The Isabella Rocks
There’s a nice place on the North Shore of Lake Superior that they call Isabella. The mist forms over the bay every morning here, covering the rocks and the bottom twenty feet of the lighthouse on the other side of it.
People come to Isabella to sit in the restaurant and paint the bay, and often they become interested in the bearded gentleman who sits on the large broken stones by himself in the early parts of the morning.
The bartender doesn’t have the answer. That’s usually where people start asking. If they’re drunk enough late in the evening, a couple of them have occasionally remembered to ask some of the locals.
I’m one of the locals and I don’t have the answer. None of us just go out there and ask.
Well, not none of us. Butch and Sundance, the bartenders, dared someone to go.
I was happy to have the excuse. I’d wanted to go out there but I didn’t have any real reason to fallback on.
It takes forever and a half to get all the way to the other side of the bay on foot, it doesn’t look that far away when you’re always driving the distance or gazing at it from a terrace, drinking bourbon.
He didn’t look like he noticed me or cared to take a good look at me as I approached, which only made me more fearful. Maybe he really was crazy, or just completely apathetic.
When I arrived on the large stones, it took a minute or two to navigate to where he was. They were slick from the rain and I needed my hands for support.
When I got there, he shocked me slightly by scooting over, as if to offer me a seat after my long journey. I suppose he probably was looking and aware of my approach the entire time, but just chose not to stare impolitely.
Sitting next to someone you don’t know for a long time, with no apparent activity, gets a little awkward. I didn’t really think ahead, it was way too early to be thinking ahead.
I stole a look at him before I started talking. He had a strong exterior, worn down by the decades of hard work. I didn’t know what he did for a living, I just knew what weathered hands looked like.
I inhaled, preparing to introduce myself and explain what I was doing out there, when he beat me to it.
He spoke slowly. “One day, I dropped the plates.”
I’m sure I looked puzzled, for indeed I was.
“The plates shattered of course. Plates shatter when you drop them,” he explained. “We didn’t have any plates left, no money either, to get anything else. I had half a bottle of school glue, so I used it.”
He and I chuckled for a moment, but tears that weren’t the happy kind were forming in the corners of his eyes.
“It didn’t help. Glue got all over our dinner. Would’ve been better for my wife and children to eat straight from the pot.”
I nodded. I didn’t speak.
“I didn’t know how to make it better, so I made it worse. I just—” his voice broke. “I had to do— something.”
“It’s hard, sometimes, to allow your life to be a mess,” I added.
“Yes,” he agreed. “The rocks are far away from my life. I can’t see the mess from here.”
I understood. He knew I understood, so he didn’t ask.
“One day, I dropped the plates on purpose. I wanted to see how they’d shatter. I enjoyed it,” I said. “I’d always planned to fix the plates one day, but it turns out you can’t really fix plates once they break.”
“Tell me about it.”
“It’s tough to live in the life you’ve created for yourself,” I continued, my throat getting tighter. “I often wish I could run away from my life. Leave it on the floor and just come sit here on the rocks, where I can’t see it.”
“But you can see it,” he deduced. “Even from here.”
“Yeah. I sure can.”
“What are you going to tell those idiots up there on the terrace?” He asked, nodding toward the restaurant.
“That you’re sitting here because you broke the plates,” I answered.
“Should be fun,” he said, smiling.
“Well, I think every once in a while I should have some.”
“Whiskey, on the rocks,” he suggested. “That should drive them nuts trying to figure that one out.”
“His life is on the rocks,” I spun off.
“Hey, we’re both on these rocks, buddy.”
We laughed. The boys on the terrace didn’t think it was so funny.
Logan Cox is a young writer currently living in the south of Spain. His work currently appears in the online journals Flash Fiction Magazine and Maudlin House, with forthcoming work set to appear in Beyond Words Literary Magazine. He can most often be found among his family, arguing the rules of in-home game show play.