Boy on the Towpath
by Andrew Foote
The search for a boat for Mae took my priority but the more I looked the more despondent I became. Some were fantastic on the outside, others quite the reverse. Great inside but in need of a complete repaint and that alone on a 57 footer would cost somewhere in the region of £8,000 to £10,000 so the more I thought about 'Calypso Queen' the more I got resigned to the fact that I'd found the perfect boat already and perhaps I'd have to get back to Hiro cap in hand for some more money. This didn't please me much but if I had to do it then so be it.
I waited for some news from my fellow boaters for what seemed like an eternity then finally a response. -- An email from Maggie.
"Hey Stu. Sorry but he's a pig to get hold of is the 'Doc' but I've finally got to chat with him. He thought £85,000 was a reasonable price and I'm inclined to agree with him BUT……..he's willing to deal especially after I told him about you, your background and stuff.
If you want, I'll set up a meeting for the three of us. Let me know ASAP. K? Luv ya!. Maggie."
I penned straight back.
"Maggie, thanks so very much! Do it! Let me know where and when okay? Bless you! X"
Another couple of days past before I heard back from her. "Tuesday next week. We'll come to yours, -- see you in the pub around 12:30 lunchtime??"
I went back to her confirming the arrangement.
All this time Tom was badgering me about getting closer. God knows I really wanted to but still those gremlins in my head would NOT let go! None the less I had promised him and I don't break promises even though I knew this could potentially land me in hot water.
"Come on Stu? This is hurting me?"
"Yes but I did say after we had bought a boat for Mai, remember?"
"Well okay but when will that be. There's been no progress so far as I can see?"
"Actually very soon I hope mate! I'm talking to someone next Tuesday and with a bit of luck and my negotiating skills honed to perfection, I might just have found her!"
"Who you talking to, what's the boat, where is she??!"
"Whoa pal!? Just you hang on a bit! It's not a done deal yet! I'll show you when the time's right!"
"Come on Stu? Pleeeeease?"
"Alright! I'll show you BUT……..It might not happen okay? I've a lot of talking to do! She's over budget, perfect for what we want but over our price limit. You understand?"
"By how much? Couldn't you raise the extra?"
"Possibly but what I have is for you remember? Mae is predominantly his father's concern, not ours. We are here to support him and help him but I won't go putting my hand on my wallet if it means that there's less in the kitty for you. Got it?"
"I suppose so but…….."
"No buts Tom. My final word on the subject okay? We will get there eventually I promise but please try and be patient!"
"I'll try Stu! I'll really try! Can we go see her?"
"Alright, so much for I'll really try to be patient! One word of caution. You listening to me? You get too excited about this and go blabbing to Mae and I won't just be a bit mad at you, I'll be bloody furious, got it?"
"You've never been like furious with me ever?"
"First time for everything! Just keep this under your hat, okay?"
We walked by the broker's office and collected the keys. Tom was a little bit quiet, I think my outburst had got through to him but I was bothered I'd gone too far. I vowed to revisit this once he was tucked up in bed and I'd got the opportunity for quiet reflection however Tom's mood of typical teenage sullen stroppiness changes as quick as English weather as we approached 'Calypso Queen'.
"Oh -- MY -- GOD!? You are thinking about buying her???"
"Just thinking at the moment mate! Remember she's a bit out of our price bracket and whilst I'm looking to deal with the owner I can't promise anything. Anyhow let's go take the tour!"
Tom has beautiful eyes. They absolutely mirror his feelings so it's impossible for him to tell a lie without my knowing. This time they told be something very different, something about the way he almost reverently touched what he saw as we took a look around, his facial expressions as if he was in wonderland!
I HAVE to secure her now!!
My options are closed!
Come hell or high water, I'll find the money!
"Don't tell me off please Stu but we have just GOT to buy her? She's so beautiful!"
"I know mate. I don't need any convincing I promise you! Let's just hope next Tuesday goes alright, huh?"
"I'll cross everything and if I had two dicks I'd cross them too! Just a minute? Is that THIS Tuesday coming?"
"You're going to London tomorrow with Mae's Dad aren't you? You know Harley Street and stuff."
"And so how does that alter things."
"Well you could ask him to stump up more dosh!"
I had to laugh at Tom's very simplistic approach to things financial!
"You know something mate? You will NEVER get a position in the diplomatic corps! I think it best you leave the negotiations to me! We want to stand a chance of getting her and your way…….. Well maybe we'd get our point across but so far as success goes, I doubt we'd touch first base!"
"You're funny! What's 'first base'?"
"Baseball term. Like you play rounders' but in America they play something sort of the same called Baseball okay?"
"How do you know that? Have you been to America and seen a game?"
"No but I have a friend in Florida, his son Kevin plays and he tells me about it."
"Cool. How old is Kevin?"
"Twelve I believe. Thirteen in January. Why?"
"Nothing. Might be nice to meet him that's all! I've never met an American kid!"
"Maybe sometime. Who knows. Anyhow we'd better get back and give this boat further thought. I need your input as well Tom, you see things differently from me being an old fart as you keep reminding me?!"
"You are such a sad act sometimes Stu? Look we both love the boat. There is little to do to improve her so that's a money saver to begin with. She's a tad over price but even I know deals can be done? What's bothering you?"
"It's not easy to explain. If it was MY money, I'd go for it but it isn't and I'm probably being over cautious as a result. I want to get the best result for Mae and for Hiro and every time I think about spending his money I get nervous just in case I make a massive mistake."
"So you want somebody else to take that responsibility then?"
"Nooooo! ... Well yes actually! I feel burdened with it but who can do it for me?"
"Try……..me? I could do it?"
You want to negotiate buying a fucking narrow boat?"
"Yes! Come on? You've not even asked to take her out? So far as you know she just might handle like a pig? Where is your bargaining point Stu? We both like the way she looks and right, she's for the most part a haven of rest for Mae but none the less, be practical? We will take her out won't we?"
"Alright! You win again! You take her out but let me extend the insurance first. I can do that in the morning and later YOU take her and see how she handles!"
"Me? On my own??"
"Yep! On your own and if you want, I'll get a leave of absence from school for you and YOU can talk to 'Doc'. Fair enough?"
"You'd really let me do that?
I'll be really polite and stuff. You'll see! I know I can convince him to sell it us!"
The following morning I called my insurance broker and extended cover to include a two day usage of 'Calypso Queen' that way if Tom had any misgivings about her I could also take her out just to confirm his opinion.
I also called the school and spoke to his year head explaining that it was imperative that Tom had leave of absence for the following Tuesday. He wasn't best impressed but after some promises of making sure he did extra homework and me paying for private tuition if necessary I won him over!
Tom and Mae arrived back from school later that afternoon and as the next day was when Tom was to take the boat out for a check-over cruise, I suggested to Mae that we went back into town to do some more clothes shopping safe in the knowledge that such a prospect would win him over leaving Tom to do what he needed to do. Once Mae was out of earshot I gave Tom a mobile phone with instructions to call me if he hit problems and cash to top up the diesel tank before he headed out.
The more I thought about things the more I started to convince myself that Tom may indeed be able to negotiate a deal but how much lee-way we had would be decided once I'd had an opportunity to talk with Hiro on Monday so with the kids settled into bed for the night I poured myself an obligatory glass of wine and set too making a list of everything needed to reequip 'Calypso Queen' or to that regard, any other boat me might buy. I felt really positive!
The next morning with the breakfast washing up out of the way, Mae and I headed towards town with instructions to Tom to leave it half an hour after we'd left before getting the keys and going out.
Actually I really enjoyed the day with Mae. He was starting to relax with me and just like Tom, his conversation would jump like a flea from one subject to another and back again. Also he had a real sense of humour which endeared him to me big time! I LIKE people who make me laugh!
Strangely I found it very easy to identify with his gender change even if it was only through his dress code and that made our shopping trip so much easier than the first one we'd done where Tom really took the lead. No it was a lot of fun actually and made more fun because now Mae was getting used to 'herself' she knew exactly what she wanted so towards the end of the afternoon I treated her to a hair makeover. Fortunately her hair grew quite quickly and the stylist was able to feminise Mae's hair wonderfully. Now we had a real little girl and a very pretty one at that!
Just as we were leaving Tom called. "Stu? I'm back at the marina."
"Any problems mate?"
"No she was a treat. Handles like a dream actually although the tug bow was a bit disconcerting to begin with as I couldn't see her nose! Other than that I couldn't fault her but you'll have to think of replacing her mooring lines, especially the two centre lines as they're shot to bits and tying off at the locks was a bit of a mare!"
"That's easy done, we can sort that. Anyway we're on our way back so we'll see you in around half an hour. Okay?"
"Okay but Stu? I'm bloody starving! I forgot there wasn't anything on board and what change I had from the diesel I had to use to buy a couple of bottles of water! Can we go out and eat tonight?"
"Yeah why not! We've all of us had a good day and I know Mae is eager to show you what she's bought so why don't you phone the restaurant and book an early table for say, six-thirty or so."
"K. See ya in a bit then!"
"Wow Mae? You look beautiful!"
Tom was awestruck!
"Your hair. I mean it really looks lovely!"
Tom ran his fingers through Mae's soft hair before pulling her into a close embrace.
I suddenly found tears welling up in my eyes and had to make a swift exit.
Why did that get to me?
There was a genuine tenderness between them and so I concluded that I was actually rather jealous, an emotion I rarely felt.
I wandered aimlessly around for a while until I felt okay enough to go back to the boat.
I found both the kids inspecting the day's purchases.
Tom looked up at me giving me a sheepish grin but said nothing.
I instructed them either to hang up what clothes they could and fold neatly the rest and find some place to stow them away. That was another thing. The need for storage space.
By six-fifteen we were walking to the restaurant, me and two very talkative teenagers in tow.
I was happy but then I saw Mae whisper something in Tom's ear as she took a hold of his hand and I had to swallow very hard to contain myself.
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