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A Character Study

By Mary Crum


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The local barber shop was the epitome of local color, and Lisa loved to visit there when she had a lot of free time. Roy, the barber, and the regulars, retired gentlemen, were friendly to young women and full of stories. When they saw her taking notes, most would start stories that never seemed to end and often went off on tangents. Although well meaning, most of the data Lisa gathered was so full of holes that it lacked credulity.

Asking for advice also proved very time consuming. Everyone had a different opinion and long debates would follow that were better off avoided. One thing they all agreed upon, to Lisa's surprise, was to "See the fella that has the Gravy Boat", when she asked for someone she could hire to take her on a tour around the channel islands.

Frank, Lisa's brother, had heard of James McGarvey but knew little about him. To the best of his knowledge, Mac, was a loner, who spent most of his time in his boat. "It's hard to tell how old he is, that beard he wears gets in the way of really seeing his face," Frank had said, "The time I saw him, he was just leaving the post office, and his face was tough to see 'cause he was lookin' at a newspaper. Give Mrs. Addams a call, if you really want to know about him. She knows everything about anybody around here."

A quick call to the town hall, and Mrs. Addams, the town clerk, quelled any fears that Lisa might have had about James McGarvey. He apparently was a fair-weather member of the Lutheran church that Mrs. Addams attended, and although she didn't know much about his past, she honestly felt he was "an okay sort of guy".

So planning book in hand, and dressed in jeans and a short-sleeved pink t-shirt, Lisa approached the door of the address Mrs. Addams had given her for Mac, and put on her best newsreporter demeanor. A jumble of noises was coming from the kitchen door when she knocked. A blender was being pulsed on and off, a recording of classical music was trumpeting through the house, and an alarm similar to a timer was going off. When there was no response to her knock, Lisa pounded harder on the door frame until Mac finally heard her.

Busy preparing supper, Mac looked up when Lisa's knock was finally audible over the din of noise in his kitchen. Grabbing a towel, he quickly dried his hands, and then ran his long lean fingers through his hair.He gingerly approached the door and slid his gaze over the figure outside. Always pleased to see a young woman, his mouth broke out in a wide smile and he greeted her in his comfortable Texas drawl, "Hullo there, sweetheart, what can I do for you?" Mac called every woman Sweetheart until he learned their names. He found that most women didn't mind and it was easy to remember.

Doing a quick perusal through the screen door, Lisa saw a large man, at least six-foot three approaching her. He wore cut off blue jeans, over darkly tanned heavily-muscled legs, and a grey t-shirt sporting a Dallas Cowboys logo. The famous beard he was reported to have, was nearly a foot long and jet black in color. Although black as well, his eyebrows weren't imposing, but rather accentuated his dark brown eyes. The hair around his face gave him a somewhat foreboding appearance, but the wide grin on his lips softened his overall look.

Still maintaining a business-like posture, Lisa responded to his question with another, "Are you James McGarvey?"

"Last time I checked, Sweetheart, " Mac replied with a grin. He recognized sincere eyes in the face of this lovely lady and was curious about her business here.

He had a voice that dripped with the south, but she wasn't sure exactly what part. "Do you own a boat called the Gravy boat?" she asked again trying to keep her cool.

"Yes ma'am. Is there a problem?" James asked while opening the screen-door and walking out on the high deck that served as an entrance to his home. "Oh, no, not a problem. You've been recommended to me by some of the people around here, and I was wondering if I could hire you to take me out on your boat to see those islands." Turning away from Mac, Lisa pointed out the islands in the distance while explaining her mission.

While she turned, Mac did a quick perusal of Lisa's profile, and decided that he liked how she looked. Reflexively he quickly glanced at her left hand and didn't see a wedding ring. That was a very good sign. Though not in the habit of hiring out his boat, he concluded that a boat ride with her could prove to be very interesting. He decided to find out more about this visitor and responded thoughtfully and slowly with, "Well that depends on a lot of things. Like, how many people do you want me to take? How long do you want to be out there? What are you looking for? When do you want to go? And finally, Sweetheart, what's your name?"

"Well, my name definitely isn't Sweetheart," Lisa said in response to his chauvinistic nickname for her. "My name is Lisa Sullivan and I want to go by myself, as soon as possible, for however long it takes to see just what is in and around those islands."

Catching the slightly offended manner in her answer Mac replied, "I didn't mean to offend you, Ma'am. It's just a habit of mine, no slur intended, and if we can come to an agreement on the price I'm sure I can help you out."

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