NaNoWriMo background: Betsy’s grandfather meets Frank Parker

My grandfather was a boat builder, which was only second to fishing as his life’s passion. One June day when he was sixteen years old, he drove his old pickup truck out to his favorite fishing spot, on the south shore, about three miles down a dirt road between Edgartown and West Tisbury. This was a top-secret spot his father had passed down, and in his whole life, he had never seen another soul there, so when he turned off the road to the spot where he was accustomed to leaving his truck, he was surprised to find a fancy black car parked there next to a pickup just as beat-up as his. He considered the scene for a moment before picking up his poles and his tackle box and heading down the path to the shore.

As he crossed over the dune, he saw someone sitting near the water’s edge, staring out to sea. Once he got closer, he could see it was a boy about his age.

“Morning there,” he said.

The boy, startled, took a second to compose himself before replying, “Sorry, didn’t hear you coming.”

“I’m hopin’ the fish didn’t either,” he said. “James Morgan,” he dropped his tackle box and held out his hand.

“Frank Parker,” the boy said, and shook his hand.

“That your car up there by the path?”

“No, it’s my dad’s. He’s building a house here.”

“Huh.” Considering it might be his last opportunity, Grampa did not want to waste any more of his limited time. “You fish?”

“Never,” said Frank. “But I see you have an extra pole, and I’ve got more time than I know what to do with, so why don’t you show me how it’s done.”

They didn’t catch anything that day, but Grampa learned a thing or two about Frank Parker. He had just lost his mother to pneumonia, and his father wasn’t a very warm and friendly guy. They lived in New York City on Fifth Avenue, and Frank was planning on going to Columbia. His father owned a large company that produced and sold canned soup. Frank would take over the company when his father retired. He had tons of ideas about expanding the product line – he swore he had thought up the TV dinner before he’d ever seen them in a supermarket.

For the next four mornings in a row, Frank was there on the beach when Grampa crossed over the dunes with his poles, until the day the site visits with the architects and builders were complete, and it was time for Frank and his father to head back to New York.

Every couple weeks that summer, Frank and his father would return to check up on the digging of the foundation, the wall framing, the wiring. His father was a man of detail, and he had to see the project at every phase. Frank and Grampa would fish, then Grampa would pick up Frank later that night down in Edgartown at his hotel, and they would drive around to beach parties, drink beer, and flirt with girls.

This is the story of how James Morgan and William Francis Parker III became best friends.


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