From The Outports

by Duncan Wells

Scene Seven

Leo is working in the shed when Meme arrives. He hears here and calls out.

Leo: Hello?

Meme: It's me.

Leo: Ah? Oh geez! What brings you 'round here this time of night? Come down to do more thinkin'?

Meme: No. I was at your house but nobody answered the door.

Leo: My house?

Meme: Yeah.

Leo: Gimme a minute here. I'm just hangin' up a few things tryin' to get this place back together. I'll be out in a minute.

Meme: I thought you'd be home, nine o'clock an' everything. Since nobody answered I figured you must be down here.

Leo enters brushing off his pants

Leo: Yeah, boy I got stuff in there I never knew I had…dirt, dust an' brine…now, what'd ya say about goin' to the house?

Meme: I figured you'd be home this time of night.

Leo: Aw, I started tryin' to sort out all the junk in there an' ended up with a mess. Now I have to get it all back in.

Meme: Had to be done sometime.

Leo: Yeah, I guess. Now, what's on your mind?

Meme: Nothin'.

Leo: Whatta ya mean, nothin'? You went to my house to see me. You never come to my house.

Meme: You never ask me to come to your house.

Leo: Yeah, well…ah…what'd you want me for?

Meme: Talk.

Leo: Talk?

Meme: Yeah.

Leo: Look Meme, I got everything off the shelves in there an' I really don't have a lot of…

Meme: Oh, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon! Sit down. Take it easy.

Leo: Well, aren't you in a good mood for a change.

Meme: Sit down.

Leo: Why so happy?

Meme: I dunno. I guess I just had enough of bein' unhappy.

Leo: Yeah, well me too. You were startin' to get on my nerves with all your problems.

Meme: Well, look! No more problems…and good news too! The John Neal's goin' back into service tomorrow.

Leo: Think I don't know that do ya?

Meme: Isn't that good news?

He goes back to work

Leo: I suppose.

Meme: I think it's fabulous.

Leo: It'll probably be back in dry dock for repairs before the week's over.

Meme: Oh, well there's nothin' like tryin' to burst my bubble.

Leo: I'm just sayin' what I think it true. The John Neal's never been in service for more than a week or two a time before she's right back in dry dock. I mean, she's old, she's…..finished! They got no business puttin' her back in service.

Meme: They why do they?

Leo: Because if they don't we're gonna have to pay for one of the coastal ships to put us down for one of their stops an' you can bet that's no ten cent ticket. Fixin' the John Neal's a lot cheaper.

Meme: Leo, will you put that stuff down?

Leo: I can't. I promised Victor I'd be right back an' I've already been here too long as it is.

Meme: You promised him?

Leo: Yeah.

Meme: Well, does he understand things like that?

Leo: Like what?

Meme: Promise.

Leo: Victor? Sure he does.

Meme: How do you know?

Leo: Ah…I dunno. I just…I just know.

Meme: But my mother told me he can't talk.

Leo: Doesn't mean he can't hear.

Meme: Well, no….I guess you're right there.

Leo: Besides, what the hell does your mother know? Me an' Victor must be twenty years older than her. She probably don't even remember him.

Meme: She remembers enough to know that he looked like you.

Leo: Looked like me? You mean, looks like me. He's still alive ya know!

Meme: Yeah, I know but…

Leo: An' it doesn't take a hell of a lotta brains to know we look like each other either, so, you can tell your mother that for me. Now, what the hell else did she tell you?

Meme: Nothin'.

Leo: Look Meme, quit beatin' around the bush, ok? You got somethin' you wanna ask me about Victor? Go ahead.

Meme: Well, it's just that my mother was tellin' me about him.

Leo: An' what did she say?

Meme: Well…like…not a lot. She…she just said that she remembers him. She remembers that your mother used to take him down to the wharf quite a bit.

Leo: That's right. Used to take him down there a lot.

Meme: She said that people used to think he was some kind of bad luck or somethin'.

Leo: And?

Meme: That's all.

Long Pause

Honest! That's all she told me.

Leo: Ha! Bad luck.

Meme: Well, that's what she told me.

Leo: Well, she doesn't know what she's talkin' about.

Meme: She said that whenever somethin' happened around here they used to say it was him.

Leo: Yeah?

Meme: That he…I dunno…caused it to happen.

Leo laughs

Is that true?

Leo: Yeah…yeah, it's true. Ha! They, ah…they believed he had some kind of …magic or somethin'. I wouldn't call it bad luck…just….magic.

Meme: Did he?

Leo: Did he? Ha! No, of course not. It was them…crazy people…old fishermen…old fishermen's wives…your grandfather, he was one of them. There were a lot of people like that 'round here. Still are, right?

Meme: My mother.

Leo: Your mother, an' I can name a half dozen more. You can set them off just like that! Ghost ships, forerunners, sea monsters…an' years ago, when I was a kid, it was even worse. They believed the sea was some kind of God. It gave them the food they ate, somethin' to do to make a livin'…it was their life.

Meme: Still is.

Leo: Yeah…yeah, but it was different back then. People were different. They didn't know anything about the mainland…didn't wanna know anything about the mainland. I guess most of them still don't. Like me…you come to know where you belong. It's as simple as that.

Long pause. Leo continues to work. Meme stares out to sea.

When, ah…when me an' Victor were born it just happened to be a time when things around here started lookin' pretty good. They built the big wharf that year…four fishermen took legal ownership of their own boats. That was pretty big news seein' we always had to do our fishin' from dorys…draggin' big nets an' rowin' the heavy oars until the muscles in your back felt like they were gonna burn right through your skin. Fishermen could go out a hundred miles now…fill up their holds an' chug right back into port. By the time me an' Victor were five, six years old things were just boomin'. We were sellin' all the fish we could catch to mainland buyers. We had six fishin' boats contracted out to National Sea. The women worked the bait shed an' did all the repairs on the traps an' nets while the men worked the boats. There was money pourin' in from everywhere an' the fishermen just kept buyin' more boats…more equipment…buildin' wharves. After that come the John Neal Ferry…our very own connection to the mainland…somethin' the women an' children could use. Just pack a lunch, grab the kids, climb aboard an' take a seat on one of those long padded benches…comfortable…lots of room…have a cup of coffee…have a nap while you waited for her to pull into port. It was nice. Never had things like that before 'round here.

Meme: What did Victor have to do with it?

Leo: Really? Nothin'! But they thought he did. Those crazy people.

Pause. Leo reflects.

Ever since we were babies, Mumma used to take us down to the wharf…sittin' there with Victor at her side. Mumma an' her little angel. Because there was somethin' wrong with him, that's what she would say…that's what she would tell everybody. He's an angel. That word, it…I dunno, it just spread. An' with all the good things that were happenin', bing bang one after another it was like there was no denyin' it. I mean, how could so much happen so fast?

Meme: They thought he was really an angel?

Leo: They couldn't figure out what he was. All they knew is he was different. He looked different…didn't talk…always had this far away look on his face, like somethin' they never saw before. Hell, even I believed it. And whether it was true or not, Mumma just kept bringin' him down…everyday…get him to look out across the ocean like he was puttin' some kind of blessin' on 'em all. She was proud…proud of her little angel…'cos everybody believed an' that's all that mattered…belivin'!

Meme: What about you?

Leo: Oh, I was there too. Even when we got older…standin' like a soldier…takin' care of Victor like I was supposed to do.

Meme: God's plan.

Leo: That's right! God's plan….Mumma's plan.

Meme: What happened?

Leo: Humph! Nothin'…we, ah…we went for twenty years like that.

Meme: Twenty years?

Leo: Yeah…ha…everyday…down on the wharf, goin' through the same thing over an' over. Funny, ya know…I liked doin' it. I thought it was right. People felt our family was important…because we had Victor. They'd wave…big wave, when we walked past on our way to the wharf…never yell to us, just..

He raises his hand high to wave

People who were close would just nod their heads…quiet. They respected us. They needed us.

Meme: Did you know my mother then?

Leo: Well, no, not really. She was a little girl. I was a grown man.

Meme: She told me she remembers bein' scared of Victor.

Leo: Yeah, a lot of the kids were like that. They'd stare…keep their distance…kids, ya know? They weren't like their parents…filled with stories from the old days…believin' anything that was told to them from a rockin' chair…the smell of pipe tobacco…you'd see the fishermen gathered down in the bait shed late at night…drinkin' rum…tellin' stories they heard….stories they made up. Victor's name always came up of course. He was no ghost. He was real an' they could say almost anything 'cos Victor couldn't talk. They could make up any kind of story they wanted. Mumma lived off that kinda thing. Sometimes at night she would pull down the blind in his bedroom window an' keep a candle burnin' all night…from outside, it looked like sunlight fillin' the room. I remember someone askin' her about it an' her pretendin' she didn't know anything about any light in Victor's room.

Meme: She lied?

Leo: Yeah, an' I asked her about it but she told me not to say nothin' to nobody 'cos Victor didn't want me to. That's all she ever had to say to me to get me to do somethin'…that's the way Victor wants it…don't ask questions…he's an angel an' you're not an' that's the way it went for years an' years. Course, Mumma was getting' older…so was everybody. I got a job on one of the fishin' boats an' left

Mumma with Victor all to herself.

Meme: What about your father.

Leo: Aw, he was always out fishin'. Everybody was out fishin' an' when they weren't out fishin' they were hangin' 'round the wharf talkin' 'bout fishin'.


Anyway, I met this guy. He was, like, one of a couple of mainlanders who were workin' on our fishin' boats. We didn't want any mainlanders doin' work on our boats back then but sometimes we had to hire one or two on an' this guy…this mainlander, we became friends. I found out he had a cousin…couldn't talk…sixteen years old an' had the mind of a baby. He was just like Victor. Ha! You imagine, I was almost twenty five years old when I found out what was really wrong with him. Talk about stupid! Like, here we were livin' in our own little world…never tryin' to figure things out…just say God did it. It's easier. People believe that a lot easier than they'll believe anything else.

Meme: But what about what my mother said?

Leo: About what?

Meme: About him havin' all this bad luck.

Leo: Ha! Bad luck. He didn't have no bad luck…didn't have no good luck either. He was just born with somethin' wrong with him.

Meme: People liked him though.

Leo: Sure. They believed he was special. I believed he was special…still do!

Meme: Really?

Leo: You bet I do! He's an angel. Not like the kind Mumma wanted everybody to believe he was but, bad luck? The bad luck was that things started happenin….things that were gonna happen anyway. We lost three fishin' boats in a storm…lost my father…fourteen others…drown….bad luck. Then the John Neal, she was getting' up there in years…started needin' a lot of repairs. Was either have the work done for top dollar on the mainland or we do it ourselves. So, we built a dry dock. It cost a lot of money but we figured we'd make it back…figured we'd get a lot of other ships comin' in here to have their repair work done. Never happened! Wasted all that money. Then National Sea pulled out. They got themselves a better contract somewhere else…foreign trawlers comin' over dumpin' all kinds of cheap fish in their lap…fishin' boats had to be sold…a lot of young men were takin' jobs on the bigger boats for better pay an' it…well, it just all fell apart an' Victor wasn't an angel anymore. Mumma died an' I was left with Victor.

Meme: Wow!

Leo: Whatta ya mean, wow? It's no different around here today than it was back then. I could take this wharf right now…tonight…I could tow it out there an' let her drift out to sea. If between now an' tomorrow mornin' there's no wind to put the blame on, they'd call it an act of God…an' act of the devil or they'd invent somethin' else…a sea monster! Humph! I gotta get this stuff cleared away before it gets too late.

Leo goes back to work. Meme is thinking and staring at a life ring. Leo startles her.


She awakens

Why so quiet?

Meme: I dunno…thinkin'

Leo: Again?

Meme: Yeah.

Leo: Thinkin', thinkin' thinkin'…always thinkin'!


So, whatta ya plan on doin' about the John Neal?

No reply


Meme: Wha'? Oh…nothin'.

Leo: Gonna stay here an' be miserable?

Meme: Yeah, I guess.

Leo: You serious?

Meme: Yeah, I think I am.

Leo: You think you're serious.

Meme: Yeah…does, that make sense?

Leo: No.

She shivers

Meme: Oh…well, maybe that's the story of my life.

Leo: Cold?

Meme: Yeah, a little.

Pause. He puts his arm around her

Leo, do you think we could, I dunno…take Victor out someday?

Leo: No.

Meme: Down to the wharf?

Leo: No.

Meme: Why not?

Leo: Because Victor doesn't like it down there.

Meme: Well, could I come up to the house sometime?

Leo: Sure.

Meme: Tomorrow?

Leo: Now if you want.



Lights Fade

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