“I miss you,” he said, and went out through the galley to the foredeck.
It was warm and clear out there, but the water was threaded with dark glints of rust and an overall pallor of gray, a suggestion of something growing dark in the depths, massing.
Chuck took a sip from his flask and tilted the neck in Teddy’s
direction, one eyebrow cocked. Teddy shook his head, and Chuck
slipped it back into his suit pocket, pulled the flaps of his overcoat around his hips, and looked out at the sea.
“You okay?” Chuck asked. “You look pale.”
Teddy shrugged it off. “I’m fine.”
Teddy nodded. “Just finding my sea legs.”
They stood in silence for a bit, the sea undulating all around them, pockets of it as dark and silken as velvet.
“You know it used to be a POW camp?” Teddy said.
Chuck said, “The island?”
Teddy nodded. “Back in the Civil War. They built a fort there, barracks.”
“What do they use the fort for now?”
Teddy shrugged. “Couldn’t tell you. There’s quite a few of them out here on the different islands. Most of them were target practice for artillery shells during the war. Not too many left standing.” “But the institution?”
“From what I could tell, they use the old troop quarters.”
Chuck said, “Be like going back to basic, huh?”
“Don’t wish that on us.” Teddy turned on the rail. “So what’s your story there, Chuck?”
Chuck smiled. He was a bit stockier and a bit shorter than Teddy, maybe five ten or so, and he had a head of tight, curly black hair and olive skin and slim, delicate hands that seemed incongruous with the rest of him, as if he’d borrowed them until his real ones came back from the shop. His left cheek bore a small scythe of a scar, and he tapped it with his index finger.
“I always start with the scar,” he said. “People usually ask sooner or later.”
“Wasn’t from the war,” Chuck said. “My girlfriend says I should just say it was, be done with it, but...” He shrugged. “It was from playing war, though. When I was a kid. Me and this other kid shooting slingshots at each other in the woods. My friend’s rock just misses me, so I’m okay, right?” He shook his head. “His rock hit a tree, senta piece of bark into my cheek. Hence the scar.”
“From playing war.”
“From playing it, yeah.”
“You transferred from Oregon?”
“Seattle. Came in last week.”
Teddy waited, but Chuck didn’t offer any further explanation.
Teddy said, “How long you been with the marshals?”
“So you know how small it is.”
“Sure. You want to know how come I transferred.” Chuck nodded, as if deciding something for himself. “If I said I was tired of rain?”
Teddy turned his palms up above the rail. “If you said so...”
“But it’s small, like you said. Everyone knows everyone in the service.
So eventually, there’ll be what do they call it?--scuttlebutt.”
“That’s a word for it.”
“You caught Breck, right?”
“How’d you know where he’d go? Fifty guys chasing him, they all went to Cleveland. You went to Maine.”
“He’d summered there once with his family when he was a kid. That thing he did with his victims? It’s what you do to horses. I talked to an aunt. She told me the only time he was ever happy was at a horse farm near this rental cottage in Maine. So I went up there.” “Shot him five times,” Chuck said and looked down the bow at the foam.
“Would have shot him five more,” Teddy said. “Five’s what it took.”
Chuck nodded and spit over the rail. “My girlfriend’s Japanese. Well, born here, but you know... Grew up in a camp. There’s still a lot of tension out there—Portland, Seattle, Tacoma. No one likes me being with her.”
“So they transferred you.”
Chuck nodded, spit again, watched it fall into the churning foam.
“They say it’s going to be big,” he said.
Teddy lifted his elbows off the rail and straightened. His face was damp, his lips salty. Somewhat surprising that the sea had managed to find him when he couldn’t recall the spray hitting his face.
He patted the pockets of his overcoat, looking for his
Chesterfields. “Who’s ‘they’? What’s ‘it’?”
“They. The papers,” Chuck said. “The storm. Big one, they say. Huge.” He waved his arm at the pale sky, as pale as the foam churning against the bow. But there, along its southern edge, a thin line of purple cotton swabs grew like ink blots.
Teddy sniffed the air. “You remember the war, don’t you, Chuck?” Chuck smiled in such a way that Teddy suspected they were already tuning in to each other’s rhythms, learning how to luck with each other.
“A bit,” Chuck said. “I seem to remember rubble. Lots of rubble. People denigrate rubble, but I say it has its place. I say it has its own aesthetic beauty. I say it’s all in the eye of the beholder.” “You talk like a dime novel. Has anyone else told you that?” “It’s come up.” Chuck giving the sea another of his small smiles, leaning over the bow, stretching his back.
Teddy patted his trouser pockets, searched the inside pockets of his suit jacket. “You remember how often the deployments were dependent on weather reports.”
Chuck rubbed the stubble on his chin with the heel of his hand.
“Oh, I do, yes.”
“Do you remember how often those weather reports prdzed correct?” , Chuck furrowed his brow, wanting Teddy to know he was giviiag this due and proper consideration. Then he smacked his lips and said, “About thirty percent of the time, I’d venture.”
Chuck nodded. “At best.”
“And so now, back in the world as we are...”
“Oh, back we are,” Chuck said. “Ensconced, one could even say.”
Teddy suppressed a laugh, liking this guy a lot now. Ensconced.
“Ensconced,” Teddy agreed. “Why would you put any more credence in the weather reports now than you did then?”
“Well,” Chuck said as the sagging tip of a small triangle peeked above the horizon line, “I’m not sure my credence can be measured in terms of less or more. Do you want a cigarette?”