The Dead Cannot Cry Out for Justice. The living must do it. Divine Fury. Chapter 20

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Chapter 20

When Sonia Moretti called from Australia and asked Lee if he knew of a good way to get a private boat on San Francisco Bay near Angel Island, the first person he thought of was Captain Nick.

He’d interviewed Captain Nick for a story about an epidemic in the Bay Area of the ridiculously overqualified. The idea for the story came after a week in which Lee discovered the plumber fixing his toilet, the masseuse who worked on his back every month and the cook at his favorite breakfast spot all had more than his own five years of college.  (“Advanced Degrees: The New Wallpaper?” read the headline.)

It didn’t take long for him to find dozens of people driving cabs, fixing windows and tuning pianos who had once been lawyers, top-tier accountants or PhD candidates in fields ranging from chemical engineering to linguistics.  He concluded that the trend wasn’t limited to the Bay Area.  But an abundance of colleges in the region plus Northern California’s culture of experimentation and reinvention fed the phenomenon.

Captain Nick, a burly man with shoulder-length blond hair under his captain’s hat, was within easy striking distance of a UC Berkeley doctorate in comparative literature when he chucked academia and bought a party fishing boat.  Lee interviewed him on his boat for the piece.  (“A PhD?” said the captain. “You can’t even wrap a fish in it!”)

Nick credited Lee’s article for an uptick in business and a somewhat exalted status for his vessel, the Red Snapper.  Now, while his passengers waited patiently along the sides of his drifting boat for a strike, Captain Nick treated them to dramatic readings over the Snapper’s PA system of Old Man and the Sea, Moby Dick and less famous novels dedicated to oceanic quests.  The Snapper had become known informally as the “Book Boat” on the waterfront.

As a favor, Captain Nick agreed to take Lee, Sonia, Scott Truman’s family and an urn containing Truman’s ashes out to Angel Island after he returned from the Snapper’s usual Saturday fishing excursion.  Truman’s family agreed to pay for the Snapper’s fuel.

It was after 5 pm when they congregated at the pier in Emeryville.  Lee met Sonia Moretti in person for the first time and it was easy to see why Truman had fallen for her.  She was stunning.  She was medium in height and stature and wore little makeup over her deep tan.  She was dressed casually.  Her medium-length chestnut hair was held back by a dark blue hair band.

Truman’s mother was short, plump, energetic and the clear dynamo of the family. She gave curt directions to her husband, a tall taciturn man, and a sullen son who looked to be just out of high school with a bad complexion and baseball cap worn backward.

The trip to Angel Island was a quick 15 minutes.  On the way, Moretti explained that before she left for Australia she and Scott Truman had spent a wonderful sunny day on the island, hiking, picnicking and making plans for the next year.  Afterward, he raved to everyone he knew that it had been the best day of his life.  He also was an avid sailor who loved the bay, crewing for anyone he came across who owned a sailboat.  His mother and Sonia had settled on the waters of San Francisco Bay off Angel Island as the perfect place to spread Scott’s ashes.

Captain Nick positioned the Snapper fifty yards off the island on the side where currents would pull it slowly away from it.  He turned off the engines and let the boat drift, riding up and down in the gentle waves.

Lee stood back as the other four passengers gathered along the rail facing the island that was orange-brown in the waning sun.

Truman’s mother opened the plastic cylindrical urn and handed it to Sonia.  Sonia held it in both hands for a moment, looked into it and then slowly poured some of the contents over the side of the Snapper into the water.

“I miss you so much, Scott,” she said, still holding the opened urn.  “I thought I’d spend my life with you.  You were wonderful.  It’s been the happiest time of my life.  I love you, Scott.”

She handed the urn to Mrs. Truman who first looked upward over the top of the island and then looked down again as she poured what remained in the urn slowly into the ocean.

“You made us proud, Scotty,” she said.  “It doesn’t seem fair.  I guess God has his reasons.  You were a wonderful son and brother.  I don’t…I don’t know what else to say.  It doesn’t seem like enough for a life.  A whole life.  We’ll always miss you, son.”

She set the urn down on the deck and turned to hug her other boy who broke down and sobbed loudly as he bent his head down to rest on her shoulder.  His arms hung limp.  She wrapped hers around him and repeated, “It’s okay…it’s okay…it’s okay…”

Truman’s father had moved to the side and dropped to his knees.  He gripped the rail tightly with both hands touching and his forehead resting on them.  Lee could see his entire body silently shaking as if he was trembling in the cold.

Sonia stood off to the other side on the left.  She stared at the island hugging herself and rocking with the motion of the boat.

Lee waited a minute and then stepped next to her.

“I lost someone I loved not too long ago,” he said.  “It’s hard to believe but it eventually gets better.  One day it just felt like I was coming out of the tunnel. And, it’s gotten better.  It just takes time.”

Sonia Moretti shifted her gaze to Lee and gave him a nod.  She tried a small smile but started weeping.  She wiped her eyes with her hand and turned away, back to Angel Island.

Lee left them and climbed up the stairs to the enclosed bridge where Captain Nick was standing behind the controls of the Snapper.

“Pretty intense, huh?” said Nick.

“Yeah,” said Lee.  “You could say that.”

“‘The dead cannot cry out for justice,’” said Captain Nick, deepening his voice into his best oratorical style. “‘It is a duty of the living to do so for them.’”

“Who said that?” said Lee.

“Lois McMaster Bujold.  Science-fiction writer.”

“Well.  She was right,” said Lee.  “Let’s go.”

Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

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