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Monday, Aug. 15, 2005
What’s it been, ten days since the last update?

Been too hot to blog, I tell ye.

Actually, I didn’t want to commit anything to print until we’d checked out the quasi-retirement house linked in the previous one. I was all set to return triumphant, a fistful of contract documents clenched high in my victorious (albeit dripping with sweat) paws.

Let’s review.

Wanting a freehold in the woods, Outfoxed cast a long shadow on the real estate websites featuring notable swampland properties. Cheap ones got favorable treatment. The state of NC even more so. Cheap, NC properties with a functional (if non-electrified) workshop? Close to a bass lake of sound reputation? It was starting to look less like a real estate listing and a great deal more like . . . destiny. On Saturday, the parties that be managed to settle on a time and off to the races went Ally and I.

I’d love to tell a tale about winding tobacco roads and realtors with a twang, about salt and fresh water within a stones throw of each other. Those cool Carolina skiffs slicing through a perfectly flat Albermarle Sound, a burnt red arm effortlessly rolling a steering wheel to and fro. About a McD’s breakfast and how $50 worth of gas is barely worth the effort in a big V-8 anymore.

But there was this bridge, you see.


To get to the middle of nowhere requires, in this case, to cross the aforementioned Albermarle, and it’s pretty darn wide, a couple of miles or more. A bridge was provided for this very purpose, two lanes wide and hovering over the water some ten feet until the middle of the Sound, where it rose up sharply, peaked, and dropped off again. All the better for the barges and tall ships that ply this route. A modern and startlingly white concrete affair it is. I was humming across, happy for the moderate shoulders so that I could keep an eye on those bums fortunate lads below, standing tall in skiffs, one rod in hand and another at the transom, willing a red drum to strike with little more for faith than the goodness of the day and the flesh of a squid tucked on a hook, neatly.

I get tunnel vision like that, even on a bridge. Grinning behind blue shades, heading for a destiny, watching others fish. And noting Ally, her hand shading her eyes and looking rather distractedly toward the floor.

“Whattsa matter,” I quizzed. “Sun a little strong for you out here? Ooooh, that dude just got a hit.”

“Um, no. Not that bad.”

“Headache?”

“Uh uh.” She was squirming in the seat, eyes nearly closed.

Hurry up and reel, you numbskull. Nice, feet planted, tip up. Wish he’d get on with it, I’m darn near ready to pass him and those rear view mirror shots are the pits . . .

We started up the incline of the raised section, me twisting for a last glimpse of Carolina Joe and his latent bundle of joy, Ally twisting as if she’d just discovered a child in the backseat with a dropped bottle of apple juice. I noticed.

“Ally. What in the world?”

We were on the downside of the bridge and she was still silently writhing around.

“Hey! ‘The hell’s wrong wit ye?”

“It’s the bridge.”

“Wha? Whatsamatta with the bridge?”

She was still shading her eyes and had a very small voice. Very small indeed. “I can’t see the trees, and I can’t look at the water. Are we . . . are we almost there?”

I stared. “Sure, of course. Look, there’s some trees right there, and a house.” We were a quarter mile from landfall. “Look, right over there . . .”

She risked a quick peek, locked onto the stand of pines as if she’d never seen a tree before and didn’t avert her eyes until we were gliding back onto the sand flanked highway yet again.

The Low Country to the south of the bridge was the stuff of Carolina legend, cypress and barbeque and metal roofs, timeless black men in straw hats gittin’ ‘long the road in that slow all day shuffle. It is a county without stoplights, a shrimp boil and a barefoot sort of place. The towns tend not to be towns at all, just a few wooden boxes with a porch or two. An off-brand gas station that doubled as a community center. Skinnersville. Beasley. Places not on anyone’s map but that of the handful living there, surviving. It is poor here, and in its poorness is the waiting and watching from a hundred stoops and landings.

We passed it all, we hugged cotton fields set tightly to the road as the blistering tar grew more narrow, the white lines less distinct until eventually there were no more lines at all. Few signs, no “Don’ts” or “Yields” whatever. Just the barns with the tractor, the practical, the clutter and the musty, laying still under a Southern sky with gaping wooden doors.

And a house, set at the head of a road that led only to a lake. A grain elevator in the distance. A truck in the driveway, with empty shell casings scattered about and a lone Deere mower, the green and the gold timeless one.

I stretched my way out of the car, and tried to get a feel for what destiny, and a gravel driveway, felt like.

more, tomorrow.

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