Dylan had been in the water for about 45 minutes when he finally saw a promising set of waves heading down the coast toward the Pacific Beach pier. He paddled out a little farther and let the first two waves roll through. The overeager surfers would clear out early, giving him room for a good ride on the later waves. Sure enough, he was soon alone, but the third wave in the set looked weak. He pulled up to see what was happening farther out and noticed a bomb forming, a swell that would morph into the biggest wave of the set and maybe the biggest one of the day. He began paddling rapidly and moving parallel to the wave so he could turn on it and grab the big shoulder that was starting to form.
The moment the wave was on him, he pushed his board down to create a catapult effect in concert with his paddling. He sprang to his feet in the lurching water, just in time to make his first bottom turn, a perfect hit that launched him straight down the line. The wave shoulder was holding beautifully. He hit off the top of the wave and pumped down the line as fast as he could, riding high on its face. Once he neared the end of the shoulder, he dropped down the face and cut back into the body of the wave, then cut back again to carve a figure eight.
After a few more pumps down the line, he was on the shoulder again. The wave kept forming on the edge, so he held tight to keep himself from sliding off the back. At this point, he had been up for around 15 seconds, and his legs were burning from the intensity of the ride. He pumped a few more times to keep his board gliding for as long as the wave would let him. Finally, he cut back at a 90-degree angle, pointed his board toward the shore, and let the wave roll under him as he fell back euphorically into the whitewash.
He walked the few blocks back to his truck barefoot. Once there, he peeled off his wetsuit down to his hips, wrapped a towel around his waist, climbed the rest of the way out of the wetsuit, and changed into shorts, sandals, and a sweatshirt. Pulling out a jug of water, he washed his board, hair, and suit.
Once he had loaded everything into the truck, he checked his voicemail. The first message said, “What’s up, man? It’s Grant. Hey, I need a payment by the end of the week. Not the whole five grand just yet, but at least five hundred, OK? Let’s meet at Twiggs tomorrow and move on this. Three o’clock. Café Americanos on me! Later.”
The second message said, “Hey, it’s Becca. I know I haven’t been very available lately. I’m sorry, but I’m still really hurt, Dylan. I haven’t sorted everything out yet. Maybe you haven’t either. I don’t know.” There was a long pause, then a subdued, “Call me as soon as you can, please. I need to hear your thoughts on something.”
He looked back down the road and stared at the waves. After a few minutes, he climbed into his truck and drove back to his apartment. His roommate Bill was out. Dylan carried his surfboard into Bill’s bedroom, put it on the bed, wrote a note, and taped it to the surfboard. He studied the salt lamp sitting on the nightstand and wondered if anyone sold them in Kansas. Then he walked into his own bedroom, grabbed the suitcase he had packed and hidden in the closet the night before, and left the apartment, locking the door behind him.
Soon, he was heading east on the 8. He would stop for gas in Gila Bend, stretch, and maybe eat at the Space Age Restaurant. He knew his cousin would put him up for a week or two in Cottonwood, and then he would return to the Great Plains to take care of his mother since no one else could at that point. She didn’t have much longer, but he figured his drunken brother Jerry probably didn’t, either, and Jerry had been the primary caregiver in the family until his most recent DUI. Nothing was making much sense to Dylan at this point in his life, but he believed deep down that his circumstances would somehow change for the better although he had no idea how they could. As he drove through El Centro, he thought about calling Grant, Becca, and Bill in a few weeks to try to explain things. They might never forgive him, but he didn’t want to close those doors just yet. Hopefully, they would at least listen.