Pappy part 18

St. Petersburg was warm and humid.  Trevor and I quickly placed our Stetsons in the back seat of our rent car, reviewed our map, turned up the air conditioning, and started across the bay to Tampa.  The water lapped the road along highway 60, and palm trees waved in a light, morning breeze.  The day seemed unusually calm and inviting.  Trevor and I didn’t talk much, other than to discuss directions to our hotel.  We had arranged to meet Pappy at the university in late afternoon, where he would introduce us to fellow workers, and then avoid his usual, repetitive bus ride for a ride home with us.  The anxiety was escalating, and there were no words that would slow it down.  After checking into our room, Trevor and I quietly took in some of the sights around town.  In the hot afternoon sun, as we stood looking out at the bay, the time arrived.  After nearly forty years, Trevor and I were about to look into our father’s eyes. 

Pappy was a short man.  He stood a head shorter than Trevor or I, and we outweighed him by seventy-five pounds.  I was surprised.  As a little boy I could only remember looking up at him.  His face was so far up, and, try as I might, I couldn’t stretch my memories to that height.  Surely, as I had imagined many times over the years, he is a towering man, as I do remember that just beyond his head was the sky.  Now Trevor and I were grown, and as we approached this funny little man wearing our big hats, he would have to look a tall way up at us.

He dressed for comfort.  He was certainly not the dapper and dashing Buck Star in a safari outfit, fondling his mustache as he posed on the bench in the June Florida sun.  He wore red suspenders beneath a yellow sweater – two articles of clothing for which he was well known at work – a pair of rather baggy, brown trousers, some comfortably worn sneakers, and a canvas hat with the brim turned down.  He sat somewhat crooked, weighted down, perhaps, by years of raising a lance in, as Don Quixote proclaimed, “God’s good service to sweep so evil a breed (monstrous giants – windmills!) from off the face of the earth.” His hair was thinning, his ears were big, his glasses were scratched and unclear; but when he looked up at Trevor and I, the wrinkles in his face revealed years of tender smiles; and his eyes twinkled with a light of contented amusement that is rarely known.  

“Hello boys.” He stammered nervously, as the brims of our hats shaded his face from the bright sun.

After the ice was broken, our anxieties soon melted into the warm afternoon.  The palm trees swayed easily above us as we began to reacquaint ourselves. 

“You boys are much bigger than I remembered.”  Pappy quipped with a cheerful grin.  “Much bigger!”  

“Well, you are much smaller than I remember you.”  I replied.  “Last I recall I was reaching up for your hand.” 

“Your size must have something to do with Texas,” was his retort.

“Reckon there’s some flat truth in that.” Trevor drawled theatrically, then laughed.  “Pappy, we have quite a Father’s Day weekend planned for you.  Hope you’re up for it?”

Mary was shorter than Pappy.  Trevor and I towered over her, but she was a calm and gentle woman with an emotional stature that could easily dwarf the three of us.  After all, Pappy, Trevor, and I were really just animated little boys in adult skins.  She was preparing kielbasa, sauerkraut, and potatoes fried with onions.  Their house was a small two-bedroom home, with a den that Pappy had set up as a studio room.  He began to show us his workspace, and the hundreds of videos and CDs stacked about which were in various stages of completion, but the aroma of Mary’s cooking drew us persuasively back toward the dining room.

After a hearty, enjoyable dinner we all relaxed in the den, where Pappy explained some of the projects on which he was working.  He had several movie videos in progress, as well as many other videos and sound recordings that he was in the process of cataloging.  We showed slides of my paintings; Trevor told amusing anecdotes about the radio business; we recited poetry; Mary chuckled prudently at our amusingly awkward, but loving reunion; and we bridged some of the gaps regarding the missing years.  Although Pappy and Mary did not imbibe much, they felt that the occasion was appropriate to join in a toast or two with a nice bottle of Port, which I had selected for the occasion.  The night mellowed, and soon Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod were ready to call it a night.  Mary had long before retired for the night. 

The night was somewhat misty as we stood beneath the Spanish moss hanging from the big tree that stood in the large, front yard of Pappy’s moderate, little house.  The moon glanced through the clouds passing by above, and smiled benevolently upon us.  Trevor hugged Pappy.  Our family has never been particularly physical when expressing emotion, and hugging a family member is a clumsy gesture at best.  I hugged Pappy.   Rarely has a hug been as fulfilling.  One can become foolishly complacent with his hugs and kisses during one’s lifetime.  

“See you tomorrow!” Trevor and I said in unison as we departed for our hotel room.

Pappy nodded, yawned, grinned, waved, yawned, and watched us as we left the driveway. 

Father’s Day Frolics

Act 1, Scene 1             Lights, Camera, Action

It was a beautiful June morning.  Pappy was sitting on the porch with his video camera poised, ready for the clapperboard to signal our arrival.  And, action!  As we walked up the driveway, he approached us, zooming in on our arrival.   It is difficult to not over animate as one suddenly finds himself within the field of vision of a peppy Pappy aiming a loaded lens in his direction.  Trevor and I acted amateurishly for a moment, until Mary called from the front door for everyone to come in for hot coffee and biscuits with tasty, undeniably homemade gravy.  That did not, however, let anyone off the hook, as the adventures of that day were destined for documentation; and my performance, as I dripped gravy on my Large Erect Heliconia Hawaiian print shirt, was only a humorous moment in the opening scene.

Act 1, Scene 2             Flip-plopping through The Dalí Museum

The day was warming quickly.  We had anticipated a hot day, and had all dressed accordingly.  Trevor and I were donned in our Hawaiian shirts, sandals, and shorts; our knobby-kneed, pale- skinned legs exposed, revealing true tourism, free at last from the Wranglers and the Tony Lamas.  Pappy and Mary, more sensitive to the sun, were clad in long pants, light, bright red and blue windbreakers, sneakers, and hats.  We were a colorful group, and prepared for any surrealistic sequence of events that might befall us that day.  Lights, cameras, action!  

In the foothills of the Pyrenees, on the morning of May 11, 1904, Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dalí I Domenech was born in Figueres, Spain – a small farming community not far from France in the principality of Catalonia.  Most of his childhood was spent in a coastal fishing village where his father, a wealthy notary, owned a summer home.  Many of his paintings reflect his deep affection for this area of Spain, where he and his wife chose to live most of their life in Port Lligat. 

As a young man, Dalí attend the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid.  He became internationally recognized in 1928, after several of his paintings were displayed in the third annual Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh.  Shortly after, following phases of Cubism, Futurism and Metaphysical painting, Dalí joined the Surrealistic movement, spearheaded by Dadaist Andre Breton.  That same year he met Gala Eluard, the wife of poet Paul Eluard.  Gala eventually became Dalí’s lover, intellectual and creative inspiration, business manager, and wife.

Dalí soon became a leader in the surrealist movement.  He redefined the Surrealist theory of automatism into a technique that he titled “critical paranoia.”  In keeping with this theory, one should nurture real delusion, as in clinical paranoia, while remaining intrinsically aware that control of reason and will has been deliberately suspended.  This should, he asserted, be so in daily life, as well as creative endeavors. 

As Pappy, Mary, Trevor, and I approached the Dalí museum, however, we were not genuinely permitted to experience our “critical paranoia.”  Cameras or video camcorders are not allowed in the facility.  Perhaps reason and will were suspended by rules and regulations.  We were certainly required to control our reason and will, rather than suspend it, if we were to view the exhibit.  We all understood the logic in not allowing filming within.  After a critical panorama of the exterior of the building, and some creative delusional antics by Pappy’s little boys at the front steps, he returned the camera to the car, and we happily entered the museum.     

Although rejected by many fellow surrealists in 1934 for taking an apolitical view to the impending war, Dalí continued to exhibit internationally.  By 1940 he was moving into what is called his classic period, in which a fixation with religion and science became noticeable in his work. Discovery of America, The Sacrament of the Last Supper and The Crucifixion of St John of the Cross are stirring examples of this period.

Dalí and Gala fled Spain, and World War II, in 1940, and lived in the United States. They lived in New York City for ten years; during which time he refined his flamboyant style of self-promotion, exhibited at the New York Museum of Modern Art, published his extravagant autobiography, and wrote the novel, Hidden Faces.  They returned to Spain at the turn of the decade, where he became rather reclusive. 

Salvador Dalí was a prolific and brilliant artist.  His precise, academic expertise produced spectacular imagery, or, by his description, “hand-painted dream photographs” that rivals the skills of any master.  After the death of Gala in 1982, and having been burned in a fire at his studio in 1984, his own health started to deteriorate.  Salvador Dalí died on January 23, 1989.  The Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg houses the world’s most inclusive collection of the renowned artist’s work.

I was quite amazed at what I saw.  For many years I had been a Dalí fan, and had seen small exhibits of his work, which consisted mostly of lithographs; or I had scanned the pages of many books with glossy photographs of his paintings and drawings.  Never, however, had I understood the true magnitude of his works, until I viewed them in person.  Paintings that appeared small in a book were quite large when viewed in person.  Paintings that might be expected to be large, as viewed from a photograph in a manuscript, could be quite small.  The one selection that I particularly recall, however, is one that does not receive the notoriety of most – a magnificent sketch of his friend, Pablo Picasso.  The four of us lingered for long periods of time from one image to another, mesmerized by Dalí’s fantastic imagery. 

Flip-plop.  Flip-plop.  I can’t say exactly when it happened.  Flip-plop.  Perhaps it started as I viewed Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory.  Flip-plop.  Flip-plop.  Maybe it began as I stood in awe of Old Age Adolescence Infancy.  Flip-plop.  Flip-plop.  Flip-plop.  As we moved along in the noticeably quiet rooms of the gallery it became more and more conspicuous.  Flip-plop.  Flip-plop. Flip-plop.  Flip-plop.  By the time we reached Discovery of America others were glancing at me with annoyance.  What was I to do?  It was beyond my immediate control.  I could try to shuffle one step along the polished floors, but that would be equally as irritating.  Step-shiffff.  Step-shiffff. 

Flip-plop.  Flip-plop.  We moved on to Geopoliticus Child, and then to Apparatus and Hand.  I noticed that a tour guide and a dozen people taking the tour had stopped for a moment and were looking in my direction.  Flip-plop.  Flip-plop.  My “critical paranoia” was kicking in.  I began to cultivate real delusion as I envisioned the guards informing me that I was entirely too surreal, and I would have to leave the premise.  Pappy, Mary, and Trevor were chuckling in low, muffled tones. 

“Why don’t you take your sandals off and carry them until we leave.” Trevor spoke wisely, with a grin.

The sole of my right sandal had come loose, and each time I stepped it flipped down and then plopped back, generating a sound that resonated stridently in the acoustics of the museum.  Yes, Trevor was right.  Bare feet were certainly more peaceful.   I removed my footwear as we left Apparatus and Hand, and approached the reverent Christ of St. John of the Cross.  Then, as I stood barefooted and in awe at the glorious, and certainly one of my favorites, The Sacrament of the Last Supper, a kind, elderly lady who worked in the gallery saved me from complete humiliation by discreetly whispering some indigenous knowledge to me.

“There is a very nice, old fellow who runs a small shoe repair, only four or five blocks from here.”  She informed me in a warm, maternal voice.

After I agreed with her that I needed the shoemaker’s skilled succor, she gave me directions.  I told Pappy, Mary, and Trevor that I was going to visit the cobbler, and passed the directions and car keys along to Trevor.  The mid-morning sun had heated the sidewalks.  I put my sandals back on and walked the few blocks to the old shoemaker’s shop.  Flip-plop.  Flip-plop.  Flip-plop.  Flip-plop.  Anthony, the kindly old artisan, and I got quite a chuckle as I divulged the story of my surreal visit to the Dalí museum.  He did not, however, find the anecdote as amusing as did Pappy, Mary, and Trevor – as was evident in their twinkling eyes and loving smiles as they pulled up to the Cobbler’s Corner, just as I Anthony and I were concluding our business.  They presented me with a calendar that they had purchased from the gift shop at the Salvador Dalí Museum, as a remembrance of the humor of that day for months to come.  We then proceeded to the beach in search of an inviting restaurant in which to have lunch.   

Act 2, Scene 1             Luncheon Shoes

The food at Brenda’s Beach Café was very good, and the atmosphere lighthearted and informal.  We chose to sit at an outside table along the patio rail, and indulge in some people-watching as we dined.  The people-watching along this stretch of beach is cinematic; or it was this day, as Pappy periodically filmed the endless parade of tall, short, thin, fat, tanned, pale, black, white, brown, red, painfully pink, bikini clad, over dressed, young and old, locals and tourists that passed by.  The diverse procession was entertaining, but I think that we all agreed that the most memorable personality of the moment was the character that capriciously invited himself to a vacant chair at our table.

“His name is Shoes,” our waitress told us.  “He is friendly.  Too friendly at times.”  She rolled her eyes and sneered silently at Shoes.  “My name is Lydia.” She spoke with a slight British accent.   

Shoes was a young crane, or white heron, with yellow markings that covered his feet and ankles – hence, the name “Shoes.”  He had hopped down from the railing, to the vacant chair, and had introduced himself with a humble noise that would seem to suggest that he understood English much better than we comprehended Crane. 

“Say, are those French fries?” Shoes asked as he scanned our lunch.  “Yes, I’m sure that they are.  You know, I am a French fry aficionado.  And, the chicken in your spinach salad, Mark, is quite delicious.  Your choice to eat at Brenda’s was a wise one.”

Trevor handed Shoes a French fry.

“Superb!  I thought you would never offer.  I’d welcome another.  You, old man,” he pointed his bill at Pappy and raised a wing.  “What’s the matter, you don’t like ketchup?  I can certainly relate.  I am not too keen on the stuff either.”

Pappy gave Shoes several fries.

“Why, thank you.  You’re a generous soul.”  He turned toward me as he gobbled down the fried potatoes and mumbled, “How’s the chicken.  You full yet?”

I gave Shoes a couple of pieces of chicken, and most of my croutons.

“Well, you are so kind.  I guess you don’t like croutons?  I am quite fond of the croutons here.”

“Say, I would gladly trade this tomato for another piece of chicken, Mark.  You haven’t any croutons left, have you?  Looks like a tasty tomato, and you seem to have enjoyed all of yours.”

Lydia returned to our table to check on us, and Shoes hopped back upon the railing.  “I told you he was friendly.  If he bothers you just chase him away.  I will, if you want me to.  He can get obnoxious.” She declared.

Shoes glared at her with cautious contempt, as if perhaps they had been much closer at one time.  He mumbled something under his breath, and hopped back a foot or so.  Watching him from an angle, I ordered an additional small order of tasty French fries, the waitress left, and Shoes scooted closer in reclamation of lost ground. 

“She used to love me, I’m sure of it.” He proclaimed with pride as he flapped his wings and hopped into the chair again.  “Nothing worse than a woman scorned.  I can’t even buy a fry from her these days.  Oh, I noticed that you ordered some more fries, Mark.  I wonder if you could spare a couple.  I would gladly repay your kindness someday.  Oh, thanks.” He muttered as he gulped the last piece of chicken from my salad, which I had handed him.

Shortly after the second order of fries arrived, I paid the check and Pappy, Mary, Trevor, and I left, leaving the full serving on the table.  As we departed, we looked back and noticed that Shoes had hopped onto the table and he and Lydia were bickering over the remaining fries and several dollars as a tip.  Lydia would try to get the money from beneath Shoes’ feet, and Shoes would scatter it about, and then grab some fries as she fetched several dollars from the floor; then Lydia would try to take the leftovers off the table and Shoes would tug at the basket in defiance.  These two, I chuckled as Pappy filmed the humorous finale to our lunch, are indisputably still deeply in love.

I will always remember Shoes.  Somewhere, in Pappy’s vast archive of videos, there is footage of the witty, young bird at our lunch table.  I know that Pappy was recording audio as well as video.  For those of you who may be skeptical, I will locate that video someday.  I believe that if you listen closely, you will hear that I have recalled Shoes’ luncheon discourse with relative accuracy.

I am obliged here to inform anyone reading this that it is not acceptable to feed the birds, and other critters, human food when dining alfresco. Shoes was a celebrity and had convinced everyone that he was hosting the party and oversaw catering. He did not. I truly hope that he did not fall ill from our event, or any other that he attended and directed along that stretch of beach.

Act 2, Scene 2             Cruise Delphinidae

“I have often thought that they are descendants of Atlantis.”  Mary spoke as we kept a keen eye out for dolphins. 

The dolphin-watching cruise navigates the gulf for about two hours, on a small boat that holds perhaps two-dozen passengers.  The day was hot by this time, and the saline Gulf breeze was refreshing, as the vessel maneuvered throughout small island patches of flora and fauna.  Mary was excited; she reserved a special place in her heart for dolphins.

Dolphins have always experienced a unique relationship with humans.  From the time of Man’s first seafaring days the Dolphin has been the subject of many mythologies, and works of art and literature.  They have appeared as the salvation of Arion; as escorts for Atargatis, Aphrodite, and Eros; in myths relating to birth and the womb; and by one mythical account, they were originally men, turned into dolphins by Dionysus.  In The Hymn to Pythian Apollo, disguised as a dolphin, guided a Cretan ship to shore, where they discovered the temple at Delphi.  The mystique of the dolphin has continued throughout the ages, and to this day they are as adored and as mystifying as ever.

“You know, Mary, that Killer Whales are of the Dolphin family?” I inserted, somewhat mischievously. 

“Oh, yes.”  She replied.  “But there aren’t any of them around here.”  She smiled as she looked through her binoculars.  “There are plenty of pelicans, however.”

“An amazing bird, the pelican.  His beak holds more than his belly can.”  Pappy recited with a stammer and a silly grin, as he zoomed on Mary and I with his omnipresent video camera.

“What’s that?” Trevor nudged me and pointed.

A dorsal fin appeared in the distance, then another.

“I think it’s a killer whale!” He observed with a whisper.  “Wait!  It’s a pod of killer whales, and they are headed this way!”

“Dolphins sighted on the port side!”  The skipper announced through his microphone.

Several of us moved to the left side of the boat, with the nautically challenged soon following.  There were three or four swimming together, and the gregarious creatures put on a show.  Several of them leaped out of the water, some of them swam alongside our small vessel, and all of them played a brief game of hide and seek.  I must admit that I am as captivated by these magnificent marine mammals as many others.  Other than Sea World – which I view as no more than an aquatic zoo; and I am not fond of captivity no matter how one chooses to justify it – I have never seen living dolphins.  I thoroughly enjoyed their presence!

“You know,” I said to Mary after momentary eye contact with a small dolphin swimming close to the boat.  “Perhaps they are descendants of Atlantis.” 

Pappy was wielding his camera with a dexterity that demonstrated his experience and interest in film.  He was capturing moment after moment of motion and emotion.  The short cruise ended too soon, and the four of us were soon in route to Pappy and Mary’s for a brief recharge before we changed into our evening clothes and returned to the beach.   We were excited about the Father’s Day dinner cruise through the inland waterways on the sternwheeler, the Starlight Princess.   

Act 3, Scene 1             Riverboat!

By Mark Twain’s recount in Life on the Mississippi “The steamboats were finer than anything on shore.”  “She is long and sharp and trim and pretty; she has two tall fancy-topped chimneys…a fanciful house, all glass and gingerbread.” “Compared with superior dwelling houses and first-class hotels in the valley, they were indubitably magnificent, they were palaces.”

The Gulf Light Princess was no exception to the majesty of these wonderful sternwheelers.  She was a beautiful sight, wearing a bright, white gown trimmed with red and black.  She rocked sensuously with the rhythm of the water as she waited at the dock; a perpetual princess, raised on the river during the days of dance hall dames, slick riverboat gamblers, and young, adventurous dreamers, ever refusing to relinquish her sleek royalty to debauchery.  Her deckhouse and arch-top windows were intricately trimmed, while chandeliers, brass light fixtures, old-fashioned style wallpaper, and ornate ceiling fans rotating unhurriedly, beckoned passengers aboard.

The Gulf Light Princess was a petite lady with a main dining room deck that could accommodate over two hundred guests.  The Second deck included a bar, a dance floor with a raised stage, and an aft balcony deck.  The upper deck was an open air, observation deck that extended back from the pilothouse and the two grand chimneystacks.  Propelling this enchanting belle through the waterways of time were two sixteen feet in diameter, port and starboard paddlewheels.  As Pappy was busy filming, and Trevor and Mary were snapping several stills, I stood entranced by the Princess’ sheer beauty.  I was transformed to a place in time where young men still believed in gold rushes, and royal flushes; when a brush of dancehall lace and the wanton taste of red, riparian lips aroused virile fantasies of adventure and love.  I wanted to board the Gulf Light Princess – to touch her, to feel her, to engulf her, to enter her, to ask for her hand in marriage.          

“Mark, look at that couple there.  What do you suppose is their story?”  I was brought back to reality by Trevor’s question regarding a man and woman on the dock below us.

“Spies?  Boris and Natasha?”  Pappy stammered whimsically as he continued to film.  He zoomed in on my face as I glanced at the mysterious couple, then spanned in their direction.  “Smugglers?”

The man was tall and straight.  He was wearing a tan, lightweight tropical suit, a pair of shinny alligator shoes, an expensive silk tie, and from beneath a matching fedora I saw a pale face with blond hair and neatly cropped beard.  He was smoking a cigar, and the exclusive odor of Cuban drifted within olfactory range.  The lady with him was tall and thin.   Her sheer, violet dress flowed esthetically along her slender body nearly to her ankles and just above her purple, high-heel shoes.  Her shiny, black hair was meticulously braided and fell to mid waist.  Her eyes were dark, and her skin was olive brown and vaguely damp with dew.  They did not talk much, but judging from the few words that we could hear, they spoke in a Latin tongue – not Spanish, perhaps Portuguese. 

“Yes, Pappy, you may be right.”  I concurred.  “Boris and Natasha.”

A pelican flew to the rail quite near Boris, and he wickedly flicked his cigar ash at the unsuspecting bird.  It abruptly flew to the far end of the pier, where a local couple was fishing, not bothering to acknowledge Boris’ rude actions, as if they were nothing unusual.  Anyway, maybe he could beg a fish from the anglers, which took only a few seconds from the generous Floridians.  Suddenly Pappy, Mary, Trevor, and I did not like this mysterious couple. 

The Gulf Light Princess announced boarding time with a ships bell, and we lined up for the three-hour, Father’s Day cruise.  Pappy boarded ahead of Mary, Trevor, and I, and filmed us as we came up the plank and aboard.  At last, I was in contact the Princess, and I was eager to embrace her.  I would court her for the next three hours, and allow nothing to prevent my romantic advances – not even the presence of Boris and Natasha, who were the first to step aboard. 

Perhaps it is the motion of deliberate, consistent, direction that makes me vulnerable to trains; ocean going ships; slow, steady moving boats, train whistles and fog horns in the night, and old Sternwheelers that churn up history around every bend.  Somewhere deep within the romantic excesses of my psyche there dwells a riverboat pilot, I’m sure of it. 

As she began her short journey through the inland waterways, past grand waterfront homes lined with lazy palm trees, I affectionately scanned The Gulf Princess, wondering what unexpected intrigue might be revealed.  What adventure might I encounter one deck up?  What fascinating individual might I meet having a cocktail at the lounge?  I recalled a riverboat ride down the Ohio River, on which Pappy had taken Trevor and I many years ago.  My fascination had not withered with the years, and my evolving heart throbbed with excitement.  I recalled the M.S. Dixie, and the momentous cruise across Lake Tahoe.  But, my trance into the past was cut short    by a faint whiff of Cuban cigar smoke.  Boris and Natasha were in the wheelhouse, chatting with the pilot.  What ruse might this be, I wondered.  I looked at Pappy, still filming; at Mary, calm and happy; and at Trevor, grinning widely.  I glanced forward at the flags billowing proudly in the wind, and then aft at the steady turning of the paddle wheels as they propelled the dauntless Princess slowly forward—as she had for nearly a hundred years.  I felt in good company.

Dinner was served.  We had a delightful table at the aft, starboard corner, on a raised section of the dining area.  It was light and airy, with an unobstructed view.  Truly, it was one of the better tables available, which we attributed to the spirit of Father’s Day.  We Bellied up for a feast, and were not disappointed.  After dessert we enjoyed a toast to the lost years with a glass of very nice port.   Boris and Natasha were seated at a small, somewhat remote table in a dim nook on the port side.  They ate little, and light.  

“I noticed them talking to the captain.”  Trevor stated, as we discussed the puzzling couple.

“Yes, I saw that as well.  They were talking to the pilot as if there was a purpose to their being on board.”  I affirmed. 

Pappy returned to his video camera and scanned the dinning deck, stealthily zooming in on the tall man with slick, blond hair, who had removed his fedora, and the dark, slender, enticing woman with him.     

“Secret agents?  International detectives?  Interpol?  This boat is a hot bed of conspiracy, and they are in search of desperados, like you!”  Pappy was chuckling from behind the camera as he swung it around and aimed it straight at Trevor.

“You have him pegged.” I laughed, at which he immediately pointed the device at me.

“Or scoundrel rogues like you!”

“Or tourists.”  Mary said meekly, during the animated frolics ricocheting between the three Fought boys.

We stopped for a moment, silently caught in our chimera.

“Well, they could be tourists, visiting from another country.”  She humbly sustained. 

We three quixotic fantasists were suddenly speechless at the dreary probability of Mary’s logic. 

“Or…” Mary took a sip of port as she slowly moved eye contact from one to another of us, leaving us dry-mouthed with anticipation.  “They could be undercover agents involved in covert espionage to undermine the very fabric of the planet Earth!”  She retorted.  “And it is up to the three musketeers to rescue the Gulf Princess from impending doom!”

I was suddenly thirsty.  Pappy had turned the camera off, and wiped his face with his napkin.  Trevor raised his glass, looked at me, and then at Pappy.  Pappy and I raised our glasses in response.

“All for one, and one for all!”  We declared in unison.

Mary then raised her glass.

“Very well, D’Artagnan.”  Pappy took Mary’s petite hand and kissed it with genuine affection.  We all raised our glasses again.

“All for one, and one for all!”  We repeated, and then guffawed in quadraphonic merriment. 

I glanced over at the table where Boris and Natasha had been dining, but they were no longer there.  At what stage in their diabolical plot were we, I wondered? 

As the sun set in the gulf, the music started up on the lounge deck, and folks gravitated to the captivating sound of the small, big band that was warming up with Moonlight Serenade.  The four musketeers were feeling rather feisty by this time, and we proceeded to the festivities—keeping ever alert for suspicious activities.  The band played Satin Doll, followed by Take the A Train, and Rockin’ in Rhythm to pick up the pace.  Several couples had already started to dance. 

“There they are.”  Trevor nudged me.  “At the edge of the stage.”

In the shadows by the side of the raised stage I saw Boris and Natasha closely juxtaposed.  The band slowed down with Mood Indigo, and the bandmaster momentarily left the platform to talk to the eccentric couple.  This is it, I amused myself, they are going to sabotage Father’s Day. 

“Pappy,” He was filming again.  “Keep the cameras rolling.  See, at the side of the stage, Boris and Natasha are plotting with the bandleader to kidnap Father’s Day, and deprive daddies all over the world from their just recognition.”

“Sounds like a job for the musketeers!”  Trevor Spoke, as the bandleader took center stage and faced the audience from behind the old, thirties looking microphone. 

And now, ladies and gentlemen,” He announced.  “We have a special treat for you this evening.  In recognition of Father’s Day, and fathers everywhere, I would like to present” … The band began a lively version of La Copa del Olvido.  “… Kent and Angelina!”

From out of the dim recesses beside the stage danced Boris and Natasha—Kent and Angelina—into the center of the dance floor.  They whirled and twirled in a provocative tango that would have aroused fathers of any age.  They danced a variety of ballroom dances for the next thirty minutes as everyone gawked, applauded, swayed, cheered, and applauded some more.  Pappy, Trevor, and I, needless to say, were in awe.  What a delightful turn of events.  We certainly had not expected this.  Mary was standing next to Pappy with a little boogie in her motion.  Kent and Angelina were wonderful.

After a short break, the band returned to the stage.  This time, however, Angelina stood at the microphone.  The music began and we were treated to her talented vocal abilities, as she sang such greats as: That Old Black Magic, Mack the Knife, Unforgettable, The Nearness of You, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and many more.

“Dance!” She waved her arm in a sweeping motion to all of us, and we all did.

Pappy did not hesitate to show Trevor how to operate the video camera.  Then, he took Mary by the hand and led her to the dance floor.  And, they danced.  Trevor filmed them, and they stepped the light fandango.  Oh, they didn’t cut the rug like Kent and Angelina, full of flexibility and abundant with energy, but they danced. 

I could not help but tear up as I watched.  Here was my father, on Father’s Day, after forty years across the void, alive and happy.  As I looked around, I did not see any sign of Buck Star.  I did not see Donn Kidwell or Fought.  I saw no trace of neurosis, or idealized and unrealistic…illusionary roles of the heroic figures of life, or the designer of procrastination and decay of Fought.  Nor did I see Doctor Frankenstein, or his monster.  I thought of Mother.  I wondered if Pappy and she had ever whirled and twirled in each other’s arms, happily across a dance floor—I’m sure that they did.  I tried to picture it, but the images crumbled like the remains of an old bridge that had long ago been incinerated; and wafted away like the ashes of Buck Star that had ultimately been scattered into the errant winds of Hollywood, and misplaced ambition.  With delight, I watched my father dance with this lady—not my mother, but a friend—his friend.  He was a happy Pappy!

The Father’s Day cruise aboard the Gulf Princess was the finale to a very special day of celebration.  As the end of the cruise neared, by Trevor’s request to the band, Pappy and Mary danced their last dance of the evening to one of Pappy’s favorites, When You Wish Upon a Star.

The drive home was quiet.  We were all exhausted from a full, loving day of Father’s Day frolics.

Father’s Day Frolics—Th…Th… That’s all, Folks ! 

Continue to part 19
© 2022           
Mark T.K. Fough