More About Tommy
Rich heard hollow steps on the wooden dock approach. Zeke’s ear perked, Rich peered through the porthole. It was Tommy. The door to the companionway opened and Tommy climbed down the steps.
“Coffee is on the stove,” Rich said. “That’s sausage gravy on the stove and the biscuits are on the table.”
“Have ya eaten?” Tommy said.
“No,” Rich said. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“That’s nice of ya,” Tommy said. “Ya must a had a good up-bringin’.”
“You must have had one yourself,” Rich said, “otherwise you wouldn’t have noticed or said anything.”
Tommy smiled politely and Rich glanced at Zeke
They sat down at the table and started eating.
“I had a nice walk and found a place,” Tommy said, “not far from here. This town is quiet as a church. I saw one person, that’s it.”
“Maybe they’re all in church,” Rich said.
“Could be,” Tommy said. “It didn’t look like there was a lot of sin in this place. Must be a baptist town.”
“What makes you think that?” Rich said.
“Baptists claim to stop sin before it takes place,” Tommy said. “So they do it in secret; like it don’t exist. Catholics do it in the open. The church even promotes it. The church turns around and collects heavy guilt contributions. They can’t deny it. The priest says, ‘I saw ya at the brothel.’ ‘I wasn’t there father.’ ‘I was at the door taking attendance. That’s two sins, being at the brothel and lying about it.’ The baptist preacher owns a brothel and has to split the money with the employees. The church splits with no one.”
“I’m not sure if it works exactly that way,” Rich chuckled, “but there may be elements of truth.”
“Are ya a religious man?” Tommy said. “Before ya answer, I am not.”
“I believe in god,” Rich said. “I don’t smoke, curse, and seldom drink. I don’t gamble or chase women. I read the Bible. The last time I was in a church a couple years or so back, I had to escape from it. I know what you mean by religious; I’m not that. I’ve sort of developed this view; it’s not the church you go to it’s the god you follow. Does that make sense to you?”
“Back in Puerto Madryn you could have killed two men,” Tommy said. “You could have gotten away with it. I’m not tellin’. I’m givin’ you all my money and business too in gratitude. I don’t know what keeps a guy from pullin’ the trigger? I really don’t. I would have and slept a good night.”
Rich sensed a coldness in the words. Sometimes words said with conviction cover the trepidation of an actual act. There was no compassion in his words. It was said like, ‘I take a breath, I kill someone.’
Rich tried to reach deeper into Tommy’s thoughts. “I don’t think you would have done it if it was your decision.”
“How do you know that?” Tommy said.
“You could have made that decision a long long time ago,” Rich said. “You and your brother might have been tough guys, but I don’t see you killing anybody. I’ve been around men who think nothing of life and you don’t have it, Tommy. And that’s a good thing. That’s giving in to the most evil impulse. It is better to walk away if you can and if you can’t walk, run. There’s too much false bravado in the world.”
“You’re a kid,” Tommy said. “You come from Hey Seed, Ohio and end up in Lobster, Pot Maine that ain’t exactly a college education on judging people and figuring ‘em out; that’s like kindergarten.”
Rich thought, “Tommy is right. I can’t redeem his soul with words I’m not certain of myself. Quick, something to cover your polite and insincere words.”
Rich quickly said, “When that guy was about to put a bullet in your brain, he asked you to get on your knees, you didn’t do it. I think evil men are cowards, a brave and good man dies with dignity.”
“I didn’t want ‘em goin’ back to Brooklyn and tellin’ everybody I died on my knees,” Tommy said. “They would have told their boss how I died. They may not like me, but they would at least respect me.”
“And what about me?” Rich said. “Do you think they respect what I did?”
“They respect someone who stands up for someone,” Tommy said. “It is a strange world to some, but it makes as much sense as anything legitimate governments provide. Those men, as twisted as they seem, don’t see themselves as bad. They merely facilitate commerce and keep order. Vengeance stops when it is close to home. Then there is a meetin’ and then there’s peace. No atomic bombs are dropped and no women and children are killed. Each man must determine what his own honor is and live by it. I think we have done that.”
“I get the point,” Rich said.
However, Rich thought to himself as he sipped his coffee, “He was trying awfully hard to explain something that he had no grasp. Nothing he said was relevant or cohesive.”
After breakfast Rich lit a fire in the cabin’s stove and relaxed on the bench in front of the heat. Tommy sat across from him.
“What are ya going to do the rest of the day?” Tommy said.
“I’m going to make a list and restock,” Rich said. “There’s not a lot needed; it will take only two days or so to arrive in Rio Gallegos. I’ll spend a couple days there before continuing.”
“Is the place you are sailing to, after Rio Gallegos dangerous?” Tommy said.
“It can be,” Rich said.
“Is the winter a good time to sail there?” Tommy said.
“It may be best to wait,” Rich said, “but I have to keep moving. It’s hard to explain. What about you? I’m going to stay here another day or two, what are you going to do?”
“I’ll help ya with whatever and take a good look at the town when it’s awake,” Tommy said.
“I don’t need any help,” Rich said assuredly. “It’s things I need to do myself, things only I’m responsible for.”
“I’d like to have somebody to see the town with,” Tommy said. “I don’t mind you and Zeke taggin’ along. I understand, so for now I’ll let ya alone. Ya do what ya got to do and I’m going to take another walk.”
Tommy left the boat leaving Rich and Zeke to tend.