Off The Grid Chapter 3
Setting the Nets
Matthew Cabot runs his finger around the rim of his mug of black coffee. His finger, like his whole body, is tall and thick set. His frame easily fills the sailing club chair which is nestled deep into the grass under the coconut palms which line the foreshore. He is seated at a table which has been dragged from the dining area onto the grass.
His eyes wander across to the other side of the table to contemplate the old man’s hands hands in front of him. He notices that one wrist is decorated with two gold bracelets and a fine gold watch. “The old man still has style” he thinks.
The arms of Theo Tasarakis lift and wave the watch to emphasise every word “ So that pure diet without killing is what I have decided to do and three weeks now – all I am eating is fruit and nuts, no meat, nothing that has been killed, only fruits and nuts, and look at me what do you think? “
Matthew seems slightly amused “You have always been a scrawny bird Theo - I’ll look at you in six weeks when we get back if I have to – what about coffee, and cheese”
“nothing is killed for them” says Theo feigning offence “only what is offered by god my friend – when do you go?”
“August 15 we go after lunch” Matthew mutters without looking up. He picks up a pen and is checking back through lists and notes.
“two days – ok – customers here yet?” asks Theo. Matthew does not answer. “ I only get certified organic anyhow so none of those pesticide things see – you know no pesticides that are killing all the bees – only what is offered by god for taking” and Theo’s arms fall back onto the table and he looks intently at Matthew “you could make that way for the clients you know –special feature – dietary feature - charge lots – you know my friend go for the top of the market you know”
“no change unless we need it” Matthew says still flicking back and forth in his notes “don’t rock the boat”.
Theo looks down and lifts his hands from the table and folds his arms. He searches around the crowded tables in front of the sailing club, with the sea-breeze fluttering his shaggy grey eyebrows. He squints against the morning sun which reflects bright off the thick lawn. He sees the figure of his grandson climbing out of a taxi and making his way towards them through the buzzing throng. Mick is tall and walks easily within his skin, dodging through a crowd of children and leaping up the podium stairs. He stops at the bar for drinks, and at a cooking stall and orders some food.
Theo says loudly as if addressing a number of people at surrounding tables “Six weeks then my friend, six weeks in that Indian tub of yours – I told you to buy that one made on Samos – they are the best builders – they have the history my friend – why would you buy a boat from Indians when you have the greatest culture of building boats right there on Samos my friend? When you have a Samos boat you fear no evil. You know....” then he looks around. Matthew looks up and follows his gaze and catches sight of Mick at the stall. “you mark my words....” then he drops his voice and leans forward “so how is your little project then?” and before Matthew can answer “and Mick don’t know nothing?..”
“No” says Matthew, looking into Theo’s ancient wrinkled face. Then he notices the long hairs on the old man’s shoulders and how they are grey and stick out around the neck of the singlet and he feels the sense of gentleness which Theo always seems to carry even when he is cranky about something “no, not Mick - I have built the last set of co-efficients and we are running all the stuff through again - through them now. Still probably a month off getting anything worthwhile”
“Well I don’t know nothing about it either cavayari – just in case someone asks” says Theo and Matthew looks up deep into the old man’s eyes. Theo grins and his eyes spark slightly then he looks away. Matthew returns to his notes.
Mick arrives at the table. He sits and drops a newspaper onto the table in front of Matthew. “Hey dads, hey Matthew” he says “Seen it skipper? So big it can’t even dock here” he pushes the newspaper image of a vessel across the white table. “beautiful cutter though”
“’hey dad’ you sound like a Skippy” says Theo frowning and waving an arm “where is that girl? Drug addict she is” he directs his words to Matthew who is reading the newspaper article “he won’t get into that I tell you – you start taking drugs I cut your hands off – then what use is the best carpenter without hands I ask you”
“she is a comedian Pappou – her own woman – she is working for goodness sake – I never would try and tell her what to do” Mick responds as he starts to eat his souvlaki “anyhow it isn’t fair to sit in judgement on her like that – she is good hearted”
“good hearted enough to spend all your money too” and he turns to Matthew again “good hearted but a prisoner of addiction she is – wasting her beautiful life”
“Pappou please“ Mike frowns, then in the silence to Matthew “so what do you think skip?”
Matthew holds his coffee steady and peers across the top of the white rim of the mug at the newspaper photograph “what’s she do?”
“20 knots” says Mike absently as he gestures for a coffee in sign language to the barista “90 meters, got two tenders with 90 horsepower twins”
“Nice” says Matthew as he looks across the crowd toward a group of people who are moving toward him laughing and talking. “Keeping the waters safe not a problem for us”.
The giant body of Kopu turns his way and their eyes meet. Kopu bows ever so slightly and Matthew smiles back and hints at a nod of the head. Then he turns back to look at Mick again. Mick continues “heavily armed and makes distance but nowhere to park. Not a problem for us“
Matthew puts the empty cup on the table and looks around the market crowd is if checking for someone then back to Mick “how are we looking? Got everything?”
Matthew is recently turned sixty and his face is ringed by white hair and whiskers which are not well trimmed, though they look as though they should be. His skin is tanned and weathered.
Mick pulls out a list with receipts and Matthew puts on his glasses again and begins to carefully check through the dockets. He takes a pen out and makes notes in his pad. Coffees for Mick and Theo arrive “Another one skip?” Mick asks and orders without waiting for an answer. “All finished, smell of the stain gone now. Shipshape skip – replaced two of the rails across the beam as well”
Kopu comes up to the table with his wife Maria, and Mick gets two chairs for them. They sit without saying anything.
Maria takes a notebook from her bag. “All paid” she says, “three women, one man and one child -The child is with two of the women – got some behaviour issues on the spectrum you know autism spectrum – I looked it up – no real issue – and one woman is travelling alone” Maria pauses and looks to Matthew who has not looked up, still checking in his notebook. She looks to Kopu who smiles and nods. She continues “the man is travelling alone also”
“OK thanks”, says Matthew, “how old is the child?”
“He’s nine nearly ten” says Maria. Silence.
Kopu says “She says he has the mental age of about seven but smart in some things you know”
Matthew looks up at the sound of Kopu’s voice. He puts the pad and pen down and accepts a newly arrived coffee, and leans back in his chair. “OK that’s great Maria thank you and very well done. What are the specials?”
“Well” says Maria, “solo woman is Dutch marine biologist wants turtles, trepang, and she says a range of molluscs – specialises in parasites it seems, two women are twitchers so Peron Islands might be a good go at the end, and loading up on the Inglis and Wessel Islands, and so...” Matthew waits... “and our solo man is American vacationer with interests in Indigenous Culture – tourist”
Matthew nods “OK good”
Maria looks at Kopu then continues “the two women with the boy – main cabin. Single woman cabin two and the man in with the crew. He needs laptop space, and I imagine so will Dutch woman though she has not specifically requested it. She wants to bring a white-board on”
Matthew makes a couple more notes then puts his pen down and reaches across to touch Maria’s hand. He looks directly into her deep black eyes and she looks away sideways. “I am sure you have an itinerary outlined?”
She looks directly back into Matthew’s eyes for a moment then looks to Kopu and she nods. She looks back at Matthew’s hard blue eyes and says “Kupang nine to thirteen September”
Matthew leans back in his chair again and rolls a cigarette in silence.
Theo stretches and gets up from the table. He calls to a distant group of men, and then turns back to Matthew and puts his hand onto Matthews ironed linen shirtsleeve “the songs of my ancestors still ricochet through the wind - everyone is crying out for peace my friend, no one is crying out for justice” Matthew looks up into the brown eyes of his patron and favourite philosopher “stay safe and look after my boy – iasu” and he turns and melts into the crowd on his short wealthy bow legs.
Matthew watches Theo depart, briefly, then turns back to the table and says “Mick, this kid is yours – ok – yours - you look out for him every waking minute ok? I don’t want him going for a shit without you watching him, and if you have to belt him I will back you – never let him out of your sight ok! – you will be his best friend and nothing happens to him ok?”
“Would you want him belting someone else’s child?” asked Maria surprised “anyhow all passports, visas, done permits done, and all paid up”.
“He means a safety line so the kid cannot fall off” said Mick “too many snappers out there in the water” and he grinned at his own joke.
Kopu laughed right out loud at the thought, frightening a waiter who had crept up with a cordless phone. “Call for Mr Cabot”
“Hang on Toby”, Matthew says into the phone, and he looks up at Kopu and Maria who have both stood from the table and he says “fifteenth 0600 embark 1300 – thank you Maria you are the only woman I ever could have married – let me know if he ever leaves home”
Maria smiles warmly and confidently, then hesitates as Kopu gathers himself and they walk away together, greeting tables as they move toward the exit gate.
Then Matthew talks with Toby at length regarding supplies and re-supply points. Mick gets up and waves cheerio while Matthew is still talking to Toby.
After Mick has gone Matthew finishes his plans with Toby and then leans back in his chair and casts his eyes over the armada of yachts moored before the great sailing club, and where the Saint Augustine was moored until Theo bought the marina berth.