The sun shone hot as a lizard’s heat lamp on Carol Meaford’s neck while she worked away tirelessly in her garden. “I cannot wait to be out of this place, it’s too hot. Always sunny – why did I bother moving out here,” Carol asked herself as she proceeded to rip weeds from the overgrown beds at the front of her simple home.
Carol had been planning a trip from her Arizona home to visit the West Coast; more specifically to visit the rain. Carol thought back to when she had planned her trip. Carol told her travel agent she wanted to go be where the rain was, just not a rainforest – too many dangerous things could happen there to her, thought Carol. Carol was terrified of danger and things that went unplanned. When things did not go according to schedule, Carol was not a happy individual. Carol’s trip was something she had begun planning long before her meeting with her travel agent, Angela. Carol has researched where she would sleep, where she would eat, where she would visit, what she would visit and at what time all these carefully articulated activities would take place.
Angela had asked Carol what had brought her into the travel agency several weeks back, assuming Carol wanted a bright, sunny trip somewhere tropical like Barbados or Puerto Rico. When Angela presented this idea to Carol, she immediately reeled back in her chair crying out, “Warm and sunny! You have got to be kidding me! I would like you to book me a trip out West, particularly to somewhere in Washington State, like Seattle. I watched that movie Sleepless in Seattle, I think I could like that city.”
“Well, if that is what you want, then that is what you will get”.
And here, Carol sat, several months after that conversation took place with Angela, not knowing what to expect. “I best be on my way – finishing my last minute packing,” Carol muttered to herself. Her taxi for the airport would be at her doorstep in only a few hours.
The next few hours flew by her in a flurry of events. From the time the taxi arrived at her front doorstep to the time Carol stepped off the plane on the West Coast, she had encountered enough uncomfortable, unfamiliar situations to last her a lifetime.
“Carol, Carol Meaford?” called out a low, gruff yet seemingly rugged voice from beyond the baggage claim.
“Um, yes, yes that’s me,” Carol replied timidly, almost completely forgetting that Angela had arranged a tour guide for her.
Just then a handsome man, who appeared to be in his mid-fifties, came into Carol’s line of sight. His hair was lightly dusted with a salt and pepper colouring with a short beard to match.
“Well, my golly, Angela never told me I’d be showing around such a beautiful young woman! My name is Richard, Richard Dowling. And how do you do Miss Meaford?” exclaimed Richard.
Carol blushed for the first time in a long time. Who was this man dressed in all plaid, holding just a coffee cup in his one hand and a sign with her name on it in the other? Was this how all of Washington’s residents reacted to visitors? “I am very well thank you,” replied Carol, somewhat coolly due to her uncertainty with her newfound enthusiastic friend.
“Are you ready for an adventure” Richard questioned Carol.
“Well I had better be, hadn’t I? I don’t seem to have much of a choice, do I now?” Carol said, almost to herself since Richard had her bags in hand already and was halfway out the airport’s glass doors.
The next morning Carol woke up the sound of birds singing. To most, that sound is pleasant, something one looks forward to each morning, but to Carol it meant one thing; it was a sunny, bright day. Carol had come to the West Coast to avoid the sunshine and the singing birds and the cheeriness that the birds brought with them. “Why can’t it just rain right now! I thought Angela said this was the rainy season,” groaned Carol, as she pulled the fluffy hotel duvet cover over her messy, curly bed-head.
Just then, Carol heard a knock on her door. “Who is it,” Carol called out, thinking it odd that someone was calling on her so early in the morning.
“Rise and shine miss, it’s Richard! Are you ready for your first day on the West Coast. I’ve made sure you have a fun filled, adventurous itinerary,” Richard called out, nearly shouting right through Carol’s door.
“Who comes and wakes someone up so early,” Carol mumbled, glancing over at the alarm clock realizing it was already almost ten o’clock. “Oh, well I will just need a few minutes, where exactly are we going?” Carol hollered back, hating all these surprises her trip had brought thus far.
“Oh, I think you’ll like it Miss Carol, it’s bound to be a mighty bunch of fun!” Richard hollered back. Carol could almost hear the smile in his voice.
“Okay, be out in a moment!” Carol climbed out of her bed reluctantly picking up the hotel’s complimentary plush, white bathrobe and shrugging it on heading to the shower. “Well, this is bound to be interesting. I hope it does rain soon though,” Carol muttered to herself as she locked the door behind her.
Within fifteen minutes Carol was showered, dressed, and her hair half-combed sitting in a low knot on the nape of her neck.
“Time to tackle the day!” Richard said as Carol was just finishing exiting her hotel room door.
“Where are we going?” asked Carol, sparing little time in trying to decipher where her upbeat tour guide was taking her.
“Well, I thought I’d show you around, you know. Maybe treat you to some of the local flavour,” Richard stated as the pair began to make their way down the hotel’s hall.
“Local flavour?” Carol thought to herself, this did not sound very promising – there would be too much risk involved in meeting up with locals or even just “hanging out” at their small, hole-in-the-wall hideaways. That was not something Carol had ever taken much interest in. Carol had always preferred to spend her time in well-established, recognized establishments, not eating street meat off of a cart featured on a television program like “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”. The unknown was not something Carol enjoyed, nor something she allowed often to infiltrate into her daily routine.
“Well you’ve been quiet for an awful long time now, everything alright Miss Carol?” asked Richard, who seemed a little upset to Carol about her lackluster enthusiasm about the day he had planned for her.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Carol apologized as she realized she had wandered off in her own mind allowing twenty silent minutes to pass between her and Richard.
“No need to be sorry, Miss Carol, we’re here!” Richard stated as they walked right in front of a bustling market. “Pike’s Market! Let’s dive right in, you ready Miss Carol?”
Before Carol even had time to answer Richard had begun to wade his way through the crowd of people to the overcrowded marketplace. The stench of raw fish hung in the air as Carol glanced over all the people moving about her. “Richard, wait for me,” Carol called out as she straightened herself up a little and immersed herself into the heart of the market.
As Carol hurried after Richard into the busy market her eyes couldn’t help but to glance in every direction. The vibrant colours and sounds seemed as if they were leaping towards her like frogs in early spring showers. The smell of fish seemed to be subsiding and blending with the scent of fresh cut flowers, of deep-fried donuts and unfamiliar spices. Carol stood amazed, taking in all the sites that were laid out right before her. Having never been to a market before, obviously much too dangerous and risky of a place for someone like Carol to have ever ventured, she was a bit awestruck by everything that was happening.
“Come on Miss Carol, keep up!” bellowed Richard, who had turned around.
Spotting Richard several paces ahead of her, Carol quickly pushed her way through the crowd to reach him. Panic had began to set in now that the awe-filled moment had passed. “Is this place safe? Won’t we get pick-pocketed? What if I lose you? I don’t know where I am!” Carol spewed all of her comments and questions toward Richard at once in a quick breath.
“Well now, slow down there, Miss Carol! Don’t think for one second that I will let you get lost. A pretty thing like you can’t be alone out here, not with all these brazen fisherman, now can she?” Richard said to Carol as he shot her a wink.
Carol, blushing a second time since she had arrived in Washington, peered around the buzzing market staring at the vendors various carts along the long, covered aisle trying to take her mind off of Richard’s comments.
“Now don’t be shy when a man is just telling the truth, Miss Carol!”
“You can call me Carol. And I am not shy, I am merely observing what is happening around me. I’ve never seen a market like this – with all these people calling back and forth to each other, moving about so chaotically,” Carol shot back quite coolly.
“Well, we better get a move on then,” Richard replied brushing Carol’s cool comments off and making his way down the market’s main corridor.
As they passed Carol noticed the various items being sold at each cart; raw, freshly caught fish, jars of homemade jams and preserves, fresh cut flowers, different blends of spices, small, knit purses, and a table full of old, vintage-style jewelry. “My there are so many things that can be bought here, Richard, mind if we take a look?” Carol asked as she had already stopped, picking up a broach, examining it closely.
“No time for that Miss – I mean Carol, we are running behind as it is!”
“Running behind,” thought Carol, “ I thought this market was the plan. Where on earth is this man taking me!”
“Right ahead” Richard said, interrupting Carol’s thoughts and pointing to a dock that stretched just out the back of the market’s long hallway. “We’re going right there!”
And then Carol saw what Richard was pointing to – a large, fishing boat. “This does not look good, I do not like this. I do not like this at all.” Carol said out loud, although quietly to herself.
“I told you we were going on an adventure today, didn’t I Carol? You’re going to love it!” Richard cried it as he reached his hand out to Carol.
Reluctantly, Carol reached for Richard’s hand and made her way closer to the dock and the boat the loomed nearby.
As they walked closer to the boat, the knots in Carol’s stomach that had arrived the instant she stepped off the plane, starting tightening. “I don’t know if I want to go on a boat, what if something happens? I don’t have a life jacket, I don’t know how cold the water is, this is just bad. Bad all around,” Carol thought to herself. Richard seemed eager to reach the boat as quickly as he could. Carol slowed down her walking with each step creating more distance between Richard and herself with each step. Boats had never been something Carol had been fond of, even as a child. They did not bring the same excitement for her as they did other children. To Carol, boats were just floating cars. Equally as dangerous as a car, but this time there were added dangers; drowning, crashing, capsizing, even possible death by hypothermia if they fell in the water. “I came to Seattle for the rain. For the rain and the trees, not the boats and fish markets,” Carol told herself quietly, as if she was reassuring herself that this trip was not her own idea.
Just off in the distance of the harbour, Carol could see the ferries going back and forth across the harbour. “Those boats look much safer than what we’re going on,” Carol thought. “Richard, why can’t we go on a ferry?” Carol asked, looking skeptically to the rinky boat Richard was leading her towards.
“Ferry boat!” cried Richard. “Those are for amateurs, nothing more than a water taxi – my boat is where the real adventure happens!” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
“I just wanted a relaxing trip with some rain, not an episode from Gilligan’s Island” groaned Carol, as she hurried after Richard who had dropped Carol’s hand and bounded towards his boat. “Well, I better not get left behind,” Carol said as she reluctantly stepped aboard the swaying boat.
Over the next several minutes, Carol sat on one of the boat’s benches watching Richard untie several ropes, start up the engine, push the boat off of the dock and begin making his way into the bay.
“What makes you so afraid of boats, Miss uh, sorry Carol?” Richard asked.
“I never said I was afraid,” Carol retorted.
“You didn’t have to say anything! Your face is doing all the talking right now,” chortled Richard, steering the boat skilfully. “Are you not enjoying yourself?” Richard asked Carol in a low voice, seeming now to just realize his traveling companion was very hesitant about the whole day’s events thus far.
“I am having a fine time, Richard.” Carol replied, still keeping her gaze fixed on the water as if her own watchful eyes would protect her from any looming danger.
“Oh, okay good. Well, I just like to show people around Seattle – to show them the real Seattle! That’s how I got to doing this – travel agencies wanted a tour with some “local flair” or something like that, so I said I’m around, nothing to do with my day and here I am. Showing you around the lovely city of Seattle,” Richard explained maintaining a smile the whole time.
“Wonderful.” Carol said, only half-listening as the frightening images of drowning or crashing remained in the foreground of her mind.
“It still seems like you aren’t enjoying yourself. Angela said you were talkative, but all I see is a quiet woman in front of me.”
“I am enjoying myself, I just do not like boats. I’m not afraid of them, I just do not like them.”
“Well, why not Miss Car – Carol, what’s not to love? They can bring you to see a whole new side of life,” Richard stated as he pointed to Seattle’s skyline in the distance beyond Carol’s head.
“I don’t usually talk to strangers about things like this.” Carol replied, slightly uncomfortable now not only from the boat, but also from Richard’s probing questions.
“Oh, I’m sorry Carol, I didn’t mean to pry,” Richard said sheepishly, averting his eyes from her gaze.
“No, no it’s okay,” Carol answered, letting her guard down a little, “You meant no harm. I just do not like boats because I can’t control the outcome. I like to be in control of my surroundings. Also, I do not like this sun,” Carol said, shading her eyes from the blinding sunlight on the boat, as if she had just realized it had been shining all along. “Doesn’t it rain here all the time? I came for the rain.”
“Oh you just came during a dry spell, worst of luck Carol,” Richard explained. “So you like to be in control, makes sense. But doesn’t the idea of adventure intrigue you even a little? I mean – “.
Richard’s sentence was cut short but a loud scraping noise as the boat began to rock violently.
“Richard! What’s happening! What was that?” cried Carol, her eyes wide with fear. And just as the words had left Carol’s mouth, the boat began to sink, water rushing into the boat.
“Richard, why is the boat sinking! What is happening? What did you do? Did you hit something? What is going ON!” Carol shrieked, clutching the side of the boat for dear life and the boat sank deeper and deeper into the water.
“I , I don’t know. We must have hit something,” Richard spluttered.
“Well do something call someone!” Carol cried as the boat sank further and further into the water. “At least pass me a life jacket – you have those on here right?”
“Yes, here you go,” Richard said as he threw a jacket towards Carol. “Give me a moment, I’ll call the coast guard.”
“I knew I should have never come, I knew it.” Carol exclaimed, clutching her knees close to her chest.
“Look, here they come now!” Richard pointed to a boat coming closer to them.
“Just in time,” thought Carol as the boat was almost completely submerged and there was nothing left to hold on to.
“Hey, hey over here! Get her first,” Richard called to the coast guard.
“My name’s Tom,” called the coast guard who Carol noticed was much younger than both her and Richard, maybe in his mid-twenties, quite handsome in fact, Carol noted. “Grab my hand,” Tom said stretching out his tanned arm towards Carol.
“Thank you, thank you for saving us!” Carol gasped as she climbed into the coast guard’s boat. “Just take me to safety, please. I’ve had enough adventure for one day.”
Once on the boat, Carol noticed that Richard had becoming very quiet and solemn, nothing she had seen from him yet. That in itself made Carol uncomfortable since she only knew the smiling, sunny Richard, not a sad, desolate-looking Richard.”Maybe he’s missing his boat?” Carol thought to herself. “That would make me sad, losing something I enjoyed. If I lost some of my gardening tools, I’d be upset.” Carol’s thoughts were interrupted by the young Tom’s mindless chatter in the background.
“And that there, that’s the Space Needle. It’s pretty cool, first time I saw it I was probably nine, no I was ten, nope it was nine. Yah, nine, it was for a school trip. My mom loves it there, that was one of her favourite places to go. She loved it,” Tom stated matter-of-factly.
“Loved? As in past tense?” Carol asked, not very interested in Tom’s answer, but it would take her mind off of the fact that she was sailing back to shore after being in a boating accident.
“Yah, my mom passed away a couple years back,” Tom said as Carol noticed a hint of sadness in his voice.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Carol replied.
“It’s okay. It’s, it’s the past.” Tom said. “Well, here we are,” Tom replied as he guided the boat skilfully back into the harbour.
A team of people from the coast guard unit were waiting with blankets and hot drinks for Richard and Carol as they climbed off the boat. Carol had never been more happy to see strangers in her entire life.
“Well thank you, folks!” Richard said, as he reached out for a blanket and wrapped it around himself. His warm personality seemed to already be returning.
“Thank you,” Carol said as she passed a blanket and a drink. “And thank you,” she said turning to Tom. “I really appreciate you rescuing us.”
“No problem at all – just my job. But I gotta go, back to patrolling the harbour! See ya,” Tom called as he hopped back on the boat, preparing to head back to the open water.
“So, Carol,” Tom started, as the rest of the coast guard unit returned to their work, “Ready for the rest of our adventure?”
“What!” cried Carol, “You can’t be serious? That was terrifying, horrifying, nothing I ever would have wanted or planned in a trip. I’m ready to return to the safety of my home. There’s not even rain here!”
“Oh come on, that was just some fun Miss Car- Carol, I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself. I’ll find something safer to do – I’ll show you Seattle. I promise you’ll love it.” Richard replied, a wide smile spreading across his face.
Before Carol could even answer, she felt raindrops falling one by one out of the sky and right onto her face. “Maybe this trip isn’t a bust after all” thought Carol.