Does Heaven await beneath the waves?
One man needs to know. For when his dying father whispers a cryptic message, he has no choice but to summon his courage and begin the quest of a lifetime.
It’s a race against time to realize his father’s wish and fulfill his own destiny.
It’s a discovery of the unbreakable bond between father and son.
It’s a mystery only the chosen guard between dusk and summer.
Life is a series of stories waiting to be told. They are inside all of us to be poured like a good wine, a little at a time. Sipped. Savored. Shared.
Some stories are real. Some embellished. Some take a life all their own.
I had no outlet for my grief after my father passed. All I knew was that I needed to honor his fight, his bravery, in some endearing fashion. I could not bear the thought that after all he had gone through battling pancreatic cancer, suddenly that was it. To believe his life ended as such betrayed what he had endured. There had to be more. I simply refused to use two of the simplest yet coldest words in our language – the end.
Six months after he passed, I sat behind my computer & typed the words I lost my father between dusk and summer.
And so began my odyssey.
I write without ever drafting a story. I do not plan them. I do not think how I will ever get from point A to point B. I allow my stories to write themselves, to breathe, to live. As my father did his entire life, I just figure it out. I knew what I had to do. My inner voice told me write for him. Three months later, I completed Dusk and Summer.
In part four of my special blog for pancreatic cancer awareness, I mentioned my father’s love for the sea, & how he told me once, a long time before he had ever gotten sick, that he would like his ashes scattered across the ocean when it was his time. My mother did not honor his request, so Dusk and Summer became my way of bringing his soul to rest at sea. I wished for him to know that I never forgot that day. I never realized my story would be so raw… so bittersweet; it is as difficult for me to read it today as when first I wrote it. My hope was to create a story to both honor him and provide his soul peace in the truest sense. Beyond my wildest expectations, I believe I succeeded in immortalizing him. He lives within my pages forever. But there is much more to it. My book has inspired. It has delivered a message. And it weaves magic in the telling.
Dusk and Summer is a story created for all. It is a true story within a mystical landscape, real personalities within timeless characters. That is the special part – you do not need to know me, or even my father, for my book to touch you.
You just need to believe…
It is my honor to present to you an excerpt from Dusk and Summer:
I lost my father between dusk and summer.
Perhaps he left me long before I care to admit, long before he refused his last meals, long before his spent eyes flickered like candles behind cracked panes of some forlorn, abandoned house. Before his neglected muscles jellied into the folds of his stark white hospital sheet, and the rise of his chest grew shallow and weak. Maybe it was plain selfishness on my behalf – sitting at his bedside all those times, soothing his ears with encouragement as I held his hand, squeezing tight to impart the same courage and strength and determination he had infused into me over my years – even as he required my other hand to raise the flimsy plastic cup of ice water to his parched lips. Was I too scared to realize or too ignorant to ask just whose fight did this now become? Had the fog of war blinded me?
“…find me… from Tolten…”
I could have dismissed the words from his cracked lips as merely disoriented chatter, but his mouth pursed them too purposely, his tone too firm. Still, my father’s words jolted me from my bedside vigil. I bent over his thinning form, promptly taking his hand into mine.
“…go… now,” he croaked, his strength fading.
I held my breath; I dared not speak. Gently, I massaged his fingers, marveling how thick and calloused they remained. How I would remain always a child within their clasp. Working man’s hands, they were, unafraid of toil and unashamed of soil. My father squeezed back, eyes widening. His candlelight flared, sparked brilliantly a moment before blinking away. I knew then I had been wrong. Someone still remained home inside that deteriorating body. My father hung on, refusing to surrender. But what little had spilled from his lips now hung heavy between us. The message became clear. My father would not leave me.
Not until I finished his business.
My throat constricted; I choked back the uncomfortable heat swelling within my chest, gritted my teeth as tears welled in my eyes. I blinked furiously, suppressing the tears as best as I could. I raised my brow, easing him into continuing. One corner of his mouth curled. It gained momentum, spreading across his lips until his smile warmed me. From within his cocoon of pillows, my father nodded his approval.
I leaned close, carefully straightening the air tube protruding from his nose. Caressed his cheek, returning his smile as his short, white stubble tickled my palm. Swallowed another lump deeper into my throat. “Tell me what you want me to do, Pops,” I said softly.
So he did.
I furrowed my brow. Along the parkway, traffic was scarce. Cruise control set to the speed limit, the scenery blurred nevertheless in drawn lines of green and blue beyond the corners of my vision. Like the landscape, the last several hours blew past me as well.
I had listened very intently to the scarce words my father pushed from his lips. Go. 141 Sea Cargo Drive. Manasquan. You’ll know. Go now. He did not tell me what I would find, or even what I needed to do. But he held the obvious trust that I would just as soon figure it out, and I was not about to question or let him down. I kissed his forehead, told him I would leave now. I would see him later. From the moment my father became sick, goodbyes no longer existed. Only see you laters. As I forced myself from his sallow room, my father cleared his throat. Must find me…she… come back from Tolten. I froze, deluged with fear and for the very first time a sense of hopelessness as I questioned, but for a moment, the sanity of his words, the tenuous grip he maintained upon his own reality. But I would have none of that. I squared my jaw, turned and measured my father. I did not see a sick and dying man. The matted wisps of white hair that returned after his last bout of chemotherapy were gone, transformed into thick, luxurious curls of chestnut locks brushed back in heaps. The sagging skin of his arms now tight, bulging with muscle, the tattoos acquired while stationed in the Air Force as crisp and fresh as the day they were etched. Shoulders squared, again capable of carrying the world as he had done so many times before. Chest, wide and broad – within, the power of a titan, the pride of a lion. Skin vibrant and pure. No, his sickness hardly diminished his stature. Somehow, my father managed to grow before my eyes, every day becoming more a man. I nodded my head, determined to accomplish what he needed of me.
I nearly collided with the nurse as I left his room. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she exclaimed.
“No, no. I should’ve watched where I was going.”
She looked me over with wide, thoughtful eyes. “Umm… how are you holding up?”
My father’s nurse. She was one of the better ones, tended to him with sincere compassion. Sadly, I already encountered too many who believed my father was just another room number. I regarded her nameplate, my gaze lingering. Dawn. You would have thought I’d have little difficulty remembering. I had seen enough of her – every day for the past week, too many, many times over the past months. All that while I found it easier to address her with simple hellos and downcast, fleeting glances. I disassociated myself from her the moment she entered his room; I could not stir myself to voice her name. I had no choice. Doing so would have thrust me under the harsh, remorseless, incandescent glare of reality, and I liked it where I was, alone and lost in the ignorant shadows. I could disguise life there; the curtained obscurity made things not so real. It took all I could do from dropping my head upon her shoulder to weep. The shrug I managed in response drained all that remained of me.
Dawn lifted her hand, hesitated, carefully rested it along my arm. She stroked reassuringly until reaching the crook of my elbow. Slowly pulled away. “The morphine drip you requested is working as well as it could right now. Your dad has been unbelievable, you know. Joking nonstop, up until…”
My features shifted. She read it well. No luxury of morphine existed to mask my own pain. Dawn stole a look down the hall. No one approached. “Has the doctor seen you recently?”
“No more than he needs to, I guess.”
She offered a sad smile. “You should know your father’s kidneys are failing. His… the truth is his entire body will eventually shut down. That’s why his arms… they flop when he tries to raise them. His speech –”
“Incoherent,” I interrupted. Tolten. Tolten. Come back from Tolten. “That is, when he can speak.”
An uncomfortable moment passed. An eternity gutted my soul. “We’ve done all we can. But this is… you need to know this is the last stage. We’re keeping him as comfortable as we can right now.”
She must have believed I was strong enough to handle it. Wise enough to see the writing upon the wall. But she knew little of my father’s resolve, nor of the spirit I lent him all these months, and I was not about to quit.
But even a fool must appreciate when your own hand cannot bend fate. No matter how hard you try. “I appreciate all you’ve done. I really do.” I gritted my teeth. “That’s a tough sonofabitch in there.”
She nodded. “And a good son out here.”
Tolten. Come back from Tolten. My father’s words haunted me. It was time for me to go. “Can I ask a favor of you?” I said.
“You have my cell phone number in your contact list. Call me first should… should you need to. But not my mother. Please, not my mother.” As I walked away, I whispered, “Thank you, Dawn.” I was pulled then from the shadows, you see. And things became too real.
Numb to the core, I curiously watched the foreign appendages attached to the steering wheel. To the left, to the right, they twisted, occasionally jabbing at the directional to signal a lane change. My mind had dulled since leaving the hospital for home to collect some things before hitting the road, leaving me a puppet aware of its actions but oblivious to whom pulled at its strings.
Heaving a shaking hand to my feverish brow, I wiped at the sweat trickling down my temples, pooling under my eyes. Before me, the parkway yawned endlessly toward a shimmering horizon. Each weary glance into the rearview mirror revealed splintered, black asphalt crumbling off into the bowels of the earth. The sky above seemed to buckle, and I tensed, expecting at any moment for it to fracture like a thin pane of glass. I strained to hold myself together. Oblivious of the road, I threw my face into my hand as the first sob pinched the soft flesh of my throat. I suddenly lost the strength, the will, to keep at my journey, to remain upon the intended path. What did it matter anyway? My father lay dying and now his limbs, his very hands that served him so loyally his entire life cruelly betrayed him. I could not bear his agonizing erosion any longer and yet, day after day, I stood witness to it all. Helpless. Useless. It was not supposed to be this way. My father was only sixty. Too many Sundays remained watching and discussing football, Friday nights out sharing drinks like college buddies. Too many opportunities to call and ask him over my house to help fix stuff. Any stuff. It did not matter, as long as he was there. And grandchildren? Did he not deserve to some day hold my child? Someone… please tell me this was a heartless prank. My father was only sixty.
Horns blared. My body became my own once again. My head snapped up, and I swerved recklessly back into my lane, clammy hands wringing the wheel. Took a deep breath.
Too much time remained.
I expelled the wind from my lungs, and for a sickening moment I thought I had struck an animal of some kind as it crossed the parkway, its tortured wail rising higher and higher within my truck until my ears popped and my eyes bulged. But it was me. Only me.
But time now slipped away.
“Come on, Dad! Come on, Dad!” My fist beat upon the steering wheel. Eventually my howls subsided. My fever disappeared. The drone of the truck’s tires pacified me. I cracked the window for some air. “I’m not giving up,” I whispered to the open road. “Don’t you.”
“What are you doing?” my father asked.
I barely heard him slip through the garage door. “Sneaking up on me?” I kept my voice even, hoping he had not noticed my shoulders as they jerked in surprise.
“Of course,” my father answered, “and I scared you, didn’t I?”
Nothing escaped my father. I could hear the huge grin in his voice even without turning around. I lied anyway. “No,” I said half-heartedly.
His slippers scratched the floor as he approached. “Grown men don’t show fear,” he said. “They never panic. Remember what I always say…”
“I know, I know.” I turned and noticed the wisps of white hair peppering the top of my father’s head. It seemed so odd, out of place, to see it there, to glimpse it at all. The first signs that age had managed to track him down. Tough ox that he was, he would manage to outsmart it. He would find a way. He always did. “When you see me panic, then you panic.” I pulled at the whiskers of my goatee, thumbing unconsciously at my own white streaks that had surfaced some time before. And I’ve never seen you panic, I wanted to tell him, but I held my tongue for fear of sounding too thoughtful, a bit too tender, and my father and I never shared moments like that. Not that love did not exist between us; it remained hidden, just under the surface, just out of sight. But we both knew it was there. As I matured, it seemed more special that way, rare, like a treasure chest buried in the sand. There was no need for shovels. I knew just where to find it. “Maybe if you hadn’t scared the crap out of me with all those vampire movies when I was little.”
My father twisted his fists at the corners of his eyes. “Boo-hoo,” he sarcastically lamented. And as sudden as a lightning strike, his back stiffened. “Now, are you going to tell me what you’re doing?”
“I was looking for a nine-sixteenths wrench.”
My father always saw through my lies. You would think as I got older that I would know better. He cleared his throat. “My tool box is over there.”
I stood at least six feet from his tool box. “Well, I started looking for a wrench to borrow,” and offered a sheepish smile. At least that much was true – my father owned enough tools to stock several service bays in a mechanic’s shop. I barely got by with a flat head and Phillips screwdriver in my own home. “I never noticed that big file back there.”
I swept my hand over a long, wooden shelf my father had built and anchored into the concrete wall of the garage. Tons of junk hunkered down atop it, but it was my father’s junk, and that meant he knew where it all belonged, could locate any item, down to a simple wood screw, with just a few clicks of the filing system inside his mind. It also meant my fingers had traversed where they did not belong. “It’s none of your business.” My father’s voice went flat. “That’s why it’s kept hidden.”
“In the garage?” I asked incredulously. I may have been a grown man, but still I spoke cautiously in my father’s presence. Rarely did I test our boundaries, ever mindful of the deep respect he commanded. I decided to push it a little. “Seems a little strange to hide something in the garage, don’t you think?”
He bunched his brows together. “I’m the only one who can get to it. You think your mother or sister is going to come out here looking for anything, especially after telling them I see a mouse run through here from time to time?”
My father’s logic, as always, was foolproof. “You’re right,” I conceded with a shrug.
“Of course I’m right,” he chuckled, and without warning, his face turned to stone, expressionless, like a chalkboard wiped clean. “You weren’t meant to see it. Not now.
Maybe not ever.”
“Huh? But I haven’t seen anything,” I protested. “I was just looking through your fishing gear, and then I saw…” I nodded my head toward the crumpled accordion file holder that captured my interest, swollen grotesquely from its enormous content contained within. Guilt overcame me; I allowed my words to dangle, hoping he would take the bait and realized it was an underhanded thing to do.
Somewhere, forgotten between pages of lore, there must exist a tale where the fish outsmarted the fisherman. My father bit into the bait and nearly tore the rod from my hand. He reached pass me, thick fingers pushing through his collection of crumpled cardboard boxes, plastic containers and tattered plastic bags. Pass the tools, the beaten boxes of nails, the old scuba fins and mask. He managed to clamp down upon the accordion file, nearly crushing its worn-out skin in his steely grasp, but still he lifted it gingerly and deftly out from its dusty and cramped quarters. “Here. Take this.” The tension squeezing his voice betrayed my assumption there was more than a meandering collection of notes contained within the file. I unfolded my arms and awaited the bundle, but instead my father cradled it like a baby against his chest. With great deliberation, he unwound the cord binding the file together and peeled the top back, thumbing through its contents with several grunts and nods. Eventually, he found whatever he was looking for.
My father tugged a red booklet, held tight by a rubber band, from the file and handed it to me. I reached for it, but he refused to loosen his grip. “You take this home and hide it. Like I have. In your basement, your attic, your own garage. I don’t care, as long as it stays hidden. And you tell no one that you have this. I mean no one.”
Bewildered, I shook my head. I had gone into my father’s garage looking for a wrench, and natural, innocent curiosity got the better of me. Maybe I should have minded my own business. But I was not expecting this exchange. Not at all. The air between us grew somber. “Now listen to me carefully,” my father continued. “One day, you may have to do something for me, and you’ll find what you need inside here. Just read my notes. You should figure it out. But never, never open this until you need to. Never. Do you understand?”
“I… I have no idea… what are you…” I stammered, tongue lodged between my teeth. My father silenced my rant as he sliced the air with his hand.
“You found this. Now, can I trust you?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
He leaned close, so close his breath pulsed against my face. “Then you hide this, never open its cover, never read what’s inside, forget this moment completely, until the day comes that I need you, and then you’ll know.” My father relinquished the booklet from his grasp and backed away. My arms trembled as if it weighed a hundred pounds; it tingled oddly against my skin. A trickle of sweat hurried down my back. My father glanced at his empty palm, clenched and unclenched his fingers. Something crossed his face, a leaden shadow washed with foreboding. But it vanished hastily and left me grappling with what I thought I had just seen. “So, do you understand?”
“Good.” And as if nothing had happened, my father turned on his heel, slippers scratching back across the garage floor like the imaginary mice he had warned my mother about. “Don’t forget about your wrench,” he called over his shoulder and went back into the house.
I forgot all about my wrench that day. But I did not forget to hide his book.
The shrieking draft of wind through the open window slapped me from my daydream.
My grip relaxed upon the wheel. I shifted my gaze toward the passenger seat, momentarily fixing my attention upon the knapsack laying there. I had not emptied it in months. Inside, a writing pad, fresh, empty. A pen. Wrapped snuggly in a swathe of paper towels, a bottle of scotch.
And the red booklet that had once belonged to my father.
One day, you may have to do something for me, and you’ll find what you need inside here.
I dragged a hand across my face, exhaled tension into my palm. That afternoon in my father’s garage occurred many years before, but it reappeared in my mind as clear as the road yielding ahead of me. All these years… his booklet, hidden in my own house, taped with care to the bottom of my office desk where I sat for several hours nearly every day, until it eventually receded from my memory like the ocean’s tide.
… forget this moment completely, until the day comes that I need you, and then you’ll know.
The day arrived, and my father’s words were as true as the sky was blue. I did know.
I warily eased the booklet from the knapsack as I drove, tenderly stroked its cover with great reverence. Thumbed the fuzzy divots left across the Manila where I had peeled the tape away. Its charade of innocence attempted to work my mind over, but I knew better than to give in to its spell. I still could not comprehend the significance contained within – had my father not been so stern with his instructions, so chillingly grave, I would have dismissed it as a prank, some wild goose chase designed to leaving me spinning in circles, chasing my tail. But it occurred so many years before… when he was healthy, whole. Of rational mind.
Now, can I trust you?
“Yes,” I answered the empty space around me. I had to see it through. For him. In an hour, no more, no less, I would be reaching my destination. I would pull the rubber band from its delicate and faded cover and finally learn whatever my father had intended for me.
I drove on.
Instantly, I spotted the modest sign atop its wooden post from the road. 141 Sea Cargo Drive.
I will not lie. As I turned into the long, white pebbled driveway, relief and a measure of shame drizzled across my cheeks like rain from a passing cloud. The address did exist. But my voyage, gaining in credence, settled a bit heavier upon my shoulders. I traveled down the winding driveway, pebbles skipping and crunching beneath the tires, until I happened across a tall iron gate. It seemed too high for any person to scale and only inches existed between its bars to attempt to squeeze through, but one side of the fence lingered open as if expecting my spontaneous arrival. I passed through with little difficulty, noticing for the first time its white, cracked paint, the spider web network of rust crisscrossing its bars and
remarked on its poor maintenance under my breath.
The house, as it came into view, discouraged me. As the gate, neglected, worn. Its roof dozed exhausted atop its walls. Drab stucco, rupturing in patches of wide fissures, drowned midst its own sallow wash. No matter the brightness of day, this house would be lost in a swathe of dismal clouds. Hazy, grime swirled windows noted my arrival with little interest, unblinking, unmotivated. Pine trees loomed large, framing it on either side, serving as loyal guardians for its unsightly companion. Or perhaps they simply stood to contain the ugliness within from escaping into the neighborhood. I winced, brought my truck to a stop. Folded the directions I printed off the internet for this eyesore of a structure and crumpled it into the glove box. “Where did you bring me to, Pops?” I muttered, then sat, studying the house for any sign of movement. It was as still as it was shoddy. I saw no other vehicles in the drive, noticed no indication of a garage. Before I realized what I was doing, I bounced from the truck, darted up the gravel path to the front door. There were no stairs. The doorbell, or what remained of it, hung like a bulbous spider from a web, dangling on a sliver of wiring from the side of the door. Obviously, this house had not seen company in some time. A quick glance of the door – no knocker. My knuckles instead rapped upon it. Waited.
The summer sun, still infantile in the month of June, nonetheless crawled pass the pine branches and raked its fingers across my neck. I swatted at the sweat beading behind my ear. Waited. Waited. I approached the door again, knocked several more times, each with greater urgency and impatience, stinging the skin across my knuckles. Two minutes. Three. I glanced at my watch. Rap. Rap. Rap-rap. Nothing. No one home.
I backed from the door. Collected my thoughts. The sun dazzled from its perch; my skin crawled uncomfortably under the collar of my shirt. I pulled at it, yanked at it, anything to pry the fabric from the small pool of sweat steadily collecting in the crease of my collarbone. My armpits grew damp. “Calm,” I hissed, “stay calm. And think.” Only after stemming my anxiousness did I succeed in my reasoning. I nearly slapped myself across the head. In my haste, I had failed to read my father’s booklet.
North Atlantic Diver’s Association.
North Atlantic Diver’s Association.
I must have read the title of the booklet over a dozen times. A dozen times and the logic appeared no clearer. This had to be a mistake. My father had given me the wrong booklet. Or maybe I had fallen for one of his practical –
Just open it.
I checked the rearview mirror. The driveway remained quiet; the probability anyone would be arriving anytime soon seemed remote, at best. I would be on my own to make sense of it all.
… then you’ll know. You’ll know.
I cradled the booklet as if it was a carton of eggs. Carefully, carefully… I removed the rubber band… rested it upon my lap… the pages, so thin, flimsy… turned the cover delicately, delicately… would it withstand my touch..?
At long last, my father’s booklet lay exposed. It did not radiate beneath me like the lost ark. Angels did not boom trumpets from their heavenly lofts. It was just a book – pages mourning their former luster, pages humbled by coffee spots and stains. Just a book.
But my father’s book.
I peeled back the first few pages. A log of dates from August through October, various events briefly detailed. I scanned an entry:
Aug. 23, Sat – Shark River Inlet – Night
High tide is at 9:23 P.M.
Meet at Todd’s at7P.M. Bring 1 tank.
On and on similar entries went – night dives, wreck dives. Dives for scallops. I could barely contain the smile creasing my lips. My father lived for this stuff when he was young and tireless. And how old was I? Five? Six? I cannot recall my father leaving for any of his weekend excursions, but I do remember him coming home. Always, he had something for me. Golden, plump starfish in a mug. Shells, some shattered, some whole. Lobsters from his huge blue fishing cooler to be boiled later on. I would sit with legs crossed, wide-eyed as he placed fragments of wood, sometimes small pieces of ruined metal into my cupped hands and speak of how he picked them from the wreck he had just dove –
Something twinged deep inside me as though a nerve had been plucked, and tingles coursed from my neck down to my fingertips. A spark of recollection. I raised my brow, concentrated. Focused.
My father told me a story when I was a child. In the recess of night, he parted my bedroom door, tenderly lifting me from bed. I breathed deep the salt air still clinging to his skin and hair and nestled my head into the safe nook of his shoulder, lost between slumber and a dream. He shared with me a story and told me only once…
I teetered on the edge of something. I forced my eyes shut, squeezing all I could from that image, demanding more. It was a connection to whatever my father’s booklet held. I was certain of it and desperately needed more. Needed it now.
Take a deep breath. Relax. You will not get it this way.
I thumbed through more pages. Directions to a boatyard off Route 36. A table of tides for Sandy Hook, dated 1975. Two illustrated pages of filleting fish and sharpening knives. By chance, at least a dozen sheets separated themselves from the remainder of the booklet. I pulled them free.
The pages were stapled neatly, creating a spine of sorts along its edge. A booklet within a booklet. The cover page read Reefs and Wrecks and below it, a crude drawing of a sunken vessel beneath pencil scratched waves. Once more, I slowly closed my eyes, exhaled, and this time my memory flowed unhindered.
My father told me a story when I was a child. In the recess of night, he parted my bedroom door, tenderly lifting me from bed. I breathed deep the salt air still clinging to his skin and hair and nestled my head into the safe nook of his shoulder, lost between slumber and a dream.
My feet dangled in air. I may as well have been drifting upon a cloud. The room was dark, far darker than I was used to. My father’s body blocked out my night light but I was not scared. I felt his arms ripple as he hugged me, the swell of his chest I wished someday would be mine. I locked my thin limbs around his neck. I rested within the embrace of a giant. A content moan slipped from my mouth as the tangy scent of my father’s essence carried me to a place I had never been.
His grip tightened. I lifted my head, but gently he eased me back against his shoulder. “Ssh,” my father cooed. “Go back to sleep.”
I did not, but I closed my eyes until my body went slack and the stillness of the room filled my ears. My father rocked me, back and forth, to and fro, like the waves of the deep sea he
spoke of in revered tones. He must have thought I did fall asleep for his hold loosened. But I merely rode the crest of dreams.
“I didn’t think I was coming back today,” he whispered. He sounded worn and heartsick, but he pressed on. “Double checked, triple checked my gear on the boat. Nothing appeared
wrong. I would’ve seen it. But I had a strong feeling not to dive. Real strong. Went against my gut and ignored it.
“About forty feet down, the feeling came back, bad, deep, deep in the pit of my stomach. I kept descending anyway. The water turned real murky, like I’d swam through a freaky oil slick. Never seen anything like it. Then it hit me… vertigo, I don’t know what it was… I couldn’t tell up from down. Lost sight of my diving buddy. I thought the wreck lay below me, but suddenly I felt as if I’d been swept by a current and carried miles away. Couldn’t read my instruments. Couldn’t get any bearings. Then, without warning, without rhyme or reason, my oxygen just cut out.
“It happened so quick, I didn’t have time to react, to think. Said goodbye to you and your mother. Thought I was a dead man. I could do nothing, and didn’t fight it.”
My father paused. He swallowed with effort, his heart thumping against my ribs. By this time my eyes parted; I knew he could not see me in the darkness, would not know I still clung to a thread of awareness. I waited for him to say more although I could not quite comprehend what he was telling me. Weird shadows bounced across my walls; like waves, they undulated, swelled against the pale ceiling until gradually receding back toward the floor. I thought I glimpsed something – wave people, their shapes undistinguishable but somehow bobbing there, beckoning me with gestures of their hands. They meant me no harm; had I been fully awake, I would have liked to play with them. They slipped away, under the molding, into the floor. I closed my eyes and slipped with them into another half dream. My father cleared his throat.
“Before I closed my eyes for what I thought would be the last time, something… big, it swam past me. I couldn’t see it at first, but I sensed it. I could feel the water part in its wake.
And then… it swam past me again, and this time I could make out its shape. It was dark… darker than the crazy slick-thing that swallowed me up, darker than any moonless night. The last thing I remembered was its tail… its enormous tail… When I regained consciousness, I was floating on the surface of the water.”
Lifting my head from my warm perch I asked, “Was it a shark?”
His rocking ceased. Eventually, he lowered me back into bed. Tucked the covers snugly around my shoulders. “Something like that,” he answered after some length and much deliberation. “Something like that. But I’m giving it up. I’m done diving. I can thank the Tolten for that.”
He kissed me upon the forehead, faded from my room. I smiled, thinking he had gone off to play with the wave people and fell back to sleep.
I brought my hand over my mouth.
Must find me… from Tolten…
Swiped at the pages.
A table of east coast artificial reefs. No. No! Not what I was looking for.
Flipped furiously at the pages upon my lap.
Another illustration of a broken vessel beneath the waves. The U.S.S. San Diego. I skipped over the paragraph accompanying it.
The Oregon. The Black Warrior. The steamer Pliny. My mouth grew dry. It had to be here. Keep looking.
The Iberia. The Delaware.
I fell upon the last page. My heart skipped several paces. I pushed my finger to the top of the page, focused, inhaled and steadied myself. I knew what I would find. And I was right.
On March 13, 1942, the front page of the New York Times
carried this headline: “Chilean Freighter Sunk Off Our Coast – 27 Lost, One
The Tolten was traveling in ballast to New York when she was
struck by a pair of German torpedoes fired from the U-404. Within six minutes, she sunk to the bottom.
Today she rests 16 miles southeast of the
Manasquan Inlet in 90 feet of water. Her
stern superstructure remains intact and comes up very high off the bottom.
I dragged myself from the remainder of the article. This was the wreck my father dove, some thirty-two years before. The dive that nearly cost him his life. The day he rid himself of his fins and mask forever.
But the sea he could not lose. No, that would be in him always.
My shoulders sagged. The revelation drained the energy from my limbs. All the years that had gone by… the strange images I would have of my father from time to time, those fragmented dreams which slyly escaped me once I roused from bed, the ones where I found him trapped in a well of inky darkness, and that big, black shadow circling him, always circling… My God, it went back to that night he lifted me from bed, that night the sea danced across my walls. But why, why did he tell me his story and never speak of it again?
Because I was but a child. Because he thought my consciousness would bury it like a coin dug into the sand.
I stared absently through the truck window for some time. Because he knew that eventually, I would come back and remember exactly where that coin rested. Because I would know when the time was right.
That could not be it though. There had to be more.
I flipped the Tolten’s entry over. Once again, my father did not disappoint me…
If you’d like a chance to make a difference in the fight against pancreatic cancer, then please purchase my novella, “Dusk and Summer,” written to honor my father. I donate half of all proceeds to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. Dusk and Summer is its own story, completely apart from my blog. You don’t need to know me or my father to enjoy the book; I wrote it as a source of faith & inspiration for all, regardless the circumstance. I only ask that you would be kind enough to help spread my message to others, & to kindly review my book once read. Further details about Dusk and Summer & the story behind it are soon to come.
If you order a book (whether paperback or Kindle version), please leave me a comment here on WordPress, Facebook, or at my personal email with your name. I’ll be giving away signed copies of Dusk and Summer to randomly picked names. I will also match donations & hope to have a final tally on books sold through this month.
You may purchase Dusk and Summer in paperback form from Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/7ft8zns
You may purchase Dusk and Summer in Kindle edition from Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/7lrg9rl