it is gathered and dried, for then it gives off a sweet scent which is pleasing to us but which has been used for keeping flies out of houses. They will not stay too long with it if they can escape through door or window. Over there is... .
Howard didnt pay too much attention to the plants Dancing Water was indicating. He was more interested in the tall ones off at a bit of a distance, but she passed by without notice or remark.
<Either its too far away for her to see and she doesnt know its there ormaybe shes just not letting onbut I sure havent had any indication that anyone around here is into puffing. Damned funny. How the hell did it get here?>
He thought of bringing it to her attention to see what she might say about it, but changed his mind and said nothing, deciding that this kind of discovery had to be investigated at a later timeby himselfwhether she knew about it or not.
Then another thought got to him.
<Hey! Maybe David planted that bud. I wouldnt put it past him. He gets up to everything else and he even admitted that he used to smoke it. Is that why hes always coming here to the bay? I thought it was because of Rose. No wonder that beggar always has cash in his pockets. Hes probably selling the stuff on the side. Maybe Ill kind of hint around and see what he says. It probably wouldnt even be noticed if I swiped a bit.>
The prospects of staying at the bay were definitely more cheerful now than they had been when hed started on his walk. He could hardly wait to take advantage of his luck. The season was right for it, the harvest was obviously ripe. His eager mind began going over how and where to handle this unexpected and delightful bonanza.
<If it does belong to David Ive sure got him for yapping at me about stuff.>
The smile on his face as he walked along had nothing to do with the now rather absent-minded conversation he carried on with Dancing Water all the way back to the barge.