John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

It was a buffet dinner and dance. I was put at a table with people I know. We talked and I was asked to dance a few times, and I had a few drinks, and finally I decided to leave by myself and go home. I was tired. The way I left I had to go by the bar, and as I went by, Tucker Loomis called my name. I turned and he came to me and took my hand and led me back to the bar. I had another drink, maybe two, and then he said it was such a nice night it would be fun to go on down the river and out the bay into the Sound in his little boat. And that suddenly seemed to me to be a fine idea. So I agreed.

We went way out, and we anchored in the lee of an island. I found out later it was Bernard Island. We talked about people and old times and so on. I worked for him after my first husband was killed in a one-car accident over five years ago. I was hired to sell some of the lots at Parklands, and I also worked in his office downtown. I was very upset by my husband’s death and I was vulnerable, I guess. Anyway I entered into an affair with Mr. Loomis. It wasn’t out in the open or anything, but I guess a lot of people knew or suspected. His wife wasn’t really well at that time, and now, of course, she is a complete invalid. She can’t even talk. She was a Casswell, an old well-to-do family in this area. Anyway, even if she was in the best of health, I think Tuck would be going around chasing women. That’s his way.

He opened some wine he had in the little electric cooler. We drank the wine. It was a beautiful night. He had some extra clothes and gear aboard and he loaned me a swimsuit, black and white stripes, a little small for me but not too much. He put on some red trunks. And we went swimming. His boat has a little platform thing on the transom that you can swim from. If I hadn’t been drinking I wouldn’t have gone in at night. It scares me to go in at night. You can’t see what might be in the water nearby. But Tuck was there and I was feeling… reckless and foolish. Okay, so after we got back aboard, we started making love. I said no at first and then I said… what the hell. We had gone together for almost a year after Cordell Strange, my husband, died. It was like… for old times’ sake.

When I woke up the next morning early, before dawn I guess, I could hear a funny wallowing sloshing sound and I looked out the little port and saw Tuck swimming by. It was lighter when he came below. By then I was in a rotten mood. I had a headache from the wine and I was disappointed in myself for letting him have me and, I guess, for enjoying it. When we broke up I didn’t want anything more to do with him because I’d found out he is really a pretty sorry human being. He’s ruthless and he’s greedy. And sometimes he is cruel. But when he wants to be, he can be good company. So I had broken my word to myself and that made me feel depressed. I didn’t even want to talk to him.

The boat was so still I thought maybe we were back at the dock and then I found out we were ten miles out, about a half mile, he said, off Bernard Island. I realized it was Friday and I had morning appointments and I had to get to the office. And I was worried about being conspicuous when we got back to Parklands. The tennis courts aren’t far from the little yacht basin, and there I would be in the morning light in a blue cocktail dress getting off Tuck’s boat to get to my van. It wasn’t that I worried so much about people seeing that I’d been out all night with a man, it was because the man was Tucker Loomis.

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