An Offer to Salty
The door opened. Salty’s sleepy eyes opened wide.
“What in tarnation!” Salty said. “What are you doing here after sundown? Come on in, it’s nippy out there.”
Rich stepped inside.
“How ‘bout a hot cup of tea with a shot of whiskey?” Salty said. “What brings you here?”
Salty didn’t wait for Rich to answer. He ran water in the teakettle and grabbed a bottle of whiskey from the cupboard over the sink.
“Have a seat, mate, and tell me about the sea today,” Salty said motioning his head to a chair at the small wooden kitchen table.
“It was good today,” Rich said. He pulled the chair out and sat. “The wind was steady from the northwest.”
“Tell me about The Odyssey, mate,” Salty said grabbing two cups from the cupboard next to the sink. “I know she’s a fine vessel. You have done a seaman’s job with her, she’s as worthy as any.” Salty sat the cups on the counter. “But are you fit? I really take it you’re off. I know you can sail, but is your mind ready for it. Many a sailor has the skill, but few have the mind.”
“I better have the mind,” Rich said, “but I want to talk some things over with you.”
“You can’t learn from me talkin’, if that’s what you’re thinkin’,” Salty said. “I can’t tell you anythin’. You learn by doin’. So now tell me about your trip here.”
Rich told Salty about the sea, The Odyssey, and the out-of-the-way course that brought him there. Salty listened like a gleeful 10 year old.
The tea kettle whistled. Salty poured the steaming water over the teabags into the cups. He placed them on the table and removed a small bottle of cream from the refrigerator.
They prepared the tea and sipped it with delight. They talked more about sailing for a few minutes and sipped half the tea away.
Salty filled the cups to the rim with the whiskey. “That will keep the bug away.”
“There is something strange about your story,” Salty said. “I didn’t have the mind to stop you. I was enjoying the talk of the sea and The Odyssey too much, but why did you take such a strange course to get here?”
“Salty,” Rich said, “I must tell you something as true as the wind. I am in deep trouble.”
“I will do what I can to help,” Salty said, “but I must know the wind, currents, and the port you are heading.”
“I will tell you as true a story as I can,” Rich said. “And answer anything you ask.”
For the next half hour Rich told Salty everything that came to mind about the entire affair in Rockland that brought him to this point of desperation. Salty was not a man of the world and asked for few explanations and clarifications. His mind was good. It grasped with ease concepts new to him as provided in only brief and general terms by Rich.
“You’re a seaman for sure, mate,” Salty said. “There is no deception in your eyes or tongue. I’ve tested men, the sea, and boats. When we were in The Odyssey I saw your work. It’s true. True work is a true man. Show me a man who does good work and I’ll show you a good man. You drove four nails where two would do.”
Rich smiled. “I had plenty of nails.”
“What is it you want, mate?” Salty said. “I got a bit of money put back. You’ll be in need of financing.”
“No,” Rich said, “and I wouldn’t be shy about asking if I needed it.”
“Than what is it, mate?” Salty said.
“Will you go with me?” Rich said and looked into Salty’s genuine eyes; eyes that don’t deceive and see what is beyond the obvious. “I have watched you as you have watched me. You want to make the trip. You’ve wanted to make the trip from the day you had to return to Maine. You’ve taken it to bed with you for 40 years. I know you’ve dreamed about it. I can see the sea in your eyes. If I leave here without you I will curse this night and beg God to wipe it from my memory; I will wonder what one more thing could I have done or said? But it’s up to you, Salty.”
“I knew you would come for me,” Salty said, “I saw it in your eyes, they are sympathetic. I knew you would find a way to include me.”
“Salty,” Rich said, “I must leave now; I can’t wait until morning.”
“Neither can I,” Salty said.
Rich reached across the table and they clasped firm hands.
“How much time can I take?” Salty said. “You’re the captain.”
“Take what ever you like,” Rich said.
“A man shouldn’t have any more than what fits in a seaman’s chest,” Salty said, “but I have lived many years on land.”
“There’s plenty of room,” Rich said, “but the stove and refrigerator has to stay.”
“Where’s the boat?” Salty asked.
“In Lobster Cove,” Rich said. “It’s anchored and I rowed the dinghy to shore.”
“I suspect you want to do this as quietly as possible,” Salty said.
“That would be best,” Rich said.
“Let’s have another cup of tea,” Salty said, “this time with out the bracer. I’ll pack my gear. I have a cart beside the house; we’ll load it, and wheel it to the cove. Everyone is fast asleep by ten. We’ll back the cart up to the door at eleven, load it, and push it to the cove. We ought to be setting sail by midnight.”
“There’s one thing,” Rich said, “no one can be notified.”
“I have a sister in Bangor who no one knows about,” Salty said, “and she hardly knows of my existence. My wife left years ago with a truck driver from Boston. She took our son and when I tried to find them they disappeared to parts unknown. I have nothing to leave behind, mate. I got friends and that’s it.”
“I’m sorry for all the secrecy and paranoia,” Rich said. “I don’t know what I’m dealing with, but I know it’s more than I can stand against.”
“Why don’t you lay down and get some rest,” Salty said. “Just in case you’re wondering once we hit the open sea I’m going to hit the bunk; you’ll have to sail and stand watch.”
“Than, I’ll try to get a couple hours.” Rich laid flat on Salty’s cot and fell asleep.
Salty packed his gear.
At 10:55 Salty nudged Rich. “I’m ready,” Salty said.
Rich swung his legs around and sat up. “That was nice. Give me a few minutes to clear the cobwebs.”
“I’m all set,” Salty said. “The cart is backed up to the door and there’s a good wind coming from the north.”
Rich stood and stretched. “Let’s get going. The walk to the cove will wake me.”
They quickly packed the gear into a two wheel cart backed to the door.
Salty jotted a note; Gone for the winter. I’ll be back in May. Salty.
Salty slid the note into an envelope and tacked it to the front door.
A steady wind carried the sounds of the cart’s wheels to sea as they pushed along the lane that wound its way to Lobster Cove. No one switched on a light, no dog barked.
Satly’s gear fit snug in the dinghy. He pushed the cart off the beach and left it on the pathway. Salty returned to the dinghy and climbed aboard. Rich pushed the dinghy into the surf and jumped in. He grabbed an oar and pushed further away from the shore until he couldn’t reach bottom. Rich rowed to The Odyssey.
Without a word they loaded the gear on The Odyssey and stowed it below. They hoisted the dingy aboard and secured it to the foredeck.
“Do you want to hoist the anchor or start setting the sails?” Rich said.
“I’ll hoist the sails,” Salty said.
The sails burst full with the north wind and carried them beyond the cove and towards the open sea.
Salty watched Monhegan Island fall below the waves. He smiled and staggered to the companionway. He stopped and placed his hand on Rich’s shoulder. “Thanks, mate. There was only two ways I was going to leave that island and this was one of them.”
“No regrets?” Rich said.
“No regrets,” Salty said.
“Go below and sleep,” Rich said. “sleep well and dream of fast currents, favorable winds, and fair weather.”
Salty ducked into the cabin and staggered to the forward quarters.