This is Part 1 of Chapter 91 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Art Lover", the previous chapter.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, featuring Justin Taylor, Lindsay Peterson, Melanie Marcus, Gus, Finn.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: August 2002. Brian and Justin go with Gus and the girls up to the Lake Erie Islands.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
The ferry to the island takes about twenty minutes. We ended up driving both the Jeep and Lindsay and Mel's car. And that's all right with me, because it's a long drive from Pittsburgh up to Lake Erie and I don't need to listen to the Mommies snipe at me the whole way. It's much better to fly up the Ohio Turnpike and listen to Justin ruminate on every topic that pops into his head. Besides, the last thing I wanted to do was cram the Jeep with all the shit we have to bring -- the baby stuff, our stuff, their stuff -- plus the extra gear Justin and I bought on Friday morning. For the boat.
"You chartered a boat?" Mel looks at me dubiously as the ferry moves closer to South Bass Island.
"Well, rented it, actually. Chartered implies a crew. It'll be just us. So, we had to get some things that Cynthia said we'd need."
"Cynthia? What does she have to do with this?" Lindsay is wiping some juice from Gus's mouth as we sit on the deck of the ferry.
"She arranged it all. On very short notice. We'll pick the boat up downtown, at Put-in-Bay, and I'll drive it around to the dock on the northwest side of the island near where the cottage is located." I refer to the notes Cynthia gave me. "Oak Point Park. Justin and I will sleep on the boat. We won't need to worry about that fold-out couch."
"It's a cabin cruiser," shouts Justin. "So we can go cruising! I'm the First Mate!" I reach over and give him a little pinch to shut him up on the ferry. The whole fucking world doesn't need to know our plans.
"Brian, do you really know how to drive a boat?" says Lindsay. She looks worried.
"How hard can it be? I drove all over England with no problems." I hear a snort behind me and whip around. "No comments, Sunshine!"
"I didn't say a word!" Then he laughs again. Little twat! Cute little twat, actually.
"You came through the experience unscathed. I'd say that was pretty fucking good!" I draw myself up. "How hard can driving a boat be? There are no roads. No wrong side or right side?"
"No," says Melanie. "Just an entire lake to get lost on. Or sink in!"
"I'm not planning to sink. And, according to my notes, lifejackets are provided."
"Are we all going for a ride on this yacht?" asks Lindsay. "I'm not certain how I'm going to be feeling every day. I got a little queasy during my first trimester with Gus and I don't know how riding around on a yacht is going to affect my stomach this time."
"If you start to feel sick, just let me know, Lindz. I'm not going to make you go on something that's going to make you uneasy. And it's not a yacht -- I don't think it's big enough to qualify."
"How big IS the thing, anyway?" Mel asks.
"I don't know. The notes don't specify. But it's big enough for the two of us. And passengers. That's what Cynthia said." And I'm sticking to that story. For now.
Lindsay gets out the map of the island that her aunt gave her. "Brian, do you remember how to get to the cottage? I should have made copies of this map."
"I kind of remember." It's been a few years. But South Bass Island isn't that big. How hard can it be to find something?
"Here's the ferry dock and here's the town, Put-in-Bay. And the big memorial." Lindsay points to the Perry Memorial, which sticks up from the island like the fucking Washington Monument and is fairly difficult to miss. "And here's the cottage. And the pier is right there. You can walk to the cottage in about ten minutes. It's that close" She looks up at me. "Do you think you'll have trouble getting a place to park the boat?"
"Dock the boat, not park. Cynthia said that the man she talked to didn't think so. Especially during the week."
"It gets crowded on the island on the weekends, certainly," says Lindsay. "And it gets pretty rowdy in town when the college students and big party animals come in, but weekdays it's mainly families. That's why we plan to leave Friday and miss all the confusion."
"Sounds like the weekend is when we WANT to be here!" says Justin.
"Yeah, right in time for all the hetero boys to be running all over town, drunk as skunks! Maybe you can enter the wet tee shirt contest?" I tug at his shirt, but back off from pulling him into my lap. The ferry -- and the island -- is Breeder Central. A couple of Mormon-sized families are already looking our way, frowning. And I don't want any trouble while we have Gus with us, so I have to fucking behave myself.
"Brian, are you sure this boat thing is a good idea?" Mel says. She's trying to hold Gus back from running up and down the deck and he's beginning to whine.
"Come on! The boat will be fun. I can take us all over to Cedar Point," I say, mentioning the local amusement park. "Or around to the other islands. Won't that be fun, Sonny Boy?" I reach down and pick up Gus, but he's still squirming to get down and run all over the ferry. I put him down and, sure enough, he takes off again. "Justin, will you make sure that kid doesn't end up falling overboard?"
But Justin is already up and dashing after Gus. He is so great with that kid -- better than I am most of the time. "We should get him one of those kid-leashes," I suggest. "You can't fucking take your eyes off him for a second!"
"We're NOT putting a leash on our son, Brian! Leashes are for dogs!" Melanie is spoiling for an argument with me -- and we aren't even on the island yet!
"You might feel differently if you turn around and can't find him one day. He's so fucking fast that he'll be out of sight before you even register it!"
"I have NO trouble keeping track of him, Brian. That may be YOUR problem, but it isn't mine!"
Lindsay puts herself between the two of us. "I think that once we get to the cottage we'll just have to see what the facilities are. It might NOT be a bad idea to keep some sort of restraint on Gus, especially if we're near the water or other places he can get into and hurt himself."
"Right," says Melanie. "Let the Father of the Year make the decisions. Why the hell not?"
I really want to respond to Mel and her bitchy remarks, but Lindz shakes her head at me. So I back off again. I don't need the two of them fighting the whole time or this trip will be a disaster from the get-go. This is an odd role for me -- playing peacemaker. But I've done it before. Getting rid of that fucking Gui, for one. Better a peacemaker than a troublemaker, I guess.
When we get to the island I follow Lindsay and Mel's car to the cottage and then we unload both vehicles -- that is Justin, Mel, and I unload while Lindz makes a shopping list. All this crap we brought and she is STILL thinking of things we need!
But as Lindz sits there, scribbling, I think that I don't want her lifting and carrying things around. How much stuff can pregnant women do? I was too fucked up to pay much attention to what was going on when Lindsay was expecting Gus, but now I'm aware of it all the time. Wondering. I start to wonder if this whole vacation was that good of an idea. Is there a doctor on this island? What if something goes wrong? What if...?
"Brian? Do you mind moving your ass out of the doorway?"
Yes, Melanie always brings everything back down to earth.
Once the girls and Gus get settled a little, it's time for Justin and I to pick up the boat. I decide that it's best if Lindsay drives us into town and drops us off at the dock since she's going to do some shopping anyway. It's not a very long drive to town -- the island isn't that big. After she parks on the main square on the waterfront, I follow Lindz on her rounds to carry the bags, while Justin dashes in and out of every souvenir shop in the area.
"Are you two going to stay for the weekend festivities? Lots of drunken revelry in store."
I shrug. "I don't know. It was a kick picking out the possibilities from the frat boy pack the last time I was here, but that was then...."
"And you don't want to risk hurting Justin? Or -- are you jealous that HE might pick up somebody cute?"
"I don't know." And I mean it. I don't fucking know. "Both, I think."
"You really don't want to fuck this up, do you?" she says.
"What do you think?"
Lindsay stops and looks at me. "You ARE full of surprises, Brian! I'm not sure I can get used to you like this!"
"I thought this was what you've been fucking hoping for all these years? ME -- in a 'relationship'? ME -- acting like a 'normal' human being?"
She looks away for a second. "Right. It is. Sort of."
Christ! I can't fucking win sometimes! With friends like this....
Justin reappears, clutching a large shopping bag, just as I'm putting Lindsay's purchases in her car. "Look what I got!" He's lost his blue tee shirt and is now wearing a white tee with the phrase 'First Mate' emblazoned across the front.
"That is SO cute!" exclaims Lindsay.
"It's to wear on the boat! I bought it over at the Marine Outfitters!" He points to one of the stores facing the square.
"You better not have a captain's hat in there that you expect ME to wear."
Justin shakes his head. "I KNOW you'll never wear a hat, Brian. So I got you THIS instead!" He pulls out another tee shirt. Across the front it reads 'Salty Seaman.'
"No fucking way!" I'm wearing my sleeveless blue denim shirt and I'm not about to take it off to wear that ridiculous tee shirt!
"I don't expect you to wear it in PUBLIC, Brian." Justin stuffs the shirt back in his bag. "It's for later," he says, licking his lips.
"And with THAT, I think I'll be on my way," interjects Lindsay. She kisses me and winks at Justin before she climbs into her car and heads back to the cottage.
"Are you hungry?" I ask Justin.
He grins. "What do you think?"
We head for a place called the Chicken Patio. They are cooking the chicken on huge grills outside. Justin and I find a table near the street, facing the square and the harbor beyond. It's hot, but there's a cool breeze from the north -- that Canadian air -- blowing off the lake.
"This place is neat, Brian," Justin says, digging into his basket of chicken, cold slaw, and fries. "I can hardly wait to get on the boat!"
"Wait until the weekend. This square will be surging with drunk guys, all trying to get laid before the ferry leaves to take them back to the mainland!"
"Unfortunately, they'll all be looking for pussy. The closest they'll be to wanting cock is a plate of this chicken." I lift up a leg and take a bite.
"That's okay, Brian. I already have my serving of 'cock' reserved for the weekend."
"That's funny -- so do I." I have a vision of all those obnoxious frat boys -- and I realize that I'm not really interested in even checking them out, let alone dragging them back to my den. That role seems to be filled. I look over at Justin, sipping a lemonade. Then I sit back and watch the people walk by. Mostly families, holding on to kids or pushing strollers. "Ever think about getting away someplace where you could really be yourself, Justin? Whatever that is."
"You mean, away from the Pitts? Permanently?"
He thinks. "I don't want to spend my whole life in the same place, Brian. But I don't know -- I'd miss my mom and Molly and my friends. Debbie. Emmett. Although they get on my nerves sometimes, I admit that. But I think I'd be open to the possibilities. Especially now that I am an experienced world traveler. I want to see all the art centers, for instance. Paris. Florence. Rome. Maybe Russia. too. The Hermitage. All the museums. And Asia. Ben says I have to go there someday."
"I don't mean as a tourist, Justin. I mean, REALLY getting away. Escaping."
He frowns. "You mean like running away to Tahiti? Like Gauguin? Something like that?"
"Maybe. I was just thinking about it."
"You know, Brian, you don't always have to run away from everything," he confides. Justin's face is serious. "You don't need to escape anymore. You know that every time you try it, it never solves anything. It never makes you happy."
"I know. It's just a stupid thought...."
"If you can find little escapes, Brian -- even for just a few days or a few hours at a time -- then you might not have to bolt anymore. Think about what we did in England? The little things we did, not the big things, were the ones that mattered. If you could just let yourself be happy for five minutes, then you might not WANT to bolt."
I think about what Justin is saying. It makes so much sense -- and goes against every instinct that rises up in me. "And speaking of wanting to escape," I say, pulling out my cellphone. I've been forwarding all my calls to voice mail. I check the messages, frowning.
"How many calls?" Justin asks, quietly.
"Three today." I snap the phone shut and stick it back in my pocket.
Justin doesn't even need to ask who they are from. "Does he know you're -- we're -- up here?"
"No, but if he wanted to, he could find out pretty easily. We left a trail as wide as the fucking Los Angeles Freeway." I push the remnants of the chicken away. "Come on. Let's get ship-shape!"
We walk across the park-like square and down to the docks. I have Cynthia's directions and it isn't too difficult to find the right pier. She told me to look for the 'Kathleen F.'
"Are you Mr. Finn?"
The older man is sitting on the back deck of a large cabin cruiser, a can of beer in his hand, the radio blasting an oldies station.
"Yup. And it's just Finn. You Kinney?"
"Yes. I'm here about the boat. My secretary talked to you."
Finn stands up and scratches his ample butt. "Come aboard. Have a beer."
"No thanks, Finn. Not right now. If you don't mind, I'd like to see the boat. My secretary said you'd take me out and give me a few pointers?"
"Right. Sure." Finn goes into the cabin for a minute and comes out with a notepad. "I got the information here. You're paid up on the boat 'til Saturday. Gonna dock it around the other side of the island?"
"Yes. My friends have a cottage over near Oak Point Park. They are only staying until Friday, but I was thinking we'd stay over an extra night."
"No problem. No problem at all." Finn peruses his notepad. "You aren't planning to cruise too far away, are you? You ain't planning to head for Buffalo or anything?"
"Ah, no, actually. Maybe over to the amusement park at Cedar Point. But that's about it."
"Shouldn't be a problem, then." Finn climbs out of the cabin cruiser and onto the dock. "Follow me."
Justin and I walk down the dock after Finn. "That's a pretty big boat he was in, Brian. I wonder what ours will look like?" says Justin.
"We'll find out in about a minute," I say, craning my neck to look at all the boats tied up in the harbor. There is everything in every size, from houseboats and dinghies to elegant sailboats and broken-down fishing boats. We stop near the end of the dock.
"There she is -- the 'Colleen II.'
Justin looks at the boat and then at me. "It's kind of small."
"Just under twenty foot long. You planning to live on the thing full time, son?"
"You only need it for a few days," Finn says. "Wanna ride over to Cedar Point or Kelley's Island? Go up to North Bass and fish a little? Sit and have a beer at the dock? You need something bigger than this to do that?"
"I guess not."
"The boat is fine," I say. "It's better to start small anyway. Until I know what I'm doing."
"Sure, you come back next year and we'll get you a forty-footer." Finn hops down onto the back deck and bustles around. "Jump on and I'll show you the ropes."
I climb aboard, tentatively, but Justin scrambles on like a monkey. He seems right at home.
"Here's your steering wheel and controls. Your power cord. When you get to the dock, plug right in. Saves on the batteries in your radio and stuff."
"But don't forget to unplug it before I leave the dock, right?"
"Smart man, Kinney. Here's the ship-to-shore radio. Weather band -- and listen to it, because Lake Erie is unpredictable. Shallow as hell. A storm can kick up before you know it. You got a mobile phone?"
"Yes, I've got my cell here. Justin has one, too."
"Good. I'll give you my number and if you ever have a problem, call ME before you call the goddamn Coast Guard, okay?"
"Sure, Finn. I will."
"Okay, then. Here's the cabin. Little fridge under here. And the bunks. Sleeps two."
"It's a little cramped," I say, thinking that my legs will never fit, let alone allow anything else interesting to go on in there!
"It is -- but..." Finn opens up a drawers under the bunker and hauls out some folded plastic. "Air mattresses. And the pump. You put these on the back deck and put your sleeping bags on top -- better than sleeping in your own bed, let me tell you."
"Sounds okay," interrupts Justin. "But what if it rains?"
"Put up the back canvas, son." He moves back to the deck. "You'll want to put it up every night or when you leave the boat alone anyway to protect the deck from getting wet -- or people from just walking onto the boat. It's waterproof and better than any tent." Finn opens a door in the back and shows me where the canvas is stowed and how to put it up. "And your lifejackets. We've got four here. Let me know if you need any more. There should be one for each passenger."
"I'll need one for a child, too," I say. "Two years old. My son."
"Your son," Finn says, glancing over at Justin. Come on, I think, don't be an asshole, Finn. "Sure. I'll get you one. He staying on the boat, too?"
"No, at the cottage on the other side of the island. With his mother and her friend."
"Where did you say you were from again?" asks Finn.
"Pittsburgh. By way of Los Angeles."
"Hm. That figures." Finn shrugs his ample shoulders. "Okay, then. Let's hit the open water."
Finn shows Justin how to untie the boat and then makes him tie it up again, showing him how to make a secure knot. "You're the First Mate, right? That means you are in charge of the lines. You don't want to have the boat untie and float off in the middle of the night, do you? Then you'll have to swim out and get it!"
"I won't forget!"
"You a good swimmer? Because you don't want to fall off and drown here -- it might put a damper on your vacation."
"I'm an excellent swimmer," replies Justin. "I've actually been sailing a few times with my cousins. So I know a little bit about being on a boat."
"Good, but put on your lifejacket if it gets rough," says Finn, piloting the boat out into the harbor. "You, too." He looks at me. "Watch out for small craft warnings. See the flag up there?" He points to a high flag pole. "That means it's clear and the lake is smooth. But watch for the red flag. And listen to the weather reports if you're leaving the dock. Especially if you got that baby and any women on board."
"Aren't women bad luck on a ship?" asks Justin, grinning at me.
"They can be. If they talk too much, just toss 'em over the side. That's what I do!"
Finn shows me the controls and then lets me take over at the wheel. He gets out some maps and unfolds them. "Here are your charts. This boat is small, so it can navigate in pretty shallow water, but don't drive the thing up on the beach, for godsake. Here's your dock at Oak Point Park. Middle Bass Island is here. North Bass Island. That's the place to fish. There are some poles and tackle in the storage compartment under the deck in case you want to try to reel in something."
"I do!" says Justin. "I've never caught a fish before!"
"Ask in the bait shop near your dock. They'll tell you what's biting and where." Finn points out a few more landmarks to the 'First Mate' on the chart, marking a few good fishing spots with a small marker. "Didn't your old man ever take you fishing, son? Anything like that?"
"Not really," Justin says. "We didn't do too many 'guy things' together. I wasn't into sports and those things. I was more interested in my art classes, I guess. He didn't really try to push that other stuff too much. That's why I'd like to try some of them now!"
Finn catches my eye and I shrug. As rotten as Pops was, we did do a lot of that shit when I was younger. Fishing. Going to ball games. The Pirates. Even some Steelers games. Guy things. It was only when I got older that he seemed to take a dislike to me. But it makes me mad that Craig Taylor, who Justin always paints as such a 'good' father, didn't seem to do that much with his son at all. Maybe that's why he doesn't seem to miss Justin all that much, if his lack of contact with him is any indication. Craig is a creep.
"We're in open water now," says Finn, standing up. "Open up the throttle and let her rip."
I do and we move right along. This little boat can really go.
"Can I sit up front?" says Justin.
"Sure, son." Finn points inside. "Go in the cabin and pop open the front hatch. You can sit on the bow if you stay at the edge of the hatch. But hang on tight -- you wouldn't want to fall off if we hit some choppy water."
"I won't!" Justin goes into the little cabin and comes up on the bow, waving.
We are skimming along the water and the spray is rising up on each side of the boat. Finn shows me some of the other controls and turns on the radio, demonstrating the different bands. He also gives me the drill on refueling.
"I'm giving you a full tank. Just make sure you fill the tank back up before you give it back. That's all I ask. You smoke?"
"A little bit. I'm trying to quit."
"Me, too. Been trying for twenty-seven years!" he laughs with a raspy smoker's growl. "Just don't light one up if you're refueling or screwing around with the engine. And don't leave cigarette burns on the wood."
"Don't worry. Lindsay won't let me smoke around my son anyway, so I'm just trying to avoid the whole issue by not doing it at all."
"Women, they always know what's 'best' for you, don't they?"
"I guess. Who was 'Colleen'?" I ask, referring to the name of the little boat.
"And Kathleen was the second?" Meaning the big cabin cruiser.
"Nope. Third. Someone else is renting the 'Andrea'! She was number two."
"Man -- three wives! You must have a lot of faith in marriage, Finn!"
"Yeah -- and no money from all the alimony. You ever been married, Kinney?"
"Maybe you got the right idea. But I always end up letting the women handle everything -- and that's where they lead me! Down the aisle, every time."
"You don't seem to be doing so badly, Finn."
"Well, I got my boats. And I can do what I want. In the winter I put the boats into dry dock and go down to Florida. Got some friends down there. Yeah, this little boat here, she was my first. She don't look like much, but I've taken her all over the Great Lakes. Up to Lake Superior. Through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Canals. Seaworthy as hell. You won't have to worry about tooling around with your kid there -- or your son."
My 'kid,' huh? Shit! I love it when people like Finn think they have everything all figured out about me and Justin. About our 'relationship.' Friends. Strangers. It doesn't matter. When they don't know anything at all.
"Don't worry. I won't take any stupid chances." I pause. "With my son -- or with Justin." I look through the windshield to watch him, sitting up on the bow. "Hey! Justin!"
He turns around. "What, Brian?"
"Put your shirt back ON! You'll get burned." I look over at Finn. "He'll be burned to a crisp in this sun."
"I put sunscreen on!" Justin yells.
"I don't care! If you get a sunburn I don't want to hear you crying all night that it hurts!"
"But I'm HOT!"
"Then come and sit back here in the shade!" Justin shakes his head and slowly puts his tee-shirt back on. But he's already getting red.
"How old is the kid, anyway?" asks Finn. His face is passive. I'm sure he's seen it all and I doubt he'll make me turn the fucking boat around and drop us off back at the dock because he doesn't want a couple of fags to camp it up on his old tub.
"Nineteen. You want to see his driver's license? Or a note from his mommy?"
"Nope, just curious is all." Finn folds up the charts and stows them in a compartment next to the controls. "Turn about and head back to the harbor, Kinney." He grins at me, showing tobacco-stained teeth. "I think you're ready to take the 'Colleen' out on your own."
We pull up next to Finn's cruiser, the 'Kathleen F.' Justin jumps onto the dock and ties us off like a pro. Finn climbs into his own boat and gets me the little lifejacket for Gus. Then he stands on the dock and waves as we cast off. I pilot the boat out of the harbor and around the north side of the island, heading for Oak Point, where Lindsay and Mel have their cottage.
"Well, First Mate -- do you think we can sail this thing all the way to Tahiti? Like Gauguin?"
Justin moves over next to me and slips his arm around my waist, resting his other hand on top of mine on the wooden steering wheel. "I don't care where we go, Captain -- as long as we sail off into the sunset together."
I smile. "I think we'll have to wait a while for THAT ending, Justin," I say, and open up the throttle. The little boat springs forward and we race across the water like we have wings.
Continue on to "Cruising -- Part 2", the next section.
©Gaedhal, September 2002
Pictures of Gale Harold and Randy Harrison from Showtime and Mia.
Updated September 30, 2002