Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill rode in silence as the oars clunked and splashed slowly back and forth for a while longer. Tommy finally said, “Thanks for saving our lives.”
Nilson shrugged then said, “Your sister’s boyfriend probably saved someone’s life.”
“Yeah,” said Tommy, not sure where Nilson was going with this.
“His brother saved three men when their boat was hit by Jap fire!” Freddie said. “You wanna hear the whole story?”He shrugged again. Tommy and Freddie looked at each other, nodded, and kept quiet. Finally Nilson said, “Sure. Sounds exciting. Better than my brother’s story.”
“How do you know his story?” asked Tommy.
“One of his buddies wrote us after we got the telegram he was killed in action. Told us how there were bombs everywhere and a Japanese destroyer was headed their way. He scrambled from his bunk, tripped and fell. Broke his neck.”
“Oh, man,” said Freddie. The sun had dropped to the horizon and as they slid forward on the calming water, shadows from a shoreline of towering pine engulfed them
Nilson shrugged. “Because it was during a raid and he wouldn’t have been running if it hadn’t have been for the attack – thirty sailors died during it – he was considered a casualty of war, but didn’t get an award or nothing.” He kept rowing and finally said, “What’d your brother do?”
Tommy opened his mouth, then closed it, then finally said, “Nothing your brother wouldn’t have done if he’d have been there.”
Freddie opened his mouth to protest, but Tommy’s glare shut his mouth. A few minutes later, Nilson said, “We’re just about there. Remember, don’t pick no apples. Don’t want you to give Ma any surprises.” He snickered, snorted, then pulled hard three more times. The rowboat drifted a bit longer then scraped against the rocks underneath.
Tommy and Freddie jumped out then pulled the boat to shore. Nilson set the oars so they lay on the seats then climbed to shore. “Thanks, guys.” Then he looked at Tommy and stuck out his hand, “Thanks, Tommy. Come on in, Ma’ll feed us, then I can get you some underwear, pants, and shirts.” He looked up at the sky. “Sun’ll be down soon. Probably spend the night, I think.”
“No,” said Freddie, “We can’t...”
Tommy glanced at Freddie, then at Nilson, “Can we hitch a ride here tonight?”
“I wouldn’t count on it. This town rolls up the sidewalks and turns off the air in about twenty minutes. You might get a ticket from the sheriff if you walk too fast at night here.” He shrugged, “You can try, or you can try in the morning. Lots of trucks and stuff leaving then.”
Tommy looked at Freddie and bulged his eyes. Freddie said, “Sounds good. We’ll stay. But can we be in town before sun up?”
“No problem. Ma gets up early – makes we get up early, too. To take care of the place.”
“We run an resort – the Thousand Lakes Inn.”
Tommy and Freddie looked at each other. Tommy said, “Is there anyone staying here?”
“It’s usually pretty quiet during the week and it’s still OK here – but a resort a mile back has a crazy group of guys stayin’ there. They talk funny, but Ma says it’s Finnish.”