The engine came on and the boat turned to head back toward the dock in Fremont. The people on deck gathered into smaller groups and started chatting. I stood alone until S. came over and asked me to help her with her camera. The memory card was full and she wanted to free up some room by deleting pictures. She didn’t want to go through each picture one at a time though, she wanted to delete them in small batches.
She gave the camera to me and I started exploring the menus.
“Do you think it would be appropriate to take pictures at the barbecue?” S. asked.
“I’m sure it would be alright,” I answered.
The camera screen said “Delete all? Y/N” and I froze up, afraid to do anything. “It may only be possible to delete them all at once or one at a time,” I told her. “What kind of media card does it use? I can loan you mine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I think I have an extra one. I’ll just stop at home to pick it up.”
She asked if I’d met her mother. Her mother had recently moved to Seattle. She has heart problems and had just been in the hospital, but it wasn’t serious. She’d only fallen and had a bruise under one of her eyes.
S.’s mother came over just then and S. introduced us. She explained who I was, and I felt oddly pleased by each of the two or three things she said, though they were all benign.
[When I’d arrived at the dock earlier, there were just a few people waiting outside. I knew one of them, an old coworker. I walked over and said hello. I sat down next to her, and she said, “Remind me what your name is?”]
S.’s mother told us an anecdote about something that had happened earlier in the day.
This story left both S. and I a little perplexed. It wasn’t that it was an especially confusing story, it was just unexpected.
S. hesitated, then something clicked into place in her head and she said, “Oh, mom. Are you talking about The Family Feud? I love you.”
“They say the craziest things on that show.”
“I guess that without Richard Dawson, they have to spice up the show somehow,” I said.
“Richard Dawson. He was kind of creepy, wasn’t he?” S. said. “Always groping contestants,” and she mimed groping as she was saying the word.
[Later, at the barbecue, I was talking to people in the kitchen. Someone asked, “How about that hail earlier?”
“I didn’t see any hail. I guess it missed me.”
Then from behind me, someone said, “Jeffrey? Can you reach the trash from there?”
I turned around. S.’s mother was sitting there at a table holding a paper plate out toward me.
I hesitated, “…Of course.”]
S. and her mom went back into the cabin and I headed to a corner to join two friends.
We were just passing a rusty old tugboat. I pointed it out to them and said, “That’s my boat.”
They stopped talking, looked at the boat and then at me.
“I’m sorry. I interrupted.”
“No. That’s alright. We were wondering where you were. We were only talking about Babies or Marriage or Childbirth.” She said one of those things, I don’t remember which.
Just a few minutes before, we’d watched a friend scatter her husband’s ashes into the water. Five handfuls and then she tipped the tin and shook the last bit out.