The gravel in the parking lot crunched cheerfully under his feet as he made his way across to the boatyard. Although late in the summer, the early morning air was cool and moist, and in the long shadows of buildings cold. With a bright sun coming up into a pale blue sky, the freshness of the air that morning and the bright crackling of the gravel beneath his shoes simply added punctuation to his deeply happy mood.
Eric Sumners was a very rich man who was also handsome, intelligent and well-mannered, and he was married to a strikingly beautiful woman who loved him. Of all those things, that morning it was his money that was making him so happy because he was going to be able to do something in an offhand fashion that even moderately wealthy people would have spent a lot of time thinking about. Although he had, indeed, thought quite a bit about this. It was just that he hadn’t found it necessary to squander his time worrying about finances. Simply, he was going to buy his wife a boat.
Really, it was an inspiration. More than just a rich man’s gift. It was a gift of love. Eric liked how it contained so many perfections. Considering his wife, her love of beautiful things and her appreciation of naturalness, a boat, specifically a sailboat, was sure to delight her.
If he hadn’t been paying so much attention to his happiness that morning, he would have laughed outright. He realized, and was half surprised by it, that he was being practically a boy.
So he held himself back, casting a wary eye around the yard filled with the gleaming white hulls of sailboats, on the lookout for anyone there. It was no time to start smiling like a fool, he reminded himself, when you were prepared to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Clyde Moore, along with his wife Annie, owned the boatyard. As it was, Eric couldn’t have chosen a better morning to stride onto their property. They’d been having a terrible summer. So terrible in fact they’d started discounting some of the boats a month earlier than usual. They didn’t know why it had been so bad and so could only guess. As is usual when a couple is only guessing why they’re having a hard time, they put the blame on each other. Lately there had been a lot of bitter fighting at Moore’s Boats. About everything.
When Eric began strolling among the boats, appraising the advantages and disadvantages of one against the other, more for the exercise of it than anything else since he already knew exactly what he wanted, Clyde Moore was at the far end of the yard washing down a couple of thin, racing sloops. Clyde was telling himself there for the hundredth time, as he passed the soapy mop over the smooth fiberglass craft, how, what with all the washing and polishing, and little else, he’d done that summer, he may as well have owned a car wash. He’d just turned, to grumpily dunk the end of the mop into a sudsy bucket, when around the end of one of the sloops came the crisp, light summer suit of Sumners. Clyde’s heart jumped.
Few business suits walked into the yard, fewer first thing bright in the morning, and none at all that summer. Clyde pulled back behind the racing sloop again, staring thoughtfully down into the bucket full of soap suds. Truly, he thought, this was more than just curiosity. This was a sale. From the look of that tailor-made summer suit, a big sale perhaps. Maybe even the Nickerson ketch. Clyde’s face jerked with a grin. God, he thought, would that ever cool Annie’s jets.
Clyde peeked around the bow of the sloop again, watching Sumners walking slowly past the boats. Clyde nodded to himself. It looked good. So no reason to rush it. Best thing was to act casual. Professional. The man out there looked like serious money, and serious money liked things done professionally. That was the way to do it. Then he smiled. Even Annie would be proud of the way he had control of things that morning.
Annie Moore had been doodling on a scratch pad in the kitchen, drinking a cup of instant coffee and staring out the window into the bright morning sunshine in the boatyard, when Eric Sumners came out of the parking lot. Like Clyde, she’d seen that Eric was all business. And like Clyde, she’d sensed a tightening in her chest, and felt her throat thicken, much in the way a hunter feels his throat go hard at the first sight of approachable game. She took a slow breath and then looked away, taking a sip of her coffee.
They needed the money that year. It was getting to be a crapshoot whether they’d come out with anything at all. Of course, they weren’t sinking or anything. They’d get by somehow. But it would just be nice, she thought, to have a year without worries. A year they could take a holiday or something. Otherwise, it was just the usual old grind. Little different from when she’d first met Clyde, when she’d been working as a barmaid up at Celeste’s in Fairhaven. Annie frowned at an old thought. Clyde had been a good talker. Ten years later, for all that talk, she’d found herself surrounded by a million dollar inventory and two hundred dollars in their checking account. They were as bad off as if they’d owned a Mom and Pop.
She looked back out the window at the boatyard. It was as if, she said to herself, the only things Clyde could sell were boathooks and seat cushions.
Well, she sighed in sudden excitement, here at last is our big chance.
As she thought that, she noticed Clyde glance around the sloop he was washing, taking a peak at the handsome man in the beautiful suit. The look on Annie’s face slowly changed from its normal state of grim hope, to disbelief.