Interest had been shown in shoring them up, and at least patching the leaks in their roofs and covering their windows with plastic to keep out the ravages of weather, but they longed to be repaired and cleaned and called home again, as had happened with those residences now lived in and taken care of by the recent bay inhabitants, so it was with happy interest that they greeted the decisionmade by the twinsthat one of the unused sheds would be turned into a Chickie Mansion.
It wasnt a full-fledged commitment to a house, but it was one of the appurtenances. The sudden attention of so many people assessing and discussing its possibilities had the little shed displaying its fine sturdy framework and roomy, airy space to best advantage. Those were a couple of the reasons why it had been chosen in the first placenot for its plainly neglected appearance, inside and outbut the word mansion made it glow with bursting expectations anyway.
Some of the youngsters were doing the same.
When they launched this hopeful little boatload of dreams on its maiden voyage to test the waters of possibilities, the plans which they had Isabel draw up for the conversion from abandoned outbuilding to chicken house had the adults of the Bay laughing and scratching their heads as to just how this beautiful metamorphosis should be made to come about.
Suggestions for the exterior of the structure, everything from a pirates lair to a miniature longhouse to a dragons palace had been carefully sketched out by Isabel, at first with lighthearted fun in mind but, when she realised that the representations she manufactured on paper were expected to turn into reality, she faced the task of striking the genoa and hauling in the mainsheet on this just wetted little craft of fanciful requests which was now sailing out of control.
Morgan, who was commandeered to help in the process, was taken aside and told to stop snickering and start plotting a different course to replace dislocated destinations.
Disappointment factor had to be carefully weighed. Individual nesting boxes with individual artistic touches, one for each of the chickies arriving as a precursor to more, were definitely expected to be ready for the new tenants.
Unfortunately, Reason and Practicality, which were necessities for the sake of hygiene and usefulness, intruded on the wishful thinking of young prospective friends for this small population of fortunate fowl.
The brake on artistic momentum of the planning committee, put there by Isabel, received immediate non-positive reaction, but after some persuasive discussion by Morgan regarding the roosting and other slothful habits of chickensmore graphically described than thatit had to be accepted.
The nesting boxes, had they ever seen themselves installed according to the wishes of the chickie lovers, would have been pieces of sculpted art produced in several genres, beautiful to behold but impossible to keep clean.
The art was drastically pared down to usefulness and the ship of dreams sailed forward on a more even keela bit more cautiously.
Next, Information, about how fluffy little yellow chicks had to be looked after, was leaked by the older two into the excited discussions about colours and shapes of boxes and mansion accoutrements and names which might be appropriate for each individual. This shipping of heavy water into the boat of imaginations slowed its heeling tendency considerably.
Big Sister and Brother explained that Warmth, Water and Food were definite requirements which had to be considered in the overall design, along with the day to day caring for small birds, which included some quiet time away from too much attention their young human caretakers might lavish on the little avians.
There was wind taken out of sails and reefs put into them, however reluctantly, and the now almost possible project cruised forwarda little less opulent but with its heading a little more attainable.
As for names, Therése set the pace for that by stating shed wait and see what sort of personality her chick might display. That idea pleased the rest of the youngsters who decided theyd wait and see too. How they intended to differentiate between little animated, cheeping balls of fluff as to who belonged to whom hadnt yet come into the discussion.
Adults held their collective breath and kept their mouths shutat least around the crew full of effervescing exuberance, all of whom had a hand on the tiller of this yawing and veering scheme at the same time, with varying effectiveness.
Without a doubt, these were going to be the most coddled and waited on barnyard additions ever foisted onto a group of amazed and amused adults.
With the object of keeping a wallowing little craft of voluptuous visions afloat in the sea of reality, a gathering of maturity regarding this impending upheaval took place on the barge where it was hoped that laughter about the project would be kept out of earshot of the children, for reasons of respect.
Instead, its own destination got lost in an eddy of immature images now being given voice by supposed sober thoughtaided by a bit of home brew.
Bettinas suggestion for carpets was quickly agreed to by Tashakawa and Dancing Water, who offered to weave some from local reeds. The problem of coffee for chickie breakfast was handed over to Fitz, and Armand wound up with the task of filling the croissant baskets, since he was so good at that. Dinner, prepared by Bettina, would have to be served by none other than Rose herself, on a gold platter if one could be found, otherwise, under glass.
A remark by Harry about feather comforters for tucking the newcomers in at night was vetoed by Shiro, who pointed out that the chickies came complete with those items, at which point Howard put in that they might not like to think they were stealing the feathers from their relatives anyway.
Tashakawa suggested that David should be appointed as official lullaby maker at bedtime, and morning melody waker upper, flutewise. To this idea Howard raised the objection that it would be more like taps and reveille if the schedule was set to anything like his running of TJUTELA.
Davids reaction was that he was happy no one had figured he should be honeypot man and, since Howard hadnt been given a place in this plot yet, promptly awarded the job to his young brother with the attendant remark that Howard was already pretty good at shovelling stuff like that.
The children, hearing some of the laughter drifting off the barge from this exchange, took it for granted all was going well and good with their scaled down mansion and that their paper ship with a hold full of necessity and too much imagination had managed to reach port safely even though it had been overloaded by both qualities.
This was the projectenthusiastically forging forwardwhich Rose discreetly fled, when Dancing Water and Isabel tried to organise a work party of the young people to get things started as they gathered around the chosen site, with just about everyone falling all over everybody else, including the excited little shed wanting things to go faster, and obligingly letting go of some old shingles when Morgan tested them to see if they were well fastened.
They werentand they fell all over him.
She left a laughing and happy grandmother to go to it, feeling at the moment that once some logic and reason had been injected into the seething activity, the other adults would join in to see that it actually turned into some semblance of a chicken house with run. She figured that more bodies were not needed for tripping over right about then, and quietly made an exit from the scene, with judiciously controlled haste.
Other minds seemed to be of her ilk. Shiro, Fitz and Harry were suddenly busy with CRUSTY LADY LILY, agreeing among themselves that they could pitch in once the planning phase was over and really hard work began. They didnt want to be the ones to squelch the dreams of the young people. They felt Dancing Water and Isabel were much more diplomatic and capable in that department.
Armand and Bettina were in the throes of creating space in the winery to accommodate crops expected to be coming in shortly to be turned into vintage for the gods, or at least for those at the bay who sometimes felt as though they were that fortunate crew just by living there. Food and wine were dear to the hearts of those two creative and culinary aficionados.
Tashakawa offered encouragement by telling the busy project members that she would certainly see to it that there would be some lovely landscaping around the whole project once it was finishedand she had better go and see to it that the plants she cared for would be ready for such a task. She went to do that, promises in hand.
As well, Rose had earlier noticed Howard strolling off with studied nonchalance, in the direction which might lead to Deer Ridge, glancing over his shoulder a couple of times as though he hoped no one would see him leaving and accuse him of shirking, since a honeypot man was not yet required. She decided to head in the other direction, which was when she met David, going her way, flute tucked into his shirt front, as he also glanced over his shoulder.
Where are you sneaking off to? she asked, laughingly.
Anywhere away from that, he replied. Mind if I join your sneaking? Itll look like were busy with a project or something.
Whatwith your flute along?
David glanced over his shoulder again.
Armand isnt looking is he? He told me not to exert myself so I have a legitimate excuseand I havent played my flute for so long that I thought I might sneak in a few gentle toots out of his earshot. If I go to my usual favourite spot hell hear me and come running. Youd think Id been committed to an asylum and he was my keeper or something.
Right about now it rather seems like one around here.
Youve got that right. Where are we headed, apart from losing ourselves in a lot of greenery?
Well, I just thought Id go do a bit of thinking by the little pond just above the creek delta. Its a nice quiet place which no one seems to favour much, so I like it.
Never been too far that way. Got sidetracked by the waterfall last time I was over in that direction.
Well, you have to be willing to wade across the creek which can be pretty rowdy at times, and then climb up a bit, and everyone else seems to think thats too much like work and the beach is more fun anyway.
Im game for that. Ive been going stir crazy sitting around doing nothing.
They walked along in silence, enjoying the morning around them, until they reached the edge of the creek.
Then he turned to her and asked,
Is this an enchanted, magical creek and when we cross over were in faeryland or something?
Enchanted? she queried.
Yeah, like those old tales when people who look ordinary suddenly get shown up for what they really are when the spell they cast to look ordinary gets broken as they reach the other side of a body of water.
What an interesting proposition, responded Rose. I did think of the pond as something special butenchanted? Please explain why youd think that
The creek comes from the waterfall, right? he enlarged on his theory.
Agreed, but how did magic get into it?
Well, youve been up there and you know as well as I do that its not just a pretty place to sit.
This word magic, she pondered, Isnt that an attitude created by the mind of the person professing to believe in it?
Nice try, he grinned, Although I have to tell you that making it and believing it are two different things. I can create an illusion called magic, but I can also believe that theres something else around which is mystical and magical and has nothing to do with pulling flowers out of a hat. That isnt magical, its a trick. Believing theres something which makes me wonder about things, apart from how they appear, is something else. I figure the word attitude sort of indicates rigiditya kind of settled way of thinkingand I dont think magic can take that. It needs openness and change. What made me ask if it held magic is that the first time I had anything to do with this creek I had a drink from it. It was cold and really good, and thenthings started to happen.
Ooooh! A magic elixir, she laughed. What happened?
WellI walked way along the beach to what I now call my favourite tree, played my flute a bit andthats when I met Chant again, except I didnt know who it was right then.
He certainly had her interest now, with no hint of levity attached.
That was when you unearthed the guitar peg?
Yeah, and not only that, when I had to spend the night here in the plane because it was too late to fly back, this loon kept yelling at me all night. It had me wondering if it was some spirit of this place who was trying to tell me something. Kind of mysterious, dont you think? Like having a spell cast over me.
A drink of a cold potion, an unexpected meeting with a departed friend, and a loon talking to you, she mused as they took off their shoes and regarded the swiftly running creek, then took their first cautious barefoot steps into the flow of it, Whoosh!Ill agree that its certainly cold, and itll freeze our feet off if we dont hurry up and get across.
No magic there, but I contend that since this water has been bubbling around in that magical place up therewatch out, these rocks are slipperyit has to have been touched by it and is carrying it down here.
Guilty by associationtheyre nice and smooth thoughand did we agree that theres magic up there?
Let me see if I can settle this to our satisfaction... .
Wade fasterstop stopping or well never get acrossfrozen feet okay but when my knees get involved thats enough, she told him, pausing to roll her jeans farther up.
Youre the one who stopped, he noted, Im letting mine get wet.
Carry on with the settlement, she urged, holding out her arms for balance, shoe in each hand as she continued carefully wading.
Lets both agreehere, lets hold on to each other for safety.
Left and right arms wound around each other and they progressed faster as he continued his dialogue.
Lets agree that theres magic up there and so theres magic here in this water because its been associating with whats up there and some of it must have washed off and got carried along as it came on downand maybe it was an enchanted stream to begin with. What do you think?
What an imagination! I dont think any court I know of would let that stand. Pure speculation butsince were judge and juryIll go for that. Ohnice to get out of it. My toes are getting numb.
My brain is getting numb, replied David, grabbing hold of a bush to pull himself onto the creek bank. Geeze, no wonder nobody wants to come here. Trial by freezing water.
Yes, but wait until you see the pond. I think its worth it.
You be the judge. I think its enchanting.
They dried their feet with their socks, put on their shoes and continued their walk along a narrow, not too well-defined path, pushing aside underbrush and avoiding nettles, thistles and wild rose bushes as they went, until they could see water through the growth ahead of them and walked out onto the slope leading to the pond.
Willow and hardhack grew profusely around its swampy edge, giving way to bulrushes and reeds which swayed in the first shallows at the verge of the water, and that itself was ringed with a growth of yellow pond lilies, holding in their faces the bright reflection of Sun, their broad leaves buoyed up on the surface, washed with shining, quiet ripples which some wary frogs had made at their approach.
Somewhere at the roots of the heavier growth there was a rustle as of a retreating waterfront resident and, farther along the shore, a Red-winged blackbird trilled its level-toned song as it held to a bulrush stem where it had been pillaging the tall, brown, fluffy seed head. Dragonflies, blue, brown, green, coursed low above the water, swiftly collecting unwary fellow airborne insects in a basket formed of their folded forelegs, arguing over territorial rights with swift and aggressive charges at others of their kind who dared to intrude on their declared airspace.
The quietness impressed itself immediately on the man and he said,
This is enough to make a person reassess the word quiet. I can just about hear my own thoughts.
Thats why I come here to think, she smiled. And I think it is a special place. Theres a little stream coming from farther up which keeps it so clear. It runs out over on the other side and down the bank to the sea.
Geeze, this has been here all this time and I didnt know it. Just goes to show what we miss by concentrating too closely on things which turn out to be not really that important. What are you going to think about?
Well, you asked so Ill dump. Its a couple of things. Armands upcoming visit to the city and then, the subdivision thing at the tip of the peninsula.
Well I had the veterinarian bit thrown out, but the feds are something else. It seems theyre very sticky about wildlife interference.
They wouldnt throw him in jail would they?
No, I dont think its that serious, since Sidney is still cruising around out there. Apart from that they have no evidence of his alleged crime, no bird, no witnesses, and only a couple of overwrought complainants. Ill have to work on that last aspect a bit, it could be an angle, and it also depends on who we get for a judge. Best scenario is that the charges get dropped. Worst, for some strange causes unknown, would probably be a fine of a couple of hundred but Im pretty sure that wont happen.
A pretty sure bet huh, mused David. I gave that up some time agolike when I met you.
Youre right. Nothings sure, and the so-called reasonable man by which the law operates can be turned into a blithering idiot given the right circumstances.
I have to admit I dont think I know too many reasonable men, and whats reasonable in one persons vocabulary may not be so in anothers.
You have that right too, she laughed.
Then how can law be based on a hypothetical reasonable man when that can be anybody according to anybody? he enquired.
Good question. When you find the answer let me know.
Hey, he objected, Youre supposed to be the lawyer.
Mmhm. Isnt law interesting?
He gave her a look of wary confusion.
So what do you all do? Just keep obfuscating?
Well if you think we all represent that concept called the truth, get rid of the idea. Like the reasonable man it doesnt exist. Its just a phantom standard a lot of us strive to obtain but never get. Some of us do try hard, and we like to think we run pretty close to it. I did get my injunction, but thats not the end of it. Somebody sold my property illegally and I imagine the buyer isnt going to take it sitting down. Its a problem now. The issue of land ownership had kind of fallen into the ignore files, but now theyll probably start it up all over again. The developers might even try to continue with the subdivision. I really ought to make my presence known along the peninsula but how do I do that? BRIGHT LEAF isnt exactly a patrol boat, and although Harry has told me I can use his runabout any time, the sea around there isnt always good for little open boats.
Geeze, theres always something to keep us hopping isnt there, commiserated David. Guess if everything went smoothly all the time wed all be deadheads like Yevy accused me of being.
They sat down on the grassy slope, close to the edge of the water, looking into the tranquil face of Pond in silence for awhile until David said,
Think Ive got a solution to the problem of a patrol boatsitting right at the wharf in the village. How about LEAF WINE?
Rose scrambled through her mind and then the frown disappeared.
Ohyou mean that old... .
You were about to say wreck werent you, laughed David. Well, she may be an old wreck right now, but Ive been thinking about her a lot while I was at the office, supposed to be attending to business. I figure my crew could have her operational in no time. Wooden hulls are their specialty and her wood is in good shape. I also have a young mechanic whod love to get his hands on her engine. Ive talked to them about it some, and they think it would be a terrific project, different from all the pushy I want it now lot. How about it?
She looked at him in pleased surprise.
That would certainly solve my problem of getting around.
Yeah, but once youre at the Point what do you do? Will you take someone along to ride shotgun and if you find marauders give em a blast?
No, she laughed. You know violence isnt the Shalisa way. Most workmen are pretty quick to sense when something isnt right, and getting threatened with having their equipment and themselves tied up in court for an unknown length of time really doesnt appeal to themand surprisingly, most of them are pretty reasonable. Theyd probably back off like the surveyors did and find out whats going on. As well as that, I could then quickly get myself over to the mainland and hit authority again. Charge the people behind the project with contempt of court, defying a court orderstuff like that.
Stuff like that huh? Think you could learn to zap around in an old wreck at about thirty miles an hour?
Sounds exciting. Id love to zap around, not to disparage BRIGHT LEAF, but hes meant for more laid back kinds of travel, like Armand and I and the kids did, which was when I found out about this problem. That was such funbut yes, a fast boat so I could check all the time would be terrific.
You used to be a speed demon didnt you? he accused. I saw you a couple of times in that fast little set of wheels you had.
Okay, she admitted, It was funbut this would be even more so because Id be doing it for a purposeand there wouldnt be anyone to get in the way.
Except rocks and soggers. Do you miss all that fast city scene?
No, not really. When I look at all thiswho needs that?
Somehow we get stuck with it, he returned.
The pond and its surrounds lay before them, full of summer and quiet and serenity. David took his flute out of his shirt, laid it down carefully on the grass and leaned over the water to watch a pond-skater scooting along the surface on blades manufactured of surface tension and air-bubbles at the tips of its long legs, and saw there his own face reflected, rippling and wavy, the injured side of it giving it a comical appearance as the image moved and swayed.
Wowlook! he called, drawing her attention down to the water, Theres a weird looking troll down there with a beautiful water nymph beside him.
Youre making things up again, was her doubting reply as she moved over beside him.
Of course notits a magic place, he told her.
She looked, not expecting to see herself there beside the troll, and then laughingly agreed,
Oh, I forgot. We did cross over the stream didnt we? That changes everything. I see them now.
Really? I thought I was just making it up. Goes to show that you never know whats going to happen when you cross an enchanted stream. We start to believe all kinds of things. Think anything would mind if I broke up the quiet with my flute?
Give it a try and well find out, she suggested.
The cautiously soft sound touched the water lilies and floated out over the water and, as it reached into the foliage across from them, a large white bird appeared, low over the seaward shrubby trees. Long neck stretched out, expansive wings set for a glide, it came in for a touchdown there on the far side of the pond.
Wellyour music is magic! Youve charmed a bird right out of the sky, laughed Rose in surprise.
Hey, Ill bet thats Sidney, probably come for a snack of bulrush root. Hi little buddy. Last time we met I had hold of you upside down by the feet. His landing looked a bit awkward. Guess hes still having trouble rotating that injured wing. Looks like hes made a good recovery thanks to Armand and company. We were both lucky that time.
Lets hope Armand is as lucky too, she commented as he laid the flute on the grass beside them again.
Think hes right about this anyway, he told her. Better lay off that for a couple more days. It kind of vibrates in my head.
Its still bothering you?
A bit, but its gradually going away, and thats what I was told would happen, so since were believing things, yeah, Im looking forward to that.
They watched the graceful white bird, sailing and dipping its long neck down into the water to shovel out the succulent roots growing along the ponds edge, his mirrored reflection stretching out on the rippling sunny waters, until Rose said,
I think he has it right. Lets go for a swim.
On hearing the suggestion he hesitated, saying,
I dunno. Armand seems to think I might pass out if I do too much or something, losing my balance and getting dizzy. You go aheadIll puddle.
There was no way this time that he could consider the sight of her going into the water as something brotherly. Realising that, he transferred his view to the water lilies and carefully went into the shallows himself. Sidney warily moved off at her approach, finding another spot farther along to gather edibles.
David floated on his back, imagining playing his flute on a cloud, until Rose returned from her swim over to the other side, then they laid back, hands under heads, gazing up at the sky until he broke the silence with,
You know, theres one limitation all that free blue space up there hasI cant play my flute when Im flying. Sure would like to sit on a cloud and try it. No echoes, no things around to muffle the sound, nobody to say shut up, or you goofed that one or play something I like.
Im told everybody gets harps up there.
Oh yeahpromises, promisesweather forecasters and politicians. Apart from that, if they dont let my flute in I dont go. Lets think about impossible, outrageous things, like making spells and listening to birds telling us secrets about stuff and all those mysterious things.
Okay, she ventured, Dont laugh, but I used to come here and talk to things when I was a kid. Everything was my friend. I held long conversations with the pond and frogs and birds and imagined what it would be like to sit on a lily pad or fly with Raven and Blackbird. I imagined, when the birds sang just after Id said something, that they were answering back. I took special rocks and sticks and feathers home with me so I could talk to them. I told them everything. I called this my Place of Happy Spirits. I love this little pond. You ever do anything like that?
Wellnow its your turn to laughI have a teddybear, he confessed. Had him since I was about three or so. Had to hide him from my mother so she wouldnt give him away, so I took him over to live at Grams where he was safe. YeahI talk to him. Teddybears are magic spirits too, given half a chance. Guess hes one of my Places of Good Spirits, certainly in the city. There are places in Grams garden which I still regard as enchanted even though Im supposed to be grown up. You have lots of them here. Sure do like yours.
The silence between them was busy, as he considered Good Spirits who listened and she considered an understanding teddybear.
At last she said,
Its great to have somewhere to hide in peace and happiness, even if its only in our own heads. Your teddybear might have been given away. My pond might have been bulldozed, but even if they were gone wed still have them in our imaginations. Guess were lucky.
Think psychiatrists haves a name for us, he laughed.
Well I have a name for them, so were even, she told him. People arent crazy just because they imagine something beautiful and not real andmaybe even kinder than what they might have at the moment.
We can dream, was his reply. It sure got me through a few rough times.
After that, they spent awhile lolling in the sunshine and confiding in each other, dreaming up ridiculous things, and generally just enjoying not being real.
When they turned from the pond and started back along the path a rose wand reached out before David, barring his passage and asking for attention. He set it gingerly aside with two fingers, then, seeing a big fragrant blossom, he snapped it off and turned to Rose saying,
A token from your namesake, then, remembering, he asked, Uh ohare the flowers protected too or am I allowed to pick a rose?
Did you get stuck with thorns? she asked back with a smile.
No, actually, I did it very gently and carefully.
The smile deepened in her eyes as she replied,
Then, youre allowed to pick the rose.
If any magic did exist around the pond this was one of its enchanted moments as they looked into each others eyesbut then the vision of a misshapen troll in the pond, beside a beautiful water nymph, came between.
In his mind he saw his bloodshot eye, bruised face, and mouth still healing the split at its corner.
<Forget it guy. Whod want to be kissed by that?>
Ill remember that in future, he told her with a significant look as he gave her the flowerand at his words the magic moment fled back to the pond and nestled itself in among the yellow water lilies waiting for another opportunity.
Arms linked once more, they crossed through the creek more quietly than they had come, and returned to being ordinary people again.
- - -
David didnt sit on his plan for restoring LEAF WINE to usefulness. Now that he had the incentive to set it in motion, he wanted to see it accomplished quickly. Since Bud and WESTMAN WILL were off making money David made another choice.
Hearing him asking Armand to have METHUSELAH become towboat for a sail to the village where they would pick up his old commuter and haul her back to the bay so she could be set up for the trip to the city with TJUTELA, Howard butted in.
Need an extra hand?
Sure, agreed David, And maybe we can hit the pub along the way. Youll like it. Its a fun place.
Greatbut youre not supposed to drink, Howard reminded him.
Maybe just one, David demurred.
Tomato juice, stated Armand, with a laugh.
Oh hell!okay, was the surrender.
Howard went and told Fitz who smiled and said yes, then told Shiro who told Harry, both of whom were glad of an excuse to get into town for a beer. Then Harry told Bettina, who declined, told Tashakawa who said she was busy in the garden and mentioned it to Dancing Water who shook her head with a smile and told Rose who enthusiastically acceptedbecause she was going to get a fast boat, however decrepit it might be at the momentremarking that she wondered why she was always on the tail end of the Bay grape vine.
No one wanted to explain that a lot of things got discussed in the light and levity of whether Leader Hold would approve or not, and if notscrap it. At the moment she was quite unaware of her dictatorial powers of veto. She thought she was being very open to new ideas.
Misconceptions get implemented from both sides.
The next morning the volunteers for this cruise set out for the village. There was a bit of a wind, but it wasnt considered a problem aboard METHUSELAH. The coastal schooner cut solidly through the water and headed for the village, glad of a chance to be out on a run and in on a fun project.
The doctor, who was also an enthusiastic sailor, never motored when there was a fair wind and a chance to let his little ship have a go, so ready about for tacking was the call heard most on their little voyage to Shalisa Creek, and it was heard a lot. Having had such a large and good crew bestowed on him, he enjoyed himself immensely, raising every bit of sail he thought he could get away with before he figured his company might mutiny. Being no flimsy dinghy, this sailboat required a lot of muscle to set so much sail.
When they arrived at the wharf, METHUSELAH took a look at the object of all this fun and felt a little bit let down.
Im supposed to tow that old harridan back to the bay? I thought she would be something elsemaybe a little youngerlike beautiful TJUTELA, and Id be a hero rescuing her.
The old commuter looked over at the older schooner and thought scornfully,
Given my engine in operating condition again, Id leave him wallowing in my wake and be gone before he ever got away from the wharf. Who does he think he is anywaysea-going Adonis? Potbellied old sogger!
Circumstances being what they were, she sighed and got ready to be hauled.
Armands crew decided immediately when they hit the wharf that they needed a bit of something to revive themselves before they set about towing, after all the hard work of sailing to the village.
A vote was taken as to whether they should go to Sea Urchin or Rascals. This time Urchin didnt stand a chance. Pub fare for lunch was voted in and they headed for it, Howard telling David that this years vintage of tomato juice was terrific, and David retaliating by telling his brother that throwing rascals out was not just a phrase.
As they went in they saw Henry Kapinski just getting his first mug for lunch and, since he was alone, they joined him at his table, David making sure Howard got seated next to Henry.
Henry didnt miss the mischievous and purposeful look he got as David sat down on the other side of him.
Howard, looking around this definitely country type establishment, rested his eyes on the soapbox and enquired a bit warily,
Whats a pulpit doing in a pub? Do they lecture us about drunkenness and such while were busy getting drunk?
Thats our town-square soapbox for expressing an opinion about something, Henry informed him. It gets used a lot. After people have downed a couple their opinions seem to get stronger and more incoherent.
You mean people actually get up and say things?!
Oh yeah! Youll have to try it.
You have lots of opinions How, David put in. Heres your chance to get em heardbut have a beer first, it helps.
They had just finished ordering when the three statuesque Louisas came in, Lucy first.
Holy Moly!, exclaimed Howard grabbing hold of Davids arm, obviously smitten as he spotted Lucy coming into the pub. What is that!? Then, watching her as she walked to a table and the other two women came in, he breathed in disbelief, Looktwo more! Enough for all of us. I want it!
Noyou dont want that, Little Brother, David told him in tones of finality, Theyre no touchems.
No what? Theyve got everything where it oughta be and right up front!
Yeah, but dont touch em, or youll wish you hadnt.
Never saw a woman I couldnt handle, came the self-confident and very youthful masculine retort. Just watch.
Okaybut from a distanceand dont say you werent warned.
Howard got up immediately and as he walked away Henry looked at David and enquired with a grin,
Is your brother suicidal?
Think hes just been hit with an impossible possibility, laughed David.
Howard didnt hear. He walked boldly over to where the identified no touchems sat, stopped beside Lucy, put on a definitely recognisable Godwinian smile, the facetious one David usually used just after hed said Gottcha, and introduced himself.
Hi, Im Howie.
The women didnt look at him, but at each other. Theyd seen him coming.
Did you hear something? asked Lucy.
Mosquito, I think, replied Lou. Swat it.
It hasnt landed yet.
Should shortly, warned Louisa.
Not the least discouraged, the mosquito continued buzzing.
This is my first visit to Shalisa Creek, he informed the woman of his choice. Are you visiting here too?
Nope, came Lucys uninterested single word reply.
Ohthen maybe you can fill me in on a few great places to see around here, persisted the perceived insect. Ive heard there are some really neat swimming holes.
Lucy rose slowly and magnificently to her feet and looked down on Howard Godwins elegantly and expensively cropped head, coiffed in the latest most popular fashion with its red tipping now fading toward fuchsia.
Goaway, she pronounced, Now!
Undeterred, Howard continued to press his case, although he was beginning to get an uneasy feeling that he had just been shrunk to about three feet tall.
You, he told her, looking unflinchingly up into the ice-blue eyes, Are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and he meant it.
You, she returned, Are a bloody immature nuisance. Bug off before you cant.
That should have finished it but Howard, used to flirtatious and receptive young females as immature as himself, wasnt finished. He thought she was just being hard to get. He unwisely reached out and took a finger and thumbful of Lucys white-gold hair, starting to say,
The floor got the geous.
The sound of it shook a bit with the thumpHoward a bit more. All the patrons in the pub looked to see who the goddesses had got this time. As Lucy sat down in her chair again Howard pushed himself to a sitting position, took a deep breath, hands on knees, got to his feet, rubbing his palms on his jeansand returned to the chase, saying,
Hey! That was a pretty slick move. You caught me off guard. Im kind of into karate myself. Maybe we could discuss the theory and philosophy of this martial art over a beer.
There was a moment of silence from the three at the table before Lucy said,
Gotta admit, hes the first one whos come back for seconds.
She was getting to her feet again when Davids hasty arrival intervened in the match.
Hi Lucy, Louisa, Lou. I see youve met my little brother Howard.
Little brother! burst out Howard, insulted.
Thats your brother? asked Lucy, disbelief in her voice.
I have to say yes, admitted David, making a wry face.
Maybe you could teach him some manners, suggested Lucy, Hes sure not like you at all.
Sure glad of that for my sake! interjected Howard.
I could give it a try, laughed David, But dont expect miracles. This could take awhile. Ive already been at it for his lifetime.
Take all the time you need, smiled Lucy. Maybe next time the two of us discuss theory, Howard, I can demonstrate again how performance outstrips it.
Your performance was terrific, praised Howard, and added with a meaningful smile, Waitll you see mine.
Howie!, growled David under his breath, as he got hold of Howards arm, Drop it will you? Get back here, and he started hauling his young brother away saying to the three women, Ill just take whats left of him back to our table where he wont bother you, but then, as an afterthought he added, willing to give Howards obviously genuine interest a bit of forward momentum, however slight the chance, That is, unless youd care to join us and he can bother you there.
Much to his surprise, Lucy looked up, smiled at Howard and accepted the offer.
That might be fun. We can clear up the discussion end of things right away.
David wasnt the only one who was surprised. Lou and Louisa gave each other startled glances, and then Lou asked,
Does that invitation include us?
Of course, grinned David, Our table is always brightened up when the three of you grace it with your presence.
Huh! snorted Lou, I can see where the kid gets it fromand yeahthen maybe you can tell us who bashed your face in.
As David, still holding Howards arm headed him back to their table, the three Louisas picked up their mugs and followed.
Howard, encouraged by this turn of events, told his brother softly as they went,
See? I told you. Shes interested. She said next time, and I got it right now.
Awgeeze HowieI got it for you. Have a beer and shut up will you? You dont have a clue.
Do so, grinned the younger man, Just watch.
Oh yeah! agreed David, I just didand so will everybody else.
Tables were pushed together to accommodate the extra company. Lunches and beer arrivedalong with tomato juiceand Henry and David waited their chance.
Having appropriated three round tables now, the group was not in any sort of straight line, which made it easier for the two light-fingered jokers to carry out their fun. Howard, having downed one mugful and received another, forgot about beer and concentrated on Lucy who was seated next to him. His back was partially turned to Henry, that man having pushed his chair away from the table slightly.
The next time Howard took a swig from his mug and put it down, returning his attention to Lucy, David whipped an empty mug from the next table where theyd been parking them, gave it to Henry, who promptly slid it over Howards way and filched the almost full mug the young man had set down. He took a big gulp, passed it to David who had to take a pass on his mouthful and handed it to Fitz, who... .
An empty mug was returned to the holding table.
Pausing for a moment in his absorbing conversation with Lucy, Howard reached for his beer again and lifted a mugful of leftover foam. Puzzled, he looked at it, looked around the table where everyone was carrying on with their conversations, then looked at Henry. Howard was pretty sure he himself hadnt swallowed that mugful but, being new to the group and not wanting to appear rude by accusing the man next to him of swiping his beer, he simply ordered another one as the waiter went by. That arrived in due course, Lucy and he got more involved in their conversation andthe next time he reached for his mugit was empty.
Now he knew something was going on. Henry was busy talking to David. The others were carrying on talking, but there was something about the laughter accompanying the words he heard which seemed a little out of place to their content, and Lucy appeared close to giggling.
The young man looked at David then, thinking of the lightning swift moves his brother could make, having been frisked a few times before he knew what had happened, but the magician was too far away from the victimdrinking tomato juice and carrying on his conversation with Henryshowing an ordinary, unguilty-looking face. Something was missing thoughthe laughter which everybody else seemed ready to break out with.
Howard had grown up seeing David perform his magic tricks and he knew how his brother could keep a perfectly innocent-looking countenance going while things went on under and around a table. He switched his attention to Henry and saw, to his surprise, the same but not quite so professionally polished expression on the man sitting next to him.
<Those two beggars are in cahoots!>
He thoughtfully set his empty mug down on the table, and the next time the waiter went by he quietly placed another order.
This time when his drink arrived, he raised the glass of rich red liquid triumphantly and toasted,
Skol, David. I know damned well youre not going to swipe a glass of tomato juice, and I dont think your buddy here will either.
There was so much loud laughter from the group that everyone in the room looked curiously to see what was going on and David, laughing as hard as anyone else when he and Henry went together for the punitive round, ordered a jug of beer for his brother, saying,
Hang on to this one, because there are no guarantees youll get to drink it all yourself.
He did hang on to itbut he didnt get to drink it allhe shared it with Lucy.
Picking up the jug he looked at her and suggested,
Why dont we go sit at the bar and share this where these two old practitioners of legerdemain cant get at us?