Beach Money | Nantucket, MA
Nantucket Essays


by Robert P. Barsanti

I found a one hundred dollar bill. The fates pushed it up through the sand at Nobadeer at seven o’clock in the morning while my Boon Companion was out chasing a water bottle and the seagulls were waiting for me to leave an open bag of potato chips. I touched it as if it was connected to a hook and a long fishing line. But no fisherman reeled me in. I looked around for a Something Natural who may have lost it, and not finding him, I greeted the morning with a spring in my step and a feather in my cap.

I would love to believe that the Karma Chameleon left it for me, as payback for any number of petty annoyances and obstructions of my life. I would love to believe in a just and benevolent Chameleon who looks out for me and sends me tests and rewards. But I know enough about my life, and the lives of everyone around me, to know that I don’t deserve this. If there was a Karma Chameleon looking out for us, the guy riding the back of the Santos truck up and down Dave Street should find one of these every day.

Truthfully, the cards were stacked so that I could find that money. In order to find a hundred dollar bill on the beach at Nobadeer, I had to be on Nantucket in the first place. Revere Beach has its own glories and treasures, but it doesn’t have a lot of rich Chads and Stacies who might get careless with that much cash in their pocket. Moreover, at seven in the morning, I am not cleaning the Boarding House of last night’s debris, nor am I mowing a lawn in Shimmo, nor am I driving a Sayle’s delivery truck. I was following a dog chasing a water bottle on a beach. That found Franklin came at the end of a long Rube Goldberg contraption of luck. The Karma Chameleon doesn’t owe me, I owe her. Ben Franklin on the Beach came to me because a long series of blessings led me there.

Either way, I took my windfall into town for an early breakfast. I adhere to the rule of eight. You can sit for breakfast anywhere on island as long as you arrive by eight. If you arrive even a few minutes after, the line will go out the door. Luck remained with me; I parked on India Street and was seated on a picnic table in the alley, next to the dumpster. I could watch the line build out front while I ordered a Thai Scramble.

I was sitting Brotherhood style, with a family from both New Jersey and Arizona. Mr. and Mrs. New Jersey had been coming to the island for decades and owned a house in Cisco. The next generation, Mr. and Mrs. Arizona, had been on island for two weeks with their young son and daughter. Their son sat between his two grandparents, while the daughter sat on her father’s lap. The Family Arizona had had a wonderful two weeks on-island. Two weeks of swimming at Dionis and Fortieth Pole and playing at Ladies Beach. Two weeks of biking to and from town, two weeks of Cisco Brewers, and two weeks of intermittent internet. The fog and Comcast had kept the business world from impinging on sand and seagrass.

The two children were brown, tanned in the light of four adults that loved them. The young man wore a Toy Boat shirt and helped drive a fire truck beside his plate. His sister helped her father eat scrambled eggs. For her, the highlight of her trip was catching turtles and crabs at the bridge in Madaket. Grandpa gratefully accepted the bill.

With my freshly found bill in my pocket, I could see why. Here he was, on Nantucket, with two generations. Everyone was healthy. Everyone was happy. Luck had granted him a house on Nantucket large enough for his family. Luck had given him enough time to give his grandchildren the pleasure of capturing turtles in the stream in Madaket. His blessings floated about him like fireflies in the musky air of a privet hedge. The only appropriate emotion was gratitude.

Unfortunately, my one hundred dollar bill broke down over breakfast, and, over the course of the day, it became several things that weren’t quite gratitude. My Great Aunt pointed that out to me.

Aunt Mary is 97 years old and remains the only member of her generation who can box my ears when she so chooses. She lives in her duplex on Eaton Street Extension in Wakefield, surrounded by memories, baseball cards, and weapons. Her life is guided by a housecleaner, who has a winking knowledge of her wishes, and two visiting nurses for whom she gets muffins delivered every other day when they visit.

“Why didn’t you call?”
“I didn’t know if you were here.”
“You would have known if you called.”
“You and your brother and your families were two blocks away and you didn’t call?”
“You should be.”

My Aunt Mary was at my home when my parents returned with me from the hospital. She was the school nurse in my high school, and was in charge of making sure I was truly sick before being sent home. She was the person my mother came to when she got her cancer diagnosis, the one who everyone else used to translate medical speak for “You’re going to die.” She was the person I drove past. Aunt Mary was a hundred dollar bill that I was not grateful for.

Luck comes to us every day. We get something we don’t deserve, whether it be found money, extra time, or a grand slam in the tenth inning. The fireflies circle us every night. We need only stop and breath in the musky air.

Articles by Date from 2012