Alley, the ethereal


Not too long ago, I was running a little antique shop along the Oregon coast, just south of Gold Beach.  At the time I was seeking solace, a chance to mend my wounds. I found comfort in the constant drizzle of the winter months and in the small talk of the occasional stranger.  I took to smoking hand rolled cigarettes and daydreaming to pass the time.  I began to settle in.

On some afternoons I would imagine wandering off into the foothills at the edge of town, disappearing among the verdant foliage and the dappled evergreens.  I began craving champagne and raw oysters.  I longed to bathe in tide pools filled with sea anemones and colorful urchins.  Slowly, I began to understand the elegance of such simple pleasures.  They put me at ease.

One day in early spring I met Alley Two Eagles. She stormed into my shop and bought up my entire stock of Japanese glass fishing floats. While inside she jabbered wildly and paced up and down the aisles, stopping every now and then to smell the insides of old hardbound books. Her fingers traced the walls of bric-a-brac and stopped at a nautical compass.

I watched her mouth open and close in measured breaths as she told me how once, as a child, she had found the body of a Chinese sailor washed up along the shore just south of where we were. Afterwards I was instructed by her to load all of the glass floats into her Volvo station wagon.  With my arms full of glass floats, stumbling cautiously to hold my balance, she kissed me by the side of the road.

For the next week-and-a-half we’d spend the days cruising up and down the 101, mixing Old Crowe whiskey with Pedialyte.  When we were good and tossed we’d go down to the beach, build a bonfire and roll around in the sand.  Alley would chase pelicans with big pieces of driftwood.  She reveled in the delight of crushing whole sand dollars beneath her bare feet.

I remember Alley wading up to her hips in the surf on our last evening together to watch the sky bleed crimson over the water.  “Hey Knox,” she turned around and smiled at me. The waves lapped at her body. “If you look closely you can see all the way to Japan. At least that’s what my father used to tell me.” She was radiant. I watched blissfully as she continued to wade further out into the surf.  It was perfect.

By the time I realized she was too far out in the tide there was nothing I could do.  She was still smiling at me when a large wave broke above her head.

About a year later, as I was clearing out old magazines and newspapers so I could sublet the shop, I came across an article about a young woman drowning where Alley Two Eagles drowned—15 years prior.  It showed Alley‘s picture.  Then I found the Japanese glass fishing floats that I never actually sold to anyone.

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