Rick Boyer: Billingsgate Shoal

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    Billingsgate Shoal
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"The board of directors of Wheel-Lock met this rnorning. They are going to sell the company to an Arab consortium-"

"The Decline of the West…" I intoned.

"-and they looked at the offers the realtor presented to them. Ours was fine… but the Hare Kristna's was a good deal better."

"I can't stand it," said Joe.

There was a glum silence. I told the would-be syndicate to follow me. We arrived in my small, book-lined study in a few moments' time. I turned on the double brass student lamp.

"Do not despair, friends," I began.

"Can I have another drink?" asked Joe.

"… because as I look around me at the warm faces of friends and loved ones-"

'Are you going to the bar? Make mine a double, OK?"

"-I seem to see a new ray of hope."

"I'm gonna throw up."

"Mary, would you please remove that big green book from the shelf behind you?"

"Which one, Charlie?" '

"The Golden Bough, of course."

She removed the tome.

"Now stick your hand in behind the space."

She drew out a weighty hunk of Au. I directed her to place it on my desk, where we could all gaze at it.

Joe was indignant.

"Dammit, Charlie, I searched you after you'd sealed the place up, remember? It was a joke at the time… actually, you suggested it. I frisked you. You were clean."

I fondled the little darling on my leather-topped desk. I patted it… massaged it.

"I wanted you to search me, to determine I was absolutely free of any illegal metal. What you didn't know, my friend, is that I pulled a little prestidigitation while you were upstairs."

"I'm told that can cause blindness," said Janice.

"What happened?" asked Mary.

"When Joe went upstairs, and out, to clear his dizzy head, I slipped one of the ingots out of the tunnel and placed it in the cellar hallway right near the wall. When Joe came back after I'd cranked the doorway shut, I insisted he search me to make sure the treasure within was intact. But on the way back upstairs I accidentally-on-purpose stumbled, fell in the darkness, and slipped the piece of bullion into my coat. Limping on the way out helped disguise the fact that it is pretty damn heavy."

"Why, since you made such a big stink about being strictly legal?"

"Because I wanted to be legal. But just in case some unforeseen event, like a bunch of Hare Krishnas buying the place right out from under our noses, occurred, I would still have a piece of it."

"Are we going to split this up?'? asked Joe, rubbing his hands.

"No. A big portion of the proceeds is going to Sarah Hart. We're all bitching and moaning because we're not millionaires. Don't forget there's a very nice lady with her only child killed."

Nobody said a word.

"And don't forget poor Katherine Murdock," said Joe softly.

"Uh huh. She's going to get a cut too, at least enough to help pay off Danny's debts. I'm sorry I can't do the same for the Heeney kid. I don't help killers."

"Don't we get anything?" demanded DeGroot.

"Yeah. I figure we all deserve to split the remainder, whatever it is."

But Tom Costello begged off, saying he'd done nothing to earn it.

"You lose any money by putting up your hunk?"

"Yeah some, but-"

"Whatever the loss was, we'll double it… fair enough everybody?"

They all agreed.

"The problem now is that Mary and I have prepared a victory banquet. To wit; roast rack of lamb, prawns in lemon and butter, Caesar salad, asparagus in hollandaise-"

"And so on. Would you care to stay'?"

And so we feasted heartily. Then, during the very middle of the meal, we all started laughing uncontrollably.

"Those goddamn shave heads," giggled DeGroot, "sitting there in that mansion eating raw spinach and chanting all day long… dead set against materialism… strong vows of poverty… poverty. And right below them sits five million bucks!"

He laughed the laugh of a hero in a Jean-Paul Sartre book. ”

Tom Costello rose solemnly and raised his wineglass.

"We must all swear-on our lives-to keep mum. Sooner or later those orange-robed crazies will want to move;.. then we pounce and buy the place…"

"Hear, hear! Here's to the vow of silence, and honor among thieves!"

"Hear, hear!"

In the center of the table sat the golden ingot and the crank key. We were parting with neither.

After the guests all left, at l A.M., I cradled Mary on my lap. We were watching the remains of a late movie. I kissed her.

"How'd you like to slip into something more comfortable?" I asked.

"Like a garter belt?"


I awoke and looked out the window. It was gray and cold out, and would probably rain soon. I heard the pneumatic thump-thump of a basketball being dribbled. Jack and Tony were shooting lay-ups in the turnaround.

"Is Tony clean yet?" I asked Mary, who'd just awakened.

"Don't ask me, I haven't tried him."

"What's for dinner?"

"Don't you ever let up about dinner, Charlie?"

"I just wanna know."

"Tuna Surprise."

"Tuna Surprise? That had better be a joke. And also, it's in extremely poor taste."

She flumped over and began to settle into sleep again. I stroked her a bit.


"Oh c'mon, Charlie. I jus' wanna… zzzzz…"

I looked out at the two strapping lads playing ball. They thumped it against the asphalt driveway, leapt and parried, shot and blocked, spun and danced under the hoop.

I was happy.

I wanted to take the instant, the entire situation, and freeze it . I wanted to dip it in liquid nitrogen and put it in Plexiglas, and keep it on my mantel. Only I, and everyone else in the scene, would be inside it, frozen, and we'd never change.

The puppy jumped up at Tony, and he smacked her on the snoot, then petted her. She bowed down in a half-crouch and let out a shrill bark.

But of course you cannot. You cannot stop it. The Great Going On continues, stops for no one. And the Great Going On is what gives life all its terror and sadness, but also all its joy and beauty. It's what makes us enjoy and appreciate now.

Mary stirred and nestled into the crook of my arm.

It began to rain. The boys whooped and ran inside.

And then it poured.

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