By Greg Spracklin

Posted on

I drove to the Skyway when I lost my job and I got pulled over for speeding on my way there. When the officer gave me the ticket and told me to drive more carefully, I nodded and called him sir with no sarcasm whatsoever. When he drove past me to continue south on I-275, I crumpled the ticket and tossed it into the back seat.

I pulled off at the pier. I got out and I opened the trunk and got out my rod, bucket and tackle box. I took off my tie and tossed it in the trunk before I slammed it shut. I felt the sun warming my face as I walked slowly toward the bait shop. I would shut my eyes when I walked and tilt my head up at the sky to feel how lovely the sun felt instead of fluorescent light. Sunlight has been proven to be good for your health and office lights drain your soul (not proven). When I got to the counter of the bait shop, I handed the man in the window four dollars and picked out a dozen shrimp from the tank on the side of the building. With my rod, tackle box and full bucket, I walked slowly toward the end of the walking pier. I passed a few men fishing for their dinner, assuring myself that if Grace and I couldn’t afford red meat or Chipotle for dinner I could always steal a couple shrimp and pull up a fat snook. I passed children that ran in circles along the pier vying in vain for attention that the fishes were hoarding. There was a man in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank and without any fishing gear, watching the sun stretch before setting – his view between planks in the railing.

I found my spot between the children and the meal-seekers and put my bucket on the ground and reached into my tackle box for a hook. I tied it tightly and hooked my first shrimp right behind the brain through the thickest part of the shell.

After piercing the shell, I heard a screech and a thud, and then a quiet after the thud like the world was taking a big breath. I saw the shadow over my head, then a blue sedan flying through the air and into the water. It made a wide splash and landed right side up and for a second the car looked like it would just keep driving on the water. It bobbed there for a split-second and then started to sink.

We were at least a mile away from mainland and I’ve never pretended to be good at guessing anything. But I figured it would sink and the driver would drown if they were still alive.

I’ve been told (by several people with little to no authority) that drowning is a very peaceful way to die. These people tried to convince me that the drownee simply passes out from a lack of oxygen and never wakes up. I would argue that the passing out would not be the part that determines the shittiness of dying like that. There’s a panic-mode that I think I’d hit where I would realize I wouldn’t be able to breathe again. I would go through a quick list of things I could do to escape and breathe again. And then I would run faces and places through my mind that I’d never see again. I’ve never cried underwater, but it’s all salt water anyway and I’d probably be passed out before I could add anything to the Gulf of Mexico.

I put my rod down and climbed the railing and dove into the water. The pier was higher up than I had thought, and I put my hands out in front of the crown of my head to break the water. My head smacked the surface loudly and when I came up for air the light was reflecting off of the gulf so brightly that I lost sight of the car. I caught a glimpse of the car’s roof before it sank underneath the surface. The car was sending up bubbles like a smoke signal and I swam a good distance before I reached the source. I took a deep breath and I dove.

When I came up fruitless after the first dive, the setting sun lit up the pier from which I dove and I could see everyone looking and pointing and I could hear them shouting. I could see the man in the wheelchair pointing between the planks of the railing but he wasn’t saying anything.

The second time I dove, I took a moment to slow my breathing before going under. I took several deep breaths and went down as fast as I could with my eyes open and the car was not as deeply submerged as I’d thought. The glowing red brake lights were my guide and I kicked down to the bottom. I saw her.

She looked so calm through the window and she wasn’t even trying to open the door and her seat belt was on. I was running out of breath and I was beginning to panic. I was yanking on the handle and it wouldn’t open and the woman did nothing but blink at me. I yanked a few more times and fruitlessly punched the window. I screamed my last breath for her to get out and she blinked again and slowly closed her eyes. I kicked off the bottom and felt like my chest was going to explode out of anger and confusion and a lack of oxygen. And then I was so fucking mad when I broke the surface.

Greg Spracklin