Adam taps the girl’s shoulder. “You want to try? I can cast it for you.”
“No, thanks,” she says. She does manage to tear her eyes off her screen long enough to offer him a smile. “This is my dad’s thing.”
How can Adam possibly want to take this girl on a date? Huck wonders. He doesn’t bother asking the wife if she wants to fish. He just casts the line himself.
New Year’s Eve doesn’t change his luck. Dan catches two blue runners and a hardnose. He’s getting visibly discouraged; he’s a hunter with a family to feed. Then, blessedly, he reels in a small blackfin tuna, which will be at least enough for him and Mrs. Dan. This does double duty of making Dan feel like a success and getting the daughter off the hook for dinner.
“Everyone happy?” Huck asks. He doesn’t wait for an answer. “Okay, let’s head back in.”
The town of Cruz Bay is more frenetic than usual. People are flooding the streets, plastic cups in hand, wearing shiny hats and feather boas; women are in black velvet dresses even though it’s eighty-one degrees. Hank couldn’t be happier to get in his truck, stop by Candi’s for one order of ribs and one of chicken, extra comeback sauce, one side of pasta salad, one of slaw and one of plantains, then coax his aging truck up the series of switchbacks that comprise Jacob’s Ladder.
“Come on, chipmunks,” he says, as his engine growls in its lowest gear. He started saying this to amuse Maia when she was little—she loved thinking about a pair of little furry animals eagerly powering the engine of Huck’s truck—and now when he says it out of habit, Maia rolls her eyes.
Maia is standing in the driveway wearing denim shorts that she made herself the old-fashioned way—by taking scissors to a perfectly good pair of jeans—and a gray t-shirt on which she painted what Huck refers to as an iguana on acid: the bugger is a swirl of seventeen different colors. Maia’s hair is out of its cornrows in a bushy ponytail, which is how Huck likes it best. She must be 99 percent her father, whom Huck has never had the pleasure of meeting, but she was gifted with the milk-chocolate eyes of Huck’s late wife, LeeAnn, which is another reason why Maia is Huck’s favorite and basically can do no wrong.
“Hey, Nut,” he says. “Nut” is short for “Peanut,” which refers to a birthmark Maia has on her shoulder. She still tolerates the name, though maybe not for much longer. “Joanie went home?”
“Yes, but I was invited there overnight,” Maia says. “I texted but you didn’t answer. Drive me?” He can see the uncertainty on her face. She knows that they had plans and that she’s now breaking them to go to Joanie’s. What she doesn’t know is whether he’s going to be relieved about this change of plans—because he wants to drink some beers and fall asleep in his hammock long before midnight—or upset, maybe even angry.
She’s getting older, Huck thinks. Her legs are long but still as straight as sticks; she remains a little girl for the time being. Anyone with one good eye can see what’s coming down the road: bras, boyfriends, broken hearts, bad decisions, maybe not quite as bad as the ones her mother has made, he hopes.
Joanie is a good kid with nice parents. Both the mother and father are marine biologists who work for the National Park Service. They are avid hikers, naturalists, vegans. Huck can’t imagine what they’re having for dinner, but whatever it is, Maia will be wishing she stayed home for ribs and chicken.
He nods at his passenger seat. “Let’s go,” he says.
LeeAnn believed that everything happens for a reason, a theory that Huck only half agrees with, because some moments in this life seem random and senseless.
But he is very, very happy that Maia is at Joanie’s house the next morning.
Huck spends his New Year’s Eve eating both the ribs and the chicken and drinking a cold six-pack of Island Hoppin’ IPA, then wandering down the street to have one drink with the neighbors, a local family made up of Benjamins and Singers—they’re having a full-on shindig with a roast pig and homemade moonshine. Huck gets a good tip from Cleve Benjamin: there has been a school of mahi hanging six miles offshore, in the same place for the past three days. Cleve has the coordinates written in his phone; he shares them with Huck.
“There’s enough fish in that spot to fill your freezer chest until next Christmas,” Cleve says.
Huck is grateful for the information and feels lucky to be trusted and liked by his West Indian neighbors. He’s accepted because he was married to LeeAnn—some of these folks grew up with LeeAnn out in Coral Bay, others knew her from church or worked with her at the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, still others are distantly related to her first husband (Rosie’s father), Levi Small, who left the island long ago and has never come back.
Huck wanders home and takes his last long look of the year over Great Cruz Bay; he can hear music wafting up from the Westin below. Then he goes inside and falls asleep.
He intends to sleep in but is awakened at seven by the forecasted thunderstorm, and then he can’t go back to sleep, so he gets out of bed and fixes himself a New Year’s breakfast of hash—made from potatoes, onions, peppers, and some of the leftover barbecued chicken—and throws two fried eggs on top. He reads his book, The Late Show, by Connelly. He stops every few pages to wonder about the wife from yesterday—if she enjoyed the fish or if Dan cooked it for too long and ruined it. Huck then wonders about Adam and the daughter. Did they have fun at Drink? Did Adam get lucky? Or did the girl have too much champagne, as most amateurs do on the final night of the year, and spend her night crying or puking? Huck bets on the latter.
He is having a cigarette on the front porch when the police pull up. He thinks for a second it’s about Adam. But they ask him to go inside and then they tell him: there was a helicopter crash early that morning in the waters north of Virgin Gorda.
Rosie is dead.
BAKER: HOUSTON, TEXAS
Anna makes two New Year’s resolutions: She’s going to spend more time at home with Baker and Floyd, and she’s going to become friends with at least one of the other mothers at Floyd’s Montessori school, the Children’s Cottage. She hands Baker a page from her prescription pad (Dr. Anna Schaffer, MD) with the two goals written down.
1. More time at home
Baker finds he has follow-up questions. Does “more time at home” mean she’ll have sex with him on days other than his birthday and their anniversary? Does “making friends” mean that some of the “at home” time will be spent on “girls’ night out,” or in long phone conversations listening to Delia, mother of Sophie, air her grievances against Mandy, mother of Aidan?
Baker folds the paper in half, kisses it, and puts it in his jeans pocket. It’s appropriate that Anna wrote her resolutions on the prescription pad, because their relationship is sick. These two actions will heal it, he hopes. “Good for you,” he says. “What should we do today?”
A look of panic crosses Anna’s face. She’s a beautiful woman, with flawless olive skin; she has impenetrable brown eyes and long dark hair. She exudes serenity and, beyond that, competence. She’s a natural-born perfectionist, at least when it comes to cardiothoracic surgery. It’s only her personal life that she has trouble navigating.
“Today?” she says. She checks her phone. “I have to go to the hospital.”
“It’s New Year’s Day,” Baker says.
“It’s Tuesday,” she says. “I have rounds.”
“But…,” Baker says, waving the page from her prescription pad in the air.
“Am I supposed to tell Mr. Kavetsky, who just had a triple bypass, that I can’t check on him because I have to… what? Do a gouache project with my husband and four-year-old? Watch Despicable Me 3 yet again?”
“You haven’t even seen it once!” Baker says. His voice is defiant, verging on bratty. He sounds like a four-year-old. But come on! For Anna to represent herself as someone who is routinely subjected to children’s movies is downright unfair. She never watches movies with Floyd; she hasn’t seen Despicable Me 3—or numbers one and two, for that matter. On the rare occasion she does sit down with Baker and Floyd to watch a movie, she falls asleep in the comfy womb of the leather gel recliner, leaving Baker to answer Floyd’s rapid-fire questions about the intricacies of character and plot. Floyd, like his mother, has a finely tuned intellect, but it’s as if after physically giving birth to Floyd, after donating the genius half of his DNA, Anna decided her job was done. First, she turned the care and feeding of Floyd over to a baby nurse for the staggering fee of three hundred fifty dollars a day, and then, when Anna was done “breastfeeding”—she nearly always pumped milk, was a fiend about it, in fact, insisting that it was much more “efficient” than latching Floyd onto her actual body when he was going to switch to the bottle eventually anyway—they hired Maria José, a nanny from El Salvador. Maria José and Anna didn’t see eye to eye (Maria José held Floyd all day long, and in the evenings, when Anna came home from the hospital, Floyd was set down, and he would cry)—and so Maria José was dismissed.