Curses and a snarling hound interrupted Roberto Rufino’s anguished cry that he was disoriented, that his faith was broken, and that he saw the sky in the eyes of his beloved. I lay low, even as a 911 dispatcher asked what service I required, and what was the address? I whispered, “Police,” blanked on Maria’s address, added “Never mind”, and switched off. Next thing I knew, the outboard fired up, and the motorboat backed off from my kayak with grinding concussions, wheeled around, and sped off towards the river. The hound paced the dock, snuffling in frustration. It paused to sniff at a seam in the boards just above my cowering head, poured forth a paroxysm of barks, and then slouched off towards the house. My phone buzzed. “Max? Is that you down there?” A flashlight danced along the path from Maria’s house. Di Sarli’s orchestration embroidered Rufino’s refrain, “The sky in your eyes gives me courage, and increases my crazy desire to live.”
Maria emerged from the shadows. She paused at the step onto the dock, one pale hand at her breast, and the other fingering the hem of her tango skirt. Botticelli’s Venus flashed before my eyes. Under the passionate spell of her crystalline soul, my hell in Eden was transformed. But all that had to wait. I embraced her silently, and nuzzled the pearled precinct of her ear. “I’ll be back,” I murmured, “I’ll explain later.” I untied the kayak, settled in, and paddled swiftly towards the river and the lost ice-chest. I soon left the shadowy confines of the creek, and found myself in open water. The moon was higher now in a clear star-studded sky. The fireflies had disappeared, and the bullfrogs’ choruses had died down.
As I made for the protective cover of sea-grass, hoping to blend into invisibility, I felt water sloshing around my flip-flops, and loose bottles of champagne and fat baggies of white powder shifting around in the bow. And then I noticed that the kayak was lower in the water than usual, and that paddling was now more strenuous. No doubt about it: I was sinking. The churning propeller of the motorboat must have torn a hole in the kayak. Waves began to slop over the gunwhale when I was still a hundred yards from the palisade of rushes where I’d found the ice-chest. Within seconds I was chest-deep in cold water, and the kayak was slipping out from under me, headed for the bottom. My struggle to get free was greeted by the raucous scream of a night-hawk, swooping low over the moonlit river.
Published: 3 Aug 2019 @ 21:52