Cruising the Carolinas afforded my husband and I opportunity to meet all kinds of characters. In Wilmington we made acquaintance with one swarthy cat. A wiry man of indeterminable age with skin like tan shoe leather. The dude would disappear for a few days and then reappear. He seemed agreeable enough but I didn't’t figure it would take too much to set him off. I was happiest when he was at a distance.
Our paths crossed for the first time in the upscale marina laundry. He had a little white Lhasa Apso with him. This dog struck me as being an odd fit for a guy like him.
I bent down to greet the dog. "What's your dog's name?"
"Mutton.” He sizes me up. "Inherited her. Name was Muffin, but that was too faggotty so I call her Mutton. It works."
"Good name - she looks like Sheri Lewis' Lamb Chops." I say.
He looks at me blankly. Perhaps my Canadian accent trumped him or more likely he had no idea who Sheri Lewis and Lamb Chops were.
“Which boat you on?” He asks.
“A sailboat.” I am purposefully vague. My instincts tell me to be cautious.
"Tell your Mister to see me if he needs work done.” Then he adds, like it’s a selling feature, “I’m a cash man. Live aboard a boat on the ocean, what do I need to pay tax for?” He raises a hand to his head to tip an imaginary hat and passes through the door with his small bag of laundry. The dog reluctantly follows. “C’mon Mutton! Ain’t got all day.”
I return to our boat and swing the bag of clean clothes up over the safety lines to my mister. “ I just met the salty dude. He said you should get-up with him if you need any work done.”
“That guy is used to taking on jobs for boat owners. We are sailors not boat owners we do our own work.” My mister says.
Later I return to the slip to find the salty dude up our mast. The boats in their slips are rocking gently in the breeze. Lines clinking against masts sound like a percussion of spoons tapping a water glass. Mutton is tied to our hookups lounging in a small bit of provided shade.
"Hey, what are you boys up to?"
My Mister winks at me to let me know he caught my joke. “ Jesse is giving me a hand with the wind gage.”
“Hey, why so far from home? Canada too cold?” Jesse shouts as he repels the mast in bare feet. “I’m from West Virginia in the mountains. Too fucking cold there and I knew soon as I was old enough I was getting outta there. Ain’t never go back cept to burry my kin.”
“I’m also allergic to winter.” I say as I head below to grab a notebook. This was one conversation I had to record.