I spent the summer working on the fuel dock in the early mornings, sanding and varnishing brightwork for the remainder of the day. I did not return to college. Instead, I signed on to deliver a pleasure trawler to Marathon Key for the winter season. My plan was to find winter work once I reached the Keys. My father, Ambrose, and Frankie dispensed words of caution. My father found me, the afternoon before I left, sitting in one of the worn Adirondack chairs at the front of our house, looking down past the lawn to the channel beyond. He took a seat in the chair next to mine as he reached out for my hand. “You know, in my wildest dreams this isn’t the life I thought you’d choose. I’m afraid I’ve raised you more like a son than a daughter. You’ve become an amazing young woman, pretty and strong. If you find the world isn’t to your liking, just remember you’re only a phone call and a plane ticket away from home.” Ambrose was concise as we sipped our sunset gin and tonics, “Beware of the emotional parasites, Lucy. Don’t let them suck the life out of you.” Frankie was at the dock for a hug before we left, “Don’t forget where home is, Little Lucy.”
I loved the Keys. I fell into a job as crew, on a charter fishing boat, when the mate was too drunk to go and the captain was desperate. I helped fat, old, white guys from the mid-west catch and land trophy fish. My abdomen was covered in black and blue polka dots from the strain of the rods as I fought fish so they could have their pictures taken to show their buddies back home. I wasn’t crazy about working on motor boats; I’ve always preferred wind over power, but I took advantage of the opportunity to learn from Buccaneer Billy the boat owner. Billy’s moniker was bestowed on him for his allegiance to the Tampa Bay football team. It was a double entendre, aptly describing the old pirate’s business acumen for exploiting the dreams of landlocked, office dwelling, men.
I flew home for a few days in June. I worked in the yard for most of my visit, if work can be defined as visiting everyone while they were working. For the first time, the yard seemed small and everyone looked older. It was unsettling.