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Sunday, April 2, 2017
SUNDAY REVIEW / ALLIGATOR FOOD /NOVEL EXCERPT
Original Fiction by
Lewis Decker from his novel Alligator Food.
Serendipity slipped easily into the night with a
whisper of warm wind on the starboard beam.The low southerly swells lifted her up and then settled her into the
troughs and there were no sounds except for the rush of the bow waves trailing
“Nate” Addison awoke and stepped out into the cockpit and watched as Serendipity rolled gently toward the
banks hidden in the distance.Sarah, Shanna
and Brady, his friends were still asleep.
climbed onto the cabin top to try to see the navigation aids on Orange Cay but
he couldn’t see any light, not even from the rising sun, and he stood near the
mast peering into the darkness.
bow waves were nearly iridescent and he turned to watch the white water
streaming aft.The night sky seemed
darkest astern where he picked up the faint masthead light of a northbound
thought they might be closer to the banks, but it took another half-hour before
the Orange Cay light came into view.By
then he could see the horizon brightening to the east.When
Brady steered the boast just south of the inlet, they crossed over onto the
banks where the water turned silver it was so thin.
Gulf Stream had been smooth except for the long swells from the south, but the
morning gave rise to a freshened breeze.Serendipity sailed through the
flats at 12 knots like she was skiing through Colorado powder.
the sun climbed higher, the color of the water off the bow changed from the
silver-gray of dawn to that blue you only see in Mexican fire opals and for
50,000 square miles in the Bahamas.
in the afternoon after they had approached the northern tip of Andros Island,
there were miles of shallow water and sand bores that looked from the air like
a child’s strokes through fingerpaint.They skirted the thin water where it wasn’t deep enough to have any
color and stayed to the west of sand bores where the water turned so electric
blue it reminded Nate of the arcs from a welding rod.
of the island, the Andros banks were littered with coral heads that loomed from
the bottom like decaying fangs.Nate
couldn’t tell by the color how shallow the coral heads were, so he gave them
all a wide berth and steered into clear, deep water southwest of the Berry
on a fast beam reach for ten or 12 miles through Northeast Providence Channel
and when she ran onto the banks on the west side of Chub Cay, Nate started the
diesel while Brady furled the main and genoa.
entrance to the inner harbor of the island was a narrow pass cut through the
ancient coral.Nate motored Serendipity into the curving waterway
until she reached the tiny yacht basin and the transient dock on the north side
where Brady stepped from the deck to tie her off.In a few minutes, a large man in a starched
white shirt came aboard to stamp the passports.
to the Bahamas,” he said.“You on island
there a limit to our stay?” Nate asked.“We’re only passing through.”
just go down island.Nobody bother
you.You on your own here.”
a cursory look at the papers, the customs man left with a grin and a wave.
love this,” Sarah said, “Island time.That customs man was right.We
just got here and already I never want to leave.”
Nate sat alone in the
cockpit after the others had gone below for the night.The air settled in, heavy and silent and
thick with the island heat.When he shut
his eyes, he could feel the Ferris wheel begin, dizzy spinning up, nausea
spinning down.He drank the last of his
rum anyway, and stepped below to climbinto the berth next to Sarah.He
kept thinking about the gold plated fishing fleet lying dormant in the marina
and how far away Key West seemed and how good it felt to be on island
time.He rolled on his side and looked
at Sarah asleep in the dark.
felt in the pit of his stomach the ache and the burning that had been missing
most of the time since Dana left.He
reached with his hand and touched Sarah’s face.In a moment they kissed and caressed and he looked in the low light at
her breasts and at her legs and the dark secret between.The burning in his stomach began to ebb even
though he couldn’t keep his hands and face away from her body.Sarah could tell it was no use and she
whispered to him in the dark.
okay, it’s okay,” she said.“It’ll just
take time.Please don’t worry.”
turned away from her and stared through the port at the light standard
flickering over the marina office beyond the trees.Sarah held him from behind and in a few
minutes she was asleep again.Nate had
to wait out the ride on the Ferris wheel.
at dawn someone cracked off a pair of diesels in one of the sportfishers next
door.Nate pulled the curtain over the
portlight and leaned back on the sheets thinking first about those big diesels
and then about the night before with Sarah.
pulsing of the engines droned on, keeping time with his headache.He kept thinking about Sarah’s body, waiting
for the feelings to return, but there was nothing again.He got up and sneaked into the head compartment
aboard the Serendipity and took a
toweled off and dressed and stepped into the cockpit.The sportfisher had backed down and motored
out of the marina toward the cut, its tuna tower disappearing around the bend
in the light filtering through the trees.He watched for another few minutes and then started the Volvo, but the
little popping noises from the exhaust made Serendipity
seem like a bathtub toy.Nate backed
the boat from the slip and spun the wheel to port, idling out of the marina
into the cut and into the fluorescent glow of the banks in the distance.
Cay hid just beyond the channel to the east.Nate and Brady sailed the boat off the banks into deep water where the
color changed from neon to midnight in a matter of feet.
a slow run along the coast, they rounded up into the channel on the north side
of a sunken barge where they dropped the anchor.Serendipity
spent the day drifting about in ten feet of water so clear the blades of sea
grass were visible on the bottom.
before sundown, Nate and Sarah launched the sabot to go across to the beach on
Whale Cay where there was a low hill that overlooked the Berry Islands and
Northeast Providence Channel.They
pulled the dinghy above high tide line and walked up a sandy path where they
found a place to sit at the top and watch the sunset.
below in the channel, Serendipity sat
swinging to the wind and to the current.Sometimes she got confused between the two and sat sideways to both, but
she looked beautiful in the low light.
was staring out beyond the channel when Sarah leaned close.“Serendipity
is lovely down there, Nate.You have to
am proud.I used to wonder while I was
building her what it would be like to sail her for the first time.It still feels like that each time I set her
said she reminded you of a swan.She is
until we get down into the lower Caribbean where the swells roll in from the
Atlantic.She can reach 12 knots or
better going windward in the trades.She
clips a wave now and then and spray flies aft and makes rainbows in the wind.”
wish we could make rainbows.We did once.What’s wrong with us, Nate? It isn’t working
know,” Nate said. “It’s like we’re starting over.”
it will be better once we’ve been together for a while.”
I think it’s having Brady and Shanna so close.”
they’re up in the forepeak.I bet they
wouldn’t even know.”
guess I need to be patient,” she said.
killing me,” Nate said, “You know that.”
never been around anyone like you.It
just isn’t there sometimes.”
aren’t really over Dana yet.Remember
the morning in Key West when we made love for the first time?”There were rainbows everywhere.I’ll never forget that.”
won’t, either.We’ll make rainbows
again.You’re right, though.Maybe we just need a little time together.”
didn’t want to talk about it anymore.Eighty yards up current, the dark shape of the barge quivered on the
bottom in the channel.He nodded toward
the hulk.“That barge looks like a manta
ray from here,” he said.
quite, but they can get huge.”
did you see one like that?”
of the Sea of Cortez.I don’t know what
a world record manta looks like, but the wings were 20 feet across or
more.We sailed right next to it.”
a thrill that would be?”
made me nervous for some reason.I could
see the shadow from a long way off, like the barge down there.It looked like a reef,” he said.
barge made me nervous.It isn’t very
deep.I suppose someone could hit it in
a way to end a trip.”
don’t like thinking like that,” she said.
get better for us,” Nate said.
watched the fading sun that lit the sky in a blaze of rose and red that
overwhelmed the horizon and made the white sand of the cays turn pink.Sarah squeezed Nate’s hands and looked to the
west at the sunset that faded away into a faint glow beyond the casuarina trees
of Chub Cay.They sat for a while longer
in the dark, but magic of the evening slipped away too soon in the short
twilight.They stood and brushed the
sand from their clothes and walked down the hill to the little yellow sabot on
out to Serendipity took only a few
minutes.The water glowed pale
blue-white in the light of the moon.The
effect made it seem like they were two kids in a wooden shoe floating on a Walt
Disney sea, so surreal Nate wanted to see swirls of stars on the water when he
dipped the oars.He stopped to let the
current carried them in the moonlight along the channel where they floated in a
lazy circle toward the dark sky over the banks in the distance.The lamp aboard Serendipity cast its light through the yellow curtains drawn over
the ports.They drifted past in the dark
where Nate could see the reflections on the water, quiet and still, until he
took a stroke with the oars and set the reflections dancing.
rounded up just astern of Serendipity.Brady stepped out from below to help them get aboard and then they
lifted the sabot out of the water and walked it up to the foredeck where it
rested in its cradle upside down.Nate
stood to look at the water again, but the glare from the ports and the companionway
washed the soft moonlight away.
glanced at Sarah who stood near the rail looking southeast toward Nassau.She turned around and looked back at the
bluff on Whale Cay and at the dark water of the channel between and then she
came over and hugged Nate’s shoulders and walked with him back to the cockpit.
kept looking at the water in the channel at the Whale Cay light in the distance
and sometimes up at the moon.
wanted very much to be in love with her.
For the rest of
Alligator Food go to Amazon Books: here
Lew Decker is a world class sailor, former teacher and San Diego based novelist.