Characters: Marilyn, houseboat owner and blogger; Laverne, co-owner of cruiser (Vertigo), Marie and Isabelle, her daughters
“Are you ready to learn biofeedback now?” I challenge Laverne.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she quips, sounding doubtful and frustrated.
“In my office, I have a recliner. But here on the boat, the couch will have to do. Is that okay with you?”
“Sure, I need a nap,” she jokes halfheartedly, giving the impression she is beyond hope.
I give her a pillow and blanket. “Are you comfortable?”
“Yes. With the waves slowly rocking the houseboat, I imagine I’m in a cradle,” she declares, closing her eyes.
“I won’t let you sleep, only relax.”
“Isn’t sleep relaxation?”
“No. Sleep produces delta brainwaves; relaxation puts a person into the theta brainwave state. Theta is the slowest brainwave while you’re still awake. It’s necessary for creativity as well as relaxation. Biofeedback training teaches you to put yourself into theta automatically, when you feel stress is threatening your well-being. But it takes practice. This is only the first step. Then, you need to rehearse the process on your own. If you want help, I’m available. But it’s up to you to follow-through.”
“Show me how it’s done.”
“The first step is taping on a finger thermometer,” I explain, as I tape the thermometer onto her right index finger. “The average finger temperature is 85 degrees; yours is 72, indicating that your body is in a state of flight-or-fight.”
“What do I do about that?”
“The trauma of the capsize has not left you. Your body is ready to defend itself against another serious mishap. Biofeedback is the process of reassuring your system, that you are safe—that you can let down your vigilance.”
“I didn’t know I was carrying that nightmare with me.”
“It’s your neurological system. It learns quickly and is very effective in ramping up its response to danger. Now is the time to quiet the impulse to defend against a threat that’s not there.”
A knock on the door interrupts my explanation. Marie and Isabelle walk in and ask, “What’s going on? Mom, what’s wrong? Why are you lying on the couch?”
“I’m teaching biofeedback,” I console them. “Would you two like to learn? It’s a valuable tool for staying calm, especially when faced with a problem or a difficult situation.”
“Sure,” they answer in unison.
I bring out two yoga mats, unfold them onto the floor of the salon, and supply them with pillows. I tape a finger thermometer on the right index finger of each of them.
“As I was telling your Mom, the average finger temperature is 85 degrees. Both of you are already very relaxed with finger temperatures in the low 90’s. You can have a contest with your mother. Her finger temperature is 72. She needs to catch up with you two.”
“Why is that?” Marie asks.
“What do you remember about your ski boat capsizing?” I inquire.
“I was skiing behind the boat. Waves crashed into me and I fell into the water, losing my skis. I swam to the upside-down boat and the Coast Guard picked us up,” Marie summarized.
“Do you have anything to add?” I ask Isabelle.
“When the boat overturned, I remember my parents telling me that there’s air space for breathing above the waterline in an over-turned boat. I grabbed a life jacket, treaded water, and stayed in that, waiting for one of my parents to find me. And Mom did. We went under water, surfaced, and held onto the bottom of the boat.”
“How are those memories different from yours, Laverne?” I probe.
“Completely different. I felt responsible for the mishap and worried that my girls would be injured, if not physically, then emotionally scarred. I was scared out of my wits.”
“That’s the difference between being a parent and a child. Your girls expected you and Raymond to solve the emergency and you did. They depended on you and you came through for them. No problem. Is that how you saw it?” I ask the girls.
“Of course. It was chilling, but we survived, thanks to Mom and Dad. Everything turned out fine. What’s to worry about?” Marie questions.
“Laverne, you finger temperature is rising as you listen to your daughters. Now 85 degrees and climbing. You needed to hear that they don’t blame you for what happened. But we’re off the subject. I want to teach you a visualization that you can use to transform your nervous system from worry into peace.
“Girls, biofeedback is a process that you can use throughout your life. You can begin everyday seeking peace and preparing for the ability to handle any problem that faces you.
“Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Two deep cleansing breaths are a sign to your body that it’s time to relax; time to let go; time to stop all thoughts, worries, problems, and concerns. It is time to turn off the body and the mind, just briefly, to go on a journey inward for knowledge and understanding.
“Get in tune with your breathing as you breathe in peace, comfort and relaxation, and you breathe out all negativity. Collect discomfort and breathe it out. Collect anger and breathe it out. Collect fear and breathe it out. Collect all negativity and breathe it out.
“With each breath, you can feel, sense, and see yourself go deeper and deeper into relaxation as you become lighter and lighter. One breath at a time, one breath after another, with each breath you become twice as relaxed as you were the breath before.
“Picture yourself standing underneath a waterfall of golden healing energy. The energy cascades over your head, swirls around your face and neck, goes down your chest and back, and forms a cocoon that covers your body from head to toe. The energy sinks into your body through the pores of your skin and fills your body, from head to toe, with lightness, brightness, and warmth.
“Picture yourself floating up, up into the sky, on a cloud toward the sun.
“I want you to focus on a symbol that represents peace. Perhaps a star or a sun or the ocean or your pet. Perhaps it’s an aroma or a color or engaging in your favorite hobby. Choose a picture in your mind that suggests harmony and relaxation whenever it enters your consciousness.
“I will check your finger temperatures. Congratulations! Each of you has reached the goal of 96 degrees. By practicing this exercise every day, you will balance body, mind, and spirit, freeing the nervous system from an accumulation of stress.”
“Wow, I entered another world,” Laverne states.
“I’m still floating,” Marie agrees.
“Wait till I tell my friends about this,” Isabelle exclaims.
“What symbol did you imagine that generates relaxation?” I ask.
“I’m on my balance beam,” Marie shares.
“I’m holding our Calico cat, Ginger. She’s purring,” Isabelle imagines.
“I’m floating on a pink cloud. It’s quiet. I’m warm. I’m above everyday concerns. It’s magical,” Laverne describes.
“You’re not alone,” I assure each of them.
Characters: Laverne and Raymond, owners of Vertigo, Marie and Isabelle, their daughters; Jared, owner of Dream Weaver; Simon, marina manager
As I step off of Jared’s yacht, Laverne grabs the back of my jacket, nearly pulling me into the sliver of Lake Travis, between the cruiser and the dock.
“Whoa, Laverne! Are you trying to drown me?”
Laverne wails, “Hold onto me. I’m falling!”
I jump back onboard and catch Laverne before she collapses. I drag her to the stairs and slowly lower her onto a step. “What happened? What’s wrong? Are you all right?”
“I’m dizzy and I’m zoning out, fainting,” she mumbles. I hold her wobbly head firmly and gently direct it downward, between her knees, to redirect blood flow to her brain, as I learned in CPR class. Her hands grip my arms as if her life depends on the connection.
Her husband Raymond and daughters Marie and Isabelle gather around us, looking at me accusingly, as if to demand, “What have you done to her?”
“She told me she was going to blackout and I’m trying to bring her back,” I explain, still cradling her head.
“I’ll take over from here,” Raymond orders.
“No, I want Marilyn to help me,” she insists, as she lifts her head to confront him.
“Okay. We’ll meet you back at the boat,” he directs, leaving with the girls.
“Raymond thinks I make up my dizzy spells, but I don’t. They’re real and I’m afraid I’ll hurt myself when I fall,” Laverne confesses.
“What brought on this spell?” I ask.
“The flood, wind, waves, the whole situation. I was in a much smaller boat that capsized in such weather. It brought back these awful memories,” she explains.
“Can you get up? Let’s go to my houseboat where you can have privacy. If you don’t mind, I’d like to hear all about it.” Laverne reaches out and grabs my arm to steady herself. She shakes her head and looks down at the six-inch space between the cruiser and the dock, as if threatened by the distance.
“I’ll go first. I’ll help you step from the boat to the dock.” Staring at the gap, she takes a deep breath and lunges toward me, dragging her feet behind her. “I got you. You made it,” I encourage her, knowing that there’s another space she’ll have to traverse to get onboard my craft.
The entry to Prana’s bow has a swinging gate that provides a handhold she uses to steady herself. Inside Prana’s salon, Laverne drops onto the couch, breathing as if she ran a marathon.
“How about something to drink?” I ask.
“I’d love a glass of wine—white or red, it doesn’t matter.”
After a few sips, she begins, “We were in our ski boat, out on the widest part of the lake, not far from the dam. Marie, our oldest, was skiing behind the runabout. Raymond, Isabelle and I were eating sandwiches, keeping an eye on Marie but confident in her ability to ski the length of the lake without mishap if she wanted to. Without warning, a strong wind whipped the water surface into whitecaps—big ones, at last four-feet high. We’d never experienced anything like this on Lake Travis.
“The weather tumbled Marie and Raymond frantically maneuvered the boat to pick her up. She lost the skis and had trouble keeping her head above water, despite wearing a life jacket. Waves crashed over our runabout and Raymond struggled to regain control. On the starboard side, a 110-foot party boat, named Austintatious, nearly side-swiped us, probably not being able to see us being drowned in waves. At the same time on the port side, a cruiser raced by us in high gear in an attempt to outrun the storm by returning to the marina.
“I found myself underwater, sinking. I kicked upward, held onto the gunwale but saw no one else above water. Panicked, I dove underneath the boat, where I found Isabelle, hugging a life jacket, desperately holding her head above water inside the overturned boat. I motioned that we would go up, outside the boat. I held her hand and dragged her underwater.
“As we surfaced, we held onto the bottom of the capsized vessel. Marie was swimming toward our boat, being swept up, down, and sideways by the waves. Raymond knocked on the bottom of the boat, telling us he was on the opposite side from us. Neither Raymond nor I had worn life jackets. To preserve our stamina, we had to hold onto the craft. After fighting the current, Marie arrived, breathless, fatigued, and frightened. She tried unsuccessfully to climb out of the water onto the bottom of the boat. All of us were shaking with cold and fear. Raymond shouted hopeful remarks to us and tried to get us to sing with him. But as we tired, our grip relaxed. I caught myself slipping away and had to fight to return to the boat and my family.
“As darkness enveloped us, I lost my grip physically and mentally. Both Marie and Isabelle grabbed my arms and pulled me up. We held each other for warmth and faith that we would survive.
“I awoke to the sound of a motor. The three of us looked at each other for reassurance that this was not our imagination. The Coast Guard idled their vessel next to ours. The crew threw a ladder over the side and shouted, ‘Who’s first?’ The girls pushed me to the ladder. I protested but they insisted. On deck, the crew wrapped us in blankets, gave us hot cider, and congratulated us for our success.
“They towed our nearly submerged runabout back to the marina, where Simon tied the bow and stern to the dock and promised, ‘We’ll get her upright early tomorrow morning.’
“I cried. Instead of being a strong mother as an example to my daughters, I was the weakest. Raymond blamed himself for being unable to prevent the capsize. Each of us were so upset with ourselves that we could not offer any solace to each other. The girls translated our near fatal accident as an adventure that they couldn’t wait to tell their friends about.
“Since then, the ‘slipping away’ feeling overcomes me when I’m stressed.”
“I can help you with that. Have you heard of biofeedback?”
“No, but I’m ready to try,” Laverne volunteers.
Characters: Marilyn, houseboat owner and blogger; Randy and Jim, houseboat co-owners; Jerry, hippie; Jared, serial lover and owner of Dream Weaver; Scott, Jerry’s nephew; Marie,12-year-old daughter, and Isabelle, 10-year-old daughter of Laverne and Raymond;Ellen and Stanley, cruiser neighbors; Austin, owner of the VIP Marina (as well as Sandy Creek Marina); Simon, marina manager.
“I’m sorry we left you behind, Marilyn. We were anxious to get started on our fishing trip,” Randy, the Fishing Squad ring-leader, bends the truth to placate me and free himself from responsibility.
“You left because the Fishing Squad did not want women, children, and dogs to go with you,” I claim.
“Do you blame us?” Jim asks.
“Yes, I do. And whether you want to admit it or not, your houseboat punished you by running out of fuel,” I suggest.
“Don’t try to make us feel guilty. We wanted to fish, that’s all. You’re making it too complicated,” Jerry advises.
“We’re one big happy family, now, together on my cruiser. Let’s make the best of it. Scott’s on the bow fishing. Feel free to fish, if you like,” Jared suggests.
“I’m out of the mood,” George claims. “Let’s play poker or black jack.” Randy, Jim, and Jerry join him at the galley table.
“Can I use your rod, George?” Marie asks.
“Of course. Catch us lunch. I’ll cook all the fish you bring us,” George promises, shuffling the cards.
“Dad, look at the geese on the grassy part of the beach.There’s only one white bird in the group of black-and-whites,” Isabelle points out.
“And listen to the racket they’re making. What’s up?” Jerry asks, getting up from the card game and standing next to Isabelle.
“You know geese mate for life. Maybe he is looking for another partner among the Canadas,” Raymond suggests.
“What kind is the white one?” Isabelle asks.
“It’s a snow goose, probably lost,” Scott comments as he enters the galley with Marie.
“I bet it’s a domestic goose,” Jim volunteers.
“Look at the Canadian flock following the snow goose. He’s a leader. I bet bad weather separated him from his flock. Speaking of bad weather, the lake level is rising fast. The lines are tight,” Scott advises.
“Do you think the geese are warning us?” Isabelle asks.
“I think they’re honking before they take off. I bet you’re right, Isabelle,” Scott guesses, while Isabelle smiles, taking the comment as a compliment.
“Warning us of what?” Randy questions.
Appearing in the doorway, Austin announces, “We just received a flash flood warning from the Lower Colorado River Authority. Heavy rain flooded Llano River. The powerful current destroyed the bridge near Kingsland. The Highland Lakes are filled to capacity, forcing the Corps of Engineers to open the flood gates to protect the construction of the dams. Lake Travis, being downstream from four of the seven Highland Lakes, is on the verge of rising very quickly from the waters being released from the other reservoirs. Lake Travis will be shut down very soon. Please return to your marina now. The rapid rise of water may block your reaching shore.” https://laketravis.com/lake-travis-flood-october-2018
“What is the status of fuel for our houseboat?” Jim inquires.
“Not full yet, but close enough. There’s no time to lose, according to people who know,” Austin cautions as he turns to alerts others on the pier.
“They’re making a big deal out of nothing,” George exclaims. “It hasn’t rained here for days. What’s the rush?”
“Take a look at the lines,” Scott suggests, “And tell me why this calm lake now has a raging current.”
Everyone races to the door. The ones in back bump into those in front, suddenly immovable. “Oh, no!” Laverne and Ellen shout together. “Will we be able to get back? How will you dock the boat against these waves?” Laverne asks.
“Not to worry. Dream Weaver will get us through,” Jared promises.
Pushing and shoving, the Fishing Squad squeezes past the Cruiser Crew and heads to their houseboat. “We’ll meet you back at the quay,” Jared shouts as he climbs the teak stairs to the flybridge.
The lake is unrecognizable–it’s throwing a tantrum. The yacht shimmies and bounces over waves, against the wind. For warmth, we wrap beach towels around our shoulders. Even though there’s no rain, we’re drenched by water air-borne by gusts.
Austin has forewarned Simon to assist the captains with docking their boats. Simon, holding onto an aluminum pole for support on the rocking pier, shakes his head, doubting his influence in a situation that has been taken over by Nature. The crafts approach clumsily. Will the pilots be able to maneuver their boats into their slips? Through a megaphone, Simon instructs Jim to park his houseboat at the end of the harbor, which requires less finesse than squeezing a 100-foot long houseboat into a 20-foot wide slip. As members of the Fishing Squad disembark to secure the lines, Simon hurries to Dream Weaver’s slip.
Jared turns Dream Weaver’s bow away from the dock. He positions the stern to back into the slip. The bow and stern thrusters maintain the ship’s backward direction, overpowering the wind and the current. Raymond and Stanley, cruiser owners, know exactly what to do. They jump onto the dock, attach the lines to secure the craft, and tie bumpers to protect the finish. As a group effort, the mooring appears easy with Simon as an observer rather than a problem solver. He’s grateful for the show of collaboration in the midst of a squall.
As Jared turns off the engines and ignites the electric heaters, he offers everyone food and drinks. “A job well done,” I compliment him.
He smiles, “Thanks to Dream Weaver, not me.”
I know better. I look at Prana, the next slip over. If I were behind the wheel of Prana, where would we have ended up? I better take more piloting lessons. Will I ever achieve piloting status? Time and experience will tell.
Characters: George, handyman; Scott, Jerry’s (hippie) nephew; Randy, houseboat co-owner; Jared, serial lover; Jim, houseboat co-owner; Laverne and Raymond, Vertigo owners; Ellen and Stanley, cruiser neighbors
The Fishing Squad congratulate themselves over a job well done—the removal of a barbed hook from Jerry’s eyelid. They argue about where to fish next. Where are the bass and catfish? Should they stay on the dock, where fish hide under the boats, or should they take a boat onto open water and locate an abyss where fish are feeding?
George volunteers, “I have a johnboat with a 9 horse-power motor. Nothing fancy but will get us to a fishing hole.”
“Not enough power. We’d be puttering along during the best time of day to catch fish,” Scott advises.
Without agreeing on a compromise, they watch in horror as two families, each with two golden retrievers, and Jared, steering a wheelbarrow with a mound of drinks, snacks, and inflatable water toys, invade their fishing space.
With urgency is his voice, Randy suggests, “Let’s take the houseboat out on the lake. There’s plenty of room with a well-stocked kitchen and we have kayaks on top that can take us to where the fish are. Let’s get out of here, now.” The Squad obeys Randy’s commands without question, as if escaping from a hostile enemy.
Jared yells, “Where are you going? We just got here!”
“As far away as we can get,” Jim bellows.
Still sitting at the table, not invited to join the Squad’s fishing expedition, I jester to Jared to join me. “They are after trophy-size fish. They don’t want to bother with swimming, grilling, and other domestic fun,” I recap. “It appears that they believe women and children will disrupt their quest.”
“Let’s prove them wrong,” Jared smiles. He motions to me, the two families with kids and dogs to board his 70-foot, two-and-a-half-story cabin cruiser.
The yacht is breath-taking and overwhelming—like entering Emerald City on the way to the Oz but it’s made of teak instead of emeralds. The aft deck is teak with a swim platform and stainless-steel ladder. Taking a few teak steps up, an entertainment area with two cushioned couches, a mini fridge, and a 36-inch TV welcomes us. The kids with the dogs jump on the divans, reserving a prime location, assuming that it can’t get any better than this. But it does.
“Let me show you around,” Jared offers.
The galley has multiple stainless-steel sinks and floor to ceiling teak cabinets. More sofas invite us to sit and relax. Behind the seats is the helm with two captain chairs. Above the steering wheel, countless dials, arranged just below the wrap-around bow window, resemble the cockpit of an airplane. Jared gives us a sampling of the ship’s various electronic features—fish-finder, depth-finder, contour of the lake bottom, interactive map of the lake, and so on (too much to soak in at one time).
“Downstairs is my bachelor den,” he smirks (Is he salivating? I wonder).
He opens the door to each of three cabins, equipped with heads and showers with teak lattice flooring. “When we’re underway, the shower can become slippery,” he explains, recognizing my fascination with his preoccupation with teak. The master bed is round. I resist the desire to ask him if it vibrates to the sound of music.
He guides us up one flight of teak stairs and then onto another. “The flybridge is the most spectacular part of the yacht.” There is another helm, a replica of the one on the first floor, and more cushioned leather seats. “Piloting from up here is like flying. I focus on the horizon ahead, as if I’m the captain of a plane. And with engines that generate 1120 horsepower, the ship has the potential to transform into an air craft,” he jokes.
Laverne, Ellen, and I relax on the flybridge as Jared orders the men to detach the lines. He starts the motors, slides down the stairs and disconnects the electric plugs and water hose. With Jared on the dock, I steal the captain’s chair, “just in case the craft moves forward,” I explain to the women, looking at me in disbelief.
Appearing soundlessly, Jared jests, “Oh, I see we have another pilot onboard.” Embarrassed, I join my friends. “Not so quick. I’ll show you how to maneuver out of the slip. You may want to practice on your houseboat when we return.” I regret my impulse. I’ve been told this is a three-million-dollar yacht. I’m out of my league, but I play along to save face; inside, I’m jello.
He sits in the captain’s seat next to mine. “It’s easy. This lever pushes the boat forward and this one turns the craft right or left. Check to see if the lines are detached. Check! Slowly push the lever forward. Yes, you’re doing well. The cruiser needs to clear the slip before turning left. Good. More left. That’s it. Now straighten it out–turn the lever to its original position. This is a no-wake zone. You’re at the right speed. Notice, the steering wheel is used only for minor corrections in direction—not for navigating.” White-knuckled, I sigh deeply with relief.
“You did very well. I forgot to tell you that I can maneuver from here with this joy stick,” he laughs.
I want to slap him, but I smile, sweetly, already planning how to seek revenge.
As we leave the marina and head south, we spot Jim and Randy’s houseboat near Starnes Island. As we approach, the craft seems becalmed. “He wouldn’t anchor in the middle of the lake,” Jared surmises. Pulling alongside the houseboat, he shouts, “Anything wrong?”
“We’re out of gas,” Randy barks, shaking his head. “I thought Jim filled the tank and he assumed that I did. We’re marooned,” he admits, mortified.
“You know the routine. I’ll pull ahead. As I back up, throw us two lines–one starboard and the other port–to attach to our stern. We’ll tow you to VIP Marina.” He directs Raymond and Stanley to tie the ropes securely to the stern cleats to withstand the weight of the houseboat. Unconcerned, Scott is fishing from the houseboat’s stern.
Jared calls ahead to alert the marina manager. Because access to the diesel pump is limited, the yacht will not have enough room to deliver the houseboat to the fueling dock. The manager sends two runabouts to guide the houseboat close enough to refuel. Raymond and Stanley are in position to through the two ropes to the boatmen. (http://www.floridamarineguide.com/houseboats.html)
Jared guides his cruiser into a visitor slip and invites the houseboat crew onto his yacht. Randy and Jim bring refreshments, enough for all of us, as a peace offering.
“Let this be a lesson: Don’t leave us behind,” I pretend I’m kidding, but I really mean it. “After all, the marina makes us an adopted family.”
Characters: Austin, marina owner; Simon, marina manager; Clyde, runabout owner; Louise, Clyde’s girlfriend; Jerry, hippie; Randy and Jim, houseboat owners; Scott, Jerry’s nephew
Before the police arrive, Austin and Simon join us for moral support. Simon’s cell recorded a dimly lit, out-of-focus video of Clyde dragging Louise by the hair. The police interview each of us individually in an attempt to identify the individual who instigated Clyde’s behavior. Our stories mesh. Because his slip is on B-dock, none of us on A-dock know him very well. Even Jerry, who has lived on his cruiser, docked on B-dock for years, and thought he knew the secrets of everyone there, met him for the first time only recently at the post-tornado meeting.
Unfortunately, I’m the only one who knew about Clyde’s drinking and behavioral problems through Louise’s conversation with me. That’s considered “hear-say,” not evidence.
“Louise is the only person who knows Clyde well enough to report a history of dangerous antics,” I confide to the officer who questions me. “His damaged runabout is evidence of his lack of judgment. What did he gain by running a 24-foot ski boat into a 100-foot houseboat?” I ask. Of course, the officer knows that as well as I do. I want to demonstrate to him my clear thinking, even though I had two glasses of wine, which I don’t want to discuss with him. (The law intimidates me, even when I’ve done nothing wrong. I feel like a child being accused of stealing from the cookie jar when I knew my sister committed the crime. I wouldn’t rat on her but I’d get even later).
After the police leave, Austin organizes a debriefing. “Tell me step-by-step, what happened?” he asks. Randy begins, “I saw you ask Louise where she stepped off of the damaged dock. I assumed that Clyde also witnessed this, while filling his boat with gas. He apparently jumped to the conclusion that you had a romantic relationship with her. I explained this to Clyde but his jealousy made him deaf and dumb; he couldn’t hear me.”
“Marilyn, what do you know about their relationship?” Austin asks.
“She was very concerned about his uncontrollable temper but thought she could rein him in. Unfortunately, she was wrong. I tried to warn her but to no avail,” I report.
Jim restarts the music and offers drinks, trying to recapture the festive spirit, so rudely interpreted. Instead, each of us retreat to our boat havens, wanting to forget the episode but, instead, reliving the terror of looking down the barrel of a maniac’s handgun.
At daybreak, before sunrise, commotion on the dock outside the bow of Prana woke me up with a start. Did Clyde return for revenge? Are the police resuming questioning? Is Louise asking for sanctuary? I slip into a coverup over my swimsuit and look out the window. There, Jerry appears frantic. George, Jim, and Randy are wrestling him into a chair. A young man I don’t recognize seems to be trying to talk sense into Jerry.
“Can I help?” I ask.
Five sets of eyes look at me as if I were an apparition.
“Hearsay claims you’re a doctor. Yes, we need your help!” the young man exclaims with urgency.
“Tell me what I can do?” I ask.
Obviously trying to remain calm, the young man explains, “Jerry is my uncle. I’m Scott. We were fishing with treble hooks for largemouth bass in the empty slip next to yours. A good-size bass sucked in the lure but when Jerry set the hook, the bass spit the hook out, piercing Jerry’s eyelid. We need someone like you to remove it or else we’ll have to take him to the ER, 20 miles away.”
My knees are wobbly; just the thought of removing a lure from an eyelid makes me queasy and dizzy. “There’s been a misunderstanding. I’m a psychologist, not a medical doctor. I’ve no expertise in removing a lure from an eyelid. I’m sorry.” I sit down, feeling faint.
“Uncle, I guess it’s up to me,” Scott explains. “Are you ready for this? Are you in pain?”
“No pain. Go ahead, but I need another beer,” Jerry insists.
Scott reaches into Jerry’s motorized cooler and hands him a Natural Light. “Ready?” he asks.
“Go ahead. The sooner the better. I can’t walk around with a lure in my eyelid.”
The group encircles Jerry, bracing himself. Scott hovers over him. “I will explain step-by-step what I’m doing. Don’t move. Stay calm.”
“Easier said than done,” Jerry whimpers.
“I need a needle-nose pliers,” Scott orders. George hands him one from his tool belt around his waist. “The first step in removing a lure is to clip off the barb of the hook,” Scott remarks. “Are you okay?” Scott asks. (https://www.wikihow.com/Remove-a-Fishhook-from-Skin/)
“Fine. Hurry up. I don’t like being the center of attention,” Jerry claims. Everyone smiles, knowing he relishes the spotlight.
“The barb holds the hook into the eyelid or the fish’s mouth, wherever the hook lands,” Scott jokes. “Without the barb, I can pull the hook out. First, I have to push the barb through the eyelid and cut the barb off.” The snip of the pliers produces a popping sound, that turns my stomach. “I now will pull the hook back through.” There’s another loud pop. “O’lah!” he exclaims. “Any pain?” he asks again.
“None,” Jerry responds.
“You made it look easy,” I acknowledge.
“Not the first time; won’t be the last. But I’ve never had an audience before. And Jerry was a good sport. Many people freak-out with a treble hook embedded in their eyelid.”
“Imagine that,” I remark.
Characters: Louise, visitor; Clyde, boat owner
Sitting on a bow chair with computer on my lap, I immersed myself in replying to email and commenting on Facebook confessions, and Instagram photos. Even though the lake transported me into a Neverland type of ambiance, I wanted to stay in touch with the world, from a distance.
Louise’s voice, “Are you busy?” jolts me from the revelry of interacting with distant friends that I have known from afar since elementary school. “Some people never change,” my mind concludes. I wonder if I had.
“You snuck up on me,” I smile.
“Do you have time to talk. I’d like your advice.”
“Me, give advice?” I ask.
“Well, I heard you are a psychologist and who better to talk to about problems with a boyfriend,” she espouses.
“Who told you that I am a psychologist?” I inquire, puzzled because I have told no one here of my profession.
“Everyone knows everything about all of us on this marina. Word gets around. Someone probably googled you,” she grins as if she caught me in a fib.
“What can I help you with? Please know that whatever we discuss will be completely confidential.”
“Where to begin?”
“That’s up to you.”
“Clyde is a great guy. Very generous and a lot of fun.”
“And then?” I ask, waiting for the bombshell.
“I’ll give you an example. Yesterday morning, we took his boat out early. We fished, caught a few catfish, and put them in the live well. I was looking forward to frying fish and eggs for breakfast back at the dock. By that time, Clyde had drunk a six-pack.
“‘Let’s explore,’ he yelled as he started the motor and put the runabout in high gear. We raced across the lake, bouncing into the air over waves from other, bigger boats. I was afraid we’d flip. He saw fear on my face and laughed. ‘Relax. Have fun. Don’t worry.’ He suddenly changed directions and a cruiser honked a warning. I saw the pilot waving his fist threateningly as we passed very close to his bow. Finally, I cried, ‘Slow down. You’ll kill us.’ He guffawed even louder.”
“You are describing a change in personality due to alcohol. Is that correct?” I ask.
“That’s it! He became a different person, fool-hardy, and scary. He seemed out of control and I could do nothing about it.”
“I don’t know Clyde. But from my experience, a person who undergoes a personality change after drinking alcohol means there is a drinking problem.”
“But he only had beer.”
“Regardless, as the disease of alcoholism progresses, the person becomes intoxicated with fewer drinks. Sad but true.”
“What should I do?”
“Decide whether you want to date an alcoholic. You will not change him. He has to want to give up alcohol which to him right now seems impossible. Drinking is a central part of our society. Many of us drink alcohol to belong. It is a huge struggle to stop drinking. He might have withdrawal symptoms. And he has to convince himself that he cannot drink alcohol ever again, not even one drink.”
“I was hoping you would give me advice about what I could do to help him.”
“I’ve had a number experiences with alcoholics, personally and professionally. I have learned that leaving someone you care about may motivate that person to face his behaviors and seek help. But often, that person needs to lose everything before he can face the truth. It is an extremely complicated, difficult disease that relies completely on the person to decide he or she needs to change. You could ask him to attend an AA meeting, which will probably make him angry. He does not seem to be in the space to admit his addiction. Denial is the dominant defense for addicts. ‘That’s not me,’ they insist, even when drinking another whiskey or taking another snort.”
“Thank you for your input but I don’t think he is as bad off as you make him out to be. He has a gentle core. He’s a good guy. I can’t leave him. I want to help him.”
“I’m sorry if I came across as being negative. I’m being honest to protect you from being hurt even more. But I’m here if you want to talk more.”
Characters: Louise, visitor; Austin, marina owner; Clyde, boat owner; Simon, marina manager; Jerry, hippie
As Louise and I walked along the vessels parked on A-dock, up the hill past the office and the marina store, we heard angry voices emanating from the restaurant. “What’s going on?” Louise asks.
“Sounds like trouble brewing.”
The boat owners were standing around a long table covered with a white cloth, mounds of sandwiches (beef, chicken, ham, tuna salad, vegetarian), an aluminum container of iced Shiner Bock, pitchers of Margaritas, bottles of champagne and orange juice for mimosas, and salad bowls of lettuce and tomatoes, doused with ranch dressing. My stomach grumbles with anticipation. But the outrage of those around me extinguishes my appetite.
The owner was standing on a chair trying to calm the mob. Why were they so upset?
“I haven’t met most of you. I’m Austin Taylor owner of this marina and four others on Lake Travis. I’m here to assure you that our insurance will cover the damage caused by the tornado but I implore you to be patient. You know how slow insurance companies can be in reimbursing you for a loss. I’ll do my best. I have a staff that will answer your questions and be available at any time to discuss issues that are concerning you.”
“Why can’t we take our boats out? We pay good money to dock our boats here so we can pilot them any time we want. How long will be denied access to our boats,” a fiery, red-headed, heavy-set man with a straw cowboy hat and a Margarita, hollers.
“Good question,” Austin with a subdued voice tries to reduce the tension in the air. “The scuba divers hired by the insurance company will be finished testing the anchor cables later today, probably around dark. You have access to your boats but you can’t take them out on the lake for the safety of the divers. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to hit one of them with your propellers.”
Grumbling, the red-headed man sits down, commenting under his breath to a friend next to him, “It would serve them right.”
“My girlfriend was injured early this morning because of your negligence,” Clyde shouts. Louise looks at me with embarrassment and hides behind me.
“I’m here, Clyde. I’m okay,” Louise responds while looking at the floor as if expecting a slap in the face.
“Louise,” Austin invites, “Please come up here and tell us what happened to you. I am very sorry for any injury you suffered.”
Louise looks at me with tortured eyes. I hold her hand and we both walk to the front of the crowd.
Austin steps down and helps her up onto the chair. She looks at her shaking hands, clears her voice, and describes her accident with a voice low enough to quiet the crowd. “It was an accident. If anyone was at fault, it was my appearing on the dock before sunrise and assuming that the pier was where it always has been.” A few of the men chuckle.
Austin, with finesse, mingles with the boaters, and shares the idea of alerting visitors of the potential danger of damaged areas with orange, plastic fencing. “Let me introduce the new manager of the marina. Simon, will you introduce yourself and share with us your plans to improve the marina?”
As Simon helps Louise off the chair, he takes control of the meeting with plans that he and Austin apparently have devised, not only to repair the damage but to enhance the services provided by the marina, such as the sale of diesel at the fuel depo and upgrading the two bathrooms next to the office. I wanted to ask about the laundry room but I thought I would discuss this with Simon privately rather than in front of the disgruntled boaters.
“I’d like to say something,” Jerry says as he replaces Simon on the chair. “Marilyn and I were the only ones at the marina when the tornado struck. First responders were here in time to wake us up (yes, we slept through it somehow) and get Marilyn to safety since B-dock was not hit. This was a complete surprise to the weather experts and it is the first time this marina has ever been in the path of a tornado. As much as we like to fool ourselves that we are in control, Mother Nature has her way. I have complete confidence that Austin and Simon will repair the tornado’s aftermath. Even though Louise was hurt, which was unfortunate, no one suffered a serious injury, which is a blessing. I suggest we eat, drink, get to know one another, and have fun since this is the first time we have all gotten together.” Everyone laughs, claps, toasts Jerry.
One person inquires, “Hey, Jerry. Do you have a thing for Marilyn?”
“In my dreams!” he laughs.
Someone yells, “To Jerry, our mascot.” Jerry lifted his can of beer in agreement.
Characters: Louise, visitor; Simon, manager
A scream, “Help, Help me!” rivets my attention. Lying on a warm beach, absorbing the sun’s revitalizing energy, I scan the ocean’s horizon to locate the person in need. Another shriek jolts me upright. I’m transported onto Prana but the cries continue. I rush out to find early morning dawn waiting for the sun to arise. The lake is calm except for splashing behind my houseboat.
I jump onto the pier, race toward the commotion, and find a young woman, bleeding from a head wound, fighting the water for her life.
The wooden deck is out-of-reach, too high for her to pull herself out. If I dove in, she would pull me under, drowning both of us. “I will get a life jacket and guide you to the closest ladder.”
“Hurry. I’m sinking. I don’t know how much longer I can stay above water.”
I throw her a life jacket. “Pull the jacket against your chest. Kick. There is a ladder just two slips down. I will meet you there.”
“Don’t leave me.”
“I’m not. I will help you out when you reach the ladder.” I run to the ladder and wave for her to kick toward me. Chocking and crying, she almost reaches the ladder, loses her balance and the preserver, and goes underwater. I stand in water on the lowest rung of the ladder, seize the front of her jacket floating on the surface, and pull her toward me. I grip her hand and direct it to the ladder. She grasps the ladder and my ankle and reopens her head wound against the ladder.
“Easy. Hold onto the ladder and breathe. You’ll need stamina to pull yourself up.” She whimpers but stays put until she can talk.
Gasping for breath, she whispers, “Thanks for the help. I thought I was drowning. I could not find my way out of the lake.”
“Slowly grab the side bars of the ladder and pull your body up. No hurry. You have plenty of time.”
She climbs onto the dock and lies flat, crying.
“Let’s go to my boat. I’ll give you a change of clothes while yours dry. How about a cup of coffee? You’re okay. You’re not alone.”
I lead her by the hand. Masked in fear, her face seems to be looking for flesh-eating alligators on either side of the dock while her feet shuffle along.
Dressed in my jogging suit and wrapped in a comforter, she sips coffee sitting on a chair in the bow. I wash the blood from her head and apply Neosporin.
“I’m Marilyn. What happened?” I ask. “If it’s too upsetting, we can talk about it later.”
“I’m Louise. No, I’m trying to figure out what happened. I have a friend on B-dock who invited me to water ski with him today. I came early, just before dawn, to surprise him. Before I knew what happened, I was in the water, surrounded by twisted aluminum pipes. I must have hit my head on one of them when my feet missed the pier. What happened to the pier? It seemed to disappear.”
I described the tornado and the resulting damage. “It struck in the middle of the night. In the dark, you wouldn’t have seen the extent of the destruction.”
Looking over Louise’s shoulder, I saw Simon running toward us, hugging my clothes, purse, and computer football-style.
“I got here as soon as I could. I heard screams while I was parking my truck. What happened?”
Louise looked at her feet, embarrassed. “I fell in the lake and couldn’t get out. Marilyn rescued me.”
“All I did was direct her to one of the ladders. She pulled herself out.”
“I didn’t expect anyone here this early, before sunrise. I plan on putting up plastic fences to warn of gnarled pipes, missing floor tiles, other hazards, and the wooden plank that is the only way to get to A-dock. I’m sorry about your accident. I’m glad that Marilyn was here to help you.”
“I expected my friend Clyde to be here.”
“He called and asked me about the condition of the marina. I told him not to bother to come. There will be an underwater team who will check out the condition of the dock’s anchoring cables, required by the insurance company. The scuba divers’ inspection will supersede boating. All vessels must remain secured in their slips.”
“I guess I left home before Clyde could get in touch with me. As my luck goes today, I left my cell behind.”
“We have a washer and dryer in the back room of the office store if you want to dry your clothes.”
“I didn’t know that. Why was I not informed? That would be very handy,” I challenge.
“Not everyone knows. Only those who need to know,” he smiles mysteriously.
“I need to know!” I demand.
He laughs. Hands me my belongings. “We’re having a meeting of boat owners today at noon. The owner is providing food and drinks at the restaurant. He wants to reassure everyone that the damage to the marina will be repaired as soon as the insurance company provides the funds. Louise, you’d be welcome to stay. Everyone needs to hear your story to understand the severity of the destruction and the need for caution.”
“I feel stupid that I fell off the dock,” Louise confesses.
“That’s the problem. Habits make us less aware. What happened to you could have happened to any of us. You weren’t aware of that the dock was ravaged. This is the first time a tornado has hit this marina. Until everyone sees the extent of the damage, they won’t believe a tornado hit here. That’s human nature. ‘Seeing is believing.’”
Simon leaves to assess the overall destruction reeked by the tornado.
“Can I use your phone to call Clyde?” Louise asks.
“Of course. Get some rest on the futon. You must be exhausted.”
“I am. Thanks. I hope I’m not imposing.”
“Not at all.” The lunch meeting of the boat owners will give me an opportunity to get to know my neighbors. Last night, I would have never guessed that something good would come from the terror of watching Prana float away.
Characters: Jerry, hippie; Simon, manager
The stormy night dream haunted me again. Bouncing around in an out-of-control cradle, I was rocked back and forth, up and down by Prana’s gyrations. My heart raced when I imagined that I was floating down the middle of the lake. I was jolted awake by banging on the door and an authoritarian voice shouting, “If anyone is in there, wake up now!”
Deja vu all over again, I slid out of bed, wrapped up in my marine raincoat, and opened the front sliding door, only to be drenched by rain, flying horizontally. Beyond the deluge was a man dressed in a blaze orange vest. “You have to get out of here!” he ordered.
“What? What’s going on?”
“A tornado hit the pier. It’s floating downstream toward the water treatment plant. You have to leave now. I have a kayak dockside that you can take to shore. There is no other way out unless you want to swim. Can you kayak?”
“Yes, I can.”
“Put this life jacket on and leave now. We don’t know how long we have before the dock crashes into the plant.”
“I got to get my purse and computer.”
“There’s little time. Hurry.”
Is this really happening? I follow his instructions, sliding into sloshing water in the bottom of the kayak. Shivering in the darkness, I am blind. Ahead are small, moving lights on B-dock that seems to be moving away from me. No, it’s me that’s moving away. A-dock must have moved downstream. B-dock is no longer parallel to A-dock. The craft rides the waves, crashing water over my arms and shoulders. I’m soaked. I double-paddle fast and hard with as much effort as I can muster. Fear and determination guide me to the end of B-dock. I grab the last wooden slip and maneuver the kayak to serve as a foundation to help me crawl onto the platform, my life raft from the raging torrent. Breathless and shaking, I swing my purse and computer onto the dock, terrified they will slip into the lake. With the bowline burning into my wrist, I pull the kayak onto the dock. Embracing a support pole, I watch A-dock floating away with Prana. Crying, I picture her drowning at the bottom of the lake. I mourn the loss of a new friend that had left me prematurely, before I had a chance to know her as well as I wanted.
Shivering, alone, and overwhelmed by my dream houseboat being manhandled by a tornado, I hold onto the dock and sob. I have nowhere to go.
Footsteps approach me. I’m too exhausted to raise my head. “You look like a drowned rat,” Jerry whispers.
“I feel like one,” I admit.
“Let me help you up. How about a cup of coffee with a shot of Buffalo Trace?” he suggests.
“Sounds good to me.” He leads me to his well-worn cabin cruiser. Its slip is overflowing with a table, plastic chairs stacked on top of each other, a grill, and a motorized cooler that doubles as an electric runabout. On the table is a coffee maker, a bottle of bourbon, and several empty beer cans. “How long have you lived here?” I ask, trying to calm my growing hysteria.
He hands me a Styrofoam cup of steaming liquid that spills over by trembling hand. The bourbon aroma subdues my nerves and fills me with warmth.
“Too long. In all these years, I have never seen a tornado hit a marina. I’m glad it missed B-dock or else we would be headed downstream next to A-dock.” He offers me a chair as I try to hide my tears behind hand.
“I’m homeless,” I confess.
“Not for long. I heard the first responders discussing the possibility of the anchoring cables holding A-dock in place before reaching the water treatment plant. They have called a salvage company to tow the dock back in place. With luck, at dawn, a plank will be setup as a walkway to connect A-dock with the rest of the marina. You’ll be able to walk to your houseboat.”
“Wonderful news. Thanks so much. I was thinking the worst.” Jerry watches me quiver. The coffee cup is beyond my control, the precious drink that had given me hope now burbles over the table.
“The wind is cold. You are welcome to bunk on the couch inside to get out of the weather and maybe catch some sleep.”
“I don’t want to intrude,” I hesitate, feeling uncomfortable with the offer of intimacy yet also knowing I have no alternative.
Sensing my reluctance, he states, “Don’t worry about me. I have my own bed in the bow, at the other end of the boat.”
Shuddering pushes aside my modesty. “Thanks. I need to get out of this wind and wet clothes,” I explain, embarrassed.
“I’ll bring out a blanket. Hang your clothes to dry in the head. Get some rest,” he suggests as he disappears into his vessel.
Inside the cruiser, I quickly peel off my dripping life jacket and clothes, hang them on hooks in the bathroom, and snuggle into the blanket. As I close my eyes, Jerry’s snoring reverberates against the windows and walls and pounds into my skull.
I finally find peace again at the outside table. I fill the cup with bourbon, wondering what I should do next.
A hand pushes my shoulder. My head pulsates and my neck won’t turn. My eyes are stuck, closed. The hand puts more pressure on my arm. “Get up. The sun is shining. The wind has gone home. Time to go back to your boat.”
Where am I? My body quivers. I’m waking up feet first. My brain rebels; leave me alone.
“I’ll help you up.” The hand grabs my arm pit and pulls. I resist. The hand is stronger than me. Slowly my eyes squint. Brightness hurts. “I’ll walk you back to your yacht.”
Yacht? I’m not who he thinks I am. Prana is an antique, simple, nothing fancy. My sea legs are bracing for a current that is not there.
“Hold on. You’re not awake yet. One step at a time.”
My feet shuffle. I brace myself against his arm. “Who are you?”
“You and Jerry are the only two on the marina right now. He’s asleep in his boat and I thought you’d like to do the same in yours.”
“Do I know you?”
“I’m Simon. The owner called me to manage the marina in its sorry state. Robert quit. He took the tornado personally, as a sign that he’s not welcome here. Which he isn’t, gossip tells me.”
“Thanks for the help. I need my clothes, purse, and computer.”
“I’ll deliver them to you once you’re inside your houseboat. You’ve been through a lot. Get some rest. Worry later.”
And so I did. Having Prana back without damage was the best gift of all.