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TALES FROM THE CARRIBEAN

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"Pop, wake up," exclaimed Dave, "We're headed into the Port of Fort Lauderdale."

The captain rubbed his eyes and began to look for the pre-paid cell phone to call a towboat. Most captains would've made the trip from the U.S.V.I.s to Florida in three or four weeks, but Dave and his Dad did it in less than a week—the record time was testimony to their sailing; navigation skills, intimate knowledge of currents and endurance. It took a while to find the phone and call the towing service so, Dave tacked back and forth outside the entrance to the harbor.

The diesel engine on the Flying Circus had frozen into one solid, chunk of cast iron two hurricanes ago and it was long overdue for a new motor. After his engine stopped working, the captain sailed on and off his mooring ball and in a pinch, he used his dinghy for a tugboat, but the fast rip currents and winding journey through the inner coastal waterway up stream to the New River Marina would require a more powerful tow. Before long, the towboat arrived and they began the last leg of their journey. When they reached the marina the towboat driver tossed them the towline and the captain paid him with a wad of crumpled up cash he kept in the pockets of his thread--bare kaki shorts.

The Marina manager, who looked more pirate than manager shuffled down to the dock and made arrangements for the travel lift to dry dock the Flying Circus. It cost 500 dollars up front; 200 dollars a day yard fees and the travel lift would have to be reserved three days in advance and another 500-dollar fee would be charged if the boat wasn't ready on launch day. The captain shoved another wad of cash in the manager's hand and told him to get on with it.

Whenever a sail boat is hauled out, by the time all is said and done with, it usually costs about a thousand dollars a day because everything at the marina costs three times more than normal, but it's nevertheless three times cheaper than doing a haul out in the islands.

While the captain attended to matters in the yard Dave called a cab and took it to a car lot to buy a used truck. Although Dave was young and looked naive he was a shrewd buyer—his father-the captain, his grandfather Paul and great grandfather Clyde were shrewd buyers and so was he. The cab pulled up to a large car lot and dropped him off. Dave paid the cab driver with a wad of wrinkled cash from his kaki shorts and he began to closely scrutinize the rows of trucks while the owner of the car lot scrutinized him. Dave eyeballed the body panels; looked for rust and paint blisters, tell tail re-painting and the condition of the suspension, brakes, exhaust system and etc.

When the owner came out to shake Dave's hand, he looked like he was prepared to eat a big slice of watermelon sideways-he smiled from ear to ear.

"I can put you in that truck for a thousand down and a few hundred a month," he said. Dave interrupted him, "You won't put me in that truck at any price. It's a piece of junk! Got any that hasn't been wrecked?" "Well let me show you this beauty over here, it belonged to retired guy who suddenly died and after that his widow never drove it--it's a peach." "Maybe a rotten peach?" scoffed Dave, "That one's crap too, the frame is bent and the exhaust system is hanging down."

"Well first things first," said the salesman. "Come on in the office, how long have you had your drivers license? We need to run a credit check and see what you can afford. But that's what I'm here for, I want to put you in the right vehicle."

"You're here to make money off of me and I don't care squat about your credit check. I'm a cash buyer and if we can't deal in cash then say so right now and stop wasting my time," insisted Dave.

"Well, let's not be nasty," said the salesman. "It might be possible to work out a cash deal, but you know, of course, there's a federal form we must fill out whenever a purchase exceeds 10,000 dollars."

"That shouldn't be a problem," insisted Dave. "I haven't seen anything on your lot that's worth 10,000 dollars."

"Whoa, wait a minute, let's start over again. I mistook you for a first time buyer, but now that we understand each other, how much do you have to spend?"

"That's the wrong question," exclaimed Dave. "You should ask me what sort of vehicle I'm looking for and then tell me how much cash it will take to buy it. I didn't come here to make friends, this is business?"

"Well," said the salesman exactly what are you looking for?" "I'm looking for a low mileage heavy-duty ¼ ton truck that hasn't been wrecked. What about that one parked next to the office over there?"

"That one is not for sale," insisted the salesman. "That's my personal truck."

"Come on Pal, everything you have is for sale. You'd probably sell your wife and daughter too if the price was right," scoffed Dave. "How much for the truck?"

"Well, maybe if the price was right, I might sell that truck," stuttered the salesman, "but not my wife and daughter."

"Well, sir," said Dave, "I have gold, so we would have to figure out how much cash you're going to give me plus that truck."

"What sort of gold?" inquired the salesman.

"Look," said Dave, as he pulled a gold escudo from his pocket, "I'm not from around here. I am visiting my grandmother in Ft. Lauderdale. She's terminally ill and I need something to drive until she passes. I found this gold coin diving on a shipwreck a while back. At the gold exchange in St. Thomas, three weeks ago, after they looked at the date, condition and the Monk's Mark on it, they estimated its value 18,000 U.S. dollars and since then, gold has went up."

"I'll tell you what," said Dave, "I'll give you 4,000 dollars for your truck and you give me 14,000 dollars cash in the exchange?"

"The salesman was speechless because he was so far removed from his routine sales pitch that he didn't know what to say. "Let me think about it," stuttered the salesman.

"You better think quick," said Dave, as he called his Dad on the cell phone.

"Pop, do you still have that Columbian car dealer's card and phone number in Miami?"

"Whoa wait a minute," said the salesman. "I thought we were still dealing here. Let's be professional about this. If you double your offer and give me 8,000 dollars for my Toyota truck, I'll give you 10,000 dollars cash, but first, of course, my guys would have to appraise that coin."

"That's highway robbery," insisted Dave. "You ought to get yourself a ski mask and a gun. How about if we split the difference. I'll take the truck for six thousand and you give me 12,000 dollars cash and your appraisal guys better get here pretty soon because I promised granny that I'd be right back."

"Don't forget," said Dave, "that includes a paper license plate and you'll have to give me a phone number here where I can buy insurance."

"You drive a hard bargain kid," said the salesman.

"Not as hard as you do, Pal, but I'm in a hurry and whenever I'm in a hurry good deals are never around. Furthermore, I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell everybody how bad you beat me on this deal," insisted Dave.

"My lips are sealed," said the salesman.

"I'll bet they are," said Dave.

The appraisers showed up, the papers were signed and Dave drove off the lot with a red ¼ ton Toyota pickup truck with a crew cab and 120 neatly folded 100 dollar bills stuffed in his kaki shorts. The appraisers were at first skeptical because there was no paperwork with the coin other than the recent appraisal slip from the Gold Exchange. The dealers wanted to know if he had any more gold coins, but Dave played it close to his vest and insisted that he only found that one coin.

When Dave returned to the Marina his Dad was on deck but he was asleep and so Dave strung his hammock and they both took a well-deserved rest. The tropical birds were all singing when he awoke and it was still an hour before daylight. The boat yard was silent and nobody was moving—a perfect time to transfer the wooden boxes of treasure from their hiding place in the Flying Circus to the newly purchased truck. Dave backed the truck under the boat's deck and pulled back the tarp covering the bed. They used a jury-rigged boom with a block and tackle to raise the treasure boxes from the cabin and lower them into the bed of the pickup truck where they were secured and then covered by the truck's tarp. They drove away from the marina leaving the Flying Circus shored up by several heavy timbers--they were on their way to breakfast. It was too early to call Sanibel Island so they ate a hearty breakfast before they began their journey to the other side of the state where they could begin the appraising process for the treasure. There were several missed messages on their cell phones from Big Jessie and it was time to call him too.

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John Stark
About This Author
The author of the "Tales from the Caribbean" fictional column. He attended school at Waynedale Elementary, Maplewood, Elmhurst HS in the Waynedale area. John had 25 years of professional writing experience when he passed away in 2012.
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