Rich checked the compass. He turned on the spot light to see if anything appeared in front of them – nothing but water. There was no sound of breakers. He mentally calculated the mouth of the gulf to the open sea still laid at least another 10 miles away.
He shook Tommy.
“Tommy, go inside the cabin and lay down, it’s warmer and more comfortable.”
Tommy stood, said something in Spanish and stumbled below into the cabin. The atlas fell on the deck. Rich picked it up and opened it to Argentina. Tommy circled Rio Gallegos in pencil.
“That’s 700 miles,” Rich murmured. “I don’t think anyone will look for him there.”
The beacon of a lighthouse on the starboard guided Rich into the open seas of the South Atlantic. He set a course of 130 degrees and held it. As a glow appeared in the east, Rich readied the galley for breakfast and sat near the helm with a coffee.
An hour later Tommy climbed from the cabin. “I slept like a baby.”
“You snored like a sailor,” Rich said.
“Do you mind if I help myself to the coffee?” Tommy said.
“You’re my guest for the next five to seven days,” Rich said. “The boat is your home as well.”
Rich followed Tommy below and prepared breakfast. They sat at the bench and ate.
“I see you had Rio Gallegos circled,” Rich said.
“Yeah,” Tommy said. “Is that on your way or too far to take me?”
“It’s on the way and if it weren’t, I’d take you there anyway.” Rich said.
“You’ve been good to me,” Tommy said. “Last night you saved my life – and the life of two scumbags. They’ll end up going back to New York and gettin’ whacked. This way the family can have a good funeral for them. They’re wiseguys – they die early or live poor.”
“Do know anybody in Rio Gallegos?” Rich said.
“No,” Tommy said.
“What are you going to do there?” Rich said.
“Open up a place,” Tommy said. “I got plenty of money to do it. And I can hold out for a while until the restaurant catches on. I’m not worried. I can always go back to dry cleaning. I could work for somebody else, although I don’t want to. I’d make a terrible employee. Businesses are always lookin’ for somebody who speaks English fluently.”
“You’re a man who will always land on his feet,” Rich said. “Speaking of feet, I bet those two guys’ feet are a mess. So where did you tell everybody you were going?”
“Buenos Aires, Rio, Sao Paulo, and Caracas,” Tommy said. “I thought about actually going to the old country, Italy. I spoke Italian before English. I could get along there.”
“You never said anything about a wife or family,” Rich said.
“Not married,” Tommy said.
“Any close calls?” Rich said.
“Back in Brooklyn I was thinkin’ about askin’ this woman whose family owned a clothing store,” Tommy said. “It would have been a good marriage; they sell ‘em, I clean ‘em.”
“What happened?” Rich said.
“She got engaged to a guy whose family was in real estate,” Tommy said. “It makes no sense. What could he possibly offer their business or what could they offer his. You gotta think ahead.”
“You have a very practical way of looking at love,” Rich said.
“What about you?” Tommy said. “You some kind of writer or somethin’. I looked around the cabin. I didn’t read nothin’. Like, who can you marry; a publisher or editor?”
Rich smiled. “Looks as if my options are few.”
“And it’s not exactly a crowed field,” Tommy said. “I’m 40 years old and ain’t never met a publisher or editor.”
The weather turned cooler. It was more bearable than a couple months earlier when Rich felt at times as if he sat in a sauna.
During the first two days heading south along the Argentine coast Rich showed Tommy as much about sailing as he thought could be valuable and retain. Rich often looked on with admiration of Tommy’s eagerness. Tommy continually asked what to do next.
On the third day Rich sat alone at the helm watching an endless sea and sky meet far beyond his imagination.
“How I would love the gather all the people I’ve come to know who have had a positive influence on me the last three years,” Rich privately mused. “I’m so gland that time was taken to know someone. I have so many good things to be thankful and happy about, why did I ever leave home? Maybe it was for no other reason to find other friends and that happiness rests only with me. I can’t change now the path chosen. It has to be walked to the end and I suspect the road that split will meet again.”
“Hey, Rich,” Tommy said suddenly appearing from below, “Whaddaya thinkin’ about?”
“Things,” Rich said, “old friends and present.”
“Am I in there,” Tommy smiled.
“Yep,” Rich said.
“I knew it,” Tommy said. “I knew I’d make somebody’s list someday. How far down from Zeke?”
“Zeke can’t cook,” Rich said.
“That’s like, hey, honey, what’s for dinner, right?” Tommy said.
“Zeke would have never caught that,” Rich said.
“Give me a hour,” Tommy said.
An hour later Tommy produced a meal of meatballs with marinara sauce over a garlic baked potato.