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Vol. 8, No. 3

Cruisers
by John Sayles

Cruisers

Emmett tosses his breakfast crumbs off the jetty and watches the shitfish rise to check them out. Blue-green, almost translucent, they wiggle listlessly in the shade of the hull all day and congregate at the surface near the vapor lights at night.  “Shitfish got no ’urry,” the locals say. “Just weat for somebody flush.”
          He hands the plate back to Muriel on board. “I’m going to see if Roderick is there yet.”
          “He never comes in till eight.” Muriel drops the plate into the plastic suds bucket to soak.
          “I thought maybe because of this Whitey and Edna deal—”
          “He’ll probably sleep late. They called him down, it must have been what—?”
          “Four-thirty.”
          “See if the paper is in yet. And don’t make a nuisance of yourself.”
          They get the Sunday edition of the St. Augustine paper once a week—news, want ads, employment, real estate, and funnies crammed into their little PO box at the marina office.  Emmett needles Muriel for reading the obits first.
          “There are people dying now,” he says, “who never died before.” Muriel pretends to ignore him.
          They are moored in the section Emmett likes to call the Lesser Antilles, where most of the smaller liveaboards are concentrated and the walk to the security gates and harbormaster’s office is farthest. The shadow of the Ocean Breeze Lifestyles complex barely reaches them in the morning. The buildings went up rapidly, replacing the funky collection of waterfront businesses that had stood since before Emmett and Muriel came to stay. Let the Fun Begin! says the banner strung up on opening day, still hanging a year later. There are several units left unoccupied. The marina itself is only two-thirds full, peak season a few weeks off, and many of the boats lie sheathed in blue vinyl, owners off the island or sleeping in town.
          Bill and Lil are up on the Penobscot though, Bill prepping the cedar decking while Lil pries open a gallon of goldspar satin.
          “Ahoy.”
          Lil nods. “Morning, Emmett.”
          “Still working this varnish farm, eh?”
          Bill, grimly sandpapering the foredeck, snorts something like a hello. Bill and Lil are in their late fifties, small, sun-baked to a tobacco-stain brown with nearly identical short-cropped gray hair.
          “You’re at it early.”
          “Got to stay on top of these babies,” says Lil. “Lot of nasty stuff floating out there.” Emmett had seen them take her out only once, and then just for a two-hour shakedown. Lil had been a registered nurse and was still handy with a remedy if you had something more than a headache, while Bill taught high school and had nothing good to say about it.
          “You folks up for the ruckus?”
          “Slept right through it. Bill heard voices but thought it was those party people in the motor cruisers.”
          “There were a dozen of them out there. Lights, stretchers—”
          “We were dead to the world. Some wild stories were flying in the Crow’s Nest this morning. But you know rumors on this island.”
          “It was the lights woke me up, not the sound,” says Emmett. “Of course Muriel says I’m deaf as a post.”
          “I should be so lucky. This one—” Lil jerks her head toward the Scavenger, a daysailer owned by one of the locals, “—has got his radio on all weekend. Rap music or whatever their version is called here. Makes Bill grind his teeth.”
          Bill wraps fine-grade sandpaper around a wooden dowel and goes to work on the mahogany trim. He and Lil wear the same brand of T-shirt and shorts, Topsiders, matching hooded windbreakers when they sit out at night. Emmett wonders if they swap clothes.
          “I never figured—Whitey and Edna—”
          Lil lays out her brushes. “I know. Edna was telling me just last week that they were looking into a condo here.”
          “My wife is convinced you can’t live on a sport-fisherman,” says Emmett. He can see the tuna tower of the Silver King, Whitey and Edna’s old Bertram, over the forest of masts. “Suppose they’ll auction it right away. Unless Whitey paid their mooring through the year.”
          Lil frowns, staring at her varnish. “Condos. They must have been desperate.”
          “Well—storm season comes around, some folks like solid ground under their beds. What do you hear about this Cedric?”
          Cedric is the tropical storm curling in from the Atlantic, possibly mutating into the first hurricane of the summer.
          Lil glances out over the channel. Clear blue sky, flat water. “It’ll blow itself out. Peaked too early.”
          “It does hit, it’s gonna ruin your finish.”
          Lil shrugs. “Best way to protect the wood.” She chooses a brush, riffling the bristles with her thumb. “No, you buy into that condo life, you’re ready to throw in the towel.”
          “They’ve put up some real luxury boxes in the last few years.”
          “The ones we looked at, that Pelican Cove outfit? They’d blow down like a stack of cards.”
          Bill grimaces. “Pelican Cove.”
          Lil jerks her head toward her husband. “Says he’d just as soon ride it out in the marina.”
          “There’s gonna be a big one hits this island sooner or later, Cedric or no Cedric. I can’t say they’ve knocked themselves out preparing for it.”
          “Cyannot stop de wind, mon,” mutters Bill, mimicking Roderick’s island lilt. “She come, she come.”
          Lil dips the edge of her brush into the varnish, careful to avoid dripping as she starts to apply it. “We’ve been thinking about Curaçao.”
          “Dutch people.”
          “A lot of them speak English. And the prices are right.”
          “What’s a rum collins?”
          “Less than here, I can tell you that.”
          “I suppose. Muriel and I talk about Mexico now and again.”
          “Mañanaland.”
          Emmett shrugs. “The peso just keeps falling. Our checks could go a lot further—”
          Bill wipes the section he’s just sanded with a damp cloth. “Mexico,” he says. “One good case of the trots and you’re history.”

A fishing skiff with a pair of locals aboard chugs around the reef of auto tires that serves as a breakwater and heads for the fuel dock. The marina was nothing much when Emmett first tied up here twenty years ago, rickety, unpainted wood crusted with gull droppings. As the cruisers and their money grew in importance, the mosquito fleet had been driven to shallower harbor farther west and a French corporation built the new jetty and facilities. Now ramshackle boats like this might wander in illegally to sightsee among the yachts or hustle up charters, but when Roderick is on duty they don’t dare tie up. The man working the outboard waves lazily to Emmett and calls out.
          “Golden Years,” he smiles. “Bringin’ the chat round.”
          A lot of the locals call him by the name of the boat, and Muriel endures being hailed as Mrs. Golden Years. “Could be worse,” he likes to tell her. “If we had that catamaran on C Pier you’d be Betty Bazooka.”
          Rut Adams is up on the flydeck of the Squire, nursing a Bloody Mary and training binoculars on the new arrival at the far end of the marina.
          “Anything to report?”
          Rut brings his binoculars down, his eyes taking a moment to adjust.
          “Emmett. Caught me spying.”
          “I don’t suppose they spend their time looking at us.”
          It was just there one morning, looking more like a space-age hotel than a boat, dwarfing the Cheoy Lee and Broward hundred-footers in the Land of the Giants. A forty-plus sportfisherman was perched like a toy on the aft deck, and the heliport had been used once so quickly nobody saw who jumped in or out of the chopper.
          “They got manned submersibles on that thing—those Jacques Cousteau things? Decompression chamber in the lazarette, satellite dish, large-format screen like a movie theater. Got two Jacuzzis, personal trainer, cook with a full staff—”
          “You saw all this?”
          Rut shakes his head. “Archibald, the local fella who comes around with the crabs? He’s been on board a bunch of times. Got a thing going with one of the maids. Filipino gal.”
          “I’ve still never seen the man,” says Emmett. “Just people running around in uniforms setting things up.”
          “He’s been here once or twice.”
          “Imagine being the center of all that. You get a whim to go out and dozens of people jump into action.” Emmett had walked on the pontoon beside it once, pacing off at least eighty yards, staring up at his reflection in the tinted plexiglass cabin panels. Nothing stirred aboard. Muriel calls it the Mother Ship and says it’s crewed by bulb-headed aliens. “So what’s he look like?”
          Rut clears his throat, recalling. “Swarthy fella—remember the one Nixon used to hang out with? Relleno—Refugio—”
          “Rebozo.”
          “Looks like him.”
          “Drug money?”
          “Not enough security hanging around. I don’t think he’s Spanish of any kind. Not an Arab either—Arabs don’t dive.”
          “They don’t?”
          “Hell no. My guess is he’s some Greek, owns one of these international dot-com outfits. Making money out of thin air.”
          “What you think it runs him to keep it floating?”
          Rut always knows what things cost or has an educated guess. He stands on top of his big Hatteras, calculating, face glowing red with his first drink of the day. “Damn if I can even imagine. Meggy was here the other day—” Rut’s wife Meggy lives in their cliff house and only visits on weekends “—her Daddy owned half the state of Delaware and even her jaw dropped when she got a look at it. I’d say crew and staff alone is a good fifty, sixty grand a week.”
          Emmett whistles, looks back toward the massive yacht. “A thing that size, hardly know you’re on the ocean.”
          “You sail people,” Rut grins, “wrestling a hunk of canvas and puking your guts out.”
          “Dacron,” says Emmett. “Things have progressed a little.”
          “If there’s no wind you’re still fucked. Hey, what’s the deal with Whitey and what’s-her-name?”
          “Edna.”
          “Edna.”
          “No details yet. I’m hoping to track Roderick down.”
          They both look toward D Pier, to the yellow tape cordoning off the Silver King in its berth.
          “I think of him sitting out there every evening in his fighting chair, knocking one back.”
          “G and T,” says Emmett.
          “That what it was? I’m a Scotch man myself. I could see him from up here—he’d raise his glass, we’d toast the sunset.”
          “A real gentleman, Whitey.”
          “Health problems?”
          “Not that I know of.”
          “That age, it can go fast.”
          “They brought in a black marlin last month. Whitey was in the chair—fought him four, five hours before he made his last run. Boated him, cut him loose, but he just floated sidewise on the surface so they circled around and gaffed him in before the sharks could gather. Good seven, seven-and-a-half feet. You can’t swing that with health problems.”
          “Fish like that will take up a lot of wall space.”
          “They’d caught it before.”
          “What?”
          “Edna said that when they got it on board they recognized the marlin. Scars, the shape of its dorsal. They were sure of it, couple years ago in the Dry Tortugas.”
          “That’s one for Ripley.”
          “She said Whitey was pretty upset about it.”
          “Killing the fish?”
          Emmett nods. “Either that or that it was the same one. He was always saying, ‘I like to beat ’em, not beat ’em to death.’”
          “Stick a hook in your lip, drag a quarter mile of line through the ocean for a couple hours, what’s he think is gonna happen?” Rut shakes his head. “Moody bastards, fisherman. That Hemingway—”
          “Whitey never cared for Hemingway. He liked the dog fella—”
          “Dog fella.”
          “Call of the Wild, White Fang—”
          “Jack London.”
          “Loved him.”
          “He wrote about boats?”
          “I guess so.”
          “London. Think he drowned himself. Or drank himself to death.” Rut kills the last of his Bloody Mary. “‘Death, where is thy sting?’”
          “He died of TB.” Chase Pomeroy steps out on the Rockin’ Robin in the next slip, rubbing his eyes. “Or some shit like that. Sailed to the South Seas and brought back all these really gnarly diseases.”
          Chase is a currency trader still in his thirties who has recently traded up from a little Sea Ray to a Sunchaser Predator.
          “That thing get airborne?” asks Emmett, eyeing the boat.
          “It’ll move.” Chase climbs on top of the cabin and lies on his back, covering his eyes against the sun. “Make the Caymans in under three hours.”
          “What’s your hurry?” Rut complains about Chase speeding in the channel but always comes on deck when he brings a new girlfriend around.
          Chase shrugs. “If I wanted to float with the current I’d find some Haitians and build a raft. What can you do in that thing—twelve knots, max?”
          “It depends.” Rut’s face gets redder. “You hear the brouhaha last night?”
          “Saw it. I was at Zooma till two—dead night, lot of dental hygienists off a cruise ship—then I hit the Daquiri Shak with Ricky G. till it closed. We got back from the Dak and there’s the whole sorry excuse for a police department and the even sorrier excuse for a rescue squad—”
          “They couldn’t rescue a turd from a toilet bowl,” says Rut. “I ever get in the shit out there I’m calling Key West and taking my chances on the wait.”
          “They asked us for ID. You imagine that? Ricky goes up to the captain, whatever he is, the one in charge, and says, ‘You know me. I used to bang your sister when she worked in my restaurant.’”
          “That must have cleared things up.”
          “Ricky’s slipping payoffs to every one of these guys, what’re they gonna do?”
          “You see anything?”
          “Lotta lights, lotta local constabulary. I think the old folks were already out of here by that point.”
          Emmett nods. “You heard anything more about the storm?”
          “Just that it’s supposed to be coming.” Chase shifts his arm away from his eyes to squint up at Rut. “I’m taking this out today, pollute the environment. You see Stephanie—”
          “That’s the new one? Redheaded gal?”
          Chase nods. “Yeah, with the wide butt. Tell her I’ll be at Zooma by ten.”
           

A trio of frigate birds sail over the marina, gradually losing altitude and seeming to pick up speed as they swoop down into the channel. It is already hot. A film of diesel oil swirls in rainbow colors around the pilings and a single turtle paddles between the moored boats, head just breaking the surface. Emmett likes to think of the marina as a community, maybe a few more transients than usual, but with reliably suburban rhythms. A bit of bustle at sunrise, morning errands, buckling down to serious work by midday, and then the relaxing slide to cocktail hour. He likes to hear the hardware rattling as the boats rock in their slips, the squeak of rope and cleat, the sharp luffing of plastic boat covers. He likes to hear the motors coughing into life, thrumming as they pass on the way out, likes the smell of polyurethane and DEET. Emmett likes the long tines of the jetty with their evenly spaced slips, hundreds of boats with distinct outlines and personalities moored side by side, the blazing, primary blues and reds and yellows of gear, the stunning white of fiberglass and Dacron. He liked the gulls and pelicans in the old days, too, but the feeding and dumping regulations have had their effect and they only pass over now, heading for the smelly chaos of the locals’ wharf.
          Roderick is talking with Ricky G., who sits looking disoriented at the fore of a shiny new Beneteau. Ricky is wearing a shirt with a Day-Glo parrot fish design and has marks from fiberglass deck beading on one side of his face.
          “Looks like somebody passed out on the deck,” says Emmett.
          “I needed to rest.” Ricky never seems to shave yet never has a full beard, sporting a perpetual morning-after stubble. “These people are up in Vermont or something.”
          “What if I trespass you,” says Roderick, “sleep on Ricky bar some night?”
          Ricky tends bar at the Y-Ki-Ki, which he co-owns, the only bar locals of all colors go to. He squints at Roderick. “I’ve pulled you out from under the table more than once.”
          “Never ’appen beyond closing time. Surprise me them authority don’t ’carcerate you while they here last night.”
          Emmett steps closer. “Listen, Roderick, what—”
          Before he can say more Roderick puts his big hand up for silence.
          “Mr. Alphonse already vex me wit instruction. I got nothing to tell till official version has been spoken.”
          “Were you here?”
          “Drag me ass out of bed, got to open every gate in creation.” Roderick shakes his head. “Why they don’t weat till sunup, spear a mon his sleep?”
          “It was an emergency.”
          “Nothing in that boat that wouldn’t keep till sunup.”
          “Remember the dude two Christmases ago,” says Ricky, “washed up by the old turtle works?”
          “Accidental causes.”
          “That’s what they always say when they don’t know shit. Didn’t know where he came from, what boat he was off of, nada. And nobody ever claimed him.”
          “Plenty of that on this island.”
          “But the watch he had on, the guy was obviously a tourist—”
          “Black mon drown,” says Roderick, “authority don’t inquire. White mon drown they declear mystery.”
          There is a pause as they all watch the blond divorcée from Sarasota and her teenage daughter in matching bikinis pass on the parallel pier. Ricky moans quietly.
          “I could go either way with that.”
          “Them womens kill you, Ricky. Rum has sap all your powers.”
          “I heard a rumor,” says Emmett, “that it happened three days ago. Whitey and Edna.”
          “No way. He came in just yesterday.” Ricky spends so many of his waking hours shooting the shit behind the bar that he never has a tan. “About four. Sat at the end, three G-and-Ts, paid his tab and left.”
          “You didn’t talk with him?”
          “There were these Belgian girls, I was feeding them Yellow Birds—you know, with the amaretto? They were starting to loosen up so I didn’t pay much attention to Whitey.”
          “Whitey always drink his cocktail on his boat,” says Roderick. “Why is he paying double to you?”
          “Psychology’s not my field, man. I just pour ’em what they ask for.”
          “How’d he look?”
          “Like he always did. Like he just stepped off that battlewagon of theirs with some twenty-foot sea monster in tow. He had that squinty-lookin’ smile—”
          “Muriel called him the Ancient Mariner.”
          “He wasn’t so ancient.”
          “Couple years older than me, and I’m getting on.” Emmett turns back to Roderick. “I think as a resident of this marina, I deserve—”
          “I give you a groundation and everybody want to ax me same story.”
          “You tell Emmett here,” says Ricky, “and the news will fly.”
          Roderick just smiles and starts away. “Weat for official story. Then I tell you what part is a lie.”

When Emmett last talked with Whitey he’d been fine, upbeat even. They ran into each other at the local grocery, the one a mile walk from the marina but half as expensive as the Captain’s Larder at the Ocean Breeze condo complex.
          “Only thing she’ll eat anymore,” said Whitey when he caught Emmett checking out the four loaves of white bread and dozen tins of ham spread in his basket.
          “I thought you liked to cook?”
          “Used to. Used to do a three-course layout in that little galley of ours. Baked bread, pies. Now, it’s just—you know.” Whitey shrugged. “It’s another meal.”

Emmett nodded. “Mine won’t have anything to do with fixing dinner. Twenty-five years of feeding the kids—”
          “Yeah.”
          “So I just fire the old hibachi up—”
          “Grilled what—was it amberjack last night?”
          “You can smell it.”
          “No problem. Just don’t let day man catch you.”
          “Roderick and I have an understanding.” Emmett pushed his items forward on the counter to make room for Whitey’s case of bargain gin. “How the fish been treating you?”
          “Oh, fair.” Whitey and Edna didn’t keep much of what they caught, but they went out almost every day. “Punk Loomis got into a bunch of wahoo the other day off the east tip, we might try that.”
          “What are the locals catching?”
          “Infectious diseases.”
          They laughed. As more kids drifted down from the States there were fewer and fewer locals working in the bars and restaurants, and Ocean Breeze advertised that it had “fully professionalized” its staff, which meant most of the black faces were gone. The little market was one of the few places Emmett still rubbed elbows with people born on the island.
          “It had to happen sooner or later,” Whitey said. “That ‘no problem, mon’ thing only goes so far and then you need some service. It’s something we thought about a lot before we made our commitment here.”
          “But the culture—”
          “Nobody comes here for the culture.”
          There was a carnival once a year that Emmett tried to avoid, people passed out in unusual places and a couple local bands that played loud enough to be heard over the water several miles away. What amazed Emmett most about the island was that it was populated at all, with no fresh water and almost nothing edible grown in the interior. European sailors had tried leaving pigs and goats on it for provision, but they quickly died of thirst, and cane and sisal plantings hadn’t done much better. The locals were descended from the workers on these destitute plantations and escapees from slave ships that ran aground in the early eighteen hundreds.
          “All dem other crop feel,” Roderick liked to say, “but tourist business been very good to we.”
          “You circle the globe between ten and twenty-five degrees above the equator,” said Whitey, laying a sack of limes on top of the gin, “one port isn’t much different than the next.”
          “So you’re here for a while.”
          “Oh, we’re here to stay. Like it says in the brochures,” Whitey winked at Emmett, “‘It’s always smooth sailing in our island paradise.’”

The Schmecklers are behind the pilothouse of their big Frers headsail ketch, spreading engine parts on a tarp. Emmett knows the father and son are Fritz and Stefan but can never remember which is which.
          “Part still hasn’t come in?”
          “Customs,” says the father. “They steal it.”
          “One focking injector.” The son stares down at the disassembled machinery. “They don’t know what it is, but they steal it.”
          They are tall and wide-shouldered, relentlessly en-thusiastic, with thick beards bleached by the sun. The first day they sailed in Muriel thought somebody was shooting a beer commercial.
          “You were a friend of the diseased?” asks the father.
          “Diseased—”
          “The one who is dying.”
          “Deceased. Whitey—yes. They were neighbors, sort of. D Pier.”
          “Your boat is?”
          “The Golden Years? Island Packet cutter?”
          “I have seen this.”
          “Nothing compared to your rig, but we call it home.” Mrs. Schmeckler, Greta, smiles as she steps up from the cabin to shake a mat out over the starboard side. “Whitey and Edna were eight or nine slips down from us.”
          “They were having some problem?”
          Emmett considers. “I got the impression they were living their dream. Down here in the sun, chasing fish, nothing on the horizon but more of the same—”
          “Our dream now is to circle the world in the Liebenstraum,” says the father. “It keeps us moving forward.”
          “And when you finish?”
          “Then we start on another dream,” says the son. “You have been to Havana?”
          “Havana, Cuba? No, I’m—we’re Americans.”
          “We go there next.”
          “Could be some serious weather coming.”
          “If this cylinder is not fixed,” says the father, “we will grow old here. Become native people.”
          Emmett thinks it’s a joke, but he’s never sure with the Schmecklers. “There are worse fates.”
          “Men have woyage for centuries without a motor,” says the son. “Maybe we go on with only our sails.”
          “Don’t think it’s likely you’ll find a Mercedes injector in Havana. Pretty lean times, what with the embargo and all. And berthing this baby without an engine in a strong wind—”
          The father smiles. “Sailing is easy, ja? Only the landing is hard.”

It had been another perfect day, maybe two weeks ago, heading northeast in a bracing dance with the wind, hull slicing through the swells, a half dozen gulls coasting in their wake. Muriel’s feel for trimming the sails was instinctive and they barely spoke, one anticipating the other’s next move, making a leisurely ten knots into a slight breeze.
          At first Emmett thought a cloud had drifted in front of the sun—a sudden chill, a dimming. Then he felt the hole inside of him, expanding. There was nothing on the horizon in any direction, nothing. But it wasn’t fear or feeling small in the vast ocean. He had always preferred cruising to somewhere, somewhere they’d at least stay overnight. A destination. Going out and coming back to the same port, no one waiting for them, only the mute variables of tide and weather to define their passage—he felt suddenly disoriented, tempted to let the wheel go, to turn off all the systems, sit back and see what would happen. The feeling didn’t last more than a few minutes. Blood sugar maybe, or just some random fantods. He told Muriel to come about and she gave him a look but didn’t question. The trip home was just as spectacular.

Larry is nestled in a pile of life preservers at the base of the mast on the Zephyr, pecking at his laptop. The power cord loops over his bare feet and disappears down into the cockpit.
          “When you wanted to crew a ship in the old days,” he says without looking up, “you hung out at the sailors’ bars till a couple likely ones drank themselves stiff, dragged them off, and threw them in the hold till you were a full day out of port. Now I’m on the fucking web.”
          “What happened to your girls?”
          Larry hit the marina three weeks ago with a pair of girls in their twenties he’d introduced to Emmett as his galley slaves.
          “Bugged out on me.”
          “The both of them?”
          “They came as a team. I saw the skinny one, Kim, in town yesterday. Hanging all over one of those boogie-board guys with the blond dreads. Bitch just waves, ‘Hi, Captain Larry!’ like she and her dumpy little pal haven’t totally screwed me.”
          Larry is in his early fifties, salt-and-pepper beard, a regular at the Y-Ki-Ki since his Catalina sloop limped down from the Bahamas. He was gradually heading for Tahiti, he said, once he got the right crew on board.
          “You know there’s a couple young fellas on the island know their way around on a boat,” says Emmett cheerfully. “Skip Andersen’s boy there, Nicky, and that one that works at the bait shop—Jay? Jordan?—”
          Larry shakes his head. “Only room for one hardtail on this bucket.”
          Emmett shrugs. “You’re the skipper.”
          “They do that passive-aggressive thing. My wife was the queen of that. She could say ‘Oh, don’t worry, it’s fine,’ so it came out ‘You blew it again, you insensitive piece of shit.’”
          He seems more agitated than usual. At first, from the bile invoked when he spoke of his ex-wife and her evil lawyer, Emmett thought Larry’s divorce must be recent, the wound still raw. But he’d been single a full eight years, cruising for five, a computer-dating Ahab chasing a wet dream.
          “Even if they don’t learn jack about sailing,” he says, “these young ones get to practice their routine on me.”
          Emmett keeps smiling. “So is there some kind of computer shape-up where all the able-bodied sea ladies advertise?”
          “Something like that. But you hire one, they bring their whole damn sorority along. If this wasn’t too much boat to single-hand I’d be off this rock by now.” He looks up to Emmett. “You hear the scuttle on the old couple?”
          “Roderick won’t talk.”
          “What does Roderick know? He didn’t go inside the boat.”
          “You did?”
          Larry logs off, closes the laptop, and sets it beside him. Emmett sees now that his eyes are red, his hands trembling slightly.
          “I saw the old guy, Whitey, there at Ricky’s place just yesterday afternoon. Then last night I couldn’t sleep, so I get up, take a walk around the jetty—”
          “This is late—”
          “After three, at least. I get down at their end of D Pier and I hear the radio. Just weather reports and shit, somebody calling in the update on this Cedric.”
          “Edna was a real weather junkie,” says Emmett. “We’d be sitting here, she’d tell you it was raining over in the Sea of Cortez.”
          “Fairly useless information.”
          “She explained the whole hurricane thing to me once. Most people think it’s like straight wind pushing you over? But really you’re being pulled, sucked in to fill a vacuum. Like going down a drain.” Suddenly Emmett doesn’t want to know the details, dreads the responsibility of passing the news to others. “All that noise and activity,” he says, “but inside there’s this big nothing.”
          Larry frowns at his hands. “The thing is, it was loud. The radio. I passed by, but on the way back I figure at that hour, not a light shining on the boat, they must have spent the night in town and left it running.  So I’m gonna do the Good Samaritan thing.”
          Emmett suddenly feels a little dizzy. He looks across the channel. Something, not clouds exactly but a different kind of sky, is coming together in the north.
          “You hesitate to step on somebody’s boat without an invitation. Especially the liveaboards.”
          “You just don’t do it,” says Emmett, upset. “It’s an invasion of privacy.”
          “I’m feeling pretty fucking invaded right now,” says Larry, “if you want to know the truth.”
          “We haven’t actually seen Edna for a while,” says Emmett, stalling.
          “No. I don’t suppose you have.” Larry wiggles the power cord with his toes, thinking. “You know that shark gun he kept by his chair when they went out for big stuff?”
          “Short barrel .44—”
          “About as much wallop as you can get from a rifle. You can imagine, point-blank range, not shooting through water—he was just down on the saloon couch, the rifle was still between his knees. And the wife—the blood on the pillow and sheets was all dried. He must’ve caught her sleeping.”
          Emmett sees a trio of jellyfish working their way along the pontoon, no color, no edges, just a slight lack of focus in one part of the water. “Was she on her back? Looking up?”
          “Yeah—”
          “So she could have been awake. Knew it was coming, even.”
          “Like some kind of mercy-killing deal?”
          “Why not?”
          Larry considers this. He is shivering a bit, the shadow of the Lifestyles complex covering them both. He shrugs. “Who knows what the fuck goes on in people’s heads? I figure she was already gone three, four days when I sat with him at Ricky’s. I asked what was new and he said they were thinking about tarpon.”
          “That’s all?”
          “‘We’ve been thinking about tarpon.’”
          They are quiet for a long moment, a breeze picking up and tinkling the wind chimes on the back of the converted tug two slips down. A succession of hippie-looking people come down to use it on some sort of time-sharing deal. Muriel calls it the Love Boat.
          “I hauled my ass back here and got my cell phone, tracked down the cops. I didn’t go back in a second time, just gave them my statement. I’d forgot about the damn radio. Took the locals an hour before they turned it off.” Larry looks out past the breakwater. “The fella calling in the weather said he thought this Cedric might turn into the real thing.”
          Emmett nods. The channel water has a little chop to it now. The frigate birds have disappeared.
          “The way I feel, just let it blow,” he says. “Be good to clear the air.”

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