Abraham and Mosses
Time passed quickly. To start with, the old torpedo boat appeared useless; a near relic and reminder of a world that had all but disappeared. Soon it was stripped down to the bare bones and all her secrets exposed. Day after day layers of new sinew, muscle, and skin added until it took on a form quite different than its original purpose. It was painted and polished like somebody about to go out on the town. People of Barbuda came by each day to measure the progress and offer comments.
The project was nearing its fourth month; longer than anticipated, but Rich and Salty seemed not to mind. They were too focused on the work. Indeed, the ever present fear of someone suddenly appearing one day to inquire about Rich rested heavy on their minds, but remote as time passed.
Four months to the day that The Odyssey first sailed and docked at Barbuda thee boat stood braced and complete. There was no doubt of its craftsmanship or sea-worthiness. Salty loved designing and refitting the boat. Even in his moments of frustration there was still the glimmer of hope and confidence whatever problem presented itself, it would be overcome. “There isn’t anything broken that can’t be repaired and no problem that can go unsolved,” Salty often said.
“What time is it, mate,” Salty said standing in front of the office.
Rich looked at a clock hanging on the office’s porch post. “One.”
“It’s ready to launch,” Salty said confidently.
“The tide will be lowest around 6:00 AM,” Rich said to Salty.
“Everybody over to the boat!” Salty said.
With admiration and pride each step of the way Salty walked toward the boat. He stepped on the bottom wrung of a ladder leaning against the boat. “We are going to lay out the launch path today and launch her tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM.”
Everyone smiled, cheered and congratulated each other.
“Don’t be so happy,” Salty smiled. “You will soon be unemployed.”
Salty supervised the launch preparation. Logs that served as rails were placed beneath and parallel to the boat. Smooth and rounded logs became rollers on which the boat would be cautiously nudged toward the beach. The roller logs were attached to the superstructure built around the boat.
With that task finished Salty gathered everyone to the office.
“Looks like tomorrow is your last day of work. I’ve never worked with a finer group of people. I’ve never been a part of building a better boat. I’ve never been much for talkin’, but my words have a lot behind them. A lot of words can get you in trouble, so I’ll just say thanks.
Scattered thanks came from the workers.
“Be here at 5:30 AM for some coffee,” Salty said, “and I asked the cooks to make some cinnamon rolls.”
Salty counted out the money and distributed it. He paid them for the day and the next. Each worker hugged him with no words spoken.
The last worker walked away and Salty collapsed into the a chair under the porch. “I hate to see this all end,” Salty said, “but I’m ready to get out to sea.”
“You look beat,” Rich said.
“I am,” Salty said, “but I’ve never felt better. We got to do a test run on the open ocean and sail it to Aruba for that snobbish Brit to turn his nose up and reject it. I know the type; he’ll reject in for the least of reasons to flex his authority. However, he will eventually pass it. We may have to stay until he does.”
“I’m not itchy to go anywhere,” Rich said. “Why not take a nap. I’m going to straighten up a few things out here and you and I will find a place to eat in Cordington tonight.”
With a wink and nod Salty disappeared into his office for a nap.
Rich walked to the back of the boat. “Pst!” he said to the bushes. “The coast is clear.”
Thomas and Kiara ducked low out of the bushes. They each had a can of paint with brushes.
“Black with gold trim on the transom, right?” Thomas said.
At 5:30 PM Rich drove the truck beside Salty’s office. He whistled. “Hey, Salty, I’m starved.”
Salty walked from the office and climbed into the truck. Rich thrust the truck in gear and they bumped along the road to Cordington. They had a meal at a cafe in and visited with Patrick and Penelope until dark.
Rich drove back to the work site. When driving on to the site he was careful not to shine the headlights directly on the transom. Rich coughed to further distract Salty from looking at the transom.
“Got something in your throat?” Salty said. “Maybe you’re getting the bug, I got just the thing for that.”
“I think I swallowed a bug,” Rich said.
“It takes a bug to kill a bug,” Salty said.
“I’ll take you up on that,” Rich said, “but just enough for the bug.”
“Of course,” Salty said. “We have an early start tomorrow.”
They sat under the porch roof amid the breeze from the sea that rustled the bushes around. Salty poured two drinks in tin cups. They sipped and talked by the dim glow of a kerosene lantern hanging from the porch.
“This has been very strange to me,” Salty said. “My little cabin back in Monhegan seems more distant than my time here 40 years ago. Maybe I’ve always been here. I always felt as if there was someplace else. Have you ever felt that way or is it just for old men?”
“I used to lay in bed back in Ohio,” Rich said. “I’d listen to the night; frogs, crickets, a dog bark, a train’s whistle, the tires whine from a distant semi, music and conversation from a crackling radio. I didn’t belong. I got up to Maine and no matter how hard I wanted to fit and settle, there was always something beyond; it seemed like I knew from the beginning it was temporary.”
“I think all men are like that,” Salty said. “Abraham wandered in tents. Moses led Israel around in the wilderness for 40 years. Maybe God made man that way.”
“But they were all looking for a place to settle,” Rich said.
“Yeah,” Salty said, “some find it others don’t.”
“You ever wonder about your son?” Rich said. “Where he is? What he is doing? What he has grown up to be?”
“Everyday,” Salty said. “I think what kept me in Maine was the hope that someday he’d come knocking on my door. That day you came by, that’s what I thought was happening. You’re a good mate, but you’re not my son.”
“Would you rather be looking for him than being here?” Rich said.
“I’m afraid, Rich,” Salty said.
“Of what,” Rich said.
“I’ll die alone,” Salty said.
“If it is all in my power that won’t happen,” Rich said.
“That’s not your problem,” Salty said.
Rich stood and poured another shot into Salty’s cup. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Ya know,” Salty said, “Moses wandered for 40 years and never saw the promised land.”
“He sinned against God,” Rich said.
“But what sin did I commit?” Salty said.
Rich walked to The Odyssey and motored it in the dark a quarter mile off shore from the launch site. He anchored and spent the night there.