A few years ago, my buddy (whom I refer to as Minsc) and I undertook to explore the countless waterways in Rhode Island and Connecticut in a canoe named Boo. I have kept a journal of our excursions, and will occasionally post some of the highlights from it. (See “Category” menu to the right for previous installments.) WARNING: This installment contains a bit of bad language — although it’s delivered in Rhode Islandese, so you might not notice.

One Sunday afternoon, Minsc and I decided to train Boo to be gentle enough for a child. We grabbed Minsc’s #1 Son, put him in a life jacket just like Daddy’s, armed him with his own paddle, and put in to one of the countless tidal ponds along Rhode Island’s coastline, called Quonochontaug Pond — or Quonnie by the locals. This little trip was more of a post-shakedown cruise, or whatever nautical concept would be fitting here. It was just a short run to test it on the pond, and to accustom #1 Son to proper canoe behavior.

A number of people were quahogging along the far side of the pond, near Weekapaug Beach and the Weekapaug Inn. (A quahog [pronounced “ko-hawg,” not “kwa-hawg”] is a large clam that is native to the coast of Rhode Island. For pronunciations on other names contained here, you’re on your own.) We passed by close to one couple, standing waist-deep and digging diligently with their toes. Each had an iron rake with which to dig the quahogs out of the muck when their toes found the hard shells, and they had the usual floating basket between them — a wicker basket stuck inside an old tire inner tube — standard gear for this enterprise.

What caught our eyes, however, was that the man had a toilet plunger, stuck business-end up in the water beside him. I’d never seen this tool used for quahogging before, so I asked him what it was.

“It’s a plunjah.” He delivered this revelation in a tone of some annoyance, as though we’d asked a self-evident question — which I suppose we had.

“Well, yes,” I persisted, “but what do you use it for?”

“For the gawdam quahogs!”

With this deeper understanding of the mysteries of clamming, we continued on our way, paddling toward the Weekapaug Inn. We navigated through the many moorings which would soon fill the little cove with boats, and headed for the causeway which connects Weekapaug Inn with the “mainland.” (The Inn is surrounded on three sides by Quonnie Pond, giving it the appearance of an island.)

I was soaking in the scenery, the fragrances, the sounds of my home, rejoicing yet again in the privilege of living here, when I suddenly saw a large jagged rock sliding under our bow. Well, not sliding, exactly — banging more like, then scraping. We could feel chunks of Boo’s skin being gouged out. Approximately a half-second prior to collision, I had cried out “Rock!” as any attentive bow-man should do, so my conscience was mollified.

And besides, it was actually a very pretty rock, an interesting texture and shape, covered over with the loveliest barnacles. I thought no more about it.

It wasn’t my canoe anyway.

We paddled about a bit, looking at the Inn and its environs. We reminisced about our adventure of years before when we’d sneaked through the woods surrounding the Inn, armed with a variety of fireworks, and laid midnight siege to the Inn and its outlying cabins.

I have no recollection now of where I’d gotten the fireworks (since they’re illegal in Rhode Island), but I had quite a supply of bottle rockets and firecrackers. I also cannot recall just how we came up with the scheme of doing battle with the residents of the Weekapaug Inn, but some demon got hold of our imaginations, and we laid our plans.

We chose a night around the new moon when the sky was illuminated only by the stars. We dressed, of course, completely in black and set off from the home of Minsc’s parents. He was still living at home, being a college-aged youth. He has this as an excuse — that he was young — whereas I was old enough to know better.

It would have been a simple matter to approach the Inn by road or even by water, but our hearts were set on Vietnam-style commando raiding, so we set out on the most abstruse route possible through the woods.

Minsc’s sister Jane had a dog. Its name was Chelsea. It was stupid. It met us as we skulked forth, and immediately attached itself to our plans. Our curses, threats, and flying objects convinced it that it was adored and desired, and it accompanied us well into the woods. It was clear that we could not take Chelsea with us on our mission — commandoes don’t use dogs — so we had no other choice than to return to the house and tie it up.

Actually, we did have one other choice: we could tie the dog to a tree in the woods with the intention of freeing her once the mission was accomplished. Which is what we did. Tie her, I mean. And have intentions — we did have intentions.

We resumed our skulking while Chelsea concentrated on howling. As a matter of fact, of the two missions undertaken that evening, I think Chelsea’s may have been the more successful. She determined to howl, and set about it with divine inspiration. She howled, she barked, she yelped, she whined, she screamed with such deafening, nerve-rending vigor that it could only have been done with the help of the Muses.

The din was not conducive to skulking, but commandoes must overcome adversity, so we skulked on. Minsc had established the route we would take, and had included passage through the yard of some friends in Weekapaug just to add the spice of potential discovery. This element worked quite well, as it turned out. We slipped silently into the back yard — just in time for them to put out the cat. They switched on enough lights for a football stadium, then stood at the door surveying their property.

We, of course, “hit the dirt” in time-honored commando fashion and lay absolutely still. A few hours later, as rigor mortis was taking hold, they switched off the lights and went back inside, and we made our way toward the Weekapaug Inn.

Now, this was no amateur, off-the-cuff excursion. We had come down a week or so earlier in daylight to map out the estate and to plan our attack very carefully. The plan was to establish a battery of artillery along the fence which faces Quonnie Pond, which would lend air support while we went in close for our sabotage maneuvers. The fence was on the far side of the compound, and on the “mainland” side stood a series of small cabins — inside of which were our targets: hapless summer vacationers and wild teenagers who worked on staff.

They must all be neutralized.

We slipped invisibly behind the fence and established the artillery. This consisted of a long row of bottle rockets propped through the fence’s chain links. They were put in pairs, fuses twined together and inserted into a cigarette, about halfway down. We’d previously tested this fusing system and had determined that half a cigarette was just enough time for us to move into position. When we had finally set up a barrage of rockets and cigarettes — and this was not a speedy process — we lit the cigarettes and moved quickly into our assassins’ positions in the shadows around the cabins.

Suddenly, there was a whistle followed by a bright explosion overhead: our air cover had arrived. Instantly, we both began running in and out amongst the cabins, lighting fuses and tossing packs of firecrackers under the floors. Meanwhile, our artillery battery was faithfully banging away overhead, and the chaos was complete.

Lights came on, doors slammed, cars started — and we ran. We were not together, as Minsc had been at a different section of cabins, and I soon lost sight of him as we crossed the causeway off the Inn property. I felt compelled to demolish the causeway in order to cut off our pursuers, and I called for my partner to stop. I then turned back — most heroically, I humbly point out — to fire a final volley back across the bridge. I even set up one last time-fused rocket to cover my retreat, and at last set off for home.

Unfortunately, my partner had not waited. This posed a problem for me, as he was the navigator, and I’d paid no attention whatever to where the woods path came onto the causeway road. I was not even sure which house we’d used, despite how intimate I’d been with their turf. I spent some considerable time tripping over stone walls and hiding in shadowy backyards before finally deciding to walk back on Weekapaug Road.

The trip back took a good while — much longer than it had taken Minsc to return and become apprised of the situation on the home front. As I finally approached the parents’ home, I saw Minsc’s truck coming toward me at a good clip. He zoomed past without seeing me (I was, after all, an invisible commando) and roared into the darkness. I assumed that he was going in search of me or my remains, and got in my car at his parents’ house and roared off after him.

It seems, however, that inside that house were some rather angry womenfolk. Jane had heard Chelsea’s concerto but had not been appreciative of the artistic merits. She immediately concluded that the dog was caught in a bear trap and was being slowly eaten by coyotes.

When she discovered that Minsc had tied the dog to a tree in the woods, she was paradoxically not relieved. In fact, her wrath was actually increased — compounded, with interest — and further doubled by the considerable effort she had expended in traipsing through the dark woods in search of the howling mutt.

Jane had promptly marched home, where she had commiserated with her mother, and the Universal Feminine Spirit had arisen in thunderous wrath against All Things Male. My car, as it happened, was noticeably parked in the driveway, so my character was implicated along with that of Minsc. They had no idea what we were up to this time, but they knew from vast experience that it was no good.

When Minsc had arrived on the scene, dressed head to toe in black and stinking of cordite, The Wrath was unleashed. No amount of commando training can equip a man for such an onslaught, and he quickly turned and fled. My subsequent hasty exit in my car added the final proof, if any was needed, of my complicity and cowardly refusal to face the injured parties waiting inside.

All these memories, in far greater detail, came to mind as we paddled about behind the Weekapaug Inn. They had recovered quite well from the invasion: the little cottages were still there, awaiting another summer’s occupants of vacationers and staff; the fence still remains along the pondside; and even the causeway is there still, capable of bearing the flow of traffic that would be arriving soon.

It was under this causeway that we passed again on our way back home — the scene of a forgotten battle, a moment of heroism, of one man standing firm against an approaching battalion, rockets bursting in air, great rending explosions — oh. That rending explosion was actually not in memory, but in present tense. Very tense, in fact. We had collided once again with the same large rock.

 

  One Response to “Adventures with Minsc and Boo, Part 5”

  1. You are certifiably nuts!!!

    But I laughed so hard I almost chocked.

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