OK, quit bugging me. I'll tell you what happened in the canoe. I frankly don't know why we can't just leave this alone and move on, but whatever. You beat it out of me.
It had been a grand morning on Malaga Island. The rains were over and the sun beat down. Birds chirped. Butterflies flitted. I think some guy was sitting on a rock and playing a violin, a solitary tear rolling down his cheek or something. Postcard stuff.
By noon it was time to go and there was a lot of boat shuffling. The high school kids were rafted out to the big boat and floated away. I kept waiting for a giant squid to pounce from the depths and eat them, but that kind of thing never happens when you expect it.
It was my time to leave Malaga. Corey and I had boated over with Island Steward Amanda Devine, but Amanda had to stay behind to establish a new society or something. It's all very hush-hush. We were welcomed to her canoe, however, and after final goodbyes were uttered, we set off on the long, 10-minute journey back to the mainland.
We shoved off, paddles cutting water like so many explorers before us. The day was perfect, sunny and warm. The sea was calm. Somewhere in the distance, a dogfish barked.
And then we started spinning in circles. Or maybe parabolas. I'm not sure. All I know is that my end of the boat was heading north, and then suddenly east, then south, then west. Eventually, it started heading north again and we'd paddle on a few minutes before the whole thing started again.
My initial thought was that we had entered a whirling vortex, possibly one that would spin us into another dimension. But when Corey asked me about it, I kept that to myself.
"Why are we spinning in circles?" she asked.
"Technical boat maneuver. Reduces wind resistance or something. Just keep paddling," I told her.
We kept paddling. And half a minute later, the canoe was spinning again.
"I don't think it's supposed to do that," Corey said with womanly alarm.
"Nonsense. Just keep paddling. You want to sing a song? 'Show me the way to go home. I'm tired and I wanna go to ...'"
Corey didn't want to sing a song. She doesn't swim so well, and freak occurrences in the water make her uneasy. Me, I was more than happy to ignore the problem.
Devine and the others were watching from the island banks. They were shouting something, probably to the effect of: "You're spinning in circles, you damn fool."
I just smiled and waved. Had a great time! Write if you find work! Au revoir and stuff!"
The boat spun in another circle, this time threatening to crash us back onto the island, maybe a hundred feet from where we'd shoved off. I've watched dozens of seafaring movies and I've never once seen a boat twirl like that. Not even during the worst of it in "A Perfect Storm." Even when they were drunk and being chased by the shark, the boys of the Orca never spun in circles.
"Something's wrong," Corey cried, her voice getting louder with each new syllable.
Here's a little something about my character. If it had been just me, I would have continued toward the mainland, enduring those parabolas (or whatever) every two minutes or so. It might have taken me three hours to reach shore, but by God, I would've gotten there. And when I arrived to questions from salty veterans of the sea, I would have had answers for them. You know, I'd had three hours to think of them.
"What, that? Just working on my tan, brothers and sisters of the sea. Spinning in circles is a great way to get even coverage. Yup. Old seafaring trick. I'm surprised you people don't know about it. Say, does anybody know where I can go to throw up for about an hour?"
Not Corey, though. She was less worried about things like shame and more worried about things like drowning. Every time we'd spin in another circle, she'd cry out like a night heron with a kidney stone.
"WHAT'S GOING ON? WHY ARE WE STILL SPINNING! ARE WE GOING TO DIE?"
Eventually, she caught the attention of other boaters, some of them up to 10 miles away. Ahead of us, seasoned pro Rich Knox had been paddling back to the mainland as well. Now he steered his own canoe back in our direction. Didn't spin in a single circle. It was very impressive.
"Head to the side of the island," he shouted to us. "I'll get you turned around."
I tried to dismiss him with another smile and a wave. Everything's fine over here! Just getting my tan on! But Corey would have none of it. A minute later, we were doing the canoe shuffle. Rich hopped out of his boat, turning it over to another guy. He then hopped into ours and took a quick inventory.
"Ah. Here's your problem. You've got the canoe backwards."
Corey, in the lead, was actually in the back of the canoe. Bringing up the rear, I was actually in the front. It's all very technical. The mathematical formula involves a lot of Xs and squiggly symbols.
So, Rich got us turned around and steered us back to the mainland. By this point, the best I could do was try to downplay the embarrassing affair with clever distraction.
"Sure is some weather we're having. Say. Where does sea salt come from? Holy moly! Is that a mermaid?"
Corey wasn't having any of that, either. All she wanted to talk about was how we had been riding backward in a canoe and how we surely would have ended up in Guam if we had not been saved.
"I CAN'T BELIEVE WE WERE GOING BACKWARD!" she cried about 60 times. In Rockland, 80 miles away, a fisherman nodded knowingly.
So, that's the story of how we got off Malaga Island: backward and in circles. I'm not going to offer any lame excuses for my nautical err, but I have it on good authority that spinning in eccentric circles was exactly how Ponce de Leon discovered Florida. And you just know that as he did so, the lovely Mrs. de Leon was sitting in the front of the boat (which was actually the back of the boat) screaming at the top of her lungs and embarrassing poor Ponce in front of his sea mates.
We seafaring folks have suffered mightily. It's all part of the long process of discovery.
Mark "Eddy" LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer for whom spinning backward in a vortex is not a metaphor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.