NB: What, you thought a little thing like getting a book published was going to keep me from my appointed rounds?
“So, out too early for breakfast with your fiancé, but not fishing. What are you up to, Rick Whittaker?”
By this time I was used to there being no secrets in White Sands. Lucas didn’t seem the sort to run to Peckerwoods’ with fresh gossip. There had been some light traffic around when I came in late that afternoon, but they wouldn’t have known what time I went out. Or maybe Sabrina just put it all together herself.
“Sabrina, I have so many secrets they’re beginning to ooze out of my ears every time I have a swallow of coffee.”
“You keep your secrets in the same place where your coffee goes when you drink it? You must have some serious indigestion issues, mister.”
“Serious indiscretion issues indeed. Oh, sorry, I misspoke. I meant serious insurrection issues.”
“Insubordination issues, more like it. Hope somebody gives me a big stick for a wedding present.”
“The only cure I know for excess secret syndrome is to share with somebody special. But you can’t have a crowd around when you share secrets, or they won’t be secrets anymore and so you don’t get the healthful benefits of sharing them.”
Sabrina tightened her lips despite our clowning. “Yeah, I know. In the end it’s always the woman’s fault.”
“Hey, I didn’t say that.”
“Of course you didn’t, sweetie.” She did the hair-ruffling thing. “Maybe pretty soon we’ll get that chance. Hey, I almost forgot. I’ve got something for you.” She pulled a flyer out of her apron pockets and presented it with a flourish.
Tired of watching the Falcons at home by yourself?
At the special request of
“The Yankee from Charleston”
Peckerwoods proudly announces the first weekly
(if y’all come, that is)
NFL Sunday Spectacular
Sunday November 24th
1:00 pm sharp
Special Menu Available (Wanda’s making wings!)
BYOSP (set-ups available)
“Wow. You actually made it happen! Never thought Wanda would go for it.”
“And you thought I never listened to you.”
“I never thought any such thing.”
* * *
Chai was delighted to be invited to help construct the sacred wheel. She showed up Saturday morning on time and thoughtfully dressed for the occasion: long skirt with no panties, sweater with no bra. The careful placement of the stones was deep, spiritual foreplay, with plenty of short, intense breaks to reenact the rites of Beltane (although it was still November, last time I looked). It became a carefully orchestrated ballet: just so many steps, meticulously measuring out the intervals for the stones until the sexual tension became too great to ignore. I would be hard as a rock, my erection too obtrusive to ignore, and when I looked over at Chai she would smile that maddening, mysterious smile and then kneel or lie back and pull her dress up. She was soaking wet, and when I entered her, so hot that the first time I drew back in shock. Chai’s unrestrained vocalizations lifted to the heavens, a sacred song offered to the goddess.
I have never experienced such a thing in my life.
I’d never been in love before—not that I was in love with Chai, nothing of the sort—but I’d often been in serious like that I frequently mistook for love. But no matter how deep the emotions and how delicious the sex, there always comes a point at which the very idea of doing it again becomes almost repulsive. Maybe repulsive is too strong a word. But it’s like eating pizza: no matter how good it is, you eventually get full. Or in the case of sex, perhaps empty is a better word. When overindulgence reaches that point, I don’t even want to be there anymore. I’m sure I planted the seeds for the end of many relationships by getting up and going home rather than staying the rest of the night.
But out on Avalon, building the wheel and screwing with Chai Fox, it’s like you could take the edge off of your sexual hunger but you couldn’t make it go away. Perhaps there is no better example of the power of that little piece of real estate than that afternoon.
Screwing seems like such a crass term, but it’s far more accurate than making love. There was no teasing, no gentleness, no indulgence in such niceties as oral sex. We shamelessly used each other. Although the last time, lying totally spent in the northeast quadrant of the completed circle, our bruised lips remembered gentleness, and we indulged a bit.
We looked like castaways as we climbed back in the boat for the trip home. Our clothes were filthy, bodies bruised and bitten, eyes a little reminiscent of what battle survivors call the ‘thousand yard stare.’ Chai didn’t even try to repair the damage to her hair, merely wrapped her head in a scarf and called it good. At the boat ramp, she didn’t wait for me to invite her back to the cottage. “Rick, I’m going home. I’m absolutely no good to anyone for anything other than a long soak in a hot tub and crawling into bed alone.”
I merely nodded my agreement.
“But I know one thing for certain. No matter what happens for the rest of my life, I will never forget this day.” She brushed her lips lightly across mine and gingerly walked to her car.
I stood under a scalding shower until the hot water ran out, then mixed a martini and took it out on the porch. Considered firing up the chiminea, but it seemed like way too much work. So I dragged a blanket out instead and just sat there, wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into.
Before I began this assignment, I had never experienced anything that couldn’t be rationally explained by the laws of science. I’d been to church revival services when I was a teenager where people were supposedly touched by the power of the Holy Spirit and their lives were changed forever. But it had all seemed like play acting to me, people wanting something so bad they just fooled themselves. I’d spend the night in a haunted house without seeing any rocking chair moving on its own volition; attended a séance where no spirits spoke; read a book about the scientific evidence for UFO’s without finding anything that qualified as credible, much less scientific; participated in an ESP experiment where my results were disappointingly statistically predictable. So it’s not like I had closed my mind to the possibility of something metaphysical, I’d just reached the point where I simply didn’t believe it.
That was no longer true.
George’s disappearance, the remarkable paintings of the golden-haired woman, even the brass brooch could have rational explanations. The holes for the stones in the circles, my wild, relentless dreams, and the divining rune? Admittedly, more difficult to explain away, but still possible.
But the fire? I could not come up with a single rational explanation, no matter how far-fetched, for a bonfire that burned on the island every Samhain but left no ashes. And my sexual obsession that afternoon? Sorry. I’d experienced that personally, unlike the Holy Spirit in those long-ago revival meetings, and I knew there was no way I could rationally account for it.
A totally irreverent thought intruded into my weighty musings. (What? Rick Whittaker having irreverent thoughts?). If I could find who owned the island and purchase it, I could built a shelter out there and make a fortune selling overnight trips guaranteed to be the sexual adventure of a lifetime. Give a few away; the testimonials on the internet would go viral. No way in hell I was sharing my island, but the thought broke through some of the seriousness and restored my perspective a bit.
I considered meditating but settled instead for a can of chunky clam chowder and another martini.