Chapter 24 Pirates of the Puget Sound, or, tilting at windmills
My wife and I were sort of weirded out by the experience with the guy
in the bushes. I suppose that seems odd, coming from a person
who's been possessed by ghosts, kidnapped by extraterrestials, etc.
etc., but existential attacks in your own back yard are a bit below the
belt... Assuming the guy was on the level, I think it's safe to
say he's quit writing about us now, so we are free to continue our
lives in peace. And the best way we could do that was to take our
yearly vacation to the Puget Sound, to kayak among the San Juan
islands. At least out there you don't have to be looking over
your shoulder every minute for hack journalists...
Alice's college room mate, Doris Knight, had achieved the good
things in life, in that she had a small cottage on the Sound, from
whence she was always happy to go with us on a tour of the islands.
She was one of those healthy outdoorsy types, meaning that my
banjo toting muscles did not compete favorably against her when
crossing a shipping lane or fighting a tide... Alice and
she rode in a double kayak, whereas I had a single, so perhaps that was
why they consistently left me far behind... This was not an issue
for me, enjoying a bit of solitude with the seagulls and seals, except
when the fog rolled in, as it tends to frequently on the Puget Sound.
By the time I made it to the state park we were to camp at, they had
already pitched the tent, and were working on supper. Doris had
sweet-talked some salmon fishermen into selling them a fish, so it was
little wonder they were so far along in preparations. If it were
left to me, I'd still be fishing... In light of subsequent events, I
have to wonder how long that fish had sat before the fish entered our
possession. I do know I felt queasy when I went to bed, and
probably had a fever coming on as well.
The facts are these: In the morning I was still feeling sickly,
and Alice and Doris had already planned to walk to an antique store on
the island. Fortunately I'd brought along a book on pirates, and
settled in to read, when I must have drifted off to sleep. I know
when I woke up, I was feeling very hot, and not thinking clearly.
While lying there trying to wake up, I'd slowly become obsessed
with the fact that the other major candidates were amassing war chests
in the millions, whereas I didn't even have the lost Iraqi money to
fall back on. The pirate stuff was washing around in my brain,
along with a radio story I'd heard on modern day pirates in the South
China Sea, preying on cargo ships. So I was clearly out of my
mind with fever when I drew up a hasty plan to hold up a container ship
in my kayak.
It's hard to remember fevers,
but what I think I thought, was that modern day pirating was like
modern day bank robbing. No need today for brandishing Tommy
guns. The modern bank thief merely hands a note to the teller,
with a polite addendum asking for no marked bills, homing beacons, or
dye packs, and the tellers comply. So it made sense to me that a
note, and a bandanna over the face, should be sufficient to hold up a
merchant ship. While I felt it was missing something--no swinging
cutlasses, no bellowing broadsides, still, one must keep up with the
times. Their being so large, there ought to be a good share of
booty to be had from the exchange. They'd hardly miss one
container, more or less.
I do recall a bit of
moral trepidation, but only a bit. My more assertive side pointed
out that after this adventure I could list "captain of industry" on my
presidential resume, since as sole pirate, I was certainly the
"captain," and was showing my "industrious" nature by seizing the
initiative. I wouldn't be the first "captain of industry" to
enter public service, I'll wager... Then, on the other wing, it might look good as a stance against multinationalism...
undoubtedly the fever that led me to believe that if I wrote, "Stand
and deliver!" on a piece of notebook paper with a pencil, they would be
able to see the note from the fo'castle or helm, or whatever it is the
captains hang about in... Clearly I was deluded, as
"Stand and deliver!" was the choice of highwaymen and brigands,
whereas, "Avast! Heave to, or go to Davy Jones Locker!" would be the
appropriate nautical equivalent, although it doesn't fit on a piece of
notebook paper so well. And admittedly, a bed sheet and
barn paint would have been a better choice of media.
It wasn't hard to find a likely target, as the shipping lane through
the Straights of Juan de Fuca more resembles a super highway than a
waterway. Kayakers making a crossing feel like the little frog in
the video game trying to cross the freeway. In this case,
however, I was not trying to cross the waterway, but stop in the middle
so they would stand and deliver. I had conveniently forgotten the
fact that a large boat takes a mile or more to stop, not that it would
have mattered, since it didn't even try to stop, although it gave a few
honks on its horn in an unfriendly pattern.
You would have to work hard to have a kayak sliced in half by the bow
of a ship. 99 percent of everything gets pushed off to one side
or another, and the bow wave pushed me aside as it flipped me over.
The cold water helped restore a sense of reality to me, at least
enough to right the kayak, or pull free of the spray skirt.
I paddled furiously away from the boat, before the serious
eddies of the stern area arrived. It was a humbled presidential
candidate that returned to the boat launch area, and after changing to
dry clothes, returned to his sleeping bag. As I lay there I
realized that boat piracy was a chump's game. The real bonanza
people have been missing since the James Gang is train robbery. Fortunately, by the time I woke up from my nap, that idea also had lost its appeal.
My wife and her friend mentioned hearing at the antique store about
some nut that almost got run down by a freighter. I said there
ought to be a pedestrian overpass for kayaks, the way those boats come
barreling through there. I was glad salmon was not on the
menu that evening--I'd lost my taste for it, for some reason.
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