Slow boat

Two or three days a week he reads the paper out of doors, no matter the weather.  Perched at one of the tables overlooking the water, he drinks coffee out of a battered plastic mug. With a duct-taped handle, it is big enough to have come from a gas station, years before. Sometimes he acknowledges other customers, hustling in and out of the cafe’s warmth. Other days he is engrossed in tiny print, the paper held close in front of his eyes.

Wide brimmed hat and overalls on, he is always dressed for warmth. Sometimes he wears a puffy jacket, the kind that goes past the waist. Sometimes only a sweater, though with layers beneath.

The cafe owners know everyone’s story, from the office workers to the dock hands. They know the sheriff whose skiff has a special motorized lift, the lawyer whose wife took the house in the divorce and who now lives on his boat. They must know the story of this man, in his layers reading the newspaper, strangely cordial with the dentist and men in suits that also occupy these tables in warmer weather.

His beard is white and big, bristly and a little wavy. Not thick and curly, broom like, each fiber having a visible strength. Beneath the hat and above the beard his cheeks are weathered, eyes hard to read. A lot of time out of doors, they say.

“My home doesn’t have a motor,” he tells a passer by one day, indicating one of the boats in the marina in front of him. “I just cast off and sit back, pretty soon I’m on my way somewhere.”

Some weeks he’s not there. Adrift somewhere down river, I imagine, on the long windy course to the bay.