The trio of Ike, Ginger and Jack landed on the empty beach beside the barnacled pilings of Mercer’s pier. Dripping body’s scampered ashore and store in wonderment of the quiet.
Ike looked back at the Dusty Rose wondering if he had done the right thing leaving it there. Then his attention diverted to the old wooden structure stretching out into the waves. He had many memories of walking out over the water and fishing here on his summer vacations.
“Which was do we go, Ike?” Ginger asked shading her eyes against the sun.
“I’ll take you to my pad man, “ Jack interjected with a sly glance to Ginger, “or we could just look around, but I know you won’t find what you are looking for.”
Ike quickly responded to Jack. “What are WE looking for?”
“Dude, you are in search of life, right?”
“It’s really lovely her.” Ginger cooed while ringing out her hair soaking the sand.
“Is Station One still there?”
“You mean the drug store…. yeah?”
Station One was the first stop over the inlet bridge. Then the beach was divided into two paths, each side held wooden two-story beach houses. Decks faced the water, flapping shutters placed to keep out the hurricanes but never succeeding, sand washed windows peppered in the constant wind, and each house painted white. These were not summer homes, but everyday living for people who loved the ocean.
The trio walked down the beach for a distance then turn to the right.
“This is where Lumina was before the years took it away.” Ike said. Turning around and facing the constant flow of waves,” There used to be a movie screen out there…. out in the ocean…. and the dance crowd would take a break and sit in the sand and watch black and white films” He said smiling at the nostalgia.
The trio walked up to the blacktopped ribbon that lead them back to Station One. Cars were parked in garages under the steps leading up to the empty rooms above. Each held a history, but now was being covered in the sandy encroachment of nature.
At Station One standing in front of the open glass door the trio paused.
“Is there any shade here?” Ginger complained wiping her brow.
“Man, it gets a lot cooler when you get inside. Cool tile floors man. Dig?”
Ike stood still, his shirt having dried from the swim then soaked by the sun.
“Any food in there?”
Ginger hastily stepped into the doorway and disappeared in the darkness.
“Swell.” Ike thought of the impatient whiff of a girl.
The two men followed enjoying the temperature drop and the cool touch of tile on burn feet. The musty sand covered floor stored empty wire racks spinning in the breeze, piles of crumpled paper, ceiling tiles splattered to the floor, a single flip flop, scattered bottles of unopened suntan lotion, reflections of a counter with chrome stools awaiting customers.
Ike bent down and picked up a card. “Welcome to the world’s best family beach” the card, read while the flip side showed families enjoying summer vacations.
“Look what I found” Ginger giggled appearing from the darkness holding a windbreaker. She flipped it over and then pulled it over her head. Shaking her hair and pulling on the sleeves she twirled in a nylon mini-dress and asked, “Does it fit?”
Ike glanced at Jack again as the young man seemed to drool. “Do any of the motor vehicles work?”
“Don’t know man. Never tried them. I’m just into the board and the water. I can walk from my place to the water. That’s all that matters.”
Ike turned and walked back into the baking sunlight. He survived the few cars available walking to a 56 Desoto. He pulled on the massive door and it swung open with an old creak. Leaning over and probing the interior he found the keys were still in the wheel. He swung the backpack he had been carrying with some foodstuff from the Dusty Rose just incase he could be strained onto the wide seat and leapt in beside it. Wiping off the small windows to the dials, Ike eagerly examined each set of needles. Then he turned the key.
The ground shook as the beast came to life blowing black smoke behinds its wings.
Jack and Ginger ran toward the sound of a choking mechanical machine who had not be visited for years.
“Climb in and we’ll take a spin,” Ike gleefully answered proud of his new ride.
With the trio together again, the metal monster was placed in gear and slowly began to roll. Pressing down on the pedal and turning the wheel to the left, the purple beast glided onto the bridge and into the forest of Wilmington. Over the inlet that separated the mainland from the beach the three roared onto another vacant road.
Spanish moss hung from the overhanging trees, which soften the view of emptiness.
Ginger and Jack sat pressed to the front seat, hands gripping the head rest, acting like small children on an adventure. Ike firmly gripped the wheel of this sputtering beast. It had been some time since this mobile machine had moved and the gears responded roughly.
Turning onto Chestnut Street, Ike slowed the vehicle. He looked left at a small brick house, swing on the porch, driveway that led around the back to a rose garden. Then speeding up he headed for the center of town. Pass the small corner grocery with saw dust floors, open produce accompanying flies, small black boys eager to deliver food to elderly women, walls lined with photos of entertainers of another era, thin grey weathered wooded row houses, their tall ceilings and heavy drapes hiding heavy furniture dating back to the civil war and small dirt yards.
Ike stopped the motorcar and opened the door.
“What?” Ginger asked seemly enjoying the ride.
Ike stepped out and stared at the stream of water that broke the plaza. “Bern River” he whispered. “This was the sight where explorers came up, like the James River, but they never really got established like Richmond. The Indians would wipe them out, illness, not a good trading post, but finally they got established. Then they parked this battleship in here” Ike’s voice growing as he viewed the massive grey vessel pointing her aria of guns up and down the river.
“Hey, dude? What to see my place?” Jack cowardly asked.
“You know they sank a floating restaurant bringing that hulk in here.” Ike responded.
“Sure!” Ginger sang to a new adventure.
Ike slowly climbed back into the sputtering machine and said, “Which way?”
“Dude, do a 180 back to the beach. I’m out there.”
“You sure are.” Ike thought as he swung the massive beast around and headed back.
“Turn left after you cross the bridge.”
Rolling to another strip of black molasses the wheels slowed as sinking into tar.
A row of close one-story brick buildings sat shoulder-to-shoulder with names painted on the dusty windows. “Drakes”, “Pirate’s Treasure”, “Cap Sam’s”, and “The Cove”, showed the north end of the beach was adult entertainment.
“Man, we are here.” Jack announced pointing at an unassuming building to the right.
Ike slowed the vehicle then with a flick of the wrist, stopped the movement parking this monster until the next carrier demanded transportation.
The three doors opened emptying the adventurers.
Ike slapped the pack over his shoulder as Jack pointed to the door and welcomed the pair inside.
Ike and Ginger followed the blond surfer into a dark room.
“Wait here” Jack, said moving through the familiar location.
The couple stood in wonderment of what they would find.
Suddenly curtains were drawn back and the sunlight flooded in like spotlights.
“Woo” Ginger turned, avoiding the flash.
“This is my pad dude.” Jack beamed arms outstretch to either side basking in the glow of his worldly good.
Brightly colored posters lined the walls. Pillows filled the floor. A small counter to the right held two wooden stools. A large sliding door window presented the ocean to the room. Sand covered the floor. Papers and magazines piled in a corner and a guitar rested against a black-screened television.
“Where’s the bathroom” Ginger frantically questioned.
Jack looked confused.
“I got to go!!”
“Uh, I just use the beach man. The plumbing doesn’t work so good here.”
Ginger ran toward the beach, pushing back the sliding window and out into the sunlight and sand.
“So what do you eat?” Ike in a disconcerting manner asked.
Jack smiled and walked out to the side of the small building.
“Here is where I live man.”
Jack pointed to a plot of dirt dividing the buildings. Large green stalks were wound in string and ribbon. Below them were red and orange and yellow ground resting vegetables.
“You see man, I’m micro-bionic” Jack answered in pride “I grow my own grub man and the earth has been good to me. I’ve got several of these gardens around here. “
Ike took new appreciation of this man until he said….
“Yeah, thanks.” Ginger returned to the group.
“Want a smoke?” Jack changed the conversation.
“What?” Ike jerked around.
“I grow my own man. It’s good stuff. I call it Carolina Crash.”
Stepping back into the carpeted room with drapes of beach towels and posters surrounding the room, Jack directly went to a little cabinet next to a pile of pillows.
The three sat as Jack prepared an engraved silver cigarette contain, but it contained something different.
Placed securely to his lips, Jack struck a wooden match and sucked on the tightly woven paper.
“Try this….(suck)….it’s primo” Jack smiled passing the fire to Ginger.
She eagerly took the lit paper and sucked deep. A smile filled her face and she passed it to Ike.
He slowly looked at the other two and slowly reached out gently reaching the wet paper. Staring at Jack, Ike drew in a puff, then another bringing ashes falling on the floor.
“Way to go dude.” Jack smiled.
Several more rotation sessions were started before Ike looked at his watch and noticed the setting sun.
“We must go.”
“What?” dazed Ginger looked up through drooping eyelids.
“We’ve got to get back to the Dusty Rose.”
“Dude, stay for dinner. I’ve got some yummy mushrooms.” Jack giggled smoke pouring from his mouth.
“We’ve got to go…. Now!”
Ike jumped up and looked down at Ginger. In her sleepy stupor, she managed to stand. Turning toward the door Ike forcefully stepped forward. Ginger looked back wishfully at Jack and said,” You coming?”
Jack sat cross-legged on plush pillows and grinned ear to ear.
Ike and Ginger paused at the doorway and looked back at Jack awaiting an answer.
“No dude, you go on. I’ve found a good place here. Hope you find your answer man.”
“Thanks for the hospitality…dude,” Ginger smiled before being jerked out of the doorway.
The couple paced toward the water’s edge, Ike strapping on his knapsack still full of provisions while Ginger kept looking back at the fading light.
Ike positioned the course to the stranded vessel and dived in the waves with Ginger close at hand.
As light faded to moon shine, the two were back on deck. Ike lifted the anchor and the deck shuffled then started to drift. He moved back to the captain’s chair and turned the wheel to the open water. The Dusty Rose responded as if asleep awaiting a call.
Ginger’s black eyes looked at Ike in wonderment but nothing was said.
“High tide.” Ike stated, looking at the stars for guidance.
So the Dusty Rose and its crew were off again. Heading north for new answers and more questions.