Surfing the High Breeze
On the day that I saw Frosty again, Knickerbocker Beach was full of small delights. I had spent a rainy night in the Manon Suite (The Carmen Suite was taken), but the morning brought bold sunshine. I was a hundred yards out when I found a little heart outlined in the sand with pebbles. No names or initials, just a sort of community valentine.
After Jonathon’s rave review of my craps table, I was tuned in for brick, so when I registered a spot of red I ran right over to investigate. Closer study revealed a ladybug, looking a little bit lost. I corralled the little sucker onto my fingertip, and tried to remember the game we played when we were kids. Was it maybe, if the bug flew off your finger (“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home…”) that you could get just about anybody to be your boyfriend? Kids have such weird ideas.
This particular ladybug was an acrophobe; she wasn’t going anywhere. I contented myself with counting her seven spots and flicking her into the air. She fell to the sand like a tiny pebble, flopping around on her back till she could extend her wings and right herself.
I walked all the way to the breakwater near Archer Bridge. On my way back, I was alarmed to find a ladybug flattened against the sand, as if she had been stepped on. I picked her up and was strangely relieved to find only six spots.
One of Jonathon’s patrons was an abortion doctor in Beaverton. I was relieved that I didn’t have to ask Pauline, because now that I had come to my decision, I didn’t want Hessie to know about it. What’s more, the clinic was very out-of-the-way, so it didn’t tend to attract protesters.
The whole issue has become so monopolized by extremists that the average person doesn’t get much of a say. Was it difficult? Did I feel guilty? Damn straight. Every time I listened to that story about Coyote and the moon, I was forced to consider the possibility that I might soon be taking a life. Or at least, preventing one.
The decision was difficult – but not the action. Once Jonathon’s words had lifted me up the remaining ten steps, I wanted the whole thing to be over with. And except for that harrowing, noisy three minutes, the procedure itself was straightforward and pretty much painless.
Beforehand, however, I was still shopping for reassurance. The clerical staff was wary of discussing philosophy with a patient, but not my doctor, a stocky, fiftysomething who definitely fell into the category of “tough broad.”
“I don’t mean this in a negative way,” I said, “but just because I’d like to know. How was it… that you came to choose this particular field of medicine?”
She laced her fingers together, the way doctors like to do. “It was in med school. Our OB/GYN professor informed us that the female body performs dozens of natural abortions during our lifetimes. The egg is fertilized, everything’s ready to go, but for some reason the body says ‘No.’ Not the right time, not the right mix of DNA – sometimes for no good reason at all. Somewhere a switch goes off, the egg fails to implant, and the next menstruation kicks it out.
“To me, this was quite a revelation,” the doctor continued. “It changed my entire view of the birth process. I began to form the opinion that we, as intelligent beings, should have at least as much say in the production of new life as our bodies do, that we should not have to live our lives as slaves to biology. Does that help?”
“Yes,” I said. “A little.”
“None of this,” she added, “means that you’re not going to have moments of doubt, probably for the rest of your life.”
“Yes. I know.”
I found a Victorian bed-and-breakfast in Sheridan with a view of the Yamhill River, and spent a week recuperating. By the end of my stay, I decided I was still a little short on atonement. I needed to repair the damage I had done to Carlotta and Frosty. After stopping at Spirit Mountain for more dice, I headed on to Hirshfield.
I had planned on Frosty being out on his usual rounds, but there I was at Mocha Rock, a bank of stormclouds hanging over Whalespout Ruins, and not a sight of him. (I was not about to pop in on his campsite.) I was just about to head south in defeat when the Gerrymander Lighthouse began rapping on my vision. I realized I had not once paid a visit to Gerrymander, so I ascended Frosty’s Steps and took a left.
Making my way further into the Pacific, I passed the little deer-trail that led to Nudie Dorker Cove, and then I cruised by the visitors’ center (which was closed for the evening) and on to an overlook with illustrated displays of bird species. The lighthouse itself was pretty much what I expected, a big ghost-pillar tapering from its broad base to a lamphouse with cubist-looking gears and reflectors a hundred feet in the air. Sort of a letdown, actually – although I did enjoy the “1923” carved over the door. I walked around the base, a circular lawn covered in hardy, broad-leafed grass, and became intrigued by the steep hill behind the parking lot, very lush and Irish-looking. I had never noticed it from the beach. The hill was criss-crossed by a narrow path, so that’s where I went.
By this time, the clouds were kicking up a wind, and the hillside was feeling very Wuthering Heights. The trail required four traverses, two through knee-high brambles, two through calf-high grass, then a brief ascent along the ridge. When I got to the top I found a dead end, the far side being a sheer drop to the visitors’ center. As much as I hated backtracking, I had no choice.
On my first step downhill, I spotted a hawk, still as a kite, surfing the high breeze. He stayed there, frozen, for thirty breathless seconds, then turned a feather and skated along the point, speeding sideways toward the lighthouse. And there was Frosty, standing in the trail.
“Frosty!” I nearly hurled myself down the hill to hug him. Frosty laughed and reeled me out at arms’ length.
“Sandrina Fingertip! You have this great habit of surprising the hell out of me.”
“I could kiss you a hundred times,” I said. “But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to get you and Carlotta back together. I’m so sorry for what I did, it was so selfish of me and…”
“We are back together.”
“In fact,” said Frosty, “we’re married. In fact, Carlotta’s pregnant. I wanted to send word to you, but Hessie’s been out of town, and… well, quite frankly, I’ve been kinda busy.”
My reaction was the same as my reaction to the Puccini table: a shriek of recognition followed by wave after wave of laughter, only this time the laughter stayed on. It was one of those uncontrollable fits where every time you stop, you think of the thing that made you laugh in the first place, and off you go again. And every time Frosty tried to say something, it was like throwing plutonium on the fire.
Ten minutes later, I was flat on my back in the calf-high grass, sore in the ribs, sore in the mouth, my eyes red from watering. Frosty knelt behind me, massaging my temples to keep me calm. I looked up and saw three more hawks, raking the gray sky.
“I’m really sorry for taking all that glass,” I said.
“‘Salright. Lot of that glass was yours, anyway. Just wish you hadn’t ripped up the tool shed. Did you use them for mosaics?”
“Can you handle some more news?”
“I have to tell you anyway. Did you ask for the Carmen Suite last night?”
“Yes,” I said. “They said it was taken.”
“Do you know who took it?”
“Jerry Lee Lewis.”
That got my attention.
“He’s been looking for you everywhere. He wants you back.”
I would’ve started laughing again, but I didn’t have the energy. Frosty finished his thought.
“For his business.”
Photo by MJV