56: Village visit
Tide lapped lazily over warm sand and pebbles as a sunny haze stretched around Bay. Wind roamed along shore, through trees, outside houses, and then rollicked around chimneys, which yielded nothing except a pleasant hollow echo. No sound of busy humanity intruded. Only the presence of the barge with its attendant boats at wharf and at anchor, gardens breathing in the morning sunshine, and the sound of chickens chuckling and scratching in their run gave evidence of habitation.
Quiet held Shalisa Creek Bay.
Earlier that morning Armand de Marincourt had started breakfast and with his first cup of café au lait he had apologised to METHUSELAH for having promised a sail to town which now was not going to happen.
There were a couple of other boats feeling left out of things tooJOLLY ROSE and CRUSTY LADY LILYbecause a replacement for the three had been found.
With the arrival of Davids float plane bringing the much expected visitors, the barge had become the focus of attention and it was there that the news of changed plans had been handed on to the holidayers.
LEGER DE MAIN loved having gatherings aboard. That was what the structure she hosted had been built for and, although sunny mornings and peaceful days were the norm in her life now, a party was the time to really shine, with lots of laughter and food and conversation. She was especially happy today because people who had never visited her before had come aboard and were admiring her construction and beautiful woodwork, of which she was very proud.
Restaurateur, accountant and mechanic were impressed with this barge which theyd heard so much about but never seen. Its history had made it even more attractive in their minds and none of the three were disappointed by its appearance, in spite of the hard times which had hit her earlier on and had marred some of her appearance.
For Bert the reality of the place far exceeded his imaginings about it. Somehow he hadnt thought of it as being so big, or so well built or so inviting. Hed figured that a getaway for illegal gamblers would have made at least some attempt to be hidden, unobtrusive and secretive. Even though hed been told that it was in an out-of-the-way location seldom visited by strangers, finding a replica reminiscent of a castle sitting boldly in the morning sunlight, decked with flowers and topped with a spire surprised him.
You sure must have had a lot of fun here, he remarked appreciatively. I kind of had the idea it was just another of your business dealings, but I can see you sure know how to enjoy doing business.
You know me, grinned David. If it isnt any fun Im not going to do it if I can get out of it.
Yeah, some people come acrosst an idea you got too much fun outta is place, laughed Yevy. Good ting you still laughin about it. Sure do like at fireplace. Too bad it aint back home sos we could sit in frontta it when cold comes.
Wed sure miss it if that happened, Fitz returned. Winter is certainly more kindly here for us with a good blaze going. Sometimes we all get together and have an up spirits day just to make the world seem less grey and chilly.
Sort of like we do in the marina office sometimes, remarked Estéban, Except Davids got a nice little propane stove on the barge there instead of a big fireplace.
Poker and all, added David.
How come you never let me in on it? enquired Howard, his feelings suddenly getting sensitive at the thought of having been left out of his brothers good times while an employee was invited to participate.
Your usual disinterest in things maritime made me figure you wouldnt appreciate it, David excused himself, Apart from the fact that youre usually pretty busy upping spirits with your own company. Hope all you guys have kept your card skills honed because Ive told these three enthisiasts that wed have a great game or two while were here.
Oh were quite prepared to take you on, Armand assured him emphatically, and the other poker players fully agreed.
Hey Lady Law, you let us guys get away wit is? enquired Yevy. He bin hauled up for it afore.
We have our own ways here, laughed Rose, And if my guests want to have a game or two its okay by me as long as its honest and above board and nobody gets burned. Then she added, smiling at David, You might get tossed into the saltchuck if you welch on a bet though, so dont do it.
I didnt welch that time, objected the gambler, I just solved the problem using a somewhat different solution and thats the thanks I got for it.
Sound like Shepherd Boy all right, commented Yevy. Allus got some idee goin on for tryin out different.
Were being different today too, broke in Therése. Like were going for lunch and shopping in the village all together.
Yeah, and all of us at once, added Walter. Even Charm! Weve never done that before an were going shopping for school stuff.
An, Uncle Tugboat is coming to get us cause hes got a great big boat that can take us all in one big gulp an go real fast too, the other twin voice informed him.
We havent seen him for ages, Therése put in. Hes been away up north working all summer, because he said thats where the money is.
Is Bud coming in today? asked David in pleased surprise. Ill bet hes sure ready for a lay off.
He called early this morning and said he was on the way in, said Shiro. Sure will be glad to see him again. Weve missed him around here.
Must be somebody else whos been working too hard, remarked Bert taking a drink from his glass of Bettinas blackberry wine. Best thing thats happened to Yevy and me for some time is this trip. David sure had it right when he said we needed a holiday and wed like it here and have fun. Were at it alreadyright Yev?
Okay, you got at right, admitted the restaurateur standing there in the clothes Armand had substituted for his own wet ones. Dint spect to go swimmin so soon as I get here, but, okayfun. Doc, he sure know how.
Fun took over as the gathering waited for Bud Westman to motor into the bay and load up his tug for a village visit.
- - -
Still pumped up from a month of work along the northern coast, WESTMAN WILL came through the Gap shortly after the float plane had landed, ready and willing to become the single vessel which would carry the total population of Shalisa Creek Bay into the village for a blowout en masse.
The captain himself was as ready for a holiday as was his hard run craft. Northern work had been demanding and intensive, but the monetary rewards offered to tempt the tug from home had made the work seem much more acceptable than the bits and pieces of flotsam and jetsam jobs which could be found locally around his southern base.
An attractive contract to haul freight along the coast farther north for the summer had been the hard choice Bud had made earlier in the year. Leaving home for so long was not his best wish for financing, but it seemed to be an opportunity not to be passed over. He needed money. With the prospects of a large amount of that necessity attached to the discussion man and wife held about accepting the position, the outcome had been unanimous.
Both knew the difficulties of northern work, but it seemed that the chance of getting out of debt was too great to resist. A future without so much worry about monetary matters, offering the chance to live the modest lifestyle the way they wanted to, seemed to be there for the gettingif all things stayed stable, WESTMAN WILL held up under the stress andif the weather was reasonably good. Bad weather meant risk.
Bud and his tug had taken many risks before. The agreement was made. Go for it! Just this one season they would make the sacrifice of each being on their own, handling whatever came without the input of the other to help with decision making.
Bud went, taking with him his young grandson Wilf as crew. Wilf thought it would be a great adventure.
Hauling freight had turned into an interesting endeavour. Groceries to supply coastal village stores, materials for building highways inland, gravel barges for the same purpose, medical supplies and personnel aboard when the necessity arose and they were heading in the right direction, cattle, horses, chickens, various other livestock, a variety of material, people and circumstances, all came under the heading of hauling freight.
This slight misrepresentation to the southern tug owner had not been looked upon by those formulating the invitation aslying. It was just that the northern area desperately needed sea transport after their usual trusted operator had racked up his boat and no one else was willing to risk theirs. Necessity salved the consciences of those who wrote the attractive ad for bids.
Bud Westman was the successful bidder andas it turned outthe only one.
The freight designation, when met up with, didnt particularly disconcert the tug master. Having been obliged to do much of the same in his own puddle, he would tackle whatever, and with a cheerful willingnessas long as he got paid. Visions of getting the barnacles of debt off his back kept the smile on his face.
Sometimes the runs were a pleasure when the sun shone, the northern scenery rose grandly around them and Sea and Weather took a day off from being unpredictable. At other times getting trade into port after mighty arguments with both of those natural elements left only guts and gall standing sturdily behind the smile. His crew, being young and eager, laughed through it all. He thought it was fun. The captain, being responsible for boat, crew and freight aboard, was more wary and aware of the risks to be taken and he assessed them carefully before taking them.
Toting up his balance sheet as he received his last payment, and having rewarded his young crew generously, Bud declared to himself, with a glum tongue in cheek that, well it hadnt exactly got rid of all the debt but it had sure helped. Broken gear, rising fuel costs, upkeep, and a few runs without charge for humanitarian reasons had cut into the profit butever the determined optimistmaybe something else big would turn up to finish the job.
On his way home he had called the Bay residents to let them know he was finished up north, and on being told of their planned flotilla to the village which would be occurring on the same day as his arrival in the area he suggested that, since he and Wilf were going that way anyway, they might as well all come along too. The idea of carrying the whole lot of residents from the Bay to the village had been too much to resist. The tugs master figured it would be a fun finish to months of hard but satisfying running.
Fun was going to be ahead at home for awhile.
- - -
Bud Westman started the big brass bell on the bow of WESTMAN WILL ringing with hearty loudness, announcing that it was time for everyone to come aboard for the cruise to the village.
Unpolished as it was, a little green and crusted with salt in places from the long work period the tug had just finished, the bell still sang with a clear, cheerful sound, knowing that its weather-beaten face would soon be bright again once the captain got around to having time for the enjoyment of spiffing up his little ship.
Years ago, shining new and proud in its place on the foredeck, it had rung loud and joyfully as the little ship had been christened and launched. It had been put in place by the tugs first captain, finished with a braided pull fashioned by his own hands. Subsequent wear and tear had seen the pull replaced many times by other hand-made ones, and the present weather-worn item awaited its retirement, looking rather grey with age, but still determinedly useful.
The voice this bell gave forth was particularly clear and fine even at its loudest. Announcements were carried out with crisp tones, and it seemed to enjoy its work of declarations. It had rung for many happy occasions, and tolled for those whose spirits were received as ashes cast gently upon Sea with whom theyd had such close and intimate lives. Through all its years of ringing, in fog and sun, storm and calm, urgent alarm or happy hour, and sometimes just for the gleeful hell of it, the bell sang out musically, never losing its comforting optimistic tone, whatever the message.
Now, in response to its summons, the residents of the bay began boarding WESTMAN WILL, ready for anything the day might serve up.
Not having needed to use her comfortable basket transport for some time, Charm, finding herself now invited to hop in, gave Fitz a surprised look but she did just that. As soon as she was aboard the tug, assured that Fitz was also coming along, she ran a circuit of the decks, then headed below, found the captains cabin and made herself comfortable in the middle of his bunk.
The children eagerly rambled around looking into everything, the twins in the wheelhouse holding onto the spokes of the wheel and going Toot toot! as they made believe they were running the tug, and it wasnt long before they went out onto the foredeck and found The Bell.
They were jumping up and down trying to grab the old pull to start the bell ringing when young Wilf, who had been acting as something of a keeper for the two aboard, came up.
Hold on there, he ordered laughingly. You gotta have permission from the captain to do that. Theres tradition here you gotta respect.
Whats that? they both asked together.
Well, you can see it says Westman Will in big letters but see that name engraved around the rim here? he asked.
As he tilted the bell for them to see they peered up at it and both yelled,
Yeah. Theres a story goes along with that name. Wanna hear it?
Oh yeah! was the twin reply.
Okaywellway back when WESTMAN WILL was just being built my great grandfather and his family lived close to the village, right on the waterfront, same place where my Grampa does now. Well one day when the weather wasnt so good he and my great uncles went out on a fishing trip in a little rowboat because they wanted some salmon for dinner. The weather wasnt very good but they were used to hairy stuff so they decided to go anyway. They loaded up the tugs lifeboat with gear and home brew and headed off to fish and enjoy themselves.
Well, my Great Grandma was at home and later she saw the weather getting up and it was getting dark and cold and then the fog started rolling in. Great Granny had expected them back by this time so she was getting worried, and when she saw that fog she began to wonder if maybe it had caught them out there in their little boat and they were lost. So she thought about this a lot and decided she better do something about it.
First she thought of lighting a fire on the shore but there was a drizzle and everything was wet so all she got was smoke in her eyes and the rest of it disappeared in the fog. Well, then she remembered that in storms bells would ring on buoys set out in dangerous places, but this wasnt a dangerous place so there was no bell, and anyway there wasnt much wind to set a bell ringing. So she thought some more and then went to the barn and there was their cow Annabelle lying down contentedly chewing her cud with her bell around her neck.
Great Granny said,
Annabelle, I need that bell more than you do right now so I hope you dont mind if I borrow it for a good cause. Now dont you go away without it while Im gone.
So she unbuckled the cows bell, went down to the shore and started ringing it while yelling, This way Will, this way Will! and sure enough, the guys werent too far off shore but they were rowing around in circles like people do when they get lost in a fogand they were probably a bit foggy in the head from too much brew tooand they heard this bell and Granny from away off and they rowed toward the sound. They were sure glad to get in because it was really getting cold and anyway, they were running out of brew.
Well they all laughed and hugged Granny and told her how smart she was and she said it was really Annabelle who had got them safely home because it was her bell and when she went missing they could always find her because of it. Then she asked,
Wheres the salmon?
And they had to admit they didnt get any, so she just laughed and said that was typical but she didnt care because she was just glad they got home safe. Anyway, they decided when they got this bell for the tug that there was nothing for it but to have it engraved as Annabelle and every time they were coming into home harbour from the right direction and sailed past the house theyd ring it like crazy to let Granny know they were back home safe again.
Thats what ships bells are forto be used in a fog to let other shipping in the area know where they are in relation to one another. It helps keep boats safe from other boats in the fog because they can hear each other, so theyd ring it every minute so other seamen would know where they were by hearing them. Nowadays though they blow their whistles instead. They kept time with the bell too way back when. Guess you must have heard about eight bells and alls well?
The twins shook their heads, no.
Well, eight bells was the end of the watches the guys kept on board ships way back when it was all sailboats. They used to keep time with an hour glass and the ships boys had to turn the glass every half hour.
Whats an hour glass?queried Bernice.
Its an invention somebody made with a bulb of glass pinched tight in the middle with sand in it, explained Wilf, demonstrating with thumb and finger how it was pinched, And it was put in a stand, and it could be timed for the sand to run through from the top bulge to the bottom one in exactly an houror for just half an hours worth of sand like boats used. The sailors had to keep a lookout on board the ship for trouble or land or other boats and to make sure everything was all okay just like now. Watches were split into four hour spells, and every half hour the bell got rung. It gets kind of complicated after that happens, but anyway, eight bells was four groups of two rings each, which meant four hours was up, and at the end of those eight bells their watch was over, so theyd call out Eight bells and alls wellthat is, if everything wasand then theyd go off duty and the next guy would take over the watch.
Thats a neat story! Walter grinned, But what did they need the bell to keep time for if they had watches? An how could they split themthey wouldnt work then.
Did they ever cheat an ring all eight times at once? asked Bernice.
The involved explanations which Wilf got into after that had his mind turning over for some time.
Below decks hospitality reigned in the galley where lunch for the way had been more than provided for by the adults, and with a mad ringing of the bell performed by Bernice and Walter, allowed by Uncle Tugboat and helped out by a lift up from Wilf, the outing got underway.
When the tug arrived at its destination the village wharf was overtaken and overrun by pirates and ordinary citizens alike, as the passengers disembarked while Bud made his little ship fast, and before he left them there his flat order was,
Anyone who doesnt make it back to the tug by seven oclock can swim home.
You had better believe what this man says, Armand warned. Hes a captain who doesnt talk just for the fun of it.
I havent got a watch so how do we know what time it is? came the question from Walter.
We need an hour glass! piped up Bernice.
The clock on the firehall hose tower is pretty visible from all over, laughed Fitz. Guess thatll make a good substitute, and I dont expect anyones going to stray too far from the view of it. Besides, our pilot here wouldnt be caught without one, so if we stick around him were safe.
Okay, suggested Tashakawa, Were all going for lunch at the Urchin like we agreed, but lets talk plans so everybody can sort of know where everybody else is afterwards. We women and the young people are going shopping. They need stuff for the school term coming up and the rest of us need all sorts of things.
Yeah, an everyone says were gonna load WESTMAN WILL until he sinks, chortled Walter.
I want to be around to see that, snorted Bud derisively.
This well may be the day, stated Hiro. Weve been putting off getting everything for a long time now, and since youve let yourself in for it were taking advantage of you.
Go ahead, agreed Bud. WESTMAN WILL and me are good for it.
Men Howie are going to walk the wharves for a bit, Estéban offered. He says theres lots of good old engines I might like to look at on some of the boats.
I said old wrecks Stebby, corrected Howard.
Theyre the best, returned Estéban seriously.
Well I promised Bert and Yevy a visit to the Rascals, so well probably get there earlier than anyone else whos thirsty after weve walked around town a bit, so if anyones looking for us thats where well be, David told them.
Well catch you there after us guys get through buying what we came after, agreed Harry. Were going shopping tooneed some tools and things.
Well dont look at us, Bud told the men as he and his grandson shouldered their duffle bags, Im heading home and so is Wilf. Ill see you at seven on the wharfpromptif I don't make it to the pub.
Everybody got it straight then? asked Tashakawa. Seven oclock deadlinefor the trip homeprompt.
Yes Honourable Organiser san, laughed Hiro as Bud and Wilf headed for home and the rest went in a body to the Sea Urchin for lunch.
- - -
Business was brisk at the Urchin. Tourist season had yet to let up. Abby, the latest waitress, taken on permanently because she knew how to handle rowdy and obnoxious patrons with good humour and a fast tongue, was about to blow her cool.
She had been busy all morning. Somebody had tried to walk out without paying and shed had to chase them. Shed had to fend off all sorts of remarks about service being slow because food didnt arrive the moment it was ordered and some Very Important People were in a hurry. Another couple kept changing their minds and rescinding their orders. When they were served at last it wasnt what they had ordered, they said. She knew damned well it was. She didnt get confused that way. It wasnt until theyd eaten quite a bit of it that theyd discovered the mistake and refused to pay. That kind of scam didnt go over too well, but management took it in stride.
Then there were the big city folks, complaining that certain things werent on the menu, commenting haughtily on how such-and-so a dish was always available back where they came from.
She wished theyd go back there and get it. She was getting tired.
Now the lunch crowd was becoming a bit much. Too many people all at once and short-handed staff this day had made her humour a tad sharp. Having just managed to clear a few tables after one group had left, she turned around to see another crowd of people coming in, kids and all, laughing and talking and dividing themselves up among all the available seating.
She waded her way through them, patiently waiting for kids to make up their minds and adults to decide as to what they would order, having found them all polite if not swift, and then she headed for the last bunch of four men.
Getting up her good humour with a smile she asked,
Okay, watcha gonna have guys?
Since she was looking at Yevy he promptly replied,
Tommy an avo an rads wit sharp on hole.
Abby was plainly not prepared for this. Looking at the fishermans cap and the over-sized turtle-necked tee shirt which Armand had provided him with she prompted,
Yevy repeated himself a little more forcefully. Abby shifted on her feet, pencil and pad at the ready, and slewed her eyes around the other three men at the table. First a quick perusal of Bert, with venerable corduroy jacket over shirt and tie. Next Estébans long black braid hanging over tee shirt with colourful slogan she was glad she couldnt read all of. Then she glanced at David, took in his wild hair, shabby old shirt and jeans, and brought her eyes quickly down to the menu.
<Where did these weirdos come from? The bottom of the genes pool?>
Noting the waitresss confusion, David tried to grab hold of the situation as he interpreted with a smile,
Tomato and avocado with radish sprouts and old cheddar on whole wheat.
<Oh yeah, that explains it. Hes a vegie nut.>
She reached out and, carefully suggestive, gave the menu a bit of a push toward Estéban, who seemed to be the youngest of the group, so she thought he just might possibly know what was going on in the world of ordinary people.
Uhsorry, we just have whats on the menu, she advised hopefully.
Cant read at, said Yevy and then added quickly, not wanting to be thought of as illiterate, Aint got my glasses on.
Which was true, because they were in their case clipped on the neck of his tee shirt. This might have given the situation a breather except Bert, who had just put his glasses on and taken over the menu, said drily,
Pretty badfood for carnivores.
Yevy, after hauling out his own glasses and being quite capable of reading a menu, had his restaurateurs selective taste and economy-geared pricing rising in indignation as he regarded the offerings.
Thinking out loud, he objected,
Em prices is too highan not much interestin local grown stuff for nobody eider.
Maybe there are more hunters than gatherers around here, surmised Bert as the two began an ongoing discourse between themselves, which was an everyday occurrence back at Yevys café. Guess its shooting and fishing country.
Not much fish, corrected Yevy, An huntin musta been at local super. Aint ey got nuttin fresh?
Abby straightened up a little, her patience at an end. She felt indignant at Berts remark about carnivores because she thought he had meant the food on the menu was bad, and she also figured the prices were pretty reasonable. Deciding she was being worked over by some more fun-loving nerds who had nothing better to do than hassle hard-working waitresses she leaned on the table, uncaring if they got up and left or not, and informed them,
Just whats on the menu, but some carnivores do like our fresh local gourmet treats which arent listedmice, rats, road killthings like thatspecial order if youre interested.
Having captured the immediate and shocked attention of all at the table she continued, enjoying herself with the looks on the faces there,
You want some? We can get some in a hurryreally fresh. Traps are usually full, and non-local drivers are busy supplying us with lots out there too. She waved her hand toward the window where the traffic was whizzing by. Raccoon, rabbit, deer, cat, dogsorry, no people burgers yet thoughbut maybe we could arrange that pretty fast, judging from the speed these idiots use to go through here. What would you like? Cost more of course.
Regarding the expressions of his three companions David broke out into laughter, unable to resist the humour of the situation, then said,
With all those choices it would seem were not quite ready to order yet. Give us a couple of minutes?
All the time you like, agreed Abby, removing her hands from the table and walking off shaking her head.
Shes kind of feisty, remarked Bert in a rather offended low voice. All I wanted to know was if they had something for vegetarians.
That wasnt exactly the way you put it, grinned David.
She okay, Yevy demurred, having taken plenty of crud from many of his own customers and given as good back, But food ain't much. Aint ere some udder place in is town what has good vegie food?
Well this place has been keeping everybody in the village pretty happy for some long years now, David told them, And unless you want to go to the hotel or pub this is it. They dont have too much at the Rascals, maybe a sandwich, although at the hotel you could probably get different salads and lots of fussy nothings made up to look like food and costing a fortune.
Oughta give em some choice, returned Yevy in disgruntled tones, thinking longingly of his own cooking. How we gonna eat is stuff here?
Hey, broke in Estéban enthusiastically as he looked over the offerings, They got great burgers!
Yeah, go ahead, get mad cow, warned Bert.
Mebbe mad mouse too, added Yevy.
Well, Im hungry, retorted Estéban, putting down the menu. You guys just gonna sit there complaining?
Bert, glancing at the menu again, suddenly brightened up and leaned over to Yevy, menu now in hand.
Look! Theyve got my old favouritetomato-vegetable soup with crackers. Havent had that for years.
You crazy?! Gonna eat at awful stuff? protested Yevy.
When in Rome, intoned Bert, Do as the Romans door go hungry.
Well we aint in Rome, an anyways, I aint one.
The soups home made, not canned, David told them. Its good. Ive had it before.
Huh! Better not have meat stock, grumbled Bert.
It doesnt. Geeze! Maybe I should have thought about the future when I started Yevy on this vegie kick back when, David mused. How was I to know youd both turn into rabid zealots on the subject?
You should take some of your own advice, Bert rebuked him. Were a lot healthier for it.
You callin me a bad name again? queried Yevy.
Just hurry up and decide, suggested Estéban quickly, Cause shes coming back.
Made up yourminds? asked Abby as she arrived, raising pencil and pad with a swish.
Ill have the tomato-vegetable soup, decided Bert, And lots of crackers please.
Me too, I guess, surrendered Yevy, seeing nothing else on the menu he thought was fit for eating. At least it vegiebut wit a hole bun. You got hole buns?
<Who the hell would eat soup with a doughnut on the side?>
Yeah, we got doughnuts, Abby managed.
Whole wheat dinner buns, translated David again, not succeeding too well in keeping his laughter out of the reply.
Ohyeahanywaytheyre brown. Then she asked quickly, You?
Bert and Yevy fixed their eyes on David, who crumbled under the situation.
Make that three, was his decision, But lots of buns and butter for me please, instead of crackers?
Sure. Anything else? We got all day here. I can wait. Thats what they call mewaitress.
How about a beet and carrot salad on the side, suggested Bert, ignoring the dig.
Sounds good, agreed David quickly and Yevy nodded assent.
Abby was about to write, then diverted her attention to Estéban.
No way! objected the young man, I want the Hero Burger with everything, and double fries on the side, with gravy.
He got a big genuine smile from Abby.
Anything to drink? she asked, then repeated the orders, Three tomato-vegatable soup with beet and carrot salad on the sideand lots of crackers, hole buns and butterone coffee, one decaf, one milk and a double soft with iceand one great big everything Hero burger with double fries, and gravy. Got it. Glad one of you is human, and she marched off.
Who she talkin about? asked Yevy?
Dont ask, David told him with finality. Itll just start an argument.
- - -
Howard was getting impatient.
He had found, as they walked along the wharf, that Estéban would stop and talk to every fisherman who owned a vintage fishing boat, which made for quite a few stops. Then hed poke into the bowels of the thing and hold a discussion of just what might be wrong with the engine which was so essential to the owners livelihood while Howard stood by, fidgetting. It seemed that all of them had something wrong and their skippers were only too glad to discuss the problem and have someone suggest something which might be done to make it run betteranything. They were usually not disappointed, because the young mechanic had all sorts of ideas about what could be fixed and how.
This obsession with what Howard considered to be hunks of junk was beginning to irritate him greatly. He kept throwing his eyes toward another old boat farther over on another finger of the wharf which was owned by people of much more interestLucy for one. From a distance he could see her doing exactly what Estéban and his new acquaintances were up topoking around with an engine.
Finally his tolerance for this kind of entertainment evaporated as Estéban backed thoughtfully away from one old fishing boat which had just received a consultation and headed for another, so he suggested,
I see a friend of mine over there so I think Ill go talk to her, and he started to walk in Lucys direction.
Ohsuresorry, apologised the mechanic, turning and walking along too. Guess I do get involved. Boy there sure are a lot of needy engines around here.
Well, you dont have to come, suggested Howard pointedly. Ill just go and talk to her while you do things with engines.
Thats okay. I can give it a rest, returned his companion, following willingly along with Howard, who now wished he had just walked away and left his companion rummaging around in old boats.
The two reached the BAG LADY just as young Lucy, her head in the engine compartment and the rest of her upside down, broke out with some very expressive thoughts about what she figured the boat was worth.
Hey, she sounds like shes a bit of okay, grinned Estéban, before he had seen the rest of the person owning the voice.
Hi Lucy, greeted Howie.
Lucy unwound herself and sat up.
When Estéban saw more of what belonged to the voice his admiration increased exponentially with the size of the revelation.
Wow! was his appreciative comment as Lucy hauled herself out of the engine compartment, silver-gold hair flying and angry blue eyes expressing extreme frustration.
Ohhi Howie, she offered, looking doubtfully at the newcomer.
This is Stebby, said Howard, indicating with a jerk of his thumb the person beside him who, very impressed with what he saw, corrected,
Estébanhow nice to meet you Lucy. Looks like you might be having trouble with your engine.
Damned right on that one, returned Lucy, fuming. I cant do a thing with it. Ive tried everything and it wont go. We cant go diving while this old boat is always breaking down. Last time we took it out we were lucky to get a passing fisherman to give us a tow back and we havent been able to go out making money since, so we have to go work at the Urchin and clean houses to help pad the grocery money and Im getting really pissed off at that. Itll take us ages to get enough money for a new engine. Then she added, curiosity about the newcomer rising, You a friend of Howies?
Stebbys Davids mechanic, Howie told her with a touch of disdain, having the thought of distancing himself a little from the idea of being friend to an employee of his brothers. Hes here to fix that old commuter engine of Davids if he can.
You can fix that? exclaimed Lucy in disbelief, having heard Howards unflattering description of LEAF WINE and the tale of her inauspicious arrival at the bay wherein he had pumped and pumped and saved the boat from sinking almost single-handed, having left out the fact that he had been at the helm when theyd hit the sogger which had caused the emergency in the first place.
Well, I havent seen her yet, Estéban backed off, But if its in any sort of half-decent condition its probably salvageable.
Oh! The word conveyed both admiration and doubt. If you can do that then maybe you could do something with this rotter.
She stepped off the boat then, revealing her full height, and the young mechanic was even more impressed. He was a little taller than Howard, so he didnt have to tilt his head quite as far back to look into her eyes.
Well, most old engines are really suffering just from neglect and disuse, or maybe abuse would be a better word, he explained.
Im about to abuse it all right, agreed Lucy. I think we should trash the thing and try to get another one, like Howie suggested.
Okay if I have a look? asked Estéban.
I dont think youll have much success, laughed Howard. Its terminated.
Hed had a go at the old engine himself but, not being mechanically inclined and rather more inclined to let someone else look after all that sort of thing, he hadnt been much help, declaring that the old junker ought to be dumped and replaced.
Go ahead, she agreed. Im pretty tired of staring at the old thing and fiddling with all its bits and pieces and so is everybody else.
Estéban del Prado, el Mecánico Magnifico, as designated by Boss David, stepped aboard the non-functioning BAG LADY.
- - -
Somewhere around two hours later Lucy, Howard and Estéban went into the Rascals and joined the men there.
Lucy was smiling happily as she announced,
Estéban got our engine running and told me what I need to do to keep it goingthat is, after we replace a couple of parts which are pretty well no good anymore. Hes really great!
Hey, good on you Stebby, David approved.
Pull up some chairs and join us, Fitz invited the three younger people. Well probably have to wait awhile for the ladies to finish shopping before we get out of here for the trip home.
We had all thought that we might pass the hat so you could get a replacement for BAGGYs engine, smiled Armand. We had figured the one you have is beyond hope.
If it had any hope at all Stebbys the man to get it going, came David's praise. Hes repaired junkers which other people have been ready to scrap. Im sure hoping you can fix the commuters engine, Stebb.
Ill have to see it first, but from what youve told me she sounds fixable, the young man told him tentatively.
Estéban says youve been teaching him to dive, broke in Lucy. That would be fun for the three of us while hes here, Howie.
Yeah, came the forced agreement.
Maybe Ill have time for that but I have to fix Davids engine first, Estéban returned.
Watching the animated way Lucy responded to the young mechanic as they discussed technical aspects of engines, and how outside of the conversation he seemed to be, Howard was wishing that he had never mentioned Lucy out there on the wharf.
< Fuddle it! Damned know-it-all. Just lucky finding out what was wrong. I could have done that if Id had more time. Now hes going to horn in on all our outings.>
The remarks which began to be passed between the two young men in the ongoing discussion became more and more like the words of rivalry than those of anyone trying to add information to the subject. Lucy thought the exchanges were just good fun so she laughingly returned with some of her own, a few of which Howard didnt find funny at all because they were joking digs at him and he thought his feelings were being hurt for no good reason.
He found himself sitting there watching Estéban and Lucy enjoying each others company much too much for his peace of mind. He would have liked to leave, but he couldnt think of any way to get himself and Lucy out of there by themselves.
Very shortly Howard Godwin was in the throes of a huge jealous funk.