Buttercup rolled onto the rugged cliffs of Cape Flattery having never exceeded her top-end of sixty-eight miles per hour on the nineteen hundred mile epic. Christened Buttercup, the 1979 T2 Volkswagen Camper presented a mid-summer bloom of orangey-yellow from moon-round headlights to the access cover of her air-cooled rear engine. Battered California license plates waving hello and good-bye, ubiquitous surfboard adorning the roof, spare tire replacing the left rear seven-hundred and fourteen miles back. She was a traveler, as was the man at her helm. Purchased four years ago, one-hundred eighty-five thousand miles old, the black and white numerals on the German clock now read just shy of two hundred thousand.
Reaching the northwestern most point of the Evergreen State had been both a triumphant journey and a saintly exercise of enduring patience for both the aging camper, and at times, for those that shared the road. Each elevation change presented its own challenges only to become yet another milestone celebrated through the hazy effect of a cracked rear-view mirror. Crossing the final mountain passage had been the worst, three-thousand feet above sea level, on hands and knees drowning in fog and rain, backing up traffic three times beyond the legal limit. Summiting at noon, another two hundred forty miles to go, six hours on the outside to the Cape.
Hunched above the front road-wheels, wrists relaxed and resting atop the hard cold plastic of Buttercup’s steering wheel, Caspar now sat motionless, observing the explosion of white caps breaking on the confusion of basalt sculptures that sprung from the green-grey sea. Directly below the wheels, hidden from sight due to the sheer steepness of the rock face, a beach sloped towards more delicate waves licking at the coarse black and tan sand as old as the earth itself. Only a passing cloud of common sense warned Caspar from inching any closer to the edge.
Tatoosh Island, once a whaling and fishing camp now long abandoned, beckoned with whispers of the ancients, interrupted the horizon. In the shape of a crescent laying diagonally northwest to southeast, the island protected and sheltered a secluded bay known as the Cat’s Paw. Named so not for any particular land formations, but due to the glassine palette of cobalt sea whose surface reflected a pattern of tinfoil creases and blackening shadow on occasion of the breeze preceding a violent storm. A safe haven for those needing it during high seas or sudden marine anomalies. Private home to puffin, sea otter, seal and grey whale.
Using the island as a compass, continuing one-quarter mile or so due west, a number of subsurface rock formations created an artifact know as the Boneyard. Appropriately named, for at this location death was as likely to occur as fog and the wreckage on the ocean floor spoke clearly of this. Given the right conditions this deadly reef would generate a perfectly formed wave known as Canoes. Breaking left to right, this manifestation would rise and fall with the pulse of the fickle Pacific, an indicator of her heartbeat. And so, flanked by colonnades of tortured Sitka Spruce, watchmen, telling a story of the harsh winds that often battered the coast, Caspar sat, his mind overwhelmed with the images of what he proposed to do.
Twenty four hundred miles to the north, winds approaching hurricane-force toppled trees and assaulted the Alaskan coast from Anchorage to Sitka. Winds measuring seventy-nine miles per hour were measured at a private Sitka airfield where small planes were being tossed about with the chaos of a toddler’s toys. Power-lines dropped haphazardly across homes and cars throughout the city, fishing boats were torn violently from their moorings, tethers of rope and cable snapping with the tension as if they were low-test monofilament. Energy from the fluke summer storm bled to the sea sending a heavy tidal surge southward. High surf warnings were being issued down the continental coast, the most significant pulses to be felt as tremendous swells from British Columbia to Northern Oregon at some point the following day.
Death by misadventure was the official cause. Nine point-three inches of rainfall can be expected in the Chihuahuan Desert annually. That same nine point-three inches of rainfall is also just enough to drown a collared lizard when its path leads to an open oil drum used to trap rainwater. Caspar found the unfortunate reptile at the bottom of the drum on his way to the ship where routine maintenance and a swabbing of the deck awaited. What made him look he’d never recall and how the lizard got there he’d never know. But there it was. floating on the surface, several feet from safety, still, silent, bloated, dead. Vibrant colors now dingy shades of pasty chalk. He poked the poor fellow with a stick forcing it below the surface. Held it there for a few seconds and then withdrew the stick allowing the lizard to bob freely back to the surface establishing it was quite dead.
What Caspar did recall with absolute certainty though, was the day of his discovery, for it was July 3rd his birthday; and only moments before he had heard about the death of a Brian Jones on the store radio, who coincidently, was found dead at the bottom of an outdoor pool on some farm in England and something or other to do with Winnie-the-Pooh. So on this celebratory day, Caspar wore a sort of weighted dread, a sense of his own destiny. Water, life-giving, life taking. Death by misadventure.
Complete with gangplank, metal anchor and magnificently carved steering wheel, the Osberg ship in all it’s glory captured the imagination of even the most uninspired of weary road warrior. Prow triumphantly bursting skyward, proudly navigating the shimmering golden sands of the endless wasteland, the full-scale replica portrayed an incredible vision of Viking craftsmanship and window into the shadow-side of Scandinavian dreams. Sails rippling with early morning zephyr, so realistic, it was easy to imagine the vessel crashing through bitter cold icy chop at some nautical pace on way to do battle in the Norwegian Sea.
Caspar’s father had spent months on this inspiration and countless hours carving the gripping-beast motifs that adorned the joins at bow and stern. Beasts grabbing at and grappling with mortal enemies, seen and unseen, in battle to save their souls. Bleached a shimmering chromatic white from a relentless sun the seventy foot long oak structure could accommodate up to thirty seamen on a series of benches running the length and breadth of the craft. It was this ship, the pride and joy of the curious little rest-stop slash diner slash road-side repair shop and gas station, that had been Caspar’s immediate destination. Destination temporarily forgotten however, given eight years of age, a short attention span and one very dead lizard.
Caspar Kouyaté-Finn was incongruent if defined with a single brush stroke. But a more precise portrait would favor an intelligent boy, athletic nonchalance, tall for his age with softly browned skin, blue eyes and a janitor’s mop of floppy dark hair tinted with desert sun. Genetic blessings of an adventurous Senegalese mother and an industrious Norwegian father. Living in the northern Chihuahuan Desert just northwest of Las Cruces off I25, Caspar’s days would begin and conclude with the tasks of his parent’s roadside operation. Schooled at home, his only friend a thriving imagination.
With the rising sun Caspar could be found in a progression of repetitive acts. If not sweeping the sand that drifted in through not so tightly sealed doors he was stocking rapidly emptying shelves. If not pumping overpriced gas he was washing off bug splatter cemented to roasting windshields. If not dumping trash he was breaking down boxes and so on and so on all the while intent to overhear the tales told by the shop’s transient patrons about the exciting places they were off to or had recently left behind.
Schooling took precedence during the mid-morning hours. European and African history kicked of each session, followed by language both English and French, a course in mathematics and finally ending with the finer points of cooking akkra, boulettes du poisson, mafé and poulet yassa. Any edible remains of the morning’s lessons were sold from the shop’s kitchen as authentic traditional West African cuisine. Afternoon activities focused on the Osberg, and it was the eventual execution of these chores that lead Caspar to his second life altering discovery that day.
While washing down the mighty Viking craft, Caspar happened upon a thickness of papers folded upon themselves in the form of a tube and stuffed beneath one of the ship’s wide oak benches. Unraveling the packet revealed an aged magazine dedicated to the art of surfing, left behind perhaps, forgotten, discarded, no longer of use to the previous owner.
Well worn and dusted with sand, the black and white cover shimmered gloriously before Caspar’s eyes an effect enhanced by the fiery afternoon sun. In the foreground of the cover the silhouette of a young man perched on a rock platform staring out through a spray of mist as gauzy as cigarette smoke. Beyond the haze a wave of unknown proportions rose from the sea summoning the lone watcher as it curled and appeared to thunder across and off the edge of the page. Like father like son, Caspar was hit with his own inspiration.
Over the course of several weeks, utilizing what scrap he could pack-rat from the store, such as shipping boxes and aluminum foil, and spare resources he could acquire from his father’s workshop, including plastic wrappings, industrial glues, epoxy and varnish, Caspar set about fashioning his own surfboard from the pictures and specifications called out in his prized magazine. Lacking an ocean, or for that matter any other significant body of water large enough to generate wave or wake, the larger dunes of the Chihuahuan were the proving grounds for each new configuration.
And it was in these dunes that Caspar spent all his free time hauling surfboards to the knife-edge peaks of silicone sets and then skimming back down, imagining the lift of the rising sea and the sensation of the wind racing up the face of each new wave.
Time rolled on, and as it did, Caspar perfected his craft, repeated the drills, all the while helping to maintain an ever burgeoning family business. So it was the sum of like and similar days that filled the years to come, until the appearance of a man with an eye for the unusual who rightly went to work shaking hands, asking questions and taking pictures.
Artistic, absurd, without question unique, the unlikely Osberg site achieved iconic status in May of 1977, being named in New Mexico’s “Top Ten Quick Stops” by My Southwest travel magazine. Proudly adorning the cover a much matured Caspar, perched firmly atop the crown of a snarling beast clawing its way up the bow of the Osberg, right arm supporting his latest incarnation of surfboard, left hand raised to his brow deflecting the sun, plotting a course through the uncharted reaches. Three months later at the age of sixteen, Caspar having heard enough from so many passing travelers, said farewell to Las Cruces forever and hitched a ride west to California with a band of hopeful musicians to shape surfboards and in search of his first real wave.
Stringers in sky blue neon script, blazed away enticingly indicating the entrance to the popular dive and on occasion Chamber of Commerce. Caspar had noted the establishment en route to the cape and had made the six-mile trek back for a celebratory beer and something to eat before ending the evening at the rugged overlook to spend one last night in Buttercup.
Parking well down the street he began the march to Stringers which balanced on a stone and cable bulkhead, the bar itself serving as the gateway to an old and rather suspect jetty. Defying Mother Nature, the pier rolled and groaned with the pull of the moon and the unrelenting strain and weight of surging sea water. Extending thirty yards or so out over the water Caspar could see the ends of cigarettes pulsing and darting in the darkness, a dance expressed by the hands that held them. Darkness had fallen quickly this night as the clouds piled up blocking out the sunset and giving the damp salty air infused with smoldering tobacco and dazzling embers an added sense of the mystic. As Caspar closed the distance on the threshold, the sound of the incoming tide smacking the sea wall and pilings assured him he was indeed there.
Bumping through classic western style battling doors he was confronted with yet more smoke and smothered with the din of a bustling weekend crowd disproportionate with locals. Static from the sound system interfered with the driving rhythm of some popular grunge band, words that just managed to reach, but not register with Caspar’s ear. And if the channel had not just been changed on a screen mounted in the corner above a glass case displaying bounced checks, he might also have just managed to hear news of a storm brewing in Alaska. A storm that was sending a swell East South East reaching the cape tomorrow afternoon with a promise of waves breaking ten to twelve feet on the face.
Bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling piercing the darkness and casting halos of yellow light through dense stagnant air, the only obvious window boarded up and pinned proudly with pictures of the town in its heyday. High tables and bar stools filled the room, peanut shells dusted the bare wood floor absorbing any spillage. The bar itself formed the centerpiece of the establishment, an enormous cedar log stretching the length of the back wall, carved in the likeness of a totem pole. Surveying the room Caspar set his sights in the direction of the cedar bar.
Being Saturday night the bar was fully staffed setting the number of employees at three; one leathered biker type and two indigenous barmaids. Biker type, an enormous bald-headed Spartan, was clearly the owner as he spewed abuse on an underage patron, but did nothing to discourage his cash contributions to the bars bottom line or healthy rate of liquid consumption. Barmaid one was either the owner’s wife or in training for the honor by keeping up in both leather and ballast. Barmaid two did not belong.
Tallish and lean, the young girl’s raven black hair was tied up in a bunch pinned together by a pair of bone needles, leaving the length undetermined. She glowed with healthy light brown skin, and possessed wide-set eyes with a depth that appeared to look at everyone twice, her knowing smile confirmed that assessment. From behind the bar and behind her back, aided by a wall tiled with hand stenciled mirror, the girl watched Caspar part the doors, evaluate the room and approach the solid wood bar. Carefully appraising this stranger as he edged for a stool, more curious than business she inquired for his ID.
Absorbing the California license, “Twenty-seven tomorrow, what brings you way up here?”
“Canoes,” was the one word reply that could just be heard over the bellow of biker type’s spouse to be.
Head tilted in query and with some concern, “You want to kill yourself on your birthday? You do know there’s a storm on the way?” Most ill-timed deaths in this neck of the woods were from alcohol or drugs, what this thoughtful looking stranger seemed to want to accomplish was new and curiously unexpected.
“So what are we drinking birthday boy?”
With second thoughts on a beer, “Water please.”
Adding burger and fries to his request for water, Caspar sat quietly wrapped in his own thoughts, staring blindly into an infinity of vodka bottles mirrored back through reflective shelves. At some point in his reverie the girl had refreshed Caspar’s water, setting the glass just off-center of a soft blue notecard folded neatly down the middle. ‘Off at midnight’ in tidy block printing.
Ages ago the universe had decided the sun would rise at precisely 4:17am on this day. Given no argument to the contrary, that is exactly what happened as the veil of dawn lifted before a darkening menace of cloud. Throughout the night the winds had gained intensity, whistling through the straining limbs of the ancient rain forest dense with hemlock and red cedar. An occasional gust sent a shudder through Buttercup, a response to the impending storm with sounds from the ocean’s belly adding depth to a building climatic orchestra.
Now with morning just minutes old, a finger of light probed the shadows of the cliff-side campsite, finding a gap in the blinds that shielded the van’s windows and taking a poke at Caspar’s forehead. Unaware of the source of his irritation Caspar raised a hand to swat away the annoyance that penetrated his waking dreams. As the sun arced higher in the early sky, warmth emanating from the finger spread across Casper’s face until he could no longer deny the calling.
Feigning sleep, the girl peered in silence between folded arms as the young man gained his feet, stretched, and surveyed a pile of gear laid out before him. Red waterproof pack, full-body wetsuit, wax, leash and a small stuff-sack of food, all appeared to meet Caspar’s approval as he nodded a silent ‘let’s do it’. Dressed only in cotton shorts he gently opened the van’s side-sliding door and stepped down bare footed on to the hard packed earth and stone covered in a carpet of old growth detritus.
Fully present, he stood alert, absorbing the sights and sounds of the moment. Above, the forest canopy filtered the sun and blocked out a sky packed ever tighter by the angry storm. Below, the sound of the tide and waves, angered by an onshore wind and rising sea level, could be heard beneath the frantic cry of a flock of gulls being blown mercilessly out of formation. To the west, Tatoosh Island shimmered in the distance, bejeweled behind a caul of silver-grey fog.
Returning his attention to Buttercup, Caspar retrieved the surfboard from the rooftop carrier, pausing to feel the weight, comforted by the familiar lines and curve of the rail. Satisfied with things as they were, he propped the board securely against the moss-covered trunk of an enormous Douglas-fir, retreating to the shelter of Buttercup just as the first drop of rain pierced the umbrella of evergreens. Shrugging on an old hooded sweatshirt, and lacing up a worn pair of leather boots, he collected the wet-pack, carefully transferred the neoprene suit and other necessities to the brightly colored bag, rolled the top over twice, and clipped it shut ensuring the seal. Casting a tentative glance in the direction of the girl, he shouldered the load and slipped out once again, this time with no plans to return.
Buttercup creaked, rocking ever so slightly with the shift in weight, and then regained equilibrium as the girl emerged from the van and dropped to the ground just in time to watch Caspar, board under arm, disappear behind a stand of sword fern waving in time with the breeze.
A serpentine of severe switchbacks, only inches wide in places, carved a treacherous path in the near vertical slope that had long ago been abandoned by the state forestry; their only responsibility now was to post signs warning of sheer cliffs, falling rock and unstable soil. One misstep and the twelve hundred foot flight to the beach would take seconds rather than the estimated seventy minutes by foot. Roots and rocks slick with moss and lichen interrupted the trail on a regular basis adding to the challenge of balance and forward progress. Thirty minutes into the descent Caspar paused for a moment at a widening of the passage to take in the magnificence of the scene laid out before him. And for that moment, the girl did not breathe.
Shadowing Caspar, but at some distance and out of sight, she watched as he inched ever closer to the edge of an earthen shelf that weakened with every step, a cornice of dirt and tangled root supported by nothing but grace. Before Caspar’s eyes the endless sea took on a flat calm and seemed to withdraw, bringing the island ever closer, moving it forward against the horizon belying the true distance to his first destination. A ceiling of cast iron-grey compressed the atmosphere adding a sense of urgency as the ground beneath Caspar’s feet began to fall away. As she was about to call out alerting Caspar to the danger, he took a step back and then another as he turned to continue his descent, never knowing how close he had come.
Caspar emerged from the forest to a light curtain of rain and the briny smell of wet sand. Never breaking stride, he made directly for the waves slapping at the beach, the real estate being reclaimed a handful at a time by the incoming tide. Soon the tide would reverse, soon the time would come for the crossing.
Square tail, quad fins and heavy-duty glassing, the pale-blue surfboard lay at Caspar’s feet as he began his final preparations. Removing each article from the pack he placed them carefully on the board in the order he would use them. Carelessly discarding the boots, sweatshirt and shorts he stepped into the full body suit pulling it up over his legs, letting the upper body hang at his waist, interest drawn by the complete lack of sound as the tide began its return to source. As the rain began falling in sheets, the wind swirling without design, Caspar took the cool salt air into his lungs, and letting it go doubted his purpose for the first time, wondering if this was after-all a fool’s act.
Finding himself thigh deep in the fifty degree water, Caspar leaned into the storm, faced a battalion of white-tipped soldiers, and launched himself atop the glossy deck of the nine foot gun. His focus trained beyond the nose of the board, Casper steadied himself and began the long paddle to the island, the final obstacle as he crossed over the threshold.
From her vantage point on the beach, the girl watched Caspar greet the summer swell as it arrived from its lengthy Alaskan journey, meeting each wave head on, with confidence, driving down, pushing through and popping out cleanly on the other side. With that observation, the girl let her thoughts wander to an image and the words and rhymes of Jim Morrison, and his fateful “…climb through the tide…”. As she watched, Caspar paddled further and further from shore and seemed to shrink in the shadow of the force that roiled the sea sending wave after wave in an attempt to dissuade the young man from his quest. A black speck on the horizon now, indistinguishable against the shifting backdrop of silvers and greys, Caspar drifted out of sight, to a place where she believed, if the earth were truly flat, he would simply fall off the edge and slip into the void.
Caspar found the going much rougher than expected. And as the bitter chop grew in size from breakers and easy rollers, to waves two and three feet in height, his only option became to duck each wave, escape the blows by going under, rather than taking them on face to face. As he forced his way up and out through the backside he was met by yet another wave, each more determined than the last to knock him loose and flush him back to the mainland.
Showered with pellets of ice from the blackening edge of an advancing squall, he glanced back over his shoulder, seeking comfort in the security and solidity of the shore, wondering just how far he had come, wondering if he should turn back. But there was nothing, nothing to be seen, no beach, no cliff, nothing except a wall of driving rain that seemed to be chasing him further and further out to sea. More determined than ever, and filled with a fresh sense of urgency, he turned back towards the island and paddled with all his might.
Squinting into a rain that now came in sideways, the girl turned her attention to finding some form of shelter. It was her intention to see the day out, wait for the sun to go down, before giving up hope of ever seeing the young man again. Retreating to the tangle of drift logs at the foot of the cliff she stumbled across the clothes that Caspar had so casually flung to the side.
She picked each item up one by one, carefully folded them, and placed them in a pack amongst a handful of other supplies she had brought with her from the van. At the base of the cliff she soon found suitable accommodation in the form of a crude lean-to, a small hut-like structure most likely built by some creative summer vacationers. With her back to the island, the girl lit a smoky fire, added a dried twist of sage, the sweet aroma filling the confines of the make-shift shelter as she prepared to wait out the storm.
Just an outline at first, a shimmer in the fabric of the mist, a thinning of the atmosphere, a hole in the storm allowed the full form of the island to fill the frame before him. Exhausted from the extended effort, Caspar felt an overwhelming sense of relief as he reached the protection offered by the leeward side of the island. Sheltered now from the wind and rain, a surface tension returned to the sea and he found himself gliding across the water with a peaceful ease as if locked into a set of rails.
Shifting his weight back he slowed, taking a position straddling the board, as he closed the distance to the shore. Now just yards from safety, Caspar slid off the board, nudging it along ahead of him, as he slogged the final few feet of knee-deep water on foot. His back to the mainland, Caspar smiled to himself as he stood on the beach and felt more than heard the first explosion.
Thunder filled the air as the full force of the Alaskan swell passed over the boneyard. Only a handful of places on earth were capable of generating such awe-inspiring theatre. At this moment, the privilege of experiencing that drama belonged solely to Caspar, as the first colossal wave went off.
However slight the difference may be, sound travels quicker over water than land. As the telltale vibrations raced over the cold dark sea the girl’s skin tingled with receipt of the message, her head rung with the suspended roar of wave over reef. Unfolding from her crouch over the smoldering fire, she turned her head in the direction of the hollow boom. Warmth from the glowing embers filled the cramped space, keeping the cool moist air at bay and preventing it from invading the confines of her primitive shelter as she scanned the heavens from the protection of the log frame doorway. Thunder without lightning. Canoes.
He sat alone at the center of a ring of thin lacy moisture, with only the direction of the waves to differentiate north from south, east from west, with only the sound of the waves to acknowledge his existence. Positioned on the outside, Caspar watched as the waves rolled by in sets of two about seven minutes apart. First to appear was a smaller variant of ten to twelve feet in height, followed by a second wave of considerable size, most in excess of sixteen feet.
Since he was eight, he had searched for this place and this moment, explored the design from all possible angles, carefully mapped the final steps: leave early, paddle hard, pick a line, do not deviate, stroke until you are about to free-fall, do not get barreled, do not to get covered up. What his mind’s eye had failed to capture, what he could not have anticipated, was that the next wave, his wave, would be in excess of thirty-six feet.
Floating parallel to the direction of the waves, slowly drifting into position, he let the first wave roll by and then he attacked. Stroking feverishly into the path of the second wave, finding his line, paddling even harder yet, until he was almost upside-down. His face stung from the salty spray carried by the force of the wind racing up the steepening curve of the wave. He sprung to his feet, landing squarely on the deck of the board, perfectly balanced, his back to the wave. Right foot forward, he dropped his right hip, transferring weight back onto his left foot so that he would not be pitched over the nose of the board and be crushed by the pursuit of the falls.
Every ounce of adrenaline, all fears and anxieties now transformed into an intense focus. Finding his center, existing only in the moment, his gut flipped as he experienced a sense of flight, a momentary separation from the pull of the earth, a feeling of anti-gravity. Leading the wave, looking out over and above the layer of fog that had blanketed him only seconds before, he was struck with overpowering wonderment at the world around him.
Unobstructed, the panoramic view of the coastline, thinned north and south, stretched to the limit, as it trailed off into the distance to follow the endless curvature of the earth, until it met again on the other side. Above, the sky now sapphire blue extended to the upper reaches of the atmosphere where it paled and gave way to a hint of dusky starlight. Below, the sea churned and roared, a whirlpool of white, green and grey that both fed, and ate itself, as it grew and gained momentum.
Ahead, nestled in amongst the evergreens that crowned the top of the cliffs, dwarfing the beach below, a reflection of orange that could only be Buttercup. Observing the world through the eyes of an eagle, he felt the oneness and connectedness of everything that existed. His journey had taken him here, to a place of appreciation and understanding; and straight into the path of the elephants.
With what felt like the weight of ten elephants landing on his back, Caspar lost his wind and orientation, as he cart-wheeled out of control. Knocked clear of his board, he was driven painfully into the violent turbulence generated by the epic collision of natural forces. Unable to determine up from down, he thrashed, reaching out in all directions, hoping to reach the surface. A fire burned in his chest and belly, needles of white-hot ice assaulted his lungs.
Becoming more and more disoriented, desperately seeking a much-needed breath of air, his thoughts began to numb and grey. Limbs barely able to respond, the signals from his brain dulled by the lack of oxygen, he made a final attempt to get clear of the confusion. Reaching for the stars that lay just beyond his fingertips, he realized a sense of relief and euphoria. He had finally broken through.
Late evening mist hung above the slate grey sea, giving the impression of water boiled, then set to rest in the cool of the approaching twilight. From a distance, the length of light blue fiberglass and foam appeared as nothing more than part of the post storm debris field. A contribution to the flotsam knocking about, and rocking in time, with the persistent nudge of the incoming tide, as it lapped its way up the gentle slope of the now serene beachfront. Deeply gouged, cracked nearly clean through, only a fragment of the leash remained to keep the lone surviving fin company. Caspar’s board had come to rest on the beach just over a mile south of where he had first paddled out.
Silence filled the space vacated by the storm, the first indication that the tempest had finally exhausted itself. Throughout the afternoon the wind had raged as the sea battered the coastline, tossing drift logs about like toothpicks. Trees, torqued against their grain, moaned under the lashing delivered by the force of the gale. Time, measured by the steady beat of Canoes, stood still; with no end to the storm in sight. She waited, cross-legged on the cool damp sand, arms relaxed and resting across her lap. Chin tucked into the folds of a warm woolen scarf, her mind was occupied with thoughts of Caspar as she absorbed the waves of radiant heat that escaped the smoldering fire. In the end, it was the gulls that disrupted her reverie, as their cries filled the silence.
Massaging the stiffness from her legs and back, she prepared to leave the shelter and continue her vigil on foot. Removing the scarf from around her neck, she donned the hooded sweatshirt she had placed in her pack, the sweatshirt left behind by Caspar. Leaving the campfire to burn itself out, she pulled the hood snug and marched south in the wake of the storm looking for any sign of Caspar. Nearly a mile of raw barren beach had passed under her feet when the first bit of color caught her eye with its striking blue contrast.
Beached at the height of the incoming tide, the board lay motionless, adorned with a garland of seaweed and kelp, dead if a surfboard could be dead. Her head sagged with the burden of cold weighty thoughts, any hope for Caspar’s safe return waned, the damage was extensive. Dragging what remained of the board well clear of the surf, she claimed a spot on the sand, where she sat hand in hand with the final two hours of daylight and a gathering of fog. As the girl watched the sun dip ever closer to the horizon, she was forced to look away as the elements conspired to ignite a blinding effusion of orange and red, a refraction of light with kaleidoscopic efficiency.
Either a trick of the light, or the play of the fog, but when she turned her head back to look upon the sea, her eyes immediately came to rest on a dark shapeless form. Unsure how she had missed something so obvious, she raced to the water’s edge where the body lay motionless. Dropping to one knee she grabbed two handfuls of the protective rubber suit and heaved with all her strength, rolling the body towards her. Torso now open and exposed to the sky, Caspar’s back arched as his chest convulsed with the rush of incoming air. Expelled from his lungs, a stream of thick cloudy sea water drained from Caspar’s mouth as he forced a wet “I’m alive?”
What Caspar heard in reply as he watched the sun fade through a filter of raven black hair were not the words he expected.
“Yes Caspar, you are very much alive.”