Jan 28, 2007

SEATTLE, Washington: An apricot sky flares behind Mount Rainier's snow cone, all plum and violet in the sunrise. A coyote yelp cinches in my throat. Mustn't wake the neighbors, no matter how gilded the sky.

"Friskkk. Fritssssk." For ten minutes, I chip at the windshield with my credit card (no rental contains a scraper after this harsh winter). I bobble the visa from hand to hand, swearing. But the fierce joy remains: today I dive the Hood Canal, my first foray below cold water, on assignment for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

I flare the engine – up Phinney Ridge, dodging down I-5, then looping the base of Puget Sound. Mist swaddles the car at points – great beekeeper veils of the stuff, obscuring the mountain and the road. I force my foot off the accelerator.

Soon enough. Don't rush.

I sing with the radio: twiddling the dial into a nightmare mashup of alt-pop, oldies and 80s one-hit-wonders. "She was a daytripper," I croon. "Sunday driver, yea."

My voice – acapella-trained long ago at Cape Cod Conservatory – gutters into a low register, then a cough. No. Say it ain't so.

Congestion. The stop sign of the liquid universe. Without clear pipes, a diver is grounded.

Airborne, Odwalla C-Monster, Gatorade, Kleenex, Sudafed, Nyquil: no brand name erased the burr from my throat, the bruised flutter of my eardrums, the cold's taproots – orchid tendrils – burrowing deep in my chest.

"I'm healing," I told my editor. "My fever broke several days ago and I can stand up now. I'll be fine to dive, sure."

"Feeling much better," I reassured Don Coleman, the outfitter.

"Looking good," I promised photographer Scott Boyd.

As if words could make it so.

I downshift onto a small squiggle of a road, fluttering tissue like a Bronte heroine. "D@mn. I don't think I can dive," I announce.

Took me so long to find out. I found out.


  1. Bummer ...

    Maybe you should have tried Froot Loops, also? It has six essential vitamins and minerals, you know.

  2. Is it me or is SIX a pretty unimpressive number?

    My hippie parents would only condescend to Kix (sugar-free Yank cereal).

    Like the West Side Story song, "I'm depraved on account I'm deprived!"

  3. Erratum: Froot Loops has SEVEN essential nutrients, not six as I had previously reported - I know this for a fact because I just checked the box of Froot Loops sitting on top of my fridge.

    Mmmmm, Froot Loops. Mmmmm, sugar.

  4. I bet Froot Loops contain more E# dyes than nutrients...