As the Boat Floats: Red-hot Meeting

Characters: Louise, visitor; Austin, marina owner; Clyde, boat owner; Simon, marina manager; Jerry, hippie

As Louise and I walked along the vessels parked on A-dock, up the hill past the office and the marina store, we heard angry voices emanating from the restaurant. “What’s going on?” Louise asks.

“Sounds like trouble brewing.”

The boat owners were standing around a long table covered with a white cloth, mounds of sandwiches (beef, chicken, ham, tuna salad, vegetarian), an aluminum container of iced Shiner Bock, pitchers of Margaritas, bottles of champagne and orange juice for mimosas, and salad bowls of lettuce and tomatoes, doused with ranch dressing. My stomach grumbles with anticipation. But the outrage of those around me extinguishes my appetite.

The owner was standing on a chair trying to calm the mob. Why were they so upset?

“I haven’t met most of you. I’m Austin Taylor owner of this marina and four others on Lake Travis. I’m here to assure you that our insurance will cover the damage caused by the tornado but I implore you to be patient. You know how slow insurance companies can be in reimbursing you for a loss. I’ll do my best. I have a staff that will answer your questions and be available at any time to discuss issues that are concerning you.”

“Why can’t we take our boats out? We pay good money to dock our boats here so we can pilot them any time we want. How long will be denied access to our boats,” a fiery, red-headed, heavy-set man with a straw cowboy hat and a Margarita, hollers.

“Good question,” Austin with a subdued voice tries to reduce the tension in the air. “The scuba divers hired by the insurance company will be finished testing the anchor cables later today, probably around dark. You have access to your boats but you can’t take them out on the lake for the safety of the divers. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to hit one of them with your propellers.”

Grumbling, the red-headed man sits down, commenting under his breath to a friend next to him, “It would serve them right.”

“My girlfriend was injured early this morning because of your negligence,” Clyde shouts. Louise looks at me with embarrassment and hides behind me.

“I’m here, Clyde. I’m okay,” Louise responds while looking at the floor as if expecting a slap in the face.

“Louise,” Austin invites, “Please come up here and tell us what happened to you. I am very sorry for any injury you suffered.”

Louise looks at me with tortured eyes. I hold her hand and we both walk to the front of the crowd.

Austin steps down and helps her up onto the chair. She looks at her shaking hands, clears her voice, and describes her accident with a voice low enough to quiet the crowd. “It was an accident. If anyone was at fault, it was my appearing on the dock before sunrise and assuming that the pier was where it always has been.” A few of the men chuckle.

Austin, with finesse, mingles with the boaters, and shares the idea of alerting visitors of the potential danger of damaged areas with orange, plastic fencing. “Let me introduce the new manager of the marina. Simon, will you introduce yourself and share with us your plans to improve the marina?”

As Simon helps Louise off the chair, he takes control of the meeting with plans that he and Austin apparently have devised, not only to repair the damage but to enhance the services provided by the marina, such as the sale of diesel at the fuel depo and upgrading the two bathrooms next to the office. I wanted to ask about the laundry room but I thought I would discuss this with Simon privately rather than in front of the disgruntled boaters.

“I’d like to say something,” Jerry says as he replaces Simon on the chair. “Marilyn and I were the only ones at the marina when the tornado struck. First responders were here in time to wake us up (yes, we slept through it somehow) and get Marilyn to safety since B-dock was not hit. This was a complete surprise to the weather experts and it is the first time this marina has ever been in the path of a tornado. As much as we like to fool ourselves that we are in control, Mother Nature has her way. I have complete confidence that Austin and Simon will repair the tornado’s aftermath. Even though Louise was hurt, which was unfortunate, no one suffered a serious injury, which is a blessing. I suggest we eat, drink, get to know one another, and have fun since this is the first time we have all gotten together.” Everyone laughs, claps, toasts Jerry.

One person inquires, “Hey, Jerry. Do you have a thing for Marilyn?”

“In my dreams!” he laughs.

Someone yells, “To Jerry, our mascot.” Jerry lifted his can of beer in agreement.

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