Chapter 2: Burial at Sea

The following morning Finegan has a couple passengers on the houseboat. Joey is sleeping at the side of his dead grandpa, who has been wrapped in a sheet. Joey has one arm over the chest of the corpse, his head resting on grandpa's shoulder despite the flies beginning to buzz about. Finegan is standing in the doorway of the house, arms folded, looking at the scene and pondering.

Barney had been sleeping next to Joey, but looks up at Finegan expectantly. Feeling Barney move, Joey wakens. He points across the water.

We lived over there, but yonder, behind that hill.

Seeing the cloud of buzzing flies, Finegan is seeking a quick solution.

You ever heard of burial at sea?

Joey is clearly anxious about being separated from his only flesh and blood relative at hand, even if the flesh and blood are not too responsive.

But then I could never go visit my granpa!

Finegan unties the houseboat and peddals out into open water, away from any danger of sunken trees. Joey is at the front of the boat, holding onto one of the corner posts, pointing on occasion as he sees a landmark he recognizes.

The corpse has been moved up to the front of the boat and positioned so it is sitting up, as though grandpa were participating in the homecoming. The flies have gotten thicker now, buzzing around in angry swarms.

As the houseboat moves along in a parallel line to the new coastline, it rounds the hill Joey had been pointing to, and Joey can suddenly see the spot where his home used to be. He gets a stunned look on his face, stumbles backwards toward grandpa and falls into his lap. Joey is batting at the buzzing flies and starting to tear up. He scrambles to his feet and up onto the rooftop where he can face Finegan.

That's the house, there, in the water!

The one-story suburban ranch house is situated on a hillside so that the basement is developed with a patio out into the backyard. The house is flooded to the extent that the basement is under water by a couple feet. The house appears to be deserted.

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Finegan and Joey slosh up toward the basement sliding doors. Joey is calling for his mom and dad, but the house is empty. Finegan pulls on the sliding doors and after a few tugs manages to get one to slide open. They wade into the basement, developed as a rec room with a pool table. Finegan heads straight toward the bar and begins rummaging around. He finds a half filled bottle of whiskey, and looks at it with satisfaction, puts it on the counter and checks for more.

Joey is clamoring up the stairs in search of his family but returns, standing at the top of the stairs.

They're gone.

Finegan has his whiskey bottle and some other booze he has located, half filled bottles, in an ice pail tucked under his arm as he mounts the stairs.

Did they leave a note?

The house has an open style, so there are no walls between the kitchen and living areas. Finegan and Joey are looking around on table tops, the refrigerator door, the bathroom mirror, and the kitchen counter top, but are finding no indication of anything but disorganized panic. Some items of clothing have been left on the sofa. A glass of juice sits half empty on the kitchen countertop.

Finegan walks into the master bedroom but lingers in the doorway, as though not wanting to invade the sanctity of the marital bedroom. He notices a photo of the couple on their wedding day, and removes the photo from the frame, handing this to Joey.

Here. Will come in handy. Tell folks what they look like.

Joey is looking solemn. He takes the photo and stuffs it into his jacket pocket. Finegan brightens and turns, nodding in the direction of the kitchen.

Lets see what else we can find that'll be useful.

Finegan puts a hand on Joey's head, then pats Joey's shoulder a few times.

Anything special you'd like to take along?

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Finegan and Joey are returning to the houseboat with their arms full of loot. They are wading in water that is waist-deep for Joey. Finegan has several pots and pans and a coffeepot as well as his precious booze pail. He has tied all this together with a curtain cord, and slung the lot over his shoulder so he has a free arm to help Joey.

Joey has a packet of clothing, tied like a Christmas package by another curtain cord. The packet includes his clothing - a change and clothing appropriate for various seasons - and a toy airplane, remote controlled, which is sticking out from the clothes. Joey has all this balanced on top of his head. He has changed into his swimming trunks, being practical, though is still wearing his jacket.

Finegan heaves his booty onto the floor of the houseboat and helps Joey do the same with his parcel, giving Joey a hand up. Finegan wades back to unhook the grappling hooks tangled in the shrubbery where he has anchored the houseboat.

Joey is standing shock still, staring at his seated grandpa. By now the corpse is almost covered with flies and various insects that are trying to find their way through the sheet that is covering the corpse like a mummy. Joey has become resigned. He turns to look over his shoulder toward Finegan, who is wading back with the grappling hooks held high.

What was that about burial at sea?

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The next morning Joey is standing over Finegan, who is passed out drunk on the deck of the houseboat. The ice pail and empty bottles are strewn about near him. Finegan is snoring loudly, sprawled on his back with both arms splayed out.

Joey picks up the empty bottles and tosses them into the water, a disgusted look on his face, but Barney hobbles up to lick Finegan on the face. Giving up on Finegan, Joey walks off to the other side of the houseboat and grabs the net, Barney at his heels.

Common Barney, lets go fish.

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Joey is sorting through his catch, a conglomeration of small fish, crabs, twigs from trees, and the occasional coke bottle. He is tossing what he does not want back into the drink, and putting the flapping fish and snapping crabs into a box. Barney has his nose into the box, curious and explorative and perhaps a little hungry, but pulls back quickly when a fish flaps or a crab snaps.

Finegan shuffles to the front of the boat, holding onto supports as he goes, not too certain of his balance. He is shielding his eyes from the sunlight, although all days are gloomy and uniformly gray lately. Finegan is clearly hung over.

I suppose you two want breakfast.

Then, gulping a bit in trying to overcome the urge to upchuck, hand to mouth, he reconsiders.

Listen, I'll tell you what to do. You cook.

Joey is lifting a pot of boiling water off an outdoor grill and placing it to the side on a folded cloth used as a hotpad. The portable outdoor grill has coals lit but is on the outer edge of the houseboat, where any chance of fire can be contained by pushing the lot over the edge. A bucket of cold water is nearby, as insurance. The houseboat is loaded with flammable material, and Finegan is no fool.

Joey loads the grill with fish fillets and pokes a couple potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil into the coals, to bake. Barney is watching the cookout eagerly, sitting on his haunches, tongue out, panting and drooling, eyes watching every move Joey makes.

Finegan has a pot of freshly brewed coffee on the deck beside him. He is holding a steaming mug of coffee in both hands, hunched over the mug and looking out over the water directly in front of him. He groans, and pushes himself up on one side, with one hand on one knee, the other hand still holding the mug. Finegan holds his breath for a minute, then winces. Hangovers can be a bitch.