The sky was gray
and so was the sea. Only its surface was wrinkled like the skin of a
rhinoceros. All around them there was gray, and yet they could see clearly—much
better than they could in sunshine—to the west, the bridges and skyscrapers of
New York, and to the south the hills of Long Island, generally remote in a
summer haze but today suddenly seeming close, as if the landscape had leaped
forward during the night.
As the boat
heeled at a still sharper angle, Samuelson slacked off the mainsheet. They were
sailing past the last rocks in the harbor.
Dyce pointed at a flock of gulls, hovering low over the water because of the
drop in air pressure.
"You read the
barometer this morning?" Samuelson asked.
through the club lobby, you mean you didn't even take time..." Without
finishing his sentence, Samuelson gestured for Dyce to take the tiller and
strode into the cabin, where he unpacked his foul-weather suit from its bag. On
the boat or on shore, even on the main street of their suburban town, Samuelson
never wore anything during the daytime but light-blue slacks and a cotton-knit
shirt (imported, to be sure, but still cotton), sneakers and a belt that he
himself had spliced from a piece of rope, as if this were all he could afford.
When he pulled on the trousers of his foul-weather suit Nat noticed that his
father's feet were astonishingly small and that his hands were white and
A wave loomed to
port, and Dyce pushed the tiller a few inches, so that the bow faced into it
and the boat nuzzled up and over, the way a hunting horse takes a fence. A
little spray broke into the boat. A test. Keep her dry, the old man always
said, sail her on her feet. Often when they came back to the mooring after a
rough day, with Dyce or even Nat allowed to take the tiller, the old man would
lift the floorboards and look at the amount of water that had collected, every
drop of it a reproach.
"You could do
this," Samuelson said. The words were addressed to Dyce, but Nat knew they
were meant to include him. Dyce spoke. "Do what?"