I Am An Empty Bottle

Published in the March 2011 Issue March 2011 Ask The Expert Ted A. Thompson

Floating far from shore, barely breaking the surface, the tight plastic cap at my neck assures prolonged existence between the worlds of air and water. I sail alone, all but invisible, in the dark of winter night.

I am nudged along on my endless, aimless journey by every gust and wavelet, back and forth across the empty surface of the lake. Seldom does a boat disturb my silent passage. I go unnoticed, just an empty glass bottle traveling everywhere and nowhere at once, completely at the whim of the winter breeze.

The nights are dark and cold, but the days can be interesting. Although one flat side of me is turned to the sky, the other faces into the deep. I am the ultimate glass-bottomed boat, and on bright days, I see everything below.

Occasionally I float over abandoned railroads, houses, stores and churches, scattered like tiny models in the flooded valley far below. Before it became part of this lake, it was a small community of real people. These silent buildings, long ago emptied of life and human activity, once sheltered families. These were their homes, the center of most of their hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows, successes and failures. Now the mossy structures rot in silent, watery shadow-mournful ghosts of a former human presence. Before I can fully understand the concept of "sad," the wind carries me beyond.

I call the next place the Field of Anchors, and if I had a sense of humor, I'd laugh. The rocky bottom is strewn with abandoned anchors.

The problem with boats is they have no natural instinct to stay put, not unlike empty bottles in that respect. Men have devised various anchoring systems which seem to work only half the time, even when used properly. They're used properly only about half the time, and so the math gets complicated. But perhaps I've got it all wrong. If the purpose of anchors is to keep the gigantic rocks on the bottom of the lake from going anywhere, they are working perfectly.

Daylight hours pass slowly. A single fishing boat, apparently in a hurry to get where the fish are (and going the wrong way) produces a wake which makes its way slowly across the lake. By the time it gets to me it is just a mild swell, still enough to nudge me into one of the most interesting places on the lake-they call it the Party Cove. Scattered across the bottom in this secluded area is the most scandalous detritus of the human party animal. I don't think the people who come here purposefully litter, it's just that mishaps seem to be common. Perhaps it was in this very cove that I came to be in the lake, who knows? I am an empty liquor bottle, so I really can't remember.

No doubt each peculiar item on the bottom has a story behind it, but most will never be told. For example, trapped on the branch of a submerged tree about six feet below the surface is a zebra-striped bikini top. What's that all about? I don't think these things fall off by accident, so how did it get here? I can only use my imagination, and don't have much of that. Can't help but wonder what happened to the rest of the zebra, though.

Farther below are the remains of a small metal barbecue grill. I wonder if it fell off a boat, or was it pushed overboard? Perhaps it burned lunch? People seem to have little patience with grills like that, and who's to say that's wrong?

There's much more. I see all the lost sunglasses, far too many beer cans, and even a metal deck chair. I feel sorriest for the bottles, of course, so much less fortunate than I - having no watertight caps, their view never changes.

But I see everything. Yes, I have witnessed the effects of Aquamagnetics at its worst. I know where the big fish go when fishermen come around. I even know where the talking crawfish lives.

The sun dips toward the hilltop, and soon a chilly shadow will fall across this cove. There are no parties here in winter, no David Allen Coe, no splashing, no cooking, and no laughter. I abide alone, and am content to spend the night here if the breeze allows. I won't be able to see much in the dark, of course, and no doubt the frost will cover my face again. But tomorrow's another day, and my silent journey will continue.

I hope the wind is southerly. I'd like to see what's new under the bridge.

Until Next Time,

My Best from the Stern,

Ted A. Thompson

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