The Sloop Jack M.
By Lynne Hoffman


The insignificant looking sloop had held the place of honor on his window ledge ever since his promotion to the executive board. No matter what other riff-raff and incidental junk he collected the boat stayed where it was. Right behind his desk where he could look at it and remember Tony. Tony Appleton. His best friend for over forty years. Same schools, same classrooms, same barrooms. Then, incredibly, same in-laws. At least for a couple of years, until they both realized Wallingford women weren't worth the trouble.
Tony had been the first one to realize the error of his ways and had divorced his wife, Phyllis, two years before Jack divorced Lydia. A factor that was in itself contributory to the breakdown of Jack's own marriage. Lydia couldn't understand the insensitivity of a man who could remain friends with the man who divorced her sister. Jack couldn't see what difference it made. He and Tony had been friends long before either of them had ever heard of Phyllis or Lydia Wallingford. He didn't think he needed to terminate his relationship with Tony simply because Tony had terminated his relationship with Phyllis. Lydia, on the other hand, thought that was a very good reason indeed.
Phyllis was a legal secretary and had met Tony when she was working as a temp in the office he was articling in. Jack had met Phyllis when Tony invited her to join them for a drink one evening. She in turn had invited her sister to join them.
"To keep Jack out of our hair," she had reportedly said to Tony before Jack had arrived.
Jack had been pleasantly surprised when he recognized the woman seated across from Tony. Her name was Lydia Wallingford and she was a clerk in the Criminal Prosecution division of the District Attorney's office. In fact, she had won the competition to fill Jack's former position. He had recently been promoted from a clerking position to that of Assistant D.A. As soon as Lydia was qualified as an Assistant D.A. she'd be in a position to be assigned to his team.
She had indeed kept Jack out of Phyllis's and Tony's respective hair. So much so that he and Lydia were the first of the two couples to announce their engagement. Not to be outdone, Tony and Phyllis followed suit two weeks later and in a splendid double ceremony, Phyllis and Lydia Wallingford became Mrs. Tony Appleton and Mrs. Jack McCoy respectively.
The discord between Phyllis and Tony started with their disagreement on whether or not to start their family. She thought Tony was being selfish. Tony thought he was being pragmatic. He was still trying to establish himself in private practice. He wasn't sure his income alone would be sufficient to support them. Phyllis cried on Lydia's shoulder incessantly and Lydia in turn would complain to Jack about how cruel it was for Tony to force Phyllis to wait to start their family. After all hadn't they just decided to go ahead and have a baby?
And so it had progressed. Kimberly Anne McCoy and John Wallingford McCoy were welcomed into the world by their delighted parents but Phyllis was still regulated to the role of Aunt. By the time the McCoy's and the Appleton's celebrated their fifth anniversaries, Jack was a well-established Assistant District Attorney while Tony was still struggling.
The success Jack was garnering was troubling to Lydia. By nature he was outgoing and gregarious and his flirtatious eye was causing her nothing but aggravation. Finally, with a son and a daughter to her credit she decided to concentrate more on her career than on being Jack's wife. She thought that by applying for and landing a position as Jack's assistant she would be able to put a stop to his roving eye. Instead it worked to her disadvantage. They got no break from each other. Neither could go home and complain to the other about their horrendous days. Neither could ask the other to tuck the children in bed for a change. In her attempt to draw him closer she was driving him away.
Then came the news that Tony and Phyllis were splitting up. Their marriage was still childless and there was nothing either could see to tie them together. Jack sympathized with his buddy, Lydia with her sister. It drove a wedge between Jack and Lydia that they were never able to remove. When Tony and Phyllis's divorce was final Jack went out with Tony and helped him drink away his mixed feelings of sadness and freedom. Lydia sat up consoling Phyllis. Phyllis went home to her now very empty house and Jack eventually stumbled home to his.
Lydia was livid, her boiling temper eventually woke their children and when Jack turned his back on her to comfort them she blew up completely and ordered him out. He left, for no other reason than to keep the peace for the rest of the night. When he showed up at work the next day as though nothing had happened, Lydia was confounded. No. She was furious. At him and at Tony. When she walked in on Jack sharing a laugh with his secretary she stored the vision until they were at home alone. Her irrational accusations stung and Jack started meeting Tony after work before going home and often came home on the wrong side of sober. Scotch was a comfort food.
Lydia gave Jack an ultimatum. Stop carousing with Tony or else. Jack liked Tony, they had been friends for more years than he could count but his family was now equally as important. He cut back on his drinking after work with Tony. Lydia wasn't satisfied. She demanded he cut Tony off of his list of friends totally. Jack couldn't do that. He told Lydia he couldn't just drop his friend from his life because his sister-in-law was unhappy. Lydia relented though barely. Tony was bit by bit excluded from their lives until finally Jack found that Tony had been unceremoniously dropped from their Christmas card list. He blew up at Lydia and walked out to cool off. He called Tony from a nearby pay phone and met him for a drink, then two, and by the end of the night he was as drunk as he had ever been.
He was stuck in a rut at work. Lydia was too good an assistant to let go. And how did one fire one's own wife? He was stuck in a rut at home. His children were still quite young and it would still be far better if he and Lydia worked out their problems rather than he give up on them and leave her. Tony was getting on with his life, he had bought himself a sloop and tried out new girlfriends every other week or so. Jack wasn't in any position to buy himself a sloop but he sure as hell envied Tony his freedom. He sulked for weeks until Lydia finally told him to get a hobby.
He bought himself a motorcycle. Lydia rolled her eyes, forbade him from giving the children rides on it and told him in no uncertain terms to get rid of it. It was the last straw. He got rid of her.
Tony applauded from the deck of his sloop when Jack dropped by the dock to tell him. Tony invited him aboard and took him out sailing for the afternoon. It was the best day Jack had spent in years. He thought they could sail away for the three weeks vacation he had coming but Tony had another plan in mind. He was sailing solo, from New York to the Panama Canal, through the Canal and on to Hawaii. Not right away, he'd said, he needed two years to prepare and gain the skill he needed and to earn the money he was going to require. Jack was both impressed and skeptical. He left his friend and decided to drop into the dockside bar.
Diane Hawthorne was there. He knew her from work. Her brother owned a sloop and a motorcycle, Jack learned. He sarcastically congratulated the fortunes of her family and moved to another table. She followed and apologized though she wasn't sure for what. She liked him and hadn't liked watching him spar with Lydia whenever they thought no one was watching. She was glad the two had finally divorced and even gladder that Lydia had quit the D.A.'s office. With Lydia finally out of the picture, Diane was hoping to catch Jack's eye. She would but it would take her a whole year to gain the exalted position of being Jack's lover. He wasn't anxious to re-involve himself with a fellow Assistant District Attorney.
When he finally did notice her, though, he fell hard and fast. She was attractive and clever. He started seeing her more and more frequently down at the dockside bar when he visited with Tony. They became inseparable as Jack continued to climb the career ladder and Diane supported him emotionally and mentally. Their outside interests converged as well and they were often found during their off hours, down at the dockside bar, visiting with Tony and encouraging him.
They had dated for a year by the time Tony was finally able to embark on his dream and they watched in muted exuberance as he set sail. He had altered his plan to include a stop in California, at Santa Barbara, where he had relatives. Tony promised his good friend he'd keep in touch with him. He said he'd call when he reached the Canal and then from Santa Barbara. After that, he said, they'd just have to wait to hear from him when he landed in Hawaii.
He kept his word. He had sailed leisurely from New York down the East Coast and duly called from the Canal and from Santa Barbara. While there, in Santa Barbara, he was able to congratulate Jack upon hearing that he had been promoted to the Executive board. Jack could now use the title of Executive Assistant District Attorney. Tony was impressed. He had never loved the law quite as much as Jack had and envied his friend his professional success.
While he was in port at Santa Barbara he did some window shopping, he wanted to send Jack some token of congratulations. He was on his way past the front of a toy store when his eye fell on a model sloop. It was so similar to his own sloop he couldn't resist purchasing it. He sent it to Jack with a note:

'Dear Jack,

Congrats again on the promotion. Here's something you and Diane can play with in the bathtub. I know you'll never break down and buy yourself one, you old son-of-a-gun. I've decided to stay in Hawaii, once I get there, until next season. You and Diane have to come out here and see me. Don't make me wait until I get home to see you again old pal. When I do get back, you'll have to bring Kimmee and Jr. down to the dock. We'll go for a cruise. Knowing the mail, I'll probably talk to you before you get this, maybe I'll have reached Hawaii!!

Tony.'

Jack happily put the replica in the window.
He never heard from Tony again. The news reports said the storm hit without warning.

end


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