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Monday, June 26, 2017

(5) JAYNE SAID, "BARBARA, ED FELL OVERBOARD."

Friday, July 25, 1958, Cohasset to Gloucester on the Happy Days
      Eleven year-old Timmy: “When’s Daddy coming home?” 
      “He said around six.”  
      “Does that mean a little before six or a little after six?”  
      “How do I know, Tim, I suppose it depends on the traffic.”  
      “Well, what time is he leaving the office?”   
      “Timmy, I don’t know, all I know is he said he’d be home around six!”
      A little before six Timmy decided to mow the lawn.  He couldn’t get the blasted lawn mower going because Teddy had wrecked it, he said.  Vonnie said Teddy didn’t wreck it, Daddy did.  When Daddy drove in at six, he didn't even have the car door open before Tim was ordering him to fix the lawn mower.
     “Not now,” said Ed. “Next Monday or Tuesday, maybe.  Right now we’ve got to get going.  Is everyone ready?"
     The children hastened to stow our gear in the car.  Timmy made off with the box of groceries before I’d had time to add the perishables from the refrigerator.  He was offended when I chided him.  He was more offended when he cracked his head on the car door and I failed to take time from my rushing around to sympathize.
     “A fine mother you are!” he stormed.  I understood this tribute was not to be taken literally.
     I went out to the garage to plead with Ted to please be quiet after 10:00 at night and not wake Isha with sawing, pounding, clanking, etc.  Last night Mother was awakened by voices, and assuming it was Ted and his friends, called out the window, “If you don’t stop that noise this minute, I’m going to wake you up at six in the morning!”
     “I’d be delighted,” our friend and very late guest Bill Blair replied diplomatically, much to Mother’s embarrassment.
     Ed and Tim went out in the skiff to get the Happy Days.  Ed wouldn't waste a minute tying up at the dock, so Vonnie and Tim and I scrambled back and forth with the gear, handing stuff to Ed and finally hauling ourselves aboard.  I was the last in line and almost got left behind as I did the split between the dock and the boat.  Safely aboard, I sang the first line of a song I made up on the spot: “Remember the night we went to Gloucester, and poor old Mom, we almost loster?”  Ed didn't crack a smile.
     The reason our Captain was perturbed was The Fog.  “No one else in the whole world would be crazy enough to make this trip,” he muttered, busying himself with the protractor, compass, stop watch, etc.  I resolved to keep the Log by my side every minute in order to be prepared for riveting eye-witness accounts of any collisions, running agrounds, or dramatic rescues.
     At 7:00 the children were ravenous. I opened a can of Ravioli, heated it, served it on paper plates with bread and oleo.  Ed and I had beer and what was left of the Ravioli.
     At 8:00 the fog grew denser.  Ed was forced to slow down to a crawl.  At 8:05 we sighted land—Gloucester Ho! 
     It was almost 9:00 when we obtained a mooring and shut off the engines.  We watched the ESP show on TV, then Ed and I read our books while the kids watched a movie: Van Johnson and June Allyson in “High Barbaree.”
Saturday, July 26, 1958, Gloucester
     After breakfast, we went ashore with Vonnie and the Nag.  Stopped to take movies of Mr. Wilkins and his world famous rose garden, with Tim grumbling and complaining, come on, we’ll miss the bus.  He was right, and that made him doubly tiresome.  Ed and I have grown numb through the years and consequently were able to enjoy the sights as we walked along, in spite of the Nag.  Vonnie is more sensitive--she tugged at my sleeve and said, “What’ll I do, just ignore him?”  We decided to sing a little song whenever he began to get on our nerves.  Our humming got on his nerves and by the time the bus had completed its circuit and caught up with us, we were all hardly speaking to each other.
     Got off the bus near Bill Brown’s store, shopped for groceries at the A & P, walked to the place that sells fresh lobster and lobster bodies.  The bodies were six for a quarter and the nice man threw in two extra for good luck.  Took movies of the kids tearing into the carcasses and feeding tidbits to Alice, the nice man’s cat. 
     Returned to the Happy Days.  Tim was eager to do some fishing.  The weather was cold and unpleasant, but we were talked into it by guess-whom.  As we headed for the Stellwagon Ledge, I curled up in my bunk and began reading back pages of the Log, which put me to sleep in no time.  Then I heard a shout and woke up with a start, thinking one of the kids had fallen overboard.  I rushed out to the deckhouse, found Timmy in a state because his father had decided to turn back.  He said loud and long that we would have to take them out some other weekend this summer because this one had been no fun at all.  I advised him to make the best of things and he said how could you make the best of things when there was nothing to make the best of?
     Vonnie saved the day by convincing Tim it would be fun to take the skiff and go exploring.  Ed gave them a quarter and told them not to hurry back.
     When the children returned from their expedition, Tim was in a much better mood, even  going so far as to apologize for giving us a hard time.  Ed, on the other hand, had apparently expended his last ounce of patience along with that quarter.  He had just settled down to read when Tim put in a request for some line so he could do a little bottom fishing.  Ed threw down his book, glared at me (What did I do?) and growled, “If I ever again bring these kids out on this boat or anywhere else, I’ll need to have my head examined!”
     I didn't agree that Tim’s desire to fish was so unreasonable.  “What’s wrong with giving the kid a little line?  It’ll give him something to do.”
     “Yah, for about three minutes, and then he’ll be wanting something else. Besides, I don’t have any old line.  I’m darned if I’m going to cut off a piece of brand new line just to satisfy him and his crazy ideas.”
     But he got up and began opening drawers and slamming them, looking for some old line.                    “After all, we are on a boat,” I said. “What’s so unreasonable about a kid wanting to fish from his father’s boat?  You did practically promise him a tuna. Is it his fault the weather’s so rotten?”
      Ed grabbed a rod and reel.  “Here, he can use this. The line’s no good anyway.”
     “Have you got some kind of lure I could use?” Timmy asked.
     “A lure!  What do you want a lure for, for God’s sake?”
     “Well, I can’t catch a fish with a bare line!  What am I supposed to do, lasso `em?”
     “You can’t bottom fish with a lure, you dope.  Here’s a dollar, row go ashore and get some clams or something.”
      Ed and I went back to reading our books.  Tim returned with some sea worms.
     “Now listen,” Ed said sternly, “that’s an expensive rod and reel—whatever you do, don’t lose it!
      Ten minutes later Timmy walked past me and down the gangway. Then: “Mummy, will you come here a minute?”
     “What is it now, Timmy?"
     “Please come here, I want to tell you something.”  
     “This better be important," I said, putting aside my book and going down to the cabin.
     “It is,” he said unhappily.  “The rod and reel fell overboard.  I set it in the back for a minute and this wave came along and over it went.”
     “Oh-oh,” I said.  
     Ed looked up from his book. "Oh-oh what?"
     “We have a problem.  Tim lost the rod and reel to a big wave.”
     Ed’s book went flying.  It’s a library book, too.  Tim shut himself in the cabin and the rest of us sat around for a while in an uncompanionable silence.  Finally I said, “What are you going to do, make him suffer the rest of his life?”
      “What do you expect me to do, congratulate him?”  
      “Well, no, but didn’t you ever make a mistake?  How about the time you knocked down the telephone pole and had to work all summer for the telephone company?  How about the time you ran your father’s boat on Toddy’s Rocks?  Didn’t your father forgive you?”
     “Just tell me what you want me to do,” Ed said wearily.
     “I think you ought to forgive him.  Suppose Blake or Ray accidentally dropped a rod overboard.  You know darn well you’d knock yourself out reassuring them that it didn’t matter a particle.”
     That seemed to reach him.  At any rate Tim was accepted back into the fold and no more was said about his expensive accident.
Sunday, July 27, 1958, Gloucester to Cohasset
     “Boy, it would be a pretty good day if it wasn’t raining,” Tim said valiantly.  “Do you think Daddy’ll take us fishing today?”
     Daddy's ten hours of sleep had made him a new man. Compared to yesterday's mood, he was almost jovial.  He said he was willing to try the fishing, rain or no rain.  “Poor kids.  They haven't had much of a weekend.”
     “Are you going to send Tim down for that rod and reel?”
     “I’m afraid it’s hopeless,” Ed sighed.  “We’d never find it in a million years.”  He went outside and surveyed the watery expanse behind the boat, perhaps hoping the rod might suddenly pop up like Sir Lancelot’s sword.
     "Shh," Timmy hissed.  “Why’d you have to bring that up?  Now he’ll remember he’s mad at me!”    
      “Well, I thought he might like to try to find it.”
     “You know,” Tim said confidentially, “when I went down in the cabin after it happened, I wasn’t crying for myself, I was crying for Daddy.  After he told me to be sure not to lose that rod and reel . . . I was so mad I was pounding my head like this and pulling out my hair.”
     Before we got under way we called the house.  “Everything’s gone very smoothly,” Kathie assured us.  She had just one complaint.  “Would you ask Vonnie why she left Heidi out all night Friday instead of putting her in the barn the way I asked her to?”
     Vonnie gasped, crossed her eyes, and made a series of faces.  “I forgot!” 
    “She forgot,” Ed relayed to Kathie.       
    “Well, try and impress on her that she’s got to learn not to be so absent-minded.  I won’t dare keep Heidi at home when I go away to college if I can’t trust Vonnie to be responsible.  Give her a good scare, won’t you, Dad.”
     As Kathie’s words were coming through loud and clear over the speaker, this wasn’t necessary.  Vonnie went below to stretch out on her bunk and think things over. 
     At 9:45 we steamed out of the harbor, leaving behind us the quaint little town of Gloucester and a thirty-five dollar rod and reel.  As soon as we reached the open ocean, the boat began to roll.  I hurried below to take a Dramamine and brought one up to Vonnie, who by now had transferred her woes to the couch in the deckhouse.
     “I don’t need a Dramamine,” she said sulkily, raising her head and waving me away.
     “That’s what they all say.”  
     “All right, all right, I’ll take one." She sat up and looked at the pill and cup of water I placed in front of her.
     At that moment Tim breezed in.  “Where’s a raincoat, I need a raincoat.”
    “You’d better take a pill,” I advised.
     “Okay,” he said agreeably, grabbing Vonnie’s pill.
     “Well, thank you very much!” Vonnie snapped.
     “I didn’t know it was yours,” Timmy said, aggrieved, returning the pill.  “Just because you left Heidi out all night, you don’t have to be so grouchy.”
    “You should talk!  After the way you lost Daddy's rod and reel—“
     “That’s enough of that, you two,” I said, getting another Dramamine for Tim.
     A little later Vonnie said she was sorry she was so grouchy and went above to join the boys.  I lay down on the couch with a blanket and concentrated on fending off mal de mer.  Tim came bounding down with the news that Vonnie had spotted a school of tuna.  I helped him lift down one of our remaining rods and reels, then fell back on the couch, definitely seasick.  
     At 1:15, when we were almost home, the wind shifted into the southwest.  “We should have stayed out,” said Ed.  “In another half hour it will be flat out there.”
     It seemed silly to turn around and go back where we’d just come from, but that’s what we did.  Timmy was all for it and Vonnie and I figured we could stand it if it wasn’t too rough.     All I can say is, Captain, if that ocean was flat, so is Gina Lollobrigida. I lurched from galley to deckhouse with steaming bowls of clam chowder.  Everyone kept telling me I should come up on the flying bridge, “It’s fun, Mummy, honest,” Vonnie said, but I preferred lying on the couch and psycho-analyzing myself.  (Now tell me, Mrs. Malley, when did you first begin to suspect that you and your husband’s boat were incompatible?”)
     When the Lollobrigida-sized crests had dwindled to a modest Audrey Hepburn type, I pulled myself together and went topside to see what was going on.  Ed and the children were playing word games.  He was trying to think of a vegetable, starting with a Z, so I whispered in his ear: “Zucchini.”  
     “Puccini!” he cried.              
     Arrived at Cohasset dock a little before 4:00 p.m.            

     In addition to writing in the Happy Days Log, another of my responsibilities as First Mate was to take movies of any action and to be sure not to run out of film. To do so was to incur a stern reproach from her captain.
     On one occasion, all the Log-worthy excitement took place in Nantucket Harbor, a favorite destination. We were there for the third season with Jayne and Blake Thaxter. . .
August 4, 1958
     Bought groceries, returned to the Happy Days. Changed into our fancy duds, the fellows looking natty in their Madras jackets. Had cocktails--and suddenly it was almost eight. Since the Yacht Club launch service ended at 10:00, it was time we got ashore for dinner. Ed said two or three times that someone ought to put the “T” flag up to signal the launch, but Blake just sat in the cabin reading his book. He doubtless figured the launch had already received our message, since we had blown the horn a number of times and waved. This procedure wasn’t official enough for Captain Malley. When Blake didn't take the hint, he hurried out to the bow to put the flag up himself.
     I was below getting a sweater when I heard a noise I couldn’t at first identify. Then Jayne said in a matter-of-fact voice: “Barbara, Ed fell overboard.” The noise, I realized, was a splash.  Jayne and Blake rushed out to the cockpit to make sure Ed was all right; I rushed to get the movie camera. I wasn’t on the scene in time to film his first emergence, when he came up spewing water and snapping instructions: “Get the ladder! No! No! Not this side, the other side!” Then he disappeared.
     He told us later he was so anxious not to be seen by the approaching launch that he considered diving under the boat instead of swimming around it to the ladder. On second thought,  he might get trapped under there and drown. Then again, maybe drowning was preferable to being seen swimming around Nantucket Harbor in his Madras jacket. Deciding to swim as fast as he could around the bow of the boat, he launched into an American crawl. Seeing his colorfully clad arms thrusting through the air, he was sure everyone in the harbor could see them, too. He took a deep breath and dove underwater.
     Meanwhile Blake hung the ladder to port, instructed Jayne to signal the launch that we’d changed our minds, and staggered toward the steps of the deckhouse, exploding into hysterics.  “Out of my way!” I said, colliding with him in the doorway. I stood on the starboard side of the cockpit, adjusted the camera, and waited for the captain to make his reappearance. Jayne was semaphoring to the launch, which was approaching with a load of passengers. “No, no!” she called, waving her arms and shaking her head. “Next trip!”
     No sign of Ed. I became concerned because it was getting dark; I was afraid the movies would be underexposed. I walked over to the ladder and peered into the water. At that moment Ed’s head popped up. “I was never so embarrassed in all my—” Spotting the camera he ducked under again.
     I returned to my  post and waited. Naturally he was feeling camera-shy, but someday we’d all have a good laugh over the movies.  Ed caught me off guard, though, when he suddenly scrambled over the side of the boat and crashed to the floor on all fours. He scuttled past me like a giant crab and scurried down to the deckhouse, where Blake hadn't yet recovered from his paroxysms. He raised his head, laughing and gasping, and saw his buddy crawling through the doorway, sputtering: “Clear the way! I’m coming through!”
     Blake doubled up again, and this time Jayne and I joined him,  Ed, however, was still taking the matter with dead seriousness.  “Absolutely the worst blunder a skipper can make!” he moaned, starting to peel off his dripping clothing. “Completely unforgivable! We’ll never be able to come to Nantucket again!”
     If you could have seen your face!” Blake managed to gasp. “When you were going through the air, arms flailing, in a sitting position—”
     “Did you actually see it happen?” Jayne asked.
     “Every nanosecond,” Blake said. “I happened to be looking through the Venetian blinds as Ed was sidling by carrying the flag. One second later I see him leaning backwards, the next second he’s making a wild grab for the boat, and then—oh, Ed, the expression on your face!”
     We three dry ones break up again. The Captain, the kind of chap who believes in keeping his dignity when all about him are losing theirs, said he hoped we were having fun.
     “And then when I saw you coming through enemy lines. . .” Blake says, wiping away tears of laughter.
     The situation plainly called for another drink. When the launch boy came to get us, we kept peeking at him to see if his manner betrayed any awareness of our recent aquabatics. Either he missed the show or he was a very tactful young man. 

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