“So, what do you think so far?” Jake leaned his forearms on the handgrip of his shopping cart as they walked down the canned food aisle. “You’re taking the heat from Book pretty well.”
“What a fucker.” Faith spat out the words as she tossed several cans of corn into her own cart. “Why is there one on every boat?” Jake chuckled. Touche. “Come on, seriously, why do you guys put up with him?”
“Well, for as much as he complains… when we go out there, he gets the job done. He’s a helluva fisherman.” Jake grabbed canned green beans and started throwing them into his cart.
Faith nodded. “And is that the only reason? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a good reason but…”
“We went to school together since second grade. Same with Brandon. Booker’s better once he relaxes and gets used to you. He just has a big bark.”
“Like a Chihuahua?”
“Exactly. He’s a lot better around his around his girlfriend, too.” They turned the corner to go down the next aisle, filling their carts with groceries, then unloaded them onto a pallet in the back before continuing.
“He does not have a girlfriend.” Faith removed the last items from her cart, then started down another aisle.
“Sure does. Her name’s Ashley. She’s almost inverted she’s so small, but she loves him, and he seems to understand he got lucky with her.” He paused. “Well, most of the time.”
“But it was like rutting season in the bar last night.”
“He’s a guy without a conscience gone for a long time at sea, without his woman.” Jake shrugged and grabbed twelve boxes of Ding Dongs.
“And that makes it okay?” Watching him, she drew her brows together. “What are you, twelve?”
“What? The guys like them.” He grabbed some Fruit Roll-Ups. “Here you go… fruit.” He pointed at the label and dropped several more boxes into the cart. Faith rolled her eyes at him, and he returned to their conversation. “When you’re a woman up here, trying to make ends meet, you can name your price and if a guy’s horny enough, he’ll pay it. You understand that, living up here as much as you are, let alone the only woman aboard a crab boat.”
“No… I don’t. Because I’m not a ho, and I don’t have relationships with men onboard the boats I work on.”
“Oh yeah, is that like a, “don’t date anyone at work,” thing?” he flung up his fingers in air quotes.
“No, I’ve had relationships with guys I like from the boat before. I just don’t have sex or anything on the boat.”
He stopped the cart and looked at her. “So, you’re saying it’s okay for you to fuck off the boat, but not on?”
“Yeah, I guess… sometimes.”
“Is this a new rule of yours since meeting Mariano?”
“No,” she snickered. “I’ve had that rule since I was sixteen.” She grabbed five boxes of cinnamon and walked a little further. He didn’t follow her anymore, and she turned to look back at him. “What?”
“I thought you’ve been on a boat since you were eight?” he asked with suspicion.
“So, your telling me you’re a thirty-seven-year-old virgin?” He grinned, discovering the joy in teasing her.
“God, no! Why would you say that?”
“Well, if you don’t have sex on boats, and you live on boats, but have only had relationships,” -he made more quotation marks with his fingers- “With men you work with off boats… whatever the fuck that means… What you’re saying is you’re a prick tease, aren’t you?”
She guffawed. “No. You can have sex in other places other than a crab boat, you know. Come on Jake, you need to expand your horizons and give your ladies some romance.”
Now Jake guffawed. “Just so I’m straight. You do like to have sex? With men?”
“Jesus, how did we get on this topic?” She turned to face him and spoke to him, slow. “Yes, I love sex. Sometimes it’s with guys from the boat, sometimes it’s with guys I meet back home, sometimes it’s all by myself.”
She turned and a broad smile crossed her face as she walked off and left him to ponder that nugget. He looked after her, a little shocked, then tried to give some back.
“But if you’re doing it with yourself on the boat,” he yelled down the aisle. “Isn’t that the same as sex? Or is this one of those, I didn’t inhale or have sexual relations with that woman, kind of deals?” He hoped to shock or better yet embarrass her.
“Masturbating isn’t the same as having regular sex,” she yelled back even louder. “Sometimes I know better what to do with my own fucking body than a fumbling, irritating, incompetent man.”
She rounded the corner and disappeared from sight, leaving customers to stare in her wake. He stood frozen in the aisle, mouth open and blushed crimson. An elderly, heavy-set woman, wearing a three-tiered skirt over her pants and red bandana kerchiefed on her head, stooped to pick up a bag of dried peas from the bottom shelf. She straightened and eyed Jake.
“She’s got something there, handsome.” Smiling, she revealed several missing teeth, winked and walked toward the cash registers.
“Oh my God,” he blurted out in a breath and raced to catch up with his fellow deckhand.