“We can go to Second Street,” said Coach Fraser.
Rory and Allen did not object. Second Street was a big part of their history. E Spernanza’s dad took Rory there when it first opened. The ceiling tiles were falling, but the burgers rocked. Through college, Rory dropped a fair share of cash in the more upscale Second Street. The ceiling tiles had been repaired and the burgers were still great. A few years back, Rory and Allen spent an epic night there when the cliche that “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn” would come to life. Heading to Second Street seemed like a good idea.
Except when they got there. The once Cheers like atmosphere had gone cosmopolitan. Rory felt betrayed by the new look and expressed his doubt, “Coach, are you sure this is the place you want to go? How about the Moose?”
Coach Fraser replied, “We have to go here. There is someone waiting.”
Allen secretly hoped it was an acorn reunion, but it was not to be. Sitting in a darkened booth and looking rather mechanical was Poodle. He had been witness to the epic nature of the aforementioned evening, but tonight he was looking scared and out of sorts.
“I found them. Now I’ve got to go,” said Coach Fraser.
He left without even saying good bye. “Some people never change,” said Rory.
“POODLE, what’s up my brother?” said Allen.
Poodle never looked over. He asked, “Are they out there?”
“Who?” said Allen.
“Those voices. The ones singing obscure Blue Oyster Cult songs like “Veteran of Psychic Wars” and “Flaming Telepaths.”
“How much have you had to drink?” asked Rory.
“If I’m still breathing, not enough. You guys, I need your help. Will you come to Tangier Island?”
Rory and Allen looked at each other. Both knew that there was disaster written all over a trip with Poodle into the bay. They would have been safer chugging up the Amazon. Rory still believed that whatever had been going on in his life was real, so he thought this was just another piece to his journey. Allen saw that nothing epic was going to happen, so he offered to drive the trio to Poodle’s boat. They got to the dock in about an hour’s time and Allen finally saw potential for the night.
“You got enough ballast in this tub?” asked Allen.
“She’ll get us there,” said Poodle, “It’s whether they let us come back that is the question.”
“Who?” asked Rory.
“I don’t know, voices. Just a bunch of damn voices I heard when I was crabbin’ the other day. I’ve been spooked ever sense.”
“Do you think it was some island dudes trying to scare you off?” asked Allen.
“No way. They told me to go down to the Yorktown Pub and pick up a case of Sea Grass. I never even heard of it, but the guy there was waiting for me. It’s some kind of micro brew. We’re supposed to drink it before we get to the island and then wait. No real person could ever set something like that up.”
They drank their first Sea Grass before leaving the dock. It was cold and dark like a Guinness. It didn’t have any of that hoppy taste like a pale ale. It was dark, smooth, and potent. There was a collective accrual of drunkenness that was taking them beyond boating under intoxication to a spiritual realm like that Rory had experienced at Carter’s Grove. This time, the goats were not present and he felt doom instead of being enlightened. Allen sensed the changing aura and began yelling that the boat needed power washing to appease the spirits. Poodle kept drinking and steered a course into the rising sun that was for him was blinding.
With the sun taking a mid morning perch, Poodle dropped an anchor. The water was a little rough, but there was not lagoon to put in. This end of Tangier Island had been abandoned. Once there was a village called, Canaan, but the island life offered little to people, so they left everything behind. Since then, the Chesapeake Bay had been taking in the leftovers. With little commercial relevance to the island, estimates of it’s death had been written in ledgers at between twenty-five and fifty years. Each of the guys chugged one last beer and jumped into the water. They had a short swim to a narrow beach that was cluttered with all sorts of trash from the bay.
“This is an environmental nightmare,” said Allen as he stepped over an axle from a lawn mower. One wheel was still attached and it was anybody’s guess as to where the junk had floated from. “Goats don’t leave trash behind,” he said.
“Look at this,” said Rory. He pointed to the ground at a human skull. “Where do you think it’s from?” He reached down and picked it up. At that moment, the full force of the beer hit. Clouds streaked across the sky and blocked out the sun. The boat sat perfectly still in water that did not move. Poodle passed out while Rory and Allen waited for whatever was coming.
“I guess this isn’t real either,” said Rory.
“I’m not sure yet,” said Allen.
A voice with an English and Virginia accent began speaking. Rory and Allen assumed it was coming from the skull, so they focused their attention there, “This was our promised land. We settled here. We were buried here. Now the waters dissolve our graves and the bay is taking the island away. Danger awaits those who do not heed the environmental warnings. Rising waters will be the least of the problems.”
“What are the most of the problems?” said Allen.
“What do you want us to do?” said Rory.
“You must fight global ambivalence. There are many fronts. Save this island before the horrors are released.”
The sun came back out. The choppy waters returned. Poodle woke up.
“Get in the boat,” said Rory. “We’ve got to go.”