First Day in the Caribbean – Bike Store

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This is a side story about the three young adults who work at the bike store. It’s my last background story before we return to Asch, Mary, and Octavia and their adventures. This is background, so the story is closer to R than X. I’ll tell about them getting into the sack later. It takes place during the same time frame as the dive shop chapters.

*****

Charlie heaved a sad sigh. The movie had ended on a bittersweet note. He had fallen in love with the cute blond, and resolved never to get aids. His parents had explained her illness in general terms, and listening to the guys in the locker room had given him enough information about sex that he understood that her illness was sexually transmitted. He wasn’t sure why not being able to have sex with her was such a tragedy, but he still felt sorry for the retarded guy who loved her in the movie. Charlie wasn’t retarded by any means, but he was young, still in puberty. And he admired the guy’s fantastic luck and success in everything else in his life. Perhaps he identified most with the part where the guy rode out a hurricane on his partner’s shrimp boat. He resolved, perhaps less wisely than his resolution about aids, that if he ever got the chance, he would ride out a storm like that.

His dad heaved himself out of the overstuffed chair that was his living room throne. “Makes you happy and sad at the same time, doesn’t it? Sign of a good movie. Well, we all better hit the sack; morning comes early around here.” Mom, Dad, and Charlie all headed for bed. He hated having to get up so early, but his dad paid him a decent wage for helping out in the bakery, and it was fun having spending money, even though he kind of had to put a large share into savings. He liked the idea of learning a trade, and he knew his dad hoped he’d take over the bakery some day, but he was really more interested in mechanical things, and he had the unusual insight for a kid his age that if he had the money, he could pay trade school tuition himself, even over his parents’ objections, if it came to that. Truth be told, he kind of liked waiting on customers after school, especially his classmates. Especially the cheerleaders. They seemed to be completely unaware of the show they gave him every time they came in and leaned over while they picked out their pastries. Charlie always made sure there were plenty of fancy ones in the bottom of the display. After his resolve about riding out a storm, on his free day he started to hang around the north terminal, where most of the private boats were, and he cultivated a few friendships by running errands and helping with menial chores. He was a quick study, and before long he could have quit the bakery and earned a fair amount on the waterfront doing odd jobs, but his dad was adamant that he help with the family business, so he had to be satisfied with one day a week.

That fall a man came in who was completely covered with tattoos! Charlie couldn’t help staring. He had seen tattoos plenty of times before, but nothing like this. The guy’s entire face and scalp had them, and his arms and the backs of his hands, and his legs. Suddenly the guy made a face at him that was simultaneously funny and scary, tongue hanging down and eyes bugging out.

Charlie jumped, and the man burst into laughter. “That’s what we New Zealanders do to frighten our enemies. I don’t think you’re an enemy, but I guess it works, eh?”

Charlie smiled, embarrassed. “Yeah, it sure does.” Then he got his nerve back. “I’ll have to try that face sometime!”

The man laughed, “I’ll bet you’d be good at it, too. Practice in front of a mirror. That’s how I learned it, when I was about your age. The trick is to think aggressive thoughts, which I didn’t do just now, so that’s why you were only startled, but not frightened.”

Charlie liked the guy. He was interesting. He cleared his throat to change the subject. “Um, how may I help you, sir?”

“Okay, here’s the deal. There’s a new dive shop opening up, and their grand opening is tomorrow and the day after. Can you deliver them a big plate of cookies and some coffee first thing in the morning both days?”

“Sure!” Charlie turned on his professional voice. “We have several assortments to choose from.” He opened a large photo album of their party assortments, and the man picked out the largest one, plus coffee and accoutrements, to be delivered.

They filled out the order form, and Charlie learned that the man’s name was Rick Kahurangi. Mr. Kahurangi paid for the order and gave Charlie a nice tip, “in advance, because I know you’re gonna do a good job.”

The next day, Friday, Charlie was at the dive shop door the moment it opened and was delighted to get another tip from Karen, who was not only beautiful for someone her age, but seemed to be very nice. And he got another tip the next day!

That evening he learned about a tropical storm to the east, and he began to fantasize again about riding out this storm on a boat like that guy in the movie. He got mecidiyeköy escort out his fins and snorkel and thought about which boat would be the best one. No one would need to know until he came home a hero!

The storm kept its unspoken promise and headed straight for the island. The evening the storm was due to hit, Charlie sneaked out of the house, gear in hand, and headed for the waterfront. The whole town was buttoned up, and the waterfront was deserted. He put on his gear and slipped into the water. He had picked a sailboat about in the middle of the fleet, figuring the boats around the edges would get the worst of it. The wind was picking up, but it was from the north, and the bay faced west, so the waves were pretty manageable. When he got to the boat, he realized that it had been buttoned up fairly well, including not having a ladder over the transom! He waited, then timed a leap to match a dip of the boat, and managed to grab the railing on his first try. The bucking boat nearly tossed him onboard.

He looked around. Everything was covered, rigging secured, hatch battened down. He had figured on using some line lying about to tie himself to the mast, but everything was out of sight or in use. Reluctantly, he unfastened the cover over the entry to the cabin and went down the stairs to look for something. It was almost pitch black. Feeling around, he found some cushions on a bench, and underneath them was a locker. It had pots and pans and other galley implements, but no rope. “Well, maybe I could use one of the cushions as a flotation device in an emergency,” he decided.

Suddenly the first serious gust of the storm hit, and the boat pitched unexpectedly, throwing him against the counter in the galley. He was unhurt but surprised, and he threw an arm over the counter for support to help him reach the stairs. A wave blew over the deck sending water crashing down the stairs and knocking him toward the bow end of the cabin. Still unhurt, he began to worry about water getting into the boat and getting him into trouble. Then another wave poured in and he began to worry about the boat sinking. He wondered how the boat in the movie stayed afloat, and decided all its openings were battened down. He had to get to the top of the stairs and close up the cabin! He was knee deep in water, and two more waves splashed in by the time he got to the stairs again. The boat was starting to sway in a strange manner as the water inside surged from one side to the other. The stairs were tilting sideways, impossible to get up! Now he started to worry about himself. The boat took on more water, and then the sideways surging started to synchronize with the waves outside, tilting the boat almost completely sideways. Then it went over, and he was trapped! Charlie panicked and screamed with all his might, floundering in the overturned cabin. To no avail, of course, and the boat tossed less now that it was upside down and presently he calmed down. He was unhurt except for a few bumps, there was air, and the boat didn’t seem to be sinking; maybe he could wait it out.

It would be a long wait. He began to get chilled, and doing exercises didn’t seem to do anything but get him out of breath. He managed to collect the cushions, and figured out a way to pile them on the underside of the galley counter so he could get out of the water. After a while he curled up and fell asleep, exhausted.

He awoke to find some light leaking down the channels that held the running boards, and the boat seemed to be rocking instead of tossing. He was too chilled to want to dive for the stairs, and besides, he’d have nothing to hang onto if he got out. He pushed on the running board to see if he could make it stick out farther, maybe attract some attention somehow. He didn’t have the strength or leverage to force the pin in place to hold it up, and he got tired just holding it. He contented himself with pushing on it whenever he got the energy.

Suddenly he heard banging on the hull! He started to cry in relief, and rapped on the floor in return. About five seconds later, a tattooed head came up out of the water. Charlie had never been happier to see anything in his life and he dove for Rick and wrapped his arms around him, sobbing.

Rick patted him down and the kid seemed basically okay. In his most matter-of-fact voice, Rick said, “Okay here’s what we’re gonna do. You can swim, right? Hold your breath? Okay, wrap your arms around my neck from behind, and I’ll swim you out, okay? We have a nice dry boat out there waiting for you.” He reached up and shoved on the running board four times, then turned his back to Charlie, who grabbed on. “Okay take a deep breath,” Rick did so too, and down they went. They moved quickly, Rick pulling himself along by grasping parts of the boat, making sure to keep his front low so he didn’t clonk the boy’s head on anything, and they were at the surface well before Charlie ran out of breath.

They lifted him onto nişantaşı escort the boat where he lay on the bottom sobbing with relief. Rick pulled himself in and they headed for shore.

“So young man,” Rick asked, “How did you happen to be on that boat? Say! Aren’t you the kid from the bakery?”

Still sobbing, Charlie nodded. “I-I saw that movie where the-that guy rode out a-a hurricane on his shrimp boat an-and I thought I’d try it.”

Rick rolled his eyes. “I hate to tell you this, but that was a hollywood movie. Do your parents know where you are?”

“N-no, and please don’t tell them. I’ll really get into trouble.”

“I think they’ll find out whether or not I tell them, and yes, you’re going to get into a whole boatload of trouble. They’ll probably kill you after they finish hugging and kissing you.”

Charlie smiled a shaky little smile.

——————-

Two years passed. He graduated from high school and attended the vocational school, taking a couple baking courses, but he enjoyed the mechanics classes the most. He fell in love with a girl one year behind him who hardly knew he existed. He was shy unless he was behind a counter, so he ended up carrying a torch for her the whole time he was in school.

He talked his parents into letting him look for a job outside the bakery on the premise that he should broaden his horizons, and that he wouldn’t work on the waterfront. One of the town’s three bike shops was run by a guy name of Bill Seeman, who was not particularly interested in repairing mechanical things, and whose mechanic was getting old. He got a part-time job there doing odd jobs, and quickly worked himself into a job helping the old guy fix bikes.

Mr. Seeman approached him one day, “Gordy says he’s retiring and you have a knack for bike repair and I should offer you a fifty-cent-an-hour raise and full-time work if you want it.

Charlie thought about being behind the bakery counter. “Well, Mr. Seeman, I’ll try to find fifty cents an hour more work to do.”

Bill smiled. “I think maybe you’re a bargain already. You can call me Bill, by the way. None of this Mr. Seeman stuff.” They shook hands on the deal, and the shop was Charlie’s. He decided that he’d keep the shop neater for that extra fifty cents, and learn how to keep track of inventory himself with his extra time.

During lunch break he ran over to the bakery and frosted a cake for Gordy’s retirement, then brought it and a box of coffee to the bike shop for an impromptu retirement party.

A week or two later, the girl he liked came into the store! Charlie ducked down, pretending to adjust a derailleur, hoping she wouldn’t see him, but he listened to her conversation with Bill. He couldn’t make it all out, but apparently she wanted a job. He heard Bill say something about her being too young to hire, and bicycles were dirty work. He was both relieved and sad.

Then she poked her head through the shop door. “Oh hi, Charlie! I’m trying to talk Mr. Seem- I mean Bill into hiring me for the sales floor. Let me see your hands.”

Charlie looked up. “Uh, hi, Jenny. It, uh, it would be fun to have you work here.” A little embarrassed, he held out his hands for her to see. They were somewhat smudged with grease.

She gave him a smile, then looked at his hands. “I can live with that much grease. Thanks. Be fun to work with you, too.” And she vanished.

Charlie held onto the memory of that smile for a long time.

Late the next spring Jenny showed up again, sort of interrupting a conversation between Bill and a customer. All three of them conversed, and this time Bill hired her, to start the next day.

Now Charlie was excited and nervous.

Jenny’s first day a whole troop of Scouts came in, and most of them bought bicycles. Jenny dragged Charlie out of the shop and had him “custom adjust” the bicycles for each person. Every boy thanked him, and seemed impressed with his quiet expertise. Charlie couldn’t help but smile at their enthusiasm, and he liked the praise.

When things quieted down, Charlie worked up the nerve to thank Jenny for bringing him out. “It was actually fun, and I think they’ll like their bikes better having good fit.”

“It helped sales, too, so thank you!” she smiled back at him. “And you do do pretty well with people. You should come out here more. Oops! I said do-do!” She pretended to be embarrassed and Charlie rolled his eyes and shook his head.

He decided she wouldn’t snub him if he talked to her.

About two days later Bill announced that a friend was giving a talk on medieval music or some such, and he was willing to close early if they’d like to join him.

Jenny was enthusiastic. “Oh I’ve heard that that stuff is really interesting if you know what to listen for. I want to go!”

“You said ‘that that’ ” Charlie remarked dryly.

Bill looked mystified, but Jenny got the joke right away and laughed. “You got me!”

Charlie otele gelen escort said he’d like to go, too, without making any commitment about whether he’d like it.

He was surprised at the number of people who were attending, and delighted to see that food was laid out on the table in back. Something clicked in his head, and he asked Jenny if she’d like him to get her something.

“Take me there and show me what the choices are!” She grabbed his arm and they headed for the table. They both ended up with full plates, and sat in the back together. The talk was surprisingly interesting. Charlie was doubly glad he went.

When the talk was over, Jenny suggested they go for ice cream. “My treat. I want to thank you for doing such a good job convincing everybody that their bikes are perfect for them. It helps sales.”

They could see lightning in the west as they walked along the shore, and somehow they ended up holding hands. Charlie remarked that it was a good thing the storm was in the west. If it were in the east, it would be a hurricane.

“Yes, that was quite a storm we had a couple years back, wasn’t it? We had a window blow in and it really trashed our family room. And there was some kid rode out the storm under a capsized sailboat. Did you hear about that?” she asked innocently.

“That was me.”

It took several moments for that to register. “Wait! What? That was you in the boat?” I don’t believe it. You have too much sense.”

“I didn’t have much sense then, that’s for sure. A guy name of Rick Kahurangi rescued me. He works at Karen’s Dive Shop. Ask him if you don’t believe me.”

Charlie’s sober delivery gave the ring of truth to what he said. “Weren’t you scared? Did you get into trouble?”

“Yup. First I was scared I’d drown, then I was scared my folks would kill me, which they just about did. I haven’t had permission to go near the water since. In fact, maybe I won’t mention our little walk tonight.”

Jenny was sober for a while. “Let’s head up for the ice cream shop. I kind of dragged you down here anyway.” She paused again. “Thank you for coming with me at the risk of your parents murdering you!”

“It’s worth the risk,” he smiled. “I’m having a good time. Better than in that sailboat, that’s for sure.” He gave her hand a squeeze.

Suddenly she turned, threw her arms around him, and kissed him. It was the first kiss for both of them, so they missed a little. So she kissed him again to get it right. “That’s for risking your life to walk on the beach with me tonight. Thank you.” She gave him a big smile, and they resumed their trip to the ice cream store.

Charlie felt like he was walking on air. Experimentally he put his arm around her waist, and she didn’t object.

They got to the store. She ordered mint chocolate chip, and he got plain chocolate chip. “Mint just doesn’t do it for me in ice cream,” he said.

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t get mint, then, just to be the same as me. Some guys would do that, and I think it’s phoney.” She looked at him while she gave her cone a big lick.

Charlie looked back at her and gave his cone a big lick. They both laughed. “I will try never to be a phoney. Around you or anybody,” he said.

Jenny gave him an approving look, and they headed out. “Gonna walk me home? It’s only about six blocks. Maybe I’ll let you kiss me goodnight.”

“I’d walk you home kiss or not. It’s a lot of fun just being with you and talking.” He paused. “But I’ll take the kiss,” he grinned. “That last one was fun, especially for being my first one.”

“What, kiss with me or kiss?” she asked.

“Well, both, I guess. I never had much social life, working at the bakery.”

“Well, it was my first kiss, too. Several guys have wanted to, but I held them off. I’m very picky about who I like, and being home schooled, um, helped. Actually it’s “whom I like”, but let’s don’t be stuffy,” she snickered. “Especially when we’re talking about kissing.”

“I could never get that who-whom thing right,” he sighed. “I’m glad you aren’t stuffy.”

“Well,”—Then she decided not to start a grammar lesson. “You promised never to be phoney, I”ll promise never to correct your grammar.”

“It’s a deal!” He pretended to be very relieved, and she playfully punched his arm.

They got within a block of her place, and she said, “I like you, but when we’re at work, we both have to be cool and professional, okay? No romance. All business.”

“I’m good with that. I think it’ll keep life simpler. And safer.”

“My house is that one with the lights on. I’m a little nervous. You okay with kissing me goodnight here?”

“Any time or place.” They embraced and kissed gently. “Thank you, Jenny. This has been the best night of my life.” He walked her to her door and they shook hands. “See you tomorrow; g’night.” He waited until she was inside, then ran all the way home, full of adrenalin, just as it started to rain.

At work Jenny was so good at being cool and professional that he began to wonder if she still liked him.

Then life got complicated: Another girl showed up. She was Jenny’s cousin from the other side of the island. Apparently she won some sort of big prize and came over to tell Jenny. Jenny introduced them, and immediately Sharon took a liking to him.

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