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Houseboat

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A buzzer sounded loudly. Cheers and generic sports music filled the salty air. A shaggy man stirred on his sheetless bed, the springs exposed through the mattress in parts. He pulled his pillow over his head and groaned loudly. He rolled out of bed, landing on his feet and stumbling towards the stove, catching himself with his bandaged left hand. He fell to the cool tile floor clutching his hand and moaning. Working his way to his feet, he scavenged a cabinet and emerged with a bottle of aspirin. He held the bottle in his good hand and uncapped the bottle with his teeth, dripping drool onto his shirt. He shook the last pill into his mouth and grinded it between his teeth with a grimace.


“Zut alors,” he chuckled to himself, finding humor in his pseudo-French accent,” I guess I’m gonna need more aspirin.” He stepped through the door and onto the deck of his houseboat. He pulled up his nets. Between the three nets, he’d caught about 20 fish.


“Note to self, don’t stop using Megabait.” More self-chuckling as he mimicked holding a cassette recorder. A fat man with red cheeks and a midriff-baring shirt knocked on the side of the boat.


“Ey Petey! You in there?” he yelled.


Petey hurried into the house and came out wearing a pair of thin-rimmed glasses, his long brown hair parted to the side. He peered over the rail.


“Oh hey. How goes it, Phil?”


“Salmon prices might be goin up. Nobody caught nothin today.”


“That’s cause I caught em all, come on up here and see.”


The fat man looked at the steep stepladder dubiously.


“Er, no. I can’t. I’m in a bit of a rush. How many’d you catch?”


“Bout 20.”


“Lord, Petey, most anyone else’s caught today is 4. What’s your secret?”


Petey looked about, avoiding eye contact. “Gettin up early, I guess. I knew that I’d be glad for ol Mike’s big speakers some day.” He nodded towards the neighboring houseboat.


The fat man gave a friendly, but somewhat insincere laugh. “Yeah, well I gotta get goin. Enjoy the high life.”


“Will do, Phil.”


Petey watched the man walk away with mild disgust. The way the man waddled side to side with each step, stopping for a breather before walking out of sight into town. Petey put all of his fish into one net, and wrapped the net in another before lowering it back into the water, tying the top with a piece of rope and hanging the knot by a hook on the railing. He got dressed and headed into town. Brown buildings, a general air of warm, friendly decay. The smell of smoke coming from the fish market, though not as strong as most days. He walked through a tarp and squinted from the air-filling smoke.


“Jamie, you in there?”


“Yeah,” called a voice from the smoke,”somewhere.”


“What’s the rate today?”


“We’re not doin too well, and people seem to really want fish today, what with the weather clearing and all, so we’re desperate. 12 bucks a pound, but I reckon you still want me to filet it for you?”


“Yeah,” Petey said with a small amount of shame.


“That’ll make it about 10 bucks a pound, then. How much you got?”


“Bout 20, so 65 pounds, I think.”


“Sweet Lou, Pete,” what are you using, diamond rings?”


“No,” avoiding eye contact again, despite the fact that the smoke made eye contact impossible in the first place, “just good ol’ chud.”


“Well, let’s go to your place, then. Hey Anna!”


A woman’s silhouette emerged vaguely, her tired voice came after a fit of coughing. “You need me to run the shop again? Hello?”


But they were already gone down the street and towards the shore. Jamie being visible for the first time that day. He lacked any noteworthy features. Blond hair, tall, blue eyes. A sudden wave of pessimistic fear swept over Pete, a feeling of inevitable dread. The fish would be gone. His boat would be sunk. A cougar would have found the money hidden under the steak in his freezer. He walked at a faster pace, but there was nothing out of the ordinary.


They neared the boat, Jamie stepped into the water and grabbed the net full of salmon with both arms.


“And here I thought you were messing with me. Let’s get these things sliced up.”


Pete climed abord and unhooked the net from the railing. Jamie carried the net onto the grass and dropped it, the fish flapping around on the ground. He unsheathed a knife from the holster in his belt and cut the rope, flattening the nets onto the ground, the fish flopping everywhere, breathing their last breaths one by one.


“Oh, I guess you don’t want to see this. Why don’t you go keep Anne company. I’ll write you a check when I get back the the store.”


So Pete waved a subtle goodbye and headed back to town to find a much less smokey market and Anne, at the register, staring out at the the road with a vacant look in her eyes. He took off his glasses and put them in his pocket.


“Hey, Anne.”


“Hey, Cormac.”


A nostalgic look. No one called him by his birth name anymore, no one but her. “Thanks for telling me about that Megabait stuff. I brought in a big haul today,” said the newly re-christened Cormac.


“Did you? How much?”


“Round 20.”


“20 what? Pounds?”


“No, 20 fish,” noting the confused look,”about 650 bucks worth.”


“So, you think you’ll have enough to get started with that candy thing now? What was it, chocolate crucifixes?”


“Well, yeah. Crosses, no one wants to buy a crucifix.”


A short silence as she prepared to transition from small talk in to more dangerous terrain. “You know, you never told me what kind of minister he was.”


Cormac wasn’t expecting this transition. His being caught off guard resulted in a more unbelievable cover-up than usual “He was Presbegarianite, I think. Man, he was a great guy. The people in the stands would watch him with their eyes wide op-”


Another quick transition, riding a wave of carpe-diem euphoria induced by a recent injection of motivational daytime television. “You know, even if you become the most successful God Candy tycoon in the world, it might not bring him back.”


“Yeah, well…” a lengthy pause, a sniffle, a watering of the eyes,”boy is it smokey in here.”


“Good cover up, Cormac. But really, he left when you were eight. It wasn’t a matter of disappointment, and pride probably won’t bring him back. “


“Yeah…”


“You’re not paying attention. You’re throwing your life away trying to find someone who doesn’t care about you, meanwhile you’re completely ignoring your mother, who, might I remind you, has gone through just as much losing as you have.”


“There’s where you’re wrong. He left because of my mom. She wasn’t there for him anymore, she even quit her job at the news station do be a bartender.”


“You don’t even remember, do you? You’ve distorted your own memories. He left because your mom had cancer! She spent 2 hours a day in chemotherapy! He didn’t want to be seen with a one-breasted twig of a wife, so he found himself a nice young girl and hopped town. And now you’re trying to find him? Why?”


“I don’t need this,” and he stormed off across the street, into a small pharmacy with an old raisin of a man working the register. The man squinted through his thick glasses.


“Howdy, Pete, what can I get for ya?”


“Bottle of aspirin, put it on my tab.”


“Hey Pete, I was wonderin’ when’s your arm gonna get better? Shouldn’t you see a doctor? It’s been a few weeks now.”


“I don’t know, Ian,” he was flustered and didn’t feel like small-talking his way through any more lies,”just get me another bottle, will you?”


“Sure thing Pete,” he handed him the bottle and recorded the transaction on a small piece of paper,”say Petey, forgive me if I’ve forgotten in my old age, but how did you get hurt in the first place again?”


“Sorry, can’t really talk right now. I’ll tell you later. Gotta go.”


And he was off.





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coolnurse said...
Aug. 25, 2008 at 10:05 pm
it was amazing! Good decriptives!!
 
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