Not a bad day. Almost 2000 words. I spent way too much time thinking about the wine and food choices, but otherwise it moved well. A quick reminder that you are reading a raw draft, so please be kind.
“He’s probably playing at the Red Cove Wine Bar. He’s usually there on weekends if he doesn’t have another gig.”
“I’ve never been there before,” Marshall said, “I’m not much of a wine person, but the possibility of hearing Black Hole Sun played on a harp is pretty irresistible.”
The Red Cove Wine Bar sat on the east end of town in a complex of seaside shops near the dock that mostly served recreational boaters. The most sought after spots were either out on the patio or by the big windows that looked out over the water. It was early when Marshall and Catrin got there, and they were able to get one of the window spots. There were a number of recommendations written on a giant chalkboard behind the bar. A lot of the wines had cute or odd names and none of them were familiar to Marshall. Catrin seemed to know what she was liked though, and ordered a blend called Dead Bolt.
When the server turned to Marshall he said, “I’d like something bitter.” The server made a couple of recommendations and Marshall chose a Cabernet Sauvignon called Force Majeure. After some negotiation among themselves, they also got an appetizer of bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese.
It wasn’t quite five yet, so when Rainman spotted them, he came over and sat for a couple of minutes. He immediately launched into a story about how he got stuck in the caves a couple of nights back and had to make it through the night with only his phone for light. “When you’re there during the day, there’s still some light because of the two shafts, but during at night that place is ridiculously dark. You can’t help but just start imagining things coming to eat you. I know what they mean now when they say don’t go alone. That place plays with your minds.”
“You’re not supposed to go to the caves,” Catrin said flatly. “That whole area of the beach is fenced off.”
Rainman nodded. “It’s hard to build a fence on rocks. There’s a few gaps. I don’t think they were really trying that hard to wall the place off. From what I hear they just did it to prevent lawsuits. You know, you’re on your own sucker. They’re right about the tide coming in though. Maybe I could have swum out, but the way that water bubbles and churns, you just don’t want to go near it. It just keeps getting higher and higher too. It’s a good thing those caves go a long way back.
“What are the caves?” Marshall asked.
Catrin shook her head. “They’re about three miles south of town. There’s a trail you have to walk. It leads down to this small cove. When the tide is low you can swim under the rocks and there’s a network of caves. There are also a couple of shafts straight down. Those were man-made entrances, but they put grating over them so people would stop going in. They sealed it off under the water too, but somebody busted it back open and nobody has ever fixed it. The whole area is fenced off now so that you can’t get to the cove, but I guess that isn’t enough to stop some people.” Catrin gave Rainman a sharp look. Rainman looked confused.
“Don’t worry about me,” he said, “I know how to take care of myself. I’m not stupid.”
Catrin glared at him now. “You just said all you had was a phone. Did you take any precautions at all?”
Rainman threw up his hands. “I don’t see what the big deal is,” he said, “and thanks for throwing me off my game right before I have to perform.”
Rainman got up and walked off. Catrin growled under her breath. Marshall thought the best course of action was to stay quiet. The server arrived with their wine and told them the appetizer would be there soon. Catrin said nothing but Marshall thanked him. He took a sip of his wine. He had never really liked wine, but the bitterness prevented it from tasting like plastic the way most things did. Still, he was wary of alcohol, so when the server came back with their appetizer, he asked for a glass of water.
Catrin drank a bit of her wine smiled at Marshall. “Sorry,” she said, “I probably overreacted. I sometimes forget how stupid boys can be.” She reached out and plucked a bacon-wrapped date from the plate and chewed it. “Not bad,” she said. “It’s not a brat, but it will do.”
Marshall took one and pretended to enjoy it. “Nothing tastier than bacon,” he said. They sat there for another few minutes, mostly saying nothing. Marshall forced himself to eat several of the dates, trying to up his calorie count for the day. He took a few more sips of wine, but left the glass mostly full, preferring the water. Catrin didn’t seem particularly interested in her wine either.
Marshall did like the view. The water was glimmering with the reflection of the low sun, which had finally peeked out of the clouds.
Marshall thought back to when he had come here with his parents as a boy. He was pretty sure they had eaten at this exact spot, maybe even at this table. It wasn’t a wine bar back then though. He was pretty sure they had eaten Mexican food. The restaurant had served margaritas in large, thick, hand-blown glasses. He had been too young to have one, but both his mother and father had ordered them.
The more he thought about it, the more the details filled themselves in. There had been a big bowl of chips in the middle of the table. They were home-made, and a little greasy. His mother had been a little drunk, not enough to embarrass herself, but enough to find every joke funny. Marshall remembered thinking that this was the mother he wished he had. This was a fun mother whose mouth hadn’t settled in the shape of a frown. Thinking of this now, Marshall felt a twinge of guilt at his judgement. He knew his mother’s history. Her own mother had been an alcoholic, and rarely in control, so his mother tended to overcompensate. On this night though, she had been funny. He remembered she even told a joke, something about a farmer and a pig. He tried to remember how it went, but he couldn’t quite bring it back. Marshall had never been good with jokes.
Marshall’s father had always been the funny one and the relaxed one. Things tended to come easily to his father. He hadn’t had a much money growing up, but he had been handsome, and at seventeen he started getting modeling contracts. He mainly modeled clothes. There were copies of old Sears and Montgomery Ward’s catalogs with him modeling everything from swimsuits to sweaters. He used that money to put himself through college. After college he went to work as a salesman, first for medical equipment and later for pharmaceuticals. Into his thirties he continued to supplement his income with occasional modeling gigs. That had allowed the family to grow up comfortably, although his mother constantly worried about money. The fact that he worked on commission made his father’s income variable. He had the confidence of someone who never really failed though, so the occasional slow stretch never bothered him, but his mother was a natural worrier. There had been a number of fights, especially when his father would go out and impulse purchase a car or a TV. His mother always wanted to save for a rainy day, but his father never really saw the clouds.
Marshall remembered other details from the family trip. He and his sister had spent a lot of time on the beach. Marshall had been self-conscious about his weight, especially in a swimsuit, so he spent all his time out in the waves, where only his head would appear above the water. His sister was only ten or so then, but already very pretty and she had quickly found a boy who followed her around on the beach and did everything he could to please her. Marshall remembered swimming out further and further, to a point when his feet no longer touched the sand and the waves would push him up and down. He seemed to keep floating out.
When he finally decided to swim in, it was much harder than he expected. He didn’t seem to make any progress. He remembered then that he saw a jeep on the beach and a loudspeaker called out, telling him that he was caught in a riptide. They told him to swim sideways to get out of it. Marshall was not a terribly strong swimmer, and it took a long time to get out of the riptide, much less swim to shore. When he finally got in, he was exhausted. He remembered flopping down on a towel, feeling like a beached whale. He had also felt a certain bit of satisfaction though, knowing that he had survived a riptide. His mother had taken the time to complain about how lax the lifeguards are, and that they should have gone out there and get him. Marshall had had the satisfaction of telling her, “Mom, I handled it.”
Marshall thought about how eager Rainman had been to share his story, and Marshall understood. Rainman was proud of getting through a night in the caves. It probably wasn’t nearly as dangerous as Catrin seemed to feel it was, but it was dangerous enough, and Rainman had gotten through it. He wanted some acknowledgement, and maybe a little admiration. All Catrin saw was a series of poor choices. Marshall looked at Catrin and asked, “Have you ever been to the caves?”
Catrin said, “No, but apparently my brother did. At some point, they decided to check the cove and they found one of his shoes. It appeared to have been left out on the rocks. The assumption was that he swam into the cave. They spent days searching it. They never found anything else though. Nothing to indicate he was ever inside. A couple months later they fenced it off and sealed the entrances. A lot of people weren’t happy about that. One boy actually said, to my face, that my brother had ruined the caves for everybody.”
Marshall thought about that for a moment. He looked out at the water again, thinking about what would have happened if he hadn’t been able to swim in. The lifeguards would have come out for him, of course, but what if they hadn’t. Drowning was a terrible way to die, from everything that he had heard. He could picture the kid struggling to stay above water, but it didn’t really make sense. If he had drowned, there would have been a body, especially if he had drowned in the cave. Marshall didn’t know much about the cave, He pictured a vast cavern, but then decided it was probably something small. He didn’t want to ask though.
They finished the appetizer. Rainman had gone through two or three songs that Marshall recognized, but now he was in unknown territory. Marshall thought for a moment, then said, “You know, maybe I’m in the mood for polka after all.”
Catrin smiled. “You think.”
“We’ll need to go by my apartment,” Marshall said, “I need to break open my piggy bank.”