A Major Success|
Book 6 of Outside the Foul Lines
by Rick Beck
"Over the Ocean Blue"
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John Paul invited Harold to the bridge, once he'd seen him the galley, crew quarters, and engine room. The gadgets on the bridge got Harold's attention. He wanted to know how the GPS worked and where the radar signals came from. The depth finder was easy enough and the sonar left him scratching his head.
John Paul went through the function of each item, explaining how it allowed him to chart a safe course and he was alerted if there was something in the water that might represent a threat to the hull.
I could see Harold learning to sail The Do, when I didn't know he'd last over Christmas without wanting to return to Indiana. There hadn't been many things that got his interest. The Do did. He seemed particularly amazed by the wide open space around him.
When Gene came to tell us he'd put out food in the salon, we broke off to get it while it was hot. John Paul turned off the equipment and followed us to join our first meal with Harold on the boat.
After so much time in airports, there was no doubt he'd be hungry enough to eat what was offered, as long as it didn't look too healthy. Gene had waited until he saw us before making final preparations for a meal, knowing how screwed up flight schedules could become.
"I like hamburgers," Harold said, as he put some bacon on his plate and then dished up some scrambled eggs with ham pieces. "But this looks pretty good. Got Coke?"
As we sat at the table nibbling on our food, Gene brought back one of the wine buckets full of ice. Instead of wine it containing a 2 liter bottle of Coke. He put a towel over his forearm, hoisted the bottle of Coke, and brought it to Harold's place at the table, pouring his glass three quarters full before going back to bring ice to fill the glass.
Andy and I laughed at Gene playing waiter for Harold.
"This dude for real?" Harold asked, and then quite by surprise, he added. "My room, it's quite nice. Thank you."
"I'm glad you approve," Gene said. "I decorated each one especially for the occupant.
We didn't know how Harold would take to John Paul and Gene, but he acted the part of a gentlemen around them. He made an effort to be polite and curb his propensity to sarcasm, but both John Paul and Gene found Harold adorable. We'd raised a pretty neat kid.
Spoiling him was done on purpose, because he'd never had anything before he adopted Andy and me. He only knew us from the house. He knew we played ball but he saw us as regular guys who were home all the time in the winter. When we were gone for most of six months, it was easier for him to understand that's how our work worked.
We also made a point of not going overboard with Harold, but when you never had anything, everything is going overboard to some degree. Andy and I did what was reasonable to us, until it came to college. After the tutor told us Harold was smarter than he was, we wanted Harold to have as much education as he wanted.
He had been deprived as a child and as an adult we wanted Harold to go as far as he could possibly go. He'd never need to depend on anyone else to provide for him ever again. Harold's destiny was now in his own hands. He hadn't disappointed us.
In our wildest imaginations we never saw Harold as a surgeon. It was a nice surprise. We had almost matured together. Andy and I were just beginning our lives on our own terms, when Harold came to stay. Now he was a happy young man, or as happy as we'd seen him.
Harold saw us as mature images he could relate to, but his maturity surprised us at times. He had an excellent grasp on who he was and what he had to do to assure his own well-being. With us as his caretakers Harold was free to go as far as he wanted to go. It was a good feeling to help him.
After a year and a half away at school, Harold was confident with his success. He didn't need to stay at school for fear his future might slip away from him while he was gone.
This was a Christmas vacation further from Indiana than he'd ever been before. He saw it as decompression time before the next leg of his education would go full speed ahead. When he went back, he'd officially be pre-med.
On The Do Harold acted naturally. He wasn't a lot different from when we were home. His attitude toward John Paul and Gene was surprisingly mature. Andy and I were there and that made it a familiar environment.
Early on when I tried to help Harold with his studies, he was clever enough to accept my help and not act as if he knew it all. He let me explain what I knew about the problem, and at times it did help him. He'd question me on something I knew better than he did.
I suspect he feared being perceived as a wiseass if he questioned my conclusions. He always listened and was willing to repeat my instructions back to me. He may have liked the attention or maybe I was helping him a little.
It was similar when John Paul was describing the functions of the instrument. Harold listened intently and spoke only to pose a question to clarify what he'd been told. He sounded as though he had some knowledge of the working systems on The Do. I knew what the gadgets were but I'd never asked John Paul how they worked. Harold wanted to know how things worked.
The doctors at the hospital took time out to introduce Harold to medicine and after his first year, being certain he would make an excellent surgeon, he was allowed into the inner sanctum, the operating room. I sensed as I watched Harold digest information John Paul gave him, I was seeing what the doctors saw when they instructed Harold.
This was one experience Harold didn't mind talking about. He was both impressed and made to feel special by the time John Paul gave him.
Some of Harold was still a kid, because he'd never been a kid. We indulged his childishness without criticism. Harold lived in a safe place with people who cared about him. The kid in Harold came out in his playfulness, which didn't surface often. His maturity was unmistakable and Harold was going to be a fine man.
Whatever small part we played in offering him a safe friendly environment, where he could finish growing up, came naturally as Andy and I finished maturing. Harold added as much to Andy's and my life as we added to his. Being able to give a kid a chance made both of us feel like we weren't totally pampered as ball players.
Harold showed up in Key West more lively and outgoing than we'd ever seen him. He certainly talked more than usual. He was excited by a new adventure. He'd been in motion almost twenty hours by the time we reached The Do.
We were happy to see him and he was happy to see us. If we hadn't really been a family before, we were one now. It felt just like when I was going home for the holidays, while we waited for Harold.
The old Harold would have stayed at school and studied. The new Harold had limitations he recognized. A vacation was just the ticket. This was a vacation to end all vacations for all of us and Andy and I were happy Harold was there with us.
Any apprehension I had about Harold wanting to be put back on a plane to Indiana were gone. Even Gene's wonderful culinary skills tasted better once Harold went back for more bacon and eggs and ham. He tried the potatoes and took a big slice of pineapple, eating it carefully, but finishing it all. It may have been his first fresh pineapple.
Gene poured him more Coke.
"I'm going to need to go on a diet," Harold said, patting his stomach.
"I know the feeling," Andy said. "I've gained weight since we sailed."
"You needed to gain some weight, A. G. I was getting worried once you were skinnier an me. You look good."
"I do, don't I," Andy bragged, as he sipped coffee.
"Yes you do, but you always have in my opinion. Just less of you to look good the past few months," I said.
"I feel good. Food tastes good again," Andy said, eating another strip of bacon. "I'll have to give this up once I start rehab. No bacon and no fancy sauces."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence. I know I'm not a chef, but I try," I kidded him.
"You do fine, Do. It's just that Gene does real fine. I never knew food could taste this good. I suppose just getting past a period when all food made me sick has a little to do with my new appreciation for it."
"I accept your apology," I said.
Andy smiled and let me have my way.
John Paul cut up his link sausage and ate small bites, standing next to the table to avoid spilling anything.
"Harold, do you play chess?" he John Paul asked.
"I've been watching the doctors play. I'm learning how the pieces move. Not exactly move, but the techniques to maneuvering the pieces to gain a strategic advantage. The doctors who play are way too good for me to want to show them how bad I play. I'm busy trying to make a good impression. Playing chess would give me away."
"You work at a hospital?" Gene asked as he dished up some eggs.
"I go to school at a hospital. I'm allowed privileges by a couple of the surgeons. They'd call themselves my mentors. After an operation they take me to the doctor's lounge to drink coffee, and talk about what I've just seen. They ask me questions on what they've just done."
"Sounds serious," Gene said. "You want to be a doctor, Harold?"
"Surgeon. I'm going to be a surgeon. Neurology or cardiology. Maybe both. They're the best."
"That's a big bite for anyone to take," John Paul said. "I'm impressed."
"I am too," Harold said. "It's scary looking down into someone's open chest. I've felt a human heart beating. The most efficient engine ever devised."
"I can honestly say I've never known anyone who has felt a beating human heart. I've been of the opinion not all of us come equipped with a heart," Gene observed.
"If I have occasion to look into someone's chest and there's no heart in there, I'll give you a call," Harold said.
"That was a philosophical belief that isn't necessarily supported by fact," Gene said. "I might say some folks act like they don't come equipped with a heart.
"I get the picture," Harold said. "I've met some of those folks."
* * * * * * * * *
As soon as Gene finished his eggs, he began to clear. It was our second breakfast and officially a brunch, but no matter what time it was, Gene was full of surprises for each meal. Breakfast didn't offer him a lot of challenges but every day was different.
"I'm going to move us away from Key West. The sun is shinning and the storms are predicted to stay south of us. We can anchor later this afternoon and you can watch the sunset from the fantail. Always beautiful after a storm passes."
"Sounds good," Andy said. "We'll see how Harold likes open water."
"We'll talk about a friendly game of chess before dinner, Harold," John Paul said. "I might be able to teach you what little I know."
"I shouldn't be hard to find," Harold said.
Once again the engines propelled us away from Key West as we finished our coffee, chatting with Harold about school. He told us about his most recent operation and how he'd assisted Dr. Nothing major but it offered him experience in the operating room. I'm glad he waited until after breakfast to give us those details.
Harold's world had expanded in a short period of time in major ways. I do believe he always knew he was the smartest kid in the room, but having doctors believe in him made it official. There were no students Harold's age assisting doctors. No one had to tell him he was a clever lad.
Andy had picked the school with the help of the team doctor, who called it a hands on teaching program and a place where doctors take a keen interest in good students. The class sizes were small. Students advanced at their own pace.
When Andy went with him to take the entrance exams, they'd seen his transcripts and what was written about Harold, during the years he was a ward of the state. Andy called them less than encouraging as far as Harold's interest in their medical program was concerned. It was made clear to Andy that no amount of money would get an unqualified student into their excellent medical program, but if Harold was willing to do what was necessary to gain skills in the areas he was deficient, they'd work with him.
Once the exams were graded, they went from agreeing to accept Harold to wanting Harold in their medical program. Andy expected Harold would need to do some work to catch up with the other students. Harold was way ahead of us.
"It's the first time I've seen the people in charge do a one eighty from what had been said previously. A man from the school's administration came over to accept Harold and say he was happy to welcome him."
I thought Harold was pretty intelligent. Making it out of the kind of childhood he had was quite a feat. With very little organized education under his belt, Harold figured out a way to survive it. How impressive was that?
The attitude expressed by the school's administration, offered us more insight into Harold's intellect. He was more than a little smart. We were told that by one tutor. We weren't ready to bet the farm he was right. Andy commented that Harold was cool as a cucumber. He never mentioned options beyond medicine. Later he told us he wanted to be a surgeon.
Harold didn't fit in many places before. Now he had adapted to school and his life was there. He took more classes than necessary and went out of his way to spend time with the real doctors and surgeons. They did nothing to discourage him.
We liked hearing him talk about what he was doing and what came next. It excited him to tell us about it. It excited us to hear him tell us about it. We mostly listened and enjoyed his enthusiasm. Andy was getting more for his money than he'd ever dreamed was possible.
After Harold got another glass of Coke, we left the salon to go out on deck. At first Harold wanted to get a look at the fantail. It was about the only spot he hadn't checked out. Harold was seeing the perfect place to read.
Harold turned when he heard the wind in the sails. They billowing in a good breeze. The Do was quite impressive when the sails were filled with wind and the boat skimmed smoothly across the surface of the gulf waters.
"Awesome," Harold said. "I heard engines. How did he get the sails out so fast. He showed me crew quarters. Is there more crew?"
"It's easier to leave the marina under diesel power. Makes maneuvering easier," Andy explained. "Mostly it's a sailboat, when the weather's good."
"Yes it is," Harold said, holding his hands up to shade his eyes to get a full look at our propulsion system.
"John Paul and Gene are the crew. They sleep in the cabin next to yours. Most of what's done is done electronically," I explained.
We walked the decks and enjoyed the fresh air. Harold stopped when we came across something he didn't recognize. We went up to the bridge to have John Paul show Harold how he raised and lowered the sails automatically.
John Paul explained that the sails had to be secured when not in use and then they had to be freed before he could raise them. Harold volunteered to help him secure the sails once he'd lowered them for the night.
Harold hadn't had his nose in a book all afternoon. That was a first.
"Wow, just like a movie," Harold said, watching the sails. Seagulls were flying just over top of the mainsail.
The Do skimmed silently along. The sky was a beautiful shade of blue. It was dotted with huge white clouds. Seabirds appeared and followed us.
We were in the hands of Mother Nature and good hands they were. The smell of the sea was magnificent. The three of us went to sit on the fantail and let the day slid past.
"Lot of water," Harold said.
"We've been all over the gulf. It's beautiful," I said.
"Nothing like I ever seen," Harold said. "How'd you two think this one up?"
"I wanted a vacation," I said.
"I wanted a sailboat," Andy said.
"Here we are," Harold said. "Didn't you think of starting off with something smaller. I mean this is like a cruise ship. I got me my own cabin. Food's good. Pretty damn neat."
"You can sleep on deck if you want," Andy said.
"No, the cabin is fine. It's just a lot of boat. I'd figure you two starting off smaller is all. This is a way big jump from rural Indiana don't you know?"
"It's what was available, Harold. We asked some friends that know about boats, and this popped up the same day we asked. Best not to question your destiny. As skeptical as we were at first, it's the best time we've ever had. Sailing is about the best thing I've ever done?"
"Baseball, A. G.?" Harold questioned.
"Second best thing," Andy admitted. "But very nice."
"It is something. I can't say this is what I expected, but after all that flying around, I like this a lot better. I feel like a sardine that's been liberated," Harold said.
"You don't mind spending Christmas on the boat?" I asked.
"No, this is cool. I don't mind. Just tell me we aren't going to be running into no guys with wooden legs and a patches over their eye. A vast yee matees."
"A vast indeed," Andy said.
Gene brought us cold drinks. He gave us the lunch menu he planned. Harold didn't know what baked scrod was. Harold sat silent, not sure of what to make of having a chef cooking for us. He said he'd try whatever Gene fixed. This pledge lacked enthusiasm.
"You have servants?" Harold said.
"They're the crew. Came with the boat. Gene's a chef. He also decorated the boat. It was an eyesore when we first saw it. Something like a floating brothel."
"I won't ask who owned it before," Harold said. "There's a Christmas tree in my cabin."
"We want you to feel like it's Christmas," I said. "Gene put the trees in the rooms. We talked about the big fresh one in the salon, but he decided on putting smaller trees in the cabins. I like it," I said.
"There's a Christmas tree in my cabin," Harold repeated. "I can't count the years there was no tree for Christmas. There wasn't no anything some years. Some Christmas's there was no mom. This is different than that."
"I'd say," Andy's said, understanding poverty. "This is to make up for that. We can't undo that but we can do this."
"Enjoy it, Harold. It's not going to be like this every year," I said. "We might take to flying one day."
"No, I don't think so," Andy said.
"Thank heavens. I'm thinking about take a bus back."
"They're every bit as crowded as a plane and it takes days instead of hours to get anywhere."
"I'm not complaining. You two aren't given to fits of fancy. This will take some getting used to. You got servants. I got me a Christmas tree in my cabin. Go figure."
"We have crew," Andy said. "They've become friends."
"They're more like companions," I said. "They know where everything is. They make sailing easy."
It was a lot all at once. It had taken me a few days to adjust. After a few weeks, I felt at home on The Do. I thought Harold could feel out of place, but he was adapting.
We sat together on the fantail. The sails were full of the wind. The birds hung suspended alongside the mainsail. The sun warmed what had become a perfect day.
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