For a change of scenery, I climb the cliff and peer over the sandstone cornice at another wild beach beyond. Scrub-palm jungle runs a mile down the length of my island. Somewhere out there are feral goats and pigs I might eventually chase down and eat. The incoming tide below floods the pools where I found the whelks. So the five I have left are it for today. Back to the water.
“This is my last cast,” I swear to the fading horizon. If the fish like the taste of my whelks so much, I might just eat them myself. But then I feel the taps again. The line goes taut. The rod wiggles in my hands. “Oh!” The gratitude hits me. “I caught a fish!” I’m going to eat it.
The sun is setting as I run back to camp, careful not to fall and cut my hands on the jagged rocks. I build a quick fire out of driftwood and long-neglected lessons – teepee of twigs, cabin of kindling, ignited with a waterproof match. This is fresh fish, five minutes from sea to coals. I pull the meat loose with my fingers. It tastes good. I try the whelks too, a cross between clams and rubber bands. I have no lemon sorbet to cleanse my palate.
As the daylight dies, mosquitoes and sand fleas attack, biting me a dozen times before I’m done eating. The half moon casts enough light to see by as I climb into my hammock, unbathed. I wrap myself in a sheet against the insects, covering my face like a mummy. “Paradise!” I declare, my voice muffled by surf crashing on the shoreline – my shoreline. Still, it would be sweeter if paradise had chocolate-chip cookies and fluffy pillows.