The best Saturday of all
The Mississippi Gulf Coast
Saturday, May 19, 1990
was a little after seven in the morning, Saturday, May 19th, 1990 and
Flynn, Joy, her friend Wendy and I were all in my white ’86 Dodge
Daytona Turbo Z headed to the Gulf Coast to help Cody with a day’s
length chore that his grandparents had presented to him. The
Daytona’s cruise control was set at seventy miles an hour, the air
conditioning was blowing cold, the rear cargo area was packed full of
our stuff for the day and we were alternating between Ratt’s “Dancing
Undercover” tape (the one with “Body Talk” on it) and Skid Row’s
self-titled cassette with “18 and Life” on it even though the youngest
of us was well past the age that the song played to.
see, Cody’s grandparents lived in Ridgeland, an older neighborhood but
still way up scale, way up north in Jackson, and Cody’s grandfather was
loaded like Scrooge McDuck as far as money goes which is why Cody got
expensive gifts like a brand new 1984 Honda VF500F Interceptor when he
turned fifteen and got his driver’s license and a brand new 1985 Toyota
Supra a year later when he turned sixteen. Cody always
complained about my good luck but the point is that Cody had
practically everything given to him that he had ever wanted while I had
always had to bust my ass to get what I wanted and that was probably
one of his problems if not his biggest problem. He wasn’t used to
a lot of hard work, he was used to getting what he wanted when he
wanted it, a trait that he and I both shared in common and a trait that
had sometimes caused friction between us …
Today, Cody needed
help because he had a job to do and it wasn’t exactly a small job
either so he had asked Flynn and me to drive down to the Gulf Coast to
help him. Cody had to clean his grandparents’ yacht and that
meant he needed some extra hands for scrubbing and polishing and doing
some simple repairs.
The deal that we were offered was simple.
"So, what are we doing?" Flynn asked.
“Cody's grandparents asked us to clean their
yacht for them and then they're going to take us all out for a boat ride along the coast
and then dinner that night.”
“It’s a cabin cruiser, not a yacht. Twenty-six feet of length does not a yacht make.” Cody said.
“Says you. That’s a nice damn boat.” I replied.
my grandfather and he ought to know because he’s been playing with
boats since he was our age. He’s had like, seven … that I can
remember. He’s just had this one the longest. It’s a cabin
cruiser, bro. Sea Ray 268. He bought it brand new in ’89
when I was still up there at Hinds and you were down here at
Jones. I went with him to pick it up and helped him haul it down
to the Coast. It’s not a yacht … it’s just a big, pretty toy that
he can play with and brag about owning to all his stupid incontenent gray haired
“Well, to those of us who don’t have a rich
grandfather that owns a twenty-six foot long Sea Ray 268 cabin cruiser
just sitting in a marina not getting used, it’s a damn yacht.”
"It's not a yacht." Cody mumbled.
It was a yacht.
The deal was that we
help get the yacht shipshape and shiny and his grandparents take us out
on the yacht for an extended afternoon cruise along the Gulf Coast and
then to dinner, their treat, at some place fancy and expensive.
After that, the yacht went back to the marina and we were on our own
for better or worse and hopefully for a lot of doing what young people
(and the young at heart in Flynn’s case) did which was be naughty,
raise some hell and have a good time doing it while we were at it.
offer was solid and we took what we were offered. Sure, cleaning
a yacht was going to be some toil and effort but it didn’t sound like
too much of a price to pay for an afternoon of cruising the high seas
and a free dinner afterwards so Cody got his extra hands on deck, as it
were, to help him with his chore.
What were friends for?
and Wendy were along more as eye candy and decoration (fulfilling a
“supervisory” position, as Flynn said). I knew that Joy would
work if we asked her to help and probably would join in anyway before
the day was out but Wendy didn’t seem like the kind of woman who liked
to do a lot of cleaning when there was sun to be soaked up or fun to be
Wendy was a nurse at one of the local urgent care /
after-hours clinics and a regular client of Joy’s at her shop … maybe a
client on the side as well. It wasn’t that Wendy wasn’t a very
attractive woman it’s just that she tried too hard to be
so. Wendy was a brunette but her dyed blonde hair was
streaked with black and white, puffed in a style that was already being
forgotten by women younger than her, she wore her sun glasses pushed up
on top of her head, her makeup heavy and her nails thick with bright
polish; they looked sharp enough to etch glass and tough enough to
drive nails. Her tan was already near perfect, her hot pink
muscle shirt pulled tight over her normally-endowed chest and her
bikini bottom was hidden under a pair of equally tight gray walking
shorts that had a pair of really long legs and a nice bottom holding
them in place.
Wendy and Joy both already smelled
strongly of tanning lotion and the kind of perfume that tried too hard
to be noticed, a scent combination that was stirring parts of me that I
didn’t really want stirred this early in the morning and as such I
caught myself on more than one occasion glancing back in the rearview
mirror at the two women in the back seat and having really improper
thoughts about Wendy, since she seemed easy and Joy because she seemed
complicated and therefore worth more effort on my part. Twice I
caught Joy looking at me and once I caught Wendy. Both times I
got the kind of smiles that are usually reserved for more private
moments and those smiles only caused the rowdy stirrings to redouble
their efforts to make me lose concentration on keeping the little
Daytona between the lines painted on the road.
Joy and Wendy.
candy for the trip because the Gulf Coast meant beaches and sunshine
and tanning and good times almost non-stop any time of the day.
It was a decadent mecca of sin and debauchery that could rival the
offerings of even the sinny side of New Orleans, if you knew where to
look and Flynn, Cody and I all knew right where to look.
had all the cleaning supplies waiting on us at the dock. I had a
Coleman drink cooler full of home brewed sweet tea, an ice chest full
of cold soft drinks, beer and snacks and my 32 ounce Mega Mug was
riding shotgun with me, slipped between the driver’s seat and the
door. I reached down and grabbed the squeeze bulb inflator for
the lumbar support in the driver’s seat and started squeezing it.
Flynn looked over at me.
“It’s a little early to be blowing up your date for later tonight, isn’t it?”
“Ha. Ha.” I said, smiling back at him mockingly as Wendy and Joy laughed out loud.
Wendy asked what I was doing, I showed her the pressure control valve
and she thought it was the neatest thing that I could inflate or
deflate the lumbar support of my driver’s seat. It would have
been neater, I thought, if the damn thing was automatic and all I had
to do was push a switch to inflate or deflate it rather than having to
pump it up like I was taking someone’s blood pressure.
that had been the ice breaker because after that we all just kept
talking and making jokes amongst ourselves and telling stories from
Hinds and from our past so that the trip to Gulfport went pretty fast.
pulled the Daytona into the marina parking lot, found Cody’s red ’85
Toyota Supra and parked next to it. On the other side of the red
Supra was a polished white 1988 Lincoln with a Madison county plate …
Cody’s grandparents who got a new Lincoln every three years when the
warranty ran out on the car that they were driving. I’d met
Cody’s grandparents a few times when Cody and I had been at Hinds and
even had supper with them a few years back but I hadn’t seen them since
and I was looking forward to seeing them again. They were good
people and they evidently loved their grandson.
We all got out
of the Daytona and headed down the pier until we found the slip number
we were looking for and there she was … a cabin cruiser, not a yacht,
but a damn nice cabin cruiser all the same and to those of us who
couldn’t tell a cabin cruiser from a yacht, this thing was huge.
There were grocery bags full of cleaning supplies, an ice chest and
bags of snacks, nuts and chips piled up on the slip near the cabin
cruiser so I knew we had the right place.
“Where is everyone?” Wendy asked.
“They might all be onboard.” I said, looking around.
“Ahoy there!” Flynn shouted as loud as he could through cupped hands towards the cabin cruiser.
Joy, Wendy and I looked at Flynn with the exact same expression.
My grandfather was in the Navy. I know this stuff.” Flynn said
which seemed to satisfy Wendy and Joy’s doubts as to his sanity.
heard the sound of movement onboard the cabin cruiser and Cody stuck
his head out of the entrance to the below deck area. A yacht
captain’s cap was stuck on top of his head and I had to laugh.
“What are you wearing?!” I asked him.
got a funny look on his face then rolled his eyes upwards, remembered
the hat he was wearing and took it off as he walked down the boarding
plank to greet us.
“It’s a captain’s hat. I found it in one of the cabinets while I was cleaning the toilet.”
“There’s a toilet onboard?” Wendy asked.
Down the hatch and to your right. You can’t miss it. By the
way, I’m Cody.” Cody said, introducing himself to Wendy and taking
extra time to do so as she obviously had caught his instant fancy and I
knew what the rest of the day would hold for her and him.
two shook hands then Wendy started up the gang plank followed by
Joy. I watched both of the women with the same type of feelings
that I had felt earlier. Wendy had a nice swish to her when she
walked but there was just something about Joy. I was staring
after her when she got to the top of the gang plank and turned to look
over her shoulder, batting her long lashes and witchy eyes at me and
giving me the same kind of smile that she had given me in the Daytona
before turning and slowly vanishing below deck.
Yeah, Joy was brewing up some kind of trouble for me.
“So … where are your grandparents?” I asked,
Cody pointed over towards what looked like an administrative building,
over there paying the slip fees and membership for the next year.
They’ll be back soon. They asked about you. Charles
apparently likes your cut, as he says.”
“You’ve got good
grandparents. I haven’t seen them in about two years … not since
that last time you and I were there for dinner when I was at Hinds.”
started rummaging through the cleaning supplies and pulled up an old
surplus sailor’s hat. He pulled it out, slapped it a few times
against his thigh then put it on his head and did a crisp salute.
“If you had a blue uniform and a little dog next to you on then you’d pass for the Cracker Jack logo.” I told him.
laughed out loud about the time that Joy and Wendy made their way out
from below and started back down the gang plank to the dock. At
the end of the pier, Cody’s grandparents appeared and started walking
towards us. Wendy looked from Cody to Flynn and back again.
It was the hats … they were just so comical.
“No. No.” I said, reaching up and taking both of the hats off of Cody and Flynn’s heads.
“You’ve got these on wrong.”
put the captain’s hat on Flynn and the sailor hat on Cody … then I
thought better of it, took the sailor hat off, bent it all the way down
turning it inside out into a dome and put it back on Cody’s head.
He looked up from under the pulled down brim with an expression that
said he didn’t understand.
“That’s better.” I said, standing back and looking at Cody, Flynn, Wendy and Joy standing there on the slip.
missed it.” Wendy said and Joy had a look of confusion as well.
Flynn and Cody just looked at each other then back to me.
“It’s just that the crew’s all here.” I said, laughing.
I pointed to Flynn with the captain’s hat.
“There’s the Skipper.”
I pointed to Cody with his turned down hat.
“I feel like Mush Mouth from Fat Albert.” He muttered.
Wendy did a slight hip twist, cocked her head and blew me a kiss.
Joy caught on and did a cute little exaggerated country girl type curtsey.
And as Cody’s grandparents’ approaching footsteps could be felt on the slip …
“And joining us very soon, Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell the Third.”
snorted out loud when she realized that I had indeed placed the old
sitcom crew into our real life grouping. The others laughed also,
well, except Cody’s grandparents which had no clue as to what we were
laughing about when they finally stepped up to join us.
“Uh, if you’ve got all of us figured out then who are you?” Joy asked, motioning to everyone around her and then pointing to me.
“I thought that was obvious. I’m the Professor.”
“Because you think that you’re the good looking one?” Cody asked in a smart ass tone.
“No. Because I know that I’m the smartest one on this dock.”
“And I wore that hat that way for the rest of the day just for the comedy effect.” Cody said.
Flynn wore his captain’s hat all day as well. You two really did
look like Gilligan and the Skipper, especially when you knocked
him off the side of the boat when you were swabbing the deck with that
"Oh, hey! I forgot about that! I just turned around and kind of bo-staffed him right off the side of the boat."
were all laughing our ass off ... except Flynn ... he just swam over to
the pier, climbed up and then he ran back up the ramp to you and
started chasing you and smacking at you with his wet hat.”
couldn’t help it. I got a good glimpse of Wendy while she was
sunbathing … she had turned on her stomach and untied her bikini top
and … whoa, momma. She had nice tits.”
Joy and Wendy had waited until Cody had mopped and scrubbed the
foredeck and then they had put out towels and took turns oiling each
other down. Cody and I had watched, getting a smile from each of
them every now and then while we watched them pose and preen for
us. Flynn and Charles had stood at the back of the boat, talking
over the mechanical specs of the Sea Ray, Flynn smoking his Winston and
Charles smoking a cigar. Charles and his wife excused their
selves and went shopping for the afternoon at Edgewater Mall just down
the road. After Wendy and Joy got comfortable and turned on a
small radio to a local rock station, we all went back to work
and three hard, hot hours later Cody declared the cabin cruiser to
for his grandfather’s inspection. Cody and Wendy took his Supra
and went to get lunch for everyone at McDonald’s and they were gone
longer than we thought they should be gone which led to Flynn, Joy and
I speculating on how quickly Cody and Wendy had taken to each other.
and Wendy did return, Cody minus his silly sailor’s hat and Wendy
looking a bit more disheveled than when she had left. We all had
lunch and knocked off for about an hour after that, waiting on his
grandparents to show back up and when they did, the cabin cruiser did
indeed meet and exceed the expectations of her owner and real captain,
Charles. As promised, we stowed the cleaning supplies, our
coolers and our chests onboard then cast off. Cody’s grandfather
fired the seven and a half liter Mercruiser engine up, edged us out
from the slip then took us out of the marina at a sedate pace. A
somewhat long stop for fuel was soon forgotten as Charles edged us out
into deeper water, letting the Sea Ray stretch her legs with a roar at
the first opportunity and soon we had an appreciable wake behind us.
took his captain’s hat back from Flynn who surrendered it
willingly. Cody’s grandmother sat straight back, quietly near his
grandfather at the wheel, sipping on one of those tropical mixed drinks
that came pre-mixed in the pop-top can. Flynn sat on the
starboard side, smoking, all to himself … the breeze from our speed
blowing his salt and pepper hair as he hung his head back, closed his
eyes and spread his arms along the backs of the seat cushions next to
him, breathing deeply of the salt air.
Wendy sat right
next to Cody in the back on the port side, her head leaned close to
his, her smile said that she was interested and her laugh confirmed it,
especially when she put a hand on his knee and he put his hand on her
arm, rubbing upwards.
I sat on the bow and watched as the marina grew smaller in the background.
was a really good feeling, speed on water, different than speed on land
and exhilarating in a new-found kind of way. Speed on land was
limited to four axis of travel; front and back, left and right.
Speed on water took those four and added two more axis to them; up and
down. Bouncing, powering through waves as we went, the roar of
the Mercruiser at cruise throttle, the splash of the waves against the
bow, the spray of the salt water, the smell of the ocean.
I liked it.
really liked it but I wanted to go faster. I realized that I
could, at that moment in time, be very jealous of the kind of person
who owned an off-shore power boat and had access to that kind of
performance at their desire.
I sat next to Joy up front on the
bow where she still lay on her beach towel, chest up, one piece yellow
and black bathing suit in direct contrast to Wendy’s skimpy white and
red two piece bikini. Joy always wore one piece bathing suits …
more to hide her scar on her stomach than out of any other
self-conscious reason … the one on her stomach more so than the lesser
one high up on her back. The oil on her arms made her ink glisten
in the sunlight, her tattoo looked wet. The air smelled of salt
and tanning lotion. My shirt was off; I had stripped from my
jeans to a pair of red Ocean Pacific shorts and leather sandals.
The only thing I wore above my waist was my Saint Christopher medal and
my pair of Ray Ban Aviators. I looked down at Joy, covered in
oil, glistening there on her towel. She turned her head and
pushed her sunglasses up, looking at me eye to eye.
“You’re thinking too hard.” She said.
“How can you tell?” I asked.
“I’m not thinking at all.” I said.
“Liar. I don’t think that’s even possible for you. Ever. You’re always thinking.”
I smiled again and nodded my head.
stared off at the horizon at some storm clouds to the west as the cabin
cruiser bobbed up and down, powering and slicing through the waves as
we raced parallel to the beach, heading to the East. The motion
of the cabin cruiser was relaxing and I shut my eyes. I stared
humming the tune to “Gilligan’s Island” and Joy reached over, punched
me and laughed.
“Shhh! You’ll jinx us!”
up on her side. We stared into each other’s eyes … just staring
but a thousand things were passing back and forth between us.
“Being stranded on a tropical island with you …” I said. “Not the worst fate in the world.”
Joy blushed and stuck her tongue out at me.
“Good trip?” I asked.
“Good trip.” She said.
“Did you have fun today?”
She nodded, still staring into my eyes … searching for … something.
got to lay out, get some sun, listen to some music and watch three guys
do all the hard work for a change. It was wonderful. I
could get used to that rather quickly.”
I smirked, spread a
towel out next to Joy, getting comfortable, lying down next to her and
pushing my Ray-Bans up on top of my head. The power of the cabin
cruiser was even more impressive if your whole body could feel the
transmission of the big engine through the hull itself. I let the
deep throb of the engine flow through my body.
“I’m hungry.” I said.
“I am, too. So … Where are we going to eat tonight?” Joy asked.
seafood restaurant on the beach. It’s in some old historical
place and it’ll take us about an hour to get there so we’ve got a good
little cruise ahead of us.”
“You don’t eat seafood.” Joy said flatly.
says that they cook a mean steak, a real thick one, and baked
potato. He’s not partial to fish, either.” I said. “He says
he’s not going to eat anything that had a worm as its last meal.”
“Then you and Charles should get along just fine.”
“I like that man.” I said. “Cody’s lucky to have a grandfather. I never really did …”
Joy reached over and lightly touched my arm, rubbing me there. The feel of her touch …
“You got some sun today as well.” She said. “Probably more than you should have.”
I gave her a monosyllabic grunt which she mimicked and smiled.
head. You should have let me put some sun screen on you when I
asked you to let me. Now you’re going to feel that … and you’re
going to peel like a snake.”
I shrugged. Damage was done
and I’d feel it in the days to come when I started to peel but right
then, laying there next to Joy on the front deck of that cabin cruiser
as it plowed through the waves in the Gulf of Mexico, running parallel
to the shores of the Gulf Coast and Gulfport … I really was happy and
nothing else mattered. There was only the waves in the Gulf, the
roar of the Mercruiser, and me staring into those witchy, wanton eyes
as we lay there near each other on the bow of the Sea Ray, racing to
the east as a storm brewed on the horizon behind us, lightning
occasionally illuminating the clouds but if there was thunder we never
That was one of the best steaks that I’d ever had. Everyone else had seafood but Charles and I ... we were steak men.
Joy and I had fun that night.
had a live band, some Cajun group out of Metairie that had this
bearded guy who could play the fiddle like it was speed metal. I
remember this Zaideco two-step number that they played that was
catchy. I think Joy recognized it because when they started
playing it her eyes sure lit up and she pulled me out onto the floor in
front of the stage and the two of us started dancing.
dance. And then when the band played some slow, sad song … I
don’t even think I understood half of the words that they guy was
singing all I knew is that Joy and I danced real slow that night and I
held her tight. I’m not sure that we were supposed to dance to
that tune let alone slow dance. Didn’t matter. We danced
and that was one of the best feelings in the world because she let me
hold her tight and I’d never held her tight like that. I'd never
been that close to her for that long. Just holding her in my arms
and dancing slow with her head in the crook of my neck … I swore then
that I would always remember that feeling and I would.
Joy and I spent a lot of time together that night …
We slow danced again real close when the band did that slowed down cover of The Rolling Stones’ "Angie"
and then we walked barefoot on the beach in the moonlight … Joy wasn’t
herself that night. She was different. More open, not so
reserved, not so cautious in how she expressed herself around me, to
me. She laughed and smiled a lot and we even held hands
when we walked on the beach. That was nice and it was probably
when Joy first started coming around to me … of there being a prospect
of me and her ... of there being the chance for us.
If I had to try to pinpoint
when Joy and I began to be more than just friends then I’d say it was
that boat trip that day and the time we spent together that night and
if I had to pin it down to just one thing that day it was the one kiss
we shared a few minutes later there on the beach, the first time that our lips
had ever touched and we left that kiss each lost in our own thoughts.