Scorpio Latitudes

Scorpio Latitudes

Chapter 12 – Deep Roots

It had been another late night for Dennis. Collecting water samples from all over the bay and surrounding estuary was not a job for sissies. In addition to the routine measurements of the industrial contaminants that had to be monitored because of the oyster bed farms, there was also the growing presence of Simon's carcinogenic creosote and the Fishhook fecal matter that needed to be assessed. Was there no end to the number and size of the contaminants? Why did the list of possibles just seem to get longer? Who knew? Certainly not Dennis. Anyway, that was a question for the sheriff. Dennis' role was to measure and analyze. Because of the prior day tide driven, late night collecting, it was nearly noon before Dennis dragged himself into his office. By then, it was too late to get started on the contaminant measurement lab work that was the necessary follow up for the sample collection.

Alone in his office, he read his email and then speaking only to himself, he whispered under his breath, “I might as well grab lunch before getting started”. Then realizing that in recent months he had been talking to himself more frequently than was healthy, he continued with, “and I've got to stop talking to myself,” conveniently ignoring the irony.

Regardless of who he was talking to, lunch beckoned so he soon found himself in the Blue Bell; the local cafe that served a value lunch and hired colorful help. His choice wasn't really all that difficult. There weren’t that many lunch spots in his side of town anyway, and the affectionately named 'Bell' was close. Happily, he ran into Margarida who was also on her way to lunch.

“Hello Margarida,” Dennis sang out. “Want to share a table?”

“Oh that would be nice, Denny,” she responded. “Maybe we can get a window seat? There might be room for the two of us and your manspread,” she added teasingly.

When Margarida ate with Dennis, she always wanted a window seat. That way, any passers-by would be more likely to see the two of them sharing food and conversation. If rumor was ever to become reality, Margarida wanted to be sure that the rumor paired her and Dennis in the same space as often as possible.

“Manspread? What's a manspread?” asked a puzzled Dennis.

Denny must have his head buried in lab work thought Margarida. He obviously had not yet heard the word that was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary. But those weren't the thoughts she used in reply to his question.

“Oh nothing,“Margarida laughed with a twinkle in her eyes. “Let's just grab a table.”

They were in luck. A window seat was open and after ordering, they enjoyed the company and conversation of each other. Dennis couldn't help but notice Rida's blouse that featured a healthy amount of breast exposure. Even more interesting than the blouse was the curve of her breasts as they plunged into the depths of the garment. Despite his best efforts, his eyes were drawn like flies to honey to the two appetizers that were not on the Blue Bell menu. The promise of the unseen below the robust curving plunge was simultaneously distracting and compelling. He shifted surreptitiously in his seat to relieve a growing presence in his groin area. Keeping track of the conversation and the visual distraction was becoming increasingly difficult as he shifted his attention from one to the other. Margarida played coy initially, but finally with another twinkle in her eye, she asked Dennis if he liked her new blouse.

“Huh? Oh yeah. It's a nice blouse,” Dennis quickly replied.

Dennis, being nobody’s fool, quickly realized he had been exposed as a voyeur and decided to come clean.

“Uh no... I didn't mean to...” he began to stammer before blurting out with wide eyes, “Forgive me. Was I staring?”

He was relieved to see by her smile and laugh that Margarida was more pleased than offended by his gawking. Watching her face light up, Dennis took the cue and they both ended up laughing, albeit Dennis somewhat sheepishly.

"I'm glad you like it Denny, but I don't want you to think I'm mutton dressed as lamb,” she said.

"Not in a thousand years," Dennis responded, and they both laughed again.

After the infectious laughter, there was a long meaningful pause. Margarida spoke first. She had something on her mind that she needed to share.

“I'm glad I ran into you today Dennis. My mother is sick again. I'm worried about her. She called and asked me to visit. I'm going down next Tuesday; right after the goat farm planning meeting. I don't want to miss it, but I'm really worried about mom.”

“Oh. That's too bad Margarida. What's the problem?” Dennis asked.

“We don't know yet. I'm going to stay a day or two and try to find out how bad she is. She's going to see her doctor Wednesday and I want to be there for the consult. She's getting old and I worry about her being in Eureka all by herself. Since dad died...” Margarida trailed off.

Margarida's father had fished the Humboldt Bay and the Pacific beyond, all his life. About a year ago, there had been an unexpected storm that overturned his boat. All three crew aboard had drowned. Margarida's mother had been left psychologically adrift, nearly as far out to sea as her drowned mate. Alone, she had come from Portugal as a young girl to marry the young fisherman. After his demise, she was now lonely to the point where her health was beginning to suffer.

“That's too bad,” Dennis replied. There wasn't much else to say but he managed.

“If you need anything...” Then he just left the thought lay on the table between them.

Trying to change the subject from the depressing without being too obvious, Dennis asked Margarida how her mother had the courage to cross an ocean as a young girl to marry a man she'd never met.

“It had to have been really difficult Denny,” Margarida responded. “Everything took so long then. Mail was slow; three to four weeks one way. The trip across the Atlantic by boat was about three weeks, then there was a weeks long train ride from the east coast to San Francisco, followed by a stage coach or wagon to get this far north. Can you imagine the hardship? There wasn't any email or airplanes. She must have been scared, but on the other hand, life in a little village in Portugal wasn't a bed of roses either. She came from Lagos. It was a small town then, little more than a village on the south coast. The local men did what their fathers had done before them, and the girls, if they were lucky, married young. It's grown since, but nowadays most of the jobs are tourism related. Fishing died a slow death when the big factory ships starting dragging their nets close to shore. My mom had an aunt already here in Springfield that gave her the inside skinny on the young man who was to become my dad. It must have been mostly good reviews to get her to move sight unseen,” Margarida laughed.

Dennis liked to hear her laugh. It had the timbre of a tinkling glass bell that reminded him of the peal from a Waterford crafted wine goblet. He thought of her every time he dropped an ice cube in the crystal margarita tumbler that he reserved for warm evening outings in his back yard watching the sun go down.

Years ago, Dennis had told her, “I like to hear your laugh Margarida. It reminds me of my favorite drink”.

Margarida had heard variations on that line before and was quite sure she didn't want to be remembered for the similarity between her given name and the tourist driven Mexican staple.

“Mmmm. Well maybe you should just call me Rida then,” Margarida suggested helpfully.

Dennis chuckled at the suggestion before responding in the affirmative and he'd been mostly calling her that ever since.

“I didn't know you had a great aunt living here, Rida. Your roots to the area are really deep. Why did so many Portuguese came to northern California?” he asked as Rida nodded in affirmation.

“Well,” came her reply. “There was a lot of emigration from the Azores to the Pacific coast of north America. They were mostly fishing people who lived and died on or near the salt water. Once Columbus proved it possible, they weren't afraid to cross an ocean for a new life. There are communities all over northern California and into the Pacific Northwest. Even Hawaii! What can I say? Life must have been good here relative to where they came from.”

“Yeah. It must have been," responded Dennis.