By Ezekiel Kelly
A shroud of fog engulfed the gray silhouette of her structure. The stillness of the morning yielded to the sound of groaning hinges and tiny footsteps on cold metal. A child's voice sang quietly out of key while a gull cried in the distance. "I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike...", the words went.
Sid eased the steel hatch closed with his free hand while gripping an unopened package of herring in his teeth, a fishing pole under his arm and a .308 ammo can with his other. While attempting to recover the package from his teeth with his free hand, the fishing pole slipped out from under his arm and slapped down on to the deck.
"Sid, is that you up there?" came a muffled female voice from inside the cabin.
Sid froze and then answered cautiously. "Uh... yeah mom."
"Where are you going?"
“ I'm going fishing with James today. Remember?" Sid shouted back toward the closed hatch while leaning over to retrieve his pole. "I already brought the wood down and I'll wash the dishes after we get back." Standing a willowy three-foot-eleven inches tall, Sid was nearly engulfed by his dirty red life preserver. His sandy blonde hair hung straight down in a perfect bowl shape. He really hated looking so cute. As the youngest child in a family of five, little opportunity existed for being taken seriously and of course the haircut his mother gave him did not help at all.
The hatch opened slightly to reveal a woman with dark messy hair peering out of the darkness. "Just remember what I told you, if I see you out there without your lifejacket on I going to spank your butt and you won't be taking the dingy out by yourself anymore, understand?"
"Yeah, thanks mom", Sid replied without making eye contact. He carefully set his gear down next to the aft railing and untied the painter to the eight foot lap strake rowboat trailing behind Jokul's stern. After pulling the dingy along side, he stepped over the rail. Like a four-legged, trouser wearing spider, he climbed down into the little boat using a port light in Jokul's side as a foothold. He loaded his gear into the bow, pushed off, and dropped the bronze oarlock rings into their sockets. He pulled eagerly with his whole body as he rowed away from Jokul. In his deepest, most manly sounding squeak he shouted, "I'll be back with dinner!"
The dock floated crookedly from a lack of floatation on one side. Sid tied to one of the few remaining cleats and carefully tested his footing with one leg before committing his entire weight to the task of disembarking his little craft. The nearly submerged planks didn't move much under his forty-five pound body. So, Half running and half skipping he raced down the dock past the old tin clad boat houses up the ramp into the parking area.
The dirt lot was empty except for a grungy lichen-covered Volkswagen van in the far corner that often exuded a strange skunky smell whenever Jimmy was around. In the mornings, Jimmy could usually be found sitting in the front seat drinking from a wrinkled brown bag, smoking crooked cigarettes and listening to AM talk radio. The open driver's side window revealed the back side of Jimmy's long greasy hairdo. One hand sporting three gnarled fingers propped his head up over the steering wheel. Jimmy turned toward Sid peering though a pair of cheap sunglasses with dark scratched lenses. His lips quickly stretched from a narrow little droop to a ultra-wide single-toothed smile. "Hey Sid! How ya doin?" He asked, making an pained effort to sound as child friendly as possible. "Mighty fine mornin aint it?" His voice thinned out until finally shattering into a coughing frenzy interrupted by the occasional intelligible phrase. "You should try some of them... black berries... they're all over the place!" He finished coughing into his hands and turned back toward Sid. "Whew-ee, what a day, what a day! So, are you and your folks plannin a big trip? That's quite a boat you got out there... It looks like it must be about fifty feet."
"It's 48 feet on deck, 41 feet on the water line but the harbor master charged us for 52 because of the windvane. Dad says it's a crock of shit. He yelled at him and now we live at anchor. It's more fun anyway 'cause marinas are for land lubbers." Sid finished with a triumphant smile.
"Is that right... Well I guess you probably know all kinds of things about boats. Don't ya? Were you born on board?"
"Nope!" Sid answered "We got her up in Canada when I was little."
"When you were little, huh?" Jimmy took a big drink from his bag. "So now that your all grown up... You gonna sail around the world?"
Sid furled his brow "Nooo... Dad's gonna put her in the shipyard and then we're all sailing to Alaska. So, why do you drink out of bags? Mom says that bums use bags to hide their alcoholisms. Are you a bum?"
Caught bit off guard, Jimmy pushed his sunglasses higher up on his nose and straightened himself. "No... of course not. A bag is a good idea for keeping things cold. It's like insulation. It keeps the cold from getting into your hands. Cold juice, warm hands."
"Yeah, that makes sense." Sid squinted his eyes and looked off to the side . "Glass does conduct infrared way better than paper does." With a big smile, he bounced up on his toes. "Can I have some, please?"
Jimmy stared straight at Sid without expression for a long second before glancing at his freshly opened forty-ounce bottle of Old English 800. "Well shoot, I'm all out!"
Sid's eyes narrowed into slits, "Nuh Huh! I saw you tip the bottle not even half way when you took a drink! I bet you're a bum and... I bet your using a bag to hide your alcoholisms!" he said angrily.
"My god..." Jimmy mumbled while rolling up the window. "What a fucking morning..." The engine sputtered to life and the mobile lichen plantation lurched forward. He wiped the windows with his sleeve and sped away leaving Sid standing alone in the center of the lot.
Sid walked over to the edge of the lot and began to pick black berries. "I want to ride my bicycle I want to ride my bike", he sang.
"Hey Sid, you worried 'bout drownin’ in the parking lot?" A voice cried from behind. A tall smiling figure with black shaggy hair approached from the road side of the lot carrying a tackle box and fishing pole.
Sid turned around. "Hey James!" He yanked at the life jacket with his blackberryless hand. "Mom says I can't take it off... she's really worried all the time. So are you ready to show me the secret fishin’ spot? I got some bait and buzz bombs down in the boat."
Sid met James only a few days prior while looking for crabs under rocks on the beach. James, being several years older, instructed him in the proper ways of terrorizing tiny sea creatures. When given the queue, "Locked and loaded!" Sid would flip a rock over with all his might, then James would take his trusty can of WD40 and ignite the aerosol stream thereby unleashing a three-foot flame of catastrophe upon all who dwelled within the crater. They discovered that the maximum fun could be had by using shorter blasts so that the crabs could scurry from the pit trailing flames as they went. They tried eating them but it was just too much work. So, in an afternoon of tidepool doom they became best comrades.
Down at the dock, James stepped carefully into the dingy while Sid stood by the bowline. As he sat down in the stern he noticed the rusty ammo can nestled forward of the middle seat. "Hey, my dad had one of those. He kept his tools in it. Those are for carrying M60 ammunition. He got it in the war, I think."
"Your dad was in the army?"
"Did he shoot people?" Sid asked as he boarded the dingy, dropping the coiled line on top of the pile of fishing gear. He pushed away from the dock and waited to drift far enough to place the oars back in their locks.
"Probably, he has a bunch of medals." James began to look uncomfortable.
"Well my dad almost went. The doctors said he couldn't. He only has one lung from being blown up when he was fourteen."
"How did he get blown up?" James asked, cocking his head a bit to the side.
"A pipe bomb... blew his arm off and tore a big hole in his back." said Sid gleefully as he dug the oar blades deep into the water, straightening his whole body, pulling the dingy seaward.
"Nooo way." James said in disbelief.
"I'll show you when we go out to the big boat later. Dad likes to show off his scars." Sid said twisting his head over his shoulder to check his bearings.
The morning sun had finally burned a hole in the sky over their small craft. Sid lifted his oars free of the water as they drifted toward the mouth of a large stream. The air held the pungent aroma of an autumn forest gradually morphing its balance of growth and decay in response to the growing darkness. Sid tossed a small folding grappel anchor over the side and the line sped behind it for several seconds before suddenly becoming slack. The little boat settled back and turned its bow toward the gentle current stream as the anchor line came up tight.
James flipped the bail over on his reel and the buzz bomb fell into the water with a kerplunk. He brought the line up a few feet off the bottom and began jigging the pole, watching the tip with a very serious expression each time he lifted it. "So where does your dad work?"
"He doesn't" Sid responded, leaning over the ammo can, digging through its contents. "He retired... used to do some electronic stuff for the Navy."
"I thought you said they wouldn't let him in cause he got blown up." James said.
"No he wasn't in the Navy, he just worked for the Navy. He worked on underwater remote controlled vehicles." Sid said slowly and with perfect articulation. "They used 'em to find torpedoes in the Straits of Georgia. He also worked for oil companies. We lived in California when Dad worked on the oil rigs."
"Why were the torpedoes lost?" asked James skeptically.
"They test fire them and then they have to get them back. They have a pinger on them and dad listens with head phones to find out where they should drop the big robot over-board." Sid replied.
"The big robot?"
"Yeah, the underwater remote controlled vehicle." Sid answered again careful to articulate each word.
"It looks like a big cage with a big camera in the middle and a big arm sticking out on one side." Sid snapped the buzz bomb on to the swivel and threw it over the side.
After only a few hours they managed to catch three flounders, a dog shark (which they hastily released) and two small kelp greenling. Satisfied with their catch, Sid and James stowed their gear and began rowing back toward the dock. The Sun burned high in the clear blue sky. A fresh north wind began to whip the surface of the bay into small wavelets. Sid pulled hard on the oars, intently concentrating on each stroke as the small craft porpoised over each crest.
James sat quietly in the stern staring out toward the mouth of the bay. Finally breaking the silence, he said "You know, I don't really need to go back to my grandma's right now. Do you suppose that your folks would let me come out to see your boat?"
"Sure!" Sid replied while making a thirty degree course change toward Jokul. "Dad's probably just working on the hydraulics again. We can swing from the Halyards and climb the mast!"
"What's a Halyard?" Asked James.
Sid brought the dingy along side Jokul. He pulled both oars from their sockets and dropped them inside the boat with one smooth motion. Reaching to secure a hand hold on Jokul's toe rail, he held the dingy in place while James attempted to climb up the hull and over the railing. The quick motion of the little boat did little to effect Sid's balance as he stood. However, James nearly fell over the side in the process of disembarking the little craft. "No don't step there!" Sid shouted. James tried to give himself a boost by standing on the edge of dingy. It immediately tipped steeply on its side and moved out from under James feet leaving him hanging from Jokul's hand rail. He kicked at the water trying to get a foot hold on the shiny white steel hull.
"Help I'm stuck!" James shouted as his partially submerged legs went limp.
Sid burst out laughing and nearly lost his hand hold. "You got to put your foot in the port hole!"
"Where? I can't feel it!" He began to thrash his legs around again.
"Hold still and I'll put your foot in it." Sid grasped James's leg and lifted it into the port hole opening.
James lifted his lanky body up the side and folded himself over the rail pausing for a moment to catch his breath.
A blond-haired girl sat nestled in the cockpit, eyes buried in the pages of her romance novel, willowy legs crossed atop the bridge deck. "So is this your crustacean murdering accomplice?" She asked without diverting her eyes from the pages. "Dad's really pissed off and I seriously would not recommend going down there" She flipped a page and then took a sip from a large white tee cup.
Ignoring his sister's warning, Sid bounced down the companion way. "Hey mom! Guess what, we caught tons of..." Then suddenly, as if an invisible wall had been placed halfway down the steps, his descent was arrested. A sliding door exploded open. "Dad?" Sid asked.
Tumbling down from behind, James' smile was instantly unbent as he saw a naked figure streaking away toward the galley. Eyes inflated to maximum diameter, James turned back up the steps. "Oh geez, excuse me!"
"Shit it burns... Anna!" Sid's Father shouted as he dove beneath the galley sink with eyes squinted, muscled tensed, and hair slicked straight back.
Sid's mother backed away with a bewildered expression on her face, "Honey?"
"More towels!" Michael’s skin was red from head to toe and he reeked of number 2 diesel oil. "The fuel went in the wrong damned tank!" He yelled. "Come on hurry up!" He beckoned.
Sid stood motionless at the base of the steps. "Mom, what happened to Dad?"
"I don't know, he was just in the shower..." She said while pulling a pile of dish towels from the cupboard.
"Do we have any other water?" Michael asked urgently while squirting detergent into the palm of his hand. "Oh, this is a disaster." He began rubbing soap over his entire body. "I can't believe it Anna... Two-hundred and fifty-seven gallons... Wasted!"
Anna quickly pulled a corner of carpet back, removed a floor board, and pulled two plastic jugs of distilled water from the bilge. "Come on Honey lets do this in the shower. We're going to make a mess out here." Taking Michael’s hand, she took the remaining towels and led the gyrating, bubble-covered creature back into the head slamming the sliding door behind them as they passed through the threshold.
Sid and James rowed back toward the shore under wispy clouds stained yellow and red near the horizon. The wind died with the setting sun and the bay became a mirror framed by the black timbered shoreline. And from this shoreline the faint sound of singing could be heard. "High ho! high ho! it's off to school we go, with hand grenades and razor blades, High ho! high ho! high ho! high ho... High ho! high ho! it's back to home we go, with raz'r cuts and blown up butts..." Loudly they sang, oblivious to what most grown ups would consider an opportunity to quietly experience a beautiful evening.
"Wow, those scars were huge!" Said James.
"The scars on your dad's back."
"Oh yeah, did you see ‘em?" Sid asked while pulling the dingy alongside the dock.
"Looked like a jigsaw puzzle."