Dexter turned inland followed by the two pack mules, leaving Elvis on the beach. Through the shadows of the towering hulks of concrete emptiness, the three shuffled on the sandy sidewalks.
“We are right over here.” Dexter pointed to a small weathered house on stilts next to a glistening pond.
“Ow!” Ginger cried out. The three stopped. “Sand spur! Damn!” Ginger raised her foot to pull the small shell from her foot.
“Why don’t you leave your packs down here?” Dexter said pointing to the vacant parking deck under the house.
Ike paused and looked around questioning the offer.
“They’ll be safe,” Dexter said spread his arm around. “Do you see anyone around?”
Ginger and Ike agreed and lightened themselves of their burden.
“Watch your step.” Dexter warned as he ascended the rickety steps leading to the abode.
The shuttered simple domain had few amenities. The ocean had taken its toil on the wooden structure through the years. Shingles were missing from the roof while others flapped in the breeze. The splinted deck showed the wear and tear of years mistreatment. Once painted white, the one story building had been sand peppered to its grey asbestos siding.
“I bring guest,” Dexter announced to the darkness inside swinging open the squeaking screen door that was the only filter from the outside world. The wary travelers followed.
The temperature dropped 20 degrees once inside. Their eyes adjusted to the darkness. As they scanned the large room they began to focus. A table made from an old wire spool used for telephone lines rested in the corner. It was covered with candles of every size and shape. A dusty mirror rested against the wall to amplify the light. Two windows at the far end of the room were covered with some sort of woven cloth letting in some light through torn weaves. The room had a musty yet smoky smell. A huge red and white oriental carpet covered the floor. Crate furniture were scattered with towels and blankets covering the arms and a scattering of pillows.
“So who have we here?” came a voice from another room.
Two men walked out of the kitchen area to meet the visitors. They were anything but threatening. One wore hospital scrubs and the other cut off jeans and an army green t-shirt that had a faded image saying “Frog Hollow Day Camp” on it.
“This is Ike and Ginger” Dexter proudly presented the pair placing his book on a makeshift bookshelf lined with hundreds of volumes.
“Hi!” Ginger blurted, “I’m Ginger Bonneau and this guy is Ike Patterson.”
“THE Ike Patterson?” the man in the t-shirt laughed and approached the couple.
“What?” Ike looking astonished replied.
“Just kidding” the thin mustached man with thick glasses laughed circling around the pair, as he looked them over.
Ike and Ginger, not knowing what to make of these comments, stood still and watched as this observation took place. Dexter stood in the corner enjoying the interaction.
“Don’t pay him no-mind. I think he is half thick anyway,” the other man said stepping out of the shadows. “My name is John, but they call me West.”
“You can call him Mike,” the other man laughed.
Dexter coughed and joined the others placing his arm around the shorter man with well-groomed hair, “ This is ‘West’. He was a medic with the navy before….”
“Yeah, before….” Said the t-shirt man still circling the new couple as if to size them up for a meal. “Before what?” his head turned back to Dexter with a puzzled look.
“There’ll be time for that Newton.” Dexter scolded.
The thin man who had been circling the couple stopped and stood up straight adjusting his glasses. “Excuse me for the weirdness. We don’t get many visitors.”
Ike and Ginger relaxed and smiled.
“My name is Newton. West and I belonged to the Navy before….. well you know.”
Dexter stopped the introduction, “NO! They don’t know.”
The room grew silent and tension overcame all.
Dexter broke the tension. “Would you like something to eat?”
“Yes, what kind of welcome is this?” West broke away from the arm of Dexter and walked back into the kitchen.
“Before WHAT?” Ike picked up on the conversation and pointed to Dexter for an explanation.
The sun was setting and Dexter gestured for Newton to light the candles. With the additional light the master of ceremonies offered the new couple pillows and covers to rest on. West returned from the kitchen with a platter of chunks of cheese and crackers. After lighting the candles Newton disappeared into the darkness quickly returning with two bottles.
“White or red?”
Dexter smiled and without looking at Newton, “Yes.”
The group made themselves comfortable on the floor passing glasses of refreshment reflecting the candlelight. Ginger took a taste of the cheese and smiled her appreciation for the taste and the company. Ike smelled the wine and sipped with apprehension. Newton continued to cut the cheese and arrange in order of size and shape much to Ginger’s joy. West sat back and seemed to enjoy the atmosphere.
“So tell us about you Ike and Ginger?” Dexter questioned.
The couple looked at each other with the abruptness of the question. Who would be the spokesman for the pair? Since Ginger had a mouth full of cheese and crackers, Ike declared their tale.
“I’m Ike Patterson. We used to live in Virginia at a place called ‘Puppywoods’, but then there were riots and we had to quickly leave. I don’t know what caused the riots but I could see we had to leave. We went to the ocean and escaped on a cruise ship, but it sank.”
“Ah, to the sea.” Dexter whispered, with the assured smiles from Newton and West.
“What?” Ike stopped and questioned the new mysterious trio.
The three smiled and looked back and forth for a spoke person.
Dexter chimed in, “ They all went to the sea.”
“What?” Ike stammered.
“Finish your story and we’ll fill in the gaps.” Dexter mumbled under a sip of wine to wash down a cheese cracker.
“Well the boat sank!” Ginger chimed in, “ I had to swim through shark infested waters to this overgrown island and found this cool old club.”
“Who found?” Ginger sharply turned to Ike. “I found it first buster. You stumbled along later remember?”
“Oh… oh yeah.”
“Then WE found this boat and sailed up the eastern seaboard until we found you guys.” Ginger was proud with her story.
“I see” Dexter acknowledged.
Newton and West looked confused by the quick story, but continued looking at Dexter for clarification.
“How long were you gone?” Dexter asked.
“We are not sure. We met a surfer in Wilmington who thought it was 2020, and then we saw a soldier guarding a Food King who wasn’t sure what year it was. As I recall we left Virginia in 2009. “
Silence drew over the room, as all looked back and forth, each other expecting someone to forfeit a time stamp.
“OK, let me tell you about this mysterious trio we have become.”
The room eased and Newton and West settled into lounging positions. Ginger poured Ike another glass and went back to the cheese platter.
“Newton and West worked on the navy base. Newton worked on planes and computers, while West was a medic.”
“So where is the Navy?” Ike interrupted.
“Everyone was ordered out to sea.” Newton responded taking another sip of wine.
“But we missed the boat.” West added in a comfortable prone position.
“What?” Ike confused by the answers responded.
“Wait. Let me tell you the full story.” Dexter quietly calmed the situation.