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52: Futures

Our future seems like one sure bet
When a lute of the heart now sings
But what we want and what we get
May be playing on different strings

Aboard the TJUTELA David was busy getting the yawl into shape for her return home. Howard had gone off in a bad humour to go for a walk, and TJUTELA’s skipper, knowing that he had of necessity been hard on his young brother, let him go without objecting. He regretted that once again a split had opened up between the two just as it had seemed they were bridging the gap. He had the lowering feeling that bringing his brother to Shalisa Creek Bay had been a large mistake. It seemed to have done nothing but accent the differences between themselves.

Howard had gone off in a bad humour to go for a walk     They’d had an in depth conversation which had started when David, after having dumped Howard’s treasured green loot overboard, felt pity on seeing Howard’s stricken face and form across the table from him, as he’d slumped there in silence, and he’d tried a little peacemaking.

     “Howie,” he started, “I know you think I’m some sort of miserable tyrant but, maybe you should think about what you’re doing. Having a joint now and then is one thing, but you don’t leave it at that. You get in with that bunch of jailbait idiots back home and behave like a mindless robot around them.”

     There was no answer, and Howard didn’t raise his eyes from the table.

     “Here—for pete sake—have some coffee.”

     The mug was accepted in silence. David tried again.

     “You probably don’t remember when I left home. You were only six... .”

     “I do so,” interrupted Howard. “I thought you were a mean rat, going away like that and leaving me. I missed you.”

     This response caught David off guard. His point of view had been that he was being deprived of home and family, especially Little Brother. He had never been made aware of the other side to the story. Now he regarded this grown up Little Brother and realised that neither of them had ever said such things to each other before. The restraint of discouragement which their father had put on the relationship had gradually precluded any real contact between the two and the closeness which had been between them when David had been at home had gradually drifted into something of the past.

     Now he admitted,

     “I missed you too, more than I think you know. I didn’t want to leave you, but—I really had no choice.”

     He hesitated to go further. The circumstances of his leaving had never come up and he was sure his father had never told anyone the exact happenings of that day. At this moment he decided the past was just that—gone and not to be chewed over again. He had travelled far away from that turmoil and had made peace with himself. He felt it was up to his father to do the same. Now he looked at his young brother, thinking of all the time they had missed together and, that now they were here facing each other, it was not a happy meeting of minds.

     “What I was going to say is—where I lived then I met a kid like myself who had gone off on his own. He was brilliant and witty and full of fun, and we got into things we never should have. We were in with a bunch of men who drank and took drugs and had women and—yes, they played poker and gambled, and I liked that. They also ran drugs, among other things, and my friend thought he’d be smart and swipe some to sell for himself.

     “He carried it to a point where he got too smart. When they found out, he threatened them with blackmail, trying to protect himself. He was poaching on their goods and market, and he knew too much about their dealings, but not enough about their methods of operating. One day they put something in his drink to get rid of him, but it didn’t quite work. He was lucky. Before they managed to get to him and shut him up his father came and hauled him back home to China.

     “We were just dumb kids, in beyond our depth. I’ve never forgotten that, and what the drug scene can do to people. Some of those men didn’t forget either. They thought I might be part of it because I was his friend, but I got out of the way when Gram took me in, and I always figured I was dismissed as insignificant. It never even crossed my mind that I’d compromised my future with juvenile stupidity. Years later that casino bust brought a lot of maggots out of the woodwork. They remembered my name and wondered if I knew as much as Lava did, and maybe more now that time had passed and they’d progressed in their business.

     “They were aware of the fact that I did things in unorthodox ways and they thought I was like them, so I’d try striking a deal with information I might have about anybody anywhere to get myself off. The fact was I knew little or nothing at all, because Lava never told me anything and I never asked and I certainly didn’t follow the ongoing machinations of their careers, but they’re out there now, watching me, and I don’t like it. I sure as hell wouldn’t like to see you get mixed up with things the same way I did.”

     “I don’t know any guys like that,” stated Howard.

     “No? Who do you get your stuff from?”

     Howard thought about that for a few moments. He really didn’t know or care where he got it from as long as he got it. He shrugged,

     “I don’t know who they are. They’re nobody to me.”

     “Have you ever thought that you might not be just ‘nobody’ to them?”

     “Of course not. I’m just passing cash. They don’t care who I am.”

     “Well somebody cared who I was—and my family. Why do you think they went after me like that? What started out as a simple bent law turned into a vicious take down. They can make a lot of trouble in a lot of places for all of us. I understood why Dad tried to disown me and distance himself. He has to stand scrutiny, and sons who get into trouble don’t help any.”

     “Well, everybody does some stuff nowadays,” the young man tried to vindicate himself. “Freddie and Art do and you have too, and you drink a lot and get into lots of things that aren’t great.”

     “By whose opinion? Not as much as some people make it out to be, and yeah, I have a drink and I’ve toked a bit myself. I guess you know it’s good for some people who are sick, or hyper or just plain down, and back then I was all three, but I never touched the other stuff. It’s not worth it. I’ve seen what it did to some of the kids I met during the time I was on my own.

     “I thought maybe if I brought you here and you got cleaned up you’d see how much fun there is to be had without that junk but—I don’t know Howie. I know you’re not hooked yet, but it’s so easy for you with all your money and contacts. Look around you and see what trash you’re travelling with and get out of it. It leads nowhere. Get a life.”

     “So where should it lead?” came the angry query. “I’m gonna wind up like Freddie and Art? No way. Dad can just quit trying to get me into his organisation where all they care about is money. I’ve got a life. I like it.”

     David took a couple of contemplative mouthfuls of coffee before he answered,

     “Money seems to be what’s giving you your good life, and if you don’t want to wind up like Freddie and Art, take a look at your own choice—the gutter—and maybe choose something else.”

     “Damn!” exploded Howard, “Can’t everybody quit yapping at me? Why don’t they take a look at themselves? Everybody’s a hypocrite and they cheat on their wives. They use and manipulate people and don’t care what anybody else wants—they just want what they want.”

     “That last bit sounds familiar. Talking about yourself?”

     Howard stared at his brother and fell silent.

     “I hope you don’t include me in that category,” David said thoughtfully. “Yeah, I shouldn’t have dragged you here the way I did. I didn’t think of it as manipulation. I thought I was doing something which might help. I’m sorry—and yeah—I guess I could have a look at my self too.”

     There was another pause in the conversation and then David said,

     “Maybe we should both try a little harder.”

     As there was no answer from Howard, David sighed and said,

     “Okay, let’s drop it and start getting the boat in shape.”

     “I’m, going for a walk,” stated Howard, got up and went, leaving David feeling impotent in the whole matter and telling himself that he should mind his own business.

     He worked for awhile in a subdued mood until he was interrupted by the sound of the cell phone.

     “Oh—hi Lucy, how’re you?”

     “Hi David—not so good. Is Howie there?”

     “No, he’s gone for a walk,” he replied, scanning the area through the ports to see if his brother might be around. “Too bad he missed you. Want to leave a message for him?”

     “Oh—no—it’s just—when he took me home we were sort of—well—not talking too much—but after I got over not feeling so good I realised I didn’t get to tell him—did he tell you that he saved me from falling down a cliff by falling himself, and—when I was choking—I think he was just terrific.”

     David, looking out, saw Howard far along the beach dawdling his way back.

     “Hey Lucy, here he comes now. Hold on. I’ll get him for you and you can tell him yourself—half a mo’.”

     Half a mo’ turned into a swift scramble off the boat, perilous leaping over uneven boards along the old wharf, and a mini-marathon run along the beach where, out of breath, he shoved the phone at Howard with,

     “Here—take this—it’s Lucy,” and he leaned over, hands on his bent knees, gasping.

     Startled, Howard grabbed the phone, turned and started walking quickly away, as David muttered in between gulps of air,

     “Yeah—you’re welcome.”

     It was some time later when Howard returned to the TJUTELA.

     “Everything okay now?” asked David with a hopeful smile.

     “Yeah, real good.”

     “Lucky man,” commented David. “Going to help me get the boat into shape for home now?”

     “Uh—are you still leaving tomorrow?” asked Howard.

     “Yup. Gotta go. Work awaits.”

     “Well—I’m not going with you then.”

     The surprise this gave David made his eyebrows rise.

     “Oh? What happened to—’You brought me here and you can damned well take me back’?”

     “Things have changed,” was Howard’s explanation.

     There was silence while David straightened books on a rack and set the rail across to hold them firm, then,

     “Nothing like a lovely lady to get a man seeing things from another angle. Howie, Lucy’s not the person to use for a one night stand and I hope that’s not what you have in mind.”

     “You sure do have a low opinion of me,” returned Howard in a hurt voice.

     “What else can I have, knowing what you get up to back home?”

     “This is different.”

     “I do hope so,” David told him with feeling. “How long do you intend to stay here?”

     “Maybe a week. I have to get back to sign up for university.”

     “And just where are you going to stay for a week?”

     “With Bettina and Harry. I’ve already asked.”

     David gave his head a shake of disbelief before replying,

     “Uhuh. Well, your life is your own and I don’t seem to have much influence there, so, okay, I’ll go solo. It’s just—I have a great respect for this place and the people who live around here, and I hope you’ll keep that in mind and act accordingly.”

     “You’ve got a deal,” returned Howard. “I have some respect myself, and I don’t intend to make Lucy a one night stand. I just want to further our relationship a bit, and I need some more time for that. We just got it together from that awful sailing trip and I’m not going to let it get away from me now.”

     “Okay. It’s your call,” replied David with resignation.

     “Uh—I’ll need some clothes and things and—maybe, do you think you could let me have your credit card?”

     That request made David break into laughter.

     “Do what? Not on a bet! Besides, the only credit card I have is one I keep for fuel for the plane and boat and such. Clothes and stuff, okay.”

     “Yeah but,” pleaded Howard, “How’m I going to keep myself? Scrounge?”

     “You haven’t done too badly up to this point,” observed David. “I’m a cash man. I’ll give you whatever cash I’ve got. You’ll have to eke it out as best you can. How do you intend to get back home?”

     “I’ll take the bus.”

     “You’ll take a bus? Things have changed.”

     “Unless you want to fly in and get me,” grinned Howard.

     “You’d better keep enough money for the bus,” warned David trying not to laugh at his brother’s audacity. “Weather’s not always agreeable to that proposition.”

     “Well, you could drive up—you brought me here, you take me back?”

     “You know, you’re amazing,” David said through his laughter. “Apart from Jack Smarten you’re the damnedest con artist I ever came across. Get stuffed. Take the money and shut up.”

     “Okay,” agreed Howard, figuring that when the time came he could work something else anyway, “Let’s have it. How about throwing in the cell phone?”

- - -

There was a bon voyage dinner for David aboard the barge that evening, and a lively discussion about what ‘chickies’ were going to be called when they arrived got underway, with Therése still holding to the idea that she’d wait and see what her chick was like. Names in general began to be discussed and inevitably, boat names—METHUSELAH and HAI-SO, CRUSTY LADY LILY and JOLLY ROSE, ELFINSHOE and LEGER DE MAIN.

     “Why did you name your boat that funny name Uncle Twimby?” asked Bernice.

     “Oh—that’s a story and a half, but kind of involved,” said David passing over the question.

     “But what does it mean?” persisted Walter.

     “Yes, do tell us Uncle Twimby,” urged Therése.

     It was not only the children who showed immediate interest. There was no need for David to exhort this audience to lend him their ears. They were ready and waiting.

     He hesitated. Trying to explain to people just what her name meant was usually a ‘dodge the issue’ affair, dismissed with as few words as possible. To him it was a personal matter, part of his other landscape of the mind which didn’t mesh with the reality others back home expected. Treating a boat as though it were alive didn’t fit into their buy and sell mentality. With his young brother there, he wasn’t sure he’d understand, and would use it for future needling, but he felt the others would know what he was talking about, particularly the children, and that decided him to take a chance.

     <So he’ll laugh? So what? You’ve been laughed at before.>

     “Well—okay—it was while I was giving her a clean out and refit that I decided just what she’d be named. She’d had quite a few names already and none of them seemed to fit her personality, and since her latest name had been removed I figured I had the right to give her a rechristening.

     “Ulf and Gurth and I were sitting aboard her one afternoon and I was thinking, we were meant for each other, and her past and the way she’d behaved with it all put me in mind of an old fable so, since she’s fabulous, at least in my eyes, I thought I’d give her a fabled name. I figured, she’s a fylgia.”

     “She’s a what? What’s that?” interrupted Morgan with genuine puzzlement in his face.

     “Yeah, you got lots of funny names,” laughed Walter.

     “It’s from an old myth I read a long time ago when I was a kid,” he explained. “It was set way back in the time of the Norse Sagas when people believed that some individuals were given a protecting spirit when they were born which stayed with them throughout life—a sort of following or attendant spirit which fortunate people got. It was supposed to guard the person it became attached to, kind of in the guise of a knowing tutor and mentor, giving good advice and warnings and trying to guide the person they had charge of and shield them from harm.

     “These spirits protected their charges really well but, not being in any way obliged to take a kindly view of them when they got smart and wouldn’t listen, they were quite capable of getting back at them, or even going for revenge if they were ignored or neglected or forsaken.

     “From what I found out about her I suspect TJUTELA had to protect herself from more than a little of that. After her first years of indifferent care, she got neglected and forsaken over and over again. So I thought, I sure can use a fylgia, so I called her TJUTELA which means to teach, like a tutor or a mentor, a guide or a guardian who looks after someone, so she’s teaching me like a good fylgia should.

     “She and I decided she needed a chance to show everybody that what she’d done with the uncaring and unknowing fools who got hold of her before was well deserved, and the two of us would be an example of how she could behave with someone who listened. I sat there in the cabin of my newly acquired boat and told her I’d try to be more worthy of her care than the crews she’d had to put up with before, and that I sure hoped she’d never have to show her anger again, at least not while I own her, and I sure hope that’ll be a good long time.

     “I said to her—you look after me and I’ll look after you and we’ll tell each other when we think the other one needs a bit of good advice. That way we’ll learn how to get along together. A skipper had better listen to his boat, and a boat had better respond to a good skipper and I consider myself to be a reasonably decent one, so we’ll be a great team, and you’ll like Ulf and Gurth too.

     “TJUTELA’s my guardian spirit out there on the water. I and the guys listen to her and she tells us things about weather and ports and what shape her gear is in—and just about anything else she’d like to advise us on, and so far it seems to be working and I hope that’s how it’s going to keep on. She gets a bit personal sometimes, but in the end I can always see that it’s my fault and not hers.”

     “That’s pretty cool,” Morgan said, with interested admiration in his voice.

     “Boat names really are fascinating aren’t they,” remarked Rose. “So many people don’t even think about a name. They stick something like ‘Funtime’ on it and that’s all they get. Others put a lot of feeling and thought into it, and I think they should because, like BRIGHT LEAF, at least to me they are alive.”

     “JOLLY ROSE certainly has been my friend for life,” admitted Fitz, “And I do listen to her. Keeping her happy as we go along is necessary or we’re both in trouble.”

     Had TJUTELA been listening she would have been pleased. She had accepted without reservations the word of the skipper she was now in charge of, and so it was that on the day he had met Harry, she had swung to her anchor in safe waters, proudly accepting homage from the passersby, taking care to make no noise with her anchor chain which might disturb the sleeper below decks, pleased and satisfied with her world as it was now, waiting until he had awakened of his own accord at last and had taken her back to her berth in the marina.

     Encouraged by this bit of approval David was prompted to continue.

     “Speaking of trouble, there’s one great old tale about a guy who renegued on his fylgia. Let’s see if I can remember it—yeah—I’ll give you a loose translation.

     “Seems there was this Viking, called Halfred, who had tossed over his Norse teachings to take on a new religion, which maybe wasn’t such a good idea, because he got sick soon after while at sea and could pretty well tell that he wasn’t going to return home from this voyage.

There was this Viking, called Halfred, who had tossed over his Norse teachings to take on a new religion

     “He tried to get rid of his fylgia because he was more than convinced that she would be an embarrassment if she stuck with him, since he wasn’t going to Valhalla but to some other paradise. He didn’t want her to accompany him any farther on his journeys, particularly not into the other world because she’d certainly cause trouble in that respect and he might not even get in. The new authority he’d come to believe in wasn’t going to look too kindly on any trappings from his former heathen career coming along with him, so he had told his fylgia in no uncertain terms that their connection was permanently disconnected, but he hadn’t figured on the feistiness of the one he’d acquired .

     “Since this guardian spirit had been assigned to such a formidable, self-assertive scrapper, the swift-witted mentor took over this character’s own attitude to be used for guiding her fractious charge along the way.

     “Well, as the old warrior sat there in his dragon boat accepting the idea that this was his last sea journey and that he was on his way to eternal happiness, he found to his consternation that his forsaken fylgia was following after his ship, in the shape of a beautiful young maiden, walking on the waves in full sight of his crew, which kind of rattled them somewhat, but once again he told her in no uncertain terms that he and she were through, totally and forever.

     “Being dismissed in this abrupt and final fashion didn’t go over too well, so she figured that there was no use following him to the bitter end. She was pretty ticked off after having taken care of him for so long and now here she was getting thrown over in this ungrateful manner.

     “She decided to let him know that she also had a choice in the matter, not at all willing to be fobbed off into obscurity, so in a show of her own strength she offered her guardianship to the first mate, I guess like—’you’re not firing me, I quit’, sort of thing—but this idiot, probably figuring that he was next in line for command of the ship and not wanting to lose the opportunity, refused her.

     “Fortunately, on board was Halfred the Younger and it would seem that he was no fool because, as soon as the second in command had refused, he spoke up saying—Maiden, I will take thee.”

     “No doubt he thought that any fylgia who had led his irascible father to such fame and fortune for so long could undoubtedly do the same for him—it probably had nothing to do with her good looks, of course.

     “So, the moral to this story is, you better be good to your tutelar spirit, or she’ll walk off and find somebody else to look after, and if she’s a boat you’re in real trouble.

     “Jut one thing bothers me about this story though and it has ever since I read it. I keep wondering—did Halfred the Younger not get a fylgia assigned to him when he was born or—did his first fylgia desert him in high dudgeon because he wouldn’t listen or—did he wind up with two fylgias, the lucky fellow?

     “I’d settle for a beautiful maiden of that stripe, “ laughed Howard. “The ones I’ve come across so far do just what they want all the time and they sure don’t worry about advising me on anything good.”

     “I wonder why she socked you on the head if you’re such a good team,” puzzled Morgan.

     “I wondered that too,” admitted David, “But I think I’ve figured it out. She was telling me I’d done something I shouldn’t have.”

     “What was that Uncle Twimby?” asked Therése.

     “I wandered off the right path and she sure let me know it.”

     Howard gave his brother a thoughtful look and then said,

     “Maybe she let us know that both of us had hit a wrong direction.”

     This unexpected acceptance by his brother of the spirit of the conversation surprised and pleased David.

     “You think so?” he asked. “Well, maybe we’d both better go find the right one.”

     “You first,” was Howard’s wary suggestion.

     “How about together?”

     The youngsters didn’t quite fathom the depth of the conversation going on, but the rest did, and Dancing Water said,

     “Company is always good when searching for the right path. What one cannot move from blocking the way two may do so, and each helps the other along until the wide smooth way is found at last.”

     “Think we could have a go with that plan, How?”

     “Guess we could give it a try,” was the cautious acceptance.

     The smiles they gave each other were a bit uncertain and tentative, neither knowing quite where to start their search, but a feeling of willingness was there and the tension which had risen between them again with the discovery of Howard’s smoking eased off as Fitz headed for the galley with the invitation of,

     “Anybody want another cup of coffee before we hit our bunks?”

- - -

Morning was not pleased.

     Across lethargic water, weighted flat with dark clouds, Sidney the swan skirted the stranded bulk of LEGER DE MAIN, making an undulating heavy wake as he went past the stern of the barge, giving the impression that water had somehow become more solid. Finding nothing there to hold his interest he headed around toward the waterlogged old wharf with its barnacle-encrusted pilings where cormorants perched, drying outspread wings and preening black plumage, having finished their diving for breakfast fish.

     Tethered along its old weather-scarred length, the wharf’s load of tenant boats creaked against their dangling fenders and complained against the drag of water.

     David’s assessment of the day before, regarding a weather breakup, was materialising. The barometer fell with the tide, which left flat, smooth water sliding away from the beaches as it receded. Dawn sat in brooding silence, frowning over Shore and Horizon with darkening clouds.

     Gulls flocked into Bay and only their wings moved the still air as their cries rose clear and sharp to sullen Sky. A group of them huddled around Shore’s edge, constantly quarrelling, calling each other names, fighting over edible bits and pieces they found, and wheeling around the barge’s grounded end, to return for more quarrelling and shouting, reluctant to leave the sheltered bay, sensing that a storm was on the way.

     Trees bowed their heads in silence, as though forbidden to take up their usual whispering movement, waiting for wind’s baton to signal the beginning of more strident sounds.

     Leaning on the stern rail of METHUSELAH, Armand eyed the lowering skies, watched the gulls, studied the flat water, and called to Fitz who was sitting on the top step of the barge’s stern,

     “I don’t like the look of this. I think we had better get set for a blow, and this old wharf isn’t exactly where I’d like to be in that event. We should have put down some mooring buoys earlier for just such an occasion. We’re getting careless.”

     “I think you’re right about the weather,” agreed Fitz, “But I haven’t checked the radio report.”

     “Since when do you think the weather office knows more than we do?” asked the doctor with a grin, “But if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll go listen.”

     He went into the wheelhouse and came back out a little later, saying,

     “There’s a storm coming somewhere around late afternoon. Rain and big winds from the southeast. We’re in luck. It’s usually not too bad in here with a southeaster.”

     “Maybe we’d better get everyone together and move the boats to safer anchorages,” suggested Fitz. “Nobody’s really sitting in the most advantageous place to minimise windage. Maybe the wharf can handle ELFINSHOE, but I think METHUSELAH packs a lot of weight which might shove the wharf around too much so it might be wise if you anchored out.”

     “I’m thinking the same,” agreed Armand.

     He walked over to METHUSELAH’s big brass bell and rang it, a sound which had now been accepted as the signal for a meeting aboard the barge about something more important than sampling the latest batch of brew, then he went along the wharf and over to LEGER DE MAIN where he and Fitz waited for the others.

     It was significant that nobody asked for a beer once everyone had arrived, and Fitz’s greeting as David came in was,

     “You know, I think we’re in for a bit of a blow.”

     “I don’t like the look of the weather either,” replied David as the others began to come in.

     “That’s why we’ve called a meeting,” Armand explained when everybody was there. “We think the boats ought to be redistributed. We have been sitting around in this good weather like we’d never heard of storms. It doesn’t pay to get careless. Fitz is the only one ready to take on bad weather. He has JOLLY ROSE nice and snug behind the barge. We had better get ourselves together.”

     “Coffee pot time,” said Rose and Bettina at once and, laughing, they went to the galley to brew up a batch.

     The discussion as to what should be done didn’t take long. The decision was that the boats which were anchored out would be more protected behind the barge, using her as a breakwater, as Fitz had been doing all along, and to prepare the boats for rough weather as quickly as possible.

     The children, noting the serious faces around them, held their own conference, and though Morgan and Isabel at first wanted the younger family members to go ashore as a safety measure while they themselves stayed aboard, because nobody knew how ELFINSHOE with her high freeboard would take a storm, the juniors, including Heron, who was making ELFINSHOE his home as much as Grandmother’s place, outvoted the older more cautious heads in their youthful enthusiasm.

     This was a demonstration of a cohesive force among the group which tended to hold them all together in emergencies, a pull-as-one attitude, sink or swim. Nobody would duck out when the going got tough.

     Besides, the younger ones sensed an adventure and they weren’t going to be done out of it.

     Impressed by this display of democracy and good fellowship, the adults agreed, feeling they had no right to interfere, and also knowing that things could be arranged so that a miniscule chance of risk would be involved anyway. The old wharf, close to shore as it was, seemed the safest place, and it had taken so many storms before that everyone felt reasonably certain one boat tied up there wouldn’t take it apart.

     They were pleased that the group hadn’t simply chosen to abandon ship. Their group planning showed them how responsible the young people were, and it was also felt that it would be a good learning experience, given the fact that there was so much help around if it should be needed. They also thought that sleeping aboard at a wharf while the boat got pushed around a bit would give the six a feeling of just what Wind and Water could do when teamed up for an argument with Shore.

     The coffee pot didn’t have a chance to get overworked at this conference, because everybody finished their first mugful and started moving.

     Dinghies were brought aboard and stowed on deck or in davits. Decks themselves were cleared and gear lashed firmly, while below, each owner immobilised movable objects.

     BRIGHT LEAF was carried up and lodged safely upside down under a low shed.

     ELFINSHOE, cowering at the thought of bad weather, watched as the children hastily stuffed all their loose belongings into lockers and overhead nets, and she tried to be as brave as they were about the whole thing. She still held vivid memories of being hurled against a beach from the force of Wind and Sea, and she didn’t want to go through that again. The old wharf where she was berthed didn’t do much to bolster her confidence either until he leaned against her and told her he’d seen it all and one more wasn’t going to faze him.

     Shiro, happening to take a look at ELFINSHOE’s anchor rode, immediately replaced it with some hefty line of his own, telling himself that he should have done that long ago, from the look of the old junk he found attached to their bow anchor.

     He made a mental note to go over this floating circus later, as uncritically as possible, and to teach the youngsters more about marine requirements. Frayed ropes were free but they were also dangerous, and Sea played for keeps.

     For ELFINSHOE’s young, inexperienced crew it was a chance to participate in what they saw as an exciting happening. The only advice offered by the adults was, that there should be only one skipper aboard, in charge and making the decisions with no arguments from the crew, to which Isabel replied,

     “That’s my job. Morgan’s first mate.”

     She got no argument.

     David had a couple of walkie-talkies and one of these he gave to Isabel, the other to Fitz, and it was agreed that at eight o’clock in the evening he would ‘speak the ELFINSHOE’ whether the storm arrived or not, and periodically thereafter if weather warranted or, as he told himself, if he felt they needed reassurance.

     The young crew were told to keep their lifejackets handy if it blew more than a little, and to make sure their dinghy was ready to launch. It was advice which would have been given had their boat been anchored out, but the adults felt a dress rehearsal wouldn’t hurt anybody and the last remark was, ‘once that’s all done, just relax’.

     Everybody tried not to smile at this last bit of advice, for it was plain that no relaxing would be going on aboard ELFINSHOE for awhile.

     The gaily decorated floating home was given extra fenders and lines for maximum protection, which pleased her timid heart immensely. Then CRUSTY LADY LILY drew close to LEGER DE MAIN . She was quite sure she could handle anything, but had reservations about Bettina and Harry. The others followed, spacing themselves carefully, and hoping that Wind wouldn’t veer and blow straight into the bay.

     All the boats had been through such weather before, and to them it was a matter of making sure their anchors held, presenting their bows to wave and wind, and then just waiting it out.

     Aside from the children, Howard, Bettina and Harry were the only other inexperienced hands around, and Harry’s approach was that nothing was going to happen anyway. This was nothing, he said, compared to some of the experiences he and Bettina had been subjected to in their travels. Howard said he’d had enough of boating for awhile and he’d bunk down ashore. All the other skippers used the strategy of doing everything possible to avoid trouble and then dealing with it if it came. They all knew of boats sunk at wharves and moorings simply because there had been no one aboard to prevent it.

     Rose, feeling a bit left out, said it all sounded like fun and she threatened to stow away on one of the boats, but she was relegated to shore duty, just in case, and Tashakawa wanted to stay ashore as well, saying Shiro was perfectly capable of managing by himself and she’d seen enough blows at sea to keep her going for awhile.

     Dancing Water, who had no boat, simply listened quietly and then said she was glad she would be safely ashore.

     Rain began just after the bay residents had finished their lunch, and by the time the wind could be heard in trees and rigging, everyone was prepared to sit back and simply put up with it, hoping it wouldn’t last long.

     As evening came, however, the rain had become a heavy downpour blown noisily sideways and those aboard the boats could feel the force of Wind and Wave. Isabel and Morgan were so intent on avoiding trouble that they checked everything every half hour, waiting expectantly until Fitz’s cheerful voice came to them promptly at eight, telling them that this was nothing compared to some he’d seen before, and there was no cause for worry.

     Peering out at the comforting sight of lights ashore and on the other boats, the group began to assure themselves that it really was nothing, just as Fitz said. They repeated this so often to each other that even ELFINSHOE began to believe it.

     Not too many people slept solidly that night.

     When the first light of morning showed that Weather was moving on, Wind had expended its first energetic blow and was down considerably and Rain was lessening, everyone headed for coffee on the barge—except ELFINSHOE’s crew, who were found to be fast asleep in their bunks when Fitz pulled alongside in his dinghy to check.

     He reported this to the others, and added that he thought he’d heard ELFINSHOE snoring too.

     “Guess you listened to the weather office saying the wind’ll lighten up for a couple of days,” said David, as everyone sat getting the sleepiness out of their faces. “I think that’s my cue to get going.”

     “If you’re heading out, I’d hit Soggers tide this afternoon and get through the Gap early,” advised Shiro, giving the advice of an experienced fisherman. “Lots of junk out there now and you’ll have more room to spot it and manoeuvre around it with high water. You’ll probably get a couple of days of not so lousy weather now, but this kind of stuff is sneaky and can keep on coming in cycles. The winds are against you and you’ll have to do a bit of work to get back, even if you motor some. Tide’s early this afternoon and it’s with you, so you’ll be able to make your first port before dark and then decide if you go on tomorrow.”

     “Sounds like a good plan to me,” agreed the yawl skipper. “I can grab a bit of sleep, get something to eat and be all ready for the tide when it hits. Boat’s all ready too, thanks to the weather.”

     “It’s an ill wind indeed,” smiled Shiro, “Which brings nobody any good.”

     Just before turn of high Tide David took his dinghy ashore through the rain to say his goodbyes. He went on board LEGER DE MAIN, where everyone had gathered to compare notes on the night’s experience, the youngsters particularly wanting to tell all about the wind singing in the rigging and the sound of waves slapping the side of ELFINSHOE as she rocked at her berth.

     “Is Rose ashore?” he asked, noting her absence immediately.

     “Her roof sprang a leak again and she’s busy mopping,” said Bettina.

     David went over to the fireplace to stroke Charm and tell her the barge was all hers again as Ulf and Gurth were leaving, then he hugged the children and told them to have fun and be good Shalisa, as Dancing Water put her hand on his shoulder and said,

     “We ask Spirit of the Waves to be good for you on your trip home.”

     “So far we seem to be on good terms,” smiled David as he gave her the hug of a son.

     He shook hands with Fitz, Harry, Armand and Shiro, had their well wishing for a safe journey, and was given a big food package which Bettina and Tashakawa had made up for him.

     “Just in case you don’t have time to make anything yourself.”

     “Sure going to miss the good beer,” he told Bettina, giving her a big bear hug. “Maybe I can get Gram to take up brewing again. If Howie gets out of hand just let me know and I’ll come get him in the plane.”

     “Hey,” countered Howie, “We got a deal going. You ain’t gonna hear.”

     “Okay, I’ll take your word for it—at the moment,” grinned David.

     “Does that mean you’re going to fly in and get me?” queried Howard, ever the opportunist.

     “You carry on talking like that and I’ll haul you off right now,” was the laughing reply.

     “Keep in touch as you go along so we can check your progress,” smiled Fitz. “We’d like to know that you get back okay.”

     “Will do,” agreed David, turned then and left.

     He went down the stern ladder, stowed the big plastic-bagged food package under a tarp in his dinghy, and rowed for the beach, jumping out and heading for Rose’s door.

     “Just dropped in to tell you I’m on my way,” he said as she opened the door. “I won’t come in. You don’t need any more water on your floor.”

     “Don’t worry about that. I and the roof have an ongoing contest,” she told him. “Just keep following the right path and maybe we’ll see you again shortly.”

     “Hope so,” he grinned. “I’ll probably need a break in a month or so—that is if the weather’s any good,” he qualified his words.

     “Have a safe trip home David—and tell Edith the rose is happy here.”

     “She’ll be glad to hear that both of them are doing so well. You keep the sunshine here for me until I get back. See you maybe a month from now if I can get away,” he smiled, and turned from the doorway.

     As she stood watching him walk away through the rain he stopped and turned abruptly back, laughing, saying as he came toward her,

     “I’m probably going to get kicked where it hurts the most for this but—agh, what the hell, we only live once, and nobody’s guaranteed me a tomorrow, so I’ll take my chances.”

     He hugged her then when he reached her, not with the comradely, brotherly fondness he’d given the children, nor the exuberant bear hug Bettina and Tashakawa had received for their gift of food, but a careful gathering in of the woman before him as he filled his hands with her smooth, shining hair, resting his cheek lightly against the brightness of it for a moment before he bent his head to brush his lips tentatively across hers and, finding there no rejection of his overture, he kissed her, gently and lingeringly, with deep-seated feeling, knowing with certain conviction now, that he was leaving behind the woman to whom he would always return, whatever intervened, and he was not kicked for his gamble.

     He loosened his arms at last and, backing slowly away said,

     “Rose—do you think—maybe—by the time I get back here—I was kind of hoping maybe you and Waterfall Spirit could settle your differences.”

     She replied to him in the Shalisa tongue, and to his enquiring look she said,

     “May TJUTELA guard you well. Fair winds and a safe Harbour.”

     He waited a moment more, feeling that what he saw in her eyes wasn’t reflected in her words, but since she said no more he turned quickly and left, nor did he look back until he was on board TJUTELA with the dinghy hoisted and safe in its davits.

     When he finally turned his eyes toward shore she was still standing in her doorway, the light from the lamp behind her shining bright against her dark hair. He waved to her with a wide swing of his arm, started the engine idling, set the jigger, sent storm jib and reefed main aloft, then turned to break out the anchor and take the wheel as the sails filled, carrying TJUTELA away from the safe bay, toward Soggers Gap, and white-capped water.

Carrying TJUTELA away from the safe bay, toward Soggers Gap, and white-capped water     Everyone left behind came out to stand at LEGER DE MAIN’s railings, waving until the boat went through the Gap, they were wet, and they all went back inside again, out of the weather, except for Rose.

     She stood a long time alone, watching from her doorway as the boat tacked behind the south arm of the bay, lifted her face to the rain for a few moments, then brought her eyes back to the empty space where TJUTELA had been anchored.

     <My thanks, Grandfather. I feared that he hadn’t understood my song that night by the fire—or that he didn’t care. Grandmother Godwin, you are well loved and treasured, and I will not come between.>

     She turned then and went back into the room, closing the door against the weather, feeling as though she had closed it against David himself, and wishing she had spoken those Shalisa words in English.

     “Now for you, Shining Hair, I reopen the circle.”

     It was well that she had not said it before, because had David heard it he could not have left and, knowing this, she had kept silent.

     On the now more quiet waters of the bay Sidney was touring once again, and Tide was turning out through Soggers Gap, helping the homeward run of the outward bound boat.