Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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 Chapter 39



     Tim and Sharon were working on the rigging of the sloop when Enoch came down to kayak. Tim had just had some new ideas which involved more ropes. There had to be blocks for these ropes to run through and cleats to secure them. There then had to be arrangements to keep all the ropes from combining to form a single giant snarl.

     It was generally agreed that there was always a good reason for Tim’s nautical innovations, but, viewing the proceedings, Enoch did look puzzled. Then, as he was lifting a kayak off the foredeck, he gave a sudden cry and clutched his back.

     It was weird that a man who had survived a thousand brutal hits could be brought low by lifting an object that weighed some sixty pounds. As soon as Enoch was able to speak, he said, “It’s the NFL. People who’ve played for a while wind up with all sorts of seemingly unrelated conditions and injuries, but they’re all the result of being badly beaten up over the course of years.”

Tim was inclined to agree, but, whatever the cause, they dropped everything to seek medical attention.

     After hours shuttling around from one waiting room to another, it turned out that there was no serious medical problem. Indeed, it seemed that almost as many people had back problems as didn’t. Like the others, Enoch felt better standing than sitting. A nurse who was drifting by nodded with understanding, and said, “Evolution wasn’t designed with chairs in mind.”

The next stop was to be physical therapy, but, happening to pass by a store specializing in furniture for people with bad backs, they stopped in.

     After a few brief inquiries, the salesman said, “I can either sell you a thousand dollar chair or a six dollar book.”

The book was by a New Zealander named MacKenzie, who had a simple method of treating backs. They bought the little book and began practicing what it preached in a small grassy area across the street.

     The first exercise consisted only in lying flat on one’s stomach. Enoch immediately gave a sigh of relief. It felt better than lying on his back. The next exercise, if it could be called that, consisted only in coming up on to one’s elbows. After a few more stretches Enoch felt much better. As they went on, Sharon said, “That man in the store is a hero to pass up a big sale to help someone.”

Tim replied, “His boss must not know.”

“But he’ll eventually find out. Our hero may have to bite the bullet.”

     Joe Howsam’s therapy room was rather like a club. Joe was the trainer to a rugby team, and there were players from Fiji, Africa, and Asia, all conversing happily in bits of language. There were also some middle-aged American women with sports injuries, and a number of pretty young ladies, both therapists and assistants. Tim realized that he was himself supposed to be doing therapy in connection with his broken leg, and so they both signed up.

     Joe was a man of remarkable energy who worked on patients, talked with other people, detailed his associates and assistants to various missions, and arranged for some of them to bring him food and goodies at frequent intervals. It was easy to fall into the spirit of the thing.

     Joe was not easily sold on the MacKenzie methods. “He has something, certainly, but it’s not right for everyone.”

Enoch replied, “His stretches certainly make my back feel better.”

“Okay, but we also need to work on the stomach muscles. If you’re like the rugby players, those muscles aren’t as well developed as the hamstrings and quads.”

Tim was treated on the next table, where he could hear Joe. When Joe heard that Tim rowed in the ocean, he replied, “I was once the trainer for an Olympic rowing crew. The oarsmen normally come forward with their heads high and backs arched back before dipping their oars and beginning their power strokes. But they had a British coach who had them dipping their heads and arching forward on the recovery stroke so that they could reach a little further. Within a week, they all had back problems.”

MacKenzie wouldn’t have liked that. Bending forward and using muscles to straighten up was how Enoch had hurt himself, even with a light weight. It was also something he had never had to do as a pass receiver. However, it was the reference to rowing that caught Tim’s attention. Of course, he didn’t do the same kind of rowing. Crew members had sliding seats, and, since they only pulled on the oars, there was almost no resistance on the return strokes. By contrast, he had only a vertically swiveling seat as he pulled against bungee cords, and then pushed against water. Was that why he didn’t have back problems?

     Just then, there was an odd event. There were a couple of private therapy rooms, often used by ladies who had to take off their tops to be treated. Joe suddenly announced, “The hooker’s in that room! Keep the door ajar so we can make sure nothing bad is happening!”

There was sudden awed silence. Was it possible that he had a prostitute as a patient who was likely to ply her trade then and there? After a little suspense, one of the Rugby players caught on. In their game, there was a ‘hooker’ who ‘hooked’ the ball out of the scrum. It was a Rugby hooker who was being treated in the room. Such innocent hoaxes were dear to Tim’s heart, but Enoch looked a little dazed.

     Having left the therapy room, Tim told Enoch of his thoughts. He was always superstitious about claiming not to have an injury. Boasts of that sort were generally followed, within a few days, by the precise injury in question. However, it was impossible not to explain the matter to Enoch. Enoch replied, “You arch back when you push forward, and you arch forward when you pull back. So that balances.”

“I can also adjust the tension on the bungee cords, so as to alter the balance if I feel weakness or twinges.”

“Tim, you’ve invented something by accident!”

     When they got back to the marina, Diana was able to convince Enoch not to start rowing immediately. “Tim may be right, but, for the time being, you should do nothing but those very gentle things.”

     Since Enoch was obviously in no condition to sit in an airplane seat, even a first class one, for hours, Diana put off the trip to England. Then, to her surprise, Enoch, two mornings later, pronounced himself cured. He wanted to row and test out Tim’s theory that very day. Diana, appalled, was discovering, by degrees, how little control she had over him. However, she did insist on coming with them.

     There was so much gear on Tim’s boat that, even though it was twenty eight feet long and nine feet wide, there was hardly any room for guests. A place was nevertheless found for Diana, actually sitting in the kayak that was kept on deck, and which Enoch had hurt himself trying to lift. They started out quite sedately with Tim rowing and getting the boat out of the crowded area. Enoch then took the left oar, and they made a point of coming forward with their heads high and their backs arched back in the MacKenzie position. So far, Diana seemed to have no objections.

     By the time they got out of the basin, the wind, rising and bearing WSW, was too strong to be overcome by rowing alone. However, Tim had acquired sails with about half the designed sail area. They steadied the boat, made it possible to tack out against the wind, and also functioned as storm sails.

     Since Tim could hardly leave the cockpit to go up on deck and manage sails, he had led the halyards and downhauls back to the cockpit. In order to get the first two stops off the main, he yanked on a large rope which was wound around the sail. To the surprise of the others, it flew off the sail. Having discovered that a standard bow knot jammed against a sail and wouldn’t come loose, Tim had invented a knot, not to be found in the books, with one bight inside another which remedied the problem. The after-most stop he could reach by standing on one leg, and he quickly hauled on the halyard to get the sail up.

     They continued to row, adding a knot or so to their sailing speed, and tacked down the channel on a succession of diagonals, each at about a forty-five degree angle to the massive stone jetties on each side. However, the gathering storm was sending waves of increasing size and power down the channel, and, since the tide was coming in, they were making hardly any headway. Still, Enoch said that his back felt fine. Despite muttering from Diana, he insisted on continuing. Tim therefore raised the jib, actually a little storm jib, to give them more speed.

     With the original sail plan, the old Cal 28 had a weather helm in that, if the tiller were let go, the sloop would turn into the wind. Unfortunately, with the cut-down sail plan and the jib up, she now had a lee helm, which was inherently dangerous. In any case, they were now crashing through and over the eight to ten foot seas that were battering them.

     The situation deteriorated when, approaching the south jetty looming up above them, Tim turned into the wind in order to go on to the other tack and cross back to the north jetty. They were almost into the wind when a sea hit the bow and forced them back. They had now lost forward momentum, so that Tim could no longer steer, and the lee helm combined with the wave action turned them toward the nearby jetty. The sails meanwhile filled with a crack and accelerated them. Tim noticed that Diana, hanging on desperately, opened her mouth, as if screaming, but with no sound coming out. There was nothing for it, but to turn away from the wind, hoping to turn quickly enough to miss the jetty. It looked bad at first, but Tim let go the main sheet, which accelerated the turn away from the wind. In the event, they just made it, the spray from a wave bouncing off the jetty and wetting them.

     Tim continued to turn, now directly away from the jetty, as the sail jibed violently from port to starboard. That was also a bad thing to do, with results that could range from a ripped sail to dismasting. Fortunately, it was a rugged old boat, and nothing seemed to give way. They were now side-to the seas, and the next one rolled the lee rail under. Tim knew that the boat wouldn’t capsize because of the size and weight of the keel, but he fell from his rowing position down to the rail, Enoch falling on top of him. Considering that they were now in no danger, Tim started laughing.

     At that point, Diana jumped out of the kayak and helped them back into position. It was clear that she thought the whole business crazy. Without saying anything, she pointed toward home.     

     Now with wind and sea behind them, they shot along. Each wave would pile up alarmingly behind them, but, for the most part, Tim didn’t look. Diana did look, and, by looking at her eyes, he could tell what was coming. After reaching calmer waters, Tim announced, “I think the problem was that we just didn’t have quite enough power to break through those seas.”

Enoch, who had initially been afraid of waves, was now able to discuss them analytically and dispassionately, as if he were confronted with a Cover Two defense. Diana expressed her view, “The problem is being crazy enough to go out there in these conditions in the first place. Are you really all right, Enoch?”

“Yes. Even though Tim and I took that tumble. Long live MacKenzie!”

     By the time that Tim had a chance to speak to Sharon at the deli, she had been given a sensationalist account of their outing by Diana. Tim said to Sharon, “It was really no big deal. I just have to figure out how to get more forward thrust.”

“How do the other sailboats manage?”

“I don’t think any others went out today, but they have powerful auxiliary gasoline engines. We certainly don’t want that.”

Just then, Gavin Gordon came by and, uninvited, plopped down at their table. Gavin was probably the least respectable tenant of the marina, often drunk, but with other, as they said, ‘issues’. However, he was also a nice person, delighted to help anyone anywhere. More than that, coming upon an elderly man who had fallen off the dock late at night, Gavin had pulled him out. The man, between two dock fingers, wasn’t strong and agile enough to have pulled himself out on either, and it was likely that Gavin had saved his life.

     Particularly since then, the dockmaster had been willing to overlook any and all of Gavin’s little mistakes. For example, it was not uncommon, when passing his old boat, to see a mixture of blood and vomit on the deck. Moreover, when drunk, he would occasionally amuse people with his favorite party trick, urinating over his left shoulder. Tim had seen him do it with an odd twist of the body and a lowered shoulder to allow most of the stream to go over it.

     When sober, as now, Gavin could talk in a somewhat connected way. He might be a little retarded, or perhaps a little crazy, but there was unmistakable good feeling. Meredith, for one, engaged him in extended conversations, telling Tim that ‘the crazies should all stick together.’

     Tim wasn’t sure about that, but, on this occasion, he gave Gavin an account of the aborted voyage, concluding with the problem of getting more thrust. Gavin smiled, showing a lot of broken teeth, and gestured toward his own boat, some hundred yards away in its slip. It was actually an old sailboat, about the size of Tim’s, but had long since lost its mast and rigging. Gavin went on to explain, more or less, that all the marinas required boats to have some means of propulsion. Tim might not have understood if he hadn’t already known about the rule, but Gavin obviously thought that he had a solution as he beckoned for them to follow him.

     When they got to the boat, which was free of obvious bodily fluids, Gavin dove into the cabin and emerged with a little electric trolling motor. Clamping it to the stern, he had them untie the dock lines and get aboard. Sharon looked extremely doubtful, but followed Tim. Gavin put the motor in reverse, backed out, and then went ahead. Tim calculated that they were going more than two miles an hour as they circled the basin. Gavin was convinced that he could communicate with the sea lions resting on the end of the bait barge, and, at any rate, there was an exchange of barks, grunts, and other noises. Gavin, translating, told Sharon that the sea lions wanted her to join them on the barge.

     It was never quite possible to determine whether Gavin was joking, but they kept up the chit-chat until they got back and crashed into his slip with only superficial damage. It was then that Gavin pointed to the trolling motor and said, quite clearly, “You need one of these for your boat.”

Tim agreed, and replied, “I think that would make all the difference.”

      The trolling motor was easily procured at West Marine. Its maximum thrust was fifty three pounds, which was much less than Tim or Enoch could produce. However, where rowing provided only intermittent thrusts, the electric motor would provide it continuously. The motor ran off one or more batteries, and everyone agreed that they should be charged with solar panels. West Marine panels were unduly expensive, but the clerk whispered to Sharon where better ones could be gotten cheaper.

     It was a place next to railway tracks which sold ‘seconds’, that is panels that were blemished in one way or another, but fully effective. They parked close to the track, and, as Tim was struggling out of the van, a heavy freight train came roaring and crashing along. They were at the bottom of one of the steepest main line grades in the country, and the four big diesel units, looming high above them, were trying to work up speed. Alarmingly close with their thundering engines, they made the ground shake. Tim loved the experience, and even Sharon, not known as a railfan, looked impressed.

     The interior of the building, full of large gray gadgetry with no obvious office or reception area, was partly insulated from the tumult outside. There were no inhabitants in sight, but, after prowling around a little, they came upon a smiling young man with a ponytail who looked like a surfer. He turned out to be the proprietor, and soon displayed a lot of knowledge about solar power, even at the electron level. Tim didn’t understand much of it, but, having faith, he bought two flexible panels. These, he was assured, could be walked on and otherwise abused without noticeable loss of output.

     There was, after all, a little office area in a corner run by a pretty young dark-haired lady who bounced around her limited domain with energy as she consummated the sale. It wasn’t clear whether she was the girl friend of the ponytail man, but it seemed certain that she got lots of action with some man, or men, somewhere. Perhaps it was that which prompted Sharon to ask her to recommend a good place to go dancing.

     Courtney, as she proved to be, took a questioning look at Tim. But, before she could go further, Sharon explained, “This is my brother. Even when he’s not on crutches, he can’t dance. I meant with other people.”

“Okay, there are a number of places.”

Courtney named a few, with brief descriptions of each. She then concluded, “My favorite place is in Hillcrest, but I seem to have an attraction for lesbians, and I get hit on a lot.”

Sharon then described her own experiences in that area. It was obvious that the ladies had much to talk about, and, having paid for the panels, Tim retreated to the car.

     Where he waited and waited. Sharon struck up conversations with people wherever she went, and it could be irritating. She seemed to have no sense of time, and Tim, who always liked to be early, would become increasingly nervous as she went about making them late.

     This time, there was nothing scheduled, but there was another concern. Would the two young ladies who found themselves so attractive to lesbians team up together themselves? Tim had long accepted Sharon’s experiments, both in theory and in practice, in that direction. But he wasn’t sure about Courtney. There was certainly a hard edge to her, and he imagined that she came from an environment in which nothing was ever given away free.

     When Sharon finally got back in the car, she said, “Courtney and I’ve had a lot of the same history.”

“Has she had parents like ours?”

“You’re fishing, Timmy. But that’s okay. She’s also had some lesbian action. It’s no accident that we both attract women.”

“I certainly didn’t detect it in her.”

“You never would. You aren’t in on the code that’s emitted.”

“I wondered if the guy out back was her boyfriend.”

“He isn’t. But she has several. More to the point, we’ve both decided not to be lesbians.”

“Are you going to see her again?”

“Not unless we come back for more panels. She and I don’t have a lot in common in other areas.”

Tim grunted in an affirmative way.

     On returning to the marina, there was a new development. Meredith was being pulled along the lawn by a large and rambunctious red Doberman. On seeing Sharon, he reversed course, knocking Meredith down, and jumped up on Sharon. As she staggered, he put his paws on her shoulders and lapped her face. Meredith, picking herself up, said, “This is Wolfgang. I just got him at the pound. He’s still a puppy, but, as soon as he gets to know you, he’ll calm down.”

It seemed unlikely to Tim that Wolfgang would calm down very much very soon.

Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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