Hugh stood in front of the silvery metal and sighed. During no point in his life had he been considered handy in any stretch of the word, but when he saw the YouTube video detailing how to build a jet boat he knew he had to try it. The video made putting the kit together appear easy, and since his father had done some welding work before he retired, all the supplies he needed were in his dad’s garage. Still, staring at all the unassembled parts was daunting.
Persuading his father to let him use the welding equipment was a different story. In the end, the only way Dad allowed the use was if he monitored the whole ordeal. Though it made Hugh nervous to have a watchful eye examining his every attempt, it also provided some solace since he’d never done anything like it before.
“No, you’re holding it all wrong,” Dad said, scratching the white stubble on his neck with his free hand.
It was early enough in the morning that Dad still clutched his favorite mug. The coffee within had cooled down, but Dad persisted in slurping tiny sips of the beverage every few seconds. It was that very action that caused Mom to go on permanent hiatus. Since neither Mom nor Dad believed in divorce, they separated but were still technically married.
“Well, how am I supposed to hold it?” Hugh said, swallowing hard.
“Well, first of all, it’s not a snake, so don’t hold it by the head.”
“Well, obviously,” Hugh said, moving his hand down to the trigger. “I know that, but I was just getting into position.”
Dad grunted, and Hugh bent down. The pieces that made up the bottom of the boat all snapped together, but welding was required to seal them permanently. He’d seen Dad weld countless things over the course of his life, and he was familiar enough with it to try, though he was a little nervous that he would ruin the boat.
“What are you waiting for?” Dad said, slurping and walking around to where the front of the boat would be. “It’s not like the metal has feelings. Get in there. I’ve been dying to try out my new fishing rods, but I still need to patch my boat.”
Hugh sighed and flipped down his welder’s mask. Everything went darker due to the tint in the lens, and he took a deep breath. He activated the blue flame, and the smell of ozone filled his nostrils. He only kept the torch active for a moment before flipping up the mask and checking his work.
“We’re going to be here all day if you take a break after every hit,” Dad said, slurping again.
Hugh flipped down his mask again and went back at it until all the parts of the bottom were welded together as needed. When he came to the portion of welding the sides, Dad had to help, and he somehow managed to do so while still holding and slurping his coffee.
Before long, everything was in place, and the two men stood back and observed their creation. The body was the easy part, but when they assembled the more complicated parts, Dad decided to step up and pull most of the weight. Hugh could have done it with no help, but Dad worked faster. Despite the assistance, Hugh felt accomplished. Dad continued to sip on his coffee every few seconds.
“I swear you aren’t even drinking any of that coffee, just slurping on the same old drops.”
Dad took another slurp in response. “No, no, I just know how to enjoy things. And it’s not just coffee anyway.”
“What is it, Kahlua or something?”
“No, I stopped drinking when I stopped having to talk to your mother,” Dad said matter-of-factly. “This is two Nestle hot cocoa packets mixed with 16 ounces of the finest Starbucks blend. Nothing finer in all of Chicago.”
Hugh lifted an eyebrow but remained mute. The two stared at the boat for a few more moments before Dad broke the silence and recommended they take it out for a spin. He lived a few miles away from Lake Michigan. The two moved the boat onto the trailer Hugh had recently purchased.
Dad took his coffee with them and told Hugh to drive, continuing to take slurps throughout the course of their journey to the lake. Hugh had quit smoking a year ago, but every time he spent more than an hour with his dad he had to constantly combat the urge to pick up the habit to help smooth away Dad’s annoyances.
They made it to the lake and managed to get the boat into the water without causing any damage. The boat was small and relatively light, but spacious enough to seat them both with room to spare.
“You may want to leave your rod with the truck,” Hugh said, grinning as they sat in the water, the gentle rocking adding to Hugh’s excitement.
“What do you mean? I came out here to fish.”
“Yeah, but have you ever been on a jet boat. They aren’t exactly built for fishing.”
“You worry about keeping this thing in the water, and I’ll worry about the fishing.”
Hugh shrugged and licked his lips. He pushed the start-up button, and the engine growled to life. Jet boat engines always reminded him of a cross between motorcycles and airplanes. He was no stranger to driving boats, but this was the first boat he’d built with his own two hands, and the idea of it breaking apart when they were going 60 miles per hour caused him to hesitate.
“Well if we’re just going to sit here I’m casting out,” Dad said, wedging his rod beneath his armpit, so he had a free hand to adjust his fisherman’s hat.
Once he had his hat adjusted to his liking, he took another sip of his coffee, pressing the back of his rod against his pelvis for support so he could still drink with his free hand. Hugh gave him a look and raised an eyebrow, but after a few more loud slurps from Dad, he stepped on the gas.
The boat’s front lifted out of the water, and Hugh felt his abdominal muscles activate to keep him from leaning back too far. He let out a whoop and expected to see his dad clutching onto the side of the boat, hanging on for dear life. Instead, Dad still held his coffee mug in one hand, and the fishing rod in the other. Hugh shook his head as his dad took another sip of the coffee. Though he was unable to hear the slurp above the roar of the engine, he knew Dad was slurping as loud as ever, stylishly holding steady and spilling nothing.