river ride

A few nights ago Michael and I took the boat out for our first evening cruise while Calvin’s nurse stayed home to bathe him, feed him, give him his seizure meds and put him to bed.

We arrived at the launch around five. At my asking, two sweaty men, one shirtless with an enormous stomach folding over his belly, proudly and kindly showed me the blood worms they had dug up. The worms, long grayish ribbons with thin red stripes writhed, almost beautifully, in translucent white buckets.

Michael unloaded the boat and I stayed with it while he parked the car and trailer. It was low tide. We could smell it on the wind. The sun beat down on me as I slouched lazily on the warm dock and closed my eyes which, through their lids, were bathed in a glowing crackled blood orange red. The rays seemed to flicker through the leaves, but when I opened my eyes I saw the sun blazing naked in the big sky. Mere gusts of wind beating my lids had caused the light to tremble, something I had never noticed before.

We made our way without a wake down the New Meadows river past the house our friends had built not long before they moved away. I remembered the fun cookouts we used to have there, their two furry little dogs chasing Rudy around, the Mongo-sized margarita's Kellie made, along with the glistening raw shrimp appetizer she mistakenly served. I chuckled to myself reminiscing about Nigel's crazy penny poker, the laughter that echoed in their kitchen and no doubt carried across the water. Then I thought of the seizure Calvin had on their cushioned window seat, followed by the fear, the ambulance, our friends arriving later at the emergency room with a platter full of barbecue to sustain us.

Once, years ago, I walked barefoot down the steep grassy embankment to their dock, climbed into the white marshmallowy seats of their boat. We trolled on the river to a lobster shack forty-five minutes down the coast. We cracked jokes and beers, uncorked wine and drank the cold beverages from plastic cups.

"I miss those guys," I said to Michael. "Me too." This time we were making the same trip, but alone—Calvin being difficult to bring on the boat. At a generous clip the wind whipped our faces. We startled a cormorant, which flew into our path, so black and dripping it appeared soaked in oil. A few large ospreys stretched their wings in the sky above an endless bank of jade pines and oaks sprouting from craggy layers of black and gray rock. The coast was dotted with homes of all types. Small rustic cedar cabins with peeling white trim and rickety screen porches shared the bluff with quaint painted cottages and stately— sometimes absurd—fawn and khaki lodges made mostly of windows, peeking through the tops of the trees.

After a long ride against wind and current, dodging hundreds of multicolored lobster buoys, and before entering a powerful, heavy open ocean, Michael spotted our destination, motored our modest lozenge-shaped boat between lobster boats up alongside the dock and tied it off. At the snack bar window we ordered a lobster roll, pint of fresh hot battered clams and sweet potato fries. In front of us a couple with a curly-haired toddler in a little red life vest had ordered a scoop of blueberry ice cream on a cone. I stood in amazement at the words streaming out of this minuscule child's mouth as he climbed all over a green plastic chair like a monkey.

We sat at the end of the pier on iron chairs, the sun hanging low in the sky but warming us in our seats. Michael cracked a beer from our cooler, and I a small bottle of Prosecco. We toasted a successful first half of our trip while looking over the waves of cerulean water missing Calvin and Rudy, but smiling nonetheless.

photo by Michael Kolster

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