The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Friday, January 28, 2011

Once Upon A Generation

Names of people and places have been changed to make this look like fiction.

It was hot summer day in Southern Portugal. Standing under the palm tree on the cliff-top yard, I sadly gazed at the whitewashed town below, the cobblestone square and the dirt road going west. The road ran along the beach, past the fishermen’s sheds and through the boat yard, ending at the boat launching ramp in the sheltered bay where colorful fishing boats tugged at their mooring buoys.

The yard was littered with boats, either under repair, abandoned or reduced to mere wood carcasses slowly rotting into the ground. Then there were the heaps of old brown nets, broken cork buoys and rusted lobster traps. Still, it would be a good place to play or ride my bicycle if it weren’t for the foul smell of fish entrails, the swarms of green flies and the menacing stray dogs.

A rectangular building with a low-gable tile roof stood at the back of the yard. My father's name was painted accross the façade in large blue letters over the sliding gate. A side door led to the office upstairs with a window facing the dock from where I liked to watch the boats unload their catch.

The building had been closed for about three weeks, since the day my father had roared out of town in his white Mercedes wearing a money belt under a baggy shirt. It was more like a corset which I had watched my mother make, and included a pocket for a small revolver. I had spied on them trying it out in the bedroom a few days before he left.

Then I heard the Scania truck, faintly at first and then groaning loudly up the steep winding gravel road toward our big house on the hilltop.

My father's father drove into the yard, stopped the truck with a jerk, stepped down and looked around ruefully.

He scratched his square unshaven jaw and spoke to my mother standing in the doorway.

"He left France yesterday, going to Canada."

"Canada, he never said anything about that...isn't it far away?"

"It's in America."

"How do you know?"

"Everybody knows it's in America?" He said grimacing.

"No. I mean that he's going to Canada."

"Belmiro stopped at farm on the way to town and told me. Your crazy-headed husband drove all the way to Paris, then drove back to Lisbon where he bribed somebody into issuing him an immigrant visa to Canada. Then he drove back to France to catch a plane."

"Blessed Mary. How does Belmiro know that?"

"He stayed at Belmiro's house in Lisbon while he was getting the visa."

"What about the car?"

"The car doesn't matter, it's not paid for."

"Well, it's getting late," my mother said feebly. All the valuables are packed. We should start loading."

They loaded the truck and then we drove inland to my grandfather's farm where we lived for one year before departing for the mysterious country called Canada.

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