Sunday Morning Scene: Steamboat Days

Sunday Morning Scene

Sunday Morning Scene is a weekly post of a scene I’m currently working on. It is raw and rough, copied and pasted directly from my WIP.


Sky, an eight-year old boy with bushy blond hair, scurried up the ladder to the bridge of the Camelot. His fraternal twin brother, Storm, close behind him. “Bear’s here!” He called when his head popped over the deck.

Aidan eased back on the throttle to slow the houseboat’s approach to the shore. “I see that. And Stan, Zach, and Auntie Lisa too. They came up river on the Broken Heart yesterday.”

“Bear’s here!” Storm shouted as he ran up.

“He knows. I told him.” Sky smirked at his brother.

Storm stuck out his tongue. “But I saw them first. I was on the bow with JJ.” He pushed his curly black bangs from his sweaty face.

Aidan gave him a sharp glance. “Don’t stick your tongue out at your brother.”

“Yeah,” said Sky.

“And what’s the rule about running on the boat?”

Sky hung his head. “We’re not supposed to do it.”

“Yeah. You’re not supposed to run.”

“You were running too.”

“You ran first!”

“Boys!” Aidan snapped.

They jumped. “Yes sir.”

“I will not put up with this fussing. What would your grandma say and Auntie Lissa? You need to behave. You don’t want Miss Emma to think JJ and I can’t raise decent boys do you?”

The boys shook their heads. Storm looked at the sprawling A-frame house built out over the lake. “So Aunt Molly’s really moving here? It looks almost as big as the Gator Tale.”

Aidan eased the boat to the starboard, aiming for a place on the bank just to the right of the Broken Heart. “Yes. This is Jamie’s house. He lives here with his mother. They’re managing the store here in Blackwater now. They can’t be driving back and forth from Cooter Crossing.”

Zach, the image of Santa Clause on an extended Florida holiday complete with a bright red and green Hawaiian shirt, waved from shore. “Ahoy, there.”

JJ tossed him the bowline and Bear, a massive Newfoundland, woofed. The boys took off around the conning station to the front of the bridge. “Don’t run,” Aidan called in a defeated tone.

The boys waved and called to Bear, who splashed in the water and woofed back. JJ turned around, shaded his eyes, and smiled up at them. His dark eyes connected with Aidan’s. His smile broadened. He lipped the words, I love you. Then blew him a kiss.

Aidan whispered back, “Love you more.” JJ turned around and jumped down on the shore to help Zach make the bowline fast around a tree stump and setup the makeshift gangplank they used on the bow when they landed on a bank. Aidan killed the engine but couldn’t take his eyes off of JJ. He’d taken his shirt off and his brown skin glistened in the sun. Aidan wanted to slide the old running shorts off of him and have a naked JJ all to himself. But they’d become guardians to two lost little boys and naked alone time became a rare thing.

With the pressures of taking care of the boys, his job as a new professor, JJ trying to move up to be a detective, and them living on opposite sides of the county, Aidan felt their relationship slipping away. They had talked about this little getaway over the Memorial Day weekend to be a time to pull the family back together. But by the time he finished up the semester on Thursday and got the kids out to his folk’s house in Cooter Crossing. He was doubting if the effort of a long-distance relationship was worth it.

He’d pouted like a spoiled child when JJ wasn’t there waiting for him. Not his finest moment. Then JJ showed up, dragged him under the old magnolia tree in the back yard and proposed to him. Now he had a fiancé and in about five months, he’d be legally married with two adopted sons.

“Life’s like an E-ticket ride at Disney sometimes,” his grandfather would say. He was never sure what exactly an E-ticket ride was but he imagined it was probably an apt metaphor for the last six months of his life. Married with children. What the hell.

The boys scrambled down the gangplank and splashed out into the water to give Bear a hug. Zach laughed and JJ gave them a stern warning about not swimming in the lake without an adult around and to keep an eye out for gators. He turned back to the boat and called, “You coming ashore? And don’t forget your sunscreen.”

Aidan gave him a wave. “Be right down… Mother”

JJ called back. “I don’t want you crispy. I have plans for you this weekend and they involve a lot of skin contact.”

Zach snorted.

 He ran his fingers through his long red hair then pulled it back in a ponytail and put his Celtic hair cuff around it. He squeezed some sunscreen in his hands and rubbed it on his face and arms. His Irish ancestry didn’t equip him for life under the Florida sun. But after a hundred and fifty some years, his family had learned the wisdom of covering up. Always have a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and stay in the shade, something else his grandfather would say. But the melanoma still got him in the end. He pulled the key out of the ignition. “Okay, where the hell’d that come from? Happy thoughts. It’s a family gathering and an impromptu engagement party. Happy thoughts.”

He didn’t get up. He watched JJ wrestling with the boys on the narrow beach. Stan, Zach’s partner was coming down the steps from the house’s back deck with two beers in his hand. “So Grandpa,” he whispered. “What would you say about your grandson not only marrying a man but a black one to boot? Would it matter that he saved my life? That he saved your great-grandson’s life? Would it matter to you that I love him more than I can say?”

He stood up and slipped the key’s lanyard over his neck. His hand brushed the dark-gold pendent he kept under his shirt. JJ had a matching white-gold one hanging around his neck. He smiled. He loved and missed his grandfather, but it really didn’t matter what he might have thought. He and JJ had a whole mess of family that was going to love on them this weekend. And hopefully, there’d be enough Jackson-Quinn-Rooneys around to keep an eye on two little boys so their “dads” could slip in a little one-on-one celebration time.


 

Author: Stephen del Mar

Stephen del Mar lives in the Tampa Bay area and writes in the Southern Literary tradition. His stories are character driven with rich settings. They often have a touch of the paranormal, supernatural, or magical realism. Although he writes about serious subjects, they are sweetened with humor and wit. He says, "It's a southern thing."