We had had a frustrating day. The dogs woke me long before my body felt like moving, and the instant coffee I mixed to take to the park turned out not to be instant. Rita napped on the couch instead of her bed so she wouldn’t miss the delivery of an exchange, but FedEx didn’t knock and left the huge box on the porch. The steam cleaner worked pretty well on the carpet but exacerbated my sore shoulders and thumb arthritis. None of these were big deals but left us both a little cranky.
An hour before sunset I loaded us into the car for an emergency run to The Tides Inn, to cheer us up with a cocktail and snacks at the bar overlooking the Rappahannock River. On a fluke, the Inn was closed. We drove the fifteen miles to Windmill Point, hoping to reach the Tiki Bar on the beach before the sun went down. The Tiki Bar was also closed, for the season. Cheered slightly simply by driving rural roads in clear autumn light on colorful trees, shining creeks, and glimpses of the river, we strolled the bulkhead back to the car.
“Show me where you lived when Isabel flooded your house,” I asked. “Turn here,” she said at a dirt road. Then “turn here,” again, at a sandy lane marked Private Road, No Trespassing. “No!” said I, from the West, where No Trespassing means you could get shot. “It’s okay,” she said, “we’ll go see my friends Mary Jane and John. They live down at the end of this road. We’ll have a drink with them.”
She pulls these things out of her hat, like a magician. She has friends everywhere. We’d been racing the sun for a cocktail on the water for the past forty-five minutes, and now we were driving to the end of a tiny lane to pop in on her friends who live fifty feet from the shore. They weren’t home. Two Adirondack chairs sat on the dune with a table between them. “Do you want to walk out on their dock?” she asked. You bet I did. I grabbed her purse as we left the car.
Without fail, my aunt has a snakebite kit in her purse at all times. We didn’t make it past the chairs. With the sun a blazing globe sending a solid path down the river toward us, we leaned back in weathered wood comfort and pulled from her purse an airline bottle of Scotch. Splitting its contents into her empty miniature Rum bottle, we toasted cocktails on the water. She offered a tin of Altoids for hors d’oeuvres and we laughed. Pelicans and gulls circled the placid sheen of the river, quiet settled on our unsettling day, and we sat in happy silence. We spun away from the sun as it reddened, its path rippled and faded, and the deep red orb diminished to a flash between trees on the far shore.