tagRomanceTugboat Man and the Lost Continent

Tugboat Man and the Lost Continent

bydtiverson©

There are only so many ways that you can tell a Loving Wife story without sounding either totally unimaginative, or deeply disturbed. That's the reason why I am moving over to Romance.

For those of you who read me - I'm still the self-appointed poet-laureate of nerd-nation. And I still like my stories with a little hot sex and a whole lot of twists and turns. That's what you are getting here.

I hope that you enjoy this as much as I did writing it. And because it was so much fun, you can expect a few more along this line. D.T.

*****

The Tugboat Man and the Lost Continent


It might have been my temperament, or diet, or early toilet training. Or maybe I am just a total asshole. Whatever!! But I have been a loner my entire life -- and that's just fine with me. I live in my head. And things are always a lot more interesting up there.

Needless to say, I hated school. Every second that I spent chained to the golden mean was agonizing. And since I was a nerd I didn't have any actual friends.

Instead, I spent most of my time playing video games with a couple of guys who were as weird as I was. My folks thought that I was an unmotivated loser. And they weren't exactly wrong.

But, nerds like me DO have a big helping of larceny in our soul. And we LOVE picking through the things that the lesser brains don't understand. Especially if we are trespassing while we are doing it. That's how I discovered reverse-engineering, zero-day vulnerabilities.

Zero-day vulnerabilities are those little flaws that hide in every consumer product. And finding them is like strolling through an orchard picking off low hanging fruit.

The real beauty of the thing is that you can sell what you find to the highest bidder. Blackmail is such an ugly word. I prefer to think of myself as an information broker. If you give me enough money I will tell you about the backdoor lurking in your company's financial system.

The nerd code of ethics obliges me to offer my little insights to the folks who made the original mistake. But if THEY aren't interested, there are always the boutique sites on the Darkweb. Those places are chock full of desperados who are ALWAYS interested in ways to get access to other people's money. And they will pay almost any price.

I had a sliding scale. It ranged from vanilla bugs at forty-thousand, to the "Holy Shit!!" kind that sometimes topped out at a half-million dollars. I didn't find many of the latter. But even so - by the time I reached legal drinking age I had stashed away a lot of ill gotten plunder in off-shore accounts.

And thanks to the anonymity of the internet nobody ever knew that I was a pimply-faced teenager. I hear you asking, "How could a teenager open an account in the Caymans?"

Well ... Along the way I MIGHT have helped myself to a few identities that I found lying around. So, there are plumbers, machinists and housewives out there in blue-collar-land who are filthy rich. They just don't know it.

Naturally, I had no outside social life except for gamer girls. Those girls were just like me - nerdy and maladjusted. They were either painfully shy, or so covered in grotesque tats and piercings that they scared me.

Most of them would fuck me for a Call-of-Duty cheat code. You would have to be one of us to understand why THAT was coin of the realm. But they were not exactly what you'd call "attractive."

That didn't get in the way of my fucking them. Since I had only one criterion. She had to have a working hoo-ha and be willing to use it. I wasn't looking for love. In fact, anything longer than a forty-minute relationship was more than I could commit to.

Hence, my twenties passed in a ganja and sex fueled haze. I still lived in my parent's basement. Don't judge me!! I'm a nerd. I had no desire to be a grownup.

But by my thirty-first year I was getting bored with shaking down the software industry. And since I had squirreled away about nine million dollars at that point. I thought I might attempt my first foray into the adult world.

It was the sort of naïve exploit that I am legendary for. I just loaded up a backpack and bought a one-way ticket to Bimini Island, in the Bahamas.

I actually had a couple of not very well thought out - but nonetheless valid -- motives for doing that.

My most important reason was weather. It had sucked my whole life. The temperature was either setting new lows, or highs. And the clouds, rain and snow in Ann Arbor were perpetual. So I wanted to live in year-around summer.

However, moving to a hip-happening place like Miami was totally out of the question. Especially given my social skills. And I am allergic to geezers. So the Southwest was out.

The main reason why I chose Bimini was the population, which was all of 2,000 year-round residents. I still didn't have any desire to interact with the human race. And Bimini was isolated from the U.S. by 50 miles of ocean.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I got there; at least in terms of the practical aspects, like where and how I was going to live. I had some hazy idea that Bimini was the cannabis capitol of the Caribbean. But I might have gotten that mixed up with Jamaica, which it turns out WASN'T nearby.

Bimini WAS the fishing capitol of the Caribbean. But that wasn't a selling point. Since fishing is the only pastime that I can think of that is more excruciating than having my fingernails yanked out one-at-a-time. Flying over the place, I could see that it was mostly mangrove swamps. Of course you never get a sense of where you are until you step out on the tarmac.

My first impression was that it was "tropical" -- hot and humid. But there was a decent breeze. There were a couple of beaten up old taxis at what passed for an airport.

I had not thought to make reservations. You don't get worldly, or sophisticated lurking in your parent's basement.

So I asked the driver to take me to an available hotel. He took me someplace that was so expensive that it must have been paying the taxi drivers kickbacks. It was pretty clear that the islanders considered people like me legitimate prey.

The following morning was exactly like the day before, hot and cloudless. That was precisely what I was looking for. I am. excruciatingly introverted. But I knew I would have to talk to somebody. That is, if I ever wanted to find a place to live. So I screwed up my courage and approached the dude behind the concierge desk.

He looked like a caricature of an island creole, right down to his shaven head. He was a good looking guy, tall and whip slender. But he certainly didn't seem like a concierge.

He had his feet up on the desk. He was dressed in a tropical print shirt that was opened to his navel. And he had on a ratty pair of boat shorts with flip-flops. He looked happy. Maybe it was something in the air. Or maybe he saw me as a newcomer ripe for the plucking.

He said, "May I help you?" It was in that musical, lilting British accented voice that I had come to associate with the locals. I told him that I was looking to move down to Bimini but I needed advice. He literally appeared to swap hats. And he said, "I can advise you sir." The "for a small sum" part was a foregone conclusion.

He was a jolly fellow named Reg, which was short for Reginald. Reg was one very interesting dude. He appeared to be working every scam imaginable -- from weed, to girls, to island tours. And he knew everybody and everything. Looking back on it I considered myself to be a very fortunate nerd to have fallen into his clutches.

If moving to a totally unfamiliar place strictly on a whim sounds a little immature, I can assure you that it was indeed. I knew nothing about Bimini except that it was warm and sunny. The fact that Bimini was a legendary hangout for the likes of Jimmy Buffet, Lucille Ball and Earnest Hemingway was completely unknown to me. I just thought that the name of the island sounded cool.

That kind of ignorance can sometimes get you killed. But luckily, my new buddy only wanted a surprisingly small amount of my money to help me get acclimated. He and I toured the island -- or perhaps the better term is islands since Bimini is actually two separate islands with a short passage of water in between.

The place with all of the bars and restaurants is Alice Town. That is on the North Island, just the other side of the passage. I was on the South Island, which is definitely NOT where the action is.

Reg and I walked to the water taxi. That took us from the South side to the North side. It was only 11:00 in the morning but Reg suggested lunch.

I was not thinking "alcohol" as we walked over to Sherry's Place. But that was what we were there for. The building looked like it had been put together out of driftwood and the clientele at that time of day was decidedly un-touristy. But it turned out that the food was great. And the people were so friendly that I didn't feel TOO ill-at ease around them.

As I might have mentioned, I am not exactly a fan of the human race. But the camaraderie there was infectious. Of course Reg knew everybody. So five beers later I was part of a happy clan of about a dozen locals.

All of those people had opinions. The general consensus was that I needed to live in Alice Town. Since that was where most of the fun stuff was. I wasn't exactly looking for fun but all of the stores were there too. So I want along with that.

I had spent the past 15 years living in a basement. And the houses were WAY too communal for my nerd-like tastes. Finally, one of Reg's friends said, "Why don't you live on a boat mon? A lot of us do." Now THAT was intriguing.

Keep in mind that I had never been on a boat. But the concept of a house that was separated from land and that I could move if I didn't like the neighborhood was offbeat enough that it was very appealing.

I said, "Do you know if there are any that I could look at?" The guy who had brought it up said, "Certainly mon, there's one over at Browns Marina. You probably can't afford it. But it's a good example of what I'm talking about."

So Reg and I and our new friend, whose name was Basil, made our way the 400 yards between Sherry's and Browns.

That distance was also appealing. I already liked Sherry's and I wanted to keep hanging out there. The fact that I was willing to do anything social was an eye-opener. But the people were so friendly that they melted some of my deep-seated antisocial tendencies.

I was sold the minute I laid eyes on the thing. It was an ungainly 109 feet long, which meant that it had to be located at the end of the docks with the big multimillion dollar yachts out of Miami.

But, instead of being sexy, sleek, and gleaming-white-ostentatious, my boat had a bad, red and grey paint job with rusty splotches like zits. And it had clearly been a tugboat in an earlier life.

It sat among the other boats looking like a warthog in a herd of gazelles. It was so muscle bound and ugly that the snooty yachts of the rich and famous seemed to actually be shunning it. I didn't need to see anything more. I loved it.

Surprisingly, the inside was marvelous. It was compact. But it was still roomier than my folk's basement. And the living quarters were gorgeous. It was all teakwood and polished brass. And it actually had a nice galley with modern appliances. The lounge area was bright and sunny. And it had two little bedrooms along with a head that actually featured a real shower.

The sales guy took me back to the engine room, which was beneath the entire after-deck of the boat. It was roomy enough to walk around in. Two hulking GM Electro-Motive marine diesels provided the propulsion.

They didn't look like any boat engine that I had ever heard of. So I asked the guy about them. He said, "Oh, those are the same engines that they use to power locomotives." The thing had started out life as a tugboat after all. And it was clear I wouldn't lack for horsepower.

Then we went up to the top part. That was where you steered it. The sales guy went through a long spiel about the electronic gear. All I got out of it was that it had a bunch of digital navigation equipment and that it could easily make the trip back and forth to Miami.

That conversation went right past me since I had no intention of ever leaving the dock.

It was obvious that my two new friends and the sales guy thought that I was a wasting their time. Since, I look like an aging nerd. Well - I most-decidedly AM an aging nerd. But I also had a lot of illicitly obtained booty.

They all knew that the asking price was somewhere north of six figures. So they were surprised when I said, "How much?" The sales guy looked at me calculatedly and ventured, "How about a hundred and thirty thousand?"

That was ridiculously cheap -- cheaper than most of the houses. It was obvious that he wanted to move the thing. And he hadn't gotten any interest. I mean who sets out to impress the chicks by buying a big ugly boat? Fortunately, he was talking to the one guy who didn't give a shit about impressing anybody.

The boat must have been sixty years old. But it was speaking to me, like one odd-ball to another. And it perfectly matched my needs. So I said, "I can transfer the money to you in an hour. Can I move in now?"

All three of my companions looked flabbergasted. The agent said, "Don't you want to talk about the financing terms?" I said, "No -- I'll pay cash. But I want to sleep here tonight." They continued to look at me like they expected me to say, "Just kidding - #hashtag/smileyface."

I tapped one of my Cayman accounts for the money. One hundred and thirty large didn't even make a dent in the principal. Then I signed the papers. Reg and I made the trip back to the hotel on the South Island to grab my backpack. And just like that I was a resident of the Bahamas.

In the interim Reg had changed his attitude. I was no longer a tourist whose pocket he wanted to pick. Instead, he was treating me like I might be worth an investment in the long-term. So he was sitting with me on the afterdeck as the sun went down on my first full day on Bimini.

The sky was an odd combination of purple, red and yellow. I later learned that pretty-much describes every sunset in the tropics. The air was beautifully warm, almost sensual. There was a nice breeze coming in off the Atlantic. And there were no bugs. That was astonishing. Since the mosquitos in Ann Arbor would drain the blood out of you if you sat outside at this time of night.

We were drinking a couple of cold Pirate Republics and just enjoying the tropical evening. The fact that I was sitting anywhere with a non-nerd amazed me. But I felt like the place was already changing me.

Reg said speculatively, "What are you going to do now that you've found a place to live?" I said, "Probably nothing."

He said, "Don't you need money?" I wasn't going to tell him about my occupation. Even though he clearly had the same attitude toward thievery. Instead I said, "I'm sure I'll think of something."

I wasn't planning to retire from the game entirely. In fact, I needed to talk to HughesNet about their satellite downlink. Twenty gigabits per second would fit my particular ends.

He said cagily, "You'll have a lot more options if you learn how to operate this thing." I said with a laugh, "And I bet there is somebody sitting nearby who can teach me how." He showed me a lot of very white teeth and said, "Perhaps mon -- Perhaps."

That started my tugboat lessons. At first I was absolutely awful-- frightened, tentative and clumsy. And the damn thing felt like I was piloting the Battleship Missouri. But I suppose that you'll eventually learn anything if you work at it long enough. And I AM smart.

Reg was an extremely patient and knowledgeable teacher. Eventually I got to a point where I wasn't too embarrassing. Nobody would ever mistake me for Tugboat Willie. But at least I could park the thing without ramming the dock -- too hard.

I had never had a friend in my life. But Reg was working his way in that direction. Like I said, the island was changing me. Then I got another friend. That was out of pure necessity.

One morning I was leaving the head on my way back to my quarters. Suddenly - a mangy brown flash shot past my feet. I screamed like a little girl, yelled, "RAT!!" and jumped up on the couch.

I told Reg about my stowaways during the tugboat lesson. So the next day he showed up with something that looked like a refugee from a Pharo's tomb. It was imperiousness and condescension wrapped in a single attitude. And the creature sat on Reg's arm, like Cleopatra reclining on her barge.

Whatever it was, it was most definitely in the cat family. But it wasn't exactly a cat. It had a cat head on a cat body. But it was oddly muscular and exotic looking, with a shorthaired silver-grey coat covered with black ocelot-like spots that looked almost primordial. It featured a very intelligent pair of amber feline eyes. I said with some alarm, "What's that?"

Reg laughed his infectious laugh and said, "It's your new crewmate mon." I said, "Where did you get it -- the zoo?"

He laughed again. He said, "I have a friend who specializes in delivering exotic animals to the States," meaning he was a smuggler. "And he let me have this for a mere two thousand dollars," meaning he probably gave it to Reg for free.

I said, "What is it, a baby cheetah? And what do you expect me to do with it?" Reg laughed uproariously and said, "You have a rodent problem and every ship at sea keeps a cat for that."

I muttered uneasily, "That isn't a cat!!" Reg laughed again and said, "You're right. Its ancestry is much older than a cat's. It's called a Mau and it dates back to ancient Egypt."

I said, "Are you sure it wants to be here?" He said, "Let's find out." And he put the thing down. It wandered around the living quarters disdainfully inspecting things.

Then, as it passed the couch it did something that was too fast to comprehend. Suddenly there was a mouse in its jaws. It let out a low possessive growl and disappeared down the hatch into the engine room. I didn't have the thing more than two minutes and it was already working on my mouse problem.

Cleopatra seemed like a clichéd name. So after a little internet research I named it Bastet. Bastet is the cat-headed Egyptian goddess of warfare. And that certainly matched the thing's personality.

They say that Mau's have a special ability to bond with one person. And Bastet certainly did with me. No matter where I went, Bastet was always around. She was never in the way. But she was a good companion. And needless to say I never saw another rodent on the boat. The fact that I actually began to like the creature was another astonishing example of how much the island had affected me.

I had the internet downlink by then. So I spent some of each day cruising the Darkweb. It is roughly similar to a merchant hanging around the bazaars of Marrakesh - just to see what he can see. I might be a totally unimpressive nerd in physical space. But I am somebody quite different in the virtual world. And my handle is very well known among the super-hackers. So nobody in their right mind would mess with me. My aim was to keep it that way.

~

At that point I had been on the island for eight months. And I was beginning to wonder why I hadn't moved there earlier. Each day was exactly like the last -- hot and sunny. I spent most nights down at Sherry's hanging around with Reg. But there were some nights when he was off doing whatever he did. I still didn't go anywhere without him to buffer me. Because I was STILL an anti-social piece of shit. But I was getting much better.

Every boat requires a lot of maintenance. Especially the wooden areas. One morning I was hosing down the afterdeck wearing nothing but boat shorts. Since I live on the water I have a year-round deep water tan. And at six-four, I am taller than average. Plus, the time that I had spent on my boat had leaned me down to a point where I was more-or-less rawhide.

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