Benjamin and Thomas
The young man assigned to work with Rich measured a head shorter than Rich. He wore wire rim glasses and appeared frail physically, but eager in spirit.
Rich instructed his crew on how to carefully remove the planks of the hull.
“I think they have it down,” Rich said to the young man and shook his hand. “I’m Rich Larsen, just call me Rich.”
“Thomas English,” he said. “Everyone calls me Thomas.”
“Did they teach you geometry on Barbuda?” Rich said.
“No,” Thomas said. “I went to college in Jamaica for a year. The government wanted someone to learn a little about civil engineering. They have big plans for road, water, and sewage projects, but since I’ve been back to the island nothing has been said or done. It is much like they say. ‘when all is said and done, all was said and nothing was done.’”
“Don’t be surprised if more is done than said with Salty,” Rich said. “He comes with a good reputation as a man who gets things done.”
“Island life is easy,” Thomas said. “We say only what needs to be said and do only what needs to be done. We have room for growth in both directions.”
Rich chuckled. “That’s insightful. So what have you been doing?”
“I work at a hotel,” Thomas said, “night desk clerk. Toilet gets plugged in the middle of the night, I am their man.”
“Are you still going to work at the hotel?” Rich said.
“Sure,” Thomas said. “I sleep about all night anyway.”
“The geometry will be handy,” Rich said.
“You don’t know it?” Thomas said.
“I made my living as a writer,” Rich said. “didn’t need it.”
“What kind of writer?” Thomas said.
“I was a reporter for a newspaper,” Rich said.
“That sounds intriguing,” Thomas said. “Where did you attend college?”
“I didn’t attend college,” Rich said. “I learned from my editor, a really good teacher. And being a reporter nearly cost me my life on a couple of occasions. I don’t think of a time when I will return to reporting.”
“That is wise,” Thomas said, “especially if that much of a risk comes with it.”
“Perhaps no more so than fishing,” Rich said.
“It is dangerous, indeed,” Thomas said, “that is why my father insisted I go to school in Jamaica.”
Thomas followed Rich the rest of the day. During the day they met several times with Salty as he explained various tasks by demonstrations or illustrations on paper.
At mid afternoon all the planks laid stacked and the boat appeared skeletal. Salty asked Rich and Thomas to gather everyone at the office.
“Thanks for a good day,” Salty said. “We don’t work you to death. I want you to go home refreshed from good work, not dragging yourself down the road. Come up to my desk and I’ll give you your pay for the day.”
Everyone filed past the desk and Salty paid each one. The old man with a cane was last.
Salty handed him his pay.
“Thank you, sir,” he responded, “but only two people came to the me today. That is hardly worth a whole day’s pay.”
“Is your name Benjamin?” Salty said.
“It is,” Benjamin said.
“I remember you from a long time ago,” Salty said.
Benjamin smiled. “And I remember you.”
“You know boats,” Salty said.
“Indeed,” Benjamin said.
“We worked on some boats when I was here many years ago,” Salty said. “Some of my memory is coming back to me about those days.”
“Yes,” Benjamin said.
“There were some days I could not lift myself out of bed,” Salty said.
“You were a sick man,” Benjamin said.
“And you along with Patrick and Penelope fed me,” Salty said.
Benjamin smiled. “You did not eat much.”
“You know many people and many things about this island,” Salty said.
“Everything,” Benjamin said.
“We will need canvass to cover the boat and for people to work under it. The sun can be very hot,” Salty said.
“It will arrive tomorrow,” Benjamin said.
“Some men are paid for what they do and others are paid for what they know,” Salty said.
“Very true,” Benjamin said.
From the next day onward the boat was protected from sun and rain by a canvas canopy.