He arrived at the ferry dock. In the hours before dawn it was almost warm, as if the sun might soon rise and lift the heavy smell of the sea, drying the slippery wetness below his sandals. He knew better, that the instinct was left over from years of living beside a decidedly warmer and brighter bay. Making his way carefully down the coarse rope ladder to the uneven surface of the stones below, he switched on the disposable flashlight he’d had for years, but never used. It was there in the bowl on the top of a boulder carved slowly by the wind and the waves. The guard who had reluctantly given his permission to let him descend below slipped an unfiltered cigarette out of its packet and held it between his swollen fingers. It might have looked as if this character was looking for sea urchins, or maybe he’d dropped his keys. That happened a lot. People would return, sometimes more than a week later to ask about a hat which had blown off just as the ferry had begun to motor away, or a cell phone. Lots of people dropped a lot of things. The man held something in his hands. The guard couldn’t tell what it was from his vantage point.
“D’ya find it?” Called the guard.
The man climbed up by the thick ropes and stepped onto the moist wooden planks of the dock, looking down into his hands and said “Yep.”
“What was it?”
The man flashed a sad smile, looking up into the guard’s wet eyes. “Thanks.”
“Not a problem”
He set the parcel beside him in the passenger seat and started the engine. He looked over the map and tossed it into the back seat, slipped the car into reverse and backed carefully out of the narrow, staff parking space beside the booth. It would be daylight in about an hour. He had some time to kill.
Back in town he stopped at what used to be Minnie’s diner. It was out of business. He just sat there in the parking space looking at the out of business sign, unable to accept that such a strange diner with such great breakfast would somehow fail as a business. He rolled down the window and breathed in the smell of the sea, seven months of grey, and a little bus exhaust. He opened the car door, tucked the parcel under his arm and walked down the road to a Starbucks, got a double espresso, stood outside and knocked it back quickly. When he tossed the cup at the garbage can it fell out onto the sidewalk. Laughing to himself, he picked it up and dropped it into the can. Some of the last drops of coffee spilled out on his hand and he wiped it off on his pants. He fished out his cell phone and sighed. “It’s still too early, but what the fuck?” He thought.
A few minutes later he was walking softly up the porch steps of a house he’d never seen before. For a moment he considered just leaving his charge beside the front door. This was a little over the top, and who knows what might come of it. Still, he advised himself that if he left it there it’s possible no one would ever find it, or worse. So he tucked the bundle tighter under his arm and knocked on the door. From outside anyone would have imagined that no one was home, that no one had ever lived here. He felt his pulse grow stronger in his chest and decided to leave the bundle and depart. It was for the best. It didn’t matter anyway. Then the door opened. It took about two seconds for her eyes to adjust and instead of anything either one of them had feared, she simply said “Hi” in the exact same way she had said it to him years ago. As if this had been arranged well in advance, and either one of them had had some time to prepare.
Thoughtfully he unwrapped the towel from under his arm and handed her back her heart.