Head tilted back, Marsha followed the upward progression of the snow-white sails until, the breeze catching, moving forward, picking up speed Undeen heeled to port, as… Grabbing hold of Mitchell’s knee, “Oh, my God!” her knees tensing, about to bound to the high side…
“This the first time you’ve been sailing, Marcie?”
Strands of hair blowing across her face, brushing them back, trying to hold them down, “Yes,” she said, swallowing nervously, looking from Sally to the water that bubbled by the lowered rail.
“Don’t worry, honey, this crew’s great.” Rita said. “And this ain’t even what’ch’ya’d call a breeze. Shit! I was aboard once when we were barrelin’ across this lake and they hoisted the red flag, and…”
June 18, 1955
“Yeah. The hurricane warnin’.”
“Hurricane? We never get hurricanes here! Do we?”
“No, not usually,” Mitchell answered. “But a red flag here can be the near equivalent of a hurricane on the east coast.”
“Yeah,” Rita continued, “scared the livin’ shit outta me, but we made it okay.” Still attempting to calm Marsha’s fear, “Now this, this ain’t nothin’! Right, Sal? Remember?”
“Jesus Christ!” Shaking her head, “How could I ever forget? It was the scariest thing I’ve ever been through.”
Relaxing… Sitting on the low side, trying to relax, “You two come sailing all the time?”
“Nah, only if it’s just cruisin’, and Karl asks the guys if we want to, and if we ain’t workin’, sure! It’s almost like a free vacation.”
Picking up more speed, the boat passed the outer breakwater.
His arm protectively around Marsha, “I’ve been through hurricanes twice now. Caught a class one in the tower at Rockaway, and the tail end of another on the ship. Scared the shit outt’a me, too, Rita.”
Reiner passed a pack of Chesterfields. Taking one, Mitchell passed the light from his Zippo.
“If you want anything,” looking from Marsha to Mitchell, “you know where it is. Just make yourself at home,” Karl said, “and go get it.”
Standing, “Think I’ll get me a beer.” Stephen went to the cabin, “Anyone else?”
“Yeah, me… Marcie.” Mitchell asked, “You want a can of beer, or some pop?”
Holding onto the boat with one hand and Mitchell’s knee the other, “Uh-uh!” Shaking her head negatively, “No, nothing, thanks.”
“Yeah,” draining what’s left in his can, “get me one, too, will you.” Squashing the can, Reiner tossed it overboard.
“You say you’ve been through two hurricanes?”
“Yeah, Karl. It was a bitch on the ship. We’d rise on the crest till we thought we were going through the sky, then down in the trough till it felt like a rollercoaster, and, shit, you’d think God dumped a billion gallons of water on you,” he laughed, “which I guess he did.”
“The other one,” Marsha questioned, trying to keep her mind off the heel of the boat and the rushing water, “the hurricane at Rockaway?”
Taking the can, nodding thanks, popping the tab, “That one, believe it or not, I ended up kind of enjoying.”
“How could you ever enjoy a hurricane?” Looking to port, Karl could still see the tall tower of the Randolph Street Life Boat Station. “And in one of those, yet!” nodding his head over his shoulder.
Looking at the distancing tower, “Hell, the tower at Rockaway’s more than four miles from the station; not a sissy like that one that’s attached to a brick building. Shit, the one at Rockaway’s on a skinny strip of land that overlooks the Atlantic on one side and Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay on the other, and…” drawing on the cigarette, swigging some beer, “when the winds hit I thought the fu…” looking at Marsha, “…the tower was going to take off, then this old guy and woman came out to…I still can’t figure why they did it.”
“Did what?” Reiner asked.
“Yeah,” Sally piped in, “what’d they do?”
“You said they were old. How old?”
“I don’t know, Marcie. I’d say… I don’t know, thirty-five, forty, maybe. Anyway, I lost track of ’em for a little while, you know, reporting in on the stupid, schmuck fishermen…” He looked at Marsha again, but she didn’t appear to be shocked by his language. “…who were too, uh, damned stupid to go ashore when there’s hurricane warnings. Well, when I’m sure they’re all finally in, I take my binoculars and look for these two people again, and when I spot ’em I can’t believe what they’re doing.” Drawing on the cigarette, he tilted the can of beer to his mouth.
“Yeah?” Stephen asked. “So what in the hell were they doin’?”
“They were naked.”
“Yeah, Karl. They were running around the point buck-ass naked wanting to…” glancing at Marsha, “screw in a hurricane.”
“They didn’t know you were there?”
“At first I didn’t know if they knew I was there. Although I couldn’t imagine how they wouldn’t know someone was in the tower.” Thinking back to when the woman had waved to him, and the man’s response when he’d given him the victory sign, “Yeah, of course they had to know someone was there! Anyway, I got so interested in what these two were doing …”
“You watched?” Marsha asked incredulously.
Causing the men on the boat to smile, “Well, yeah, I watched!” Mitchell said. “I got so interested in what these two were doing that I almost forgot about the hurricane. And I guess it wasn’t that much of a hurricane ’cause the winds only got up to seventy-five, eighty miles per hour, but,” looking at Rita, “it sure scared the shit out of me… At least till my two old pals showed up and took my mind off it.”
“You watched them do it?” Sally asked. “The whole thing? With binoculars, yet?”
Crushing the can, he threw it over the side. “Yeah! You bet!”
“Boy, ain’t that just like a man!” But Rita, as well as Sally, knew that, given the opportunity, without a doubt, they would have watched also.
“When I stood a four-hour watch it was my beach, and if they’re too damn dumb to realize there’s a lookout in the tower, then they deserve to be watched. Besides,” looking at… comically leering at Marsha, wiggling his right eyebrow, “I learned lots’a real neat stuff from those two.”
Looking at him, “Yeah,” Marsha said, kissing his nose, “what kind of real neat stuff?”
“Maybe you’ll find out,” kissing her nose back, “someday.”
Now, at 7:53, the sun was beginning to set.
Over the lake, to the east, the sky was darkening.
Turning, looking westerly…
Speckled with fractured clouds, to the west the sky was ablaze with color: red, gold and purple. Tinting the city’s skyscrapers, the hues of the sunset reflected off their windows in a panorama of sparkling pinpoint colors.
“My, God!” she said, softly, reverently. “It’s so beautiful!”
“Karl, okay to take a cushion forward?”
“Sure, go ahead.” Slackening the sheet, spilling the wind, “I’ll keep this tack.” Undeen rode on an even keel.
Standing, taking both of Marsha’s hands, “Come on.”
“Where?” Though the boat no longer heeled, not too happy about leaving the comfort and safety of the cockpit, “Do we have to?”
“Yes.” Taking the cushion they’d been sitting on, promising, “I won’t let you fall overboard!” he stepped from the cockpit to the deck.
Marsha hesitated, then, holding his hand tightly, stepped up.
Leading her forward, he laid the cushion lengthwise facing the sunset. Sitting with his back propped against the mast, “Come on.” Mitchell patted the space between his spread legs…
Alone, hidden by the rise of the cabin, Marsha sat with her back reclining against Mitchell’s chest.
Her head resting on his shoulder, his cheek upon her cheek, his arms about her waist, their four clasped hands lay upon her lap.
Quiet… Quiet, and so…
But for the faint movement of water, the slight crackling of sails, the balmy silence of the gently palpating breeze… and each other’s warm breath, it was quiet… Quiet and peaceful…
Peaceful… so lovingly peaceful.
The first wispy shreds of a large bank of broken clouds passed across the face of the lowering sun causing silvery-gold streamers of light to charge across the horizon. As the body of splintered clouds crossed the orange orb, the sky became bathed in a colossal kaleidoscope of hues: orange, red, purple, blue and gray, and all underlain with translucent, silvery-gold.
“Please, baby, don’t think I’m being corny,” speaking softly, his mouth near her ear, “but now is something I’ve prayed for all my life. I’ve seen hundreds of beautiful sunsets…” hugging her even tighter, Marsha could actually feel the beat of his heart against her back, “…and sometimes they’re so beautiful I thank God for whatever beauty there is in my life, but whenever that happened it always made me lonely and sometimes I felt like crying because I didn’t have anyone to share the beauty with, and…” The emotion becoming too much, his eyes watering, his voice catching, taking a few moments, until… “Marsha,” he said emotively, “I swear that I’ve never seen a more beautiful sunset, or that any girl has ever been as beautiful to me as you are right now, and I never thought I could love anyone as much as I love you.”
Feeling his warm breath on her ear, hearing the heartfelt, softly spoken words and his faltering voice, experiencing a deluge of emotion, “Mitchie, I’ve always loved you…” her eyes overrunning, too, “I’ve loved you since that first night we met.” Turning her face to his, looking into his eyes, “I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone but you.”
His hand held in hers, moving both from her lap, repositioning his right arm over her shoulder, Marsha moved Mitchell’s hand to beneath her blouse, to under her brassiere, and held it, tightly, palm down to her left breast—for the first time in her life feeling a hand other than hers upon her bare breast—Marsha kissed Mitchell gently, with soft passion.
Marsha still felt the beat of Mitchell’s heart upon her back, and now he felt the beat of Marsha’s heart through the fathomless softness of Marsha’s breast.
But, as the urge to touch and hold her breast had been all but overpowering the night before and earlier today, now, oddly, the feel of Marsha’s bare breast within the palm of his hand was…? To Mitchell Lipensky, the feel of Marsha Goldman’s breast, at least at that moment, was holy and the thump, thump, thumping of this girl’s heart in the palm of his hand—transcending even sex—meant more to Mitchell than anything, than anything in the past.
“I love you.”