Live as a captain, even when the tide refuses to carry you.
|Gripping the sandpaper, Mel's gaunt old hand moved in harmony with the majestic rhythm of the waves scouring the shore. |
Joelly leaned his surfboard in the primer-gray dent on Mel's pickup. The young man stood loose, with yellow blobs of crocheted hair on top of his natural black. He walked up to Mel like a rag doll, and looked over Mel. "How's the project?"
Mel ran his fingers through his gentleman's-cut, graying hair and looked at the wooden-boat-in-pieces he had scattered on the sand. He couldn't see a way to make it work. His dream of owning a rowboat sprang a leak when he bought the wrong wood--if it ever held water. "Hopeless. I'll never be out there."
"Dude?" Joelly picked up a block of Mel's wood. "Who cares."
"I do." Mel snatched the block from Joelly's hand.
Staring at him, Mel thought of the mortgage and the Norris account and his leaky radiator, and many others. Solve any one of them and a hundred more came in their place. "It's my one escape."
"Man? Don't do that."
Mel never thought Joelly, of all people, would tell him to grow up. Surely, though, Joelly would see reason. Mel whined, "But, I need this."
Nothing? "I'm stretched to the breaking point."
"So, we're stressing about whether your old boat will get off the ground." Joelly nodded. "Good thinking."
Joelly wasn't making sense. Mel's time on the boat promised to restore his balance with the universe. Surely, surely Joelly would understand; he had to. Mel opened his arms to beg. "Can't you see that I'll be better off out there, rowing?"
"Looks like." The surfer boy turned to the sunset on the waves. "But I saw something you didn't."
"What could you possibly see that makes this--" Mel swept his hands over the mess he had made-- "okay?"
"The look on your face." He took a deep inhale from his hand-rolled cigarette. "As you were sanding. The image of a sea captain."
Like lightning, that insight rippled through his mind, brightening the dusk for the time of a passing wave. I had felt something. Hadn't I? Mel glared down at the wood and scratched at it for a few seconds.
The rasp grated as if Mel scraped it against his own skin. The moment lost, Mel threw the wood down.
"So, you wiped out." Joelly slapped Mel's shoulder. "You found what you love."
Being thrown by a wave, not the worst thing. Mel glared even harder. Why won't you stop making sense?
He laughed and offered Mel a toke. "Remember them days."
Mel waved him away and looked longingly into the horizon. Could it be enough, to yearn for the sea? To stand on the beach, getting ready? Mel didn't see how. Still, the harmony of his hand against the wood--no different than upon an oar--that he already had. Other than a finished boat, what more could a man desire? And if he already had the essence, the rest would come, sure as the tide. Like a captain in drydock, Mel stepped up beside Joelly and took in the fading measures of sunset.
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