“Hey!” Carl yelled. The slender Vietnamese boy running down the sidewalk, shoelaces flapping, jerked his head around and stumbled, crashing into the trash can at the curb. Garbage spilled into the street.
Leaning forward Carl grasped the porch railing and pulled up from the wooden slat-back chair.
The boy struggled to his feet swiping detritus from his clothes. A spot of bright blood trickled from his nose coloring his chin. His dark liquid eyes screened a mixture of emotions: puzzlement, wariness, curiosity?
“Cum ‘eer” Carl beckoned, wriggling his fingers as he sat back down. When the boy approached he fished out a handkerchief, inspected it and tossed it to the kid. He looked about ten years old, maybe a little more but it was hard to tell. “It’s clean. You got a little blood fertilizing where your whiskers will be a growing. Use that towel over there to swipe off the trash, if you want to. What’s your name?”
“Boa.” The boy paused briefly, “My friends call me Peetee.” His dark eyes surveyed Carl and widened perceptibly when he saw Carl’s right leg was amputated beneath the knee. The partially completed cast net hanging from a hook on the ceiling did not escape his attention either.
“Peetee, I hollered ‘cause I feared you would step on your laces and bust your fanny. You were an accident waiting to happen. I guess I shouldn’t have distracted yuh. Didn’t anyone teach you how to keep those laces from coming undone?”
“No, sir. They always come loose.”
“Well, then, I’m gonna’ show you. Put a foot on this stool.” With a few deft touches Carl put a neat looking knot in the lace. “That’s called a Turquoise Turtle. It’s kind of a combination of a Square Knot and a Surgeon’s Knot. It won’t slip. You do the other shoe.”
Peetee had to be walked thorough it a time or two but he was a quick learner. “Did you make that funny name up Mr. …?
“It was named after a boutique where it was discovered” Carl replied. “Knots are important. Bad knots can cost you a leg. Most people are pretty ignorant of their usefulness.”
“My dad says I must learn to use them right on our shrimp boat. I know some of them.”
“I’ll tell you what, Peetee. After school, if your folks approve, I’ll show you how to tie ‘em good as a sailor. There are useful knots for holding everything from horses, to loads to wrapping packages, and decorative knots and knots to join lines and make things such as that net I’m working on.”
“Can you teach me how to make a Monkey’s Fist? Dad tried, but he doesn’t know how, either.”
“Piece of cake, mate. Just like that Ocean Braid Mat you’re parking on. Come back tomorrow, and I’ll have us something to work on.”
Peetee swiped his chin with the handkerchief and placed it on the table. “Thank you, Mister…”
“Call me Dutch – that’s what my shipmates did. I answer to ‘most anything.”
After Peetee left, jogging smoothly away with taut laces, Carl resumed working on the cast net, his hands working rhymetically on auto-pilot with his mind free floating.
Maybe Peetee will come back. He hoped so. He seemed a friendly bugger, and smart too. He might be a quick learner. But the real issue might be like a Gordian knot – unsolvable. Once tied, it couldn’t be untied. Alexander the Great’s claim to solving the problem was bunko. Anyone could cut the knot apart with a sword. I’ve done that, and know how the knot is made.
Carl knew Peetee’s family might not let the boy off the boat for anything but school. Tension was building in the community like a whistling tea pot with a fire under it. The way Carl saw it, the Vietnamese newcomers were trying to make a living same as everyone else. They were God’s children too, even if they looked different and ate foods you couldn’t recognize.
But something had to give, and soon.
The following afternoon Peetee came running full-tilt up the sidewalk and darted onto the porch. “Here Dutch, this is for you. Father said your Turquoise Turtle probably saved my skinny neck. He is honored that you will teach me” Peetee said, grinning broadly.
A True Lover’s Knot is what this community needs, Dutch thought, accepting the package of shrimps. Maybe one is in the making.
“Thanks, Peetee.” He picked up a fid. “Let’s splice rope.”
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