Boy on the Towpath
by Andrew Foote
The following morning blossomed into one of those really special days. Clear blue sky and not even the hint of a breeze but Tom didn't seem to notice as he paced up and down the boat like a caged leopard.
"For heaven's sake boy, what's up with you this morning?"
"I'm nervous! I want to know what's going to happen and then again I don't. Does that make any sense?"
"Makes perfect sense. We'll be happy if everything goes well but if it doesn't? That's another matter altogether and something we must be prepared for but so far as it goes, we know the situation and now we've got to sort out the practicalities."
I sent Tom out to the shops in order that he could burn off some of that nervous energy leaving me to glance through my list of questions. Some fifteen minutes later there was a knock on the roof heralding the arrival of Hiro and Maeori who looked more than a little disappointed not to see Tom.
"Tom isn't here?"
"I sent him to the local shop, he shouldn't be too long. Why don't you go and meet him there? It's very easy to find. You go out of the marina and turn right and it's about half a mile on the right."
Mae turned to Hiro.
"Yes you go and look for him." And with that he was gone.
Hiro and I settled down with some coffee and without any preliminaries I started with my list of questions.
"These are probably not in the right order but last night I made a note of some things that came into my head, the first being what procedures is Mae going to go through and what are the timescales?
"Okay, he is already receiving counselling and this will be maintained even after everything is done that has to be done but the first step is to rebalance the hormones. Mae has not yet started puberty but the moment this happens then he will receive drugs which will delay it's progress, rebalance and stimulate the female hormones like oestrogen in favour of the male hormones such as androgen. We all have an equal balance of these hormones within us but it's only with the onset of puberty that one side takes dominance over the other so in Mae's case we are manipulating this in favour of the female."
"So if I understand correctly, his body will assume all the attributes of a girl but with the exception of his genitalia."
"No, not entirely. They will cease to develop, perhaps shrink also they will have no function sexually and this is when he must undergo surgery."
"When might that happen?"
"You must talk to the doctors in that regard. They alone make that judgement."
"You will have to give me their details in due course."
"Better than that, I think you should meet with them. That way they will know you and that you have the 'in loco Parentis' legally documented.
Shall I organise such a meeting?"
"Yes and as soon as possible would be good."
"I ask for the meeting this Monday coming and we will go to Harley Street and talk with them."
"How can you arrange this so quickly?"
"Stuart, I'm paying them a very great deal of money. They will do as I request, of that you can be very sure!"
I had to grin at his last comment! Yes I could see how even the most eminent doctors would fairly jump through hoops faced with a guy such as Hiro!
"Okay this brings me to my next point. Obviously he cannot stay at Rugby School once it becomes obvious, I mean physically obvious and you had talked of a private education but as he could no longer board, where will he live and how will his education be managed?"
"This was one of the most difficult issues Stuart. He will need to be close to both you and Thomas and as I like your way of living, here is a cheque for £70,000. I want you to buy a boat similar to your own, have it fitted out to a level where Maeori can comfortably live on it and if possible have it placed near to your own so he has company. Also I wish you to register ownership in Thomas's name rather than mine. This is in part to preserve a degree of secrecy and also as a reward to Tom for his efforts."
"But I can't..."
"But you can Stuart and what is more, I shall lodge in an offshore account an amount of money to cover any expense concerning the upkeep of it, licencing, insuring and the like.
Understand me, I will spare no expense where Maeori is concerned and because you are acting 'in loco parentis', neither will you!"
"Okay I understand and I'll do as you request but what of his education?"
"This I have to leave in your hands and again this will be paid for from the funds I shall deposit off shore.
I want a fine education for Maeori so I request fine tutors and my plan was for him to take such tuition on the boat that you will buy. It may be some months before it is necessary for him to leave Rugby so there is no immediate action required regarding the purchase of a boat so you have time to choose wisely which I have no doubt you will and whilst we are on the subject of boats, should you find something that you feel is ideal but the price is more than the amount of my cheque, you are to go ahead and purchase it, inform me of the extra cost and I will have the funds wired directly to your personal account.
Please do not use funds from the off shore account as it is possible that the purchase could be traced back to me."
"Can you tell me why that's so important, Hiro?"
"That is a fair question Stuart but unfortunately I cannot give you an answer at this time. All I will tell you is that in Japan my reach goes beyond normal business dealings and as such there are those who would seek to damage my reputation. Maybe when you come to Japan I will explain things in an open fashion to you but for now I beg your understanding and keep what we have started confidential so far as is possible."
"It will be so. Afterall we all of us only want happiness for Mae.
One final point, one that isn't so important really. At what point do you believe we should be thinking about Mae's change of roll? By this I mean when should he start dressing as a girl?"
"Again I must leave this for you to judge but I would have thought as soon as he leaves Rugby and live on the boat is a good time."
Just at that point we were joined by two very noisy boys. It never fails to baffle me how somebody of Tom's slight stature, weighing in at nine stone fuck all manages to make a twenty-two tonne boat lurch the way it does!
"Tom?? Steady down mate?"
"Sorry Stu! Hello Hiro-san. As you can see Mae caught up with me okay."
"So I see! Please you may just call me Hiro. It's very refreshing not to be as formal as we are in Japan!"
"Thank you but it just seems disrespectful somehow."
"You would make a good Japanese child but I know I have your respect and I can assure you Tom, you also have mine!"
Tom started to put away the shopping and so I turned my attention to Mae.
"Has Tom been showing you around Mae?"
"Yes he has taken me around the marina. A good thing I think as I will be living here someday."
Obviously he was up to speed with everything so I didn't venture further with that line of questioning.
"We must start looking for a boat soon so we can get something really nice for you."
"I would like that very much! When can we start?"
Tom hadn't been deaf to the conversation and pitched in with his own idea.
"We could start tomorrow, couldn't we? I mean if Hiro-san, sorry, Hiro is agreeable, Mae could stay with us overnight and we could have a nose about in the morning."
"We could Tom but Hiro has to return to Japan very soon and perhaps he would like Mae to be with him."
Hiro laughed. "I am not returning now until two weeks from today and anyway I think that it is good that you all get used to each other's company. I will have time enough with Mae during the school week and so if you are in agreement Stuart? I think that Tom's idea is a very good one!"
"That's fine by me and what's more it would be a pleasure."
A short time later Hiro decided to leave and after we saw him off, the boys found the football and chased off shouting to each other as they went.
It was odd but I felt just the slightest pang of jealousy at the way the two of them were so close but I countered this with the realisation that it was in fact no bad thing in light of what was to come.
I headed off to find the harbour master.
"I've got a favour to ask you Kenny."
"So long as it doesn't involve me lending you money, fire away Stu!"
"I'm going to buy another boat and I was wondering about the availability of moorings."
"You're not selling 'Movin Home' are you?"
"God no! I'm buying a second boat and once we've decided what we want I was wondering about the possibility of mooring near to where we are now?"
"What length were you looking at?"
"Minimum fifty-seven foot to a maximum of sixty-five."
"Yeah that should be doable. The seventy-two berth next to you is vacant or rather it will be by this time next week so I could slot a sixty-five on there for you. I could move 'Wanderer' the other side of you to somewhere else. He won't mind after all he's not a live-aboard like you and that's a sixty so a fifty-seven could go there. Near enough for you?!"
"Kenny you're a star! We've not started looking yet so can I keep my options open for a bit?"
"That'll be okay. Just let me know when you've found something."
I returned to the boat armed with a pile of boating journals and a felt marker and proceeded to work my way through them, striking off those that were non-starters and leaving the maybe's to come back to another time.
The one good thing about being in a recession is the number of boats on the market was huge and with that down comes the asking prices. The downside is just that, the sheer number of boats meant that actually making a decision might be rather hard.
Just then I heard the familiar voice of Kenny. "Can I come on board Stu? I might have something of interest for you."
On board Kenny explained.
"Do you remember old Doc Stephens?"
"The name rings a bell but I can't say I can place him, why?"
"Okay but you just might remember his boat 'Calypso Queen'?"
"Oh right! Yes I know it? Fantastic boat but what does that have to do with me?"
"I was about to come to that bit. He called me only a few minutes after you left the office. He told me that he'd had a couple of accidents recently and has come to the conclusion that he's probably better off on dry land. I never realised but he told me that he's 85. Doesn't bloody look it but I digress. His daughter and son-in-law own a farm in New Zealand and have pretty much ordered him to go over there to live with them, the upshot being, he's bringing the boat in tomorrow and we're to put it up on brokerage."
"What, like sell it?!"
"That's what happens when you put a boat on brokerage Stu!"
"Wow. How much is he looking for, any idea?"
"Not a clue. We will this time tomorrow. Might you be interested?"
"God yes! I'll bet it's too expensive though."
"Can but ask mate? Funny times these. You just might find that he wants a quick sale and anyhow, Doc wasn't or should I say isn't short of a few bob so who can tell?"
"Well thanks for that Kenny. Will you tip me the wink when he gets in?
"No problem but can you tell me something? Are you in the fast-kid-breeding game? First Tom and now that Asian kid, boy or girl I can't tell. All look the same to me!"
I thought on my feet! "Oh you mean Maeori. Pretty isn't she! Just a family friend who will be under my wing for a while."
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