The Baby Budweiser

The Baby Budweiser 

The following is an excerpt from Freedom Hall….. 

“Please can’t we buy it?” Justin begged his mother over and over again for the week that the rotten hull of an old hydroplane had been laying on the grass in front of Freedom Hall.

As the day of the annual CMYC Auction approached, she would say “Absolutely not!”  over and over as well.

“When your father gets here, he’ll say the same thing!”, was often added to her rebuttal in order to add emphasis.

“Why?” Justin would ask sweeter and sweeter each time in response.

 “Because it’s too dangerous and it looks like it won’t even float” was her standard reply.

“We can fix it, I know we can!” Justin implored. “We can borrow the motor from the dingy and Grandpa even said that he’ll help us. Please!” Justin begged to her this time, using everything he had. Justin always felt that if his grandfather was in the equation, that she would soften. Unfortunately, in reality, it rarely helped.“Absolutely not!” was the reply once again and Justin called a temporary truce.Justin had just about quit and the phone rang.  It was Chris.

“My Dad says we can bid on it if we want and he even gave me an extra $20 to make sure we win!” his friend blurted out.

“Great!” Justin said sarcastically. “You’ll have a nice boat and I can watch you from the shore!”

“What?” Said Chris, “They won’t let you go in on it with me?”

“Nope, my mom says it’s too dangerous and that it won’t even float.” Justin said rolling his eyes at the dog.

“What about your dad?” Chris said with a tone of disbelief. “He said no too? Hold on….” and a few moments passed while Justin doodled a picture of the hydroplane on the pad that was always present on the kitchen desk with at least one hundred writing utensils in the jar behind the phone.

Chris came back on the line with a hurried voice. “My Dad wants to talk to your mom, is she home?”

“Yes, hold on, I’ll get her.” Justin said.

“No, no, he’s going to come over and talk to her and I’m coming with him. We’ll be right there.” he shouted as Justin could tell that the phone was being put down.

Justin hung up too and went quickly into the kitchen where Mrs. Lotowski was cleaning some cucumbers for dinner.

“Mr. Winslow wants to come over and talk to you about the boat. He’s on his way” Justin said knowing that his mother was not someone to be charmed into too many things. At least not this abruptly.

“Great!” said his mother in the same sarcastic tone that Justin used with Chris. “Once again, I’m the overprotective mother denying you from doing anything fun. Who’s going to fix that thing up? Who’s going to make sure you don’t kill yourselves? Your father’s never around and when he is we have other things to do than help you try to dismember yourself or even worse, get killed!.” And with that she put down the cucumber and the knife and took off her apron and went into the living room to await Chris’s father, Patrick.

Suddenly, Justin became optimistic, not having heard her say one more “Absolutely not”. He knew his mother very well and he could feel that the ice had cracked; he could tell.

Jane knew that she was going to have a hard time saying no to Patrick. She had a lot of respect for him and he was always very nice, especially to Justin. Patrick Winslow was a very successful businessman that was teaching at Harvard Business School and although he appeared to be a soft-spoken southerner, she knew that he was a rigid taskmaster with his boys and that he lived the motto of “work hard, play hard”. He had met and married his wife Dagmar while attending Oxford but had postponed the wedding for a year until he attempted his swim across the English Channel. Dagmar was a German born aristocrat whose family had lost much during the war but certainly not their pride. Although Mrs. Winslow and Jane were very friendly when they met at social functions, they rarely socialized with each other except when it involved the boys.

As Jane saw the Winslow station wagon round the bend on Ocean View Ave, she already knew that she was going to cave in. The second that she heard the tires crunching on the gravel as the car pulled up in front of the house it was over. Patrick jumped out of his car with a huge smile on his face as if it were all a big joke. He must have thought at first that swaying Jane was going to be a challenge but to Patrick, there was nothing he liked more than a good challenge.

“Jaaaane!” Patrick said as he came around the back of the car with his arms out as if to embrace a long lost relative.

“Hello Patrick” Jane replied although she kept a stiff posture while he embraced her, trying to stop herself from blurting out her concession without even a fight.

“The boys want to bid on that hydroplane up at Freedom Hall and Chris tells me that you don’t think it’s a good idea” What could be wrong with two young men wanting a shot at fixing up an old boat? I admire their enthusiasm, you should too.”

“I haven’t even had a chance to talk it over with James. He’s been doing rounds all day and he hasn’t returned my page.” But as she said this the tone of her voice gave away her less than stalwart position.

“So you’re open to it?” Patrick probed with his smile widening with each word.

“I don’t like making decisions without James.” She said glumly, but Justin knew that she had said no without even consulting her husband so why couldn’t she say yes? Justin wanted to tell Mr. Winslow that his mother was a liar, but he figured that he was making such solid ground now that he would just leave it alone.

“I’m sure James would say yes.” Patrick continued. “They didn’t have hydroplanes like this back in Brooklyn I bet.”

Hearing those words, Justin thought to himself that Mr. Liles was going right for the jugular. Chris had once told Justin that at a cocktail party after a few scotches, Justin’s dad told Chris’ dad how he always wanted to give his son all the things that he didn’t have growing up in Brooklyn. Naturally, Patrick knowing this, he must have figured that this would be a good place to start and probably to end and it was.

“Driving a hydroplane would sure be a lot more fun than stick ball” he said as he swung his arms like a batter but immediately realized that he had played his hand just a little too far when Jane made a small grimace and turned towards Justin. Patrick knew that Jane admired her husband for what he had achieved but he also knew that she loathed any time that the conversation revolved too much around her husband’s inner-city roots.

Patrick realized that he had made his point and decided that he was finished with this course of attack.

“I really don’t want that thing in our yard!” said Jane and now Justin knew that Mr. Winslow was a saint. She had thrown in a caveat but was no longer saying no.

“Those boys will drag that thing here, tear it apart and leave it as a huge eyesore only to have us pay to have it hauled away at the end of the summer.” As she said this she pointed her arms to the backyard with a back and forth motion as if the entire yard would be transformed into a junkyard as a result of the boys’ efforts.

“Not to worry!” Patrick chimed in. “It’ll go in the unfinished part of our basement. I’ll oversee the rehabilitation project and I’ll test it out before either of the boys ever sets foot in it. It will be a good project for them. Something to give them a real sense of accomplishment, something to write their college essays about” And with that the deal was sealed.

Patrick was, after all, on the admissions board for Harvard. If anyone knew about good college essays, it was Patrick Winslow. Maybe it would make for a good college essay Jane thought, and it might make for a good story to tell her friends in New Jersey, provided the kids don’t kill themselves.

With that, she nodded her head in agreement and Justin ran up to her and almost gave her the biggest hug of his life. In stead, he stopped only inches away from her, looked up at her with a huge smile and said “Thanks mom!” and turned to Chris and ran up to him and they jumped in each others arms with a celebratory “Yeah man!” and then ran to Mr. Winslow and began talking excitedly about their plans.

The day of the auction had come and gone and much to Justin and Chris’s surprise, no one else had even bid on the boat. They ended up getting it for only ten dollars and as if the car had been made to carry her, the boat fit perfectly into the back of the Winslow’s station wagon and it was theirs.

For the next few weeks the boys worked on the boat every day. They peeled old fiberglass, replaced rotten wooden ties that Mr. Winslow would cut for them and then they proceeded to re-fiberglass the entire boat from stem to stern.

It was during these long hours of working together on the boat that Justin and Chris become lifelong friends. Making decisions about the boat, imagining how fast they might go, talking about what the girls would think and then, the all-important decision, what to name her.

It didn’t take long until the two had decided upon “The Baby Budweiser”. With thoughts of the famous Ms. Budweiser on one hand and the two boys’ affinity towards the real thing on the other, the name seemed perfect.

They painted her red white and black, just like the professional boat and put lettering on each side that they bought at Sears in Hyannis putting all 13 letters on both sides of the deck close to the cockpit.

And so she was christened, but not before Mr. Winslow had spend at least an hour zipping across Shoestring bay making sure the craft was seaworthy and at the same time making the boys anxious as he would tease them coming close to shore only to turn back for another run.

Upon coming into shore for the last time, Mr. Winslow had his regular military style grimace on and began lecturing the boys about safety in his military style voice even before he had gotten out of the boat. It was obvious that he was proud of what the two “young men” as he immediately began calling them, had accomplished together.

Patrick knew that these summertime friends would be friends for a lifetime and patted both Chris and Justin on the backs with a heartfelt “Good Job Men!” and the two boys couldn’t wait until they could take her out but Justin knew that he had to get home and Chris was kind enough to not want to go if Justin wasn’t there.

So, the two “young men” put the boat back on the Skiff trailer that Justin’s father had let them use and took her back to the Winslow’s house where she sat alongside the garage, like a prize beyond anything Justin could have ever imagined. Not just a boat, not just fast boat, but a boat that he and his best friend had built together. A tiny craft that had been nearly thrown into the junk heap was now a pristine vessel thanks to their efforts, a vessel was built to carry them off as friends, far further than to just the ends of Shoestring Bay.

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