By Mark E. Smith
When she shouted, “Quick, get his gun!” I should have known it all would go downhill from there….
This all started with a group of us anchored in an empty cove, sunbathing on my boat after an afternoon of swimming. I was stretched out on a front lounge when I heard the sirens, poking my head up to see a patrol boat coming toward us, lights flashing – water cops, we call them.
I sit up, and my crew looks puzzled, the water cop pulling beside us. “Is everyone alright onboard?” he asks, shutting off his engine.
“Uh, yeah,” everyone says at once. We’re a mix of parents, teens, and toddlers, kicking back in 85-degree weather. The stereo isn’t even on.
“May I have permission to board?” the water cop asks.
“Absolutely,” I say.
With his boat loosely tied to mine, the water cop jumps from his fore deck, on to mine. And, in the process, his handgun tumbles from its holster, bouncing off of the front boarding deck of my boat.
With kids onboard, and not wanting the water cop’s gun to fall in the lake, my friend screams, “Quick, get his gun!”
But, the water cop doesn’t know he lost his gun, and reaches for his empty holster in an immediate panic. “It’s by your feet,” I say.
He picks up his gun, puts it in the holster, and snaps it shut, regaining his composure. “Has anyone been drinking today?”he asks.
“No,” everyone answers.
“Whose vessel is this?” he asks.
“Mine,” I reply.
“What year were you born?” he asks, and glances at my wheelchair sitting behind the helm, then back at me.
“1971,” I reply, knowing that my age exempts me from needing a boating license. “But, I have my boater’s license, Coast Guard Auxiliary certification, and Auxiliary boat certification. And, my daughter over there has her Red Cross CPR and water certifications. Want to see all of them?”
“No, you’re fine,” he says, leaning over my wheelchair to read both the gauge on my helm-mounted fire extinguisher, and the tag on my throwable floatation device – required safety gear.
“How long is this vessel?” he asks?”
“Twenty-two feet,” I reply.
“Well, it’s good that the kids are wearing life vests,” he says, knowing that they legally don’t have to wear them all of the time on a boat this big.
“I need to see an emergency life vest for every adult on board,” he says.
Everyone stands up, opens all compartments, piling the deck with 20 assorted life vests – all high-quality ski vests, not cheap orange ones. “Why do you have so many vests,” he asks.
“I entertain a lot, so I have a few in every size,” I reply.
“Smart,” he says. “Do you mind if I look under the rear sundeck?”
“No,” I say, and my daughter and her friend scoot off of it.
The rear sundeck opens into a changing room that contains a commode, as well. The water cop fumbles around trying to open it, but no one gives him advice. Finally, he opens it, seeing the commode sitting there, the compartment otherwise empty. He shuts the sundeck, and returns to midship. “Did anyone have difficulty swimming today?” he asks.
“Nope,” everyone replies.
“We got a call that this vessel pulled a body from the lake, and put it in the rear of the vessel,” the water cop says. “The call was from a house on shore.”
We all look at each other, and know exactly what he’s talking about, but play dumb. “Sorry to disappoint the neighbors, but we’re just having a quiet family day on the lake,” I say.
The water cop thanks us for our patience, wishes us well, and heads off in his boat. And, we all laugh like heck, knowing that the neighbor saw my brother-in-law pull me from the water and drag me to the rear changing room so that I could put on dry clothes. “See how easy it is to get away with murder,” I say, and everyone laughs as they stuff life vests back into storage compartments.