He was a beautiful young man. His hair grew in black ringlets down to his collar in the back. He wore gold rimmed spectacles. That’s what he called them, spectacles. He was blind without them. Alice Elizabeth was in the yard, the yard that my family used to own, for all of the years I was in high school. Ambrose worked on her and worked at odd jobs to outfit her for the circumnavigation he intended to make. He’d had an unfortunate mishap in the Azores before he arrived unannounced at the boatyard.
He accepted me as the precocious kid I was. We were good friends. My father accepted Ambrose as part of the family. He was relieved to see me interested in people rather than books. My mother ran off when the money ran out, after we lost the boatyard. My father didn’t know what to do with a girl my age. Any time Ambrose had use for a second pair of hands to install new fittings, he barged right through the back door to our house bellowing for all to hear, “Lucy, Lucy, you have to see the new stainless steal/brass widget that just came for Alice; it’s beautiful, you’re gonna love it!” I didn’t hide from him. He was interesting. He was gracious, the product of mountains of old money. He was unorthodox, genuinely unaffected. Celestial navigation allowed him to see the world from a different angle.
During the winter he gave me rides to school in Hitler’s Revenge. We smoked a lot of free hash back then. The olfactory memory of the oily pine aroma is still with me. Fish prices had bottomed out, leaving fishermen without income to keep them afloat. A fishing boat ran aground on a rocky ledge not far offshore, smashing a gushing, big, hole through the hull. The owners frantically dumped canisters of hash overboard before they called the Coast Guard. Canisters were found along the coast for miles. It was rumored that a wholesale fish buyer sold so much of it that he called the IRS, from a phone booth, to find out how he should claim the cash on his return, to which the IRS told him that where he acquired his product and what it was didn’t concern them as long as income was claimed and taxes were paid. Smuggling was part of the freewheeling world in which we lived.