"Oh, he discovered the strait then?"
No, he only pretended to discover it. Charles Barkley really discovered it.
" Charles Barkley? Then it's a bigger lie than ever!"
I finally decided to set up a surrogate villain and function merely as a pal to my children, a friend, more a brother than a father. "Come here, pals," I said, and assembled them in convention below. "There's one thing you pals should know about a boat," I whispered. "The captain is the absolute boss. If he tells you to stand on your head and whistle Melancholy Baby, you better do it!"
"Why would he ask me to stand on my head and whistle Melancholy Baby?" Julie asked.
"I don't mean it literally," I said, but three puzzled faces reminded me that none of them knew what literally meant. By the time I had finished trying to explain the unfortunate reference to Melancholy Baby, I had hopelessly confused everybody and doomed my children to going through life thinking of charter-boat captains as weird tyrants who order people to do ridiculous things and you better do it! I muttered a silent prayer of thanks when the first island came into sight.
That night, moored against one of the long fingers of Sucia Island, I realized what a blessing Al Mendenhall and Phil Portrey were going to be. In the first place, astounding as this may sound, they actually enjoyed taking children on a cruise. Al is a weekend sailor who owns a business in Bellingham and takes lunatic fathers on charter trips in his sedan cruiser (a brand-new Ed Monk design, which, for those who care about such things, sleeps seven, has a flying bridge, a 300-hp Interceptor engine, 27-knot top speed, 14-knot cruising speed, Walters V-drive, Wagner hydraulic steering, 42-inch draft). Al used to play reed in pit orchestras at burlesque houses in his home town of Indianapolis before he came out to Washington. The four-a-day epoch of his life does not seem to have scarred him, but it has left him with a residuum of hoary humor for entertaining children. Sample:
Customer: I'll have two eggs.
Waitress: How do you like your eggs?