AVAILABLE: Friday, December 15th
Retired and divorced, Eva Whitney’s life is not what it used to be. It’s time she had some fun! But what begins as a simple water excursion leads to something far more serious. What have the holidays wrought?
Can one dead body and some mistletoe lead to a new lease on life for Eva?
It was a slightly cool but sunny SoCal (Southern California) day, the Christmas holiday season in full stride. Since I had only a few more days of Christmas vacation left in San Diego, I drove my rental car to Mission Bay. My son, a microbiologist at the UCSD Medical Center, had to return to work on the Monday after Saturday’s Christmas, so I was on my own for the day. I’d had a wonderful time with my son, his wife, and their two boys, aged twelve and sixteen. Today—Monday—my grandsons had plans with friends to visit Safari Land in Encinitas, and my daughter-in-law was driving to Mount Baldy to visit her sister.
An early-retired high school teacher, I truly didn’t mind being by myself. After five days of visits with family, the strain of socializing was beginning to weigh on my introverted self. Also, I’d been single and alone for years now. Quiet and solitude were now my normal lifestyle.
Across the street, tourists were flocking to Sea World, Balboa Park, or even north to Disneyland, but my instincts and desire impelled me to seek the ocean. Or at least a small part of it. Mission Bay was where I could rent a jet ski, try it out and determine if jet skiing could become a fun hobby. At home, I lived within five minutes of Folsom Lake up in Placer County in Northern California. The water level had been so low lately, the lake was now meant for jet skis, not boats.
Recently retired from being a public school administrator, I had so much time on my hands that I began looking for hobbies to keep me from going nuts. My divorce from James Whitney had coincided with my promotion, strangely enough, as if my teacher-husband couldn’t bear the idea I had somehow surpassed him. When I retired five years later, I still wanted adventure. But now the prospect of traveling alone discouraged me.
Eva Whitney’s Big Lesson in Life—never plan too far ahead. Years ago, my husband and I had made plans to travel the world once we retired. Those plans went up in smoke when we divorced. Another lesson—life always throws you curve balls, to use one of the many baseball metaphors my ex was fond of using. However, I still had a desire to have fun and try new things.
During pleasant strolls along the trails next to Folsom Lake, I often watched jet skiers out playing on their watercraft. With the Sacramento area being as hot as it is in the summer, and even occasionally warm in the wintertime, feeling a cooling breeze blow my hair while jet skiing seemed more and more attractive. Maybe I would love the experience enough to buy my own jet ski so I could have fun at Folsom Lake in the summer or winter. I could always wear a wetsuit in the winter. I hadn’t bought myself a Christmas gift, and my son had generously given me five hundred dollars toward a purchase of my choice, so I thought why not check it out.
The jet ski rental booth on Mission Bay was situated along the marina, the young man very helpful as he showed me how to turn on my two-passenger Sea-Doo while sitting comfortably on its generous seat, as well as how to accelerate and steer using the handlebars. There was no hand brake so if you let go of the accelerator, or throttle, and stopped turning it, the Sea-Doo would immediately lose thrust and slow down. Which was vital to know, for I’d assumed that the jet ski was like a bicycle on water with a hand brake. The young man looked at me to see if I was processing this information, probably concerned I’d be confused and ram onto the dock or one of the boats floating nearby because I tried to apply a brake that wasn’t there.
“I understand there is no hand or foot brake on this jet ski,” I told him soberly. “To stop I just release the accelerator—I mean, throttle.”
The young man, whose pinned-on label identified him as Joey, smiled and nodded.
“Yes, Mrs. Whitney, that’s right,” he said.
He looked quite relieved that I was catching on, even to the nautical terms. He pointed off to the portion of the bay where I was allowed to drive my jet ski and I paid for an hour’s turn around the twenty-seven miles of shoreline around Mission Bay. I stashed my wallet inside my fanny pack and secured it around my waist.
He pointed toward the eastern part of the bay. “You’ll pass alongside the back of Sea World if you go in that direction, but you can’t stop. There are fences near the shoreline and more fences along the hillside, so just stay on the Sea-Doo and keep to the bay. Be back before the hour’s up so I can check you back in, okay?”
I assured him, as I verified the time on my watch, that I would follow the rules. The young man handed me a plastic bottle of water, which I thanked him for and stuffed into my fanny pack. Settling my sunglasses firmly on the bridge of my nose, I turned the key and slowly rotated the handlebar. The big Sea-Doo gurgled water from the rear and gradually advanced forward. I carefully maneuvered it past the other parked jet skis, avoided a collision with the jutting bow of a sailboat, and pointed it toward the open water of Mission Bay.
The water spray was cool and refreshing as I sped up and rounded a bend in the docks on the outskirts of the marina area. Oh yeah, I was going to like this as a hobby! Maybe it was something about feeling young again, as if the cool spray and riding on top of the water had washed away thirty or forty years.