Every Good Morning

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I may take up the criminal life.

I think I have found one of its secrets — the ability to disappear in plain sight.

Stand over 6 feet tall, have white hair coming out the sides of your baseball cap, wear shades and shorts and a t-shirt which says MARINES across the breast, stand nonchalantly with your four month old puppy seeming to wait for him to go to the bathroom, wait for all the families of bicyclists and all the stripped down joggers to go past, look both ways for the police, and only then walk purposely up the overgrown drive and into the dunes to the house which has been for sale for over a year and now sits above the road, hidden by trees, unseen.

In a moment Wolfie and I are lost to view. We cross a bridge, rising to the top of one of the dunes and there is the house, shadowed, once modern, small. I don’t think it has been lived in for over a decade. We walk to the patio, to a deck and up rickety steps to another deck and there, rolling in at the end of a quarter mile of bayberry bushes and scrub pines and sassafras and dunes and finally beach is the ocean, grey-green today but in the fall and winter under a bright sun, a lighter cobalt blue. A scattering of figures and a dog walk the beach. At an Olympian distance and height, I gaze at them, unseen.

When I look back to the house, I know what I would do – tear it down, build a small home on concrete pillars at the peak of the dune, one with lots of windows, one open to the wind: my modest middle-class dream of wealth on this wealthy barrier island. I have my Nick Carraway moment, dreaming of a new fortune, believing it is possible, making it up in the all-powerful imagination where it can be most sweet.

Pete and I came up here last summer. I kept him on leash and was glad I had done so when two giant raccoons motored toward us on a path 10 feet below, a 20 pound boar and his mate (?), throwing us a brief glance apiece as they thumped past. Pete watched, calm and fiercely focused. The boar would have hurt him badly I think.

Wealth can buy distance and quiet. Those qualities are not in the same universe of importance as good food, medical insurance, shelter, a functioning car and a decent job; depending on your perspective, they may be aesthetic virtues. Still, as long as the distance does not turn to isolation, as long as the quiet does not became empty, very nice virtues indeed.

My father once told me, “No matter what, never come home in the back of a police car.” Good Irish cop that he was, he did not want to be embarrassed in front of the neighbors or his own tribe. So now Wolfie and I walk down the drive, me confidently, Wolfie, typical puppy, like a kewpie doll come to life, his body going in three directions at once. Onto the street, no police, no wondering eyes, ah, a clean escape.

© Mike Wall

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