Working Towards a Dream

by Howard Faxon

Copyright© 2014 by Howard Faxon

Fiction Story: Dad takes his eight year old boy to visit some ships during an open house. He's so fascinate that it becomes his dream to own one.

Caution: This Fiction Story contains strong sexual content, including Consensual   Fiction   Polygamy/Polyamory   .

For what felt like the millionth time I unlocked the door to my third floor cold-water walk-up. My jacket went on the hook on the back of the door. I'd stopped at the Asian market down the block for a handful of burger and a pint of half 'n half. They went on the counter while I cooked up a batch of chicken-rice on my one electric burner. In the mean time I twisted half-dry the clothes in my five gallon pail, refilled it with cold water and set it to soaking once again. Soon the rice was done. I set it aside. I fried up my fatty burger, dusted it with flour and stirred until it bubbled. Then I added a healthy dollop of half 'n half. Once well-stirred it made a decent gravy. I thinned it with more milk and added it to the rice. Along with a glass of water I had a good, filling dinner for about three bucks. For breakfast I'd have some wheaties out of roach-proof plastic container with the rest of my half 'n half. The garbage would go out to the dumpster with me on my way to work so as not to encourage the roaches.

Besides a bit of fruit and a daily vitamin pill, that had been my diet for over sixteen years. Occasionally I splurged on smoked sausage, potatoes and sauerkraut, but that was maybe once a month when I really had a taste for some fat in my diet. It's no wonder I was skinny.

I rinsed out the previous day's clothes in the bucket, hung them to dry then stripped to add my current clothes to the bucket. A gallon of water heated on the burner went into my budget washing machine along with some soap and enough cold water to fill it to a couple inches from the top. Then I pounded the mix with an axe handle for a few minutes. I owned three shirts, three pairs of pants, six pairs of socks, three sets of underwear which I kept on a small table and a spare pair of boots under it. Other than the table and chair at which I ate, the only furniture in the efficiency was the bed. Oh, there was also a small book shelf that held all the volumes of the Merchant Marine captaincy courses. They were well thumbed. I'd read each of them at least three times. Re-reading those and reading at the library took up my free time.

Why did I live like a broken-down old hermit at the ripe old age of thirty five? I had a mission. By damn, I was going to buy a ship by hook or crook. I lived in that dump ever since I'd passed my apprenticeship at twenty. I bought clothes and bedding once a year. All my money went into the bank. I kept buying five year savings bonds or municipality construction bonds every time my bank account reached five thousand bucks. All my certificates sat safe in a deposit box in the bank because my door lock was for shit and I didn't want them to disappear on me. I didn't miss beer or nights out on the town or anything else anymore. The only decoration on my walls was a picture of a tug boat. That was my goal. That was the prize. Nothing would stand between it and me save grim death.

After doing my dishes I took a standing bath with a pot of hot water in the sink, tempered by cold water from the tap. My towels were getting thin, but they didn't have any holes in them yet. They would serve. As usual, I went to bed early because 4:30 came around quickly. I had to catch that first bus or I'd be late for my shift. I worked from 5:00 AM to 3:00 PM five days a week. It gave me long afternoons to get my business done.

I'm Sid Kelstrom. I'm a heavy equipment fabricator at the shipyard, here in Norfolk.

It seems that I'd always been interested in ships. For my eighth birthday dad took me down to the port where several owners had gotten together for an open house. It was a life-changing experience for me. I had it fixed in my thick head that I was going to own a ship of my own someday come hell or high water. I apprenticed as a lathe operator, joined the union and gone to work straight out of high school. Mom and dad were impressed at my single-minded approach to saving money but eventually became troubled by it too. I took night classes to get my tool-and-die rating. My pay per hour crept up steadily. Eventually I could use any equipment in the shop except for the CAD-CAM stuff--nobody could touch it without a college diploma, which left me out. Still, I could mill a thirty-foot long drive shaft five feet in diameter and the seven foot tall brass bushings for it, cut the keyways and mill the couplings for the ends as well as fabricate the traveller bearings that supported the shaft. I'd even learned how to troubleshoot and rebuild "small" diesel engines, up to about eighteen hundred horsepower. My union card had me down as a master millwright.

I came home one day to find a big guy sitting at my kitchen table with a .45 pistol in front of him. I shrugged. Either he was going to shoot me or not. I hung up my jacket and sat on the bed to take off my boots.

"Man, you strange. I seen more furniture in a dog house. You ain't even got a teevee!" "Nope. Don't want one. It'd just be a distraction." "What's wit you? I seen you go to work every day, come home dirty as hell. You gotta be workin' a job." I gestured at the picture of the tug on the wall. "I'm saving every damned penny I can. I'm gonna own a ship like that someday, dammit, or die trying." He stood up, studied the picture for a while, picked up his pistol and left, shaking his head. I grinned. It was the third time I'd had a visitor like that. The others couldn't believe it either. One guy left me a twenty out of pity.

I had finally banked over that magic number, two hundred thousand dollars. Now, instead of re-investing in more CDs and municipal bonds I cashed them in as they came due and deposited everything into a savings account.

I was on the look-out for an old tugboat with a blown engine. I planned to strip it down and rebuild it from the ribs on up. I had a seven fifty horse Caterpillar engine that I'd totally rebuilt sitting in storage, just waiting for a new home. I spent my Sunday afternoons at the library using the Internet to search for my project boat.

It took me nearly another year but I found a hull whose operator suffered from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A big container ship was off loading dry boxes full of heavy glass sheets. The two boxes he'd clamped were heavily overloaded and broke the crane's clamps just as the load was over the tug, some four stories below. The pilot and his three crewmen were instantly squashed flat. The boxes crashed through the deck and half flattened the fuel and water tanks. It must have been one hell of a mess.

The shipper's insurance paid off, but the manufacturer was put out of business over the deaths.

I snatched it up for twelve grand. I was almost dancing as I made the call. It was so much less than I'd thought I'd buy a project boat for. The hull and framework were solid but everything down to the bulkheads needed replacing. I paid five grand to have it stripped out and another six to have it trucked from New York to Norfolk. I rented a covered workspace with an overhead chain hoist and metered electricity, then sat back to do some planning. The hull was laid down in the sixties and no doubt had some thinner spots after fifty years of operation. I could fix that with a hot sputtered chrome steel deposit once the hull was stripped down to bare metal and pickled to expose the crystalline structure and prepared to take the metal. It was a hot plasma process that required shielding to keep bystanders from getting retina burns and a pumped air supply for the operator. The receiving surface would have to be electrically charged to attract the metal ions so there would be no ground contamination, hence the EPA wouldn't get its panties in a wad. I'd have to electrically insulate the hull to do the job, then shift it in the cradle to cover the areas previously protected by the cradle. I could see that it would take a while, but it would be worth the effort. It would also make the hull tough as hell!

I knew I'd need new tanks, mounts and fittings. I could fabricate the mounts and fittings, no problem. I'd seen enough ship's engine compartments to know how and where to run the lines, too. I'd need some mixing and control manifolds for the fuel, oil, exhaust and water. Then I had to lay out the engine room equipment, make sure the lower decks would carry the load and securely mount it all. Since I intended to keep all the living space on one main deck I could use the bow as storage and a work room. Hell, why not put the washer and dryer in there, too? First, though, I had to make a trip to the breaker's yard for an electrical panel, generators, tanks, pumps and manifolds. Everything, but everything aboard ship had to be run in conduit. The pipe, fittings and boxes were going to cost me a small fortune.

Whoah. Wait a minute. I couldn't just slap this thing together like a bloody cat boat. There were just too many subsystems and critical dimensions, not to mention home runs to the power panel in the pilot house, to make it nearly impossible to just throw together. There was no way that I could even calculate the space needed for the conduit runs. I needed a ship's architect, and I needed one fast. I could get the hull work done while they pulled together the design, but anything beyond that was hands off until I got the plans to work by.

It took less than a week to find an architect I felt comfortable with. I specified the tank sizes, the engine I had in storage and how I wanted to use the living space. I specified half inch rust free chrome steel decking right off the bat and seven foot head space in all spaces just to set his weight budget and general proportions. The hull was eighty seven feet long by twenty eight feet wide. She measured six feet below the waterline and drew another three feet as previously built out, but that would change. The bow thrusters and the locations for the bulkheads were the only blocks in the entire hull. I intended to allow for a two foot catwalk around her main deck, a bare three foot fore deck for anchor work and an eight foot aft deck.

Tugboats are built solid and heavy. That's why they need such powerful engines, besides the loads that they push and pull. If a tug hits a sailboat or vice versa the sailboat will probably sink with a caved-in hull. The tug might need a paint job. I made the skin even tougher by adding almost three centimeters of chrome steel, three millimeters at a time. The hull looked beautiful when I was done. I took pictures, inside and out.

By the time I'd finished I figured that the architect had had enough time to play around. I paid him a visit. He'd gotten to the point where he'd done a weight analysis and generated a wire frame model, plans for all the subs and even pick lists. He said he'd had fun working from an empty shell on up, but he still charged me four grand. According to his figures, with a reinforced stern over half-inch chrome steel I could build in a pair of heavy bollards in case I ever ran into a tow job, like a rescue. That became part of the plan.

The ship was originally designed and built to use a ducted propeller, otherwise known as a Kort nozzle. It made the ship more efficient at lower speeds (ten knots or less), but required a very beefy gearbox to turn the thing, as it acted as the rudder. Once I got the engine, gear reduction equipment, drive shaft and propeller in place, getting that Kort installed was a two-men-and-a-boy type job. I had to weld up a cradle and use bottle jacks to hoist it into place, then use the chain hoist to pull it straight into the gearbox. Once the axle was pinned above and below she was good to go. Next, the tanks went in which required a bit of welding on my part. Then the bilge pumps, tank plumbing runs and pumps were installed. The flat oval tanks gave me enough room to work on joining the fillers and vents to the deck penetrations later. First, the bulkheads and the main deck had to be welded in place.

The peripheral welds that attached the hull to the deck had to be perfect. I sure took my time over the job. Next the sections were welded together in place and ground smooth. Then I measured to the millimeter to cut the penetration for the gangway to below decks. I cut it a bit small and ground the edges to fit. Then I did some more difficult welding, repeating all the welds along the periphery and at the plate junctions from below. Once it was all ground flat it looked beautiful. I took more pictures before it all got covered in marine epoxy. I started making a ship's construction album.

Next I built the superstructure on the ground to make handling the materials easier. I made it out of quarter inch chrome sheet steel over a two inch box beam frame built on twenty inch centers. The bow wall had to be stronger to take out in heavy seas. I made it out of half-inch chrome steel and brought it to a blunt prow to split the waves. There were no penetrations made in it. I made the first penetration where the stern hatch would seat. I cut all the port holes and hatchways, then got the hardware for them mounted. I welded in a riser stack for all the electrical runs in the starboard bow corner of the superstructure, making sure to include a hinged full-length door so I wouldn't be fishing all that conduit blind. That meant that the conduits would come out within the console and not interfere with the ladders to the upper and lower decks. The top of the superstructure was made of 3/8 inch flat steel to support the pilot house. Once I got the pilot house framed up and welded together just like I did the superstructure I tacked it in place, checked my positioning and carefully welded it permanently in place. Again, I ground and polished the welds until they looked like they grew that way. After cutting the rear hatchway into the pilot house I finished the inside welds, cut openings for the portholes and the gangway/ladder down. Then the whole superstructure got insulated with spray foam. All exposed exterior steel including the floors got protected by a couple coats of marine epoxy paint.

Then came the tedious job of running conduit and feeding wire. Every power line was fed to and from the master panel in the pilot house as well as a repeater panel in the engine room. I built in a set of 12-volt and 110-volt outlets under the bridge cabinet, then built out the cabinet out of 2 inch square box beams and more quarter inch steel sheet, only this time with a big panel in the front on hinges and a pair of locking catches. Then everything but the locks were painted with the same grey shipboard two part epoxy paint that the rest of the vessel received. Every. Wire. Got. Labelled. At. Each. End. It was the job that wouldn't die. When I considered it finished, I had a few more jobs to do before I called the Coast Guard for an inspection prior to buttoning it up. All the hatches and portholes had to go in, above and below decks, and the main deck penetrations for the tanks had to be made then hooked up. The bilge pumps had to be installed. The hydraulics for the steering and the control runs had to be made to the pilot house, as well as the engine readouts and controls before she was ready for her first inspection. I took some vacation time so it took less than a week.

I ended up using a 55 gallon drum to cool the generator's engine and fed it from a five gallon jerry can of diesel, but the electrical system came up for the inspectors. First one generator, then the other spun up and the gauges stabilized. They seemed pretty happy with the whole thing. At least I didn't get any dings. That was a major, major accomplishment. It had taken nearly two years of working every spare minute to get that far. I wore coveralls and fingerless gloves to work during the winter and still froze.

I still had my external lights, wipers, internal wall framing, the galley and the head to put together and wire in. A lot of plumbing had to be done. I wired in 12-volt LED clusters for lighting and covered all the walls with two inch thick Thermax paneling. The overheads go the same treatment. It comes with a textured plastic white surface, and the mounting hardware covers the seams. Once I got the openings cut the only custom work I had to do was to put in baseboards, crown moldings and cover the exposed edges around the hatches and port holes. I put little plastic diffusers over the holes that hid the LEDs to soften the light.

I installed a big cooler and a big freezer, a gas range with an oven, a deep single well sink and a small ice maker. Then I bought cabinets and shoe-horned them in everywhere I could. Below the counter there were only two drawers. The rest of the space went to open cabinets under the sink and several slide-out racks in the cabinets opposite the stove and cooler for the china, pots and pans. The end-most cabinet opposite the freezer was set up with slide-out shelves with less head room for canned goods. I kept cleaning supplies and the garbage can under the sink and outer counter. The cleaning stuff I kept in dish pans to take out and look through rather than lose deep in the corners of the cabinet.

The head got a high oval stool, a vanity and a latching mirrored medicine chest. I hate stools that are so low that you end up having your knees around your ears when you sit down to do your business. The bath was a bit oversized and had a shower head above it. With ten by ten to play with there was plenty of room for all that and a narrow closet for towels and spare bog paper. I made sure to install a separate blower in the head to keep condensation problems at bay.

I got the inverters and battery chargers mounted, then populated the battery farm. I covered the overhead of the engine compartment with more thermax sheets for noise abatement. Once I got the ship connected to shore power I filled the water tank with a garden hose and hand-loaded twenty jerry cans of fuel into the tank. The water supply worked, the refrigerator and freezer worked, and the stove lit, fueled by a dinky little twenty pound propane tank on the rear deck. It supplied fuel for the water heater too. I had plans for a five hundred pound tank mounted above the galley opposite the little runabout or ship's boat that I planned for. Hell, even the toilet worked!

She still wasn't ready for launch. I'd spent nearly seventy thousand on her rebuild so far and still had to buy electronics, communications and safety gear. It had taken four years to get that far including the year it took to find the hull. I had almost two hundred and twenty thousand in the bank. I could afford the electronics, davits and ship's boat. They were all installed by a contractor, as was the small crane I had put in next to the davits. If I wanted to bring something heavy aboard I didn't want to have to use my back. With the rig I bought, I could snatch a cargo net or a skid out of the boat, rotate the boom and set it down on the rear deck.

She was fitted out with two larger cabins, one smaller cabin and a pilot's bunk in the wheel house. She was heated and cooled by little flat two inch by ten inch ducts running everywhere, including the wheel house. Within six months I had the propane tank mounted, the mounts for the zincs in place, the hull painted and the zincs installed. The radar mast quickly went up. My first idea was to use Rayethon radar, GPS, auto-pilot and chart display equipment but the screen size was too damned small and the model I saw kept getting washed out by the sun. Instead I went with Furuno and dropped enough cash to make my eyes water. Still, I got the big color screen that I could easily read from the duty bunk if necessary. While I was spending money I put a repeater display in the engine room. With that I could control the vessel from below decks if anything went really bad. If the wheel house took a hit I could patch out the electrical panel at the helm for the few services I'd need to navigate and control. With that in mind I put a bulkhead-style locking hatch at the head of the gangway down from the main deck. Once the locking dogs were run out into the hatch frame and the locking bar was thrown not much would get through that half inch steel deck or that industrial strength pressure hatch. I also stored a two-way marine radio, some military rations, jugs of water, a waterless toilet, a cot and a few blankets in the maintenance shop. I figured that I could always drill a hole and feed a wire out for an antenna if I had to.

I was so proud of her that I slept aboard usually two nights a week, Friday and Saturday. The smell of the new paint, the solid feel of her around me and the quiet away from my apartment neighbors just did it for me.

It was spring. I called for her final inspection before she was re-floated. I forgot all about the damned ship's bell. I guess they had to gig me for something. At least I'd remembered to mount a helm compass.

I looked around for a slip. You damned near have to inherit a slip in the Chesapeake Bay area if it's worth a damn. I ended up anchoring 'on the hook' so to speak. Marinas lay down grids of heavy chain with mooring points held up to the surface by buoys. Boats tie up to the mooring points for not a lot of money, but you're stuck without shore power or water. You'd damned well better have a ship's boat handy too, or you're going to have to swim. Shore taxis are expensive.

My ship's boat? I wanted a hard-top boat that was small enough to hoist with the davits but big enough to carry the groceries or a few passengers. I bought a 2009 C-Dory 19. With a 90-HP Evinrude outboard it was a little buzz-bomb. It had less than a hundred hours on the engine. I think someone took it out one day, got it up on plane and scared the crap out of themselves when they hit some chop. Then they put it away except to take short cruises on nice days.

I got bulwarks installed instead of railings. Rather than try to make the weld look like one continuous sheet of metal I mounted the 90 degree brackets a bit low so when I welded them in place there was a three inch slot all around the catwalk and the weather deck behind the wheel house. Once it was all painted up it looked pretty imposing. I thought about mounting a bimini over the rear deck but then I wouldn't be able to lower anything to it with the crane. I did weld a two foot lip to the overhead to help protect the aft hatch when the rain and wind took to blowing. Of course, if the rains came from directly abaft there would be no helping it.

I couldn't get out of that dinky little efficiency apartment too soon. There sure wasn't much to take out of it--just clothes and books. I left the hot plate, cooking gear, china and furniture for the next occupant. I had a little challenge finding a grocery store with an available slip nearby. I filled the ship's diesel tank and tied up while I attacked the grocery store. I had a thousand gallons of diesel fuel aboard, five hundred pounds of propane and almost five hundred gallons of drinking water. Once I was anchored back on the chain I was good to go. I had her registered as "My Delight" and slept aboard her as if I were safe in my momma's arms.

I still had responsibilities that came with owning a ship. I had to get my captain's ticket and my final Coast Guard sign-off of seaworthiness before I could get her insured. I took some more vacation time from work. When my boss read the reason I was taking a week's worth he looked astounded. I had to grin. I said, "I'll bring you some pictures when I get back."

I had no doubts about my ability to pass the tests. As soon as I had my temporary certificate in hand I applied for my check-ride. Seeing as how it was spring, they were pretty busy. It was "new boat" season. Still, they remembered me from my previous two certification calls. They snuck me into an early morning time slot. The only disaster occurred when the refrigerator door swung open and dumped a jar of pickled herring on the deck. It didn't even chip the paint. I saw where I should have put in more grab bars, but other than some drawer catches and a couple latches for the refrigerator and freezer doors I think I did pretty well. I figured that if I ever had to cook during rough weather at sea I'd be using an electrical appliance in the sink, like a crock pot.

The petty officer in charge of my testing detail asked to see my arms locker. When I told him I didn't have one he looked at me as if I had two heads. "What if someone came aboard, pulled a pistol and demanded the keys?" I'd never really thought about it, frankly. "I guess I'd either get shot or toss the idiot over the side with a bum's rush." He covered his eyes and shook his head. Finally he got control of himself. "A ship like this is a tempting target. You should have an alarm system installed. Lock up before you sleep. Learn how to set your radar to sound an alarm at any close approach and set it regularly. At least get a christly shotgun!" I meekly said, "Okay. I'll get it done today. Maybe the alarm will reduce my insurance bill?" He nodded. "Sure will. Your having a cell phone and a radio-telephone aboard would help too."

Jeez. I felt like an idiot. I had a marine band radio and had figured that was enough. After they left I cleaned up the mess on the galley floor, locked up and took the dory into town. The company that installed my navigation gear had a radio-telephone that they could install for me the same day. I gave him a check and said I'd be back on board by three. He said he'd need about a week's lead time to get the parts for the alarm system. I headed off for a mall to visit a cell phone palace.

Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick. There were more gimmicks on those phones than I could believe. Finally I asked the salesman for a "granny phone" ... big keys, caller ID and a clear speaker. No, I didn't want ring tones. No, I didn't want a camera-phone. No, I didn't want doodly-twit gimmicks or e-mail. Hell, I didn't even have a computer, much less an e-mail address. I think the poor fella went into shock. I got a thirty buck phone with a two year contract. There. I had a goddamned cell phone. Can't tell I wasn't real impressed, can ya?

This was getting to be a lot of crap to carry around. Since I was already at the mall I bought a little Samsonite briefcase to hold it all. Then I figured that it would be nice to carry around a notebook to write down things I wanted or needed to do, so I stopped into a Walgreens drug store for a pad and a pen. I bought some plastic covers for my certifications too. I had lunch in the food court before heading back to the boat to make my appointment for the radio-telephone installation. The first thing I wrote in my new notebook was "Get a phone book". The second was "Get a mail box".

While sitting around waiting for the installation team I got bored. There weren't any books, a radio, nothing. Not even a deck of cards. I didn't even have pots, pans, cups or china. The place looked pretty sterile, too. It needed rugs, furniture for the living room and curtains for the windows. The bunks were bare mattresses too. The only bedding on board was covering the wheel house berth where I'd been sleeping. Hell, the place looked like a room at a Holiday Inn from hell. There wasn't even a picture on the walls. I didn't even have a chair, desk and lamp to sit at and read. It was pretty sad. I'd have to ask one or two of the ladies at work to help me buy some stuff. I didn't want to ask out of the blue, though. I'd have to sort of ease into it. No sense in asking a married woman either. I didn't want to get punched in the snot locker by an indignant husband.

The guys were done by five. They left me with a huge manual and no idea how to use the damned thing. I headed out to find some books, a teevee and a radio. I figured that some yellow and white checked cloth, some needles and thread would get me some curtains. I didn't want to buy any cheap furniture that I'd just end up tossing later. I was too frugal for that. However, I did buy a nice, solid chair that I could comfortably sit in and a padded bar stool with a short back to sit at the kitchen counter to eat, play cards, read or whatever. I'd installed a pass-through in the kitchen with a deep enough counter to act as a full-length table. I even put a row of lights above it and a pair of outlets next to where I'd be sitting. It looked like a good place for a radio and a phone charger to me. Dark blue blankets looked good so I bought four. I got sheets, pillowcases and pillows. I bought a little neon night light for each stateroom and the head. I found a place handing out phone books, paid a visit to a kitchen supply store for some kitchen wares, picked up a case of beer and headed home. That crane was damned handy!

I stowed my kitchen gear, read the first half of the radio-telephone manual while drinking a couple of beers and went to bed.

Come morning I was going to take a shower. Big problem. No shower curtain. Crap. Get out the tablet again. Might as well put down shampoo, a mop, bucket and laundry soap too. I looked under the kitchen sink. Nothing. Get a trash can and liners, dish pans, dish soap, dish towels, 409, paper towels, lysol, bleach and PineSol. Get a toilet brush and a plunger before I needed one. <snort>

It was Saturday so all the stores were open by nine. I bought a wall mounting kit for the teevee and a DVD player. The unit was forty inches wide so I needed a pretty healthy support bracket. (I forgot about buying any speakers. I'd never set anything like that up before.) Other than that I picked up a shower curtain, a squeegee to wash the windows, a gallon of vinegar for said windows and everything else on my list. Got some spare toilet paper, too. Next, I rented a box at Mailboxes of America then spent some time standing in line at the post office to get my mail transferred. I had to work quickly because they closed at noon.

I still didn't want to apply for boat insurance as I didn't have the burglar alarm in place yet. However, I walked into three offices for quotes. You'd have thought that nobody wanted my business. It was like water off a duck's back and I let them know it. After all, I knew where the door was and it was just as easy to walk out as to walk in. I finally found an insurance broker that worked with several companies--She would work with me. For four grand I got a binder on my ship.

I spent a little time getting my maritime firearms permit down at the Coast Guard station. I asked the petty officer behind the counter what dealer she thought was a straight shooter. She smiled and gave me an address.

I was tired of spending money on taxi fares. I found a big used car lot and looked around. They had a good looking Suzuki Samurai that I was interested in. Damn, if I didn't get the run-around from a big guy behind the desk. I told him that suede shoe operators were a dime a dozen and if he didn't want to close the goddamned deal another guy down the street was no doubt slavering for my money. He sat back and grinned. I'd gotten the old horse-trading son of a bitch. We made a deal for cash money and I called my new insurance lady for a binder on the car. I was in business.

Out at Max's Firearms and Liquor Store I got set up with a stainless steel pump shotgun with a laser sight, a .44 magnum revolver with a detachable shoulder stock and a laser sight, five hundred rounds for each and a half-day's worth of instruction. I'd never fired a weapon in my life and here I was with enough firepower to cut a car in half. Jesus. They taught me how to draw down and hit what I aimed at without jerking the trigger with both the shotgun and the pistol. That goddamned long-barreled pistol was a menace to shoot but it sure got its point across. They had me shoot into a stack of wet phone books. There was confetti everywhere! The buckshot rounds were pretty impressive, too. I walked out with a fifth of gin and two liters of tonic water.

I went back out to the mall to spend some time reading the boxes for movies. I hadn't seen one in well over fifteen years and bought a few to see if I liked them. I bought some classical guitar CDs too just because. Bose made a big amplified speaker bar for home theater that looked like the cat's pajamas. I made a deal with the salesman that I could bring it back if I didn't like it. I kept it.

Sunday I took a nice hot shower, washed my clothes and mopped the floors. In the afternoon I went shopping for a knife block that I could screw under the cabinets. I also bought the glides and drawer to mount below the kitchen breakfast bar. I needed somewhere to keep miscellaneous crap.

That afternoon I spent some time listening to a classical station on the radio while I sewed together my drapes. It felt good to just sit in one place and be productive.

Monday I walked into work with my photo binder and blew my boss away. He'd never conceived of anyone taking on such a project by themselves and I'd finished it. I even had the Coast Guard sign-off to prove it. After work I bought curtain rods and mounts that I could glue to the walls. Before I left the store I remembered to pick up the brackets and shelf-board to hold up the VCR. I spent a little time setting things up for the home movie system. The teevee came with a little antenna that I plopped up on top of the wheel house with a magnet and ran the wire down through the windows to see if it would work. By damn if I didn't get some local stations. I was in business! I ran a painted conduit with an elbow fitting on one end and a goose neck on the other up the side of the salon and glued it in place, then drilled a hole through the wall and fished the antenna cable down through it. A little electrical void plug paste later and my antenna was permanent. (well, it was after I squirted a jolt of epoxy under the antenna's magnet mount.)

I took some measurements of the living spaces in preparation for finding furniture and rugs. The living room or salon was about twenty-two feet wide by thirty feet long on one side and forty on the other as the galley took up ten feet of the ship's length and eleven feet of width. A three foot wide hallway ended at the stern hatch. The two main staterooms lay across from each other, each ten feet wide by fifteen long. A smaller stateroom lay across from the head, measuring ten by ten as did the head. At the bow lay two gangways going up and down. I planned to put a desk in the corner opposite the galley so that the sunlight from the port hole would shine through. Next to that I planned for a book case. I had a false wall that blocked off the gangway up to the helm and mounted the teevee on it. I was thinking about a credenza on the starboard side to hold CDs and DVDs. I didn't know what to do with the port side. I was thinking perhaps a hidden bar and a couch or a pair of comfortable chairs. I had to think about how to best use all that space. It would be a shame to build it all out and not use it.

At lunch the next day I wandered over to Mary, an older lady in our accounts receivable department. I asked her if she'd help me with a decorating project and showed her my album. I must have hit one of her hot buttons because she was off to the races. She started talking about color combinations, furniture styles and workgroups. I had to put the brakes on her. I let her know how much space we were talking about and the fact that I wanted to go used, not new. I surely couldn't afford a new Persian carpet, but I sure wanted one. She wanted to come see the place the next Saturday and wanted to bring a friend along who was "in the business". I said sure, gave her my phone number and made a note to buy a couple bottles of wine. And a corkscrew. And maybe wine glasses. It never ends, ya know? I think you stop buying stuff when you run out of room to keep it in. Hell, if it got too bad I'd convert the smallest stateroom into a storage locker.

The next day all the women at lunch were looking me over like fresh meat because I'd gotten Mary all excited about something. Mary was about fifty-two and had three grown kids. Not much got her excited anymore except a good joke or an argument. (How do you get a nice, little old lady to say shit? Have her three best friends shout out "Bingo!". Like that.)

I made it through the week okay. I got a call about six Saturday morning. Mary was at the dock with her 'friend'. I was surprised the way Mary scampered up the ladder to get on board. She was spry for her age. Her friend was her son, Steven. Steven was a flamer. He had on a wine-red silk shirt, tan chinos and had a red hand print stitched over each cheek of his ass. The boy was on fire. They wandered all over the place, even the wheel house and all the berths. They talked back and forth a while, mostly in one word comments. Then they asked me what I wanted. I told them what I'd figured out so far, but It was a first guess and nothing was written in stone. Moving the teevee would leave holes, though.

It took less than an hour before they decided that they had enough to work with. I was flabbergasted. I thought that I'd be stuck listening to them jabber for most of the day. Happy as a clam, I went out for a deck chair, a spin casting outfit and a few plugs. I spent the rest of the day being fooled by the fish, drinking beer and getting a little sunburn. It was a great day.

Sunday was rainy. The rain sounded oddly soothing aboard ship. The insulation buffered the sound of the heavy drops hitting the metal. I cleaned the place from end to end and sat down to watch a movie that I'd bought. I'd be donating that one to the library. I made mac 'n cheese for dinner and finished the radio-telephone manual.

On Thursday Mary hustled over to me during lunch. She had a lead on some good used furniture. Her brother had a minor heart attack and was retiring. His wife was selling off the contents of his law office while he was in the hospital. We had to get there fast before anyone else found out about it. After work I rented a cube truck and off we went to Newport News to find the place.

There was an eighteen by twenty Persian carpet that was so pretty that I almost cried. The desk was beautiful and he had several glass-fronted old style book cases as well as a short credenza that had me lusting after it. He had two pictures on the wall of sailing scenes that I wanted too but his wife decided to keep them. The price for all this? two grand. I must have said, "Are you sure?" six times. I used the phone book to get a number for a day-hire place to get help moving the furniture onto and off of the truck. Thank God the truck came with moving blankets and dollies. That desk looked like a heavy mother. I took two of the book cases, the desk, credenza and that beautiful carpet. It was beige with dark green figures. He had a big overstuffed couch in there too but that was over the top for me. Besides, she wanted two grand for the couch alone.

Back at the docks I moved the ship into a temporary slip to get the furniture aboard. Everything went great until they tried to get that desk inside. It was just too big for the passageway. I got a screwy idea and sawed the legs off two inches proud of the bottom of the desk. Mary looked on aghast as the guys carried it in. I had them lay it face down on one of my new quilts, then paid them a hundred and a half for their work, fifty to drop off the van and bus fare home.

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