Rich heard Oaks knock on the side of the cabin at 6:59 AM. Rich darted up the companionway.
“Ahoy,” Oaks said.
“Ahoy, and welcome aboard,” Rich said.
Rich invited Oaks below. They ate breakfast and Rich told him of his plans to sail around the island. The meal took on a personal tone. Oaks spoke of his poor and humble background from a coal mining town in eastern Kentucky. He related with pride his beginnings; he entered the Marines at age 18, he was an unmerciful target of jokes for his backwoods ways and hillbilly twang. That spurred him on to college, rid his accent, and pursue a career as a Marine officer.
By 8:10 they and The Odyssey cleared the bay and harnessed a good wind pushing them on a clockwise trek around the island. Although Oaks was not familiar with the intricacies of sailing, he was an eager participant. He enjoyed the physical demands and mental challenges.
After two hours of adjusting and maneuvering with Rich offering instruction and information, they sat relaxed in the cockpit and allowed The Odyssey to sail free.
“Good God,” Oaks said. “I love this.”
“I’m here to tell you right now,” Rich said, “you’re not going awol to sail along with me, although you would be a good mate.”
“You feel that way after the way I first treated you?” Oaks said.
“Sure,” Rich said, “because I saw a man who would swim through treacherous waters, defend a man’s right to be a whatever he chooses, run into a burning building to pull out anybody in peril, or lay his life on the line for nothing more than that others might live. You can hate me, but how could I hate you?”
“You see,” Oaks said, “after I served in Korea, I applied for a special program; the Marines sent me to a prestigious school for an additional six years of service. I chose Harvard. I mean, why the not. I’d rather not make it at Harvard than Slippery Rock. Anyway, can you imagine how repulsive I must have looked to those kids who came from homes with gates, brick walls, maids, butlers, and gardeners? When I left home our water came from a pump a good distance from the outhouse. On top of that, I had to collect body parts to make up a corpse and those kids convulsed at the mere thought of eating soup from a can. Marine boot camp was a waltz in the moonlight compared to putting up with that crap.”
“White, my old boss and the guy after me,” Rich said, “Harvard.”
“Sam White?” Oaks said.
“You know him?” Rich said.
“Not really,” Oaks said, “I heard the name; a professor when I was there, well-liked.”
“Small world,” Rich said.
Oaks chuckled. “Tell me that after you’re done sailing around it.”
It was pleasant sailing the whole way around the island. There was one thing; Rich felt on the entire cruise, Oaks was holding something back.