Cold feet over rough stones. The saddest part was that he’d never learned to swim. Across the the bay he could see little door lights or maybe bright shining through the kitchen windows of the houses–all homely, warm and welcoming–sparkle like unnatural candles.
They’d thrown him in as a joke but he was so far away he couldn’t see which doc he’d come from. So late now most everybody had gone to bed. Those lights were the ones people left on to keep the burglars away even though there weren’t many burglars round those parts. Still a completely dark house, he reasoned, was creepy even while you slept.
His bare feet probed the nighttime ground for barnacles rocks. Those things could cut you up real good if you weren’t careful–he’d seen it before. Lucky low tide was so low in the bay–that’s why it was called Useless. Couldn’t get a ship in here unless you’d want to do some serious digging. Excavation of the bay–now that would be a job. Luckily it wasn’t or he would have drowned.
The guys who threw them in were old high school pals. Real jokers, really. Always up for some beers and a laugh, but it wasn’t really funny anymore. Third year of college and when he came back to visit them they still called him Po’Boy Plunger because when he’d eaten a bunch of oyster at the yearly oyster celebration when he’d been 16, he’d thrown up so much it’d clogged one of the public toilets so horribly it had overflown and driven everyone else out of the mens side of the bathroom. He’d hadn’t been allergic to shellfish until that moment, he realized.
Now he was sopping wet on this spring day and dearly wishing he’d taken his mother up to go to the Snake River with her for spring break instead of seeing these guys. If he’d have done that he wouldn’t smell like salt and seaweed and whatever else was going on down below his feet–decaying fish, crabs, and bird shit, probably.
The fact that none of the guys even tried to help him out of the water, tried to figure where he’d gone or if he was already seemed strange to Paul. They knew he couldn’t swim. Knew the bay would be cold and that when they’d thrown him in it would an act of cruelty. But they probably knew it was a load tide to, and the splash and initial coldness wouldn’t be a big deal as long as he warmed up afterward. But when he hadn’t come back had any of them worried? Wondered. Paul’s phone was sitting on the table where they’d been playing poker. His extra cards stashed neatly between the leaves. Unless they took the table apart they’d never know why he was winning.
It’d always been like. They were all too stupid to know he was just stashing cards up his sleeve or between table leaves, or under his own ass. Then he’d scratch it and trade up cards for a stronger hand.