He stepped forward to the hatchway and looked down. It looked as though she was sleeping on the bunk down there. He could use some of that himself. Tonight she'd probably be wide awake and raring to go. He'd be all zonked out.
Phaedrus saw that an approaching buoy was slanting slightly toward him and that at its base was a little wake from a current running against him. The river was flowing backward now and it would be slow going. It would be dark soon too, but fortunately they didn't have far to go.
The position of a barge up ahead indicated his boat was getting too far over on the New York City side of the river. He brought his bow back a few degrees so as to stay out of any oncoming traffic. On the big expanse of water before him he saw a barge being pushed from behind by a tug-boat. The barge had pipes along the top that meant it was probably carrying oil or chemicals. It was heading toward him and although he figured there was no danger of collision he set a course anyway that would give it an even wider separation.
The banks of this 'sea' were far away but he could see that the buildings and shore installations were metropolitan. No hills rose back of them, only a dull industrial haze. He looked at his watch. Three-thirty. A couple of hours of sunlight yet. It looked like they would get to Nyack before dark. This boat had really made time today. All the hurricane flood water on top of the tides on top of the natural river current had done it.
Anyway that was the answer to Rigel's question. Phaedrus could relax now. Rigel was just pushing a narrow tradition-bound socio-biological code of morals which it was certain he didn't understand himself.
As Phaedrus had gotten into them he had seen that the isolation of these static moral codes was important. They were really little moral empires all their own, as separate from one another as the static levels whose conflicts they resolved:
First, there were moral codes that established the supremacy of biological life over inanimate nature. Second, there were moral codes that established the supremacy of the social order over biological life - conventional morals - proscriptions against drugs, murder, adultery, theft and the like. Third, there were moral codes that established the supremacy of the intellectual order over the social order - democracy, trial by jury, freedom of speech, freedom of the press. Finally there's a fourth Dynamic morality which isn't a code. He supposed you could call it a 'code of Art' or something like that, but art is usually thought of as such a frill that that title undercuts its importance. The morality of the brujo in Zuni - that was Dynamic morality.
What was emerging was that the static patterns that hold one level of organization together are often the same patterns that another level of organization must fight to maintain its own existence. Morality is not a simple set of rules. It's a very complex struggle of conflicting patterns of values. This conflict is the residue of evolution. As new patterns evolve they come into conflict with old ones. Each stage of evolution creates in its wake a wash of problems.
It's out of this struggle between conflicting static patterns that the concepts of good and evil arise. Thus, the evil of disease which the doctor is absolutely morally committed to stop is not an evil at all within the germ's lower static pattern of morality. The germ is making a moral effort to stave off its own destruction by lower-level inorganic forces of evil.
Phaedrus thought that most other quarrels in values can be traced to evolutionary causes and that this tracing can sometimes provide both a rational basis for classification of the quarrels and a rational solution. The structuring of morality into evolutionary levels suddenly gives shape to all kinds of blurred and confused moral ideas that are floating around in our present cultural heritage. 'Vice' is an example. In an evolutionary morality the meaning of vice is quite clear. Vice is a conflict between biological quality and social quality. Things like sex and booze and drugs and tobacco have a high biological quality, that is, they feel good, but are harmful for social reasons. They take all your money. They break up your family. They threaten the stability of the community.
Like the stuff Rigel was throwing at him this morning, the old Victorian morality. That was entirely within that one code — the social code. Phsdrus thought that code was good enough as far as it went, but it really didn't go anywhere. It didn't know its origins and it didn't know its own destinations, and not knowing them it had to be exactly what it was: hopelessly static, hopelessly stupid, a form of evil in itself.
Evil . . . If he'd called it that one-hundred-and-fifty years ago he might have gotten himself into some real trouble. People got mad back then when you challenged their social institutions, and they tended to take reprisals. He might have gotten himself ostracized as some kind of a social menace. And if he'd said it six-hundred years ago he might have been burned at the stake.
But today it's hardly a risk. It's more of a cheap shot. Everybody thinks those Victorian moral codes are stupid and evil, or old-fashioned at least, except maybe a few religious fundamentalists and ultra-right-wingers and ignorant uneducated people like that. That's why Rigel's sermon this morning seemed so peculiar. Usually people like Rigel do their sermonizing in favor of whatever they know is popular. That way they're safe. Didn't he know all that stuff went out years ago? Where was he during the revolution of the sixties?
Where has he been during this whole century? That's what this whole century's been about, this struggle between intellectual and social patterns. That's the theme song of the twentieth century. Is society going to dominate intellect or is intellect going to dominate society? And if society wins, what's going to be left of intellect? And if intellect wins what's going to be left of society? That was the thing that this evolutionary morality brought out clearer than anything else. Intellect is not an extension of society any more than society is an extension of biology. Intellect is going its own way, and in doing so is at war with society, seeking to subjugate society, to put society under lock and key. An evolutionary morality says it is moral for intellect to do so, but it also contains a warning: just as a society that weakens its people's physical health endangers its own stability, so does an intellectual pattern that weakens and destroys the health of its social base also endanger its own stability.
Better to say 'has endangered.' It's already happened. This has been a century of fantastic intellectual growth
and fantastic social destruction. The only question is how long this process can keep on.
After a while Phaedrus could see the moorings ahead at the Nyack Yacht Club, just where Rigel said they would be. They were about done sailing for the day. As the boat drew closer he throttled the engine down and unlashed the boat hook from the deck.
Lila's face appeared again in the hatchway.
It startled him for a moment. She was real, after all. All this theoretical thought about this advanced metaphysical abstraction called 'Lila,' and here, before him, was what it was all about.
Her hair was combed and a cardigan sweater covered all but the 'O-V' of her T-shirt.
'I feel a little better now,' she said.
She didn't look better. Her face had been changed with cosmetics into something worse ... a kind of a mask. Skin white with powder. Alien black eyebrows perjured by her blond hair. A menacing death's-door eye-shadow.
He saw that some of the mooring floats ahead had red and white markings that looked like they were meant for guests. He throttled the engine down and turned the boat in a wide arc so as to approach the outermost one. When he reckoned that the boat had just about enough momentum to reach it by itself he shifted to neutral, grabbed the boat hook and went forward to pick up the mooring float. It was just light enough to see the float. In a half-hour it would be dark.
Lila looked around at where they were. Ahead of them was a long, long bridge. It stretched out way over to what looked like the other shore of a big lake they were on. A lot of cars were moving on the bridge. Probably going into New York City, she thought. They were close now.
Other boats were around them on moorings in the water but no one seemed to be on board them. Everything looked empty and deserted. It looked like everyone had just gone off and left. Where was everybody? It was like the river coming down here. It was too quiet. What had happened this afternoon? She couldn't remember very well. She got frightened about something. The wind and the noise. And then she fell asleep. And now she was here. Why?
What was she doing here? she wondered. She didn't know. Another town somewhere, another man, another night coming on. It was going to be a long night.
The Captain came back and gave her a funny look and said, 'Help me get the dinghy in the water. I can do it myself but it's easier with two.'
He took her over to the mast and asked her if she knew how to use a winch. She said yes. Then he hooked a line from the mast on to the dinghy which was lying upside down on the deck in front of them and told her to start cranking. She did but it was heavy and she could see he didn't like the way she was doing it. But she kept on doing it and after a long time the dinghy was hanging in the air from the line and the Captain swung it over the side of the boat. He told her to lower it slowly. She let out the line on the winch.
'Slowly!' he said.
She let it out more slowly and the Captain held his hands out to guide the dinghy into the water. Then he turned and said, 'That's good.' At least she did one thing right. He even smiled a little.
Maybe tonight wouldn't be so bad.
Lila went below and from her suitcase got her old towel and her last change of clothes and her blow dryer and makeup. She wrapped a bar of soap from the sink into a washcloth to take with her.
When she got on deck again the Captain had a little ladder hooked to the side of the boat so that they could step down to the dinghy. She went down and got in and then he followed with some canvas tote bags. She wondered what these were for.
He hardly had to row at all. It was just a little way to the shore where there were just some wooden posts sticking out of the water and a rickety-looking wooden dock and a white building next to it. Back of the building was a hill that went up to a town, it looked like.
Inside the white building a man told them where the showers were. The Captain paid him for the mooring and the showers. Then they went down a long hallway and she went through the 'Ladies' door. Inside was a sort of dark dingy shower and a wooden bench just outside. She had to look for a long time for the light switch. She turned on the shower to let it warm up and then took off her clothes and put them on the bench.
The shower was good and hot. That was good. Sometimes in these places all you get is cold water. She stepped under it and it felt good. It was the first shower since the Karma had been at Troy. She never seemed to get enough showers. Boats aren't clean.
Men aren't clean either. She cleaned herself extra well where the Captain had been at her last night.
He needed somebody like her. He smelled like a truck engine. That shirt he was wearing, it looked like he hadn't changed it in weeks. She'd be doing him a favor to go with him to Florida. He didn't know how to take care of himself. She could take care of him.
She didn't want to get involved with him, though. She didn't want to get involved with anybody. After a while they want to get involved, like Jim, and that's when the trouble begins.
Lila dried herself with the towel and started to dress. Her blouse and skirt were wrinkled but the wrinkles would shake out. She found a plug-in by a mirror next to the wooden bench and plugged in her blow dryer and held it to her hair.
Manhattan was so close now. If Jamie was there he'd take care of everything. It would be so good to see him again. Maybe. You never knew about him. He might not be there. Then she was in trouble. She didn't know what she would do then. She didn't want to think about it.
She remembered now she told the Captain she was going to cook the supper.
That's what he brought these canvas tote bags for; to carry the food. Maybe if she made him a really good meal he would take her all the way to Florida.
She put on her mascara slowly and carefully and when she was done she walked down the hall and around a corner there was the Captain, waiting. As she walked toward him she could see he looked better now. He was washed and shaved, and he'd changed that shirt.
Outside it had gotten dark. They walked under some street lights along the street up a hill. Some people walked by and didn't look up.
It didn't seem like a little town. It seemed more like part of a city. The street wasn't very wide and was sort of dirty and depressing the way big cities get. When they got into the town she looked in some store windows and saw there wasn't much to look at.
She thought she smelt French fries. But she didn't see any McDonalds or Burger King or any place like that around.
Would she ever like some French fries! She was starving!
Maybe they could buy some, she thought. But then the trouble was they'd get all cold by the time they got to the boat. Maybe she could cook some. You needed something to cook them in, though. She asked the Captain if he had a deep fryer. He said he wasn't sure. She hoped he did.
At the supermarket the prices were high. She got two expensive filet mignons and big Idaho potatoes and oil to make French fries from and some chocolate pudding for dessert and some bread for toast in the morning. And some eggs and some butter and some bacon. And some milk.
As she bent over to pick up the milk a shopping cart bumped into her. Lila said, 'Oh, I'm sorry.' It wasn't her fault, but the woman, who looked like she worked for the store just gave her a mean look and didn't excuse herself in any way.
Lila got enough groceries to fill two big bags. She was starving. She liked to buy food anyway. She probably wouldn't get to eat most of it.
But you could never tell. Maybe she and the Captain would get along tonight. Then they could go shopping in New York. She needed a lot of things.
When she finished filling the shopping cart she went to the checkout counter and saw that the checkout lady there was the same lady who bumped into her. With the same mean look on her face. She reminded Lila of her mother. Lila asked, as nicely as she could, if they could use the shopping cart to take the groceries back to the boat. It would be a lot easier than just carrying those tote bags. But the answer was 'No.'
Lila looked at the Captain but he didn't say anything. He just paid without any expression.
They each picked up a bag of groceries and started on their way out the door when suddenly there was a loud 'OW!!' and then 'YOU LET GO OF ME!' and then 'I'LL TELL MY MOTHER!!!'
Lila turned and saw the store lady had her hand on a black girl's collar and the girl was hitting at her and shouting, 'LET GO! LET GO!! I'LL TELL MY MOTHER!!'
'I told you to stay OUT of here!' the store lady said.
The girl looked like she was about ten or twelve years old.
'Let's go,' the Captain said.
But Lila heard herself say, 'Leave her alone!'
'Don't get into it,' the Captain said.
'I CAN COME IN HERE IF I WANT TO!' the girl shouted. 'You can't tell me what to do!'
'LEAVE HER ALONE!' Lila said.
The woman looked at her in astonishment. 'This is OUR STORE!' she said.
'Jesus Christ, let's go,' the Captain said.
The woman still didn't let go of the girl.
Lila exploded, 'Just LEAVE her ALONE or I'll call the police!'
The woman let go of the girl. The girl ran out past Lila and the Captain through the doorway of the store. The store woman glared at her. Then she glared at Lila. But there was nothing she could do now.
It was over. Lila and the Captain went out. Outside the girl looked at her and did a quick little smile, and then skipped away.
'What the hell was that all about?' the Captain said.
'She made me mad.'
'Everything makes you mad.'
'I have to do that,' Lila said. 'Now I'll feel fine all night.'
At a liquor store they bought two fifths of blended and two quarts of mix and a bag of ice. They were really loaded down now as they walked back down the narrow street to the little white house where the boat was.
'What did you get into that argument for?' the Captain asked. 'It wasn't any of your business.'
'People are so mean to kids,' Lila said.
'I would have thought you might have enough problems of your own,' the Captain said.
She didn't say anything. But it felt good. She always felt better after she lost her temper like that. She didn't know why but she always did.
As they walked down to the river the Captain didn't say a word. He was mad. That was all right, she thought. He'd get over it.
At the dock it was so dark the dinghy was hard to see. She had to watch her step. She didn't want to drop all this food.
The Captain set his bag full of groceries down on the dock and untied the dinghy. Then he told Lila to get in. Then he handed everything to her and then he got in himself. With all the bags between them it was hard for him to row so he took just one oar and paddled on one side and then the other.
As she looked back she could see that the big long bridge was like a shadow, all lit up from behind with the light in the sky from New York. It was so beautiful. She put her hand in the water and it felt warm.
Suddenly she felt really good. She knew they would go to Florida together. It was going to be a good night.
When they reached the dark side of the boat the Captain held the dinghy steady while Lila climbed up the ladder. Then in the dark he handed her the tote bags full of groceries again and she set them on the deck.
Then while he climbed aboard and tied off the dinghy to the boat she carried the bags down below.
She pushed a light switch on the side of what looked like an overhead light and it worked, although it wasn't very bright. She took the bottles of whiskey and mix out of a tote bag, and stored the extra mix and the ice in the icebox. The rest of the food she took out of the bags so she could get her shower stuff. She got it all out and went over and put it in her suitcase on the pilot berth, except the towel which was damp. She hung that on the edge of the pilot berth to dry.
The Captain said to come up and hold the flashlight.
She went up and held it while he opened up a wooden cover in the deck and reached way down inside. First he pulled out a pile of old rope. Then some hose and an old anchor. Then some wire and then an old rusted iron bowl with four legs and a grill over it.
He held it up in the light of the flashlight. 'Hibachi,' he said. 'Haven't used it since Lake Superior... There's some charcoal down on the pilot berth.'
Meaning, 'Go get it.' She went down to the berth and found a bag of charcoal and handed it back up. At least he was talking again.
From the companionway she watched him pour the charcoal in from the bag. 'You just go where you feel like with this boat, don't you?' she said. 'Nobody to give you any orders. Nobody to argue with you.'
'That's right,' he said. 'Now pass up the kerosene that's behind the chart table there . . . in that little shelf. Right behind where I am.'
He reached around and pointed to it. She got it and handed it to him.
'I'm going to start making the French fries,' Lila said, 'if you'll tell me where the pots and pans are.'
'In back of the chart table. Deep inside one of those bins,' the Captain said. 'Just pull off the cover and you'll see them.'
Lila turned on another electric light over the chart table and found a deep bin where a dozen or so different types of pots and pans were dumped together in a cluttered jumble. The bin was at the back of the counter, so that the only way to reach them was to lie on her stomach on top of the chart table and hang her arm down inside the rectangular hole, and fish. The fishing for pans made a tremendous clanging racket. She hoped the noise would impress on the Captain the condition of his housekeeping.
There wasn't any deep fryer. She felt a large frying pan and pulled it out. It was a good stainless steel pan, almost new. But it wasn't deep enough for cooking oil.
She went back in the bin and clanged some more and this time came out with a deep pot and a matching lid. That should work.
'I don't suppose you have a wire basket for French fries,' she said.
'No,' the Captain said, 'not that I know of.'
It was all right. She could get by with a slotted spoon.
She looked for one and found it and also a vegetable peeler next to it. She tried the vegetable peeler on one of the potatoes. It was nice and sharp. She started peeling. She liked to peel long, hard, smooth Idaho potatoes like this. These were going to make good French fries. She let the peels shoot into the sink, so when she was done she could scoop them out with her hand.
'What will you do after you get to Florida?' she said to the Captain.
'Just keep going, probably,' he said.
A flame came up from the Hibachi and she could see his face suddenly in the light. It looked tired.
'Just keep going where?' she asked.
'South,' he said. 'There's a town where I used to live in Mexico, down on the Bay of Campeche. I'd like to go back there for a while. And see if some people I used to know are still around.'
'What were you doing there?'
'Building a boat.'
'No, a boat that never got finished,' he said. 'Everything went wrong.'
He poked the charcoal in the Hibachi with the edge of the grate.
'With boats you always get seven kinds of trouble at once,' he said. The keel was done and the frames were up. We were ready to start planking, and the Government declared the forest we were in to be "veda," I think they called it, meaning no more wood.
'We went to Campeche for some more wood, paid for it - it never got sent. No way for a foreigner to sue them in Mexico. They knew that.
'Then all our fastenings from Mexico City "disappeared." The paint got delivered but it disappeared after we put some on a dinghy.'
'Who's "we"?' Lila asked.
'Me and my boat-carpenter.'
While she peeled the potatoes the Captain came down the ladder. He lit the kerosene lamp, then turned off the electric lights, then took out some glasses from a shelf, then opened the icebox. He filled the glasses with ice, opened the mix and poured it. When he poured the whiskey he held up her glass and she told him when to stop.
Then he said, 'Here's to Pancho Piquet.'
Lila drank. It tasted fine.
She showed him the peeled potatoes. 'I'm so starved I could eat them raw,' she said, 'but I'm not going to.'
She found a cutting board and started to cut the potatoes, first the long way, making them into ovals, then cutting them again into pencil-thick sticks. Beautiful knife. Really sharp. The Captain stood watching her.
'Who is Pancho Piquet?' she asked.
'The carpentero de ribera. He was an old Cuban. He spoke Spanish so fast even the Mexicans had trouble understanding him. Looked like Boris Karloff. Didn't look Cuban or Mexican at all.
'But he was the fastest carpenter I've ever seen,' the Captain said. 'And careful. He never slowed down, even in that jungle heat. We didn't have any electricity but he could work faster with hand tools than most people do with power tools. He was in his fifties or sixties and I was twenty-something. He used to smile that Boris Karloff smile watching me try to keep up with him.'