(Editor's Note: One of the best writers around is Jimmy Petrol, who can write about issues, discuss philosophical matters, blaze through satire and pen a damn fine story, which the editor messed up, in a sense, posting the print version of part one of his two part adventure - due to the constraints, economic, on the print edition (Paypal donations are accepted!) and doesn't due it justice.)
What follows is Girl on a Boat, part one, by Jimmy Petrol, redux for your reading pleasure.
Like burglars, the young man and cute young lady hung near the entrance to the marina proper. They were without a key to open the gate that led to the boats; being guests meant waiting for a boat owner to come along and let them in. They had come to meet another girl; this one could get a boat from the sailing club for the night, meaning to drive it into the short waves and heavy current of the Columbia. The girls called it fun. The young man was not sure it would be fun; he was already cold and a little intimidated by the darkness.
They could see their Captain on her borrowed boat from the top of the big catwalk that led into the maze of floating docks. She was busy stripping off the bright blue sail covers, stowing them below, coming out with sheets and tiller-pole; rigging the little day-sailer properly for the fresh, hard breeze that had come up on the Columbia. They’d waited for another sailor to open the chain-link gate at the top of the ramp and came in with him, the pretty girl chatting him into an easy comradery with a quick point at the girl on the boat and a smile. She had a way about her that set people at ease, especially the men that frequented the marina. Most were over fifty, she thought, and more than a little solitary. They had, to a man, associated boat-ownership with easy association with bikini-clad sailors, eager to go for a sail on weekends with an occasional barbeque and sleep-over.
They had been wrong, of course, and the solitude of the marina was only broken by pinochle nights in the clubhouse.
The codger that let the pretty young lady in was, of course, happy to do it, almost regardless of her intentions. Females were scarce anytime on the docks; doubly so at night. Dusk was on the river, and the fading light provided perfect illumination of her smiling, friendly face. It was, of course, perched directly above her lithe body, which was nearly painfully like the sort of female equipment the poor fellow had envisioned capturing, spider to fly, with his sixty-thousand dollar sailboat. It was sad for him to notice that there was a young man with her as she skipped down the steep catwalk, moving easily and quickly; she had good boat legs. The young man with her looked a little sullen; he had made no motion or word of thanks as they passed through the gate on his warrant. He had stood by like a bodyguard as she had been politely informative; he now followed, a little prissily, down the catwalk. His hands were in his pockets; clearly, he had no boat-sense. Perhaps he would fall overboard....the happy thought warmed the old fellow as he trundled off towards his own little hole in the water he called home. It was a thirty-two foot long hole, and it tended to dampness.
The marina was fair-sized, harboring half-a-thousand boats, mostly masted sailers laying in shallow black water, slowly rotting at the waterline, the stays and turnbuckles rusting. The sun rotted sailcovers, halyards and curtains alike, exposure providing the only wear on the unused chariots. For most, it made no difference really; they had been cheaply made, for the occasional sailor who would put no demands on a boat beyond floating in the marina and rotting slowly away. Boats like these were stayed safe by virtue of experience; the rare person who gained the skills necessary to go to sea also gained a knowledge of boats along the way. Only a fool would take one of these Pretty Bettys to sea; only landsmen mourn the deaths of fools. At sea the happy event can seldom come too soon, for fools endanger all around them and are often kept foolish by virtue of an arrogance that is proof against all efforts to educate. The older fellow who had let them in kept a casual watch on them. The empty boats all belonged to men he felt some small kinship with; he kept them secure as far as he could. There were a some that he wished were his own; larger, more commodious rigs that he foolishly imagined would carry enough appeal to draw a woman into his life. The women he dreamed of existed, but not in the first world. He would have to grow courage enough to enter the Third World to meet them. And buy a better boat; he had learned the sad truth of his own little factory boat and he was not fool enough take it to sea.
The young people had gone over to the boat they had indicated where there was a young lady he had seen often at night in the marina. She was an oddity; the kind of thing a fellow hoped for. But she was one of a kind and too young to offer company; he had satisfied himself with watching her, protectively, as he did all the beautiful things in the marina. He appreciate beauty; therefore, he thought, do I live on the river; it is for the beauty of the water, the breath of God that comes on the night wind that holds me here, even alone.
Even a thirty-two footer has a little room on deck; his was crowded with a glassed-in cockpit, complete with wheel and pilot’s seat. He settled into it and opened the sack of fast-food he had carried with him. It was not quite barbeque and sleep-over, but it would keep body and soul together another night, at least.
The couple had reached the girl on the boat and been happily receive; this was a hopeful ploy. The boat served the same purpose for the girls that the older fellow had hoped for, but for them it was working. Kind of working. The girl on the boat was catching the cooler, thermos and blankets her girlfriend handed over the black water at dock’s edge and into the boat. They both watched the young man surreptitiously as they did it; he had been cajoled into submitting himself to this test. They wanted to know what sort of fellow he was; he had been attentive to them both in the way of males of the time; with banter, innuendo and flattery. Invitations to dinner, movies and other spectator kinds of entertainment were common, but no young men seemed to do anything interesting. Or rather, they only did interesting things with other young men; things that were designed to prove toughness without unduly extending oneself. There were short little basketball games, tennis courts and golf, bicycle rides through the wilds of the cities parks and daring excursions to nearby lakes to risk life and limb riding wave runners and skiboats. The worst sort of danger.
Not, the girls thought. The word of the day; not. The girls were both aboard now, putting a reef into the mainsail. It was better to reef it shorter at the dock than out on the cold Columbia later; if the wind should pick up any more they would need it. They girls had been on the river at night all season, a couple times a week. The light would fail them while on the river; almost certainly the running lights would fail also, the battery charge usually insufficient for night work without the engine running. This guarantee of absolute darkness on the water held the girls to a thorough and studious preparation..
The old fellow watched from his little cockpit with gratification. Early in the season, he had gotten over to see the girls as they rigged the sailing-club boat for the water. Pleased that they were attentive, he passed some little things along to them, being sure of their competence to be out on the river...it was uncommon for anyone to cast off for a casual sail just before dark; it meant danger of unseen logs, silent barges, hidden remnants of docks long abandoned but still outlined by the sharp and broken ends of wooden piers poking up in long lines here and there along the banks. They had told him that they had no other time to sail; only a little time after work. He had watched them rig the boat as he gently quizzed them; he could see their excitement grow as they prepared the little boat. When they finally cast off, it was with a vigor and rush of energy most women only exhibited during sex; they were sailing at night because the danger made them feel more alive. Surviving made them feel strong, in a world of safety, caution and spectators. They were precisely the kind of women he had meant to have come to sail with him when he had become a sailor. There were, of course, practically no women like them on the west coast and certainly none his own age. In fact, he wasn’t so sure about himself; at times he doubted whether he was his own sort either.
To be continued ...
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