The Soupster sees it all work out in the end.
Originally published Aug. 9, 2007
“Alby,” said the Soupster to his older friend, Alastair Byington III. “Forget your better half?”
Byington tapped his foot on the dock and peered into the distance. “She’ll meet me,” he huffed. “I’m hoping she actually shows up!” He folded his arms.
Alby Byington was known around Our Town for his stinginess, his skill at repairing an outboard motor and his enduring love for his wife, Mary Barbara – all three attributes intricately entwined and forming in a DNA-like triple helix, the story of his life.
He was also well known for being afraid of going out in the water in anything under a 30-foot boat, while his wife loved tooling around in skiffs. Alby was more content on land replacing a clogged fuel pump in a 200-hp honker than he would be running the big engine at sea. Mary was the opposite – she drove a quick little sports car all over Nevada when she was young.
For a few minutes, Alby and the Soupster waited quietly on the dock for Mary Barbara – “Babs” — to join them. Behind the two men, a gleaming 60-foot double-decker catamaran filled quickly with people taking the trip to the hatchery for the annual Salmon Head Chili and Fry Bread Cook-Off. A tourist woman holding the hand of her young son stood at the gangway and asked each person if he or she had two extra tickets – the popular event had long been booked up.
“That catamaran’s plugged,” noted the Soupster, who was not going that day. “You’ll have to go aboard soon.”
The deep wrinkles in Alby’s forehead deepened. “Babs went down to Redoubt every day all this week to dipnet sockeye with her crazy friends,” he said. “‘Got enough salt in my hair already,’ she said. Said she didn’t want to go out on a boat again so quick. I like these big boats. You don’t get a free ride on them every day. And free fry bread and chili is hard to turn down. I told Babs I’d be waiting with her ticket and she should meet me at the dock,” Alby concluded.
“What did Babs say?” asked the Soupster.
“She said not to expect her,” said Alby. “”I should go without her just to spite her.”
Then, a loud sob, a child’s sob. The murmur of a mother’s soothing. No one had an extra ticket and the tourists would be left behind. The boat’s motor fired up and the crew untied the lines.
“Alby,” yelled the Soupster above the engine noise. “You know the story “The Gift of the Magi”? He motioned his head toward the woman and her sad, sad son.
“Okay, Babs, you win,” said Alby, frowning. He walked over to the woman, and the Soupster clearly heard, “Oh, Sir! Thank you!” as he watched his old friend give her his and Babs’ tickets.
“Okay, Alby, you win,” the Soupster heard from the other direction as Babs Byington hurried down to the dock. The Soupster watched the tourist woman and her now-happy boy hurry up the gangway. Alby and Babs stood in deep conversation, touching each other’s arms.
As the boat pulled away from the dock, the Soupster really wanted to make sure Alby knew just how perfectly the Magi story fit the current situation. But he decided to leave the two lovebirds alone.
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