Here’s an unedited glimpse of a story I’m calling Deadman’s Cay, it’s a mixture of a survival and preparedness storyline mixed with a bit of sea adventures. Hope I don’t disappoint –

My belongings were dumped out of a bag onto the counter. I signed the form and put the Bic lighter and the folding knife in my front pocket, my wallet in my back pocket.

“I had a belt and a multi-tool,” I told the corrections officer.

“That’s all I got,” he told me.

I wanted to give him grief, but I didn’t have it in me. It had been five long months.

“Can you double check? My pants don’t fit me anymore, and I don’t want to be mooning everyone.”

“I told you,” he said in a snide voice, “That’s all I got.”

“Whatever. You know its on that inventory list you just had me sign, right?”

The turnkey spun the clipboard back around and held it up to his face, then held it away, squinting his eyes, “You know what, you’re right. My bad, hold on,” he said and walked back behind the counter, behind the glass partition.

I waited, I was good at that. Waiting.

“Sorry, here you go,” he sad walking out with a clear bag.

“I appreciate it,” I told him tearing the bag open and started threading my belt through the loops on my jeans, then when I was to my right hip, I put the sheath for the Leatherman on the belt and cinched it tight.

“No problem, sorry about the mix-up and the wait,” he told me.

“I’m good at waiting,” I told him and gave him a rare smile.

I had an old girlfriend tell me once that when I smiled, birds fell dead out of the sky and little children ran screaming. Cat ladies had caniptions and I soured milk. This guy just gulped and nodded at the door. I tipped an imaginary hat and walked out, free after five long months.

“You need me to call you a cab? Somebody to pick you up?” The words came out the door before it had swung closed, separating the jail from the oppressive humid Florida air.

“No thanks,” I said, sticking my head back in, “I appreciate it though.”

With that, I started walking. I had nobody down here.

Nobody to call, nobody to pick me up, no family anywhere. I started this journey almost half a year ago, drifting south after my father’s death. I’d had a good job with the railroad, but when my dad got sick, I moved back to Chicago to take care of him and went on FMLA leave.

When he died, I buried him as he wanted, only to find out that he was underwater with his house payments, taxes and had little money in the bank. I did odd jobs in Illinois to square people off as much as I could allow in my conscience, right up until I got my termination notice from the railroad. With that, I began drifting south, feeling alone in the world.