Contemplating A Winter Harbor
Near night fall the wind picked up and swept down the river and the streets of the town as if raging flood waters. The town battened down as if expected.
Rio Gallegos is where people from the outreaches of land collect for supplies and entertainment. It is not pretentious or flirtatious. It is bold and straight forward. Life and the climate will not tolerate silliness or decadence. Hypocrisy is soon sniffed-out and rejected.
The people are hearty, yet quietly bold. They have a way of looking at stranger and knowing what they are made of, before a word is uttered or any action contrived.
Rich motored to shore again. He wanted a meal at a restaurant. His preference centered around beef. It seemed as if the wind shoved him along the way and into a busy cantina a couple blocks from shore.
Rich sat at a table at the front window and ordered a thick sirloin steak with sauteed onions, mushrooms, and peppers.
The steak was nearly tender enough to cut with a fork and Rich enjoyed it immensely.
“This is the best steak I ever ate,” Rick told the waiter.
“The cook is my brother,” the waiter said.
“He is a good brother,” Rich said.
“Not good to work with,” the waiter said. “Very temperamental.”
“Tell him of my compliment,” Rich said.
Rich handed the waiter a five dollar bill. “Split this with your brother.”
“I don’t have change,” the waiter said.
“I’m sure you can figure something out,” Rich said.
“Thank you, sir,” the waiter said. “Will you be eating here again?”
“No, why do you ask?” Rich said.
“What my brother does not know will not bother him,” the waiter smiled.
“May I have a coffee,” Rich said.
“Yes,” the waiter said, “anything with it?”
“Black and strong,” Rich said.
The waiter returned to the kitchen. Rich watched the waiter show his brother the five dollar bill. The waiter pointed toward Rich and the cook smiled and lifted his hand in a gesture of thanks.
The waiter brought back the coffee and a drink. “My brother is appreciative. The drink is fernet de coca, it is our gift. It is traditional after a meal. It helps digest.”
“Will I need help back to my boat?” Rich quipped.
“Only if you have two,” the waiter smiled.
“I have a good dog back at my boat,” Rich said. “He is a very good dog. He keeps me company when I’m at sea. Do you have any scrap meat?”
“A friend of yours is a friend of mine,” the waiter said. The waiter hurried back to the kitchen and returned immediately to wait on another table.
Rich eased back in his chair and watched the shadows of buildings and poles grow longer. Debris too small to be identified raced with a whistling wind as if fleeing from fear. The sign hanging above the sidewalk of the restaurant swung at 45 degrees. Rich found the drink pleasing after a couple of sips. When he was near finished the waiter brought a small coffee. Rich sipped the coffee as he watched the shadows fade into darkness. The coffee tasted near espresso strength, but smooth as if blended with honey.
As the waiter passed Rich said. “Is it always this windy/”
“No,” the waiter said, “sometimes worse and sometimes better. We like to say you don’t need a strap for your hat, you need one for your head.”
“Where do you go after this?” the waiter said.
“South,” Rich said.
“It is bad seas,” the waiter said.
“I have heard that,” Rich said.
“My brother and I traveled there two years ago by land,” the waiter said. “It is is a rugged bitter place. It is where people go to be forgotten or to forget.”
Rich forced a smile.
“Is that what you want?” the waiter said.
“Yes,” Rich said, “a little.”
The waiter smiled broadly. “If that is so, don’t leave large tips or bargain too hard with the man at the store.” The waiter motioned with his head to a table across the room. A man raised his drink. It was the clerk from the hardware store.
“You come to my store tomorrow and I will serve you steak,” the clerk said.
Rich smiled and handed two dollars to the waiter. “This is for my friend’s meal,” Rich said.
“Sir,” the clerk said, “you owe me nothing. Everything is good between us.”
“I’d rather be known for an open heart than a tight fist,” Rich said. “Good night, my friend.”
“Thank you,” the clerk said.
The waiter brought a sack with cooked meat scraps in it.
Rich walked the cold windy streets back towards the Beyond. He struggled against the wind and shielded his eyes by tucking his head below the collar of his coat.
Back at the dinghy he glanced out to the bay. It looked as if the wind may have pushed the Beyond a good 50 yards east.
As he approached the Beyond Zeke waited on deck prancing excitedly.
Rich merely tied the dinghy to the Beyond. The anchor was lifted and Rich motored close to an empty pier. He tossed a line around the piling and let the current and wind push the Beyond until the line was tight.
Zeke wagged his tail in an expectant mood as Rich placed the sack of scraps on the galley stove top.
“You know who this is for, don’t you?” Rich said. “It’s for the good dog.”
Rich emptied half of it into his bowl on the floor.
“The rest, tomorrow,” Rich said “Go ahead, Zeke, enjoy yourself.”
Rich laid on the bench and read by the soft glow of the cabin’s light. Soon Zeke hopped up on the bench across from him. He curled into his blanket, licked his chops and rested his head.
“What would you think if we wintered here?” Rich said.
Zeke looked as if he wasn’t sure sure how to answer.
“I heard some men talking at the restaurant,” Rich said, “and on the way back here it started me to thinking. They said the winds and weather are strong and bitter for the next three months. I have made a couple of friends as you can attest to your full belly. I’m sure there is more where that came from.”
Zeke lifted his head at a haunting howl of the wind sweeping over the pier.
“It would be dangerous sailing at this time,” Rich said. “Yes, I’ve sailed worse weather, but rogue waves are more likely in this type of weather. Maybe it is best we wait.”
Zeke laid his head between his paws.
“There, now, Zeke,” Rich said, “doesn’t the ease your mind?”