My boyfriend and I have a morning routine on days I don't go to my day job. We walk up to George's Zoo, a little market/deli across from the San Francisco Zoo, getting hot drinks (coffee for me, chai tea latte for Dave) and walking on the beach for an hour or so. I'm a dedicated (okay, compulsive) beachcomber, with a house and garage full of shells, rocks, driftwood and beach glass as testimony to my obsession. I have restrained myself from hacking out teeth, skulls and other pieces parts from dead seals or sea birds. Too messy and smelly.
I am totally fascinated by the variety of stuff that washes ashore every day and how the terrain of the beach can change after one stormy night. There's a shipwreck, the King Philip, under the sands of Ocean Beach up by Noriega Street. It lies concealed most of the time, but once every decade or so the sands shift to reveal bits of it. Last year the ruined prow poked up, rusted metal bits clinging to the wood. It was fascinating and always made me wonder what else was under there.
A month or so ago we were out in the morning and saw police cordoning off a section of beach (also down near Noriega). There was a dead body lying on the sand, up out of the tide line, stiff and...well, dead. For someone as fascinated with horror movies, morbid ways to die and/or kill someone (I'm a mystery writer, so I figure it's normal enough. Right? RIGHT?!), I found the sight of this poor dead fellow very disturbing. It brought home issues of mortality I didn't realize I had. I mean, it's one thing to come across a dead seal with an obvious shark bite taken out of its body, but a fellow human being is a different matter. At least for me. Funny 'cause when I read a book or watch a movie, I'm always far more upset when an animal is hurt or killed than when a person gets kacked. Go figure.
This morning Dave and I went for our usual walk and saw a sailboat listing to one side in the sands down the beach a ways (near Noriega, to be exact. Gotta wonder if there's an ancient Indian burial ground or something else around there...) so we wandered down to check it out. The sails were gone, just the metal skeleton of the rigging remained.
A young woman was doing stretches in front of it, a small dog leashed up to the railing. We asked if it was her boat. It wasn't. Evidently it had run aground Christmas Day during a storm and the owner of the boat was found dead inside the cabin. He had been removed, but the boat was basically abandoned.
People had taken the sails and a few other items, but there were still sandwiches inside the cabin, books, DVDs, mail... I know this because Dave climbed up and poked around for a few minutes. I didn't. It seemed too much like desecrating a grave, a reaction I found surprising. I love poking around old historical sites, graveyards, ruins, you name it. But this...well, it was too new. Besides, I've seen far too many Japanese horror movies like GRUDGE with pissed off, vengeful spirits. I told Dave if he brought home a white faced ghost with lots of black hair or a spooky little kid, he was in deep shite.
Dave looked at the mail. There was a bill from a pathology lab and an alimony payment notice alongside a half empty bottle of wine. It made us both wonder what had happened out there on the ocean. Did this man decide to kill himself, perhaps riddled with some incurable cancer? If so, did he expect the boat to go down in the water or did he have visions of it sailing unmanned like a modern day Flying Dutchman? Something about the combination of the mail, the wine, and the fact he was out alone on the ocean during a storm at Christmas more than hints at premeditated suicide.
There are those nasty thoughts of mortality creeping in again. They're definitely mixed up with a desire to use this in a book and a certain amount of guilt at using someone else's tragedy as creative inspiration.