Ch 5 - Florida Bound

“WHADDAYA MEAN, you’re taking the dog?  Where’s he supposed to go to the bathroom?”

“Why do you think it's called a Poop Deck?”

"Very funny.  He just doesn't seem to like the water very much. Remember that July 4th trip to Ashland, when it was so hot you carried him into the creek but he didn't move?  You traumatized him!"

Cap didn't believe me, and there was no changing his mind. He'd gotten rid of his damned parrot; I just assumed he'd give Czar to a good home, too.

When Cap first showed off Fred inside his cage on top of the fridge, I inwardly panicked. I've been afraid of swooping birds since childhood, and tried like hell to remain calm whenever Fred was out of his cage, but I couldn't.  Cap also owned a battery-operated parrot, which I used to torment Fred when Cap wasn't looking.  I'd creep into the kitchen with fake-Fred behind my back, slowly approaching real-Fred, who never took his eyes off me.  At some point I'd flip the switch and thrust fake-Fred up to the cage,

“Squawk, squawk,” they’d go at each other, with real-Fred flapping his wings excitedly.  I know, I'm terrible.  When Cap headed to his family’s reunion in Branson, MO, I happily handed real-Fred over to his new owner; but I’d become attached to fake-Fred so he’d be coming along on the boat.

After the auction there wasn't much left to do. Cap's housemate loaned us his room during our final week at work, since we sold all our furniture. Only at our farewell party did we confide our true plans to co-workers, all of whom were jealous as hell.

Cap never managed to sell his camper so he left it behind with his 'mate, who promised to sell and forward the money wherever we were. I followed Cap as he drove his Fiat to three dealers before letting it go for $200; it barely ran anyway.  We hooked Trigger up to a 4'x8' U-Haul; threw Czar in the back; lunched with Cap's younger brother and left town.  For a sense of timing: this was one month following the death of Princess Diana.

Only after leaving Oregon did Cap inform me of the three weapons and ammo he’d brought along to repel any Pirates of the Caribbean we might encounter.  Czar was along for the same purpose.  I didn't grow up around guns, but I seemed to date men who owned them, at least out West.

Under my seat was Cap's .45 caliber pistol and a small Colt for me; plus a rifle in the U-Haul. Target practice was one thing; gun-running was something else.

"Don't speed!" he warned.  Cap also packed his Proto Pipe and an ounce of weed.  Nothing like paranoia from the get-go.

We picked up some Spanish language cassettes and practiced as we drove.  Cap, with 2 years of high school Spanish under his belt and recently returned from Peru, corrected my pronunciation and explained idioms.

"Words don't always mean the way they sound.  In Lima I worked my way through crowds saying, Escucha mé, escucha mé; which doesn't mean excuse me but listen to me.  No wonder people stared."

We quickly tired of Uno, dos, tres, and decided we could pick up Spanish while we cruised, so Cap taught me his favorite driving game to keep alert: alternately memorizing and repeating words in alphabetical order.  "I went to the store and bought an Apple; a Banana; Cow; Dirt," etc.  At night we played Backgammon in our room.

Our cross-country trip was relatively uneventful, and over far too quickly for my taste.  I would have preferred to take our time and visit some sights, but Cap was in a hurry to reach Florida and get going.  It rankled me that his decisions frequently became OUR decisions, but I acquiesced.

Czar and I competed for Cap's attention from the start.  Before I entered the picture Czar went everywhere with Cap and sat in the passenger seat. I got tired of asking, "Is HE coming along?" because despite my love of dogs I wanted my new beau to lavish his attention on me, without distractions.

No matter which front seat I occupied, Czar drooled on my shoulder from coast to coast.   It was driving me crazy, so whenever we stopped and people invariably paid complements, our exchanges went like this:

“What a beautiful dog,”

“Thanks.  Want him?”

“She’s joking,” Cap would cry, but I wasn’t entirely.  Good thing Czar exhibited such a sweet disposition, at least towards everybody else, particularly children.

By the time we reached New Jersey I was thrilled to stay put for a few days. My older sister has kept an eye on me throughout our lives, and from vast experience on her husband's boat knew far better than me what was coming.

“You burn terribly.  Remember, Mom used to keep you wrapped up under the umbrella at the beach?  Plus, you get seasick.”

“I’ve got 5 tubes of sunscreen, and Cap says we can get seasickness pills.”  The only thing I used regularly was Tylenol, so what did I know?

“Do you know a whale can sink a boat in less than 5 minutes?”  She then proceeded to tell the tale of a family, adrift for days, surviving on a single tube of toothpaste.  “And you can’t rename a boat…it’s bad luck,” but we didn't care. Whoever came up with King Tut didn't know boat names are feminine, or at least gender-neutral.

“I’ll remember all that, thanks, but don’t worry, we’ll be fine. Please don’t tell Mom the same story.” She gave me a canvas bag including, among other things, her foul weather gear and a pair of weightlifting gloves for handling ropes and chains.

Cap was somewhat shocked by my mother's exuberance when she visited during the summer, for Mom's personality was reminiscent of Auntie Mame.  She could be embarrassing at times but lived life to the fullest; whereas Cap's conservative Baptist mother was the polar opposite.

Even before we met, Betty warned her son against becoming too serious with someone like me (a non-Christian, she believed). Cap refused to divulge our true plans lest she drop dead on the spot; so he concocted a flying job in Florida, where he was heading alone.  I was thrilled he'd be leaving her sphere of influence.

My mother was used to me traveling about, but wasn't quite sure what to make of this plan, or Cap.  I'd remained vague on some points, which she interpreted as Cap running from something: the law, creditors, shady characters; but after he placed a blanket over her while she napped, he could do no wrong.  As we left she gifted him an antique steamer trunk, which took up most of the back of the Honda; since the U-Haul was full.

"Why did you say you'd take it?  I thought we didn't have the space on the boat."

"We don't, but I didn't want to say No."

"Why not?  Hillary and I have been saying No to her for years.  She's used to it."  But Cap didn't want to hurt Mom's feelings.

We stopped in Georgia to visit friends I've known since we were stationed together in Germany in the 1970s.  My spontaneity didn't surprise them at all, but my comfort level in the water was their concern.

Rita howled, “What a waste of money,”  when she heard Cap bought me a snorkeling set.  After Tino died I visited them in Hawaii, where I went snorkeling for the first time.  I panicked in three feet of water, everything looked so HUGE.

I returned to Hawaii a year later in a better frame of mind; and even took Rita up on her suggestion to hike to the top of Diamond Head, totally out of character for me.  On the way down I slipped and fell on the path, breaking both bones in my left ankle.  A rescue team got me down, and I ultimately received multiple pins and plates, which I've never had removed.  My ankle rarely gives me trouble, but my soft cast was coming along on the boat, too.

Cap was intent on fixing a broken laptop he'd been given before we left Eugene, but I was peeved we were futzing with that for days when we couldn't spend more time with my family. Cap frequently visited his relatives in Oregon, but I hadn't been home in three years.

I was also disappointed he had no desire to visit New York City, as long as we were there; nor did he care to see anything in our nation's Capitol, as we drove by.  Cap hates cities whereas I love them. Not that it mattered; I'd seen Washington when Kennedy was in office, and we were heading out to sea anyway.

Computers were still relatively new at the time so I didn't understand it's purpose on the boat; but even after wasting money to determine it couldn't be repaired, Cap wasn't convinced and brought it along.

The night before we left for Bradenton, I hid my head while crying into Cap's arms,

“What if the boat’s not even there?”

“What do you mean, if it’s not there?

“We’ve never actually seen it, so what if it’s not really there?  What if it's a scam?”  I’d had a tug-of-war with Dan over which went first…my wire transfer or his title…but he got upset and started wheezing, so I caved.

“It’ll be there Besides, we have insurance.

The next morning, as I hugged my friends goodbye I knew they were inwardly shaking their heads; but still Tom shocked me when he pulled me aside to whisper,

"Remember, you're always welcome here.  He's not.  We don't trust him," but I didn't want to hear.  Besides, there was nothing to do about it even if I wanted to. 

Next up:  King Tut

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To read from Chapter 1:  A Rough Start

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