The Last MoonPie Mike Story

4:30 am. The Florida Panhandle sunrise still a ways off. Inky water swirls below the dock bumpers rising and falling, leaving the pale wood slick in the glare of the floodlight aimed at nothing in particular. If I did not know the time, it could be midnight. Bobbing in the water at the end of the pier, rocking slowly back and forth, metallic clinks echoing across the marina as ropes swing in the breeze, the boat waits for me.

When I walked up, Clemons, the man in charge of the rig told me about weather later in the day. He pointed towards the west into a sky so black anything could have been brewing over there and I would never have known it. He checked his weather channel app and spat a ringlet into the liquid below. That weather is out there. I feel it.

My last day as a MoonPie salesman was yesterday. I made my final stop at a little store near Crestview to the north, then drove down here to a motel and got four hours sleep. A man’s last day at work is a surreal combination of angst and relief. And a little fear. I figured the cure would be fishing. It has always cured everything else. And Clemons had an available boat manned by a bald captain named “Squid.” That is the only name I hear anyone use for the man. His first mate is “Grouper.” Grouper is in his late 20’s, tall, rail skinny like a starved goat in a stained t-shirt, and frazzled like one too. I say goat because Grouper makes a sound now and then like a wheezy bleating. Captain Squid looks close cropped, ex-military, except with a little something gone wrong on his record. I figure these are the kind of men I want to ride out a winter storm with. That’s a joke. Perhaps. So I toss in my bag, the last box of MoonPies I have on me and we leave, heading east, then south, and then I have no idea. An unemployed man has no agenda once he boards a boat.

Rain starts almost immediately, stringing in rivulets off the top of the boat. I pull my coat up around my neck. The cold still gets in. The waves roll bigger as we ride into the darkness. It is louder than I had figured. This was supposed to happen later in the day. It is happening now.

What is my sister doing right now? I should have called her and let her know that I left my job back on land with my truck. My neighbor, Hugh, is watching my dogs. I left him some blank checks to take care of them. He’s familiar with each one, especially Rudy. I miss Rudy especially. A large swell rolls in and yanks the boat to the left. I hope it does not scare any red snappers away.

“Oh boy!” yells Grouper.

Squid says nothing. Just sips his Thermos of coffee. He is frowning, his sunburned face illuminated by the instruments. He coughs like a smoker.

All of those people I’ve met over the last few years and all their stories disappear behind me in the churning wake of the boat as the lights from the shore dim and slide below the water in the distance. We are passing an outcropping of land. I catch a glimpse now and then. Houses and people waking. I’m not a sentimental man except when it comes to my dogs. I hope Hugh loves them like I did.

Thunder roils in the distance behind a clobbered electric cloud flecked with bursts of lightning. The smell of brine is strong, the waves frothy. The weather is much closer. My socks are wet. Should have worn better shoes.

I type these words you are reading right now into my iPhone. I am feeling a little sick with the motion and the small screen. I need to go. Amazingly I have one bar left on my service. I have no idea where I’m going. But that is where I am headed, no matter. Then I end with my name, like signing a vague contract for something I do not understand; perhaps something I wish I were not about to buy.

Thank you all for reading my stories. Maybe one day I will return.

Mike

I am about to hit the last button. If this rig goes down in the storm and you never hear from me again, enjoy a MoonPie and hug your dog.

SEND

{ NOTE:  Mike was last seen near Jamaica, so we’re told. And like him, MoonPie wants to thank you for reading his stories. }

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3 Responses to The Last MoonPie Mike Story

  1. Ron Carlucci says:

    Hoping that something fills this void on Tuesdays. Thanks for the stories, Mike.

  2. Connie Lee says:

    I enjoyed reading your down home country flavored stories every week. Good luck to you in whatever comes next. A fan from North Carolina.

  3. Lyndal Pleas says:

    I will miss you Mike! Have grown to love you and your stories. Good luck to you in whatever you endeavor!!