Boy on the Towpath

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 26

Shortly after Kenny left I left the boat and walked round to the brokerage dock, careful to take a different route from those that the kids had taken. The last thing I wanted was to have them tagging along, build their hopes up only to discover that the asking price was well in excess of what we could afford. No, it was better I did the initial investigation.

'Calypso Queen' was a fantastic boat, a true classic. Painted in Mauritius Blue with gold coach lines she looked for all the world as if she'd just come off the slipway whereas she was in fact built in 1934 as a cargo boat, converted into a residential boat in the 1970's.

Having collected the keys from the brokerage office I let myself in.

Obviously all personal items had been removed together with the TV but otherwise apart from having to sort through all the bits and pieces, chuck what we didn't want or make a list of the short falls it was almost as beautifully appointed below decks as she was topside.

I locked up and made my way back to the office. It was a good job I'd not asked about the price otherwise I probably wouldn't have bothered taking a look around. £85,000 was way more than just over budget and although she was without doubt worth every penny, there was no way we could justify that overspend.

I said nothing to the kids when they returned, not wanting to build their hopes up or even deny them the pleasure of snooping around other boats having an eye to buy but I'll admit to my pulse racing with the prospect that Doc would let 'Calypso Queen' go for a sum far short of what she was worth.

I'd seen her about from time to time and a more beautiful example of a late vintage boat would be very hard to find. She had a wonderful boatman's cabin aft complete with a double bunk, wood burning stove which had probably long since been converted into multi-fuel, basic galley facilities and well- designed storage spaces. Immediately forward was the engine room and so far as I could recall, she was powered by a sturdy Lister JP3, the same engine as 'Movin' Home', coupled to a modern PRM 150 hydraulic gearbox. The perfect match of old and new! Further forward was what was once the cargo hold, now completely revamped into a sumptuous living / sleeping area with all the modern conveniences necessary for a very comfortable life. The best part for me at least was the 'Tug' bow! The boat was longer than I was looking for at seventy feet but that bow! My God it was massive and long enough to seat eight in comfort and with all the storage space below? Well it didn't come any better to my mind. I made a mental note to ask what could be done to get some sort of discount, a deal of some sort.

Back on board and with the supper things cleared away, we sat down and talked about the need to find something for Mae to live on. Tom was full of ideas, most of them quite practical but his idea of what could be purchased for £70,000 was away with the fairies! Mae of course had no idea but that said I'd not seen her so animated, the prospect of living life on a boat had very much struck a chord and when eventually I packed them off to bed she gave me a massive hug and a swift kiss on my lips. Wow doesn't come close and I had to wonder just how much Tom had said by way of our relationship.

With two happy and well fed kids off to bed I set about formulating a plan in an attempt to secure 'Calypso Queen'.

I first emailed Maggi. She must know the Doc after all she'd been on the cut for decades and knew pretty much all of the 'old hands'. I also mailed some of the others that had been at Janet's funeral or our wedding, someone must at least know him well enough to be in regular contact? I wondered about Dave but not being a boatman I decided against it but felt very guilty about not telling him about this new turn of events. My guilt got the better of me. I called him.

"Hey Dave? How's things in the God industry?"

"Sacrilegious bastard you are Stu! Not too shabby as things stand. How are you two?"

"We're good thanks mate with the exception of a minor complication. Can I bend your ear for a while?"

I went on to explain about Maeori, Hiro's requests, my judgement of thesituation and my decision to go ahead and help with Mae's transformation.

David wasn't best impressed.

"How old is this lad again?"

"Twelve, almost thirteen. Why, is there a problem?"

"Well I think at the very least his father could have waited until he was old enough to make his own mind up about something so serious?"

"Yes but in Japan there's no age at which this could happen. Hells teeth Dave, he could've taken him to Bangkok and got it done there but without the support on offer here, iffy medical practices and no after-support, counselling or friends around to help, - I think as things are, this is by far and away the best option."

"Yes but Stu, you have to ask the question. Is this lad doing this because he really wants to."

"Dave you have to trust me on this one. I've agonised over this very point and I have to say I'm convinced that it is what he wants, no actually craves. I wondered if he was being manipulated by his very strong-willed father but I'm positive that's not the case."

"Well okay but I'm still not happy with it Stu. Any chance I could maybe talk with him?"

"Sure, why not? Just talk and see how he feels but I don't want you to upset the apple cart by telling him he's wrong. Got it?"

"Alright Stu. You have my word as a man of God. Where's he going to live if all this kicks off anyway?"

"Oh well we were going to buy him a boat, his Dad's stumping up the money but finding one is an issue."

"Why is that an issue? Didn't he give you enough?"

"£70k is enough but it takes time, you know? Fuck it Dave I saw the perfect boat today, - only £15k over our budget mind? Fantastic boat though!"

"I'll pray for you idiots but even I don't think the big guy upstairs can raise £15.000 overnight! Ye Gods Stu! How do you manage to get entwined like you do?"

"Fuck knows Dave! Just pray your best please?!"

With that none too supportive conversation done and dusted I helped myself to a large but disgusting Japanese whiskey before crashing out on the sofa bed. There is always tomorrow. Another day full of hope, maybe to be dashed unexpectedly but hope anyway.

Sleep didn't come so easily. I missed Tom in my, or should I say our bed and okay nothing much had taken place I really loved him and missed his cuddles and yeah, even his snoring! I had to find a solution to these sleeping arrangements but if I really managed to pull off a deal and buy 'Calypso Queen' so Mae could have his own space, Tom and I could be together again but I knew my urges were starting to get the better of me and that was something I had to be very aware of. Hey I'm not super-human. I want him every bit as much as he wants me! Damn, DAMN my conscience!

I woke several times during the night, not for any particular reason but just my mind was jumping through hoops. I'd wake and rationalise that I was doing the right thing by Tom but the next time I woke I'd convince myself that heck, it's what we both want so what the hell?

Oh GOD!!

Needless to say, when I did wake properly the following morning I felt like shit-plus a lot. The kids took a bit of rousing as well but I put this down to their spent energy of the previous evening.

Tom was the first to surface, wandering into the galley and helping himself to some tea.

"Stu can I ask you something?"

"Sure mate. What's on your mind?"

"Well……..I like Mae being around and stuff but……..I miss being with you. I don't want to sound, you know, like I don't want him around but I miss our private times together? Do you think that's a bad thing to say?"

"If it's of any consolation, I didn't get much sleep for much the same reason. Look we're going to have to follow through with this now, we have no options open to us. Things will be very different once we find Mae a boat of her own and we can be an item again. Understand?"

"That's what I've always wanted – us to be an item."

I suddenly realised what I'd said and it actually shocked me. Maybe last night's restless sleep was still affecting me but whatever I knew I'd blown it. Oh God help me?

"I know Tom and that's what I always wanted but held out against. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing here but after thinking about it for most of the night maybe we could…… know get a little closer?"

"Don't tease me Stu? Tell me you mean it please?"

"Yes I mean every word but nothing too heavy mind. Just closer and more together right?"

"Oh wow! I don't know what to say! I want this so very much like almost from that first day but I kind of understood what you were telling me but that never changed how I felt somehow. I know I shouldn't ask but why the change of heart?"

"No change of heart, just a change of mind really. I just came to the realisation that after all this time we'd proved to each other that it wasn't some infatuation, some passing phase but that what we felt for each other was real and meaningful. I can't see why we shouldn't…… something about it. I'll admit that in the eyes of the law I'm abusing you but then I thought about something you said a long while back. 'it's a stupid law' remember that?"

"Yes actually and it is, was, okay still is a stupid law for people like us who really love and want each other."

"That's exactly the point! We now know it's right for us. Neither of us are going to be shouting about it from the rooftops for heaven's sake? If you want, and only if you want, I think it's our time now BUT……..first we find Mae a boat okay?"

That hit Tom like a bullet. He flung himself into my arms almost crushing me, tears rolling down his face and I can honestly say, I'd not seen him so full of emotion since the death of Janet, my wife and his Mum.

It took Mae's trip to the shower room to stop his tears. Mae looked at me suspiciously.

"Stu hurt you Tom? Why crying?"

Tom sniffed before replying.

"No never Mae! Stu loves me and I love him. He would NEVER hurt me, not ever!"

"Strange you cry though?"

"Like you. Tears of happiness Mae. So much happiness!"

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