BLOG entry #1
Working during chemo...on a "good" day when I wasn't feeling too dizzy or fatigued...
“The coyotes are passing by again,” said my customer, a retired gent who appeared nearly every morning for freshly brewed coffee. The ship chandler I worked at sold coffee and deli goods along with the usual boating supplies. Clustered around this marina store is a small community of condos, houses, liveaboard cruisers like me, and a small hotel. Surrounding the marina and cluster of homes was the wilderness of the Florida Everglades. The chandler, along with its back room with tables and chairs, was a social center.
“Coyotes?” I parroted.
My customer explained how a few coyotes had just taken a leisurely stroll down the nearby, and only, residential street near the store. The short, tree framed road is a dead end, so the wild canines would soon be scurrying our way. I kept an eye out, hoping to catch a glimpse of our four-legged locals. Instead, I got to see a desiccated batfish that my coworker, Neil, had found in the parking lot. Gross. The freakish creature’s leg-like limbs and pebbly, leathery grey skin made it look otherworldly.
As the store’s clock dragged toward noon, Neil stepped out to drop the garbage in the dumpster nearby. A few seconds later, he reappeared, still clutching the garbage. I gave him a questioning look.
“There are vultures,” Neil explained. “I’m not going over there!” He pointed outside.
I glanced through one of the picture windows. Over a dozen large, dark birds with naked black heads were perched on the dumpster’s enclosure. A cloud of flies spiraled over their heads. Vultures poop on their own feet in hot weather and vomit when they’re upset. Though it was winter, temps were in the 80s and unusually warm. Mumbling something about not getting his eyeballs pecked out, Neil left the garbage bags in the corner and hastened off to complete a less stomach turning task.
In the afternoon, a store customer showed us a photo on his phone that he’d taken of one of the resident black bears. The animal was only about twenty feet away when the photo was snapped. This bear had learned how to dumpster dive and dismantle trash cans. Unafraid of the area’s human residents, he’d pay visits to the marina community at night to dig through the garbage. One night, the bear pooped in front of the men’s room door near the hotel’s pool. This was after upending every single garbage can in the marina and hotel area.
A week earlier, the furry fellow had arrived during the day to see if he could get into the hotel. He casually pawed at the door, probably smelling the restaurant near the lobby. Luckily for hotel guests, the bear couldn’t read the sign on the door handle saying “Turn me Please.” He’d given up and lumbered back toward the woods across the road. Sadly, that road and familiarity with the things of man was the bear’s undoing.
The next night, Neil and I gathered and convened near the seawall for our usual trip to the marina showers. Neil’s boat was just a few slips from Angel and we faced the same seawall. Between us was a garbage receptacle, its lid carelessly tossed on the grass and garbage strewn about.
“Some drunk made a mess,” Neil said, a disgusted look on his face.
“Why would a drunk do that?” I furrowed my brows. Toiletry bag in hand, we shrugged and walked along a bush and tree lined path toward the showers. Angel’s two showers were functional, but the hot water capacity of a land based washroom was superior.
After our showers, we left the hotel and passed a few locals lounging on the picnic table outside the restaurant. Diners and bar customers used this area as a smoking section.
“Watch out for the bear,” one of them said.
“Hah hah, that’s funny,” I responded. Neil chuckled.
“No, really, the bear just went in the direction you’re headed.”
“We’ll be careful,” I said, uncertain, eying the dark and winding path ahead.
“We should walk slow.” Neil put out his arm. “Just in case they’re not joking.” Heads swiveling all around, we made our way toward the boats. Just before the seawall, Neil spotted a dark shape walking away from us.
“The bear! The guys weren’t kidding,” Neil said, obviously fascinated. “He’s right down there.” I stepped backward, eager to reach the shelter of Angel. A hungry bear is unlikely to step from a floating dock and wobble over the water to access a rocking boat. At least I didn’t think so.
“He just walked past your truck,” Neil said, pointing. The bear, his shoulder the height of my truck’s door handle, wandered toward the trees.
I backed away. “I’m going to the boat.”
The next night, we heard a gunshot in the late evening. Flashing police lights reflected from the windows of the nearby hotel. The bear had once again made his garbage collecting rounds and crossed the road. He was hit by an ambulance. Too wounded to save, an officer had to shoot the poor animal. The ambulance driver was in tears. Neil and I were saddened as well. The bear was just looking for easy snacks and had never harmed anyone.
My stories usually don't have sad endings, but I had to write about this poor bear and what happens when large, wild critters become too comfortable around man.