Current Location: Burlington, IA (On my way to St. Louis where Phillip will join me! Wanna send some encouragement or nastiness as the case may be? (512) 828 – 2471)
“Now listen to me. Are you listenin’?”
Yeah, spill it on me, buddy.
“You’re getting up way too late.”
Um, okay… Dad.
“So you need to…” A lady walks in.
“Maury, leave that boy alone! Oh…” Nancy, Maury’s wife, looks at me. “…man. What are you!”
“Um,” I stammer, “I’m a post-teen.”
“Ha ha ha ha ha,” they all laugh.
“So,” Maury catches his breath, “leaving at 10 in the morning – that’s too late. Put your boat up on the front of mine.”
“Can we do that?” I ask Maury and Nancy as we stand on a dock just north of Guttenberg, IA.
“Oh, we can do anything!” Nancy says nearly falling over in her and Maury’s flat boat. “Whoa!” she screams. “Maury!”
“What? (to me) Are you listening?”
Nancy to Maury: “Yes, I’m listening?”
“No, I was talking to the boy… man… um?”
Me to him: “Ryan.”
“Oh, well,” Nancy says, “get in here and help me.”
“H0w am I supposed to help you with this boat I’m tryin’ to tie up.”
“I dunno, whoa! I almost fell again.”
“Nancy, dear, do you… Do I have to help you do ever…”
“Don’t you talk to me like that!”
I to they: “Uh, I can tie the boat, really, let’s just tow it.”
“Okay, fine,” Maury says.
Vrooooooom. The motor begins. It is getting dark. I am good at towing boats now. I got my heavy stuff in front. I got the rope tied around the eyelets, NOT THE ROPE GOING THROUGH MY EYELETS! I’m hanging onto the rope Maury just tied asking him to watch his speed; I let that rope out a little bit, I let it out a little bit more; Maury speeds up; I let it fully extend….. fully extended. Maury’s breaking 10 miles an hour. I’m happy.
Maury looks perturbed. “Um, look now, you listenin’? It’s getting darker.”
“How far do we have to go?” I ask
“Oh!” Nancy bellows. “You turned that boat fast!”
“I did not, dear. I have to stay in the channel!”
“That’s a red buoy. You are to the right of the red buoy, you need to be to the left of it.”
“Dear? Are you listening? I’m to the left of the red buoy…”
“There’s another one! Oh!”
“Dear, now, dammit, Ryan, hold this please, you ever steered a boat before, hold this, now dear, listen, I have to be, come here, listen, we are going downstream so we need to be…”
“To the right of the buoy!” Nancy affirms.
“Um, Maury, am I steering right?”
“Yes! Give me that! Ryan, watch your boat.”
“Oh!” Nancy screams.
“We’re to the right of the red, that means we should be to the left of the green.”
“Dear, it’s dark, find the red buoy.”
“I did, it’s back there.”
“Not the one we passed!”
“Oh! Well it’s up there. Ryan, do you see it?”
“I’m, uh, trying to watch my boat here…”
“Just, Ryan, help her…”
“Okayy, should I let you watch this?’
“No, you need to watch that; dear, you watch for buoys. It’s dark, I can’t see.”
“Turn on the light.”
Oh fuck, I think.
“Let’s try it anyway,” Maury says. It doesn’t work; the light is broken.
“Damn, you know? Shit,” he says.
“Watchin’ my boat, boss.”
It Is Dark
It is dark now, very dark. We are tracking from buoy to buoy, our light broken but our jobs defined. “I want to find this beach for you so you can camp,” Maury says. I want to get out of this boat, I think. Maury tries bringing my boat to the side of his so he can go faster. He gets my boat to plane; we’re up to 20 mph trying to make it home before total darkness. Water is spilling up between the Sea Eagle and his flatboat. As cordially as I can, I say, “Maury, I’m sorry, my boat’s taking on water this way. We gotta slow down.”
“Dammit. No, no, that’s okay. Don’t worry. I think… Yes, I think we’re close.”
We can see Maury and Nancy’s house in the distance. It is pitch black. “Those are my lights!” Maury says. “Okay,” he continues, “I, um, I can’t find that beach. C’mon, c’mon, you come to my house.” What we should have been doing in the first place, I think. Come to think of it, after the Adventures of Frick and Frack, I might take my chances finding the beach myself! “Now listen, Ryan,” Maury says. “This is my house. Come up to the garage with me. I’m going to give you that bolt.” This is how Towing Adventure III (Remember Towing Adventure I? My boat capsized. Remember Towing Adventure II? I refused to get out of the boat.) got started. I dropped the bolt that holds my rudder into the water, and this guy offered to help.
We find his house in the dark. “Oh,” Nancy says. “I can’t believe you broke the light!”
“I didn’t break the light, dear, it was already broken!”
I follow Maury to his garage. A man stops us. His voice is raspy and he looks like an old, old sailor. “Raaaaaaaaaaaassssssssssssssp, hiiiii,” the man says growlingly.
“Browny, you old son of a bitch!” Maury says.
“I gave the wife the…”
“Bottle of Jack Daniels!”
Nancy comes out with a bottle of Jack Daniels (the big kind) with a 50 dollar bill wrapped around the neck. “Oh, Jesus!” Nancy says. “He gave us this!”
“Yes, dear, I know. Browny, I can’t take that.”
“Rassssssssp, yes you can. You helped me build that gutter.”
“I did that, Ryan, you stay here, I did that, Browny, because, dear, put that bottle down, Browny, because we’re friends, and I wanted to help.”
“We’ll just take…” Nancy says.
“I’ll take the whisky, and…”
“I’ll take the 50 bucks!” Nancy says.
“No, you won’t, dear.”
Me to them: “I’m just gonna…”
“You hold on, Ryan. We can’t take money.”
“I can,” Nancy says.
“No, Ryan, you wait, Nancy, put that down.”
Browny is smiling with all three of his teeth. “Haaaaaaaa (coughs) you guys work it out. I’m going inside.”
“Ryan, this is the bolt you need.” Cool, I think. “But now look, are you listening? I’m going to give you 5 more in case you drop another one.” Oookayyyyyy – another five?
Maury gives me the five bolts and I carry them to my boat. I’m thinking about leaving even with thunder in the distance. Maury stops me. “You, are you listen…, you can’t go now. You stay here. Here.” He opens the door to his pontoon boat. It’s covered with a dome-like tarp. He flips a light switch and the inside is well-lit with a carpet floor. “You can sleep here.” Thunder claps. “This is perfect.” “Okay, Maury,” I say. I am too tired to argue or wonder why he won’t let me sleep in his house. I don’t care. I start moving my essentials inside the giant tent on top of a boat. “Let’s,” Maury says, “Ryan, are you, look, we need to put your boat in the garage.” Oh Jesus, just leave it outside. “Okay!” I say. I help Maury get the boat to the garage. A light rain starts. Browny comes down. “You can use my outhouse! There’s running water, rassssssssssssssssp.” By the time I’ve used Mr. Brown’s (Maury calls him Browny) running water to shave and have out-housed, I am tired and want to sleep. The water comes down forcefully. My boat is safe, I am safe under the hard tarp of the pontoon boat, and Maury and Nancy are in their house. “Oh Jesus,” I say aloud. “I’m glad they didn’t offer me the house.”
It’s morning now. I have not called my parents and my cell phone is dead. Maury? I think. No fucking way. Mr. Brown? I think. Bingo! “Mr. Brown,” I saw walking up his steps. Is he up? I think. I knock on the door. “Mr. Brown! Can I use your phone?”
“River guy. Can I use your cell phone – I have no service.”
I walk inside. It is a garage with carpet. “This place was a garage,” he says. “I modified it to make it more homey.”
It is homey, I think. There are pictures of him when he was younger on the wall. He has a fifties hairdo and is holding a guitar atop a 57 Chevey. “I was young, rasp,” he says. “Used to play for a rock band.” His wife is in the next picture. She has on bobby socks and an ankle-length dress. “She dances,” Brown says. “We used to teach dance class.” I turn the camera on. Maury shows up almost on cue. “Now Browny, he says, hello Ryan, this is the fifty bucks I won’t let Nancy take it, here you go.”
“No no no, why didn’t you let this young man stay in your house? Keep the fifty bucks or the whisky – one of the two.”
“Well see, hello Ryan, Nancy… see, she doesn’t want the whisky but wants the fifty, Ryan, you should get going…”
“It’s eight o’ clock.”
“I know, I’ll help you, yes, yes, it’s eight, you’re up early, now Browny, take this…”
“OHHHHH!” Browny’s wife enters. She is old but looks attractive like a dancer. “This is the man who was going down the river! You need eggs! Maury, you need an egg!”
“Okay, I will pay you fifty bucks for an egg!”
“Yes!” she screams. “You need bacon….”
“You need bacon, Ryan.”
Breakfast is served – bacon, eggs, toast, butter, jam, OJ… heaven.
“Browny, now listen, it’s starting to rain, we need to take Ryan…”
“Let’s take him to the next dam; it’s 5 miles off.”
“Yes, that’s just what I was going to say; May (Browny’s wife), where do I put this?” It’s the fifty bucks.
“No, we can’t, oh jeez, just leave it if you’re going to bitch…”
“Ha ha ha ha (she catches herself) no not bitch, I’m sorry, if you’re going to be a pain about it, ha ha ha ha.”
Maury puts the fifty on the table. He keeps the whisky. I don’t know if Nancy was ever happy about that because Maury and Browny are loading my boat into a truck and taking me down to the next dam.
“This,” Maury says, “are you listening? This is where you’re going to put in. It’s much faster this way. Oh dear, I didn’t call Nance.”
“Can I borrow your phone, Maury?”
“Take this street, Browny.”
“Here it is.” I offload my boat.
“Can you hold this?” I ask Maury.
“Ryan, now see, this is what I’m talking about, you are going to leave me this camera and I don’t know nothing about cameras. And how am I going to give this back to you?”
“I’m going to paddle back to you.”
“Yes, but why?”
“Because I want a shot of me leaving.”
“Yes, oh yes, that’s clever. You should paddle back to me though.” I get the shot, well, Maury gets the shot, and I paddle back. “That’s good,” he says, “you could have left without the camera and then I’m holding this fucking thing.”
“Rassssssssssssssssp, we need to go, good luck?”
“Thanks, Mr. Brown.”
“Now Browny, don’t drive off without me.”
“You old fart, I’m going to, rasp, wait for you in the car, rasp.” He smiles and laughs.
“Do you have your camera?”
Yes, Dad. “Yes, Maury.”
“Okay good, so, because… You have this all under control, don’t you?”
“I think so, Maury, thank you for all your help.”
“Well, yes yes, of course. I should get back to Nance, and have a safe trip.”
“Thank you.” I shove off.
“Maury!” I shout.
“Are you listening… thank you!”