“Did you know there are over fifty-five thousand shipwrecks recorded on the Great Lakes?” Rubin asks, looking up from his book.
We are sitting in the cockpit of our sailboat, docked in its slip as the sun begins painting the evening skies with brush strokes of pink, purple, yellow. It has been what I call the perfect Michigan summer day. A cool breeze floated down the channel connecting Lakes Macatawa and Michigan, providing relief from the steamy July sun. All day tiny waves slapped rhythmically against our stern as a parade of boats puttered through the “no wake” zone behind us, heading to—or from—Lake Michigan. We have spent the day on the boat together, talking about little things, big things, lots of things.
“Where did you hear that?” I ask.
“It’s right here,” he says. “Listen to this . . .” He begins reading from one of his favorite adventure mystery authors, Clive Cussler. “The waves on the Lakes can be deadlier than any on the ocean. They pile up thirty feet and come at you much faster. Ocean waves swell and roll from only one direction. Great Lakes waves are more treacherous and relentless . . . And Lake Michigan wins the prize for having swallowed more ships than all the other lakes combined.”
“Let me see that.”
“I’m telling you, you need to write fiction,” he continues, passing the book to me. “You could reach so many more people and share your message about the Great Lakes. Not about shipwrecks, of course. But you know what I mean.”
Titled Flood Tide, the book’s back cover says it’s about an underwater graveyard in the Pacific Northwest . . . a mysterious seaport in the Louisiana bayous . . . a diabolical plot to destroy America! How did the Great Lakes fit into that story? And was it true about Lake Michigan?
Since retirement, Rubin has become a voracious reader. He frequently has several books going at the same time—one on the boat, one at home, an audio in the car. He prefers adventure novels, murder-mysteries, best-selling thrillers. I’m drawn to the more cerebral—nonfiction, poetry, occasionally best-sellers but primarily thought-provoking, inspiring, and preferably uplifting books.
This is not the first time he’s suggested I write fiction. But writing fiction seems foreign to me, an art form of which I know little. Could we write something together? Combine his vivid imagination and propensity for intrigue with my love of language? Weave into the story our mutual love of the Great Lakes? My passion for their health?
As if reading my mind, he leans back against the cushion in the cockpit and begins.
“I think you should write about ‘The Box’ . . .”
And so the story begins in the cockpit of a sailboat on a perfect Michigan summer day.
* Cussler, Clive. Flood Tide. London. Simon and Schuster UK. 1997.
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