He was on a surfboard bobbing up and down in the ocean like a big red apple in a ‘bobbing for apples’ tub. Lying on his back with arms and legs splayed out and dangling deep into the ocean, he awakened suddenly and popped up sitting on the board. The day was bright, the air cool, but not cold, and the wind was strong. Nothing but ocean as far as he could see.
Passed out on a surfboard out in the ocean for who knows how long. As his surfboard was carried up and down on the waves he couldn’t see anything but ocean. Where was he? Where is shore, what direction and how far? To say that these questions were frightening to him would be a vast understatement. He was terrified! Frantically, he looked around in those few seconds at the top of each wave, but to no effect. There wasn’t enough time or height to see any distance. He decided he would look in only a single direction while atop, then turn his viewing angle 90 degrees for the next crest. This went on for two circle cycles and the panic in him became stronger when nothing certain was visible. In an act of growing desperation he stood up on the board with the idea of waving his arms at the top of the next wave. At what or to whom he might be waving he knew not, and it was then he thought he saw land. With two more waves and continued viewing in that direction he was convinced. Three or more miles away, but there lay land!
The terror and panic immediately receded. With much relief he sat back down, took several deep breaths, collected himself, and knew he’d be OK. There was a rumble in his belly which must be addressed at some point, hopefully soon, but given the circumstances this concern was rapidly discarded. He had no fear of the ocean or the mystery of what lay beneath, even this far from shore. The water, almost any body of water, had a soothing effect on this one. The fact is, he figured, right or wrong, he knew what was below the surface. Mostly just empty water and, with few exceptions, the animals beneath the water wanted less to do with him than he them.
Miles out to sea, donning a spring wetsuit, he rolled over onto his belly and started paddling. He must have been passed out for a long time because his arms and body were completely at rest. His arms felt fresh. Good thing, because he had a long way to go and the ocean was less than calm. It would simply be a matter of paddling one stroke after another. The ocean was bumpy this far out and the pesky wind would considerably increase his effort. With no choice but to paddle, he paddled.
A mile from shore he heard the sound, it caused him to sit up and look around. The surf was huge! The massive waves were being fed by the wind hugging the ocean’s surface and then crashing near the shore with alarming violence. ‘What the hell,’ he thought, ‘no way I’m going ashore through that.' He did not recognize the beach, at least not from this vantage point. He couldn’t place where he was. What beach? What city? He took a moment and thought how delightful it would be if he had a waterproof sack with a snack and sip of water. Nothing to do but decide the course of action. The beach appeared to be very tight, not very deep, almost just a cliff. He knew only that he wanted not to venture through the wilds of these death-defying waves. He started paddling to the left, in what he thought was probably a northwest direction, perpendicularly away to the monster waves while remaining parallel to the shoreline.
He kept this up for 30 minutes occasionally sitting up looking for a spot to come ashore. He eventually found a sandy beach with manageable surf and touched down. ‘Land ho,’ he said under his breath before crawling the final 20 feet out of the surf to the sand. He put his board down, sat on it, and took inventory while he regained his terra firma equilibrium. A surfer wallet was hanging from around his neck and tucked into his wet suit. This was a small plastic waterproof case with a $20 bill and car keys, a Toyota. In addition to the short-sleeve spring wet suit he was wearing neoprene water shoes with rubber soles. He was thankful for this given the amount of walking he anticipated ahead of him. He allowed himself the luxury of a five-minute break before walking. Where to walk he knew not, only that it’d start with a sip of water from the drinking fountain at the nearby public restroom.
His trek commenced with the car keys in hand. Every so often he’d clicked the button listening for a panic alarm to sound off identifying the target vehicle. He walked up and down the nearest beachside public parking lot to no effect. He was on the street walking east and eventually came to another public parking lot. Same routine, periodically clicking the panic button again to no effect. With no choice, he continued his trek eastward on the street overlooking the ocean and stayed on this route for a mile before eventually stopping at an outdoor eatery on a cliff overlooking the ocean and beach below. Exhausted he took a seat near the perimeter fence of the eating area so that he could put his surfboard just on the other side of the fence and out of the way. He was hunched forward looking down collecting himself as to his next move.
“Hey, ugly,” came a friendly voice.
A pair of well tended feet donning rubber flip-flops with plastic daisies on the toe-straps. The tops of the feet were adorably festooned with freckles. He looked up and saw the golden haired beauty who had addressed him. The sun was directly behind her head washing out the facial features but also furnishing her with a commendable halo effect on her gently wind rustled hair. He was pleased with his good fortune at landing at this dining establishment. “Pardon,” he responded feebly.
“You’ve got the ugliest board I’ve ever seen,” she said correctly. “I tell you that every time you’re here. You ready to order?” The board was a mess of colors seemingly haphazardly splashed together as if the manufacturer threw the remnants of a few near empty paint cans at it. The thing was ugly.
“Sorry, I’m a little out of it this morning,” he responded, confused by the ‘every time’ remark.
“Yeah, you look it. Also, it’s afternoon. Getchya the usual,” she suggested.
“Please,” he said, not sure what this ‘usual’ would entail. He also noticed for the first time he was wearing a watch, 2:45 in the afternoon.
He looked out over the ocean. Truly beautiful, and especially from this vantage point. He zoned out again, but this time it was just because he was worn out and hungry, rather than zonked out in a mysterious cloud of lapsed consciousness. He snapped out of it when she returned.
She dropped off two plates and two glasses. Blueberry pancakes, hash browns with a sunny side egg on top with bacon. A pair of frosted strawberry pop tarts with sprinkles, a purple smoothie of some sort and a glass of water no straw. “We’re not supposed to serve breakfast this late, but you looked like breakfast was what you needed. Plus, it’s not that busy right now and the cook didn’t mind. Let me know if you need anything more.” She picked up the table condiments and departed.
“What if I need those,” he said referring to the condiments.
“You won’t. You never do,” she replied over her shoulder without stopping.
He ate in a civilized manner despite his urge for a good gorging. In so doing he took in the savoring delight of each bite. Also taking time to think about his next step. Who he was, name, where he lived, how to get home, where was home? Keep walking, he figured.
He finished the meal, placed his $20 under the glass so it wouldn’t blow away, hopped over the low railing, grabbed his board, took one last long view of the ocean and continued his walk. There were cars parked all up and down the busy coastal highway, both sides of the street. He’d walk to the next light, clicking the panic button on his key fob every so often, then decide whether or not to continue forward or cross the street and walk back on the other side. But plan B became curiously unnecessary.
An older model Toyota 4Runner immediately responded to his key fob. There was a familiarity to it, and to this ocean view. He’d been here before, spent time just looking out over the ocean from exactly here. The rack on the roof was definitely meant for such things as his ugly surfboard. He put it in place, strapped it in, then got inside the car.
There was an ice cooler on the passenger side floor. A sheet of notebook paper was taped to the top of the cooler ‘Did it happen again? Home address is on the reverse side.’ The note appeared to be aged. The tape looked to have been removed and replaced several times. The paper had clearly been folded over before. There it was, his home address, with cross street drawn in. He need only now check the address of the diner from his receipt and complete the puzzle as to his starting point. He opened the cooler to luke warm water sloshing around, whatever ice had once been there had long ago melted. A bottled mineral water and a Dr. Pepper. He rolled the windows down, confirmed the adequacy of the fuel and turned on the radio. He chose the mineral water, started the car, signaled to merge into traffic and was underway.
[Inspired by a dream.]