Coming into Mobile Bay, tying up at Dog River Marina, I had a decision to make: whether to sail for Key West, across the Gulf of Mexico, or take the Inland Waterway down the peninsula, and hop outside where the bridges were too low for the boat.

The direct route would be four to six days offshore, in open water. Staying inland would take month, maybe more. Offshore, I did not want Betsy with me. She was three months pregnant, beginning to show, and needed prenatal care. Once I had the boat on the East Coast of Florida, we could go again in easy water. That was the best idea: for her to travel back to the cabin we’d started from in the North Carolina mountains, see a doctor there, and wait for me.

She refused to fly, concerned the altitude would trouble the baby. Every step she took, she was listening for traces of danger. Any possibility of harming the fetus reminded her of the tiny coffin of a still-born infant. I still worried now and then about the night in Port Bolivar, about the sound of the big ships that had been so painful to me, and that hadn’t effected Betsy. Which I still said nothing about and tried to put out of my mind.

Riding a Greyhound bus appealed to her. I didn’t like it, knowing she was bound to come in arm’s reach of questionable types in bus stations. She wouldn’t mind that, she said, if I would let her carry the pistol I kept on the boat.

I said, if she imagined that kind of trouble, I would rent a car and deliver her to the mountains myself. She did not want to do her own driving, for some reason, or to take me away from the boat. She would not have Mysterion left alone in the Dog River Marina.

I did not question that, but she was adamant about the pistol, and she did not know how to shoot, which to her was irrelevant. She argued that she knew where the trigger was and which end to point, that her ex-husband had given her to figure out that much.

I refused to send her on the road with a gun. Armed, she would be more likely to meet the same redneck attitude; she might find herself facing a more experienced thug than her ex-husband.

“A .357 Magnum would make me and the baby safe from cock roaches,” she said charmingly.

I bought her a can of pepper spray. That would be all right, she said, if she did not have to get off the bus and hang around in bus stations. So I got her a ticket on a non-stop express.

After she was on her way, I felt guilty for letting her go. I should have insisted on renting a car and driving her to the mountains myself.

I did not realize how ruthless Betsy could be in the act of protecting herself. That she didn’t need me at all.


Photo credit: <a href=””>UpNorth Memories – Donald Harrison</a> via <a href=””></a><a href=””>CC BY-NC-ND</a>