Two months. Two friggin months on the beach because some piss-ant cook got drunk on vanilla extract and decided to get froggy. Shaking his head Tom Miller pulled his collar up tight and stared out over the breakwater as the freighter cleared the sea buoy. What the hell was he going to do for two months? Especially in this god forsaken hell hole.
Spreading his feet and leaning into the stiff wind he shoved his hand into the pockets of his black pea coat and hunched his shoulders. A small orange boat pulled up next to the ship to take off the pilot. Bobbing and weaving as it tried to hold position. A short bald man gingerly made his way down, hesitated, then jumped to the smaller boat. The freighter’s crew pulled the Jacobs ladder back onboard then scurried inside. Slowly, the behemoth turned into the long Pacific rollers as white mist shot up from the bow. That was it then. The last contact. She now belonged to the big blue.
Sighing to himself he tried to suppress a deep shudder. Everyone and everything he knew was literally sailing out of his life. Leaving him here like a discarded piece of jetsam.
So what now? Where was he supposed to go, what was he supposed to do. It wasn’t like he had a home to go to. He’d been on the move for too long to ever put down enough roots to call any place home. In the past, his down time had been planned. He’d hole up with some buddy and twiddle his thumbs until his next berth. This was different, Money was tight, money was always tight, but he could squeak by for a couple months if he was careful. But there was no telling how long it would take to get another ship after his suspension was over. All become some low life cook decided to come after him with a carving knife the size of Star Wars light saber.
Throwing his green sea bag over his shoulder he turned and began the long walk back down the pier. He ignored the cawing seagulls and distant whistle from the lumber mill. “Well Tommy my boy,” he muttered to himself “Another day, another adventure.”
He had to suppress a shiver as he nodded a greeting to the gray haired security guard at the front gate. God, there was a job for you. All day in a six by six cube, checking people and goods in and out of the loading yard. Stuck here while manufactured parts from Ohio got to travel the world. It’d be enough to make a man slit his own throat with a dull knife.
Stepping out to the main road he turned his head to look both ways. Left or right? Port or starboard? Which way? Lives could turn on this simple decision. His life in particular. He was really torn. He had no idea which way would be best. The town looked pretty much the same both ways. Gray warehouses, lumber yards and abandoned lots. He’d never pulled liberty here so he didn’t know where anything was located. The only thing he knew for sure was that the Union hall was across town for unknown reason so that was out for today.
His legs refused to move, refused to commit. Surely people looking would have thought of him as a lost soul. Staring first one way then the other.
“What is it you want Tom,” he asked himself. “Other than what every sailor wants, booze, broads, and a bed. Hopefully in that order.” He said as he tried to shake off that lonely feeling threatening to climb up his spine. He didn’t feel the loneliness when he was at sea. He could push it back. Bury it in work. But here, on shore, the bitch threatened to take over.
As he pondered his future travels a sea gull landed to his right. There was nothing special about the bird. A normal, everyday, white sea gull. It wasn’t a messenger from the gods or anything special. Just a flying rat.
The bird tilted its head then pecked at a McDonald’s wrapper. Because Tom was generally pissed off to the ninth degree and finally here was something to attack he took a step towards the bird and brought his boot back for an epic kick. The kind that would have made an NFL kicker proud. But sea gulls are not dumb. They have been around enough pissed off sailors to know to keep their distance. And long before Tom could launch his epic kick, the bird jumped into the air and flew away.
Tom chuckled and sighed to himself, “Typical.”
Because he was already turned that way, because it was easier to continue than to make a decision, or just because. He kept on walking, down the road to the right. Not because some higher power drove him. Not because it was his destiny, but because a bird landed to his right vice his left. Such are the little things that screw with our lives.
Gracey Mars was slammed and it wasn’t even happy hour. Carla had called in sick again so she was both tending bar and waiting tables. Oh the glamor of a dock side bar. The Green Shamrock served a mixed clientele, both fishermen and dock workers, almost all men. Guys determined to forget about how much their lives sucked. Men trying to eke out a few more rounds until their next paycheck mixing with guys loaded to the gills with spending money after a profitable fishing trip. It created an interesting environment to say the least. A woman with any sense wouldn’t be caught dead in a dive like this.
She wiped the bar down for the tenth time and cursed under her breath as Johnny Simpson made his way to the Juke Box. If he played that damn Pena Colada song one more time she was going to scream. Just think, if you had stuck with it you’d be graduating from college this summer. Of course you’d have been a hundred grand in debt, but you sure as shit wouldn’t be here. Twenty three years old and she had made it exactly five point six miles from her child hood home. She wondered for the thousandth time if she would ever get away. Ever see more of the world than this barnacle on gods butt.
“When you going to marry me, Gracey?” Mike Jensen slurred over the top of his drink. Gracey laughed. Mike was older than Noah, with straggly gray hair and missing front teeth. He had lost his dentures a couple of months ago but couldn’t afford new ones. He could afford to come in here every day though.
“Mike, I’ve told you a dozen times. I’ll marry you the day you get sober.” Gracey said with her patented female bartender smile.
“Ah hell Gracey, for you I just might do it.”
Everyone laughed and then returned to concentrating on their drinks. Such is the nature of a dockside bar in the early afternoon.