The Archer and The Sailor
Lionel A LaVergne
"Go somewhere you've never been, Leo." I looked at my best friend in the world and smiled.
"That would a lot of places, Jim. I've been out of the country twice, and to a handful of states." Shaking my head I leaned back in my old rattan chair.
"I'll tell you what, I'll make a list of places tonight, strange exotic places, countries and states, cities I know you've never been and would never go on your own, just promise me one thing."
"Wherever it is you'll go." I took a deep breath and looked around. Large oak trees shaded the back of my property. I loved the view and never tired of sitting on my back deck and watching birds and animals come in and out of the thick forest just the other side of my property line.
Grand Father Leonce La Tour died and surprised everyone including me, by leaving this choice piece of real estate here in south Louisiana to me. I'd been born in Louisiana but I had left as quickly as I could, which was right out of high school.
My dad had been Leonce La Tour II, I was number three. Trey had been my nickname and I had hated it. Of all of my friends, the only one who had called me Leo, was Jim.
The property had been in my name for thirty-five years before I ever claimed it by moving onto the land and building a house. I had married late in life, nearly fifty, and five years ago my dear Esther had been smashed to death in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in Conroe, Texas.
A year ago, my doctor in Houston had told me I needed to see an Oncologist. I knew what that was because I watched the medical shows, especially, House, whom I identified with. We are, both of us crusty, bastards, House and I, not the Oncologist.
The son-of-a-bitch told me I would be dead in less than two years. The Oncologist did. Now, his evil twin in Lafayette had confirmed this would be my last summer on earth
Sixty five years old, retired, drawing a nice pension from the oil company I'd served, more than I needed coming in every month. $200,000.00 in a CD that grew daily so I had no idea how much I was worth, miserable in a small town north of Houston, I decided to go back to Louisiana. Why not?
I had avoided coming home. Now I kept being surprised that nothing and everything had changed. I had grown older and time had gone by for me but somewhere in my head I'd expected to see the same place I'd left. The people all the same age as when I'd seen them last. Of course they as I, had grown older, some had died. I was astounded to learn from Jim how many of the original eighty kids in my graduating class had never left town, stayed here. Why anyone would was a mystery to me.
My best friend since second grade now also lived in our small home town. Thirty years in the armed services doing God knows what and he had come back to here. He as I was a widower. Before I moved back to the small town and had a two bedroom home built on Granpere's property, Jim had spent most of his time playing cards and checkers with his friends at the VFW. Now he spent most of his time bothering me.
Bang, bang. It seemed a hurricane had popped up off the coast and was at this time crashing against my house. I got up and went to the door. No such luck, it was Jim.
"Get up you old reprobate. I got your list."
"What list? And what in hell are you doing coming here, waking me up in the middle of the night?"
"You old asshole, it's almost six A.M." The years in the military had left Jim unable to sleep past 4:30 A.M. Now I was paying for the government's sin.
"Put on some coffee, I'll set this up." He strode to the table with all of the energy he had exhibited his entire life. I loved Jim but I would never say those words to him. He would have laughed at me and gone back to the VFW. I constantly gave him a hard time but I cherished every minute I had with him. He was my rock while my life slowly crumbled around me.
Wearing the raggedy robe that Esther had given me on our first wedding anniversary, I made coffee. For the next ten years we were together, before a foolish old lady pressed on the gas instead of the brake, no doubt because she was so excited about the special she had found at the Wal-Mart, I refused to wear any other robe. Esther had begged, enticed, pleaded that I throw that one away and don one of the new ones she had purchased. I never did.
"Here you go."
"What is this?"
"Your next port of destination?"
"God, I don't know why I tolerate you, you old fart. What we talked about yesterday, where you're going where you've never been before."
"Oh, okay." I knew it was best to shut up, when Jim, thirty years in the military, got out as a bird general, got something in his mind, nothing would dissuade him, not even gunfire or worse. I had once asked him what he had done in the service. "Military intelligence." Had been his answer. I had laughed and commented, "Wasn't that an oxymoron?" Jim hadn't joined in my laughter and an expression crossed his face for a second. I read, pain, hate, a deep melancholy, a look that belied the happy man that was my friend. I never brought it up again.
I poured two cups of my favorite coffee, twirled two spoons of sugar and a small amount of milk in mine and placed Jim's blacker than the devil's heart, brew in front of him. I didn't know how he drank that and he had always called me a sissy because I had to have the fixin's in mine.
"Okay here, reach into this hat and pull out your destination." I looked down into one of Jim's filthy, encrusted and stinking hats he wore when he went fishing. I swore I could see scales and other bits of sea creatures inside that filthy cap.
"No way I'm sticking my hand inside that thing." I explained to Jim. "You probably got a fish hook in there with parts of a cat fish you caught thirty years ago. No thanks, I'm going to die soon enough without poisoning my system even more." I said this in a light tone but I knew I shouldn't have. Glancing over at the hardened veteran of several wars, I saw a glint in his eyes, the old bastard was such a sentimental fool. He hated when I mentioned I was dying.
"Okay, okay what do I do?" He brightened up and then went into a long winded explanation. After he finally wound down I said. "In other words, I reach into your old cap, pull out a piece of paper and on it will be my final destination, final in that is the last trip I will ever take, right."
"Jesus, you're such a ray of sunshine, asshole. Just pick one."
Coast of Maine, was written on the scrap of paper. That's how I came to be there when a descendant of Bjarni Herjolfsson made a most important discovery.
I hated flying. I had quit at age twenty after one frightful ride from Houston to Dallas. Now I was as good as dead anyway, so who cared? Not me. I was heading for Kennebunkport, Maine. No special reason except I'd read a lot about the place. It seemed presidents loved going there. I decided what was good enough for those guys would be just fine with me. Jim who had connections all over the world got me a cabin on Cabot Cove. He swore it was really nice. This man had spent a lot of his life sleeping with worms on rotting ground and in desert soil, in Viet Nam and all over the Arab states. I wasn't sure he'd know what a really nice place was.
A cab took me to the "cottage" I was going to stay in for the next week or so. Individual lodges sat on the perfectly manicured property. A pretty lady checked me in and took me personally to my cottage. She had a dark skinned individual drive my stuff on a golf cart type of vehicle. As he drove away and I attempted to follow the well shaped energetic female, I envied him. His ride looked like fun and my old legs were protesting.
Inside the cottage the lady insisted on taking me for a tour, I prayed she would shut up and let me sit down. Finally she released me and said for the fourth or fifth time, "anything you need you ask for Willow, okay?" I had no idea how old Willow was, anywhere from 35 to 55. Nowadays with all the makeup crap women smeared all over themselves, who knew?
"Yes ma'am I sure will, Thanks a million." I didn't know who Jim knew, but I was learning some people in the world thought he was one important dude. From the airport to the lady here, everyone had been alerted and the red carpet had rolled for me. Nothing was to good for Jim's best bud. First class accommodations, a wonderful meal and champagne I hadn't turned down, despite my doctor's orders. Screw him, a few glasses were going to kill me? Well?
I had never been to Maine or any other state in New England. The south had always been my choice and it seemed all of the stories I'd heard about this part of the country were packed with horror. Snow storms that killed, rain and thunder and a rugged coast filled with dangerous rocky shoals. Who would want to live up here? The shore I was on was beautiful. I wondered if the tales were true, what I had seen so far was unlike those awful accounts.
After three days of a relative paradise I got bored. Back down in Louisiana I sat in the same chair, stared at the same scene, yet I never grew tired. Now I was thinking more and more about being home. I had ten more days left, all paid for and although I had more money than I would ever spend, I was still the guy who went behind Esther and folded pieces of tin foil saving them in a kitchen drawer.
Esther never bothered to re-use these. She would rip off a new piece before I could stop her.
"Sorry, sweetie." She'd say, smiling at me. My heart would melt, again, and instead of chiding her for her wasteful ways I'd kiss her and say, "No big deal."
So, I knew I would stay here till my time was up. Besides being the tightest man since Scrooge, I also knew that Jim would have hectored me, right up to the time when they lowered my coffin, about not staying the entire time.
Now I was God only knows how many miles away from all of my good memories. The fresh air seemed to have given me a feeling of extra energy so I decided to explore a bit. I had noticed some water down a ways from the cottage so I slowly made my way to there. Neat well kept docks ran from the shore out into the water. Several nice fishing boats and small yachts were tied up along the quay. I saw another old fart so I walked up to him.
"Is that part of the Atlantic?" I asked him.
"Yes in a way, the ocean is actually south and east of here."
"How would you get to the ocean from here?" He looked at me with a skeptical eye.
"Well you could rent a boat and follow the shore line until you came to a place where all you can see south and east of you is water. Then you're on the Atlantic. Thinking about doing some fishing?" He enquired.
"No, I've lived next to fishing waters all of my life and never wet a line."
"Where is that, Rhode Island, someplace else on the coast?"
"You're a long way from home my friend. What brings you all the way up here?"
"A jet and an irksome friend. Who would I see about renting a nice little motorboat. I never did any fishing but I enjoy the water."
"I don't know of anyone who would let you take a craft out by yourself, now there are cruises and trips that leave every day. They usually stay in the cove, but now and then we get a deep sea fishing junket that will be gone for several days and you can catch some big fish, if you're lucky."
"Okay, thanks for the information." I turned and walked back toward the cottages. Movement off to my left caught my eye. Two men seemed to be in a heated discussion, I was bored and always have been somewhat nosey so I headed in that direction.
"You can keep your damn boat and shove it up your butt, sideways." One of them shouted at the other. With that he stiff legged marched away from the dock.
"What do you want." The tall red faced man asked.
"That boat for rent?" I had no intention of renting a boat or going out on the water. That just popped out.
"Give me a hundred dollars and it's all yours." He said in a voice shaking with anger.
"I'm not looking to buy a boat, Mr., just curious." I quickly said. He approached me and standing way too near he asked. "You got a hundred bucks on you?"
"Yeah, but I don't want a boat."
"Gimme," he said. I reached in my wallet, pulled out a crisp new hundred dollar bill and gave it to him. I was afraid not to. This man could have squashed me any day of the week and angry as he was he might leave me in a helpless pile of torn flesh and broken bones. He shoved a small bag into my hand and stomped away.
What in hell was that all about? In my hand I held a pouch, it appeared to be made of some soft material, oil skin came to mind but I had no idea why. Inside I found a set of keys and an old piece of paper. The writing was faded except for what seemed to be a signature on the bottom. Straining my eyes I made out that this was the deed of ownership for a twenty five boat, named the "Lula Belle." Closer to the boat I saw faded and scuffed letters in black, "Lula Belle" it read. Stupefied I stood still until my legs began to ache. Slowly I climbed onboard and studied what I suspected was now my boat.
Two seats sat forward near a wheel. One in the back held several fishing poles. I eased into the chair under the wheel and studied the dials. I had never owned a boat but I'd been on many in my life. To my surprise I saw there were twin handles, this small thing has two engines I realized. Also I saw the switch for adjusting the trim. A radar unit was affixed on the dash along with a CB. Everything looked old and worn and I suspected none of it worked.
In a long box I found a tarpaulin, the snaps corresponded to the snaps along the hull. So it could be covered up in case of rain. In the box were a few old flare-guns and a rusted revolver. I wouldn't be shooting that damn thing, probably blow up in face. After puttering around for a bit more I headed back to my temporary home. On the way I walked by the gentleman I had spoken to earlier.
"I think I just bought a boat." I told him.
"Beg your pardon." I had noticed earlier the man had a horrible accent, one I'd never heard before except in movies. Baaaggg yo pawden, is sort of what he sounded like. "A boat, you bought a boat, where, who from?"
"Over there, some tall red faced guy."
"Mike and Marty, the Lula Belle? Oh my."
"Those two fight and sell that boat several times a year. Problem is, it only belongs to one of them, Mike McCarrey. Marty is his partner and uh, partner."
"He gave me this." I handed the feller the piece of paper. He studied it for a while, moving it away to arms length than back close to his face, finally he shook his head.
"Well, I'll be damn, looks legal."
"It does, this is so strange." I agreed
"Where ya staying, Cabot Cove?"
"Which cabin?" I told him.
"Hang on to that deed, I'll talk with the Sheriff In Kennebunkport in the morning, I'll be here about ten and I'll let you know what he says."
I thanked him then went back to my cottage and had some peaches and cottage cheese, I didn't see any humor in eating cottage cheese in a cottage I hated that shit. I would rather have been chewing on a filet mignon, and the reason I wasn't had nothing to do with how many months I had left. Just, the ones I had left I intended to spend as pain free as possible. Fresh meat gave me spasms around my right side and often as not I threw it up, looking exactly like I had put it in. When the time came as I lay on my death bed I intended to repeat the words of a silly song that was popular when I was a kid, titled Transfusion. There was a line that went, "shoot the juice to me Bruce," that would be the pain killers I would be referring to. Didn't mind dying, I did mind hurting.
The next morning I had my usual hard boiled egg and wheat toast, orange juice and enough pills to choke a mule. Down on the docks I sat in someone's chair and waited. The sun felt good and a gentle cool breeze blew in from the water. I'd never thought much of this part of the country, but this was nice. Hearing a commotion I stood and looked to where the noise had come from. Walking toward me was my new friend and a man in uniform.
"Mr. La Tour?" I nodded that I was, while trying to stand.
"Please, stay seated." The uniformed man said as they each grabbed a chair and scooted them over to me.
"May I see the deed?"
"Sure." I handed the pouch over and studied the water while he looked over the paper, Mike or was it Marty, had shoved into my hand. Moving his chair closer to my "friend" they began a discussion that I assumed wasn't to include me. I didn't care.
"Well, it's yours, sir."
"What is?" I answered coming out of my reverie.
"What about this Mike guy, this gentlemen told me this happened now and then, and they always bought it back."
"That's true, but in this case that isn't going to happen?"
"Why not?" The two looked at each other and a strange look passed between them.
"If you'd like to sell it I'm certain we can find someone to take it off of your hands. It isn't much but it's still sea-worthy. How much did you give for it?" Something was definitely not kosher here, I knew that and I didn't have a drop of Jewish blood in me.
"Sorry, why what?" The policeman said.
"Why won't either of these guys come back for their boat as they normally did?"
"Well. This is a little unusual, the two went to a local bar a few miles from here and after a few words were exchanged, knives were produced. They killed each other."
"What were they fighting over? The boat?"
"Not that simple, they were fighting over Jim the new bartender."
"New bartender, uh Jim, Jim, like a guy Jim?"
"Okay so, how abut wives. . .I guess that's out and I suppose children also, brothers, sisters, parents, surely someone would want the boat back."
"No one. Nobody anywhere that anyone knows about. Unless you want to find a buyer, the boats yours."
"Okay," I agreed, "I guess I own a boat."
"Do you plan on keeping it there?" My new friend asked.
"I suppose, good a place as any."
"Okay, well I own that part of the marina and they were slightly behind in their payments."
"I see, how much?"
"Three hundred should bring you up to date and cover the rest of this month."
"Damn, how much is it a month?"
"$100.00, but that covers hookup electricity, fresh water tie in, one dumping a month, handled by one of my workers."
"Yes the boat has to be taken to a special pump around the end of the cove and the waste matter is sucked up and then the entire apparatus is rinsed out, both black and grey water."
"I won't even ask. Has this been done lately, the dumping part?"
"Get it done, here's the keys and I'll get you a check, check okay?"
"Sure any guest on Cabot Cove is good as gold with me."
So that is how I became a boat owner for the first time in my life. I'd been born just a few miles from the Louisiana swamps which fed into the Gulf of Mexico, everywhere I'd lived had been within a hundred miles of water, yet I'd never owned a boat.
I puttered around the cabins. Found all the good sitting places, my criteria was comfortable first, on my old bony ass, and a good view second, followed by a spot where I would not be easily seen by anyone, I still liked to be alone. Willow, the front desk attendant and chief cook and bottle washer I was learning, was a fine looking woman. We crossed paths now and then and she always smiled sweetly. Of course I was a paying guest and the tab wasn't cheap. Still she seemed genuinely pleased to see me each time we met. Whatever age she was, she still looked damn good. And, even if old man cancer was happily chewing on different parts of my innards, some parts of me still acted as though they would participate if called upon. I had felt no need for that since Esther had died. And as fine as Willow was, I was fairly certain none of my parts would be put to that test.
That morning I rose, feeling unusually good. My legs didn't ache, none of the working parts beneath my skin was protesting, even my stomach felt wonderful. I was hungry. It'd been a time since I'd felt that. After a light meal I walked out to my boat. Someone had taken her out, cleaned out the waste container, washed the damn thing and straightened the deck. It looked like I felt, spry and ready to do something.
"Everything works." Spinning to my left in surprise I saw my landlord.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Ernie, Ernie McMillan."
"Nice to know, we've talked, hell I've given you money, but I didn't know your name. The check was made out to EM enterprises, I suppose that's you."
"Yep, that's me. Boat looks good doesn't it?"
"Yes it looks great, where do I go to get gas?"
"Same place as where you get it pumped, the tank is full, oh and yeah you owe me another $143.00 for that."
"Yep it was bone dry barely made it to the bend. I don't suppose you plan on taking it out but whoever you sell it to you can add that into the price of the boat."
"Okay, I'll get you another check."
"Fine, just leave it with Willow at the front desk."
"I'll do that." I walked to my suddenly expensive boat that I had never planned on buying. Damned thing had cost me $543.00 and I'd never even cranked an engine.
I went aboard and began giving it a thorough look. Under the console I found several small cases containing a lot of fishing gear, lures, hooks, small pieces of lead, feathered apparatus with mean looking hooks. I had an idea what it was all for but I got no thrill examining any of it. I knew Jim, if he was still capable of doing so, would have creamed in his jeans to find this treasure trove.
I spotted a small door and I pulled it open, I was surprised to find a padded bed. The thing was about six feet long and as wide as the hull allowed. I guessed someone could sleep on that thing if they so chose. To my left I saw another door, I peeked in and saw a tiny commode. I backed out and sat in front of the wheel. Inserting the keys I cranked both engines, just as they roared to life I saw a small sign. Turn on bilge and vent before staring engines. I quickly shut off the twin motors. I flipped a couple of toggle switches and heard a soft rumbling sound coming from the back of the boat, stern that was the stern. That nearly used up all of my knowledge of sailor terminology, although I recalled that a pisser was a head and a kitchen was a galley. I knew where the head was but I assumed the ice chest was my galley.
Near the back of the boat I saw another door, a trap door type. I pulled on the handle and saw the engines. The humming sound I'd been hearing got louder. After a little exploration I realized that there was a fan and it was blowing air out of the engine compartment and another one was discharging water out of a small hole in the side. I stared at the water pouring out of that hole and it came to me that this damn thing probably had a leak in it somewhere.
As I was flopping around in my new possession trying to get a handle on what everything did I heard a voice.
"Hello, Mr. La Tour, did you rent a boat?" The lovely Willow was standing on the dock looking at me.
"No ma'am, seems I bought it."
"Really, so you like boating and fishing?"
"No ma'am, I don't care for fishing but an occasional ride is okay."
"Oh, well, I see."
"I'm sorry I don't mean to appear mysterious or nuts, this thing just fell into my hands."
"If you don't mind my asking, how in the world did that happen?" I shook my head and laughed. "I'm still not quite certain."
"Well, lunch is going to be served in a short while, why don't you eat in the dining room for a change and tell me all about it?" I nodded in agreement and she headed back to the main hall.
I had taken every meal since arriving in my room, I'd yet to set eyes on the dining room where almost all of the other guest ate. I went back to my room and took a quick shower put on fresh clothes then went to the main area. Over a nice meal I told Willow my story. She threw back her head and laughed in a pleasant and, despite myself I thought, a sexy way. I spent the most pleasant hour since my arrival, talking with this lovely lady. I nearly forgot for a few minutes that this would be the last time I would ever be able to sit across a table and carry on a conversation with a woman such as she.
The meal turned into a walk and talk that lasted all afternoon long. Surprisingly that evening I found myself at a candle lit dinner on the terrace next to the main hall. The longer I was with Willow the more beautiful she seemed. I learned she was a widow. To my surprise I learned hurricanes came through this part of the world and sometimes caused great devastation. Ten years ago one had. Willow's husband who was in the Coast Guard, had been lost at sea while attempting to save an idiot who refused to listen to warnings and was too stupid to notice that swirling winds and blackly overcast skies, may mean he should get his ass back to shore.
I have lived in my small world for so long, nearly completely ignorant and uncaring about the rest of the world I didn't even know that the coast of New England and parts of Canada felt the fury of those storms as often as the southern part of the Eastern seaboard and my home state of Louisiana.
I finally left Willow, after thanking her for one of the best afternoons and evenings in a very long time. I lay in my bed and reflected on the day. Just before I fell asleep a thought entered my mind. For the first time since I'd been told I was going to die from cancer, I cared.
Early the next morning I woke up at Jim's ungodly hour of four thirty. I dressed then went to the front office. I'd been informed that coffee and rolls were always available there at any time of the day or night. The coffee was fresh and the roll was delicious.
I strolled around and watched the sky beginning to pink. I got into my boat and watched as the day arrived. I hadn't done that in so many years I couldn't remember the last time. A feeling washed over me, an impending sensation that something very different was going to happen that day. Many times in the past, I'd had these come upon me, and each time something extraordinary occurred. On one of those days I'd met Esther in a Denny's on I-45. That had been the best of them.
I stopped the man on the golf cart as he rode by. "Where could I get some sandwiches, a thermos, ice for this chest and bottled water?" I asked.
"Give me a list of what you want and I'll be back in a half hour." He said. He was as good as his word. I packed everything that was perishable into the ice chest, flipped the toggle switch, looked and was happy not to see much water come out of the little hole, turned on the engine, cast off the lines and slowly and very carefully headed out in a south easterly direction.
After a small amount of experimentation I figured how to synchronize the engines and leaving a gentle wake behind me, I moved across the calm flat waters. Wind rushed through my hair and I felt more alive than even before I was told I was going to die in two years. Ahead of me I saw open waters. My God, I thought, that's the Atlantic Ocean. I turned left keeping land in sight on my left side. Was that port or starboard? I didn't know or care, just as long as I knew left from right and the four points of the compass were fairly firm in my mind. I had no plan further than this. I was strictly along for the ride, wherever that took me.
The sun rose higher ahead and to my right. Even moving across the water I felt the heat begin to affect me. I was a lot older, sicker and weaker than I had felt a few hours ago. I drank a bottle of cold water but couldn't get past the sight of a sandwich. I began searching for a place to turn. To my right I now and then spotted parcels of land and on my left land appeared from time to time. I hadn't seen another boat since I'd left. Slowing the boat I turned the steering wheel to the left. A fear of hitting a rock or reef or whatever the hell was underwater in this part of the world stopped me. I straightened the boat back in the direction I'd been heading.
A wave of dizziness caused me to sit back down. A thrill of fear raced through me. Fear of what? Dying, big deal. I tried to stand so I could better ascertain if there was any danger of anything ripping out the bottom of the boat. Darkness closed on me.
"Who is he, dad?"
"I don't know son, some old man who had no business taking this craft out by himself." Boy, was he correct. I strained to open my eyes. I had no idea where I was. Not home in Louisiana, not even back at the cottages, and oh shit, not in my damn boat. I tried to move and felt a sharp pain stab through my chest. That's interesting, I thought. So I'm going to die from a heart attack instead of slowly rotting inside till something vital quits working. I slowly moved my head to the right and saw the back of a couch, turning left I looked into the dark blue eyes of a kid about 10 or 11 years old. He was on his knees staring at me.
"Uh." I moaned. He had been balanced, leaning slightly toward me. He threw himself backwards and slid on his butt for several feet.
"Daddy." He screamed.
"What, what is wrong with you?" I heard a heavily accented voice.
"He's alive, daddy."
"I know that son." I forced myself to look a little further and saw the biggest man in the world standing in a doorway. The opening had to be at least seven feet high and the man's red curly hair was brushing against the top of the frame. He was dressed in a flannel shirt, blue jeans, and work boots. The thought slipped through my mind that he must buy his clothes from a very special 'big and tall shop.'
"So, Mr. how do you feel?" He asked as he approached me were I was lying. Up close he seemed to be a modern day Paul Bunyun.
"I. . .I'm okay I think, where am I?"
"On my couch."
"Yes I assumed as much but where am I?"
"Okay, where in Maine."
"You know Maine, do you?"
"What?" I managed.
"You know Maine, you know the state of Maine, the coast?"
"No sir, I don't."
"Then if I tell you the name you still would not know where you are?"
"No sir I wouldn't, are we anywhere near Cabot Coves?"
"Ha, not hardly my friend, Cabot Cove is many miles from here, many miles."
"North or south of here?"
"Why what?" I was getting dizzy and my chest was aching worse than ever. Why was this man playing a lunatic game of twenty questions with me?
"Why you ask so many questions?" He had me there. The last thing I remembered was cruising on calm flat waters in my new boat, feeling the heat rising and then blackness. Now I was lying on a strange couch in a strange house with an even stranger giant standing over me acting none too friendly.
"Why is my chest hurting?" I asked hoping to change the flow of the conversation.
"You bash it."
"I bashed it?"
"Yes, on boat wheel."
"Where is my boat?"
"Over there in my cove." He said indicating an area somewhere behind the couch. I struggled to sit up. The pain threatened to put me under again, but I was determined to ascertain my present location, and if I saw the slightest opening: I was going to limp as fast as possible back to my boat and away from this crazy man. Just as I began to fade again he gripped me under my armpits and, as if I was a tiny child, he lifted me and turned me around till I could see my boat, tied up on a small dock. Then he plopped me back sitting on the couch.
"Now you sit down and eat. Bjan, get the man a plate of food." The boy had apparently gotten over his fear. He piled something on a plate and placed it in my lap. I didn't think I would be able to eat but in very short order I had an empty plate.
"I'm Bjan." The boy said, back on his knees staring at me.
"My dad is Aoalvaldr."
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Aoalvaldr." I couldn't understand what he was saying, "Call me Valdr." I heard. The giant was standing in the doorway again, He had a huge axe resting on his right shoulder. The blade flashed in the sun that streamed in behind him. I darted glances from the boy to the man and the axe.
"What kind of name is that, Romanian?" I asked. Had he said Vlad Hadn't that been the original name for Dracula?"
"Oh, see like Norway,"
"Yes, maybe. Viking." Okay I wasn't about to argue with this man mountain but the little I recalled about the history of the Vikings they had pretty much hung around Iceland and maybe north Newfoundland. I'd never heard of them coming this far south.
"I see." I said noncommittally.
"Come." The boy came over to me and grasped my right hand. I had no idea what he had in mind, but as long as I was in this house owned by the large man, I wasn't going to argue. Around the couch and to the left the boy walked up to a curtain. He tugged on a cord and as the blinds moved apart I was surprised to see, not a window but a huge painting. The thing was at least six feet wide and four or more feet tall.
It was spectacular. Bright colors dazzled me for an instant. As my eyes focused I saw a Viking type boat. The mast was listing to one side and as I looked closer I saw it had snapped in half. Huge waves rose around the ship and on the deck men were scurrying around. Except for two of them. A tall and powerful looking individual stood on the deck, his hands firmly planted on his hips and I could feel what he was doing. Shouting commands to the frightened men. His stance indicated he felt no fear.
Another individual was doing something I couldn't begin to comprehend. A slim man stood in the forefront of the picture near the rail of the heaving ship, in his hands he held a bow and arrow. The painter had perfectly illustrated the power the archer was employing as he pulled back on the bow and seemed about to shoot an arrow, somewhere. But where? Why would someone be standing on the heaving deck of a ship that had a busted mast and a sail that was flapping in the savage wind? Why wasn't the man who I knew was the master of this ship not screaming at the idiot to stop hunting and start bailing or whatever else was necessary to save the boat and crew from sure disaster.
"Bjarni Hejolfsson. He said pointing at the captain. "His son." He indicated the man holding the bow and arrow.
"What is this, do you know the history behind this painting?" I asked.
"Yes, come with me and I'll tell you." We walked outside and he was nice enough to wait for me as I slowly followed him, now and then stopping to draw in a deep breath into my sore chest. I had prodded my chest when I went to the bathroom and I was fairly certain nothing was broken.
"Please. He said pointing to a log. We sat.
"Bjarni Hejolfsson was a Viking, one of the greatest explorer of all of them." He began. He was young and seemed very earnest so I didn't correct him, Eric the Red was the greatest, wasn't he?
He continued his story. He mentioned Eric and a few other Vikings I vaguely recalled, Viking lore had never been of much interest to me. But as the boy talked his eyes had a gleam, a light that was powerful and I soon got caught up in his tale. I even forgot about my slightly crushed chest and my boat.
Bjarni was an explorer alright. All of the Vikings had been brave, fearless and expert seamen, perhaps the greatest that have ever lived. Their small boat called a Knarr was built to withstand all types of seas. While Eric and the rest were busy discovering and settling Iceland and other places it seemed Bjarni made it a habit of getting lost. Although he often found himself without a clue of where he was, he eventually found his way back to the pack.
No one could convince him not to continue in his dangerous pursuits. It finally came to pass that Bjarni never returned to Iceland or any other known haunts of the Vikings. Everyone assumed he had died in a horrible storm that took him and his entire crew, which included his son, Bjani.
As Bjani told me this story his body actually seemed to put out a glow, an aura, blue in color. We were four feet apart but I felt this, whatever it was. Despite myself I was enveloped in a joy I had never known, even with Esther. Blue eyes flashing the boy talked.
Bjarni had ended up right here he believed. He and his father were direct descendants of these brave but foolhardy Vikings. Slowly his tale wound down. My mind cleared and I once again could think. That boy was a hell of story teller, he'd gotten me so wrapped up in his tale I had completely lost my sense of where I was and what he was, just a kid with an overactive imagination.
"Were there women Vikings with the men?"
"Oh no women were forbidden on the ships, bad luck?" He explained.
"I see who did they marry to continue the line?"
"Shoshone Indians, they got along real well." I'd say, I thought.
"Bjani, don't bother the old gentleman with your stories. Mr., tomorrow I walk to town, I bring back some gas for boat, you drive back to town fill up and go back to where you come from, okay?"
"Gas, is it out of gas? That's strange I got it filled up just before I left."
"God look for you, you come over 100 hundred mile, burn all gas, not hit anything. Yes God watch for you." The enormity of what had happened finally penetrated my thick skull. I'd run up the coast of Maine for over a hundred miles, somehow my body had fallen in such a way that I locked the wheel. I agreed with Valdr, God did look after fools and drunks. I was no drunk but seldom had there ever been a bigger fool than me. Was I up to steering that damn boat back to Cabot's Cove, could I without passing out again? I didn't know but unless Valdr was more forthcoming I had no clue on how else I was going to get back down to there.
Back inside Bjani sat in front of the painting. I pulled up a chair and joined him. What a mystery this thing was. I could feel the tension in the muscles of the young blue eyed man as he drew back on the bow, but why? What in hell was he doing? The more I looked at the thing the more I saw. Details I hadn't noticed before suddenly were there. At the top of the surging white caps I saw something that was strangely out of place. Something brown seemed to be sitting on top of the water. Moving my chair a little closer I still couldn't identify the object. It seemed to be forked, a cut in the middle.
"I think it may be another boat." Bjani said as though reading my mind.
"Maybe, what's this?" I asked pointing to something barely visible behind the young archer's leg.
"I don't know, I don't remember ever seeing that before." He said. Excitement filled his voice. We moved closer to the painting. Eagerly we pointed out details.
"I think that's some rocks back there, over the water." I said.
"Come." He stood up and raced to the door, I followed a little slower. Outside he pointed. "Look." I looked across the water, I saw more land. I hadn't paid any attention before because I really didn't give a damn what was over there. I was worried about what was over here, which was me, more or less, stranded. At the very top of what seemed to cliffs of some kind I saw the fork, the same as in the painting. The waves must have been horrendously high, How frightening that must have been for those poor men on that boat. Even across the cove I knew that several hundred feet of land had been obscured by water.
I turned and looked at our side of the cove. I had a crazy idea, an impossible thought and I didn't say anything to Bjani. I was suddenly, as caught up in this as he probably had been for years. I wanted to know, I needed to know. Inside the house I studied the young man in the painting. Behind him was the strange looking object that didn't seem to fit in with his clothing or the bow and arrow.
"What's this," I asked pointing to the article once again. I searched the canvas looking for anything that resembled the item, than I saw it. Dangling from the broken mast, being flung by the winds and the water they wrapped themselves around everything.
"It's a rope, see here and here. The same color." Now I was as excited as the boy. My chest pain was gone and I felt twenty years younger. Together we hustled once more to our vantage point near the cove. I gazed at the slope across the way moving around until I was fairly certain I was as close to the position the painter had been. Turning 180 degrees I searched. All I saw was a stand of trees. Large trees that had probably been growing here when the ship went down in the savage weather depicted on the beautiful painting. A thought kept intruding and I kept pushing it away. It was too ridiculous to even consider. But putting all the clues together I felt I knew what the young man had been attempting to do.
As though he could somehow read my mind or perhaps his mind had been running in the same vein mine had, Bjani screamed. "The trees."
He made a beeline for the biggest of them all. Standing next to the huge trunk he seemed so very small. Turning he raced for his house. In a few minutes he returned carrying a stool and a small axe. Yep, we were thinking alike as impossible as it was. Standing on the stool he stared intently at the trunk. Hesitantly he began to chip away small pieces of the wood. Once again that glow came off of him. A brilliant blue filled my vision and warmed me and stirred up such happiness and joy as I had never felt in my life. I couldn't rationally explain what was happening, but then the last few days had been the strangest in my life, and they just kept getting weirder.
Into the light walked Valdr. He spoke to his son but I couldn't hear what was said. The boy pointed to the tree and then back to where I stood, He wasn't indicating me but the rocks behind me across the cove. The man shook his head but even from here I saw the love he had for that strange blue eyed child. Taking the axe he began chipping away. Soon he had a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Carefully he worked, never taking a hard swing but steadily making the hole deeper. At one point I started to go over to where they were. The boy looked at me over his shoulder and at first I believed he was very angry with me. Surprised I stopped dead in my tracks. Staring at him listening to the chopping sounds his father was making I realized it wasn't anger on his face.
A complex mixture of emotions, were represented on his young visage. Hope, need, fear, want and a silent please, were sent my way as clearly as though he had spoken. I stopped and waited. I don't know how long the chopping went on. I became numb and wrapped in a cocoon where nothing could intrude. I felt no pain in any part of my body and my mind was at peace, completely happy.
A huge sob brought me back to the present. I became aware that the boy was waving at me, come here his gesture indicated, quickly. I got close to the trunk of the huge tree and studied the hole Vladr had made. His index finger as large as some hot dogs I'd eaten in the past, pointed to an object that was imbedded in the wood. Tears streamed down his face.
It was there, right where I thought it would be. Gently Vladr worked the object loose and soon he had it out and placed into the hand of his son. Bjani turned to me and held out his hand as though it held the Holy Grail, and to him, perhaps it was. A large arrow head nearly covered his palm. I didn't know what type of material it was made of but it had to be something very hard.
The strength and ability of the young archer in the painting had been almost Godlike. A distance of two hundred feet, standing on the deck of a wildly heaving ship, wind and surf slashing across his face, and still he had sent an arrow into the trunk of this tree over a thousand years ago. Lashed to the shank of the arrow had been a rope. The missile had driven so deeply into this mighty growth that the men had been able to somehow cross to the shore.
Five years later I sit on my back deck and look at the tree line waiting for an animal to come racing out of the woods. It's a little harder to see now since I've stretched screening across the open space. I even had to put in a door. Jim of course helped me, never once shutting up the entire two days it took us to do the job. I don't see Jim as often as I used to. His visits have been curtailed, for me. He knows I no longer need him as much as I once did. My friend had helped me keep my mind off of my death that was soon to come.
The witch doctor in Lafayette shook his head after he had run about 9,000 tests on me.
"I've never seen this type of cancer go into remission as yours' has. Strange very strange." Hell with him, it wasn't my cancer and I was glad to see it go.
No, Jim only comes by once or twice a week now. I am always happy to see my dear friend, not because I'm lonely, because I love him.
"Penny for your thoughts."
"Oh they're worth a hell of a lot more than that sweetie. But for you they're free."
"I already know what they are, you silly old man. Would you like more lemonade?"
"Don't mind if I do." I love that woman, even if she is a damn Yankee who swore she would buy a stock of plasma for transfusions if I didn't screen in the back deck. She smiled at me as she poured some more lemonade in my glass.
"I love you Leo."
"I love you too, Willow, thank you for loving me."
The End. This is copyrighted material and may not be reproduced in any fashion in part or whole without the permission of the author, Lionel A. LaVergne