On our last day in southwestern Florida before heading across Alligator Alley for the east coast, Kelly decided to take the kids for a boat ride in the lake here. I’ve been coming down to Florida with Kelly since 2007 and we’ve never taken a boat ride in the lake, but it was on her mind to do this. She scheduled a time for 9 am and when the clock struck nine, all four of them were out the door for the short walk to the dock to board the small motorboat.
I used this time to start packing up the car. Hours wasted playing Tetris over the years finally paid off as I tried to fit boxes of varying sizes in such a way as to leave no gap of air. All of the Christmas presents had to fit in with the suitcases, and we still needed room in the cabin for everyone to sit comfortably. I changed the sheets on the bed. I started the final load of laundry. I listened to Gore Vidal rail against the American education system (circa 1983) while I did this.
Suddenly, the narrator’s voice was cut off and my phone began to ring. It was Kelly. They hadn’t made to too far into the lake when their small motor had become tangled with a underwater cable that anchored a fountain. Said fountain was not operating at the moment, but would be starting via automatic timer in 15 or 20 minutes. This I had to see. Kelly had already called her mom, who in turn called the office at the club house who in turn called Franklin, the person who helps with the boats. I put all thoughts of the American education system, luggage Tetris, and laundry aside and rushed out of the house to see the spectacle.
I didn’t have to go far. From the lakeside, I called to Kelly and the kids and they waved back. They were maybe ten feet from the fountain, which loomed like a volcano about to erupt. Franklin was visible on the dock, calling across the water that he’d be there momentarily. Meanwhile, a crowd was beginning to gather. Kelly’s mom followed me and watched in amusement as Kelly and the kids sat there, helpless, in the middle of the placid lake. A couple who had been walking on the path around the lake taking photos of spider webs stopped to ask what was going on. A mother and daughter on bikes paused as well. If any of these lookiloos had been two or three decades younger, you yourself might be able to see these events unfold on TikTok.
As we stood there watching Franklin row out to the rescue, I mentioned to Kelly’s mom that, knowing Kelly, once her motor was untangled she would continue on her way, undaunted, rather than turn back to the docks and call it a day. It took only a few minutes for Franklin to release the motor from its trap, and when the moment arrived, there were cheers from the shoreline crowd. Franklin announced that this was the first time in four years he’d ever seen this happen. Kelly’s mom told the crowd that she’d lived her for twenty years and had never seen a motor boat get snared like this.
Franklin helped raise the motor a bit and get it started again. Then he rowed back to the docks. Kelly nosed the boat in the opposite direction, determined to continue her morning regatta.
As they departed toward the sunrise, I cupped my hands around my mouth and shouted, “Steer clear of the fountains.”
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