• by Robert P. Barsanti •
July and August depend a great deal on what you see and what you choose to ignore. The houseguests come in those months, predominantly, and we live a parallel life to theirs. All of them are great friends from other times: We have heard the chimes at midnight. We wake at the same time, but they go to the beach and we go to work.
God bless them, though. They rent the surfboards, ride bikes, and sit at Cisco with ten dollar sandwiches. In the morning, they sit around my table with a stack of croissants they collected on the morning bike ride before we eat blueberry pancakes. In the evening, they grill swordfish on the back grill and steam corn on the cob on the stove. On their last night, they take us out to dinner to some place that offers spaetzle and artisanal cheese. They thank us profusely.
We offer a wonderful vacation. They leave satisfied, sun drenched, and stained. In the blinking Sunday morning, when they have sorted and de-sanded their gear, someone says the magical words; “You are so lucky to get to live here.”
As old friends, they know better than to think that our life out here is Cisco beer and lobster bisque. They the crazy work stories. We tell them about late night phone calls from homeowners who found a drunk Toyota that ran through the hedge and the living room wall and early morning calls from a short staffed boss who knows it is your day off. They know that the bills are higher, the costs are more, and Amazon Prime is a way of life. They can read, on the chalkboard next to the phone, the list of challenges that come from island living.
But they don’t really believe it. The Madaket Sunset (as well as the Madaket Mysteries) work a hold on them that will last as long as the seashells live on their shelves. To them, we live the dream. The roses bloom, the beach rolls, and if your time it right, you can get the best donuts without waiting in line. In their still sunburned minds, we are so lucky not to have to commute on Route 128, wait in line at Starbucks, and shop at Kohl’s.
Of course, they are right. We are lucky to live out here, but not in the way that they think. Somewhere in the familiar past, after you drove off the ferry and before the checks started to bounce, luck smiled on us. You bought at the right time, sold at the right time, were born at the right time, or just came along at the right time.
I don’t believe luck comes from some grand temple of karma or from lottery tickets, but from people. I have been lucky with my friends. They have recommended places for me to stay, jobs for me to take, and things for me to buy. My luck joins me on a porch in the cooling, dim, and buggy evening with bourbon in his hand and a recommendation on his lips. All of these friends hold me up in a hammock, suspended on the ropes of their good wishes and warm esteem. Long may they stay strong.
One of them called me on Saturday morning and sent me to the Police Auction. Less than fifty of us stood in the Fairgrounds Road parking lot surrounded by ownerless dingies, bicycles, kayaks, and iPhones. Over the course of the year, bad luck had struck island visitors. Or carelessness. They left their cameras on a bench, they forgot their phone in a hotel room, or someone wheeled away with their bike while they were buying donuts. And now, washed up on the beach of time, all of this bad luck was up for a dollar in the police station parking lot. For less than the cost of a half dozen donuts, I bought a new phone and a backpack. Other friends of mine bought dinghies and bicycles and our luck continued to hold.
Sometime soon, the luck may desert us. That night, I attended a surprise going-away party. They weren’t surprised to be going away, but the barbecue and the beer were a revelation on the night before they left; I suspect they would have liked to slip away on the 6:30 boat and move on. Instead, the family smiled through the conversation. The talk whispered of new opportunities, good schools, and lower bills. They were leaving on the 6:30 boat and things would be better.
We could fool ourselves with logic and explain why they weren’t successful. It was in all of our minds; we listed off the wrong steps, the missed opportunities, the things we were too smart to do ourselves. Truth, like the sun, is too hard to look at directly. They hadn’t made any more or worse mistakes than anyone else had made. They worked as hard and as skillfully as the rest of us. They pinched pennies, picked blueberries, and ate the leftovers.
But on the buggy evenings, when Luck sipped Kentucky Bourbon on my porch, it left their chairs empty. The phone stopped ringing, the strands on the hammock wore thin, and they just couldn’t make it work. So, in the cold light of the checkbook, they packed up the van, picked a spot on the map, and made a one way ferry reservation. I wished them the best of luck. There, but for the grace of God, go I.