The stinging chill of the night air cut through my alpaca wind breaker like a Frenchman on a mo-ped, splitting lanes through rush hour traffic as I reached for another fag. The distant, muted cacophony of the surf beyond the jetty, the pungent fragrance of the tailings of yesterday's catch, and the oddly diffuse brilliance of a full moon peering down through a meandering marine layer all conspired to set the mood—a doleful, introspective kind of mood.
Not the kind of mood you get while watching kids injure one another with a baseball bat at a bar mitzvah in hopes of maximizing their haul on the proceeds of a freshly cracked pinata.
Nor was it like the mood induced by being thrown clear of the wreckage of your '72 Plymouth Fury as it rolls down a 90-meter cliff due to an unusually soft shoulder and the lack of a suitable guard rail. In that case all you can wonder is, who's to blame… yourself, or some county engineer who clearly blew chunks on his loads calculations? Or was it the fault of your mechanic, who forgot to put fluid back in after purging your brake system earlier that day?
But standing there on the pier, I knew whose fault it was, and I didn't like it one bit. Pondering the deeper mysteries of life, I stood there, frozen in time, for what seemed like seconds. My mind began to wander as I reached for the lighter inside my trench coat pocket… "If I lit this lighter right now with it still in my pocket, and set my coat on fire, I could just put it out by jumping off this pier… and why is it called a trench coat?" I always wondered that.
Just then I heard a noise. Immediately recognizing it as something I'd never heard before, I ignored it, my attention being diverted to the fact that my left foot had become caught under the mooring rail and that, unable to step forward to catch my balance, I was now fast-tracked into an unscheduled meeting with Deep Blue—and I don't mean for a game of chess.
"Whoa, there, partner," came a voice out of nowhere, along with a stabilizing hand on my shoulder. "However bad it is, it can't be that bad. You don't wanna do that."
Quickly discerning the metaphysical connection between the eerily calming and friendly, yet strangely disturbing voice and the steady hand on my shoulder, I spun around like a dervish on a crowded dance floor thinking he'd just heard the voice of his late grandmother from across the room.
"Nah, I wasn't gonna jump on purpose," I calmly explained as I surveyed the man, taking note of the fact that he was wearing a dry suit that was wet on the inside—so full of what I believed to be water, in fact, that the legs and boots bulged, giving rise to the aforementioned hitherto unrecognized sound.
"The name's Garry," said the stranger. "Strange mood out here tonight, huh?"
"Strange, indeed," I replied. "Strange, indeed."
"By the way," he said, "your trench coat's on fire."