It's only a block and a half down E Street, from the chameleon-green beach cottage to the liqour store.
Which turns out to be closed, so it's across the main drag, past THE PALACE (vaulted, waterfalled) of beach T-shirts, to the IGA grocery store. The parking lot is packed with everyone else who missed the liquor store deadline, plus the sunburned kids just out of school for the summer, and their divorced parents, and their retired grandparents, all seemingly on the make for something. Everyone seems to be in a hurry and yet they all move so slowly, checking each other out. Friday night in a small town on a small island temporarily awash with tourists.
I just want beer, bottled water, bugspray, and a corkscrew. I only walk away with half the list, because the store's shelves have been cleared. Then it's back down E Street to the Sea and Sands Cottages court in my flipflops and torn black jeans.
There's little deja vu for me in this town: the last time I spent here was forty years ago. In a polaroid photo taken on that trip, I'm eleven years old in a yellow cowboy shirt and wraparound sunglasses (both probably from the 1960's version of THE PALACE), eleven miles out to sea near the oil rigs, standing on the rear deck of a fishing boat, holding aloft a silver king mackeral I'd just caught which is half as big as me. Both the fish and I are grinning; all teeth.
The photo doesn't show the rest of my family: my sister, mother, and father. I seem to remember they were below deck, sea sick. But probably my dad was just getting a beer, or took the picture, or both.
Now I'm here with my twins -- son and daughter each about the length of that kingfish, and each grinning at the prospect of the Beach -- and my wife. It's our first family vacation together since we discovered Gail's illness and began the grueling treatment process. She's on a mission, I think, to take our kids to the Jersey shore of her youth, and this is the nearest comparable option. Without missing daily radiation. Or going below deck, sick of the journey and the prospect of the return trip.
The barefoot manager asks me if we plan on doing any fishing while we're here.
I tell him no. We've caught our limit.
And we're happy with our catch, despite everything. Our children shine in the sun, laughing and bouncing like the dolphins we hope to see tomorrow. And we're alive to see them. We have no real plans for this trip other than that.