3 Sep 2009 10:00 am   //   Filed under: Travel

Practicing writing like F. Scott Fitzgerald


By four o’clock on a Friday in late August, with all sensible work having ceased after lunch, Manhattan is in the midst of a mass exodus. The commuter trains teem with office workers bound for summer excursions, overstuffing the luggage racks with rolling suitcases and sipping bottled beer from paper bags.

I boarded the five-thirty-six train, the first leg of a relaxing journey to Fire Island. Then came a noisy cruise on an antiquated ferry, which landed on that narrow finger of sand that serves capably as a leisure retreat. My trip came through the invitation of friends, Leslie and Brian, who have rented a summer house there. Arriving after dark, I settled comfortably into their airy bungalow, delighted by its bright decor and cushy sofas.

In daylight, Kismet revealed itself as a well-manicured village of sidewalks. Precocious children and their sunburned parents stroll from porch to beach, from dock to porch, keeping time by a fire whistle that sounds daily at noon, or thereabouts. Cars are forbidden here—rusty bicycles and red wagons are favored for whatever limited transportation is required. Goods must be carried in by ferry, or else purchased at one of the island’s overpriced variety shops. To solve the vexing problem of beverage supply, delivery services on the mainland will check an order onto the ferry as freight to be delivered to you, provided you pick it up at the dock.

It was near the dock where Brian nabbed a thief. Saturday morning Brian left the house to pick up a freight delivery, and as expected he returned a few minutes later with a haul of beer and soda. “You won’t believe what just happened,” he told us.

As Brian walked to the dock, his eye chanced upon on the contents of another wagon, which a man was towing in the other direction. “Hey, that’s my beer!” Brian declared.

There was a moment of confusion. But the facts were resolved with a simple examination of the shipping labels, all of which were clearly marked with Brian’s name. The thief, defeated and muttering, attempted to cover up his tactless crime. He conjured up a fantasy in which he would have discovered the mix-up upon arrival at his home, surely, and then have delivered the beverages to Brian—a stranger whose address he did not know.

Brian, being a good man reunited with his beer, exercised no further prejudice against the disingenuous sot.