Prose Header

Storm Variations

by Mike Florian

Part 1 appears
in this issue.


Dr. Gladstone excused himself from the meeting. He walked out of the conference room, down the hallway, and to the elevators. Once on the ground floor, he stepped out into the sunshine. A strong, dry wind was in the air. He took off his tie, unbuttoned his shirt and breathed in the fresh air. He strode confidently to his car in the parking lot and hopped in, driving directly towards the beach. Only a few years ago he had played pick-up volleyball on that same stretch of sand. Now, he just wanted to remove his shoes and feel that sand on his bare feet.


Why did he do it? Aaron asked himself. One hour ago he had been basking in having protected his principal. Now the Exchange had halted trading. Sheer chaos. There was no comfort. Even if they opened trading again he couldn’t salvage his position. Bravely, he got up from the kitchen chair and clicked off the small, thin television set. In the hallway he put on his jacket and walked outside into the afternoon sunshine. The market is going to close soon anyway. He breathed in the fresh air.


Angela strolled slowly to the water. Cinder ran along the beach, anticipating the chase. He was a herding breed, smart and enthusiastic. Angela picked a small piece of worn, smooth, cedar bark and threw it into the swells, a few feet away. The dog easily retrieved it, deftly avoiding the crashing harbor waves. He dropped the piece of wood at Angela’s feet and asked for more. She threw it again.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw a lone bicyclist, all decked out in colorful spandex, pedaling his way on the road, parallel to the beach park. She turned back towards the water. The sailboat seemed closer. The dog barked, demanding more.


Matt knew he was in big trouble. The wall of water that seemed to have appeared from nowhere was almost on top of him. The gusts became a steady squall, approaching sixty or seventy knots. He had cut the crab-pot line loose and had climbed back aboard on the transom ladder. He stood soaking wet. The boat was free, but the rudder was jammed. It was too late to jump down again, and too dangerous. Justice heaved in the waves. The wall of water, at least four feet high, was coming on quickly. Matt let out a tiny triangle of a sail from the roller furling. Maybe it will be enough to stabilize the boat when it hits.


Bill drove his car away from the downtown core and westward along the harbor causeway and out to Jericho beach. On this Wednesday afternoon the traffic was sparse. He took the proper exit and drove the speed limit within the park. A gaggle of bicyclists were weaving their way up a hill, a group of men and women in their thirties. They looked fit.

He reminisced once more, and parked in one of the numerous lots that served the beach area. He wasn’t alone. A woman near the water was playing with her dog. He saw a sailboat in the distance, not too far off the shallow sand bar. Bill knew the area well. He had raced dinghies there as a youth and was as comfortable on the water as he was in a boardroom.

A white wall of water stood out plainly from the waves. It seemed to be moving towards the beach. He stepped out of his car and walked down onto the warm sand. He left his shoes and socks on the passenger seat.


Aaron walked out of his condo building, and made a beeline towards the beach, just to the north. It was a warm, blustery day. He picked up an afternoon coffee and tried to forget the painful slide of the stock market. Once at the beach he saw a white boat very close, in by the shallows. It didn’t seem right. There were two other people standing by the water, a man in a suit with no shoes and a woman and her dog. Both were now watching the obviously foundering boat. Aaron fingered his cell phone.


The wall of water was still coming at Matt. He thought there was almost an imperceptible diminishing of the wind, but the gauge showed otherwise. Behind the onrush were two or three williwaws. The water and the williwaws hit simultaneously, knocking down the Justice. The mast and boom were in the water. The williwaws passed through the boat and Matt felt a chill, the violence of the wind taking his breath away. As he struggled his way in the rigging, he saw figures on the beach at the water’s edge. He expected to be there shortly.


Angela almost screamed when she saw the wind and the small tornado-like spouts of water come bearing down on the beach. She was frantically calling for Cinder who continued to swim out towards the stick she had finally managed to throw a proper distance. She watched in horror as she saw the small sailboat go over onto its side. The lone occupant was climbing the rigging and hanging on for his life. “Cinder,” she yelled, and the dog turned with the driftwood in its mouth.


Aaron ran down to the water’s edge to watch the phenomenon. He heard the woman frantically screaming for her dog. He saw the boat tip over. It didn’t capsize but for a few seconds it lay on its side. With his running shoes on he stepped into the water as if he could do something and help the man on the boat.

He turned towards the woman and heard her say, “Good dog, Cinder, good dog,” as her blue-gray colored dog came to her. Instantly, the cold arctic-like wind hit the beach head on. Aaron leaned into the gust. The boat slowly righted itself.


Bill Gladstone knew what was happening. He saw the williwaws and hoped that the boat would survive. On the way from downtown he had heard something on the radio about an unusual weather pattern. At the time he hadn’t paid attention; he was too busy thinking about his own life and direction.

He walked barefoot towards the water. Like the other two at the water’s edge he stood and watched. He braced himself for the high-speed gust that was coming towards them at eighty miles per hour. It hit like a slap in the face and then was gone. He turned and saw the woman crouching, protecting her dog. He saw the second man in the windbreaker taking it full on with a smile on his face.


As quickly as it had come, the hurricane-force gust abated. In less than a minute, within the confines of this harbor surrounded by mountains, the sea became flat. The sun came out and the clouds opened. Matt sat becalmed, his rudder in a fix. With his thoughts crystallizing into action, he grabbed his knife from the scabbard and jumped over the side once more. Under the water he cut the crab line and freed the rudder.

Surfacing, Matt climbed the transom ladder and sat in the teak-lined cockpit. He turned on the ignition and steered Justice out and away from trouble. An ever so gentle rub of the keel against the soft sand of the shallows signaled the luck he had had that sunny afternoon.


Angela protected herself and Cinder from the wind’s landfall. The waves rounded themselves to a standstill. She got up from her crouched position and snapped a leash on Cinder in case anything happened again. Looking away from the sea, away from the picture of the sailboat that brought her there in the first place, she turned and walked towards the causeway. A figure, pushing a road bike, was walking towards her. She heard the clickety-clack of the man’s shoes. When she squinted and shielded her eyes, she saw it was her husband.


Aaron stood at the edge of the beach looking out at the white sailboat, now upright and shining in the sun. He looked at the stranger to his right. The man had a Blackberry phone to his ear. “No I’ll be gone until Monday,” Aaron heard him saying. The man in the suit finished the call and pocketed the phone.

“Interesting experience,” said Aaron.

“It’s something that’s very rare in these parts,” the man answered. “I see our friend out there survived.”

“Wasn’t that something?” asked Aaron. “He’s lucky he didn’t lose the boat.”

“A few more feet and he would be high and dry,” said the man in the suit.


Angela’s husband laid down his bike in the grass by the beach. He was pleased to see her. He was finishing his ride when he saw the strange wind on the water. He saw his wife and Cinder crouching. Serendipity, he thought. He walked up to her, put his arms around her and told her how nice and unexpected it was to see her. She glowed in his embrace.

As they made their way out of the park, Angela looked back at the sailboat. She saw the two men standing at the edge of the sand, talking. She turned and squeezed her husband’s waist.


Bill Gladstone saw the stranger approach him. They conversed about the sailboat and the storm. He was pleasant enough, Bill thought. Then the stranger asked him: “Would you mind very much looking at that phone of yours and seeing how the market did this morning?”

Bill was obviously puzzled but took out his Blackberry and accommodated the request. He clicked on the New York Times icon that he used as his portal. He scrolled down to the Business icon and then to Markets. It showed down twelve points at the close. “Down twelve,” he answered.

The stranger thanked him. “Not too bad for a volatile day,” he said. “Much appreciated,” he continued. “Interesting experience all around. Have a good day.”

Bill nodded. The man, with a windbreaker slung over a shoulder, walked towards the townhouses. Bill took one last look at the sailboat and the lone sailor that had just been kissed by lady luck. Maybe a bit of that would rub off on him, Bill thought. With a lighter gait, he walked towards his car. The sand felt good between his toes.

Copyright © 2012 by Mike Florian

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