As the Boat Floats: Fireworks of a Different Kind

Characters: Fred, Chris, Alane, renovators; Jerry, hippie; George, handyman; Jim and Randy, houseboat owners; Louise, visitor; Clyde, boat owner

As the Fourth of July approaches, Fred, Chris, and Alane install bamboo flooring in the living room.

“Mariners call it the salon,” Fred explains. “Your steering wheel and piloting levers make up the helm, even though they take up the forward starboard corner of the salon.”

Trying to pay attention to Fred’s explanation of boat terminology, I am fixated on the beauty of the floor with water-like tiny, ripples. I stoop and touch the bamboo, “It looks like the bamboo is moving,” I interrupt.

“Yes, it’s an optical illusion that suggests that the bamboo is still alive. It produces another dimension to the houseboat, don’t you think?” Fred asks.

“Definitely,” I agree.

“Do you want us to bamboo-ize the salon’s walls or should we do the galley’s deck next?”

“How about completing the salon before you work on the galley,” I decide.

“We’ll be back next week,” Fred promises.

I follow the renovators out of the front door, onto the dock, where several passers-by surround Fred, shake his hand, and chide him, “Getting ready to move into Marilyn’s houseboat?” Jerry asks.

George turns to me and whispers out loud, “When you’re not here, he lives on your boat. I thought you ought to know,” he chuckles.

“Thanks for the information. I’ll keep that in mind,” I respond, not knowing what else to say. “Where is everyone going?” I ask.

“We’re putting up red, white, and blue lights and American flags as part of the celebration,” Jerry explains. He introduces the others but their names immediately coagulate in my mind. I hope to meet them individually later and put a face with a name.

“We’ll see you next week,” Fred waves goodbye, seemingly eager to leave.

“Come with us to Randy and Jim’s houseboat,” George invites. “Their houseboat is next to mine. They have a complete outdoor kitchen on the dock and have invited us for hamburgers and hotdogs. You’ll meet many of the boat owners and they’ll get to know you.”

I remember the boat owners’ negativity at the group meeting after the tornado. I can always return to Prana if the gang mentality surfaces, I console myself.

“What should I bring?”

“There’ll be plenty of food. You might bring your favorite bottle of wine. The cooler will be full of beer,” George predicts.

With enthusiasm, the group moves down the dock, apparently looking forward to the get-together. As I select a bottle of Gewürztraminer, my favorite, from the wine rack, my cautious side warns me about drinking alcohol at lunchtime with individuals I hardly know. Why not? My adventuresome self defies vigilance. You need to become part of the marina community.

Walking toward the end of the dock, I’m accosted by blaring It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere. Is this a welcome or an omen? The aroma of hamburgers grilling fastens my pace. My stomach rumbles.

Jim is smiling and sweating behind three gas grills, each featuring a specialty—hamburgers; hotdogs, Kielbasa, and brats; and hash browns with onions, bell peppers, cheddar cheese, and jalapenos.

“You’re quite a chef!” I shout over the rowdy music. “I’m Marilyn. My houseboat is the one with the pilot house.”

“I’ve already heard all about you from Jerry and George. Welcome to the marina. Hope you like my cooking. It’s my favorite hobby, besides bourdon,” he jokes. “Help yourself. The well-stocked buffet is in the kitchen.”

Inside the houseboat, the furniture and décor reflect a high-class penthouse. I’m humbled, comparing this luxury liner with my no-frill, minimalistic houseboat. After assessing the two, I’m surprised that I like mine better. Prana’s ambiance simplifies my life. There is peace enough for me to appreciate the moment.

Friendly and convivial boaters create a line that wraps around the kitchen island. I spot Louise and wave. She motions for me to move up and get in front of her. “What a selection of food! Jim and Randy thought of everything—even anchovies. It’s hard to find them nowadays.”

“I don’t like sardines,” Louise states.

“Anchovies aren’t sardines. Taste one. I bet you’ll like them,” I encourage.

“No way. They look slimy.”

“They are healthy too for your heart, your skin, and believe it or not, weight loss,” I explain.

“I don’t believe it,” Louise states.

I load anchovies onto my paper plate, much to Louise’s disgust. “Where’s Clyde?” I ask.

“He’s coming later after he gases up the boat. I’m not too thrilled about going out on the lake again with him after he drove like a mad man last time. I told you about that,” she confides.

“Maybe discuss that with him here before you go out on the boat,” I suggest.

“I’ll try. But he doesn’t listen much,” she states, sounding defeated.

Louise, Randy, George, Jerry, I and a few others draw up deck chairs around the metal table underneath a canopy on the bow of the houseboat. Kokomo is booming when we’re jolted forward. Randy shouts, “What the. . .F. . .!” He stands up, knocking over the chair, jumps off the boat and runs toward the stern. “What the hell are you doing, you idiot?” Randy screams.

We follow Randy, not hearing the person’s response. Louise cries, “Oh, no!” She turns to run but Clyde catches up with her.

“You slut. I just heard you were with another man!”

“No, I wasn’t!”

“Don’t lie to me, you whore,” he punctuates with a slap across her face.

Randy pushes him away. “Enough of that. You dented our boat! Louise did nothing wrong. I saw her talking to Austin. He asked where she fell off the dock. He was supervising the placement of barricade tape to prevent others from injury. You have a lot of nerve crashing our boat and our celebration of the Fourth.”

Face red, mouth twisted, eyes rage-full, Clyde draws a pistol from a holster hidden in his left armpit. We all back up away from him.

“Are you crazy? Put that away or I’ll call the cops,” Randy warns.

Jim steps in, “I’ve already called them. Get out of here and don’t come back. You’re not welcome here and neither is your boat.”

“I’ll show you!” Clyde spins around, grabs a chunk of Louise’s hair, and drags her down the dock.

“We’ve got to do something. He could kill her,” I choke with fear.

“The police should arrive shortly. We could make matters worse for him if we coerce him into harming one of us. I’ve warned Simon to lock the office door and keep watch. Without being seen, he suggested that he’d video-tape Clyde,” Jim recaps.

“How did this happen?” George asks.

“Louise told me she was worried about his erratic behaviors. She was right, but she thought she could help him control his outbursts. I hope she’s okay,” I explain.

“I’ll call Austin and tell him what happened. He will decide what to do with Clyde’s runabout. I’m sure he’ll be ousted from the marina, as he should be,” Jim volunteers.

Randy asks Jerry and George to help him line the ski boat into the empty slip next door. “In his fury, he caved in the bow of his boat and left only a dent in our stern. He should be banned from piloting a boat again. I’ll report him to the Coast Guard to protect him from himself,” Randy proposes.


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