CAPE SAN BLAS—It’s a chilly morning. The beach is unpopulated at this early hour. It’s just a big sandy patch with lots of seagulls and stray crabs that run sideways. And, of course, me.
I’m walking because this is what I do when I can’t find something to write about. I walk. It works like a charm. Usually, after enough walking, reflection, and literary contemplation, I end up pulling a hamstring. Then I write about it.
But not today. Because about five minutes into my walk I notice Them. They are walking directly behind me, holding hands, leaning on each other. If I didn’t know any better I’d swear they were a four-legged love monster.
I turn back to look at the young sweethearts. They are right on my tail. There’s a huge beach out here, yet they’re practically following me.
Don’t get me wrong, love is wonderful stuff. I’m a big fan. But is there anything more irritating than a young person punchdrunk with love? I submit no.
It’s a wonder that my friends didn’t tie me up and lock me in a closet after I first met my wife.
I can’t get these young lovers off my bumper. When I stop, they stop. When I walk, they walk. And even their conversation, which I can hear clearly, is getting on my nerves.
“I love shells.”
“Yeah, they’re great.”
“Where do seashells come from?”
“I think from little ocean trees.”
“So, they’re, like, plants or something?”
“Yeah, like underwater shell trees.”
Sound of kissing.
“I love underwater shell trees, Justin.”
You have to worry about America.
I decide to start walking the other direction and leave Bogey and Bacall to their philosophy discussion. To be fair, they seem like very good kids, but I am trying to cure writer’s block this morning. I need privacy.
So I turn. I walk past them. In a few minutes, I am by myself again. Ah, freedom at last.
But it is short lived. Because after only moments I hear footsteps behind me, crunching on shells. I glance backward to see Them again. She is shoulder-bumping him while they walk about 20 feet behind me. They’re having another deep conversation.
“You like butter?”
“Oh, I love butter.”
“Salted or the other kind?”
“What about black pepper?”
“Love black pepper.”
“How about pepper AND butter together?”
Give me strength.
This is getting ridiculous. I don’t want to sound grumpy, but this is a beach large enough for a few hundred thousand. Why are these people riding my Blessed Assurance so closely?
So I turn one more time and start walking the OTHER direction. I’m thinking maybe they’ll take a hint. I’ve changed directions twice now.
And anyone familiar with the laws governing American situational comedies knows what happens next. The couple, almost as if on cue, lazily turns and begins walking MY DIRECTION.
I give up.
So here we are. All three of us. Me walking; them trailing behind. They are giggling, carrying on, occasionally kissing, and making important observations about the world.
I make a last-ditch effort to rid myself of my new companions by speeding up. If I can’t lose them this way then we might as well buy a house together and split the utilities. Pretty soon I am power walking like an old lady at the mall.
Finally, I stop walking and face the water to catch my breath. I am winded and sweating. The view here is arresting. I stare outward, looking at the end of the world.
The horizon seems to curve a little. It’s a view that takes up your entire vision. The kind of panorama that makes you wonder how anyone could think this Earth is an evil place.
Then I see a blue heron swooping from the sky, gliding along the water. The bird is not even 10 feet from me. I love blue herons. For me this is almost a sacred moment because I thin—
“LOOK!” the girl says. “IT’S A BIG BIRD!”
Annnnd they’re back.
The young couple is standing maybe 15 feet away. We are staring into the same horizon. I am no longer happy.
“JUSTIN! IT’S A BIRD!” she shouts.
I fake smile at her. She smiles back. She must be in her twenties, but she’s watching this blue heron with a face that seems almost childlike.
Her male counterpart says, “That’s not just any bird, that’s a great white herring.”
“A herring? Are you sure?”
“Totally sure. It’s a white herring.”
So the three of us are looking at what is, according to Justin’s zoological expertise, a flying white pickled fish. I’m wondering whether they’re going to invite me over for Thanksgiving this year since they won’t leave me alone.
I look at them and almost speak, but I think better of it. Because what would I say? I don’t want to be rude.
The bird flies out of sight, and I’m ready to go home and forget that this morning ever happened. I give them an unspoken “goodbye” gesture. They return the favor, and I start strolling away.
But before I leave, I overhear the girl call out to me: “Excuse me, sir?”
I turn and put on a happy face. “Me?”
She says, “Would you mind taking our picture? We’ve been wanting to ask you, but… Well, we didn’t want to bother you.”
“Yeah,” says the guy. “We just got married last night.”
Well. I take back what I said earlier. The only thing more aggravating than a young person in love is a middle-aged fool.
Sandi. - October 31, 2020 8:34 am
Sean, I found this story very endearing and quite amusing, especially when you said that y’all might as well buy a house together and split the utilities! You are one funny guy! Hope you took several photos of the newlyweds.
beachflo - October 31, 2020 10:07 am
Getting ready to leave for home after a week on Cape San Blas. October is a great time to be here. The mosquitoes that wanted to devour and carry us up and away us in August are no longer around. There’s just something about staying out on the cape. The gulf on one side the bay on the other, wildlife in the sky. This trip saw live dolphins and a large blue crab – and oh, the winds.
Jo Anne Young - October 31, 2020 10:33 am
I love this story and laughed out loud several times—it feels so good to laugh during these days!🤣♥️
MR - October 31, 2020 11:32 am
You can really write, Sean. I felt like I was right there with you. . . .and the couple. I could hear the wind, the waves and the gulls. I could hear
the chatter and laughter coming from ‘Them’. Even the crunch of the sand as you were walking faster to get away from ‘Them’. You have a gift. Hopefully you will get some alone time at the beach before you head home.
Charles W Floyd - October 31, 2020 11:43 am
I enjoyed this…one of your best!!!
Virginia Russell - October 31, 2020 12:08 pm
Nancy Baker - October 31, 2020 12:34 pm
Great story with a surprise ending–at least for me. Also gives me a bit of comfort to know I’m not the only one to suffer bouts of irritation quickly followed by embarrassment! You made a memory for the young couple, for yourself, and for your readers. As a reader, I thank you.
Beryl Varno - October 31, 2020 12:37 pm
“Great White Herring,” now that’s funny. These newly weds will one day reminisce about their early morning stroll, on a nearly empty beach, with a middle-aged fool. How great are the gifts you gave to each other? A moment in time of Covid-less leisure, complete with words to spill out on this page, youthful innocence, and faceless strangers who cherish every word you string together. Thank you Sean. You have launched my 31st day of October to the moon.
Deb McLaughlin - October 31, 2020 1:00 pm
That last line……yep, I’m crying AGAIN. I enjoy your observations so much and reading the comments from people like me. People who need people like you in their life. People who need to feel normal again, even if only for a little while. People who need a smile. Even old fools like me. Thanks for doing what you do…..every day…..knowing that people need you in their life even if only through the internet. You make a difference. XO Happy Halloween!
Peggy Thompson - October 31, 2020 1:29 pm
Love this!…yep..us old fools analyze everything & we are not always right ….but most of the time we are!!!
Ginger - October 31, 2020 2:46 pm
You had me thinking they were following you because you are a celebrity! I hope you and the great “white herring” do get to meet again!
Ginger - October 31, 2020 2:52 pm
I was last at Cape San Blas in the 1980’s, in cabins near the old salt works. I’m sure it has changed dramatically since then.
Dorothy Johnson - October 31, 2020 3:10 pm
Ah, young love! Sweet, sweet. Thanks for reminding me of another girl and guy on the sugar beach of Destin nearly 50 years. Young love is sweet. Old love can be rich. I hope they walk shoulder to shoulder into those rich years.
Patsy Boshears - October 31, 2020 4:31 pm
Try being 72! It gets worse!
MAM - October 31, 2020 4:46 pm
A chuckle combined with leaky eyes. What a combination! Thanks, Sean.
MAM - October 31, 2020 4:47 pm
Oh, and you got a great story out of an annoying situation!!!
Linda Moon - October 31, 2020 5:18 pm
I had to clear my head with a walk this morning before I could write my comment here. It wasn’t writer’s block….it was because of a chipmunk blocked and stuck (yuk!) in a garage door. It didn’t turn out well for me or the chipmunk. But, back to your story….you had me at the title. I thought about Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster and even Carroll Spinney. Thanks to you, Sean, those images from your story finally drove away the one I saw in the chipmunk that wouldn’t leave my head for while. Keep walking, Sean, so you can always find a story to tell us!
Ann - October 31, 2020 8:43 pm
OK…so this is my laugh out loud moment for today…this just really tickled me and once again so visual….you are a gift…thank you, laughter feels so good😂❤️
Lavenda - November 1, 2020 12:24 pm
You are 100% right about young love. This article had me in tears laughing so hard at the pickled fish..just wanted to let you know I have recently discovered your posts and they are great. I shared you with my father. I told him you seem to be a positive in a world FULL of negative. So thank you for that.
MARYLIN ANDERSON - November 1, 2020 7:03 pm
Thanks, Sean. This was another good one, but they are ALL good. I would love to be walking on that beach. Hopefully, we can go next fall. This was a sweet story with a happy, funny ending. Have a wonderful November. I will be reading every day with your other fans. Love to you and Jamie.
Chasity Davis Ritter - November 1, 2020 11:48 pm
Judy Broussard - November 2, 2020 12:48 am
Thanks Sean for giving me something to smile about today. And yes those “Great White Herring” are beautiful
P - November 2, 2020 3:26 pm
Oh this is still making me laugh. Good going. Thanks.
Christina - November 2, 2020 4:18 pm
Needed this dose of unfiltered encounter. Love the ending
Michelle Cressler - August 25, 2021 4:16 am
White Herring are my favorite 😂
studiosound3 - August 25, 2021 6:54 am
My name is Bruce & I lost 24 grams on Lipozene & I feel fabulous. [I strongly encourage all Chihuahuas to give it a try.]
Julie - September 9, 2021 1:49 am
Sean, I needed this story tonight. Thank you for making me laugh out loud.