|nonoctave.com / Rebel Yell / Part II / Chapter 1|
|Rebel Yell||Jason Scott||Part II - Landlocked!|
Forced circumstances ashore can result in a hum-drum lifestyle which will drive the sailor inexorably back to the sea.
A year and a half had passed since completion of my one and only blue water experience. An experience which packed into a relatively short trip and time span more real sailing than most people get in a lifetime. Considering the physical condition I had started and finished the first trip with, it was only logical that a lot of that experience had to be packed into a seemingly short time span because it appeared that somebody up there had shortchanged me on longevity. . . or so it looked.
Disasters are not without their fulfillments, however. There is a certain amount of delight in wallowing the memories. (One does have a tendency to wallow after cheating Azrael out of the results of an extended effort on his part.)
Traumatic happenings can become very important milestones in the overall experience of life as there is no way of knowing, for sure, just how much time is left to enjoy the goodies made available by a momentary whim of providence. A whole picture can change on another throw of the dice and, for me, it did!
Just when the point was reached of not being able to walk across a room without stopping for a rest, a second and eminently successful genuine open heart procedure performed by the eminent surgeon, Norman Shumway of Stanford, with the unwitting sacrifice of a pig (he gave up his aortic valve) and, in doing so, returned one human being to a relatively normal life. Shumway’s comment at that time is clarion clear: “If you live six months, you live forever!” Forever was sure good enough for me. They were playing my song again. Second verse. . . same chorus! Plans had to be laid for whatever “forever” meant. Plans which involved a lifestyle which not all members of my immediate family either concurred with or understood. . . to this day. Means were at hand to do anything feasible within certain constraints of income and partnership. Never had I confided that there were only two things in life I had really wanted to do: sail and write. The time was at hand. To hell with the continuing struggle to make a fortune and a place in the world. In the light of that mundane drive, I had anchored over a mud bar. The rest of the family seemed to be content with the status quo but it was up to me not to get caught when the tide ebbed. I assessed my situation.
Thus far my lifestyle pattern followed that forced by any prevailing wind. Anyone can easily predict which port that will leave you. Dullsville! Unfortunately it is not always possible to leave the mundane immediately when one recognizes that Dullsville is where you are. Time spent in an undesirable port is sometimes necessary in order to organize and plot a proper course to where the WAYWARD WIND blows away from Dullsville.
There had been a quantum jump for the better since the days when Captain Cardiac roamed the frosty blue. I was well and getting feistier by the day. It was high time to find and follow that wind. Except for 10 year old Jeff, my family was not exactly ecstatic about the prospect of leaving what they considered to be the easy life. But there is a predictable series of events which closely follows a pattern when most prospective salts broach the subject of leaving the established nest for a few years of ocean cruising. The realization came to me that the time had come to advise all hands that the anchor was about to be weighed before the tide was out. In this case the type of lifestyle which I had been sluiced in to gave plenty of warning of what was to come if we stayed in that particular port. I had been turned into a house-husband. Some of the aspects of it were interesting.
Show me a man who goes with the tide and I’ll show you a man who will be left up the creek!
All was not well in Ramona. We had bought a beautiful little Spanish style house in that small mountain village about 40 miles inland from San Diego proper. The purpose, ostensibly, for settling down in such a bourgeois community of chicken farmers and goat ropers was to have the family properly resident in a nice community and a comfortable house which they could afford to maintain with income which was expected to continue coming in after my demise. That purpose no longer held water. The reasons for isolation in a rustic community with little to do but shovel manure from a barn and talk about the latest chemical developments to prevent heat prostration amongst the laying hens were, with my recovery, gone with the wind! A prevailing wind at that!
As with all prevailing winds, things were becoming too predictable. Not a single change of the sail set was necessary. It soon became quite evident that my rapid return to health was not compatible with the serenity around the house. . . to say nothing of the neighborhood!
One thing a normal housewife does not need is an idle male under foot every day interfering with her normal work-a-day routines. The peace and quiet females enjoy as domestic engineers seems to make the whole chauvinistic process pushed off on them worth while. . . but they will not tolerate any deviation for long. Something or someone has to give.
In this case, since no one would hire me in the field for which I had trained (poor insurance risk), Chris decided that we would reverse roles. I would stay home as the house-husband and she would go to work. It was relegation to the role once cherished by women and it didn’t set too well with me. I had always admired and appreciated that role but it wasn’t something which I had been psychologically equipped for.
There was no doubt in my mind after several months of that kind of action that I was not flexible enough to be a professional homemaker. It just wasn’t possible to bring myself around to being just one of the girls. For a while, emulation of the soap opera syndrome was attempted in order to have something in common to talk about to my neighborly peers. Even that didn’t work too well, as my availability during the day when husbands were away cast some unreasonable suspicions on the part of the local cadre of husbands. And, then too, there was the usual amount of unfounded gossip amongst the wives who had nothing more exciting to do in this isolated area than to conjecture about what could very well be happening under their noses! It got so bad that the husbands were starting to cut me off sharply when I attempted to communicate with members of my own gender. And, to top it all off, it appeared to me that some of the wives were starting to give me obviously covetous looks! (I suppose one could quickly get paranoid about such things.) I became so paranoid that it was necessary to take more than one bath a day just as an excuse to examine myself more closely to assure that all the proper equipment was still there! Under these dire circumstances there was no doubt that real trouble was abrewing in the little Peyton Place of the San Diego Outback.
Before the storm hit with full force, I knew that an immediate tack was in order. The eye of the storm hit as I sat one morning at my next door neighbor’s coffee klatch.
It seems that the girls had become so used to me at their sessions that they no longer looked on me as one of a different gender. (Not all of them of course.) They had fallen back into the usual conversational routine which had been practiced before my intrusion. (It didn’t take too much imagination on my part for me to temporarily feel like one of the girls.) Until this particular subject came up I had been holding up my end of the intercourse (no pun intended.) Somehow the conversation got around to having children and before you knew it each wife was discussing in gross detail their labor pains. It occurred to me at that moment that, no matter how hard I tried, this was a conversation I could never enter into. Having and discussing labor pains was a field no man could enter. It was there and then that my efforts to fulfill the role of house-husband were scuttled. There was no place for me in that society so, I cut and ran! For solace, I again sought out the sea.
During the day, it was down the hill some 35 miles to the harbor to gaze at the ocean and, more important, talk to some real males who did not have an inkling of what an ignominious state I had fallen into. This absence from duties as a house-husband caused my efficiency in that area to deteriorate even further. Soon, I became resentful of Chris’ snide remarks alluding to my sloppy housekeeping. All of this came to fruition about the time the six month trial period Shumway had talked about passed and it looked as though life for me could go on normally.
All of the major body overhauls and installation of spare parts had depleted family cash reserves but this did not deter my feet from getting itchy. My mind and health were good and I had a goodly amount of experience in rough water sailing. The more I looked at world cruising yachts and read the adventures of Slocum, Hiscock and Hayden spiced with Flynn’s My Wicked Wicked Ways the better that life looked. The dreaming got to the point where mental voyages were planned. It was time that the patient but non-adventurous Chris was approached on the subject. As with all things of that nature, it had to be done most delicately. Delicacy had never been one of my fortés but I did know how to check the depth beneath my keel!
A prudent skipper always checks to see just how much water he has under his keel before the anchor is thrown.
Chris’ depth of feeling on the subject of sailing was pretty well known to me by this time but bottoms do shift. What was it now that the trauma of the sail of the SIBLING had long since become a topic of good conversation between she and her less adventurous friends. The time to probe seemed to be at hand one evening while we were sitting by the pool having our usual before dinner cocktail. These after work libations were getting more and more routine since Chris had taken up the work-a-day world. The stresses at work seemed to make relaxing to the tune of several Manhattans every night the right thing to do.
The routine was becoming somewhat bothersome, though, because between the fatigue and the booze, hanky-panky had slowed down to a crawl. Conversely, my energies along those lines had been increasing by leaps and bounds for reasons which seemed to be the antithesis to her condition. Besides, I reasoned to myself, all the opportunities which presented themselves to me during the day (being the only man around) were gnawing at my libido! And, I told myself with male logic, all I seemed to be getting browsing the legal pasture was that which could survive in overworked soil! These were dangerous sexist thoughts!
“Chris, I’m just not going to make it as a house-husband. The men around here are beginning to suspect that I’m not in such bad shape that they do not have to worry about my availability.” Long pause while she contemplated that revelation. I continued. “I’m starting to get psychotic because, just the other day, I couldn’t join in with the ladies and describe my labor pains.”
She didn’t even bother to look up from her book as she sipped a bit and then countered in a most non-emotional monotone.
“Well, if you’re slipping out, it sure hasn’t made itself evident to me.”
The flattery could not deter from pursuing the real subject at hand. She had consumed enough kickapoo that an aire of contentment and relaxation settled over her face. It was an ideal time to lead her into a proposition. (We men are real stinkers when it comes to taking advantage. Odgen Nash’s observation was appro pro: Candy is dandy but likker is quicker!) I pursued the point.
“I’m not concerned about that. What really gets to me is that I’m too damned young and feel too damned good to hang it up. I’ve got to do something more physically and mentally active. Besides, (I was getting warmed up) do you really want a man who is content to retire and sit around in a rocking chair discussing how long to keep the lights on in the hen house to get just two more eggs a day?”
“If you’d do a better job around here, you’d have plenty to keep you occupied without bothering the local hen houses.” (Could she have heard any of the rumors and conjectures rampant in the neighborhood?)
Notwithstanding, there it was again. A nasty reference to my failure as a house-husband. I had to move into something which would better utilize my talents. Hell, I wouldn’t have made a good mortician. . . or a spy. . . or a politician, either. It just didn’t make any sense to be forced into a career which was equally as obtuse just because of a few lousy breaks. Everything told me that physically I could cut it as a world cruising sailor. This time with my whole family! No sense trying to fool myself or anyone else. “There comes a time when you have your head in the lion’s mouth that you have to take it out.” There would never be a more opportune time!
An example (for those who need it) of devious small talk designed to con an unwilling spouse into leaving a comfortable nest for life on the briney deep.
Chris was unaware that I had been longingly looking at the sea again and musing over the aborted sail down the coast. The taste of blue water salt is aphrodesiac to some people and I happened to be one of them susceptible to its siren call. It’s time to pour yourself another before broaching the subject further, I told myself. Time to spice the main brace. Better still, under the circumstances, Jas, you had better double splice it! I rose from the lounge and looked at Chris. She lazed there with eyelids squinted down pretending she was unseeing. God, what cowards we of the so called stronger sex are when it comes to our spouses, came the thought as I turned and went into the house.
After making a super stiff one for myself, I turned for the door and hesitated for a second thought (an evil one at that!) Returning to the well source I made an equally stiff one for her as a smile flitted inwardly.
“Odgen, you were so right,” I murmured to myself. “Catch her in a weak moment!”
She met my offer with a quasi-quizzical look for what appeared to her to be inordinate thoughtfulness. The book fell to her lap and, after a sip, she lidded her eyes once again and lay her head back. There was a bit of a wait to savor the results of my depravity.
“Chris, if we are ever going to do something exciting as a family, this is the time.”
“Ummmmm. Exciting, huh? Like what?”
“Sail around the world, that’s what!” There, I got it out!
I knew her well enough to guess how long the delay was between lighting the fuse and when the explosion would hit. Her eyes popped open with a look of incredulity and, worse, sobriety. The book dropped to the ground. Hell, I thought. She wasn’t as mellow as planned. I was to be hoisted by my own petard once again. Might as well continue on!
“Let’s sell the house, store the furniture, have a boat built just exactly the way we want it and spend the next couple of years world cruising.” She just stared at me. “Just the three of us this time.” Still no response. It was as if I had just stepped on the Queen of England’s train!
“Oh, my God!” (her voice was raspy) “Here we go again! Just now we’re settled down in a beautiful home in the country and you want to pull up stakes again.” At that, she poured what was left of her “bomber” on the ground, rose and went into the house. I followed.
“Chris, you know the situation has changed. We can do it now. You can’t expect us to molder away out here amongst the chicken pluckers and goat ropers. We’ve been accustomed to more real living than what is available here.”
She stopped at that observation and turned. The look on her face reflected something far less than abject admiration. In silence she retreated to the kitchen, fixed her own drink this time and returned to sit by me by the pool in a somewhat quieter mood. That is encouraging, I told myself. Don’t make the mistake of oversell.
“We wouldn’t be happy here for long, you know. With house prices so high now, it is an ideal time to bail out.” Then, knowing the great affection she had for her one and only son, a love that manifested itself in weakness when it came to him, I hit below the belt. “Think of the experience for Jeff. . . once in a lifetime. And at the ripe old age of ten! We could always settle down afterwards nearer civilization.” Her eyes focused on me. . . and saw right through me. I knew it and so did she! Quietly then, “Come on gal, what do you say?”
My conscience pangs gave way to my desire to give the boy something he would always remember. Up to now the opportunity I’d had as a father to give his son a better than standard life (an inborn fatherly desire) had fallen by the wayside first by severe illness and now by an inability to make the kind of money we had become accustomed to.
There were many fallouts for the good of the family which this line of thinking could facilitate by causing such an adventure to happen. One was that if we could get a yacht at a greatly reduced price from the factory in Taiwan, we could realize a handsome profit selling at our destination after all the fun of sailing her there was over. It would refurbish our depleted resources. The other was that this would give me the opportunity to write about the travel and adventures and launch into a new career. One which I had been dreaming about since high school days. Success in either or both of the fallouts would mean that it would be possible to have the family back together again with me the main provider. Chris liked that and so did I. This attitude on my part was admittedly old fashioned but it was just the way I felt. Not being able to openly express these inner thoughts, I joked.
“Besides, Chris. Wouldn’t it be nice to do these things while I’m still young enough and strong enough to pull the wahines aboard when they swim out to the boat?” No response given to that and no response expected. It was time to leave the conversation pro quid quo for the time being and play the waiting game. I thought warm thoughts about this woman who had shared so much with me up to that point. She was quite a gal!
An interval for pondering each other and reflecting on what had been and just where destiny would take us. . . alone or together.
Two weeks had transpired since the great pitch. Not a word had been forthcoming one way or the other. This was a good omen. During the interim a lot of thought went into how this family had arrived at this point in time.
One night I woke up long before dawn with the dreams of night fresh in my consciousness. While lying flat, eyes closed, a profusion of thoughts flitted through the mind. Chris stirred and turned from her usual cat-like curl into a position also flat on her back. A warm soft leg made its way in all innocence over mine. A warm feeling swept my being.
This was the woman who had lived with me through fantastically good times and horribly bad times. She had seen me through days when I was a man in the fullest sense of the word and then suddenly turned into a physically and mentally impotent vegetable hardly able to walk across the room without exhaustion. Now that phase was over.
There had been a glorious and uninhibited life with this woman. Most of the marriage, in fact. Even for the three years we had dated before the marriage there had been an intense awareness of each other’s mental and physical presence. This happened in spite of the fact that we had been married at a time when neither of us were exactly in the bloom of youth.
A smile flickered inadvertently as the thought came. Even when she walked by. . . or looked up. . . or smiled. . . or scowled, a positive quiver of warm feelings swept through my being. I wondered many times if other men felt this way about their wives after 12 years of marriage. Oh, yes. There had been disagreements. Even ugly quarrels. But, we made up easily and they only served to intensify the feelings we had for each other. By her unassuming response to any given occasion, it was evident that she felt as comfortable with this love affair as I did. It was more than a love affair. . . it was a consummate friendship.
Above all, Chris was a fighter once she got rolling. Her teen years had been spent growing up on a working cattle ranch amongst the tobacco spittin’ cowhands who had decidedly enriched her vocabulary. They had also fed her chaws from the time she was three and firmly addicted her to the weed.
Normally she was a perfect lady but, in certain circumstances, the rough side came through in no uncertain terms. If anyone had the opportunity to be around her for any time these diverse sides came through and made her the interesting person she was. In spite of her brilliance and ability to facilitate any task or subject which she had read up on, she was first of all a woman! One could best describe her as having a natural air of earthiness which, when combined with good looks, keen mind and wit, gave her a sexyness which was most appealing. I was convinced early in our relationship that this petite person was one of the few, male or female who could undertake any task she really puts her mind to and do it better than most anyone else. This talent seemed to be limited only by her desire to do it! It was great to have such a person as a friend, a wife and mother of your child. It was not good to have her as an enemy.
Oh, sure, she had some minor human failings. She liked to booze a little too well, smoked incessantly and never forgot or forgave once she made up her mind that she was not being treated properly. It took a strong man to be married to such.
Often I had wondered how long she would be able to maintain herself as erratic as our life had been the past two years. There was no doubt in my mind that prolonged illness has the effect of dulling and eventually killing even the most resolute of love affairs. Every person has their limits and it seemed inevitable that what we had lenown together was gradually going downhill. Nothing kills affection quicker than a prolonged terminal illness which drags on and on and on! Memories of the vital days shared soon dulled. Each passing day seemed worse as the physical weakness increased an an attending mental deterioration started setting in. Until the last operation such had been the case with me.
It had always been a thing between the two of us that a great deal of the physical attraction each of us had for each other was the great admiration each had f or the other’s quicit mind. Could the downhill slide which occurred since the excitement of the sail of the SIBLING be rectified now that all parts of me were back to normal? Time would tell.
The red eyes of the digital clock beside the bed glared at me. It was 0300. Soon dawn would come. It was always something to see in this mountain country community. I sat up, slipped on some warm socks and made way softly out of the bedroom and on to the porch. A full moon spiced with a mountain clear sky illuminated the scene in soft brilliance. Still standing, I gazed out at the newly plowed field across Highland Valley road. The greening of spring had begun from a recent rain and the smell of unadulterated country permeated the air.
I had watched that rolling field when it was plowed anew and planted with feed oats. Responding to the seasonal prompts, it changed perceptively on a daily basis into an undulating ocean of varied golden colors as fall approached. Then, after cutting, it lay farrow as bales of newly harvested hay scattered randomly across its perfumed breast. Was there ever a manufactured odor that approached the clean smell of mowed hay?
Later, cattle would be turned out to graze between plantings. In the moonlight they could be seen resting near the oak trees. Some standing. . . some lying. Quiet. It was ever so quiet. Like the ocean, the scene ever changed. Constant in scenario but with different players and different costumes each day. The whole picture of life everlasting unfurled there for anyone who had the sensitivity to read and understand it.
The area had once been high desert until enterprising man had intervened. Now the only pieces which remained unchanged were the giant house-sized bluegray granite rocks which had been pushed aside and left by a capricious remnant of the ice age. Long since left but here remembered. They could reasonably be compared with the frailty of man and anything he created.
No matter what man does, the rocks still remain as a silent tribute testifying that a living ice age had long since departed. They will still be here when puny man, not withstanding his best efforts, will have left the scene. The last oil I had painted was of this scene. Gold and granite splotched against an absolutely flawless pale azure sky. My thoughts turned to my young son, Jeff.
Within three months after the sail of SIBLING we had bought this small tiled roof house in Santa Inez Valley and, after putting in a pool and fencing and paying off the rest of the hospital bills, all the cash was gone. But, what a setting for a 10 year old boy!
He had his pony, two rabbits, varying quantities of chickens which were thoughtfully thinned out regularly by visiting coyotes and hawks, a basset hound named Barney and a duck who considered the swimming pool as his own private pond. (Ducky-doo has a tendency to clog up the filtering system to say nothing about creating an occasional surprise while swimming!) Out in the fenced front grazed one of Jeffry’s pets which had become somewhat of a dangerous nuisance. . . François the steer. He had been given to us by neighbors when quite small and now weighed 1800 pounds. When he licked Jeff with that long hasp-like tongue (which he did regularly) it was almost enough to lift the skinny kid right off the ground! François would have to be put away into the freezer soon if we stayed. That would present a problem with Jeff. Leaving all this would cause a an incident with Jeff if there wasn’t something else just as exciting to present him with. A world cruise could be that thing. Was he up to it physically?
He had never been a strong child. Particularly after I had been transferred to Seattle. None of us had been told that the Puget Sound area was the number 1 place in the country for allergies. Six months of Fungis Corners and he developed physical problems which caused him to go entirely deaf. This was corrected by medication and surgery but not before the climate had extracted its toll on the boy. What he lacked in physical stamina, he made up in natural intelligence. Before his first grade days were over the San Diego school system had tested him and put him in the GATE program. It had its advantages but a lot of disadvantages which were beginning to manifest themselves soon after the teachers told him he was something special.1 Getting back to a world of responsibility and reality would do him good. It was obvious that missing a couple of years of schooling wasn’t going to have much of an impact on his scholastic progress.2
While these thoughts were playing with my mind, dawn came.
“Jas, are you all right?”
So engrossed in thoughts was I that her approach had not been detected. The sky was already turning pink with the impending rise of the sun over the Cuyamacas.
“I woke up and you weren’t there. Are you having any problems?” She answered her own question. “You look OK to me!”
“Yeah, I feel great,” I said waving at the fields across the way “Just sitting here enjoying the quiet and looking out across the hayfield. Reminds me of the ocean.”
“It is peaceful,” she allowed. “Don’t you think you’d better come in and get into something warmer? I’ll fix some coffee.”
A few minutes later she appeared with my robe. There we sat in the gathering light. . . silent. These moments are to be treasured. Where minds meet in silent intercourse spoken words seem to be an abomination. Eons seemed to pass before she went inside and brought out two cups of hot coffee. It wasn’t good for me but. . . what things that you like are?
“Reminds you of the ocean, huh?” Something important was coming “I’ve been thinking about what you said the other night.” There was a pause while she lit up. Whatever it was it would be either a bomb or a bouquet. Whichever, I had made up my mind to accept her decision gracefully and with finality. “It does seem that we should take advantage of our time and situation and do something exciting. it would be a wonderful experience for Jeff. You don’t seem to be happy leading the country life and,” she sighed, “I will just have to get used to none of the comforts of home for a while.” That afterthought was a harbinger which should have had closer attention paid.
I rose, went to her, kissed her on the forehead and took her hands in mine and paused to look directly into her eyes.
“Come on, lover. Let’s go back to bed. There is something I want to talk over with you whereby mere words just won’t suffice.”
|Chapter 1||Chapters 2-4|