It was incredible, feeling the boat slice confidently through waves. Captain Gregg stood proudly at the helm of our 30-foot 1959 Bristol Sloop, commanding 15-year-old Midshipman Muir. "Aye, lad, aye." My brother was ecstatic, lost in the heady feeling of the vessel responding effortlessly to the Captain's command. I watched through my telescope as shorebound friends and neighbors gawked at the site of Jonathan ostensibly crewing the vessel alone.
The sloop was expensive; Captain Gregg purchased it with his share of the substantial proceeds Mom made off his memoirs. She fumed at first, when he bullied Claymore into buying the "ship, blast it, ship" on his behalf. Mom always worried about the family budget. A quick tour of the Captain's new toy quickly changed her mind—the galley, beds and a fold-down salon table. She coquettishly asked for a 'private cruise" out to North Haven.
Now, that backwater island is 12 miles out. Martha simply rolled her eyes. She packed enough food for their inaugural 'sail' in case they decided to swing by Vinelhaven, another port with a school Schooner Bay whipped in basketball last year.
That was the last day Mom and the Captain were just, well, them. Happy, and besotted with one another. Mom's face was wind-burned and suntanned when they docked the next day in Schooner Bay. Her thin blonde hair was a mess but it was clear she was a goddess to her ghost. The Captain helped her carefully off the boat, invisibly willing the ship to stop bobbing in the waves. Mom giggled and rolled her eyes at the astounded lobstermen berthed next to "I'm a Writer."
That night they fought about a trip she'd scheduled the next day. The Captain wanted to drive to Boston with her to meet an editor who liked her books. Grandpa was going to be there. He was the one who set the whole thing up. The whole thing smelled suspicious to me and, to Jonathan. Grandpa hated the Captain from the moment Mom told them about him. What was she supposed to do? Trot out Claymore every time they drove to Maine? Grandma was beginning to hint broadly she'd like to buy a summer home just up the coast from us. I couldn't stand it. If she was going to be that close, I told Mom, it was time to confess about Claymore. Yuck. How could Grandma even think Jonathan and I would let our Mom date someone like that? Well, it turns out we were wrong. Better ugly, living Claymore than a specter, as Grandpa put it. He even told the Muirs. They were ready to go to court to take us kids away when Captain Gregg put an end to it all. Turns out there is more than one skeleton in both family closets, and the Captain found out where they are buried. Everyone backed down, and calmed down.
Except Grandpa. Grandpa Muir thought Captain Gregg was doing an excellent job with Jonathan. He really didn't want to think of his son's widow sleeping with anyone else anyway. Or producing other heirs or competition for Jonathan. Grandpa Williams was quiet about the matter. He bided his time – and waited.
So I was pretty sure that day that Grandpa was trying to hook Mom up with some really rich, cute guy whose father he golfed with.
Now Mom is only jealous of all of the Captain's dead girlfriends. The Captain was/is green with envy over every man she'd yet to meet – of any living suitor between the ages of 35 and 100.
That night, the living suitors beat the dead girlfriends. "If after yesterday you think I would ever, even think –" That's as much as I heard before the Captain hurriedly bid the door slam right in my face. I secretly thought the Captain was a real dolt if he thought mom was even the teeniest bit interested in any rich widower from New York. Nonetheless, the comment about whatever it was they did yesterday intrigued both Jonathan and me as we hung out on the beach, smoking behind the rocks.
The next morning, Mom emerged from the master cabin dressed to kill in a smart, custom-tailored black pantsuit with matching black briefcase. She was exactly the same age as the Captain was when he died – 44 – but she still passed for a woman in her 30s. Mom's hair was still impossibly blonde. No grays. The shampoo she used smelled wonderful, too. Everything about her reeked of class and good breeding. She was the women's lib poster woman, even if she was 20 years too old.
My surrogate father, Captain Daniel Jealous Gregg, glowered from the widow's walk as she pulled away in the new convertible she'd bought – her one vice. I know, I watched from the road after she pressed $50 into my palm before leaving. I tucked the money hurriedly into my pocket and scampered for the house.
As I walked through the door, the nasty old telephone Mom refused to replace rang loudly in the foyer. Jonathan grabbed for it – girls, at this hour?
"Oh," he said. "Hi Grandma."
At the same time, I heard the sound of Mom's car driving back up the road. She sure gave in easy, I thought. But then, from the kitchen, the sound of Martha's broom ceased. "Oh good heavens," she cackled. I raced into the kitchen and pressed my nose into the window, along with Martha's.
I could barely breathe.
Sean Callahan, in the flesh. He pulled up right behind her, slammed his car door loudly, bowed officiously at the house, then opened Mom's door. She stepped out of her car, blinking like she'd never seen such bright sunshine. Her eyes rose to the Widow's Walk, and I saw her flush.
Nobody likes to think that their mother has desires – or as we kids say, gets horny. But as Mom looked up at the Captain, some kind of dawning realization seemed to spread across her face. Sean reached for her hand and kissed it, eyes focused all the while on the Widow's Walk.
We were mesmerized.