“Yeow!” bellows Gandalf jumping up from the cookfire and running for the bay, a slight hitch to his stride. 

Times have been we’ve complained bitterly about the cold, but not tonight. We’ve got a healthy cookfire going, the fire pushing the evening’s cold 3’ back in all directions. The three of us are hunkered down in that circle of warmth, Gandalf a foot too close when he bellows.

“Good grief,” says he walking back across Pet Sematary Beach after dunking his foot in the bay. “It felt like my toe was on fire.”

“You feeling better now?” I say.

Gandalf reaches down, rubs the tip of his bootie. “Yeah, I think so.” We all three move back from the cookfire, keep our feet away from the glowing coals. “I’m surprised your bootie didn’t melt,” says Don’t Follow Don.

“That wouldn’t’a been good,” says Gandalf. We nod our heads in solemn agreement, melted booties on our big toes an unpleasant thought.

Gandalf’s toe pretty much recovered, he eyes spiralized veggies and salmon chunks sizzling in the wok over the cookfire, says, “That done?”

“It is,” says Don’t Follow Don, and he scoops out a serving for each of us. I’m not one to criticize Don’t Follow Don, but my scoop has fewer salmon chunks in it than the others. No doubt about it.

I commandeer the scooping spatula and corral three more chunks from the wok. The bad news: in my haste to add the chunks to my plate, I bump the spatula against the plate’s edge, spill the chunks on the beach. 

The good news: the spilled salmon is recoverable, Pet Sematary Beach mostly tiny pebbles, the kind that don’t stick to dropped food. The 5-second rule doesn’t apply to pebbly beaches; you can take your time retrieving what’s slipped from your grasp. No rush, no fuss.

In the cookfire under the wok are three purple potatoes, each wrapped in tinfoil. The potatoes have been in the fire since we first lit it, experience telling us that a potato needs a minimum of 1 hour in the fire to bake, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.

Experience—and quantum physics—also tells us not to rely on the same number of potatoes coming out of the fire that you toss in. Past times, that’s happened to us. Fewer potatoes out.

Quantum physics also says it’s possible, though extremely rare, to retrieve more potatoes from the fire than you put in. That hasn’t happen to us. Not yet. 

Tonight, we put in three tinfoil-wrapped potatoes, and an hour later pull out three tinfoil-wrapped potatoes. Tasty ones, too, Gandalf slathering on a creaming topping whose name he can’t remember.

Gandalf’s toe a testament to the lengths travelled for warmth, we add more testament by warming our insides with after-dinner shots of Fireball whiskey. If you ever find yourself outside in the cold, I highly recommend it, Fireball whiskey.

You should know this: The consequences of warming our innards are not as severe as that suffered by Gandalf warming his toe. Fact is, the consequence for one of us is most beneficial.

Paddling back to Bruno’s from Pet Sematary Beach, we encounter a mildly wrinkled bay, wrinkles only upsetting if you’re seeing them for the first time in the bathroom mirror. 

The bay’s wrinkles are of little consequence. But Gandalf and I use those wrinkles as an excuse to explain why we can’t keep up with Don’t Follow Don, the two of us in a four-stroke double, Don’t Follow Don in a two-stroke single.

“His boat’s better’n this kinda water,” I say to Gandalf. “He cuts right through those little waves while we bob up’n down.”

“Gotta be,” huffs Gandalf.

The explanation’s neither wrinkled water nor boats.

Here’s the explanation: Don’t Follow Don’s Fireball-empowered.

In his own words, emailed the next day: “I was so inspired by that Fireball stuff that spurred me to paddle back so fast that I went out and bought the big bottle. Now making Fireball squash pie with that hot cinnamon flavoring.”


P.S. Today’s date is a palindrome, the same left to right and right to left: 1.21.21


Date: Thurseve, 21 January 2021.

Distance: Six point four nautical miles.

Speed: One point two knots.

Time: Five point three hours.

Spray factor: Minimal.

Dessert: No-sugar chocolate peanut butter Keto bars.