It had been an animated and tempestuous day. My brooding attire seemed to match the weather, jeans soaked to the knee, suit-vest fluttering in the grave wind, the sky above an infinite blanket of dreary blue cloud. We were on our way home and I had receded into happy brooding, the wild weather so fitting for it. And then it happened.
The sun suddenly dissolved through, and the cloud cover began to disperse into a fantastic mackerel sky. Radiant gold spilled out and illuminated the soggy city. Everything glittered. Already near the beach, we hurried along toward the ocean, keen on one last photo-shoot.
After parking, I catapulted from the car. Sir sort of loitered behind. I was soon hoofing along through the dank and rippled sands toward the seethe. The sky was aflame. Patches of cloud beamed a rose and orange sherbet. The waters were cast in a lambent champagne pink. Everything was glorious.
A great oooing and ahhing crowd had amassed behind me, clustered on the boardwalk. It seemed a mutual song was playing amongst them- Nina Simone’s version of “Feeling Good” perhaps. I found myself in the throes of a wee jig, myself, to that fabulous tune. The creamy moon that had vanished in the clouds was beginning to crown at the top, and cast lovely splinters of silver light onto the surf.
And then it happened. A wee little line of water began to wheeze toward me. I noticed it, but was snapping photos, and was half-deciding to let it swath my already dank track shoes. Yet, as the water slipped closer, I found I was also in motion. My body was moving back to escape the water, but my feet hesitated and stayed put. And so the center-of-balance was yanked out of place. Gravity languidly began to tug at my spine. I realised taking a tumble in the water was not extremely healthy for a camera, so I attempted to flail. Flailing, in theory, can help regain balance. I was unsuccessful, however, and discovered I was ever so slowly falling just like a great, cumbersome fir being felled by a smiling, spritely little beaver. Eventually, I landed on my back, completely flattened. The little coy dribble of water had expanded from one inch to seven inches, and managed to completely sluice my entire body, from toe to nose, and even crawled all the way up my erect arm dramatically holding the camera above the onslaught.
Some sanderlings squeaked and quickly scuttled by. Bubbles crackled in my ear. I had just been completely conquered and overthrown by a gentle flow of ocean bubble-bath…
This did not do a thing to my jubilant spirits, other than elevate them. I leaped up as the water quickly receded and I was back upon a glass surface of shimmering sand. I found myself doing another wee jig as I suddenly became conscious of a rather eerie wheezing sound. I turned. It was my audience, er, I mean, the sunset-gazing crowd. A great long gasp had erupted from them in elongated synchrony. All eyes were widely agog, mouths ajar.
It was a strange moment; it was as if Babe Ruth had swaggered up to the bedrabbled plate, and missed the first two pitches to build tension, but on the third pitch, he points and grins, swings, and then promptly falls down, as the ball tumbles somewhere behind him. The crowd’s reaction I imagine would have been very similar indeed.
This pained me. I never like to see an audience, crowd rather, swathed in sorrow. I began to plod along through the dimpled sands toward the stairs. Sir joined me stunned with few words. I noticed that I was in fits of laugher, a bit of an uvid camera poised in my right hand. I could hear voices now.
“His camera!” a woman bugled.
“Oooohhhh my GAWD! He’s gonna be so mad about his camera! I bet it’s totally ruined!” a young lass squealed.
He’s gonna be so mad?
“Yep, his camera is definitely shot,” said an older gentleman with conviction.
(An Aside: I could not help but notice all the male pronouns. It is true, I do slightly resemble James Dean, but still, I think it’s rather obvious I’m still a lass…oh right… I understand. Only a bloke would be so clumsy, eh? Well, I’ll have you know I’m the clumsiest lummox I know, and proud of it. And I am entirely lassie. HMPH!)
Well, I danced up the stairs, Sir following behind, and then soon vanishing to the car. I lingered a moment on the boardwalk, grinning amongst the luctual crowd. The song “Feeling Good” had definitely ceased, and was replaced with Al Green’s “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”. Or rather, “How Can You Mend a Broken Camera?”
I was wringing out the edges of my suit-vest, smiling to myself recollecting how I had purposely worn all cotton today, just in case…something damp and soggy was in store. Peculiar how one can sense these things, sometimes. I believe I was even laughing out loud when one kindly woman bravely stepped forward and spoke for all the haggard and grief-stricken onlookers, “I just wanted to say, I’m soooooo sorry about your camera. You must be devastated. It has to be ruined.”
I noticed her eyes were glistening. (My goodness…don’t tell me that is the shimmer of tears…great scott! What a serious lot this is!)
In my usual annoying custom, I chimed at her in a bit of an Irish brogue accompanied with a series of animated hops, “Oh nooooo lassie!! No fretting, no worrying yer heart out, there now! ‘Tis fine, I say, absolutely grand! This ol’ camera here will be just fine, indeed!”
It is true, the camera was definitely in a bit of a drizzly condition. But blast, I was determined to cheer this crowd that had clearly missed out on one grand chance for a chortle. I mean, you observe a squirrely lass take a spill after a great onslaught of a few inches of gentle water, and your first reaction is sorrow?! WHAT?! If it were a poor little girl pushed over by some picaresque and nefarious bully, I would understand, but come now! Well, I thought it was funny, and I was not going to suppress that.
I proceeded to chortle, immensely.
“So…” the lady began again, “your camera is going to be all right?”
“She’ll pull through!” I boomed.
A faintly, friable smile began to tremble upon her lips, “Oh, that’s wonderful!”
“Aye, arg, fabulous! Haw, haw, and how ridiculous that was, eh? Just think, of all the times I should have fallen, it had to happen when I least expected it. Such is life, eh?! I was wading IN Sandy’s surf, earlier today, wind roaring in my ears. No hint of gravity to take me down. After that, I decided to scrabble along some slimy rocks as torrents of water continuously slammed them. Not a slip. So, then I clambered right up a very slippery, dead mangrove tree that rocked violently right over the water, gust of hurricane winds slamming against me as I snapped away with the ol’ camera. No hint of slopping into the drink below. I even became grossly entangled in some ghastly thorny vine, and all the Fates should have dictated that I go tumbling right down the hill and into the brackish waters slapping the shore, but NO I managed to free myself unscathed! Even when I went skipping onto the world’s ricketiest, most water-slicked dock, sloshing in the water like a bath-toy, not a bit of it, not even the tiniest threat of falling. Then I come beetling over here, wander onto this seemingly tranquil and non-threatening beach, and I find myself, well, we found ourselves, rather, if you count briny camera here, completely flattened by a little trickle of harmless bubble-bath. Such moments, AYE they make me adore life indeed! TOO funny!!” I exclaimed.
Well, that did it. I noticed, at last, the lugubrious tone of the great, grieving crowd was ebbing away at last. Smiles began to creep out. Still in shock, a bit, but beginning to appreciate the humour, I could tell.
“Oh I hope someone got that on film!” I guffawed as I began to depart from my friends.
“Oh yeah I did,” I thought I heard someone mumble.
Yes, I left the crowd with a different tune, now. Frank Sinatra’s version of “That’s Life” was blasting away as we pulled out of the parking-lot and receded into the darkling antitwilight, on our way home.
A word to future onlookers- always laugh before you think. What a crime to take up worry when one could be laughing.
Mirth is important, aye! As our Pablo Neruda would likely say right now, possibly whilst puffing a wee stogie, a bit of a ludic smile playing at the edges of his lips ‘neath that pencil mustache (I think he had a pencil mustache…), “Laughter is the language of the Soul!”
Carpe Diem, and cheers,