Short Story

What is it that is so compelling about the thought of running away, leaving it all behind? Is it me? Is it the freedom of the mind, the creative self, that summer offers?

I went out for a 30 minute paddleboard ride over the holiday weekend. I looked down Falmouth Harbor, out into the Atlantic on the finest of summer days, and imagined what it might be like…to just keep going.

I imagined the following story, where I was the central character (but of course…why else have a fantasy?)  Welcome to my fantasy…

“She was barefoot,” Mike told the Harbor Master, then later the Coast Guard, “she must have been barefoot–she was on a paddleboard.” 

I had actually been wearing shoes that day, but Mike didn’t remember that. 

The shoes were a dead give away, but men never notice the shoes, do they? I was wearing my pink Sperrys, “water” shoes– not “boat” shoes– with soft, white tie laces—not the hard, leather laces that won’t stay tied and were so annoying. I loved those Sperrys, at least as much as one can love a pair of shoes. Shoes are not people, after all, my mother used to remind me when I said I loved any object. I had actually convinced a woman to buy a pair just like them at a West Marine the day before.

“They’re fabulous,” I told the woman eyeing the shoes in the store, “you can wear them to the beach, in the water, and then go running in them without missing a beat.”

I’d opened my eyes at 4:00AM that morning, as was my custom lately, laid in bed reading for an hour, finally stretched, got up from my cabin, made a pot of coffee. It was about 7 AM when I told Mike I wanted to get a little exercise with the paddleboard.

He didn’t notice me putting on the pink Sperrys. He didn’t notice that I had a black and blue “Spibelt” around my waist either, filled with money, tools, Excederin. I left my cell phone on deck, hopped aboard and started paddling away.

“Love you,” I told Mike.

“Love you, too. Have fun.”

Mike remembered only that he had blown up the paddleboard, at my request, the day before. It was a sturdy, inflatable one that he had purchased as a gift for me– a gray board with yellow bottom, black writing and a black skeg.

When he first bought the board, they had taken turns on it, but he was clumsy on it, always falling in the water, and I seemed to have a natural affinity for it. Paddleboarding was effortless for me. He had pretty much given it up, and I was getting bold. I often wore shorts and a top instead of a bathing suit, and if I was just going in the harbor, I didn’t bother with a life vest.

“If the harbor master sees you, he’s going to chew you out for not wearing a life vest,” Mike yelled at me, now from a distance, but I ignored him.

He didn’t ask how long I’d be; it didn’t matter really, there was no schedule that day. When I left, he got to work on boat stuff—polishing, cleaning, fixing, spraying stuff with WD40. He didn’t notice the time.

I paddled past boats and yachts of all sizes. Very few people were up and about on their boats at that hour, but those that were, simply smiled and waved as I paddled by– a woman drinking coffee on deck, a man with a bucket of soapy water and a hose. The water in the harbor was still, there was little wind. Once, a small whaler with some teenagers came by, too fast, creating a wake, whose ripples quickly expanded and reached me, throwing me off balance.

“F#%k,” I said, as I dropped to my knees to steady the board. I could not fall in. Not today.

I repeated the names of the boats to myself as I went by: Recovery Room, Persistence, Reel Quick. Two boats next to each other with the exact same name: Comfortably Numb.

Comfortably numb.  Perfect.  That was exactly how I felt when I reached the far end of the harbor, pulled up to the side where the marsh grass grew thick, lugged the paddleboard through the grass and the woods nearby.

There, I pulled the cover off the inflation hole, depressed the nozzle, and let the air seep out. I breathed deep as the air rushed out of the paddle board as I rolled it up like a stiff sleeping bag. Then I looked down the harbor where I had come from, looked down at my pink Sperrys and ran….

….So, that was my fantasy…

But of course I did turn around in the harbor, paddle back to Mike, right on time, well before he even had a chance to worry.

Later, I bought a new pair of pink, lace up Sperrys, because they are totally awesome, mine are getting a little smelly, and I felt I deserved a new pair.  All that fantasy is exhausting.

My favorite Sperrys, looking a bit worn, but I love them!

My favorite Sperrys, looking a bit worn, but I love them!


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