Tommy’s Change of Mind
A small gray sedan stopped on the gravel road at the entrance to the dock at about 2:00 PM. A man in his early 50s dressed in a uniform got out. Rich was tightening the eye straps and cleats.
The man didn’t speak English, but Rich gathered he was some sort of law enforcement, either the town or the harbor. Rich showed him his passport.
The man looked it over very seriously and pointed to Zeke, “Pasaporte?”
Rich smiled, “No.”
The man handed back the passport and said some polite words in Spanish. He patted Zeke on the ribs, walked to the car and drove away.
“Somebody is watching us,” Rich said.
Shortly after 3:00 PM, Rich finished tightening the steering cables from the helm to the rudder. He looked through the windshield of the pilothouse; Tommy came walking down the shoreline lane.
Rich held the flap the pilothouse open and Tommy climbed inside. He sat down on the bench as if exhausted.
“I walked about every street of this town,” Tommy said. “Did you get everything done/”
“Yeah,” Rich said. “You want to keep an eye on things while Zeke and I take a walk?”
“The only thing I’ll be keeping my eyes on is the backside of my eyelids,” Tommy said.
“That’s good enough for me,” Rich said.
Rich and Zeke walked the quiet streets. It was a flat town with only a couple buildings having two floors. It reminded him of pictures he had seen of small towns in west Texas. The town seemed lonely and desperate, yet there was an order, pureness, and quiet prosperity. The properties and streets were specious compared to those in Rio, Buenos, and Montevideo. There seemed to be an unassuming pride in their property. Nothing seemed out of order or pretentious.
On the return to the dock they spotted in a small grocery. It was closed, but a man was inside stocking shelves. The door cracked open and Rich walked in. By the use of some crude sign language the man indicated his willingness to allow Rich to shop. From his list he purchased about everything needed. Rich negotiated the use a wheelbarrow to move the purchased items to the dock and the store owner’s teenage boy returned it. Rich tipped him handsomely.
Rich prepared a meal and the evening seemed to pass quickly and quietly. Winds howled low and steady from the west providing a nocturnal backdrop conducive for sleeping.
They awoke to the sounds a gulls and lapping water.
Rich walked with Tommy to the small restaurant spotted the day before.
The meal tasted as good as one might expect in Maine; toast, eggs, sausage, and coffee. However, beans were served.
They talked as they ate.
Tommy appeared bothered by something on his mind. He contemplated each bite.
“What’s on you’re mind, Tommy,” Rich said.
“A lot of things,” Tommy said. “I knew the day might come when I’d have to pull up stakes and leave, but no matter how much ya think and plan, ya just can’t predict the emotions.”
“Do you want to go back?” Rich said.
“I never wanted to leave,” Tommy said, “but returning is impossible.”
“So we press on to Rio Gallegos,” Tommy said.
“I hope this does not disappoint ya in any way,” Tommy said, “but I’m staying here.”
“Not really!” Rich feigned disappointment, but was inwardly relieved. “Is the sea getting to you?”
“It’s not that,” Tommy said, “but two or three days at sea is about all I have left in me and I’d like to save those days for another time.”
“Makes sense,” Rich said. “So do you have your eye on something, an idea, or do you just need the time?”
“All three,” Tommy said.
“This town has no pizza places?” Rich said.
“None,” Tommy said. “That’s always a possibility. I’m thinkin’ about other things.”
“Like what?” Rich said.
“A small hotel with a full service restaurant,” Tommy said.
“Do you think this place is big enough for that sort of business?” Rich said.
“I talked to a couple of people,” Tommy said. “They say that a lot of businessmen who come here have to go to Rio Gallegos for accommodations. This town can use a hotel – I know it.”
“You know more about theses things than I do,” Rich said.
“I know what you have in mind,” Tommy said. “And I’d kick myself if I didn’t at least ask; do you want to go in with me – I run the restaurant and you run the hotel.”
“Thanks, Tommy,” Rich said. “I can’t settle anyplace for a while. I’m afraid that only grief would come to you with such an arrangement.”
“I put up all the cash,” Tommy said.
“I’m afraid not, my friend,” Rich said.
“The offer will always be open,” Tommy said.
“Thanks,” Rich said, “but who knows, I may be back.” Rich was not sincere and he felt as if Tommy knew it. Rich was also certain Tommy’s entire proposal was not sincere. I was nothing more than to create a feeling of false respect. Rich already knew what he thought of Hey Seed, Ohio and Lobster Pot, Maine. “He thinks I’m a bumpkin,” Rich thought.
“As soon as we finish here,” Tommy said, “I’ll show you a property I have in mind.”