Surfcasting: Helping a Car in Distress, Black Flies and Regrets

Dan's day at the beach cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

Much of this paper is written from the beach. I go out in my four-wheel drive, park on the sand, set out a chair and umbrella and write on my laptop. The sight, sound, smell and feel of the ocean inspires me. Strollers and runners, with or without dogs, come by.

Dogs are a big deal at the beach. When walked along the surf’s edge, they are almost always so happy prancing around. My dog, guarding me, will leap up in alarm when they approach. Then, if I have not responded, he will forget the alarm and instead wag his tail and go off and play.

I will say, though, that it is not always champagne and roses out there. For example, take this last Thursday.

All was fine until I headed down the narrow sand lane between the dunes to the beach and drove off about a hundred yards. I stopped. It was a warm day and out the window I could see lots of small insects buzzing around. Depending on whether there is a wind or not, this can be a problem or not. With a wind, the insects are too busy trying not to blow away to bite anybody.

I got out of the car. No wind. But no bugs, either. Maybe I scared them away. I set down a towel, set up an umbrella, unfolded my chair, took out my laptop and sat. I began to write.

About four paragraphs in, I noticed there were big black flies on my beach towel. These guys were eyeing me. I stopped what I was doing and tucked the cuffs of my pants into my socks. Nobody home here, I told the flies. I went back to work.

The flies don’t buzz around much. They sit and think. Am I worth it? Certainly my dog is not. He’s got a thick coat of fur. I continued into my fifth paragraph, all eyes on me, maybe
50 flies sitting there and a thousand eyes.

Then a fly bit my leg. How the hell had he gotten in there? It hurt. I stood up. And I slammed shut my laptop.

“That’s IT!” I yelled at the flies.

They just sat there. I panicked. I began to pack up. This got them flying up and around me, or going off to tell others and then coming back to see what was what. I shook out my blanket. Bad idea. More flies. Angry flies. I ran to the car with my laptop and my blanket, opened the passenger door and threw them in the front seat. I went back and folded the beach chair and lowered the umbrella. I looked over at my car. I have a new truck for the beach, a fancy four-wheel drive Lexus GX-460. I’d left the passenger door open. Now I ran back with this other stuff and opened the trunk to throw it all back there. Two doors open. Damn. The flies would be getting into the truck with me. I slammed the door, shut the trunk hatch, then looked down at my dog who was sitting there.

What’s this all about? he asked. We just got here! Like he would have no idea, with all that fur. I had to re-open the passenger door and urge him in quickly. Slam.

I ran around the truck, opened the door, sat in the driver’s seat and slammed the door, then started it up. Two black flies on the dashboard stared at me with their hundreds of eyes. Damn. Damn.

It was not far to get back to where the sand road had come down onto the beach. Okay, I have flies. And maybe hundreds more chasing me. They really do. They attach themselves to the back bumpers and fenders. I’ve seem them do it. As soon as I climb up that dune and off down the sand road, I’ll open all the doors and trunk hatches and shoo all those flies out. That was my plan.

But there was something going on at the sand road. Halfway down the dune, there is a log parallel to the beach. There was a pretty girl on that log, pretending it was a balance beam. She walked it unsteadily from one end to the other, occasionally looking back up to a man in a red convertible parked squarely in that sand road where it bisects the dune. I would have no way through.

What is a red convertible sports car doing here? It has no business here. It has no four-wheel drive. And yet it had somehow got out here, with this man at the wheel showing off and this girl on the balance beam now showing off because he was stuck and she had ideas on what else she could do in the meantime.

The driver was a young man. The insignia on his car said Porsche. He saw me and shifted into reverse to try to get out of the way. It had no effect, except sand was now spraying everywhere. He had come in past a NO ENTRY sign, a PRIVATE sign, a DEAD END sign and a FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE ONLY sign in a state of bliss. He was king of the world. He got out of the car and walked to me. I lowered the window.

A fly flew out. But another flew in. How come they weren’t bothering him? I was angry. He was an idiot, handsome, young, with a great car and girl, and I was a man with a bite, a dog and flies.

“I can’t help you,” I said. “You’re going to need a tow. Anit.”

“Do you have a shovel?” he asked.

I was pretty sure I had a big red plastic one in the back hatch, but not positive. Anyway, I lied.

“No,” I said.

I then rolled the window back up, backed up, and left him hanging there by driving off. As I did, however, I began to talk to myself. This is not like me. I always help people stuck like this. And I’d lied. Maybe.

I drove along and found another place to come off the beach. Now I was back on a paved road, about a half-mile east of where the guy was.

The voice kept at me. This is not like you. I rolled down the windows, then began slapping around inside the car. The flies, startled, left. I drove on. So I changed my mind. I decided to circle around and come back to where he was by going down the sand road from where we’d come in. I’d tell him to call Balcun Towing if he didn’t have AAA. I’d stick with him and his gal, help him with the shovel. See it through.

Hurrying back, I turned in past the NO EXIT sign and went much too fast down the dirt road, where, about halfway there, I hit a bump in the sand, dragged something noisily along under the car, heard my car start beeping frantically, and then got to where he was.

But he wasn’t there. In the interim, someone had gotten him and his girl out. How, I do not know. Beep. And so we come to the point of this story. Beep.

What was it? Oh, yeah. I’m sorry, guy. I wish we could go back in time. I’d have been nicer, I really would have.

I did a K turn and came back out to the street. I pulled over, put the car into two-wheel—the beeping stopped—then back into four-wheel—there was no further beeping—and then back to two-wheel and drove off.

What’s next? My dog asked.

Home, I told him. We finish this at home.

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