A woman’s laugh echoed across the marina, shattering the warm night air. Lights from the wall of apartments reflected on the dark saltwater, gently lapping against the hulls of a hundred sleeping boats. Randy St. Claire, a deeply tanned man with salt and pepper hair, leaned against a sailboat, the tip of his cigarette glowing brighter as he inhaled. When he heard the wooden slats of the dock creak, his head turned.
“So, what do you want now?”
“Hey, why so defensive, St. Claire?” Mr. D, a short greasy man, raised his hands as he approached. “I just came to talk.”
“That explains your sidekicks,” Randy St. Claire replied.
The short man was bookended by two beefy men with lumps under their tailored suit coats.
“Vinnie and Marco? Let’s just say they’re here for moral support.”
“They don’t look too moral to me.”
Vinnie clenched his monstrous hands into fists. “I don’t like your attitude; maybe I should fix it for youz.”
“It’s alright, Vinnie, we’re all friends here, aren’t we, St. Claire?”
“Whatever you say, Mr. D,” Vinnie replied with a glare.
Mr. D slid his hand into his pants pocket and pulled out a small tin of breath mints, popped the lid, and held the open container out.
Randy shook his head and flicked the butt of his cigarette into the water. “Is there a problem? I thought we agreed not to meet face to face.”
“I’m sending you another crew. I want them to make a run next week.”
“But your other boys are supposed to do the run next week.”
“Send ‘em both.”
Randy licked his lips and wiped his palms on his pants. “I don’t know…don’t…don’t you think you’re getting a little greedy?”
Mr. D put his head back and laughed. “You are something. Look here Randy, we’ve got a good thing going here; don’t go rocking the boat.”
“I’ve done everything you’ve asked-”
“And you’ve been paid for it - quite handsomely I might add.”
Randy pulled a wrinkled pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, tapped it against his palm, and pulled a fresh one out. Looking around the darkened marina, he parked the pack back in its home and retrieved a cheap plastic lighter from his pants pocket.
“So who are they?”
“Just a couple of taco-eaters my connection south of the border sent me.”
“Great.” Randy looked back at the boat he leaned against. “Do they know how to sail?”
“So I’ve been told.”
Randy lit his cigarette, dropped the lighter into his pocket and turned to Mr. D. “I don’t like it. I’ll set them up on a run for you, but I’m telling you right now; I don’t like it.”
Mr. D. waved away the cigarette smoke. “You don’t have to like it, partner. You just have to do it.” With a smiled, he turned and left.
Have you ever wondered what your favorite four-legged friend was saying behind your back? Or right to your face, for that matter? Your cat’s meow, your dog’s bark, or your horse’s whinny. The answer is a lot, and though I can’t speak for all of your furry companions, some of us are quite clever.
Take the majestic horse, for example. Although I have not come across many of the equine species first hand, those I have met were surprisingly intelligent, even if they are scared of everything.
By contrast, my experience with the canine group has been most disappointing. It’s true that the dog is considered man’s best friend, and for some poor unfortunate souls, that might be so, but this doesn’t mean your tail-wagging friend is the most intelligent character at the pound.
Cuervo, my drooling crime solving partner, is a prime example. In his case, looks are not deceiving. Please don’t get me wrong; as a companion I can’t put a price on Cuervo’s loyalty. Then again, even a pet rock is loyal. But when it comes to brains, Cuervo is a few bones short of a full rack.
Now, if you’re looking for real intellect in a companion, adopt a cat like me. Never has a more noble - not to mention good looking - animal ever been created.
It’s true, some might consider my opinion towards their beloved canine companions overly biased. My simple response to these ignorant fools is, “Why have opinions if you’re not going to share them?”
Delusions of Grandeur
Warily, the heavyweight prizefighter limps slowly through the shards of broken shadows, those cast softly upon his alley from the dirty street lamps beyond his privileged domain
Shrouded by hair as black as the moonless night, he patiently moves with a lifetime of practice, doggedly stocking his near silent and illusive prey-Solely to fulfill his primal needs
Like body armor, his thick scabby feline coat bears the scars of a soldier of fortune, hiding the lean muscular body of the warrior within
Anticipating the unexpected in each step his dark piercing eyes scan the arena with relentless resolve, searching out the slightest breath of movement
Lifting his perceptive nose to the sky he sniffs the still night air
Suddenly! His sharp eye catches the nearly imperceptible movement of an unfortunate victim and with lightning speed darts from the gloom of the filthy dumpster
Torn between the woman he loves and lives to protect, and his unfettered need to rid the world of the winged menace called, Seagull. One dog stands alone. A black lab named, Precious.
Molly and Precious shared a perfect life. Each morning they would awaken with the sun. After brushing her teeth, Molly would throw on a pair of spandex shorts, jogging bra and tattered pink sweatshirt, then quickly drag a brush through her long blond hair and pull it into a ponytail. On the way out the door of their one-bedroom Venice-Beach apartment, Molly would flip the switch on her coffee maker to start it brewing. There is nothing Molly enjoys more than a cup of coffee after her morning run on the beach with her trusty black lab, Precious. However, as much as Precious loved Molly and would do anything to protect her, he had a deeper need. Much, much, deeper.
It all began three years ago when Precious was just a puppy. It was a Saturday, and Molly felt that Precious had settled into life outside of the animal shelter enough for his first trip to the beach. Molly couldn't help but laugh as she watch the gangly puppy trip and stumble down the stairs. Feeling sorry for him, Molly picked Precious up and carried him the last few steps. Before she could stop him; he licked her on the lips in thanks. "Thanks," she said, and laughed. Molly wiped her face and carried the squirming black bundle of nervous energy across the street and down to the still quiet beach.
Molly gave the area a quick check for other dogs. With the coast clear, Molly set Precious down on the night-cooled sand. Precious stood frozen. He had never before felt this strange shifting ground Molly called sand. And it was everywhere! Molly moved a step away and sat down cross-legged on the sand. "It' just sand silly," she said, "it won't hurt you." Precious lowered his nose to smell this odd new footing, and when he sniffed, he put his nose a little too close to the sand and sniffed little too hard and sneezed. This made Molly laugh even more. Precious really wasn't sure he liked sand and whined for Molly to pick him up. "If your going to live with me, you better get use to the beach, young man," Molly said. She leaned forward and gently pulled Precious forward through the sand. At first, Precious dropped to his butt and dug in but Molly kept pulling. It didn't take long for Precious to give in to Molly and take a few steps, and then a few more. "See?" Molly said, "This isn't so bad." Of course the tasty treat Molly held out to him helped.
Unfortunately for Precious, he wasn't the only one on the beach that day to spot what Molly held in her hand. Quietly circling above them was a big, ugly, gray and white seagull. The seagull noticed that each time the furry-black, four legged creature ate what was held out to it, the mostly-bald, two-legged creature would pull another scrap of food from its odd colored covering. The seagull wanted what whatever it was they had, and he knew, from a lifetime of scavenging, that all he needed to steal it was the right timing. So the seagull circled and watched.
Precious soon forgot his fears and grew more at ease with his new sandy surroundings, bouncing and barking, digging and rolling, while Molly laughed and fed him treats. Precious felt giddy and full of himself. This new life with Molly was much better than the shelter he had lived in just a few short days ago he thought. Of course his space in the shelter was always kept clean, and the nice ladies that worked there, made sure he had fresh food and water. Sometimes one of the volunteers would even stop and play with him for a few minutes, but it didn't come close to the growing love he felt for Molly.
As their play continued the seagull circled and watched. The furry-black, four-legged creature became braver and his bouncing, barking circles around the mostly-bald two-legged creature grew wider. This is exactly what the seagull was waiting for. As always, timing was everything. So he watched ...and he waited ... and he watched some more, and then he saw his chance. The furry black, four-legged creature ran just far enough away from the mostly-bald two-legged creature, allowing the seagull just enough time to swoop down and snatch the treat from the mostly-bald, two-legged creature's outstretched hand. Precious was so busy bouncing, barking, and tearing around, he didn't see the beastly, winged creature coming until it was too late. The impact of the bird’s wing against his little body sent Precious tumbling and crying across the sand. Molly swooped down and picked precious up, the seagull flew away, loudly laughing at them as he searched for his next victim.
Old man winter sure came in with a fury last night, and weren’t we all some glad to be put away in our stalls with fresh hay. All warm and protected from the cold wind’s bite. Why, even that young whippersnapper, Scamper, who don’t have the sense of a June bug, somehow sensed the impendin’ storm, and trotted right into his stall for a change.
Now personally, I don’t mind the snow so much, even after all these years, but I could darn sure live without all that cold wind blowin’ down on me. Why even with my winter coat, it just seems to blow right through these tired old bones. But as for the snow? No sir, that I don’t mind so much. Just as long as Amy, that’s Molly, the stable owner’s daughter, keeps it from building up under my hooves.
As for Molly, she’s the big boss around here, well, like me, she musta known something was comin’, cause she had everyone rushing around all afternoon, tryin’ to get things all buttoned up. After feeding an’ making sure we was all secure, she and Amy high tailed it into their cozy little house across the way.
It was pretty early the next morning when I heard the sound of Molly’s ol’ boots, echoing down the barn isle, stoppin’ at each stall to check on us, just like she had all last night. Fortunately, a frosty sunshine reflected brightly through the barn windows, and I couldn’t wait to get out and romp through the fresh white blanket of snow that I knew now covered our pasture.
To me, it kinda sounded like Jet, the little black colt in the stall next to me with his mama, Jasmine, musta been feelin’ the same way. Why, he’d been bouncing and kicking like he’d been tied up for a year. You see, this’ll be the first time Jet gets to see snow, and me and all the other horses in the stable were all anxious to watch his reaction.
I remember being a spry young colt myself, and seeing my first snow, but that was nearly twenty-three years ago. On that occasion, we didn’t get a big storm like we did last night. No sir. You see, the way I recall it, it was more of a long drawn out affair. Lasted nearly three days, but as you know, to a young colt cooped up inside, it sure felt like a lifetime. You think Jet was anxious, you should have seen me, darn near kicked the barn wall through. Why my mama was havin’ fits tryin’ to keep me from hurtin’ myself. So you see, I can understand how frisky young Jet was feelin’.
Now by the time Molly and Amy had poured out our morning grain, the atmosphere in the barn was becoming mighty electric. Why I believe each and every one of us, young and old was up and rearin’ to get out and play in the new fallin’ snow, just like little Jet was.
Boys Day Out
“Hey Dad, will we see any fish today?” Kevin asked his father, from his car seat.
“I don’t think so, but we might see some dolphins!” Dave replied, glancing back at his son through the rear view mirror as he drove along the rural Maine road.
“Isn’t a dolphin a fish?”
“No buddy, a dolphin has to come to the surface to breath air, just like the turtles in your fish tank.”
“But it looks like a fish?”
“And it lives in the ocean?”
“Then it’s a fish,” Kevin said, matter-of-factly.
To five-year-old Kevin McGuire, if it looked like a fish, and swam like a fish, then it must be a fish.
This was a big day for Kevin. His father was taking him for his first sail.
“How come Mommy and Haylee didn’t come?”
“Mommy said we needed a boys’ day out.”
What Dave’s wife really needed, was a day off from her boys.
Just as Dave crested the hill leading to the harbor, Kevin noticed thin slivers of sparkling blue water peeking through the wall of brown bark and green foliage.
“Is that the ocean?” he shouted, from the back seat.
“It sure is.”
“It’s not very big.”
“That’s not the whole ocean, just the harbor where the boat is anchored.”
“What’s a harbor?”
“Great,” Dave said under his breath, “another question as difficult as it is simple.”
“A harbor looks like a big giant took a bite out of the land, and then let the water in.”
“Wow! The giant won’t eat the boat, will it Dad?”
“No, he doesn’t live here anymore.”
Relieved, Kevin let his mind drift, and began to sing his favorite Sponge Bob song.
Dave parked in the small gravel parking lot and helped Kevin out of the car. After grabbing their lunches, he handed his spirited five-year-old his brand new Sponge Bob life jacket.
Kevin wasn’t shy about putting it on, having worn it seemingly non-stop since Dave had purchased it the week before. This was an old trick he’d learned from his father Stephen. “If you make wearing the life jacket a game and fun to wear at home, the ordeal tends to be a whole lot less dramatic once you arrive at the boat.”
“Let’s put that on you before we head down to the water.”
“Okay Dad.” Kevin slipping the life jacket on like a pro.
Hand in hand, father and son walked past the little store to the dock.
Settling Kevin on the floor of the little fiberglass rowboat, Dave took hold of the paint chipped wooden oars and rowed them out across the tree-lined harbor.
As they drew near the little green hauled sloop, moored amongst the thirty or so miscellaneous boats, Dave wiped his brow and watched, as Kevin grew more and more excited.
“Is that our boat, dad?” He pointed out past his father.
“Her name is Mariposa.”
“Mariposa,” Dave stifled a laugh. “It means butterfly in Spanish,” he added as they approached the twenty-three foot sailboat.
Dave liked this sailboat for the kids because it had deep seats, was very stable and most importantly, was rigged for single-handed sailing.
“Is this boat ours?”
“No, it belongs to a friend of Uncle Stormy’s.”
“We went to visit him in California last year, remember?”
“I remember his big black cat, Salty, that goes sailing with him.”
“You liked Salty didn’t you?”
“I want to see him again.”
“Well, maybe they’ll come out here to see us this summer.”
Tying off the dingy, Dave went about preparing Mariposa to get underway while Kevin set up camp in the small cabin. The open hatch and two small windows allowed just enough light to show off the two small bunks and a Porta-Potty.
Kevin showed none of the fear that attacked some children on their first boat ride. Like a sponge, he soaked in the sights and sounds, inquisitively asking about everything Dave did.
He must have our sailing genes, Dave thought watching Kevin inspect his new surroundings. “I can think of worse things to inherit,” Dave mumbled under his breath before continuing with his boat prep.
After raising the mainsail and untying the sailboat from the mooring, Dave revved up the little outboard and steered the boat out toward the bay.
Kevin joined him on the bench putting his little hand on the freshly varnished wooden tiller.
“Are you going to help me steer?”
“Yup,” Kevin replied with a smile.
Once they cleared the small island that protected the harbor, Dave pulled out the Starboard Jib sheet causing the big front sail to unfurl. With the wind pulling the boat forward, Dave killed the engine, savoring the sound of the wind in the sails and the water rushing past the shiny hull.
“Okay buddy, now we’re sailing.” Dave felt the tension of everyday life slowly drain out of his body.
“This is cool!” Kevin’s hand following the tiller as his father steered.
“Yeah it is. You know, this is daddy’s favorite thing in the world next to you, Haylee, and Mom.”
“How come you don’t do it more? I’d go with you.”
“Well that’s a good question.” Dave looked down at his son’s beaming face.
“Does Mommy like to sail?”
“Mommy use to, before you and Haylee came along.”
“What about Haylee?”
“Yes, she liked it too.” Dave thought back to Haylee’s first time sailing last year.
“Then we can all go.”
Why not, Dave thought and laughed. Only a child could look past all the details of life and point out the simplest of answers.