So, the real estate gods did not smile on us. The new house we wanted to buy went to another lucky couple. Note to self: It’s not a good idea to try to purchase a new home when you are on vacation on the other side of the Pacific Ocean from said house.
But the dear old beach cottage we’ve rented for the past year was available, so we’re back at Musty Manor. The grand old girl, built in 1915, a gorgeous money pit, didn’t sell over the summer. No complaints from me. Well, I could complain about the 50s era kitchen, the wonky doors, the peeling lead paint, and yes, the seaside aroma, but then I look out the front window and forget everything but the sailboats and the sunlight sparkling on the water.
Peace, thy name is Musty Manor.
Except for last night.
It’s been an unusually warm September, so we had the bedroom windows open. The crickets were slightly less annoying, winding down and packing up like the summer people who’ve already gone back home. The whistle buoy off Noank, which makes a sound less like a whistle and more like a husky moo, was doing its job, every ten seconds. Every. Bloody. Ten. Seconds. Just when I was considering the trade off of closed window vs. no whistle buoy, a different sound muscled in the window.
Shouting. Two voices, hoarse, words indistinct. I sat up and parted the blinds and squinted into the darkness. The beach was empty. Occasionally teenaged couples enjoy the moonlight there, but they’re usually quiet. I held my breath, straining to listen. One word became clear: Help.
|Police lights - a sight you don't want to see near your house
I got up and threw on my robe. My husband awoke. I called the police. “Yep, we’ve gotten calls.” The dispatcher’s matter of fact tone was reassuring, but the voices outside were frantic. We hurried down to the beach. The shouts came from far out in the dark water, beyond the range of cellphone flashlights. Several neighbors hurried outside and word came down that two guys were heading out in kayaks, following the voices. “They’re coming!” we shouted into the dark. “Make some noise so they can find you.” We waved down the police car. He drove onto the beach, his spotlight cutting a gray slice across the water toward the voices but still we could see nothing.
EMS and a fire truck parked near the beach entrance and we retreated to the sidewalk. A neighbor in bare feet with a cardigan thrown over her pajamas introduced herself. This is how New Englanders meet: emergencies or snowstorms. Her husband launched his paddleboard and stroked out along the spotlight. “Kids,” she muttered. I didn’t think so. It was a school night and the deep voices sounded like they had graduated from high school years earlier.
More and more emergency workers crowded the beach – EMS, firefighters, police, volunteer firefighters. Headlights and blue and red light bars spotlighted backs straight in a poised waiting that was wisdom. The parade rest posture said they’d done this before. Save your energy. The water wasn’t that cold. The police boat would find them.
But then the shouting turned into gasps. I pulled my robe tighter. The green running lights of a police boat moved through the blackness, so dark I couldn’t discern water from sky.
“Make some noise!” The kayakers’ voices carried, along with the sound of splashing, then nothing. The silence and the dark seemed bigger than before, but then the green lights were heading toward the beach. Curt voices keyed on radios. People moved off the beach, making a path.
Two beefy, shirtless men in sopping shorts and sneakers walked under their own steam to the ambulance and settled inside. They moved a bit unsteadily, an unsteadiness that to me seemed the product of substances rather than the elements. Emergency vehicles eased away. Everyone exhaled. Quiet returned. The whistle buoy and crickets got back to work.
Honestly, it was a bit anticlimactic. I returned to my too warm bedroom, wondering how to pump up that beach rescue scene I’d started drafting in my head. Perhaps “a fireball roared off the yacht, the explosion rattling the windows of the sleepy old cottage….”
Has a real life event ever inspired a scene in your writing?