The Last Word

The Last WordSearching for the Garden of Eden in the Gulf of MexicoNot Quite Paradise Found, Just a Boatload of Embarrassment

By Janett L. Grady 

During a recent stay with my daughter Jeannie and her family, not far from Tallahassee, my son-in-law apparently thought I was bored.

“Why don’t you guys go out on the water?” he said. “Load up the outboard and cruise around. It’ll give you a chance to be alone.”

Fine with me. I was far from being bored, but I figured it might be fun talking to my daughter in private, and I could always use a little time in the great outdoors.

My daughter’s home is what most of us would call a mansion, a castle on a hill overlooking the mighty Gulf, so we didn’t have far to go, just down a wooden staircase to the boathouse. Jeannie and I filled a cooler with ice and beer and took off.

All this is a long way of saying I was more than a little surprised when Jeannie and I suddenly found ourselves sharing the deep blue sea with two others trying to be alone, a young couple who apparently thought they had found the Garden of Eden.

They were completely naked, in a canoe and coming our way as we motored around a bend along the shoreline. As soon as we saw them, Jeannie cut the engine. The couple quickly turned their craft to hide themselves, but Jeannie loudly assured them we were looking the other way.

When such a situation occurs, the polite and decent thing to do, of course, is either to let them paddle by while you look at the scenery, or gun the engine and speed up until you’re out of sight. But my daughter and I have never been known for being overly polite.

“You’re not alone out here,” I blurted out. “You’re lucky we didn’t bring the kids.”

The couple had grabbed their shorts from around their necks and were trying to pull them on as quickly as they could without tipping over. Frankly, they looked a little silly trying to accomplish this feat.

“It’s alright,” said Jeannie, “there’re no kids … and we’re not offended.”

That’s when it dawned on me that they were more than likely feeling embarrassed because I was reminding them of their mothers, or grandmothers. I thought of saying something motherly about common decency, but decided against it; I figured, why bother, they were already getting dressed.

“I’m sorry, ladies,” the young man said as he pulled on his shorts. “I just got back from Iraq. We’re on our honeymoon and we thought we’d be the only ones out here, and it’s such a nice day, and … .”

“Hey don’t worry about it,” Jeannie cut in. “We were young once too, you know, and besides, we’ve seen it before.”

We all tried laughing at that, and I thought the couple might relax and stop being in such a panic trying to cover themselves.

But no.

They each yanked a jersey out of the pocket of their shorts and pulled it on. Their jerseys read United States Navy. They were now completely decent, including the woman (who was quite attractive, I might add), and paddled around us smiling and waving their goodbyes. Jeannie started the outboard and we continued our cruise along the shoreline.

Later that evening, as Jeannie and I were securing the boat, I couldn’t keep myself from wishing we hadn’t broken up the spell of the couple’s enchanted day on the water.

It was good to have learned, though, that our young people are still basically decent … a bit careless about keeping their clothes on, perhaps, but decent.

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