Roger pulled out a chair from the iron-mesh table, put down his plate of fish and chips and his glass, and he sat. Francis did the same. Together they looked upon the Gulf of Georgia Cannery and the ice house, from the patio of a restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf. Both of the buildings were painted white with red trim. They were no longer in operation, but when fishermen walked up from the wharf and on to shore, what they saw was the cannery. They saw the vacant ice house, and the broad and open streets of Steveston. The restaurant was down a staircase from the main boardwalk, and was empty except for the two men, the bartender and the waitress. The draught that came in off the water was cold and irritating, and it brought with it the smells from the docks. The bartender was wiping down the counters and the waitress was counting her tips at a table inside. They were closing up early, but music still played from a pair of speakers on the patio.
“Best fish and chips in the lower mainland.”
“I’ll make that call for myself,” Francis said. He cut off a piece.
Roger wiped his chin. “This salmon,” he said. “It melts in your mouth like butter.”
They ate. Francis washed his mouthful down with a sip of the beer.
“How’s Lisa?” Roger asked. “How is she?”
“Oh,” Francis said, “she’s a whirlwind.”
“Is that right?”
“It is,” he said. “I walked in on her the other day doing a twisted thing. She was sitting at her vanity with one hand spread out, stabbing at the spaces between her fingers with a pair of scissors. It was the pair she uses to cut my hair.”
“What did you do?”
“I took the scissors from her.” Francis held his fork and knife in his fist. He raised them up. “I just took them and I put them away.” He put the fork and knife down.
“Lisa doesn’t strike me as the kind of person to injure herself.”
“She isn’t. Turns out she’s got pretty good aim.”
Winter had not yet conceded to spring in the Gulf of Georgia. The sun stayed behind clouds. The boardwalk was a weathered grey, and so were many of the buildings and wooden constructions around them, all of it being dampened by the air and the rain.
The two men sat and ate. They wore tennis shoes and crewneck shirts and combed their hair to opposite sides, though no one direction looked better than the other.
“I’m going to buy you a hot shave,” Roger said. “Let me do that for you. Your beard is making me uncomfortable. It’s unnerving.”
“I can shave myself, thanks.”
Roger crossed his legs to the side of the table. “Can you go to the washroom and do it now?”
“Get me another drink, will you?” Francis asked him.
“What are you taking?”
“Get me one of everything.”
Roger went inside the restaurant. Francis watched him at the bar, speaking to the bartender. He came back with two beers and a bowl of pretzels.
“I’d like to buy a boat,” Roger said, sitting down. “I don’t know how to sail. Forget sailing.”
Francis picked a pretzel from the bowl and put it on the table in front of him.
“I’d like to have a boat docked here in the village, just to sleep in some nights,” Roger went on. “It could be just that easy.”
“What good’s a boat if you aren’t going to sail it?”
“A boat’s just a thing, Frank,” he said.
Francis wasn’t paying attention. He was looking at the sea.
Roger dropped his fork and knife. “I’m trying to have a talk with you,” he said.
Francis turned back to him. “Fine,” he said. “I asked you a question, then. What’s a boat for if you aren’t going to sail it?”
Roger picked the fork back up, took a piece of fish and put it in his mouth. “It’s something to have,” he said. “Like anything else.”
A seagull walked the railing beside their table. Its feathers had turned off-white, and its beak was a dull orange. Francis threw a fried potato over the railing for it to eat, and the bird followed it down into the water that was calm against the docks and the seawall. All of Steveston was keeping still, keeping quiet, except the gulls that circled the two men on the patio with their wings spread, crying out to one another, and the sea that turned in and out of the Gulf of Georgia.
Francis looked inside the restaurant. The waitress was behind the bar with the bartender. They were close. He tucked her bangs in behind one ear. He smoothed out her eyebrow with his thumb and he kissed her. Then she left him behind the bar.
She came outside and approached their table. “We’re closing up,” she said. She was young with bright eyes.
“We’ll have two rye and waters,” Roger said.
“You close at seven.”
“We’re closing early today.”
“The hell you are.”
“Roger,” Francis said.
Roger looked to him, and then he turned to the girl and said, “We’ll have those drinks.”
She went back inside the restaurant. Francis watched her through the window again, talking to the bartender. He looked out at them.
The bartender came outside with the drinks, held them in each hand. “Rye and water,” he said. He looked at Roger, and then he looked at Francis. He placed the drinks in front of them.
Roger drank his down.
Francis went to take a sip, but stopped. “I want to put my feet in the ocean,” he said.
“What did you say?”
Francis put his glass down. “I want to put my feet in the ocean.”
“Go and do it then. Water’s all around us.”
“There’s no good place to do it.”
“I know a park a couple blocks up. There’s a beach there. We could do it.”
Roger stood up and extended a hand to Francis, who was not about to go anywhere, his arms taking well to the curves of the chair.
“Stand up,” Roger said.
“You hear this music?” Roger asked. “This is dancing music.”
Roger grabbed Francis by the arm and pulled him out of the chair. “We’re going to put our feet in the ocean,” he said. “I’m going to teach you how to dance.” He took Francis’ hand in his and grabbed hold of his side. Then they rocked from foot to foot.
“This is a two-step,” Roger said. “Try it out. Just try it.”
“I don’t know,” Francis said.
“I’m going to teach you. All you do is you move,” Roger said. “You move as you feel you should be moving. It’s not any harder than it has to be,” he said.
They were dancing now, stepping in little circles, each man with an arm around the other, and shifting their weight from side to side.
“It’s easy, isn’t it? It’s like driving an automatic. There’s nothing to think about. You don’t even have to try.”
Francis focused on those words, and the hand of the other man resting on his side. Then he concentrated on his steps, touching them down, one at a time.
About the Author: Curtis LeBlanc is a writer and musician currently residing in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was born and raised in St. Albert, Alberta. His writing has appeared in various publications, and is upcoming in Sport Literate (Fall, 2013). Follow him @soupfromthecan.
Story Song: "Space Jam (The Return)" by Castevet