With Astrid now onboard, Taggart’s sense of humor slipped into overdrive. And now, when he was alone with Dina he referred to the boy as ‘the tripod’ – yet these little references were innocent enough. Astrid was ten years older than Rolf, so this was going to amount to an innocent ‘crush’ – and nothing more – yet even so, the whole thing interested Taggart. Maybe because he could see echoes and elements of his own misspent youth in Rolf’s reactions to the girl, or maybe what he was watching was more like a universal construct: young man sees attractive girl; young man talks constantly about his life and accomplishments; young man walks around with a banana in his shorts…
So, the Astrid situation was a net plus, at least as far as he was concerned. Only good things could come of shaking things up a little…
For Dina, however, Astrid was another matter entirely.
She was convinced the girl had decided to come in order to bag Taggart, to wrap him around her little finger and string him along – or worse, a Gold Digger. She was, in other words, cynical about the girl’s motives. Taggart saw this as the inevitable ‘female bullshit’ that accompanied any territorial challenge like this, and so he ignored it.
Rolf moved his gear from the forepeak to the tiny, coffin-like cabin on the port side opposite the galley, and he seemed happy as a clam in his new digs. What mattered now, as far as Taggart was concerned, was that Astrid was onboard. And he hoped that as far as Rolf was concerned, that would be all that mattered, too. Such is the addled mind of a teenager whose brain is basking in a sea of testosterone, Taggart thought, Rolf’s focus would shift from his own medical condition to Astrid’s more than ample charms.
True to her word, Astrid brought along several bikinis in her duffel bag, and as the summer had been, so far at least, exceptionally warm, a bikini was on full display from the very beginning of the next leg of Time Bandit’s journey.
So, with Taggart’s nausea now under medicinal control and his next appointment already scheduled in Gothenburg, the Bandit left Oslo on a sunny July morning with the brightest prospects percolating away in Taggart’s mind. It was time, he thought, to have some fun, and Astrid might just be the key ingredient… Even Clyde seemed amused by her presence.
Oslo proper was at the end of a long fjord so it was a fifty mile journey just to get back to the open sea, a trip best made under power unless the winds were ‘just so’ – and of course they weren’t. Taggart laid out a course on the chart plotter that would keep them on the periphery of the main shipping channel as they departed the city; with that done he engaged the autopilot and sat back, content to watch the coming fireworks with a knowing grin plastered all over his face – because after watching Rolf’s reaction to Astrid, Taggart’s goal for this leg of Time Bandit’s voyage was changing. Now his objective was to get the kid well and truly laid.
Of course, human nature takes cues from mother nature, so more often than not the best laid plans do oft go astray. What could go wrong?
Leaving the fjord and turning southeast in the Skagerrak, Taggart had been expecting more in the way of weather – but that was not to be, at least not today. Sitting at the chart table down below, he began his latest midday log entry:
‘Oslofjord to Kattegat, about one hundred miles to make the entry channel at Gothenburg. Noon readings: OAT: 89 degrees F, sea temp 67F, winds calm, sea state calm, mirror-like. COG 165 degrees magnetic, SOG 5.7 knots, apparent speed 6 kts. Under power, all sails furled. Yanmar now has 400 hours total time. Making approx 6 kts at 1800rpm. Water and fuel tanks on departure: full. Skagerrak is THE main shipping channel for heavy traffic into and out off the Baltic. Radar on, guard zones set at 10, 5, and 1.5 miles, alarms active. Right now we are tracking more than 20 targets on radar, plotting sheets at the wheel, DB making entries and working plots.”
He went down to the galley and poured some mango juice, then went to his cabin and took his noon medications. He looked at his hands, satisfied, because he hadn’t had a jerking twitch in over 24 hours. No nausea, too – and that was a welcome relief…
He found his Tilley Hat and slipped it on, then made his way topsides. Rolf was on the wheel, Dina was working a potentially troublesome radar plot, and Astrid was…?
“Where’s the girl?” Taggart said as he slid onto the cockpit seat next to Dina.
“Forward,” Rolf said, grinning.
Taggart stood and took a look. She was standing inside the bow pulpit, one hand on the rail, the other on the forestay, and he thought she looked rather like Ursula Andress coming out of the sea in Dr. No. The bright yellow bikini she had on was barely covering anything – and Rolf was totally mesmerized at the sight of her perfect…well, everything looked perfect, Taggart had to admit.
‘Excellent!’ Taggart thought. ‘Everything going to plan.’
He moved over to the wheel. “Rolf, you better go up there and make sure she doesn’t slip and fall, I’ll take the wheel for a while.”
And he was off like a heat seeking missile. Just like any raging tripod could or would.
Dina scowled as she watched Rolf’s launch. “I have never seen a bathing suit quite like that one,” she whispered, her voice barely audible over the engine noise. “There’s almost nothing covering her pubic hair, and those little wisps of fabric over her breasts!? One could hardly call that a bathing suit!”
Taggart looked from Astrid to Dina and back to Astrid again: “Doesn’t leave much to the imagination, that’s for sure. From what I can see though, you’ve got better tits.”
“Henry! Don’t speak in such vulgar terms!”
He looked at her, then looked to the bow again. “Still, her ass may be a little tighter than yours.”
Dina slammed the plotting board down and stomped down the companionway.
“And the crowd goes wild!” Taggart said, holding up his hands in an imaginary ‘high five.’
Rolf was pointing out ships up ahead and land features off to the left – in Norway – and seemed to be enjoying himself immensely – when Dina came back up the companionway…
…wearing her idea of a bikini…
It was shiny black and didn’t leave a whole lot to the imagination, either.
Taggart stared at her, then shook his head.
“What’s wrong, Henry?”
“The kid takes one look at you and he’s gonna pop wood. Sure you want to do this?”
“His mind is elsewhere right now.”
“Mine sure isn’t.”
“You know, women your age aren’t supposed to look like you. You’re like, I don’t know, perverting the laws of nature or something.”
She smiled, drinking his words up like a peach daiquiri.
“Turn around, would you? I wanna check out your ass.”
Her expression turned to cold stone.
“No? Well, I guess you have to know your limitations…”
That did it. She whirled around.
“Well? What do you think?” she sneered.
“Looks good enough to eat.”
She shook her head and sat down, picked up the plotting board and reviewed her work, then looked at the radar. “I’ve been plotting this target for a half hour. It’s going to come close, maybe in about ten minutes.”
Taggart looked at the plot, then at the horizon. “Still too much haze to make anything out.” He ran a VBL, or variable bearing line, to the target and locked onto the blip; the computer in the set painted the target and displayed its course and speed, as well as its point of closest approach and time to closest approach. “Too close for comfort, Dina. Let’s raise the main and sheet it in, and pull the traveller to starboard. I want to increase our visibility a little…”
She went to the winch and pulled the main out, then sheeted the sail flat. Once positioned where Taggart wanted it, she walked up to the bow and spoke to Rolf, then came back to the cockpit.
“What did you tell him?” he asked.
“Just that we might be making a few turns.”
The radar alarm went off; the target was now on a collision course with them.
“Okay, that’s it.” He cupped his hands and called out to the two up on the bow: “Rolf! Hang on, we’re turning now!” He pointed to the left then he turned hard to port, turning directly towards the shoreline, now only two miles away. When the conflict alarm turned off he turned back to their original course. “Now…let’s see what they do…”
“Looks like they’re altering to port, as well. Moving away from us a little now.”
He relaxed. “So, wanna make a bet?”
“A bet? What about?”
“That Rolf nails her today?”
“Henry! Is that all you ever have on your mind?!”
“Pretty much. Yeah.”
“You’re acting like a teenager!”
“Thank you. Very much, as a matter of fact.”
“Are you still horny?” she whispered.
“Yes, of course. You’ve awakened some dark, hidden beast in me. What about you?”
She nodded. “Yes. So sorry, but I am too.”
He shook his head. “We’ll have to do something about that,” he sighed. “But we won’t get into Gothenburg until midnight or so. Can you wait that long?”
She shook her head. “What about right now?”
“Now? You mean…right here?”
He stood and she stood in front of him, then she pulled him free and backed down gently.
“Houston…I do believe we have contact,” he whispered.
She started moving around, doing her thing, and he held on to her hips.
Rolf turned around and looked their way – and his eyes popped wide open. Henry waved and the kid waved back; then he whispered something in Astrid’s ear. She turned around and looked, then she grinned and shot Henry a thumb’s up!
“Houston, I do believe we have a fully engaged tripod on the bow…” Henry said, trying not to laugh.
“I feel pretty full too, Henry,” Dina said as she began shuddering.
“Uh-oh,” Taggart said.
“She getting on her knees.”
“Who? Astrid?” Dina looked up but the wheelhouse blocked her line of sight now…
“Yup. Shorts are coming down…and yes, bingo…Houston, the docking probe is in full contact with the tripod!”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Be still, would you? You’re messing up my rhythm.”
“Whoops, I do believe we’re witnessing a case of premature…whoa…Houston, looks like we have spontaneous eruption! Repeat, the tripod is erupting!”
“Are you out of your mind!?”
“Just hang on, would you? I’m hitting the short strokes now.”
“I think we’re gonna have a daily double, ladies and gentlemen. Yup, thar she blows!”
And that was when a Danish fishing boat, the potential conflict Dina had been tracking on her plotting board, went by – about a hundred meters off their port side. And in an instant her entire crew was at the rail, shouting and waving and whistling at the floor show presented by a bunch of sun-drenched Time Bandits…running from time as if their lives depended on it.
The last mile of this leg was tough.
One in the morning and Gothenburg’s harbor was wrapped in heavy fog: Taggart could just make out the glow from his red and green bow lights in the mist, and now he was grateful the water was still a sedate mirror-like calm. Under engine-power alone, he was relying solely on electronic sources of information to work his way in; even so, he was cross checking depths as he passed numbered buoys, confirming his position indirectly as Bandit crept into the harbor, and then towards the marina where he’d reserved space for a week.
The state of the art of Bandit’s electronics allowed Taggart to lay out a route that would take him directly to the slip in the marina, and though he hated to do so, that’s exactly what he planned to do. Rolf and Astrid were below, hopefully sound asleep by now, and Dina’s eyes had shut an hour ago – so he decided to let her sleep. He slipped the transmission into neutral and rigged his docking lines, then he set out his fenders, the big rubber bumpers that would cushion the hull from any unexpected blows if he messed up his approach. With all that done, he kept his speed close to one knot and crept ever-so-slowly into the marina. He followed the chartplotter’s course-line through two turns – and still he couldn’t see beyond the bow of the boat – and then he was where the slip was supposed to be…
He made a wide, gentle turn, then he saw pilings ahead, maybe five feet beyond the bow, and yes, he was relieved to find an empty slip right where it was supposed to be. He sighed, let Bandit’s momentum carry them forward, then he slipped the transmission into neutral and let her drift into the slip. At the last moment, he slipped into reverse to slow their forward progress to a stop, then back to neutral – and then he stepped off the starboard rail onto the pier and tied off the bow and stern. Once his spring-lines were set he went back to the cockpit and got the shore power lines connected, then he shut down the engine.
He ran his fingers through Dina’s hair, tilted her head back and kissed her forehead.
“Hmm?” she moaned. “Need me to do something?”
“We’re here. Go below and get some sleep.”
Her eyes popped open. “What do you mean, we’re here?”
“We’re at the dock, already tied off…”
She stood and looked around. “How did you…? What…?”
“I’ve been doing this for a while. I’m actually pretty good at it, too.”
“You let me sleep? Why?”
He kissed her on the forehead again. “You looked comfortable. I didn’t want to disturb you.”
She wrapped her arms around him. “You do love me, I think…maybe just a little?”
“Maybe just a little,” he said before he kissed her again, this time not on the forehead.
They both heard it then. A gentle slapping sound, very rhythmic, the Bandit moving from the motion just a little…
“You know,” Taggart said, “either she’s a nymphomaniac or he’s got the biggest nuts in Europe. How many times can one guy get off in a day?”
“You’re just jealous…”
“You’re goddam right I’m jealous!”
“You do pretty well for…”
“Yeah, I know. Don’t say it.”
“For someone my age. If I hear that one more time I’m gonna go postal on somebody…”
“Yeah. I’m gonna mail ‘em a letter.”
She shook her head. “I’ll never understand you, Henry Taggart.”
“By golly…I sure hope you don’t.”
“Would you mind if I loved you? Maybe just a little?”
“Right now? Up here? Again?”
He looked around and now the fog only seemed thicker. “Why not, indeed…”
Dina woke him two hours before his appointment: “You’d better shower. And…put on some clean clothes this time.”
He sat up, yawned, then stretched. “God-dam that hurts! What’s with the whole burning leg thing?”
“It’s the Avastin. Circulation in your legs is being compromised.”
“Oh, man, does that sound not fun. What happens if it reaches my…you know…my tripod?”
She shook her head. “We’ll deal with that when and if…”
“Now…get in the shower.”
“Right. Where’s Rolf?”
“I stuck my head in the cabin. They’re still going at it, as you call it.”
“Goddam…I want a testicle transplant. Two of ‘em, as a matter of fact.”
He went to the head and turned on the water. “Dina, if she keeps doing him so often his pecker is just gonna fall off…”
“All I can say…she must have the labia of a rhinoceros. Is the water warm enough?”
“Yeah, fine. You wanna join me?”
“I wish we had time.”
“Well,” he said, looking down at his crotch, “that sure spoiled the mood.”
“Aw, did Captain Woody lose his…”
“Captain Woody? Where the hell did that come from?”
“Get dressed! Clean clothes! I’ll see you up on deck…”
The Sahlgrenska University Hospital was on the east side of the city and not at all far from the marina; it was so close it was hardly worth the ride in the taxi. Red brick, copper roofs green from standing up to the moist sea air, Henry took one look at the sprawling complex and decided he didn’t like the place. More to the point, he had a bad feeling about the day ahead and had already decided he was going to hate everything about this hospital. By this point, however, Dina could see the flashing red warning signs in his eyes, but she was getting used to his moods. Like all men – she told herself again as they walked up to the main entrance – Henry Taggart was reasonably predictable. And like most of us, she sighed, he was afraid of death.
They made it to oncology with little time to spare and she went in with him to meet his latest oncologist. She went over his charts and orders – his most recent had already been faxed over – and Taggart was sent off to the lab for bloodwork. When that was over and done with he went to get an MRI. An hour later he met with the oncologist again. This time without Dina.
The physician looked grim.
“Mr. Taggart, the radiologist reports metastasis to the lungs and lymph nodes. I’m not sure what you expect right now…”
“To make it to Christmas.”
The oncologist sighed. “Yes, your friend told me as much. Well, in the most aggressive case we could go in and remove the affected lobe, perhaps dissect the impacted nodes away from healthy tissue…it would be heroic but in the end the outcome would be unchanged. I’m afraid at this point that even chemotherapy will be ineffective. As for December? It is still possible, but I wouldn’t count on much more than that.”
He nodded. “I think I was expecting this,” he said. “Still, the finality is unsettling.”
“I’ve read about a few of the things you have done in Norway. You are living a big life right now, a life that only a few ever get to experience. I hope you cherish each moment. And frankly, I’m quite jealous. I would love to break away and do these things myself.”
“So…why don’t you?”
“Perhaps, in a few years.”
Taggart nodded. “In my experience people keep saying that to themselves until it’s about half-past too late, then they sit down in an easy chair and dream about all the things they never got to do.”
“Yes. Sounds perverse, doesn’t it?”
“It is perverse. Regardless, I’m grateful for your honesty.”
The physician nodded. “If I were to move on from here, I would try to be finished with this journey by October. Beyond that, I think the discomfort will become too much for even you.”
The physician shrugged. “Maybe sooner, maybe not. Where are you headed now?”
“Through the canals to Stockholm.”
“A wonderful trip, though crowded this time of year. You will enjoy every minute, I feel sure.” Then the man stood, held out his hand. “It was a great pleasure to meet you, Mr. Taggart.”
“Yes, and again, I appreciate your honesty. In this day and age it’s a rare thing.”
Dina met him in the waiting room, and he could tell she had been crying – though she had put on her bravest face for him now. She came and fell into his arms, and he kissed her forehead again and again.
“What is to become of us, Henry Taggart?”
“I think we should go find a preacher and get married,” he said gently.
She pulled back, looked into his eyes. “Would this make you happy?”
“I think I’d be the happiest man alive.”
“Then we should go do this, but could we do so in Bergen.”
“Alright. Fine by me.” He called Sigrid the Lawyer and asked if she could facilitate things, and she said she’d be happy to, as long as she was invited to the ceremony.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said before she rang off.
“What do you want me to tell Rolf?” she asked.
“We’ll focus on the happy things right now. Let’s leave all that other stuff alone for a while.”
“I need to call Britt,” she sighed, a tear rolling down her face.
“And I need to call SAS. I hope there’s a direct flight from here…”
There were no printed invitations, just a few phone calls made to friends and associates.
The dress code for the ceremony would, however, be rigidly enforced: sailing shorts, polo shirts, boat shoes with no socks, though baseball caps were considered optional.
Sigrid the Lawyer secured a civil magistrate to officiate the game, and Rolf stood as Henry’s Best Man, while Britt and Eva stood beside Dina. The ceremony lasted ten minutes, the reception was held down at the open air fish market; it went on until long past midnight. The local lobster population was seriously depleted, aquavit was rumored to be in short supply for days after the event.
It was decided that Rolf would take the semester off from in-person classwork, that his teachers would provide learning materials and that Dina would help with instruction. It appeared by then that Astrid would remain with him for the time being – to help with his continuing education, she said.
Britt and Eva were perplexed by the whole affair, though Britt was happy for Dina – to a degree. But, Taggart remembered, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Before the little group returned to Gothenburg, Taggart met with Sigrid the Lawyer in her Bergen office. They talked for a few hours, as a matter of fact.
Their first order of business, on the group’s return to Sweden, was to pick up Clyde at the veterinarian’s boarding kennel, and he seemed none the worse for his break from shipboard routines. By the time they made it back to Time Bandit Henry was breathless, pale, and his hands were rattling; even Clyde sat up and noticed in the taxi. After Henry made it to the cockpit Clyde came up and started sniffing him, starting at the ankles and working his way up one appendage at a time. When his nose hit Taggart’s chest he stopped what he was doing and started whimpering, then his tail slipped between his legs…
“I know, good boy, I know. The news wasn’t all that good, I’m afraid.”
That warranted a lick on the face, and Taggart leaned into the unsolicited affection, grinned at the purity of his friend’s love, and then he scooped up the pup and held him close. Clyde usually moaned at the close exchanges, but when he draped his front paws over Henry’s shoulders in a kind of canine hug, an astonished Dina stopped and looked at this overt display; Rolf had his phone out and snapped a few pictures of the moment – because Clyde’s feelings seemed to perfectly sum up the flavor of this afternoon. In fact, Dina thought Clyde and Henry seemed to be joining symbiotically, like they had some kind of spiritual connection with each other.
But Henry felt different now. ‘Maybe,’ he thought, ‘because everything feels like it’s changed after getting married. Like…a couple of days ago I was still like Rolf…I was still just a big kid. No real responsibilities, no binding ties to another person. But now? I’m not so sure what I am, or even who I am now…but I am no longer alone.’
No longer alone…
Dina helped him below to his cabin, got him under a blanket and his head propped up on a pillow, then Clyde hopped up and cuddled-in beside him. Yet Henry was asleep in an instant, and Clyde didn’t no what to make of this sudden change.
“How bad is it, Grandma-ma,” Rolf asked her while they washed down the Bandit’s deck and hardware, clearing away several days worth of grime and soot.
She looked at him and shook her head. “Henry will tell you. For now, just spend as much time with him as you can.”
Rolf nodded, but his shoulders sagged, his frown deepened. “I can’t imagine what he must be feeling.”
“Well, I do know that he loves you, and perhaps now nothing is more important to him.”
“Why did you marry him, Grandma-ma?”
She stopped what she was doing and looked up. “It’s funny, but the moment I saw him I knew this moment was coming. You and I, sitting out here just like we are now and you asking me this question…”
“Mother says you see the future.”
She shook her head. “No, that’s not true.”
“Then why do think you felt what you did.”
“I saw heartbreak, Rolf, when I first looked into his eyes. Mine, and yours – not his. Even your mothers, I think. And all of it…bound up in Henry’s eyes, and in his smile. I knew what was coming…”
“Because sometimes life just comes at you, Rolf. And you either come alive to the possibilities, or you just whither away inside the rot of lingering fear…and then you make for yourself a life not quite lived, if that makes any sense. Henry ran from that rot, Rolf, and I think that is what he hopes for you.”
“Don’t be. That is not what he wants, and it is not what you want. Not really, Rolf. Still, the choice is yours now, today, as it will be for the rest of your life. You can choose to live, or you can choose to embrace fear.”
“So, when you decided to marry him, you chose…”
“Yes, exactly. And the choice was a simple one.”
“Good, now we must get all this grime off the deck.”
“It’s funny to think of Time Bandit in a river, crossing a meadow…”
“Well, that is the beauty of a boat like this. It is a magic carpet that can take you almost anywhere you’d wish to go. Now, I haven’t had a chance to ask you about Astrid. What is going on with you two, Rolf?”
“I think it is just as you say, Grandma-ma. It was a simple choice.”
“I see. But Rolf, please consider this: you are young, and this is your first experience with love. Do not rush things. Take your time, get to know this girl.”
“She says many of the same things to me.”
“She is a good soul, I think.”
Rolf nodded. “I think so too.”
Astrid came up, back in her bikini again but now with a t-shirt on, and she watched Rolf at work, a gentle kind of smile warming her face.
“I think Henry just got in the shower,” she said, and startled, Dina looked her way.
“Oh? He was sound asleep a few minutes ago?” She moved to go down the companionway steps and check on him, and found he was indeed in the shower. “How are you feeling?” she asked.
“My mouth tastes like roadkill, but maybe that’s because Clyde’s ass was about two inches from my nose.”
“You were snoring a little. Is your mouth dry?”
“Yeah. Big time.”
“You are dehydrated, probably from the airplane. Are you hungry yet?”
“Not really, but I know I need to eat something today.”
“You can’t take those medicines on an empty stomach, Henry. You will get sick to your stomach if you do.” She could hear his sigh, deep and full of frustration. ‘I have to back-off,’ she told herself. ‘How would I feel if he admonished me all the time…?’ “Does anything sound good to you, at all?”
“Maybe some soup.”
“What if I bake some fresh bread?”
He stepped out of the shower and began drying-off. “We should go out tonight; who knows where we’ll end up tomorrow.”
“We should go slow,” she said. “Stop when we find a village that looks interesting.”
“You got my vote on that one.”
“Does Thai sound good tonight?”
“Sure. Good soup. How’s Rolf doing?”
“Worried about you. We talked a little. Let him think about things for a while.”
“Okay. Is it cold in here, or is it just me?”
“It’s cool out this evening. You might bring a coat.”
“You know, I don’t think I have any long pants onboard.”
“Just my offshore overalls and some kind of fleece under-layer.”
“Maybe we should shop in Stockholm, get some woolen slacks?”
“Well, we better get going. I can hear his stomach growling form here…”
They rode into the old city center to a highly recommended Thai place, then after dinner they walked a long shopping boulevard before riding back to the marina. Taggart’s hands were shaking badly by the time he walked onto the aft deck; still, he sat at the wheel and looked around the deck.
“Rolf, you did a great job today. Bandit looks great.”
“I had a good teacher,” he said, grinning. “Feel like some company?”
“Sure, sure. Have a seat.”
“Henry? How about some tea?” Dina asked.
He nodded. “Sounds about right.” After the girls went below he turned to Rolf. “You ready for the canal?”
“I think so. I was reading more about it today. Some of the locks sound challenging.”
“With four of us it ought to be okay.”
“Grandma-ma said something interesting this afternoon. She called Time Bandit a kind of magic carpet machine, a companion to take you anywhere you want to go.”
“I never thought of her life that, but in a way I guess she is. So, if you could go anywhere on her, where would that be?”
“Tahiti, I think. There seems to be something magical about those islands.”
Taggart nodded. “Good choice. This would be a good boat for that trip, too.”
“Why did you decide to come to Norway, to Scandinavia?”
“After my dad died I found a bunch of books about sailing around here. He’d even made a few notes on things he’d like to do once he got here, and the things he’d need on a trip like this.”
“So, in a way you made this trip for him?”
Taggart sighed. “Maybe. Maybe not for him, but to be with him – in spirit. For many years we didn’t talk much, I kinda lost track, dropped the ball. My life became one long pursuit – chasing money, making as much as I could.”
“Did you make a lot?”
Taggart nodded. “Too much. But the price I paid was too high. If I would have kept my head out of my ass I’d have known what my dad wanted to do…that he needed me.”
“So, you think he wanted to make the trip with you?”
Taggart nodded. “Yeah. I know he did, and I think that’s why he taught me to sail. Hell, he taught me about life while he taught me to sail. And he knew everything, too. About the oceans, sharks, whales, you name it. And navigation. My God…he knew absolutely everything about navigation!”
“Where did you sail with him?”
“Oh, up and down the Pacific coast. Washington and Oregon on one trip, and south to Mexico several times. Places like Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Acapulco. We raced to Hawaii twice, did pretty well, too. There used to be a race to Tahiti, but it took too long so we never did it.”
“What’s your best memory?”
“From sailing with him?”
“When I was a kid, I mean really little, I used to watch his hands – on the wheel. Unless it was really rough out he usually steered with just a finger or two on the wheel. He said he could feel the water better that way. I thought it was magic at first, because, well I was pretty small at the time and I could barely turn the wheel. Not him. He made everything look almost effortless.”
“You still miss him, don’t you?”
“Every day. Some people define who we want to be in life, Rolf. They point the way. For me, that person was my dad.”
Dina and Astrid came topsides with tea and cookies, and Taggart put his arms around Dina’s shoulders. “So, do you feel married yet?” he asked.
She nodded and smiled. “Very much so,” she added, kissing his forehead.
A group of kids was gathered on the grass, a couple of guys were playing guitar and singing – and they sounded pretty good. Henry looked at Rolf and Astrid; both were looking that way.
“Why don’t you two go check it out,” he said. “Might be fun, and look! No old farts!”
They laughed, then they skipped off the stern like a couple of rocks across a pond.
“Fun to be that age again,” he sighed.
“I’m enjoying this one right now.”
“Yeah? Well, me too, as a matter of fact.”
“What time do you want to leave in the morning?”
“Oh,” he said, “the tides look good around six, six thirty. If not, we’ll burn a ton of fuel getting through the city.”
“Well, the slower the better, as far as I’m concerned,” Dina said, a slight tinge of sadness in her voice.
“I don’t think I want this to ever end.”
He nodded. He understood. Time was the real enemy now, a predator – closing in for the kill.
© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next chapter will drop in a week or so.