Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
“Matt,” Mary said quietly. “I don’t know if we should do that.”
“Please,” he pleaded again. “I’d rather die at sea.”
Dr. Sumitono got a grave look on his face. “Perhaps it’s just my cultural ancestry,” he said slowly. “But I believe people have the right to die with dignity. I suppose you could sign him out of here, but I can’t help you with the dying at sea part of it.”
“I can’t make that decision,” Adam said. “I certainly think you deserve to spend your final hours without your mother hovering over you and making a pain in the ass of herself.”
“Please, no,” Matt said weakly. “Get me out of here.”
“We’ll try, b’y,” Mary smiled at him. “I don’t know how we’re gonna do it, but we’ll have ta talk about it.”
“Please,” he pleaded again.
“Maybe we better go out in the hall and talk about this,” Jake suggested.
“Might be a good idea,” Mary nodded.
In a minute all of them were out in the hall, with the door closed behind him. “In one way, I hate the thought of it,” Adam said. “But damn it, you’re right Doctor, he deserves the right to die with dignity. Mary, if you take him to sea, the trouble is going to be in your hands.”
“I know,” she said. “An’ there ain’t no one else who should do it. I’m with Matt on this one. Dr. Sumitono, how hard is it going ta be ta sign Matt out of here?”
“There’s paperwork involved, if you’re going to do it right,” he said. “It’ll take a few hours, but the responsibility will lie on your shoulders.”
“Doctor,” Adam asked, “How long is Brittany going to be out of it?”
“Probably about four hours,” he said. “And I wouldn’t recommend knocking her down with that stuff again.”
“That means we’re going to have to pull it off under her nose,” Adam said thoughtfully. “Doctor, how long do you think Matt is going to have? I mean, really?”
“It’s always hard to say in these cases,” Dr. Sumitono replied. “If you want an off-the-cuff guess, less than a week. Under stress of being at sea, in a small boat? There’s no telling. It could be less considering the stress, or if he’s at peace with himself, it could be a little more.”
“That gives us a little time to work with,” Mary said.
“Not a lot,” the doctor replied. “In a couple days he’s going to be mostly unconscious. He may have some brief lucid periods. I could probably pump him up with steroids, and that would perk him up a bit. But when they wear off, he’ll crash hard, so the net result will probably be that he’ll go down more quickly.”
“Given a choice, I’d guess he’d rather be happy for a while and then crash hard,” Adam said.
“Aye, that’s how I see it,” Mary agreed. “But Jake, I don’t know what the rules say about this. What happens when he dies at sea?”
“I’ll have to do some checking,” Jake scratched his head. “But off the top of my head, if you’re well out in international waters, he’s dead, and you can bury him at sea. Then, when you get back to shore, you have to report it to the Coast Guard and then apply for a death certificate.”
“From what I know from growing up in Blanche Tickle, that’s sorta like they do it when a fisherman dies at sea,” she agreed.
“The joker in the deck is that I don’t want to bet how much stink Brittany is going to raise when she finds out about it,” Adam pointed out. “I don’t know how much pressure she can put on the Coast Guard, but I’m sure she could cause trouble.”
“How about if I were to sail directly for Blanche Tickle?” Mary asked. “Well, actually, it’d have to be Argentia, since they have customs there, an’ since I’m a Canadian citizen, they might not raise as much fuss.”
“Seems like the smart way to do it,” Jake said. “But I’ll have to do some quick checking.”
“Whatever we do, we’re going to have to do it quickly,” Adam said thoughtfully. “Before Brittany got all bent out of shape, she was talking about getting a lawyer to get Matt out of here so he could go back to U of M Hospital. She might well get back on that tack after she comes around, and if she’s not quite as hysterical, well, there are a lot of roadblocks she could throw up without half trying.”
“Let me make a couple quick phone calls,” Jake said. “Let’s all think this out, and meet back here in half an hour.”
“I can do that,” Dr. Sumitono said. “I’ve got other patients I need to see, but I should be able to be back here by then.”
Jake and Dr. Sumitono headed down the hall in the opposite direction from the lounge. The doctor was headed toward his patients, and Jake was looking for a good cell phone signal. “Mary,” Adam said as they left, “I really hate to dump this on you, but it looks like the only way it can be done.”
“Aye, I’m seein’ that,” she agreed. “I really hate ta have ta do it this way, but it’s lookin’ like you’re right.”
“Mary, you’re an incredible woman, and I just feel that Matt was lucky as hell to find you. You really love him, don’t you?”
“Aye, I really do. I love him enough ta want to help him die the way he wants. Ever since I’ve known Matt, I’ve known this had a chance of happenin’, but I didn’t expect it’d be like this. At least I can say I won’t be the first Blanche Tickle girl to lose her man at sea, and while I’m hopin’ I’ll be the last, I wouldn’t want ta bet on it.”
“You seem remarkably sober and collected about this.”
“That’s ’cause the time for cryin’ hasn’t come yet. I’ll just have ta do what needs ta be done and cry about it later.”
“Matt sure found himself an incredible woman,” Adam shook his head. “Look, there’s something we have to talk about. I don’t think Brittany has noticed you’re pregnant yet.”
“I was thinkin’ that, too.”
“Maybe that’s good. If she knew it, I think she’d be even more batshit than she is already. Lord knows what’s going to happen when she finds out.”
“I don’t think it’s gonna be pretty.”
“I don’t think so either. Look, when I had that will drafted, I spent some time talking with my lawyer about this whole thing. At the time, it started in the context of you and Matt being out sailing with a small child. He felt that in that situation, Brittany might have some grounds for a child endangerment action. Based on your experience, you’d have a good defense, but things could get sticky.”
“I hadn’t thought about that.”
“Well, I didn’t either until he brought it up. But Brittany, well, your baby is the only grandchild she’ll ever have. She’s been whining for years that she wanted grandchildren, and close enough to her that she will be able to influence how they’re raised.”
“Doesn’t surprise me,” Mary shook her head. “I heard her talkin’ about wantin’ grandchildren myself. She wanted Matt ta get hooked up with some gal she selected so’s she could enjoy it.”
“Yeah, and I don’t think she’ll let the idea go. My attorney told me that usually when a child endangerment issue like this comes up it involves a custody case after the parents have been divorced, so this is a little different. However, he pointed out to me that there’s something that will shield you from a lot of problems. That is, stay out of the country, and especially keep the child out of the country. Mary, since you’re a Canadian citizen, and if the child is born in Canada and is a resident there, it would make any child custody issue considerably more difficult for someone attempting an adverse action.”
“You mean she’d try ta take the baby away from me?”
“I wouldn’t put it past her, not for a moment. Mary, so long as you’re a good mother, keeping the child competently and safely, you shouldn’t have much problem as long as the child is born in Canada and is kept out of the U.S. But my attorney strongly advised against bringing the child to the U.S. If you should bring him here and Brittany started a child protection action, it could take considerable time and effort to pry the child out of the hands of the protective services agency. Making it an international case makes it considerably more difficult for someone starting an action. If you keep him or her in Canada, we’ll have plenty of time to throw up roadblocks, especially if I have some idea what Brittany is planning. I’ll have to be able to get in touch with you to give you some warning, though.”
“Unless somethin’ happens I’d expect I’ll be in Blanche Tickle for at least a while. You can contact Sinead at the post office and she can get a message ta me. I don’t have a phone there, but if Matt’s laptop is still workin’ I’d have e-mail.”
“That’ll have to do,” Adam said, and let out a big sigh. “Mary, I know you’re going to have Matt’s money after he dies, and maybe that will help you get along. But if things go bad, well, the kid will be my grandkid, too. I’ll do what I can to help you financially, and I’m pretty sure there will be a big legacy coming your way when my father passes on.”
“I wasn’t expectin’ that. I mean, I was thinkin’ Matt would wind up with some money, but I guess I didn’t think it through very well.”
“Oh, it’s true. Right at the moment, I don’t know what’s going to happen with Brittany if we pull this stunt we’re talking about. There’s a chance she could totally lose it. What happens when she finds she has a grandchild in Newfoundland, well, I’m not looking forward to it. Look, for a while, maybe about all I’ll be able to do is to try to defend you from her. I’ll do what I can.”
“I ’preciate it, Adam, I really do,” she sighed. “I guess I’d sorta like ye ta have a chance to know your grandchild. Maybe you can sneak off some time and see us.”
“I’d like that, Mary. I really would. Whether I’ll be able to do it very soon, well, I don’t know. A lot is going to depend on Brittany and how she reacts to the whole thing, and you know as well as I do that whatever happens she isn’t going to react very well. Look, just to keep her from realizing you’re pregnant, maybe you’d better avoid Brittany until this comes off.”
“Aye, that won’t be hard,” she smiled. “I was more or less thinkin’ that would suit me just fine, but I hate ta have ta leave ye bearin’ the burden.”
“That’s going to have to be my part of the deal,” he replied. “You just take care of my grandchild.”
“I’ll surely do it,” she smiled. “Boy or girl, they’re going to be a piece of Matt for me to love.”
“I wish I could have done better by Matt,” he sighed. “It’s been, well, difficult. He really has been my son, you know, no matter what part Jake played in the deal. I really appreciate Jake’s influence, but, well, Matt is mine, too. Now, I suppose I’d better get back down the hall and keep an eye on Brittany. You, Jake, and that doctor work out what you have to do and have Jake tell me. I’ll just have to keep Brittany off your back while we pull this off.”
“Aye, that may be the hard job. Adam, if this happens I don’t know when I’m gonna be seein’ ye again, but I’d like ta if I can.”
“I would too, Mary. I would too, and I hope it’s not too long.”
A few minutes later Mary and Jake met with Dr. Sumitono again. “I’ve been thinking about it,” Jake said. “Like we were talking earlier, if we’re going to do this we need to be doing it quickly. Doctor, official visiting hours end at nine, right?”
“Yes, but there’s some flex in that, especially in cases like this.”
“Brittany doesn’t need to know that. If she’s reasonably recovered but not too hysterical before then, I think she and Adam should have a last chance to see him. But if you run them out at nine, we can move right after that, while Adam has her at the hotel.”
“I can arrange to have the paperwork ready to go by then,” Dr. Sumitono said. “I can load Matt up with steroids and a couple other drugs pretty soon. He won’t be a whole lot better at that time, but he should be a little more lucid for several hours after that. However, when the drugs wear off, he’s going to be in considerable pain.”
“I guess I’ll just have ta deal with it,” Mary said.
“It’s not going to be easy for you, but somehow I think you’ve got the grit to handle it.”
Jake brought up a question. “How are we going to get Matt to the boat? I mean, we came here from the airport in a taxi. I suppose I could get a taxi back out to the airport and get a rental car.”
“Where is it you have to go?” Dr. Sumitono asked.
“A boatyard in Plymouth,” Mary told him. “I don’t know how far it is, maybe twenty or thirty miles.”
“Oh, well,” Dr. Sumitono sighed. “Like I told you earlier, I have this cultural belief that people should be allowed to die with dignity, and I understand what you people are trying to do. I’ll actually have to stay a little late to get you out of here anyway, so I suppose there’s no reason I couldn’t load all of you in my minivan and take you out there. It’d probably be better than a taxi or a rental car.”
“Doctor, ye’ve been a big help all through this,” Mary told him. “I ’preciate your bein’ willin’ ta be even more help.”
“In a way, I consider it my duty,” Dr. Sumitono replied. “I’m just glad to help. Believe me, I have seen much sadder cases. All right, we’ll meet up back here a little after nine.”
“Sounds good, Doctor,” Jake said. “We’ll see you then.”
“Glad I could help,” the doctor repeated. “Now, I have a few other patients I need to take care of.”
“Sure thing,” Jake said, and turned to Mary. “I suppose I ought to go down and let Adam know as quietly as I can that the plan is on. You better let Matt know it.”
“Aye, I can do that. I’m thinkin’ I might’s well get somethin’ ta eat before this happens, since I might not get ta for a while later.”
“I’ll take care of Adam,” Jake repeated. “And I wouldn’t mind having a few words with Matt myself. But after that, maybe we can both slide down to the hospital cafeteria and get a bite to eat.”
Mary headed back into the room to give Matt the news. “Matt, we’re gonna be gettin’ ye outa here,” she told him. “But we can’t do it till visitin’ hours are over with. We’re gonna let your mom an’ dad have a chance ta see ya before visiting hours end, but I don’t think your mom is gonna be quite as bad as she was before.”
“God, I hope not,” he mumbled.
“You’re just gonna have ta bear up through it,” Mary told him. “An’ don’t let her hear a word that we’re gonna be sneakin’ ye outa here or that I’m pregnant. With any kinda luck, she ain’t gonna find out about it until we’re at sea.”
“Sure would hate to have her find out. Poor Dad.”
“He’s gonna be runnin’ cover for us, so we’re gonna have ta make good use of it,” she said. “Now you be restin’ up, Matt. We’re gonna be at sea in the Mary Sue before dawn.”
The visit Adam and Brittany had with Matt a few hours later was brief. Matt was pretty well out of it– or at least acted like he was, and Jake reported later that he couldn’t tell the difference. Brittany promised him time and again that she was going to see that he was taken out of this miserable place and back to the University of Michigan Hospital where they would make him better again. She still didn’t seem to recognize the reality of what was happening– just like she couldn’t make herself believe that Matt was married. She kept talking about what a great future Matt was going to have with Stephanie, as if Mary didn’t even exist. And, perhaps in her mind, Mary was only a bad dream.
Finally, they had to go. Jake knew he was going to have to get away from Adam and Brittany, and had worked out a plan with Adam ahead of time. While they’d come on the same airliner, they hadn’t been booked into the same hotel. “You two go on,” Jake told them. “I’ll see you tomorrow. I’m going to see if there’s a bar in Boston where you can still have a smoke, then have a few. I’ll get a cab back to the hotel.”
“Sounds like it has potential,” Adam agreed. “See you tomorrow.”
As soon as Adam and Brittany were in the cab and heading away from the hospital, Jake headed back inside and up to Matt’s room, where Dr. Sumitono and a hospital administrator were having Matt and Mary sign all kinds of paperwork. Then, the three of them helped Matt get dressed in jeans and a polo shirt, then helped him into a wheelchair for the ride downstairs. They had to wait by the entrance for a few minutes while Dr. Sumitono got his van and picked them up; by now Matt was feeling enough better that he was able to climb into the front seat with only a little help.
It was close to an hour before they pulled into the boatyard where the Mary Sue was in a slip. The drugs the doctor had loaded Matt up with were doing their job; he seemed brighter than he had been in a couple days. Still, they used the wheelchair to get him down the pier to where the little Folkboat was waiting. It was still a hassle to get him there, but they made it.
“Matt, would ye like ta go below?” Mary asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” he told her. “I think I’d just as soon stay topside and enjoy the sea and the sky. Maybe you could get me a jacket, though.”
“Sure,” Mary said. She found a jacket below, and with Jake’s help got it on him. “Are we about ready to go?” she asked when the chore was complete.
“Just a minute,” Jake said, grabbing a seabag. “I need to go get something you’ll want later. I’ll be right back.”
“Good,” Dr. Sumitono said. “Mary, come back up to the van for a moment. I’ve got something for you, too.”
Leaving Matt alone for a moment, she followed the doctor back up to the van, where he handed her a package wrapped in plastic. “What’s this?” she asked.
“When he crashes off the drugs, he’s going to be in a lot of pain,” the doctor replied. “These are morphine syrettes. One will knock the pain back a lot. Two will knock him out.”
“You can guess,” he said dryly. “I’ll give you a quick lesson in using them. But I probably ought to say that these are sort of unaccounted for, and don’t ask. But I wouldn’t come back into port anywhere if you have them on the boat, because you don’t want to get caught with them. When you get done with them, throw everything overboard.”
“Aye,” she said, understanding his meaning. “Thank you again, Doctor.”
Mary stowed the plastic package below, and was just coming on deck again when Jake showed up with the seabag. It was clearly loaded with something heavy. “You’re probably going to want these,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to get away from you, so you can probably just stow them in the back of the cockpit.”
“Should work,” she said, realizing what was in the bag– stones and bricks. There was no mention of what she would want them for.
Jake took a few minutes to say goodbye to Matt– and, like his father a couple hours before, he knew it was going to be a last goodbye. “Matt,” he said, “I’m going to leave you with Mary now. You came into my life as a surprise but knowing you has just added to the richness of it. You take care, Matt, and go with God.”
“You too,” Matt told him. “Glad to have known you. You made my life so much better than it could have been, and I really appreciate it.”
“You probably better get going, Mary,” Jake said. “I think it would be a real good idea if you were beyond the twelve-mile line by dawn, and beyond the two hundred mile line as quick as you can.”
“Aye, and in Canadian waters, too,” she agreed. “But it’s goin’ ta take me two or three days to get there.”
“You go with God too, Mary,” he told her. “Keep in touch, and if there’s anything I can do for you, all you have to do is ask.”
“Thanks, Jake. Thanks for everything.”
Mary started the Mary Sue’s diesel and let it warm up for a couple minutes. “All right, Jake,” she said to the man standing on the pier. “Ye can get the lines now.”
“Bye, Mary,” he said again. “See you around.”
There was the thump of the lines hitting the deck; Mary let the diesel idle the boat backward out of the slip. Once clear, she took a minute to coil them up and put them away, then put the diesel into forward, turned, and headed for the sea.
There was a nice offshore breeze blowing; as soon as the diesel got them out of the harbor Matt was able to take the helm for a while as Mary raised the sails. While the sails were drawing well and carrying them along, Mary kept the diesel going until they were past the twelve-mile limit.
When dawn came, they were about forty miles out, according to the GPS, headed east-northeasterly on a course that would keep them well offshore. The two of them didn’t talk much; there wasn’t much to say that they hadn’t already said. Matt was feeling fairly perky, in Mary’s opinion, enough to be of some help with chores on the boat, with the self-steering vane now handling the helm.
Along in the middle of the morning, Matt let out a chuckle. “Boy, that’s got to be interesting,” he said.
“I’d expect that by now Mom has discovered I’m not in the hospital anymore,” he said. “In a way it’d be nice to know what happened, but I’m just as glad I’m not there to see it.”
“Aye, I think so too,” she grinned.
“Dad and Uncle Jake have got to be going through pure hell,” he said. “I wish there was some way to thank them for all the shit they’ve got to be taking from her.”
“I ’spect it must not be pretty.”
“At least I made my escape one last time,” he smiled. “Thank you too, Mary. I’m not sure how well my first big escape would have gone, when we went across the Atlantic that time, if you hadn’t been with me. Meeting you on the dock in St. John’s was the luckiest day of my life, in more ways than I can count. I love you, Mary. I’m just sorry we can’t enjoy more of it.”
“At least we enjoyed what we had,” she told him. “Lest ye think otherwise, meetin’ ye on Sean’s dock was the luckiest day of my life, too.”
They sailed on easily all day, making miles away from the shore. When darkness began to fall, Mary asked Matt if he’d like to go below and get in a bunk. “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “Maybe if you brought my sleeping bag up here and wrapped me up in it, I’d be fine. I really want to enjoy the sea, the sky, and the fresh air.”
“All right, Matt. Whatever ye want.”
In the middle of their third night at sea they crossed into Canadian waters, southeast of Nova Scotia. Now, they could breathe a little more easily; if the US Coast Guard was looking for them– a possibility if Adam and Jake hadn’t been able to keep Brittany under control– they were more or less out of the jurisdiction of the American Coasties. Mary turned the boat east-northeasterly, looking to stay well offshore, and not hurrying now.
After two more days they were well east of the northeastern tip of Nova Scotia, and almost due south of Blanche Tickle, and Mary could see that Matt was beginning to fade. Dr. Sumitono had said that when that happened, Matt would go downhill rapidly, and that was the case. Over their days at sea, Matt had only been below to use the head, but now Mary could see he was weakening to the point where she couldn’t help him up. As predicted, he was in considerable pain, and Mary decided the time had come to ease the pain with the morphine Dr. Sumitono had given her.
Now, there was no choice but for him to stay wrapped in his sleeping bag on deck. Mary stayed up with him in the nice conditions, sleeping fitfully a little at a time on the opposite cockpit seat. With the help of the morphine Matt slept through most of the night, and when daylight came he was at least a little bit aware. He could still talk, although only in a whisper, but he brought a smile to her face when he said what were to be his last words: “I love you, Mary. Take care of our kid.”
“I will, Matt. I promise. I love ye too, Matt.”
Matt was unconscious much of the rest of the day; when night came, Mary wrapped him up snugly in the sleeping bag, and told him once again that she loved him, in hopes that he could hear her.
Mary didn’t sleep well that night, still on the opposite cockpit seat. When morning came, Matt was stiff, cold, and not breathing. Even though she knew it was coming, all she could say was, “Damn it.”
She’d known for days what she had to do, and now did it. First, she gave him several shots of the morphine, just to make sure; there was no reaction when she poked him with the needle, not that she was expecting it. Then, she unzipped the sleeping bag, and loaded the rocks and bricks Jake had brought her into the bottom of it. Then, she zipped it back up again, sliding his body down into the bag as far as she could get it, and tying it closed with a piece of line.
The weight of the sleeping bag and the rocks was too much for her; she had to rig a line from the boom and use the winch to get him up over the rail. “Goodbye, Matt,” she said one last time. “Matt, I loved ye.” Then, with a sheath knife, she cut the line, letting his body plunge into the sea. It sank almost instantly.
She stood there watching for a long time after it was over with. This would solve nothing, she finally thought, but it was hard to let it go. Finally, she went below, checked the GPS, and wrote in the log, “Matt died this morning. Buried him at sea like he wanted. RIP.” She included the position, then went back out on deck, where with tears in her eyes she turned the Mary Sue northward toward Newfoundland.