Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

Hi, love. Another email for you, coming from the beautiful (but currently stormy) Cook Islands. I wrote you a little narrative of my day. Hope you like it.

Rough Seas do Shake, O Darling Come What May: A Story

Today we tried going out for another dive day. It is Sunday, and
everything around the island is closed (fairly religious here). It is
mom’s official BD, and so we thought a nice repeat dive, yesterday
being so great, would be just the thing. The weather was a bit stormy
again, but the dive place we went with said they were still good to
go, so we packed our bags and met them out from this morning.

I was already seeing ominous signs before we even started. Early this
morning one of the resort cats had left a dead rat right by mom’s
shoes at the front door. It seemed like a nice gesture, bringing mom a
present on her birthday, but then when I went to use the restrooms
before getting in the boat, there was a big dead crab upturned on his
back, the size of your palm spread wide, with ants swarming all over
it. How strange, I thought, a crab in the cement stall of a bathroom.
Strange place for a crab to be, usually they are skittish and don’t
like to scurry out in the open. Two dead things in our path.

Then then rain picked up, and as we suited up and walked out to water,
wading through debris and broken coconuts, one of the guys on our dive
boat noticed that his mask had fallen off the back end into the water.
He tapped the dive master on the shoulder and pointed out that his
mask had fallen overboard. They searched under the water and found it,
luckily still in the shallows. Good thing he saw that mask fall
overboard, I remarked to myself, otherwise we’d have gotten out to the
dive site and he wouldn’t be able to go.

Well, as it turned out, that mask was meant to be lost, along with
half of all our gear. The boat we were riding in was small at best,
barely fitting the 6 of us. It took careful planning and organization
just to arrange the gear and bodies for weight and room. The rain came
down harder as the engine started up.

Heading out to the site the surge was high and moderate waves slammed
into the starboard side of the boat, splashing the three sitting on
that side. At one point, there was the tiniest thought that we might
capsize. Great, I remember thinking, I’m swimming ashore.

Well, a big wave built and slammed the boat hard. The gear was sitting
(rather precariously, if you ask me), in a large plastic basket at the
back of the boat, and like a giant wet hand that wave just swiped it
right off. I saw it happen, but could do nothing, none of us could, we
were all bracing against the wave to keep ourselves in the boat. Fins,
masks & snorkels, an underwater camera, and the basket itself just
spread through the water like ink. The gear! we all yelled at the boat
driver, who looked behind and turned the boat around. The dive master
put on her mask and fins, which were somehow safely at the front of
the boat, and dove in after the quickly departing pieces. The surge
was so strong, it was ripping the pieces off in separate directions,
and I knew the things which didn’t float were long gone.

Crap. I liked that new mask.

My dad’s fins, which were from the seventies, black and made of
non-floating rubber, were nowhere in sight. I could see the red and
blue bobbing of my fins and a few others. The dive master grabbed what
she could by the handful, fighting to swim against the chop. As soon
as she was within arms reach, I hooked my foot around the floor ropes
of the boat, and leaned my body out to her, careful not to let myself
fall in. I grabbed her arm load, and threw the pieces into the boat.
One fin, a mask, an errant snorkel.

The boat was coming to a crawl. The driver was trying to circle but
stay close to not lose the dive master in the swells. Suddenly, the
engine started to sputter, and a plume of smoke and oil smell
mushroomed out of it. “Don’t stop the boat! Keep it moving, or else
the engine will flood!” the dive master called out to the driver. Her
voice was nearly lost in the wind and perpetual water slams against
the boat’s hull.

“Keep the boat moving!” Those of us who had heard her relayed the message.

He pushed the throttle forward and started to circle. More sputtering,
more smoke, more God awful smell.

It was Sunday, and during our drive out to the peer we made a few
little remarks that we should be going to church instead. The Sunday
church celebrations are supposed to be worthy of attending (the
singing, especially), and in every guidebook they are sure to mention
that all are welcome. I had mentioned that I wanted to go, to see what
it was like. We made a quick mumble that we should check it out. But
then the opportunity to dive came about, which for my mom is an act of
worship in and of itself.

“What better temple than the ocean in which to worship God’s creatures?”

But as I sat under the angry clouds, the wind whipping and the engine
cutting out, I thought that maybe the Cook Island God was less
tolerant than my own back home. This was a message.

Having combed the waves for any remaining bobbing colored specks, we
brought the dive master safely aboard, and she gave the ok to return
back to shore. At final count, we were down 4 masks, 5 fins, and 3

“It could have been worse,” is all anyone could think to say. Except
for me, the wise-ass, who turned to my mom and said with a wry monkey
smile, “Happy Birthday, Mom.”

We disembarked, unloaded the boat, and returned to the van for hot
chocolate and crackers. The second we stepped foot ashore, I kid you
not, the winds died and the rains stopped.

The dive master and driver returned to the boat, and took it out for
another quick pass trying to comb again for any errant pieces we might
have missed. They took out a couple of tanks, thinking they might dive
down and look for anything that sunk, but the water was still too
rough to allow for them to tie up to the anchor. They returned,

They loaded us up, and we returned to the dive shop to wash out gear
and get a refund for the day.

“If something washes ashore or we find anything the next time we go
out, we’ll let you know,” they said to us, all of us knowing full well
there was a better chance of recovering a contact lens in a swimming

Walking back to our hotel room, I put my arm around my mom. “Well, at
least we have yet another perfect excuse to do nothing but read and
write!” She nodded and shrugged her shoulders, not in the least bit
discouraged. My mom, always the optimist.

The least we could do is get a massage, was my thinking, but everyone
is closed today, it being, of course, a day of rest.

And so, resting we are. My pops is napping (I can hear him snoring),
my mom is finishing up the book she’s been working on since we got
here, and I, in turn, am writing to you.

§542 · December 8, 2008 · Location-Location, Narrative · Tags: , , , , · [Print]

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