Outside the Foul Lines - Book VI

by Rick Beck

Chapter 13

Cause & Effect

Gene had the table all set and was ready to serve swordfish steak with a lemon sauce, parsley potatoes, peas, and a salad. He brought out an ice bucket with a bottle of white wine. The flavors all mingled pleasantly. The wine was a tiny bit tart but I liked it. I didn't know much about wine after you got beyond red or white. I did enjoy this wine.

There wasn't a lot of conversation as we were all mesmerized by the meal. Bananas Foster was the dessert, and it too had our full attention. I'd never eaten better. The location and the company added to the experience.

"You say you've never run into that much oil in the gulf before. Why now? What caused it to be there today?"

"I'd say the storm churned it up. Oil and water don't mix. The oil surfaced after the turbulence."

"The surface from where?" Andy asked, still stumped by the source of the first ugliness we'd encountered.

"I have no scientific facts, Andy. My understanding is that oil collects in the currents beneath the surface. Sometimes it is hundreds of feet deep, virtually invisible, because of the size of the seas. At times it isn't more than a few dozen feet below the surface. A storm passes. The rough water brings oil to the top," John Paul said. "Out of sight out of mind and so there's nothing done about it."

"Is it in the fish? The seafood? Do the fish just swim in it?" Andy wanted to know.

"Your guess is as good as mine. Fish is inspected. If we are to believe what we are told, it is safe for eating, oil or no oil. I don't know more than that."

"They can't break it up? Couldn't they collect it? Do something?"

"Sure, but why go through all that trouble. Plenty more where that came from. They can pour a few million gallons of chemicals on it, but then you've got oil with chemicals on it. I don't know which is worse. That might get it out of sight but not out of the water and it creates an even more complex problem."

"Seems a shame that they are allowed to get away with soiling such a beautiful body of water," I said, not hearing any solution. "What do they do when there is no more clean water?"

"Criminal when you come down to it, but who ever sees it? Who talks about it? Oil companies have enough money to keep from being forced to clean up after themselves. There are land spills larger than what we saw. They drill, get what they want, and leave the mess behind. The world needs oil and oil companies provide it. You can't lock up an oil company and they drill everywhere.

"It's left for those who care enough to do something about it. It's not an easy problem to solve as long as you want oil more than you want clean water and unadulterated landscapes."

"We've seen it before," Gene said, serving Andy more dessert.

I passed. I'd already started hitching my belt one hole short of where I'd been hitching it up for years. Having good food made everything better, until the weight gain became obvious. Losing it was way harder than not gaining it, and so I cut back and took smaller portions, but seeing all that tasty food sitting there was hard to turn down.

"How did you two meet?" Andy asked.

"We met in the south of France. John Paul had just finished a tour piloting cargo ships through the Suez Canal. He was looking to get into mischief, I believe," Gene said.

"Was not. Just moving back north to see which sea I wanted to see next."

"Very funny," Gene said. "The sea you saw was me."

"I was smitten at first site. Good thing I was between jobs," John Paul said.

"You captain big ships?" I asked, not getting the picture.

"I'm licensed to pilot anything below the super tanker level. Not interested in those bad babies. Dangerous. I wouldn't want to be responsible for putting all that oil into someone's waterway," John Paul said.

"What the hell are you doing on a toy boat like this?" Andy asked.

"I've got to go down to the Panama Canal or do time over in the Suez to make a living, but that gets old fast. A couple of months and I have plenty to live on for several years. I crew on boats like yours because I like the sea and I don't want to be driving the big boats all the time. It's too much like work. I put in enough time to keep my licenses squared away.

"I spent my first ten years at sea all the time. It's how you earn your captain's credentials. Keep your nose clean and there's always work. Taking care of your boat is relaxation and it allows me to be where I want to be without the mind numbing responsibility you undertake on larger vessels.

A captain is always on duty. There is no time off when you have someone's ship under you. Anything happens, any lapse in judgment by anyone, it's the responsibility of the captain. You can only take so much of that and stay fresh. I do it until I need a break from it. Then I do this. As I grow older, I need more breaks."

"I'm totally impressed," I said. "You're just having a good time handling our boat?"

"I'm having a better time now that it's your boat. Most people who hire me to get them from here to there, aren't nearly as much fun to be around. I work yachts to have a place to stay on the water. Instead of work you've turned it into a vacation. You make us feel like we're with you, not working for you. That's most appreciated."

"That's good, but now I feel like I'm taking advantage of you. You are way out of our league," Andy said.

"I'm where I want to be, Andy. I love this and every day is better than the last. Doing what you love is the secret to having a good life, you know?"

"No, I've always done what I love and didn't think much about it. You were saying how you two met," I said.

"He stole me from some gamblers in a casino," Gene said.

I listened closely for the details.

"You did that, John Paul?" Andy asked.

"Of course not. I went into the casino to try my luck. I'd just gotten paid and still had some cash on me. I figured I'd go take a look see. He refused to leave me alone. He obviously saw I was a man of distinction."

"I knew you had excellent taste as soon as you tried to pick me up, John Paul," Gene said.

"I don't pick people up, Gene. You threw yourself at me and I felt sorry for you."

"How long ago was that, John Paul?" I asked.

"Ten, twelve years. I like letting my boyfriends down easy. Anyway, I figured you needed someone of my character to keep you out of trouble, Gene," John Paul said.

"He had placed a bet at the roulette wheel, mind you. He looked up and saw me standing at the Baccarat table. He stood up and walked away from his chips and came over to where I stood. I was an innocent victim of a kidnapping and here I am, eleven years and change later."

"You're funny," I said.

"I beg your pardon," Gene said, flipping his wrist at me.

I laughed. It had turned into a pleasant conversation.

"It was a small bet," John Paul admitted with a sheepish grin. "Twelve years the week between Christmas and New Years. It was a Tuesday. We spent New Years Eve in bed together. We spent the entire week in bed together."

"Yes, we did," Gene said.

"That's wonderful," Andy said. "Do and I met in school. We played ball together. We've been together since we were teenagers. I've never been with anyone else."

"Childhood sweethearts. That's so charming. It takes so long to find a good love most of the time," Gene said.

"You just have to go into the right casino is all," John Paul explained.

"That's why I never let you go to casinos," Gene said.

"I can't afford casinos now that I've got you, my love."

It was the beginning of a good friendship. Everyone there was there because he wanted to be there. We spent time together because it was enjoyable. It was the first time Andy and I had associated with anyone away from ball.

Andy was surprisingly relaxed. I remembered how uptight he was about anyone finding out about us back at State. When Chance let on he knew, Andy was petrified he'd tell someone. Chance didn't care one way or another as long as we were happy and didn't drop balls hit to us. He never once made any remark or acted like Andy and I being together was much of a deal.

Andy never did get comfortable with the idea we made love a few feet from most of our teammates. He didn't want anyone to know about his sexuality. We didn't live in the most welcoming environment for gay men. To be successful in athletics you had to play the game and fit in where it might not be so comfortably if the truth was known.

I wasn't sure he was gay for a few years. We were having gay sex but I wasn't convinced he might not find a woman and drop me for her. The one year we were separated after he graduated from State erased all doubt. It was the hardest time either of us ever did, until cancer.

Once Andy bought the house and arranged his life around my life, I no longer doubted. We were not only lovers, we were lifetime mates. We were lovers as well as soul mates.

We did everything together, when we weren't separated by ball. That was the one love we shared that didn't involved each other, but even in our separations, we were doing the same thing. We had played ball most of our lives, and this would be the first season we weren't both playing ball, but we'd still be separated.

Ball wasn't forever, and we had just gotten a dose of how short lived a ball career could be. Once we were done with ball, we'd settle into a life together. With Andy's multi-million dollar contracts in the bank, we'd never go hungry or want for much of anything, but leaving ball would be hard.

Getting a boat was the first really money spending he'd done. His car was free and he bought the house for me so we'd never be separated again for as long as we were his first year in pro ball. Everyone had to have a place to live, but everyone didn't need a boat. The boat was an extra. It was a very big extra that was good for both of us.

Andy needed to get away and relax and get ready for the rehabilitation that was coming. It would take all his strength for the next year. We could have stayed home and he could have worked out every day, but buying the boat and sailing out into the gulf was therapeutic, after what we'd been through.

The boat was our decompression time and a way to put the difficulties of life out of mind. I never thought it could be as much fun as it was. I never believed being cut off from the world could be so refreshing. In some ways I never wanted to plug back into the fearful foreboding world we'd left behind, but that wasn't possible. Maybe one day it would be.

John Paul and Gene made all the difference. They were both in their forties but they were as young and vibrant as Andy and I were. The way we fit together was unexpected. I think knowing that they weren't really depending on us for a job helped us to feel more comfortable together.

John Paul and Gene had plenty of money in banks and in investments. They left it alone to work in jobs that provided the essentials while doing what they loved to do. It was a great way to live and they were good companions who allowed us to be ourselves somewhere besides at home.

Sailing was like nothing else. The sound was amazing. You can hear the wind in the sails. It isn't a noise, it's a presence. You more feel it than hear it. You see it in the sails. When the wind kicks up a few knots, there is the swishing of water against the hull as it cuts through it. The sails rippling in a stiff breeze creating a flapping noise, like my mother's sheets hung out on a windy day.

The sea birds were magnificent to see. Seagulls were easy to recognize but there were dozens and dozens of beautiful birds that followed us, gliding overhead, as they sailed through the air.

After a few days Andy's head turned brown. He looked healthier than I had ever seen him. He was happy and he smiled all the time. No matter what we did, he loved it, and we did it often and with exuberance. I knew, when he took my hand and started walking me toward our cabin, we were going to sail alone for a couple of hours. His revised passion was the best thing of all for me. We didn't just love, we made love.

For the first time since the last ball season began, we had sex every day. We didn't have any particular schedule. Any time seemed fine. After lunch was good, after walking on deck after breakfast was a fine time, and at night was expected, and whenever Andy looked at me and smiled, taking my hand to walk me to out cabin, that was the best time for love. The sea was an aphrodisiac. Maybe it was a chemical reaction when you mixed a little Do with a lot of Andy.

We'd get naked after lunch and swim, sunning ourselves on deck. On the warmer days sat out of the sun on the fantail if we didn't go right to the cabin. We didn't dress again until Gene sounded the dinner bell.

We thought it showed better breeding if we dressed for dinner. I doubt John Paul or Gene would mind if we didn't, but we did anyway. Some habits are hard to break.

Like the main cabin, our bathroom was as large as our bathroom at home. It was roomy and it was equipped with a large tub that was a Jacuzzi as well. There was also one showerhead off to one side if you were interested in rinsing off, but Andy and I didn't do anything quickly on The Do.

Love had never been so sweet. Andy had never been more gentle or considerate. He was a thoughtful man who liked everything to be casual. He'd no more insist I have sex with him if I wasn't in the mood than he'd ask me to swim with the sharks, but I was always in the mood. My love for Andy had only grown over the years.

When he undressed it was immediately obvious he was in the mood. After being unable to get erect for the longest time, he now had no trouble at all. At times when we walked the deck, I'd blush, realizing how he was poking out his shorts. Both John Paul and Gene had smiled politely in passing, trying not to pay attention to Andy's amorous disclosure.

I think seeing how much in love we were made them more aware of their own love. The privacy of the sea gave rise to many truths. We were able to be ourselves. We didn't hide anything from anyone who might not approve of us. We were free to express our affection for each other.

Andy's left arm wasn't as substantial as his right arm. Looking at his chest and shoulders, he was as muscular as ever. The one arm no longer bulged or showed as much mass. The scar was easy to see and while it was still a little pink, it was fading closer to the color of the rest of his skin. He still favored his left arm but not nearly as much.

Something about the salt air made me hungry all the time and in every way. Life had never been this good. We'd never felt closer. Each morning was like waking up in a dream.

The worst was behind us. The threat had been lifted. The road ahead wouldn't be easy. Taking time out now to heal and renew, before Andy's rehab, was a good idea. With a clearer view of our future a vacation gave us some pretty nice time together.

Just being together was enough for me, but being together under these circumstances was fantastic. I didn't want to wake up or give up the best time in our lives. We would have to leave the boat. All vacations must come to an end, but this was a life I could live day after day after day and not tire of it.

We headed into Tampa Bay for our first sighting of land in some time. Gene wanted to stock up on necessities before we worked our way along the Keys, until we were at Key West, where we'd meet Harold.

We topped off our fuel tanks so we didn't need to do such things at the end of the supply chain, where prices were certain to be higher. Gene also thought the selection of fresh foods would be greater and we had plenty of freezer space for things he could freeze without losing flavor.

Tampa Bay wasn't much different than being in the gulf. It was huge. You could see land in a couple of directions at the same time, but at first it was all in the distance.

We docked on the south shore to do our business and spend the night, while John Paul and Gene made sure everything was shipshape for the next leg of our journey.

Andy and I took a motel room for the night. We used the phone and got some firm ground under us. There was a difference, after being on the boat for two weeks. By the next morning we were ready to be on the water again. There was a certain urgency in the people we met that made the sailboat a nice refuge from the rushing going on around us.

It was partly cloudy with a light breeze as Andy and I settled back into life aboard The Do. John Paul used the engines to leave the dock and navigate us to the mouth of the bay. We were under sail after that and this time we followed the shoreline south.

Our plan was to stop in Key Largo to see what was there. We'd plan to be in Key West the day before Harold was to arrive.

Once he was on his way back to school, we'd be free to follow the sun.

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