Angle to Key West: Lucky Balloons (6/6)

Near Ocean City, NJ – June 6, 2013

The sky was nothing but blue in the morning. Clouds came slow, building from thin, finger-like wisps into a thick mat. Now the sky is all grey, it’s bottom like wrinkled silk frozen in place.

Everything feels eerie, still, and dark, like the world’s holding its breath and waiting. The only color comes from a bunch of old balloons twisted and bright against the dark green marsh grass. I reach out with my paddle and snag them.

Latex and ribbon, bright reds and yellows, unnatural blue, I shove them all on board and paddle across the salt marshes, watching the sky turn dark, searching for a place to hide, knowing I could use the luck as tropical storm Andrea bursts through Florida, past Charleston and the Outer Banks, towards me.

I pass a barrier island with brush too thick to hide in and I move on. People crowd a restaurant’s deck, laughing, eating, unworried with shelter feet away. An old railway line sticks out of the water, but the trees growing through the track look like lightning rods rising over the marsh.

The sun sets. The Ferris wheel in Ocean City lights up the night, spinning neon above the town. Fireworks burst into the air, showers of colored sparks replace the stars hiding behind a wall of grey. The pop of explosions come like an echo after the lights fade.

It is a beautiful, scornful against the storm. I paddle over a black bay, watching the bursting lights, searching for a place to hide, thinking about the balloons, and hoping I didn’t waste my luck on fireworks.


My friends Dave and Amy are up for Canoe and Kayak Magazine’s Spirit of Adventure award. Check it out and vote for them!

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