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••• The International Writers Magazine: Life Moments

Block Island Here We Come!
• Victor Castleton
That morning I loaded up the bicycles on the Jeep’s rack. “We are going to Block Island!” I cheered! In my experience, we are going to slow down to a halt going through the Hamptons, and then, with a little good fortune the traffic will pick up further ahead.

Block Island

Not giving yourself enough time, it is a gamble; either one of us would admit it. Missing the Ferry it is not fun.
It has happened to us before, and seems that it is always for a couple of minutes. The ferry-boat, like a giant small country, moves away slowly, and their citizens stationed on deck, are completely unsympathetic to your misfortune.

Blco Island Ferry The ramp was up at the appointed time, and the massive jawed stern was closed, after having swallowed all the happy victims and their possessions. This is revengeful rhetoric, I confess.
There’s only one ferry in the morning, so you stand there limp, showing a straight face not giving away how distraught you are inside. You pretend to be a passerby indeed, who happens to be there for the purpose of watching the departing boat. This is not quite believable by any means, because your garb and gear would give away your reasons for being there.

Fortunately for us, the time for the busy-bodies was limited, and so was our pain. Their minds would be quickly absorbed by the beautiful Long Island sound. So, there is but a little time to be victimized by these mates! But, still, two lonely souls would be left behind standing on a disowned dock, while a piece of Montauk Point drifts away into the blue horizon.

Today, no worries, time is on our side. In the next hour or so, we will be sailing away completely detached from Terra Firma! There will be a spontaneous transformation; we shall become civilized voyagers, rather than regular Joes from Long Island or in worse case Manhattanites.

Suburbia will be out of the picture, and for you city people, none of that carrying your bikes to the 5th floor. They will be secured down in the galley, and will be rolled out to the dock waiting for you.
“Just a few nautical miles can make a world of difference in people’s minds”, I thought to myself. Having muddled through this subject I secured the bike’s locks to the rack. “All that I need is a bicycle flying off the roof of our vehicle” I muttered, creating a vivid picture of that situation. “Not a good predicament”, I murmured. It is 7:45 a.m. and we have about one hour ride to catch the ferry at 9:00 a.m., so without further ado we go.

The front door is locked, seat belts are fastened. A regular driver is now turned into an adventurer, who’s ready to risk his reputation, should he not make it to the ferry on time. “The planning and driving is a man’s job!” I thought to myself. My wife tacitly agreed with a short nod, which I caught by the corner of my eye. I wondered “is she is a mind reader?” we both turned to look at each other as accomplices, we said nonverbally: “We got everything ready, the cat sitter is on call, and the house is alarmed.
“A delightful few days ahead of us,” I whispered. The weather is wonderful and so are we! Block Island Here We Come!

As expected we are sharing the road with a multitude of drivers moving in the same direction to a point, then we will disperse, some to the north fork to Green Port and the vineyards; others heading to the many southern towns of the island, dwindling down to a fewer drivers as we approach ‘The End’ The easterly sun was intense, playing hide and seek as the road meandered over the smooth lay of the land. The line of cars stretched far ahead, and we were moving fast. The town’s activity is very predictable at this time of the season, beaming with tourists and locals folks crowding the shops. People stroll around gingerly, sun-tanned bodies and relaxed faces. South Hampton and Bridge Hampton, as planned, are the slowdown, but since we cruised by earlier, now Montauk is a reality, "we are almost there” I said to my wife.

The pine trees pass by quickly, as the narrow road bobs up and down, and twist and turns through the gentle hills and valleys. The anticipation of arriving to “The End” has a ceremonial meaning to me. I would like to feel this way every time that I arrive here.

There is a sense of an ancestral attraction to this place. There is a mysterious fascination to me about Islands and the beginning or end of continents. “The Town of Montauk, finally! “My wife whispered all excited. “Honey, we have but fifteen minutes to make the boat” I said, and soon enough we spotted the office, picked up the reserved tickets and we gingerly walked right aboard.

Nothing fancy about it. The service takes care of the bare necessities to make it by. ‘Two ‘fer’ one’ for some, eggs on a roll, ketchup, salt and peppers for others. Good coffee, wine and beer. In the middle of the sound, we feel free as birds; the term ‘seagulls’ is more appropriate. The captain voice came over the loudspeakers nasally with a Midwest twang, when he first introduced himself. His message and tone were more to be expected in an international flight, but by the folk’s faces, I reckoned that everyone fell for the stint as a tongue and cheek ruse; not sure whether this man showing spunk and charm, sporting a thing mustache, he reminded me of a character from a black and white movies from the forties to add to his persona. I fantasied that we were experiencing something other than a ferry outing crossing the sound. Weren’t we? Although sailing the sound is a marvelous experience, every time is different. I have done it even in stormy weather conditions.

The big boat ended the voyage with a gentle thump to the pier. The air was hot and the fancy vessels of all kinds lined up by the wharf. “Beautiful Block Island, here we are!” I said, cheering, and also letting go a soft, “We are Home!” Customarily, my wife would take a cab to the hotel with the luggage and her bike, while I would ride my own. Today it was no different.

Right after leaving the docking, there is a challenging hill for starters and thereafter, the ride becomes a pleasurable two miles. “The 1771 Manisses Hotel! I could see it in my mind” I anticipated. There was a balmy breeze behind me propeling me forward. The countryside stretched along the field stones fences, “things are going my way”, I thought, and I have decided that this was going to be a day to remember. My wife should be waiting for me, right outside, on the porch of the hotel, like we usually do.

There is this mahogany planking flooring covering the entire outdoors. I could almost smell the scent of those healthy hanging flower baskets. I recognized the all too familiar places, Victorian style hotels, the old-fashioned movie theater, shops and restaurants. “We ought to visit them all. I am sure in time we will,” I thought.

There was the hill that leads to the Manisses, but I couldn’t see the building from where I stood, sometimes things are not what appear to be from our memories. Finally I made it to the top of the hill.

At first look, everything was the way I remembered two years ago, except for the bicycle stands. “Where are they?” I voiced, dropping off my bike on the deck while walking to the entrance.
Hotel Manisses

I also believe that the porch was on the level, and I do not recall these three steps either, and most importantly “Where is my wife?” I wondered. “Is she unpacking?...Probably” I thought, trying to compose myself. Dismissing all logic I headed for the reception. The porch looked older and it felt pitched to one side; it really dizzied me out!

I questioned myself “Am I in the right hotel? Is it possible? I have been here before!” I said, answering my question. Then, I noticed this wooden screen door in the front; I couldn’t put things together. It appeared to be old and charming, but it showed the wear of all thousand hands that ever touched it! I attempted twice to open it, but I just couldn’t, and then effortlessly it did open by itself. I shook my head saying “This is not the Manisses! This is more like my Grandmother’s house! What is going on here?” I voiced turning around on my heels, questioning my own perceptions. This awkward situation, bewildered me, and the thought that someone might be watching me, crossed my mind. But there wasn’t anyone around.
“Where’s my wife?” I voiced again.
I felt self-conscious to the point of embarrassment, but decisively stepped in against my own instincts.
“It’s been a long time, but this is grandma's house alright,” I whispered with wondering eyes.

There was calming warmth, and a pleasant scent, which I fleetly registered it to link it to my memories, but to no avail; I could see, right through the rooms from where I stood; someone’s back was facing me standing in the old kitchen.

I controlled my breathing while I walked through the living room. There was a jarring-humming noise which sounded familiar, but my mind was absorbed by every step, as I reached the kitchen’s doorway, I stood amazed, and in awe when I recognized that figure. It was my grandmother’s.
She was slightly bent over, where I remembered was the sink. I remained motionless. I could clearly see the print of her dress!

Then, I finally recognized where the humming noise was coming from; I remembered that she used to manually grind coffee with the old gadget. The pungent aroma permeated the room, making things even stranger! I made a conscious effort to loosen up tensions, as approached the door frame. “Why am I here?” I questioned. “Yes! By all means, this is grandma’s house!” bringing both hands pressing my temples. “How could this be?”
“Can this be possible?” I said, forcing myself to reason. “Could this be a hoax?” I voiced, pausing my thoughts, and looking around for a few seconds expecting an answer. “None of this can be real” I said as I spotted the cast iron stove, which I also remember.

“Is this a set setup?” I questioned again, and out of frustration, I cried out: “Grandma!...Grandma!...Granny!”, but she continued being oblivious, grinding as if I was not there. Then suddenly she turned to me, and her eyes focused on mine, but she just glanced passed me. For a second, I thought that she could be blind, but nothing made less sense, when she grubbed the coffee jar and walked, without hesitation, right through me! At that point I freaked out as I checked myself by padding my torso with my fingers all spread out, and then, I let it all hang out!

“This just did it!" I screamed, raising my arms in contempt and shock walking backward when I sensed something from behind grabbing my shoulder! Instinctively I turned around like a spring! Not even thinking what to expect! I chocked when I saw my wife’s face standing right in front of me, arms crossed, tight lip, tapping one foot on the driveway, ignoring my jaw dropped, while saying:

“Let’s go! It’s almost eight o’clock! We’ll miss the ferry. Not again… oh please hurry up darling with those bikes!”

© Victor J Castleton June 11th 2017

A Ride Through The Park
Victor Castleton

I knew how to get there. Someplace around here there must be still this path leading to the water.

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