The Beryl Delve ©2017 by p. elliott doherty Click here for Reader’s Guide
A plane of faint blue light toyed with the canvas of relenting darkness; the suggestion of morning roused Brandon from his rocking nest and lured him into the open glass of water. He retrieved the kayak and dragged it to the lapping shore and stretched his body through its fullest arc. Egrets and kingfishers scrapped and fielded the offerings of the day with a merging overture of insistent noise.
____He thought about a long paddle, one that would carry him around the cape and across the corner of the southern tip of the peninsula; a sanguine survey of the land held him with its smoky, nutty, sun aged allure and pulled him into a private experience. He thought about—instead—chopping north and taking coffee with Jarno and sharing the paces with the gentle, older fellow. He would plot a direction once he paddled away and out far enough, once he felt the potential in his back and his shoulders. With the light wind and the teasing light and the sweet air he felt limitless in his course. The gentler morning water would bend to his command, or it would guide his whim—in its very unknown it would guide his mind and cleanse his imagination.
____The air was not as steely and pure as when he ran the range with his quarter horses, but it rolled cool off the land and smelled of sweet milk and burning hickory. Time slipped away from him as a lost quantity. The range of sky filled in around him. A fiery bronze chute of crowning light fell upon his shoulders and warmed him. The briny, brackish vapor of sea foam danced into his skull and tickled him with stirrings of rogue enchantment. For a moment he fell still and imagined the world was spinning beneath him. His paddle parsed the water like an interpreter. One long pass, he knew, one deliberate strain over these waters, would either banish or cement his newly found fascination. He felt—at once—compelled and frantic, like the flywheel inside of an exquisite contraption. This new disease of ceremony and ritual had found him and was soon growing.
____The caws of the fledged scavengers above him piqued his attention with their unusual insistence; the birds pulled him out with them and encircled an unoccupied patch of water, diving down and playing at a formless shape of driftwood on the surface, or a tangle of kelp. The birds took turns spiraling over the patch, diving onto the surface for a split moment, landing their claws, occasionally attempting jabs at the nest of distraction. It became apparent to the boy that a forage mission had taken shape before him, a school of rillfish, or a weakened, strangled tuna might have occupied the center, and he guided his craft toward the place of their interest.
____Whatever it is, it’s scrambling, thought Brandon. Something had continued to turn just over the surface. The area was clear of kelp, but the moving object held its relentless appeal to the birds. It would stop after one would clip it, and begin anew with its movement. The boy drew closer, a bit dashed with the thought of a damaged fin, a hammerhead in the throes of a bad situation, a predator in waiting to gash and snap his paddling hands…
____The moving shape announced itself before him in stunning clarity—it was a reeling, spinning cluster of cups beneath a guiding fin. A wind indicator, one normally affixed above the crow’s nest of a craft. Brandon pulled in atop the feature and felt the bottom of his belly as it fell leagues beneath his eyes. A still blinking anchor light flickered under the green of the cape water, guiding his eyes down the faint shimmer of a masthead, foundered and quiet, anchored and claimed in its own to the body of a sailing boat grooved with the floor of the sea. The birds had led him to a fresh grave marker at the port of Emeline’s home.
“I don’t want coffee, Carey,” said David, stretching and reaching for the back of his neck. “Save the embers of the fire for the pot. We’ll boil up those kits of rice and beans before the heat gives.”
____“I miss eggs and bacon, already,” admitted Carey, distracted. She peered at the approaching shape of Brandon on the water, his shoulders frantic, his arms digging holes in the water. “What is that kid so roused about?” she pointed her man’s eyes to the event before them.
____Brandon crested his kayak onto the sand and greeted the two with his shaking head. “The boat…”
____David nodded. “Yes, the one that left?”
____“It didn’t…” Brandon pointed back the way he had returned. “That shape out there. That’s the spinner. It’s gone. They’re gone.”
____Carey’s eyes snapped open. “It sank while we slept? How?!”
____David shook himself into their new reality. “It must’ve taken on water during the night…the sea just enveloped them.”
____“Taken on water, no shit,” supported Brandon.
____“Do you think they scuttled it and sneaked away or something?" said Carey. "Maybe they were drug runners and they needed to ditch the thing.”
____“They wouldn’t scrap a boat in thirty-five feet of water unless they wanted it to be found,” decided David. “No, it’s simply flooded and gone, with souls inside.”
____“Christ, David. We need to call someone. Wake Emeline.” Carey walked up the beach and scanned the horizon of water for signs of any other activity. There was nothing.
____“Emeline. Ms. Zee. You need to get help.” David shook her awake from her port-hammocked state. “A boat. The boat we mocked last night. It’s gone.”
____Emeline brought her feet to the sand and planted her head in her hands. “Gone, sure,” she mumbled through her addled palate. “Why not?”
____“Gone beneath for good, Emeline.” David turned and pointed to the pair’s last position. “Brandon found the thing completely underwater. That couple is missing, likely drowned in their sleep. Can we call someone?”
____“Call someone?” grumbled Emm. “What, you mean, for help?”
____“Of course. Emergency services. Anyone.”
____“Well, Jarno has a radio set up in his cabin.”
____“Good, we’ll get a hold of him.”
____“Or…” Emeline pondered for a languishing moment. “We could just let this whole thing stew and dissolve on its own.” She smiled and fell back into her hammock.
____David stopped and wondered just how she was generating the thought. “Two souls are gone. Maybe more. Maybe they had a newborn in the cabin with them. Their mast is practically poking out into the air!”
____Emeline shrugged away the urgency. “It’s really no problem of our concern,” she raised a hand and flashed it down against the horizon, as if dismissing the ocean for the ocean’s disorder. “The tide will climb over it by noon and probably push it down. The equivalent of a Coast Guard here is a mercenary shrimp trawler. They’ll find it in a year or ten and run their own math on the situation, probably send a postcard notification back to the plantation that begot those southerners, offering a cursory apology for the mishap. It's just a routine down here. It’s not like we knew them or that we could’ve helped them in any way. What, you think that just because we had the chance to wave them in and join us for supper that we now bear the onus to notify their kinfolk and offer our wistful wishes of support? Hardly. This will blow over.” She rose. “Is there any coffee ready?”
____David searched Emeline’s eyes and discovered nothing nearing the leanings of human concern. Her face was blank to the unfortunate sadness of the morning, and she was simply numb to all charity. A feeling of cold dread climbed from the arches of his feet and into his chest. He smiled and backed away, turning around in search of reasonable minds.
By the next hour the collective of visitors had mustered themselves for a hike out to Jarno’s cabin, determined to connect with the appropriate channels of authority. The occasion had become sour enough for the budding klatch to separate their thoughts of concern for Emeline and to set about returning without her. Brandon paddled out again, the way he had once entered the cape, in an effort to reach Jarno and his radio more promptly. The others declared their good byes to Emeline and offered their misgivings about her new and unfortunate climate of death.
____Rinn urged her—one last time—to return with him. “You can’t still need this nonsense,” he said. “Come home with us. Whatever circle of discovery you’ve adventured is now complete. This bookend has struck. Come back and expand your understanding of things. It’s gentle and kind, you know it. Be a part of us, be in concert with your family once more. We love you and respect your expression. Come with us.”
____Emeline laughed. She smacked the flesh of her brother’s arm with her palm and recited her defense. “Rinn, if I flinch over something stupid like this, like a shipwreck, what does that say? It tells me I’m blinded by feeling and remorse and dread. These strangers are dead and gone and missed by other strangers who won’t ever recover from their children’s sundered adventure. Boo-hoo. I can’t be shaken by stupid shit and beggar’s tones. I need to stay here until I’m filled. I’m not a damned lighthouse or a sentry. Go tell the world that two well and once comfortable white people drowned off my coast, whatever you think is right and fair. I’ll still be untouchable, here. I’ll still be hungry, angry, and alone. No chickenshit bellwether event is going to shake me off the arc of my process.” Her eyes betrayed a glint—a ruby spark.
“I reached a regional dispatch in Puntarenas,” said Jarno as he returned his transmitter to his desk and stepped forward with an unlit cigarette in his mouth. “They’ll send a dive boat through here in a couple of days to examine the folly. Until then they suggested we comb the beach for signs of identification and get back to them if anything’s found.”
____“Situations like these aren’t pressing on them?” wondered Ingrid, aloud.
____“Scale. Time. Money. They’re doing their best. It all adds up as good and fair, you can understand it,” said Jarno. “But it does remind you that you assume all risks in any remote place. These kids knew the math and they were dealt snake eyes. Could’ve happened to you guys in the gust of a squall, in the range of a falling tree trunk, god knows.”
____Rinn shook Jarno’s hand firmly. “Thank you for being such a fine friend to my sister,” he said. “I feel, at least, that Emm will pull through her experiences here now that I know you’re only an hour’s walk away. Please consider visiting us however and whenever you feel.”
____“Ha!” exclaimed Jarno. “Your sister may be callous and cold and manic and surly, but if she clears camp for your retreat I’ll have to tag with her. I’d have to see how she lands, and, of course, if anything can jar her into a warmer understanding of things.”
____Brandon turned rigid. “I’m staying with her,” he said. “I mean…I’d like to…I’m going to…I’m really very happy here. Disaster or not. Tell my dad I’ll be back sometime next year. No, tell him I’ll be back sometime soon, okay?”
____ “Ha HA!” Jarno burst again.
____“Are you certain, Brandon?” said Rinn. “Can I tell your father you’re certain about this?”
____“Of course he is!” said Jarno. “Your sister has god smacked the poor boy. No matter and no worries, Rinn. I’ll help arrange for the boy’s return if Emm ever casts him out. Although I don’t think she will.” Jarno winked at the boy. “Keep my kayak warm and get back to me once the patrol arrives, son.”
____Rinn embraced Brandon and kissed him on the temple. “Be well with her, and know your way home,” he whimpered. “Your father is going to strangle me.”
The reconnaissance company took their leave of Jarno and Brandon—the peninsula’s follies and secrets remained in the custody of its inhabitants.