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Blanche Tickle Girl book cover

Blanche Tickle Girl
Book Two of the Full Sails series
Wes Boyd
©2012, ©2014

Chapter 16

They ate their breakfast quickly, and then Adam drove Matt and Mary to the house. It was a large suburban house in what was obviously an expensive neighborhood. Adam said it was larger than they really needed, but apparently Brittany thought it was necessary to keep up the proper appearance among her friends. “Nice house,” Mary said as she saw it. “Matt, is this where you grew up?”

“Some of the time,” Matt said. “When I wasn’t at school or Uncle Jake’s.”

“We only got it a few years ago,” Adam explained as he drove up the driveway and parked the car. “Brittany thought we needed a house that reflected our income and our status in the community, which I thought was a rather pretentious thing to say, but I guess I should have expected it. It’s a pain in the neck to keep up and I have to hire a lot of the work done. The old house I could do more to keep it up, and I kind of enjoyed it. I mean, it was possible to get out and do something with it using my hands.” He glanced at his watch and added, “We’ve got an hour, maybe a little more before Brittany calls and wants to get picked up, so you’d better be planning on hustling to get done what you need to before we get back.”

“How about if we just park my car by the back door?” Matt suggested. “I’ll have to be the one to paw through my room and get the things I’d need. You and Mary can haul them down to the car. That seems like the quickest way to do it.”

“I’ve got a key to your car,” Adam agreed. “I’ll go get it and park it by the back door. Matt, do you have a key to the house?”

“Yeah, but it’s on my key ring, which ought to be up in the room,” he replied. “It wasn’t anything I was going to need on the boat.”

“All right, I’ll unlock the house and then go get your car.”

“There’s not going to be that much,” Matt said as they got out of the car. “Just some winter clothes and stuff.”

Matt’s father unlocked the back door, and Matt led Mary inside. “Nice house, b’y,” she said at the first sight of the spacious, immaculate place.

“It doesn’t really feel like home to me,” Matt replied softly, noting that his father had gone to get his car from behind the garage, where he’d left it months before. “I never really lived here much, and then only for a few days at a time. The old house across town where we lived until about the time I went to college, that still is what home means to me. I mean, other than the Mary Sue, that is.”

“Your father seems ta be a nice man,” she said, checking to hear that he wasn’t in earshot. “I think he’s more on your side than you said earlier.”

“Yeah, that surprises me a little, but maybe not all that much,” Matt agreed as he led the way toward his room. “He often hasn’t been the same man when my mother isn’t around, but today it was more than I’ve ever seen before. From what he was saying over breakfast, I get the idea he’s envying me the trip more than I’d believed, probably because I’m doing something he always dreamed about doing but never got to do. It might not be sailing across the Atlantic, but I’ll bet he’s had some ideas of something else he’d like to try.”

“Ye might have somethin’ there, b’y,” she observed.

“I think I do too,” he replied as he turned into his room. If there had been anything done to it since he’d left back at the end of April, it wasn’t noticeable. “We probably shouldn’t talk about it right now anyway.”

In fact, they didn’t get much time to talk at all, even if Matt had wanted to. He went to the closet and started pulling out clothes, not too many of them, and then mostly winter shirts, sweat shirts and pants, and the like. He started a pile on the bed, and added to it with a couple of heavy winter jackets, a pair of heavy pants, and a few other things. His underwear had been getting a little worn, so he hit the dresser and got a new supply, along with some more socks and things.

By then his father had appeared, bringing some empty boxes from the garage; Mary started folding clothes and stuffing them in the boxes. It didn’t take long before he’d pretty well ransacked the room for what he needed. If he was missing something, it couldn’t be much, and there was no reason he couldn’t buy it somewhere along the way.

“You know,” he said to Mary, “If we’re just going to sit around Blanche Tickle all winter, it might be nice to have something to read. There are books here that I wished I’d had on the boat with us, not that I ever had time to read very many of them. I don’t see why I couldn’t take a box or two of them.”

“Aye, there’ll be space for ’em, b’y. I’ve got a closet I lock my stuff in when the house is rented, an’ it ain’t never been full yet. An’ I wouldn’t mind a spell of bein’ curled up by the fireplace with a book in my hand either.”

Matt filled a couple smaller boxes with books, mostly involving sailing– classic sailing trips clear back to Joshua Slocum, techniques for sailing long voyages, and things like that. At one point he’d started an extensive notebook about things to think about and do on a trip around the world, and he made a point of taking that with him, since they had given the idea of a world cruise some consideration.

Soon there wasn’t much more to take, until he spotted the laptop computer he’d used in college sitting on his desk. “Mary,” he asked. “Do you know if there’s an Internet connection in Blanche Tickle?”

“No idea, b’y,” she shook her head. “There wasn’t when I was in school and I ain’t never played with a computer since, not that I ever got to then.”

“Well, hell, might as well take it along,” he said, digging out the carrying case and poking it inside, along with a few useful accessories. “I didn’t figure I’d need it on the boat, and it might not have gotten along very well in the damp there anyway. If there’s no Internet connection, I can at least work up a better journal of what happened on the trip, or play Windows Solitaire, or something.”

“An’ maybe ye can show me a little about usin’ it, too,” she said. “Like I said, I ain’t never done it.”

“There’s that, too,” he said. “I’m thinking if there is an Internet connection it could be useful in researching about the European canals. Oh, well, I suppose we’ll be going into St. John’s every now and then, and I suppose I could find a place there to get on the ’Net.”

Soon, they had everything they wanted loaded into the trunk of Matt’s little Chevy, including the seabags from the trunk of the Buick; even with the books, it was nowhere near full. “You might as well get going,” Matt’s father said. “I expect your mother to be calling any time now wanting a ride home, but I wouldn’t put it past her to grab a ride home with someone who’s hanging around the hairdresser’s.”

“Yeah, good point,” Matt agreed. “We’ll see you this afternoon, Dad.”

“Good enough,” he replied. “Give me a call at the office when you have an idea what time you’ll be there.”

Soon Matt and Mary were in the Cavalier, heading out of town. “Well,” Matt sighed as he saw his house in the rear view mirror. “That went better than it had any right to.”

“You mean your mother? I was thinkin’ that ye didn’t have ta worry about the leukemia ’cause she was gonna be the one ta kill ye.”

“I didn’t think it’d go quite that far,” he shrugged. “If she killed me she wouldn’t have me to bully around, but then, she may not have thought it out that far. I’m talking about her hairdresser appointment. It would have been a hell of a lot worse trying to get this stuff out of the house with her screaming at me every inch of the way. Hell, so long as I had the car, I’d have been willing to leave all the other shit behind just to get out of there. At least I have it, so that’ll simplify things a little.”

“Your dad seems ta be a really nice guy,” she said. “Pity about your mother, though.”

“Yeah, Dad really came through for me on that one,” he said. “And he knows he’s going to be the one to get it in the neck when she finds out I’m gone again, which won’t be long. If he’s got any sense he’ll just drop her off and get the hell out of there, and leave his cell phone off for a while, like maybe the rest of his life.”

“I was sayin’ up in your room that your dad seems more in favor of ye doin’ the sailin’ an’ all than I was figurin’.”

Matt thought for a second. He remembered Mary’s observation, but just hadn’t been able to reflect on it until now. “You might be right about what you said,” he finally managed. “He sure sounded to me like he’d like to be out sailing with us, doing something fun, rather than just sitting in his office until he has to go home and put up with Mom. I suppose that allows him to live his dreams through me a little. I wish now I’d been able to take him sailing on the Mary Sue or something, just to let him have a little taste of it, but I was too damn scared that he’d back Mom up all the way.”

“It might have gone the other way. Ye might have found yourself sailin’ the Atlantic with him, an’ not with me,” she grinned.

“It’d never happen,” he shook his head. “His life really is pretty much wrapped up with his work. Every now and then a little bit of the wild goose in him shows, but not much and not often. I guess we’re just lucky that it did this time.”

“Like I was sayin’, I think he respects ye, and even envies ye, b’y.”

“Oh, I’m pretty sure he does, after what he said this morning. The thing of it is that it’s one thing to dream about something and another thing to actually get out and do it. Hell, I spent years dreaming about taking a long trip with the Mary Sue before I got to do it, so believe me, Mary, I know the difference between dreams and the real thing. He can have his dreams, but I don’t expect to ever see him doing something like that for real. But I’ll tell you what, if he ever decides he wants to come along with us somewhere, he’s on. I really doubt it’ll happen, though.”

“I think it’d be nice to get to know him a little better,” she said. “Your mother, though, I don’t think she could ever get her mind open and her mouth shut long enough to even consider it.”

“You said it, I didn’t, not that I don’t agree with you every step of the way. Dad was right, by the way. She’d never accept you, since you aren’t a girl she picked out for me. We might as well get used to it, but thank god we won’t have to put up with it very much.”

“’Tis a shame he has to put up with her.”

“It is, but then, it’s his decision, so I guess I can’t criticize it very much. Stephanie, that last girl Mom was trying to jam down my throat, would have been the same kind of pain in the ass in the long run. I could see that, which is part of the reason why I didn’t even think about getting serious about her. I guess I was just waiting for you to come into my life.”

“Aw, now you’re bein’ sweet again, b’y,” she grinned. “So what do we do now?”

“Well, the obvious thing to do is to head over to the hospital and get my blood work going. The sooner we get done with that, the sooner we’ll be able to hit the road out of here.”

“An’ how far is that going to be, b’y?”

“Oh, it’ll take an hour or so to get there,” he said. “Then god knows how long to get the paperwork to get the blood test, and then that much longer to wait around and get it taken. I’ll tell you what, Mary, I’m glad we had breakfast because I suspect it’s going to be the middle of the afternoon before we get back, if that soon.”

“Ain’t that simple, then?”

“Oh, the test is simple but the paperwork will about kill you,” he shook his head. “At least I have the advantage of having done it there before so I know the drill.”

Matt was right on that. It was a case of going to one office, waiting to talk to someone, who had them wait to talk to someone else, who had them wait longer, and so on. Finally Matt got the crucial piece of paper he needed, and took Mary down to the lab where the blood would be drawn. It only took a couple minutes before they were heading out the door; Matt said he’d come back the next day to get the results.

What with everything, it was close to 2:30 in the afternoon before they were able to meet Matt’s father at the same chain restaurant where they’d eaten in the morning. When Adam walked in the door, a surprise came with him: Matt’s grandfather Samuel, who Matt had been looking forward to seeing.

“Matt, you’re looking good,” his elderly grandfather said. “Your father tells me that you’ve been having quite an adventure, and that you’ve found quite an interesting young lady to have it with, as well.”

“I think so,” Matt grinned. “Grandfather, this is Mary O’Leary, who sailed across the Atlantic with me, and around northern Europe.”

“Your father said that you were planning on telling us a bit about it.”

“There’s quite a bit to tell,” Matt said. “And we’ve got a few pictures. We’d get busy and forget to take pictures, so we didn’t take a whole lot, but we’ve pawed through them a little so you don’t have to look at the really junky ones.”

“Let’s sit down and get started,” Adam said. “Brittany was not very happy about the two of you sneaking out so you could go get your blood work done, Matt. But I think she’s going to be much more outraged to find out that you’re not planning on coming back anytime soon.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me,” Matt shrugged, realizing what his father had used for an excuse. “I’m just sorry you have to take the brunt of it.”

“Yeah, well, I would sooner or later anyway,” his father said. “I might as well get it over with.”

Matt and Mary ordered a late lunch, and then spent the next three hours telling most of the story of the trip, along with showing a few selected pictures. “That picture of you with the iceberg behind you is spectacular,” Matt’s grandfather said. “Do you think you could see your way clear to giving me a copy of that?”

“Sure, I’d love to,” Matt said. “It can be a little one, or I can have it blown up to something you could frame.”

“That would be fine if you could,” his grandfather said. “I think I’d like to have a copy of it on the wall of my office, so I could look at it and think about the adventures you’re having.”

“While you’re doing it,” Adam said. “If you could have one done for me, I’d appreciate it. You’d better send it to me at the office, though.”

“Sure, I can do that,” Matt replied. “It’s the least I can do considering all the two of you have done for me.”

Both Matt and Mary continued telling of their adventures with crossing the Atlantic, and then poking their noses in and out of places around Ireland, Scotland, Norway, and then finally a little bit about putting the boat up for the winter in Denmark. “We’re still not quite sure what we’ll be doing next summer,” he said, and explained the idea of doing the canal cruising that Knud had suggested to them back in Copenhagen a few days before.

“Well, I’m sure you’ll have another fine time,” Samuel said. “It would be nice to have the youth and the freedom to consider doing something like that, but I’m much too old to think about it now. I was too busy trying to build my business when I was that age, and frankly, after Korea I’d had about all the adventure I wanted anyway. But you’re having much better experiences for a young man than going to a rather miserable war. I know your mother doesn’t agree with me, but I think you’re doing the right thing.”

“I’m glad you think so,” Matt agreed. “It would have been absolutely impossible for me to even consider doing something like that without your support, clear back to high school.”

“It’s certainly not what I expected you to be doing with the money I gave you to buy a car to take to college,” Samuel said. “But I think you did better with it than I expected.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out a folded green check. “Take this and have a few more adventures.”

“Thank you, grandfather,” Matt said, taking the check and putting it in his pocket without looking at it.

“And while I’m thinking about it, here’s mine,” Adam added, handing Matt another check.

“And thanks, Dad,” Matt said. “Like I told you this morning, we’ve been pretty careful with our money, but this will be useful if something unexpected happens.”

They talked on for another half an hour or so, until both Matt’s father and grandfather said they had to be going. “Matt, Mary,” Matt’s father said. “I suppose you could come home for the evening if you really wanted to, but I think you know what would happen if you did.”

“You’re probably right,” Matt agreed. “We’ll find a motel someplace and stay there.”

“I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I guess that’s the way it is,” Adam replied. “Look, Matt, I don’t know when I’m going to see you again, but try to keep in a little better touch. Send your mother a card once in a while so she doesn’t feel like you’ve completely cut her out of your life, but I’d appreciate a call or the odd letter at the office once in a while. Maybe someday . . . well, you never know.”

“Yeah, Dad,” Matt agreed. “Maybe someday.”

Adam turned to Mary. “I’m glad I met you, young lady. You seem to be quite a girl, and you’re a refreshing change from the type of girls I know Brittany has been trying to fix Matt up with. I think the both of you made a great choice. Matt, I know your mother would never believe me, but it’s clear to me that you need a strong young woman who can stand on her own two feet and take care of herself if she has to. Matt, I think you’ve found that woman, even though your mother will never believe it.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Matt said. “I knew from the minute we met that she was a lot different from anyone else I’d ever known, and I’m glad of it. She really is something special.”

Soon, the four of them were out the door. “That was refreshing,” Mary said as they headed toward the Cavalier. “Your grandfather seems to be quite a nice man, Matt.”

“Yeah, he is, at least at times,” Matt said. “But you don’t want to forget that he was the guy who pushed Dad into coming into his business right out of college. Well, he and Mom, and I guess me, that is.”

“So what do we do now? Find a motel?”

“We could,” Matt said. “But I’m thinking we might head south for a couple hours before we do. While we were telling that story, I kept thinking that Sid might like to hear it, and this might be the only chance we get to tell him.”

“Sid? Oh, yes, the man that sold you the Mary Sue. You’re right, that might not be a bad idea, b’y.”

“Great, let’s do it,” Matt said. “We can drive south for a while, then give him a call and make a date to see him in the morning or something.”

In a few minutes they were headed south on the Interstate. “Matt,” Mary asked finally. “How big were those checks, anyway?”

“It’s like they say in the song, you don’t count your money while you’re sitting at the table,” Matt grinned. “So I glanced at them in the rest room. Let’s just say that if we decide to sail around the world, the trip is financed with some left over.”

“That’s a lot of money, b’y.”

“It is,” Matt agreed. “At least if we don’t get extravagant with it. But then, we might think of something else we’d want to do with it, too. It’s too late to do anything tonight, but one of the things I need to do in the morning is to set up some kind of an investment account with it, since there’s no point in leaving it sit at today’s bank interest rates. If we’re careful and we still manage to use it up, maybe then I ought to be thinking about getting some sort of a job, if I last that long.”

“Matt,” she said. “That starts to make me wonder. Ever since I’ve known you, you’ve been plannin’ with the idea that you’re not going to be livin’ a full life. I realize this is a stupid question, but what are you plannin’ to do if you’re still alive in a few years, and there’s no sign of the leukemia coming back?”

“Honestly? Mary, damned if I know. Hell, I might even be willing to go to work for my grandfather’s company. About all I can say is that I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, but getting to it is a few years off and at this time it’s not something that I feel I can do any planning for. But realistically, unless there’s some huge unforeseen medical advance, I’m never going to be able to make long-range plans and expect to carry them out.”

“Well, I guess I can see that,” she shrugged. “I know it sounds odd, but then, I’ve never been able to do much long range plannin’, either. I’ve always been too concerned about what comes next.”

“You know, Mary,” he smiled. “I think that’s one of the things about you that makes me especially glad we got together. We both have had to look at our lives pretty much the same way, even if for different reasons.”

“I hadn’t thought about it like that,” she admitted. “But I suspect ye may be havin’ a point, there, b’y.”

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To be continued . . .

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