I was finally on an island where I could just relax into things. Without boys who wanted to go, go, go all the time. The days were slow and I was reading a lot with tea in the cockpit. My favorite. I spent my days walking in endless discovery of the nooks and crannies of this fascinating place where they were lobster pirates first and had only stopped being a dry island recently.
One day, two weeks after Adam left for work for a month, the weather was perfect, not too hot, sunny, with a slight breeze that ruffled the laundry as I took it off the lifelines. I was singing softly to myself as a deep cleaned our home in a swim suit and sarong.
I heard a loud pop. Very loud. As I folded a towel I turned, more nonchalantly than I should have, to look from where it had come. The shore was no more than a hundred yards away. There, on literally the closest piece of land to me, with Russell Island stretching out for miles to either side, stood a man. He was short, dark skinned and had salt and pepper hair. He was wearing a gray (or dirty white) shirt and he was holding a gun in his right hand — pointed directly at me.
As he fired again I dropped the towel and beat it to the floor of the cockpit, hitting my head (though I wouldn’t realize that until later) and landing hard on my knee in the process. I was shocked the bullet didn’t hit the boat.
I heard him yelling. Another voice, closer, screamed back. I put a hand on the seat in front of me, took a deep breath and raised just my forehead and eyes above it. There was a man in the water between me and the gunman. Equally dark skinned, he was in a navy blue T-shirt and had very short jet black hair. He was swimming, but slowly. I watched the shooter point the gun at the swimming man. He pulled the trigger.
He didn’t square up. I watched him again point the gun in the general direction of the swimming man with one hand. And again he pulled the trigger. The gun recoiled and pushed his arm up and back. He pointed it back down at the young man and screamed at him again. Either I couldn’t understand his accent or he wasn’t speaking English. I could read his body language perfectly though. He looked scared.
As the next shot was fired I heard a buzzing noise, like a bee flying lightening fast by my head. I had never heard anything like it before and had no frame of reference with which to identify the sound. It took me a second to realize it had been the bullet. I don’t know how it’s possible that that one also didn’t hit my boat. I pushed off the seat and threw my back hard against the side of the cockpit. My heart was pounding painfully in my chest. More yelling. Every cell in my body screamed for me to stay where I was but curiosity won out. I put both hands on the seat and pressing my nose hard against my hands, I peeked out again.
A small white boat, with a big black engine, drove between the men. The man driving the boat, also dark, very tall and skinny, didn’t duck. He put himself between a man not just holding a gun, but firing one, and his friend. The gunman stopped shooting (or ran out of bullets). The man in the water grabbed on to the side of the boat. I couldn’t tell if he was hurt but he was reacting slower then circumstances warranted. I don’t know how the gunman could possibly have missed him. We were all incredibly close to each other. The boat took off with the man hanging on for dear life to the side.
They put my boat between them and the gunman. Using me as a shield, the driver dragged the man on board and they sped away, leaving a trail of white spray and small turquoise waves that rocked the Talisman gently as they passed quietly underneath her.
After they were gone the gunman took out a phone and placed a call. He waved the gun wildly as he gestured and yelled into the phone held tightly to his left ear. He was so close, was so agitated, and waved the gun so spastically that I didn’t feel safe standing. I crawled to the companionway door.
I went downstairs and held on to the hand hold by the stairs for a few seconds, waiting for my heart rate to slow. When I looked back the shooter was in the water. He held the gun above his head as he waded up to his chest. He grabbed something from the water. I had an inappropriate moment where I noticed how beautiful the water looked right then. It was noon and the sun was directly above us. It’s when the water is the most brilliant color aqua and clear as cellophane.
I grabbed the binoculars but I couldn’t see clearly the object he carried. It was white, about a foot wide, thin, made of canvas maybe, with black stripes. When he got back to land he held it up and studied it very closely in the sun, his back to me. In the binoculars I looked at the gun. I could see it perfectly, the body of it was very shiny and reflected the light back at me. His dark hand was wrapped around the handle, his pointer finger on the outside of the trigger guard. Somehow I still thought it wouldn’t be an actual gun.
I watched. I knew I shouldn’t. When he looked my way I slapped my hand across my mouth and ducked behind the instruments in the cockpit, giggling uncontrollably. I do that when I’m nervous. I was vibrating with adrenaline. I was literally right there with him. He knew I had seen everything.
Eventually the man walked back into the woods. And I found myself feeling very strange… unsatisfied somehow. I thought about grabbing the first aid kit and towels and fresh water and chasing the boat to see if I could help but they were long gone. I looked around the anchorage to see who else had been watching. But everyone was gone. It just so happened that a day earlier the winds had shifted North, leaving this anchorage unprotected. The next day it was supposed to start really blowing, so this shore, normally filled with boats as far as one can see, held none but me and my vastly over-sized anchor.
I sat down. And I wrote this, lest someone ask me for details later.
I was not scared. More than anything I was excited. Life has been pretty calm around this little boat the last two weeks and anyway, the business of life is the acquisition of memories. I assume this is one I will be telling for a while.