The sun was sinking rapidly as I crossed the lawn, headed for the dock. Settled into the weathered bench at the pierhead, facing west, front row center at this daily celestial spectacle, I called up video on my phone. Holding it steady, I panned slowly clockwise, starting at the boardwalk, with Rushland in the background, and progressing through darkening woods towards complex many-colored clouds accumulating on the horizon where the sun had just set. I posted the vid on TangoFolly.com, typed “Hi, Maria… just keeping in touch”, attached Edvard Munch’s “Scream”, and clicked Send. Tantalizing moments passed. A chirp alerted me to incoming text. “In class; wish you were here… Maria.”
I watched the tide infiltrating the mudflats before me. I figured within an hour I’d be able to navigate my kayak down Murray Creek to the Stono River, cross over with rapid determined strokes, and finally float into the little creek that petered out at the bottom of Maria’s garden. She’d be back by then, nursing chilled vinho verde on her rooftop and listening to Carlos di Sarli. However, by the time I translated thought into action, gliding towards the river as a blood red moon rose behind me, a light mist had settled over the sea marsh. Poor visibility and the rising tide conspired to mislead me. Somehow I missed the turn into Maria’s creek, and was back-paddling along a palisade of marsh grass when I felt a light bump near the stern and then a more solid impediment that stopped me dead in the water.
I peered over the side, and saw an ice-chest caught between the kayak and the sea grass. The lid was dangling from a single hinge. Reaching into the chest, I pulled out a black bottle of gold-labeled champagne. More bottles were in there, wedged in place by baggies swollen with white powder. Fighting down a shrill adrenaline scream, I scanned the river and marsh around me. The river mist had dissipated. I saw no sinister blacked-out motor-yacht, only a placid expanse of salt grass, the river’s shifting moonlit surface, and the regular red blinks of a distant microwave tower. I considered my options, which boiled down to salvaging the chest, or leaving it behind, bobbing in my wake. Opportunity overruled caution. I stashed the bottles and baggies in the kayak’s bow, found my way into Maria’s creek, and moored a few minutes later at her dock to the strains of Osvaldo Fresedo’s “El Once” drifting down from her rooftop.