The Kitten’s Scared, Isn’t She?

In his posthumously published True at First Light, Ernest Hemingway presents some of the African adventures he had with his fourth wife Mary. Released in 1999, the book’s publication, unsurprisingly, met with a bit of controversy and mixed reviews. But I don’t mention the book here tonight to talk controversy. I mention it because it gave me a nickname.

In the book, the wife Mary character sometimes refers to herself as “kitten,” even asking something like whether she’s “been a good kitten.” When talking to the Bosun once about the book, this diminutive came up, and since then, I have, on occasion, been referred to as “kitten.”

Like tonight. . . .

Tonight, we decided to visit the boardwalk down the channel from our marina. The place has a remarkably cheerful air, even for a naturally cheerful thing like a boardwalk, and since I moved down here to Texas, to this Gulf Coast, about five and a half years ago, I’ve enjoyed strolling around this touristy stretch of fried-food smells on evenings with pretty half moons hung behind worn-through clouds. But in all that time, I’ve never ridden the Boardwalk Bullet—the landmark wooden roller coaster that towers over the acres of parking lots, the cake-pop-serving Starbucks, and the kiosks selling flip flops and cheap necklaces. I’ve written about the thing, about its forty-two track crossovers, more than any other wooden roller coaster ever designed . . . .

But I’d never ridden it.

Until tonight.

Tonight, the Bosun just looked up at the thing and said we needed to ride it. That I needed to ride it (he’s ridden it several times). So we did. And it was worth the price of admission.

I lost my International Thriller Writers ballcap. And after the ride, we had to skirt around the results of an upset stomach the coaster had caused someone.

But it was all quite worth it.

An autumn Thursday night with lightning flickering behind those raggedy clouds, with the stray cats hoping for table scraps on the restaurant patios, with prehistoric seabirds and laughing kids . . . and a stomach-dropping roller coaster over a salty, disorganized, stirred-up bay.

An autumn night when I got to sit atop the world, knowing it was about to drop from beneath me, knowing I would scream. And hear the Bosun’s kind, laughing, “the kitten’s scared, isn’t she?”

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