Beyond Beyond; Episode 97
The next day the sails filled bold and full for Punta Arenas. Waves beat against the hull, though not intense, kept the deck and windshield of the pilothouse wet with spray. Rich sighted the port mid afternoon. He sailed a close haul into a slight wind.
Rich expected a rugged port town. He held a degree of caution and trepidation. Stories from previous ports circulated that it was an outlaw town ran by nefarious and unscrupulous people. He also read that the city was originally a penal colony. However, Rich thought that after everything experienced, he measured as good if not better than any of them – he had proved his mettle.
Rich motored alongside a dock that extended at least 100 yards into the Strait. He tossed the lines and lashed them tight. Zeke sprung from the boat and onto the dock to join Rich.
Rich dressed warm in his pee-jacket and the pistol tucked in the side pocket.
After walking a few blocks he found a restaurant. He asked pretty face waitress at the door if Zeke could come inside. To his surprise she accommodated. In fact, the waitress was the genuinely most friendly face he had seen in some time.
She moved lightly on her feet ahead of him. Her black hair rested on her small shoulders. Rich felt the urge to touch it. She invited him to sit at a table next to the street window.
“I’m sorry, my Spanish is not good,” Rich said.
“That is no problem,” she said. “Your ear may not have picked it up, but I speak with an accent.”
“What is it?” Rich said.
“I’m from Yugoslavia,” she said. “Croatia to be exact.”
“How long have you been in Punta Arenas?” Rich said.
“Five years,” she said. “What are you doing here? Your accent tells me you may be American.”
“Yes,” Rich said. “I’m originally from Ohio, but I lived in Maine for two years and I’m sailing through the Strait to the Pacific.”
“This time of year is dangerous,” she said. “I’m sorry. I should not be giving you advice on sailing. Would you like coffee?”
“Yes,” Rich said, “black is fine, as black as you hair and sweetened only with you smile.
“And I’m not offended about the advice. I consider it as your concern. That is kind of you.”
“You are kind and agreeable,” she said. “Are you wanting to eat also?”
“Yes,” Rich said. “I will have a salad.”
She smiled. “That is good and healthy for you.”
“Whenever I’m on shore I try to have some raw vegetables,” Rich said.
“I will get the coffee first,” she said and left.
“She is very pretty, isn’t she, Zeke?” Rich said. “I know, you’re a dog and have no concept of human beauty. Here’s a standard; they start from her and go down.”
She brought the coffee. “Here you are.”
“Thank you,” Rich said.
“Where is your boat?” she said.
“At the dock about two or three blocks away,” Rich said.
“I know where it is,” she said.
“Excuse me,” Rich said, “but my dog is a good dog and I would be willing to pay for anything you could feed him. Scraps are fine, but if you have none, I will buy a steak for him.”
“He must be a good dog if you are willing to buy a steak for him,” she said. “I will be right back with the salad and perhaps something can be found for your dog.”
She left and returned shortly with the salad. “We have some ground beef that the owner said he would give you for 20 pesos.”
“That will be fine,” Rich said.
“I’ll bring it in a moment,” she said.
The ground beef was brought in an old wooden bowl. And Zeke delighted in it.
Rich and Zeke finished. He paid the bill along with a generous tip and they walked back toward the Beyond. They stopped at a small store and purchased groceries.
Back on board. Rich lit the heater and settled into a comfortable evening. The words of the waitress awakened him to the possibility that traversing the Strait may be too dangerous, thus altering his plans for few months.
The face, the hair, the smile rested easy and comfortable in his thoughts. Rich smiled. “If only I could draw her.”