The best Saturday of all
The Mississippi Gulf Coast
Saturday, May 19, 1990

It 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.  

You 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.

“Says 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 golf buddies.”

“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.

The 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?

Joy 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 had.  

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.

Eye 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.

Cody 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.

When 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.

I guess 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.

I 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.

“What?  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.

I 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.

Cody 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.

“Sure!  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.

The 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,

“They’re 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.”

Flynn 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.

Cody 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.”

I 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.

“I 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.

“There’s Gilligan.”

“I feel like Mush Mouth from Fat Albert.” He muttered.



Wendy did a slight hip twist, cocked her head and blew me a kiss.


“Mary Ann.”

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.”

Joy 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 smiled,

“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.

“And 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 mop."

"Oh, hey!  I forgot about that!  I just turned around and kind of bo-staffed him right off the side of the boat."

"We 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.”

Cody smiled.

“I 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.”

I remembered that 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 be fit 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.

Cody 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.

Charles 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.

It 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.  

I 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.

I smiled.

“How can you tell?” I asked.

“You’re quiet.”

“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.

I 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!”

Joy rolled 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.

“I 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.

“Some 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.

“Charles 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.”

Joy laughed.

“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.

“Hard 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 heard it.

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.  

They 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.

Joy could 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.