On the Beach
Blix wakes up to an all too familiar dream...
There are seagulls making a racket all around me. I am wrapped in a bright green shroud and I know what this means: I passed out on the boat again. The heat and the brightness of the sun filtering through my jib sail also tells me that it is late, probably nine o'clock. There are voices around the boat, elderly voices. That would be the morning beach walkers. I might be a beach walker myself, this morning, if I came ashore too far from the Coronado Avenue beach ramp. But I am not quite ready to pull the sail off my face and face the day.
“I think there's a body on there, Edna.” Sixty, maybe older.
“Should we call somebody, you think?” Yeah, at least sixty. Still strong, but entering the timid phase of life.
“Where am I?” I ask from beneath my shroud. My morning voice is a pleasant croak, followed by some choking and coughing.
“Yikes!” shouted one of the old girls. The one named Edna was calmer.
“This is America, sir, the USA.” She said this in a firm voice, letting whatever riff-raff has washed ashore on this hallowed ground know that she might be old, but she is still ready to defend her homeland.
I pull the jib away from my face, then quickly put it back. I definitely am not ready for the harsh light of another Florida morning.
Two upside-down white-haired heads jerk back,. Where do they buy those giant sunglasses?
“I'm a good American like yourselves, ladies. I meant to ask where I am on the beach. Do you see any saloons around here?”
“Well, I think it's a little early for that, young man.” It was helpless. I knew better than to ask what day it was. In fact, what day was it? Tuesday. Maybe it was Tuesday morning.
I feel around on the trampoline of my beach cat, the Bitch, for a stray warm beer. Anything to clear the pipes. No luck...maybe in the cooler...
“Oh good, here's the Beach Patrol! Over here, sir, here he is under this big green sheet!” These old bimbos ain't helping much. I glance down to make sure that I at least have my trunks on and there it is, a gift from heaven or somewhere, a stray Red Stripe. I grab it and crack the can, sitting up under the custom -cut jib sail I paid six hundred bucks for a year ago. I pray: “Please, dear God, let it be Butch. Please God don't let it be...
“Step away from the sailboat, ladies, please.” Great. Thanks for nothing, God. Short Round. It's a bad Tuesday morning and I draw Short Round first damn thing. I chug the beer fast because it might be the last of the day, if Officer Short Round gets his way.
“Sir, please come out from under that sail, hands first.”
“It's just me, Marcus, you jackass.” Oh good lord, did I just say that out loud?
“Step away from the boat, ladies, now!”
“ He was looking for a saloon, officer!”
“Ladies, you go right over there and let me handle this.” I wonder if there is any rum left. What day is this? There was something weird last night, some kind of boat...Ruby Tuesday...Phil! Oh great. This could go wrong a thousand different ways. First I have to get clear of my ex-wife's brother. He was a great gymnast in high school and college, a maybe contender for the Olympics. But like all great gymnasts, he was a petite man, not very big, and he never liked me. And it wasn't me that put the name Short Round on him. That's an old Army term that got slapped on him after he entered the Police Academy. I was never in the Army. I was in a different branch. But I slipped up one day at Mona's folks and said something in his defense about how the little guys got picked on unfairly but he overheard just the bad parts and pretty much has hated me ever since. And actually, he really is pretty short.
“Look, Marcus, I'm coming out now and if you have your hand anywhere near your holster I'm going to tell your mom. I'm hung-over and lost and late for work and I damn sure don't have time for any nonsense.” I take the sail away from my face. I don't know how I always manage to lower the jib and make a nest on the tramp. I only do it when I am in full blackout. One of these days I am going to wake up on the beach in Cuba. The sun ain't smiling, it is glaring hard into my face. Edna and her sidekick are over by the four-wheel drive Beach Patrol pickup that Junior drives. Marcus is named after his father. Yeah, I married into the local royalty.
“This is it for you this time, Blix Dixon. Public intoxication, sleeping in a public place, open container, who knows what else after I search your boat. You've really done it this time.” God, it was hot for March. The sun comes up out of the east and is pretty nonchalant and easy-going at first, but it will fry your ass by ten o'clock, which I was guessing it was. I turned to the two old gals who were taking all this in with an avid interest and a little bit of growing fun at this display of local intrigue.
“How's my hair look, Edna? I haven't had time for a proper brush-up.” She was startled to hear her name but delighted to become an active part of the tableau.
“Not bad for waking up drunk on a sailboat.” She had a hand on her hip and was now being quite saucy. The seagulls were raising some kind of hell now. I slid over to the starboard rail of the tramp, opposite Short Round. I slid down onto the sand. Not too bad.
'I'm taking a rinse, Marcus. Don't shoot.” I walked down to the water's edge and waded out to the three foot cut that runs about ten yards off the beach. There was a small crowd gathering, nothing new for me and Marcus or his boss, Butch, whose truck I could see about a half mile down the strand. A quick dunk and a quick interview with Butch and this would pass.
“Stop right there, Dixon!” Fuck you, Short Round. I dove into the cool water of the rapidly flowing channel. I could just stay under and maybe this would all go away. What was that; that boat? There was something about a boat...I come up out of the water, shake off the spray and stride back to the Bitch and the ridiculosity. I've been putting on some padding, lately, but I'm still pretty fit and I knew the audience was sizing up the big dude coming out of the surf and the nervous little man with the gun and I knew, sadly, which way the wind would blow on this one. Captain Butch was coming up the beach now, with his lights flashing. Most of the time I am up and gone before the cops notice or care, but not today. Old Phil Stine was in it last night and he has a way of befuddling you. He has ways but I knew that because Uncle Phil was in it my ass was covered; but still, I didn't like it; I didn't like it and I wanted to get my boat up above the tide line and the sails stowed and I wanted to get over to my shack and take a shower and grab some coffee (a lot of coffee) and check on the crew and then I was heading out to Phil's place outside of town.
Something about a boat...