A thin old man sitting on a bench calls me over. His eyes say he’s on something more potent than his coffee that’s half gone. Pointing at the Navy Aviation Park, he proudly says he’s listed on one of the monuments. He states his name but too quickly for me to grasp and maybe his service number as if he were a POW. I expect a story or two, at least the name of the carrier or aircraft model he manned, but his health is top priority. His speech is herky-jerky. The docs patched a hole in his stomach. They removed the organ to perform the procedure then put it back. “As if an inner tube,” he adds, pointing to a fancy mountain bike passing. He nods off and I bid him good luck. My eyes catch a woman whose long bouncing ponytail is made jauntier by the lift of its base in the taut gap of a bright yellow baseball cap. She isn’t just trotting or jogging, she’s running full blast. A couple of strings strung on her bra straps and fancy kites would frolic even on the calmest of days and perhaps launch a new fad. A man crazy for a snapshot stumbles. Teen skateboarders are airborne and giddy hoping to impress her. A Navy ship is passing. Pieces from a shipwreck, Francisco Bella Gamba languish next to the Old Coast Guard Station. Gulls flap over three or four dolphins enjoying breakfast. The horse corral near King Neptune’s statue is empty but the sign remains: $30 per half hour ride. The swift harrier’s mane will do us just fine. Is she training for a marathon? I once knew someone who did. She invoked the aid of Atalanta, the Greek Goddess of running who sailed on the Argo searching for the Golden Fleece. The sun contains a wealth of gold, scientists say. A fellow wearing a pith helmet steps off the boardwalk carrying a metal detector and I wonder if he’s ever found a wedding ring. Jets from the Oceana Naval Air Station roar and soar overhead. The former pilot is startled out of his nap. He shields his eyes trying to catch sight of one. The sun is no friend to a fighter pilot I know but he’s at the beach, in one piece and his name on a brass plaque is as good as a vault chuck full of doubloons.
Thomas M. McDade is a 76-year-old resident of Fredericksburg, VA, previously CT & RI. He is a graduate of Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT. McDade is twice a U.S. Navy Veteran serving ashore at the Fleet Anti- Air Warfare Training Center, Dam Neck Virginia Beach, VA, and at sea aboard the USS Mullinnix (DD-944) and USS Miller (DE / FF-1091).