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First pages

Chapter 1.

It was a beautiful, early evening in fall, picture- perfect. The skies were blue. That shade of blue that the locals would often refer to as “Carolina Blue.” The winds were gentle, almost as if they were asking forgiveness as they caressed the cheek of each person they came into contact with. You couldn’t ask for a better day. And though many people would take notice of the gorgeous day, few would be able to enjoy it the way it ought to be enjoyed.

Todd Richards, with coffee at his side, was sitting on the roof of his house repairing and replacing shingles. Izzy had done a very good job making sure there was plenty of work to do, not only for Todd, but for all of his neighbors. In this case, Izzy wasn’t a spurned ex-girlfriend. No, Izzy was what the weather people had called “The Hurricane of the Century.”

Todd was one of the luckier Outer Bankers. His house in Kitty Hawk was 12 feet above sea level, much higher than most on that narrow strip of land. It was about 3/4 of a mile wide and sat between the gray waters of the mighty Atlantic and the mostly calm waters of the sound. If his house was going to be affected by flood waters, then the entire town would be underwater as well. And some were. Virginia Dare Rd, often referred to by locals and tourists alike as “the beach road,” was washed away again around milepost 4 1/2 out in front of the Black Pelican restaurant. This 1/4 mile stretch of road had been washed away and rebuilt, due to storms, more often than Kenny Roger’s face, despite the fact the sea dune that is supposed to protect it keeps getting built higher and higher each time it is replaced. All of this proving, time and time again, that Mother Nature takes what she wants.

As Todd banged each roofing nail into place, he couldn’t help but wonder and pray about whether his best friend in the world, his yellow lab Jack, was safe somewhere on this barrier island. Jack had disappeared before the storm, and now Todd was becoming increasingly worried as each minute, hour, and day passed. In fact, at this point, Todd had the notion that he might never see Jack again.

But Jack wasn’t just Todd’s dog; he was the neighborhood’s dog. Sure, Jack would come to Todd’s house every day to be fed and find his water, but he didn’t exactly “live” there in the strictest sense. The neighborhood kids would often coax Ole Jack off the shade of Todd’s deck to come out and play. Together they would all go down to the beach and play in the waves. When the kids went home for dinner, Jack would go back to Todd’s deck to eat and bed down for the night in the dog bed that Todd had provided. And Jack was a local hero of sorts, having been written up in the newspaper for saving a couple of those kids from drowning. One time, one of the kids was caught in a rip current and was dangerously being carried further and further out –to- sea. Jack ran to the beach and found a lifeguard patrolling on an ATV. He barked and ran in and out of the water until the guard spotted the swimmer in trouble. Another time, one of the kids exhausted herself out in the water and was able to hold onto Jack’s neck while he swam them both safely into the shore. Jack the Hero. That’s what the newspaper had called him.

But now Jack was nowhere to be seen. And he hadn’t been seen for days….

Chapter 2.

The TV was on the Weather Channel, as it often is when where you live is so affected by wind, rain, and other things that Mother Nature might throw at you. As Todd was up and getting ready for the day, Char, the sexy weather girl, was saying something about a weather disturbance off the coast of Africa. “Nothing yet to be concerned with. But something that we, at the Weather Channel, will be keeping an eye on in the future.”Todd, who owns the second largest landscape company on the Outer Banks, made a mental note since he had some large jobs coming up. But he really didn’t pay that much attention.

Todd came to the beach almost 30 years ago. A long enough period to have the locals think of him as one of their own, but not quite. Todd was still a “dirty Yankee” to some of the old timers. There were two classifications of people from the north as far as the locals were concerned. There were simple “Yankees.” Those were the people that would come down on vacation, spend their money, and then leave. And then there were those who were like Todd-- the “dirty Yankees.” They were the people from the north who came down and stayed.

Todd lived his childhood and teenage years in Cleveland, Ohio and then moved down to the beach to follow his older brother, Bryant, who came down to become the “Voice of Morning Radio” in Wanchese at Ocean 105 FM. The Richards family had vacationed on the Outer Banks since the early 70’s when there was only one traffic light to be found, the one at Colington Road. Now there seemed to be traffic light every six feet. It was Bryant who proclaimed that “this is where I’m gonna live one day” on that first family vacation. It seemed that Bryant always wanted to live in some new exotic place, as long as it wasn’t Cleveland. So Bryant got the job, and six months later, Todd moved onto his couch. Ironically, Todd is still on the OBX, and his older brother, Bryant, is back in Cleveland, not even in radio any longer.

At first Todd had a carefree life. He surfed and talked to the pretty vacationing girls on the beach all day. He had dinner prepared each night by Bryant’s wife, Jill, and later, he would go out with friends. It was the perfect life for someone who just turned 21, and he enjoyed it for that entire summer. But then two things happened: The season ended, and all of the tourists packed up and left. And then Jill decided that enough was enough. For three months, she allowed Todd to live on their couch while she and Bryant worked all day to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Now it was time for Todd to contribute!

As it turned out, Jill had a friend that had just left his job at the 17-store shopping complex at the beach that she managed. The shopping complex was a destination spot for many of the tourists and locals alike. It had the typical touristy things, but it also had a fur coat and a jewelry store; it always amazed Jill the number of Wanchese fisherman who would come into these stores dressed in bib overalls and bare feet with enough cash to choke a horse. They frequently purchased fur coats or diamond bracelets for their wives. This place truly taught Jill to never judge a book by its cover.

Her friend John, who had been one for the floor salesman, was starting his own landscape business and needed someone to push a lawn mower. As it turned out, Jill had someone on her couch that could do just that! And off Todd went to work with John.

It wasn’t that Todd didn’t have a work ethic. He did—a strong one. It was just that he lacked discipline in his younger years. He had made it into one of the top rated high schools in the state of Ohio, but he only made it half- way through before transferring to the local public school. It wasn’t because he wasn’t smart enough; it was because he didn’t want to apply himself to what he considered mundane things-- Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales. It made no sense to Todd to have to read and comprehend these unrelatable things.

A few years earlier, right after he moved down to the beach with his brother, Todd was involved in an incident. The local ATM was attacked by a baseball bat when it didn’t render him the requested cash. The police made a quick visit to Todd’s house as his card was the last one read and the camera had a recording of the transaction, two things Todd hadn’t thought about beforehand. Afterwards, Todd had, in the words of Ricky Ricardo (Google it kids), some “splaining” to do! Luckily for Todd, community service was his only punishment for his juvenile crime.

But he wasn’t a bad kid. He was just a kid that needed some direction, and John and his OBX Landscape Company provided that for him.

So, Todd worked. He pushed the lawnmower. He learned how to dig and install sprinkler systems. He learned landscape design. Soon the OBX Landscape Company grew, largely, but not solely, in part from the sweat from Todd’s back. It was only a matter of a few years until Todd owned the company, sans the landscape design department-- John held onto that, and together they had the second largest landscape company in Dare, Hyde, Currituck and Tyrell counties in North Carolina. And it was the one most people trusted.

Chapter 3.

Char the weather girl, looking beautiful as always in her official Weather Channel wardrobe, was back on the TV. The disturbance that she promised to keep an eye on had taken greater shape. It had become just a bit more organized as it started drifting west across the Atlantic. Something about it being a tropical wave near the Cape Verde Islands is what Todd thought he heard her say.

Though still not terribly concerned about the weather disturbance, Todd planned out the day for his staff. They had some big jobs coming up, and he wanted to make most of them ready. He needed to send three guys up north to Duck and Corolla to handle the landscape design that John had drawn up for the new Hyatt Hotel being built on the sound front. It wasn’t a typical high-rise hotel because of certain town variances, but it would be sprawling and require some attention to detail.

Down south in Rodanthe, yes, that Rodanthe, where Richard Gere and Diane Lane spent nights riding out their own storm in the movie “Nights in Rodanthe,” Todd’s crew was, ironically, contracted to take care of the famous house from that movie. The new owners wanted new landscaping. They wanted to market the house, as much as was possible, to the next season’s tourists. Todd needed to draw up his battle plan for that job and was riding down with his five guys that would be doing the work. He would then quickly have to make the close to two-hour drive back up to the job at the Hyatt, all before lunch. Today Jack the dog decided not to play with the neighborhood kids; instead, he accompanied the crew on their endeavors. Somehow, stress levels were always lower when Jack was around. The day was productive and the projects were well underway. The projection for both jobs seemed to point to them being concluded in 10 to 14 days.

It was if the discipline that Todd had lacked all his life suddenly found itself in this business he now co-owned.

Chapter 4.

It’s a depression. A tropical depression that is. It had formed near Cape Verde with low level circulation. That’s what Char reported on this morning’s weather report anyway. A possible intensification might come in the next 24-36 hours. But there was nothing to do now but wait and see. It was much too far off to be considered dangerous or even a nuisance, except for the people and property on the East Coast of the United States.

Things were going well for Todd and his crew on both jobs. John had drawn up some new plans for the Hyatt. The owners of the hotel wanted more palm trees, the kind you find in Florida, not the kind you find in North Carolina. Todd thought it was a silly idea, but the tourists always get what they want. “If they want the illusion of swaying palms that are not indigenous to the area, dammit, they will have swaying palms that are not indigenous to the area. Besides, it will mean more money to the bottom line. Thankfully, in this day and age, palms like that are readily available online. Getting them here won’t even be a minor inconvenience.”

As far as what was going on with the Rodanthe house, that was turning out to be a different story altogether. What few people knew or realized was that the house, after the filming, was condemned. At the time of the movie, the house sat on 400 feet of beach that various storms throughout the years had, not so slowly, washed away. The house was declared a public nuisance and some nefarious youths in the area used it as their own personal clubhouse, gaining entry to drink beer and have parties. But recently, the house had been saved, and its owners picked the house up off its piling and trucked it-- that was a day filled with both angst and a little bit of curiosity-- and then moved it to a new location that protected it from Mother Nature’s elements. At the time, the blue shutters that were added for the movie were gone, as was the famous wrap around decks. The new owners wanted to renovate the house back to its original splendor from the movie, both inside and out, and then turn it into a vacation rental. Considerable time and expense had already been put into the project; drawings were made up and supplies had been bought.

All of that was unbeknownst to the OBX Landscape Company at the time of the contract. Todd assumed he and his crew would be able to do their planting and landscape work unencumbered. But from the first day forward, it was evident that they would have to work around the other contractors who were there to do their part of this grand renovation: there were drywallers, carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, along with the city inspectors who made them all rip out the previous day’s work and start again because of minor infraction against the city code. And none of these people gave a damn about stepping on any new flowers or plantings that Todd and his crew, so painstakingly, set into the ground.

One bit of satisfaction came on that first day, however. Jack the dog was there, and so was the dog of one of the interior designers, some little Maltese or some other rat- type dog, who thought he was the alpha animal at the job site. Fifi or Rosie, or some other equally ridiculous name for a dog, decided to get all up in Jack’s face. It was quite comical. Jack looked up at Todd, who seemingly approved of what was going through the animal’s mind. Todd gave a quick nod, and before anyone noticed what was happening, Jack picked up the little rat dog by the collar and unceremoniously deposited her into the waves of the Atlantic, score one for the yellow lab! It reminded Todd of the day that Jack first ran into the Wild Horses of Corolla, but in reverse. Jack merely wanted to play but ran into a group of four or five horses who didn’t want to be bothered. So they kicked poor Jack into the waves as if to say “leave us the hell alone.” Fifi or Rosie, or whatever, was certainly not going to cause a ruckus again, although the interior designer certainly did.

Luckily, the Hyatt project was bringing in extra cash with its last-minute addition of the swaying palms, because the project in Roadanthe – where they had to repair all the damage from the other workers-- was turning into a job with very low profit margins. But that’s the thing. As a business owner, you would think Todd would care more about that. But in his mind, he already was a winner. He had the sunshine, the beach, his surfing, a group of guys who work for him that he thinks of as family, and he’s waking up each morning with his bedroom windows open, listening to the sound of the crashing surf on the ocean. Sure, he could make more money, but that might entail putting on a suit each day and becoming a mindless drone in some huge corporation, and living in Terra Haute, Indiana, or some other such equally depressing northern town. No, for his money, he was quite happy living each of his days in what had come as close to paradise for Todd as any other place on earth. And besides, he still makes a pretty good penny. Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener. Or in Todd’s case, the sand isn’t always finer….

Chapter 5.

Todd wakes up. He listens to the surf for a few minutes through the open bedroom windows and then gets up and goes into the kitchen to turn on the coffee pot. He then steps out onto the deck leading from his bedroom with a large cup filled with strong, black coffee. Out on the deck, Jack is already up and looking for his breakfast. Todd fills the dog’s bowl and turns on the Weather Channel to make sure his crew will get in a full day of work. And as he sprawls out on the couch on the deck, right on time for her shift, Char, the weather girl, lets him know that all systems are go. The crew will get in their full eight hours and more if they want to stay a little later to get the project ahead of schedule. That’s the thing about the OBX Landscape Company; they found the secret to success. Most companies will over promise and under deliver. But Todd has figured out that if you just do what you say you’re going to do, you’re 95% better than most businesses out there. But that isn’t quite good enough for Todd. His business philosophy has always been to under promise and over deliver! In fact, that is the company’s mission statement.

And, oh by the way, the tropical depression now has a name--it’s Izzy, and she’s now a tropical storm.

Chapter 6.

A good day of work is where, at the end of it, you, your crew, and the customer are all equally happy. That’s what you strive for, and that’s how today has turned out. Todd is so happy with the results that he decided to take all of his guys to The Happy Dolphin for fish tacos. Not just any fish tacos, but the fish tacos that President once had delivered to the White House via Marine One (just don’t tell the taxpayers). Watching all eight of his guys enjoying the blackened and grilled grouper tacos and the cold Corona’s gave Todd a warm glow. He was happy with the life he had created for himself. He started pushing a lawnmower a dozen year ago, and now, he’s able to help provide for eight families. Now, if he could only figure a way to stick his partner John with half this bill….

The next day turned out to not be such a good work day. The day brought with it gray and rainy skies. There was wind too, but that is just the usual fare along the Outer Banks. There was too much of a chance of the guys getting hurt, so it was best to just take the day off and catch- up on paperwork and returning emails. But who was he kidding? Todd knew that he’d just spend the better part of the day on Netflix watching The Andy Griffith Show. After all, Andy once did live and is now buried just across the sound from him on Roanoke Island. In fact, before dying, Andy was a customer of the OBX Landscape Company. He even did a radio commercial for Todd in exchange for some work on his property.

Chapter 7.

Char was back at her post. Today seemed much better, in terms of the weather. Todd now wondered how Tropical Storm Izzy was coming along way out there in the Atlantic. He didn’t have to wait long to find out as the tropical forecast came right up. It now seemed that Izzy had lost some strength and was back down to a tropical depression. “Guess that takes care of that storm,” Todd said out loud to no one. When you live along the eastern most part of the Continental United States, you have a tendency to keep an eye towards the east to watch for any potential weather that may be dangerous, or even just a nuisance. That’s just how life is along the coast, especially if you own a business where your work is dictated by the weather. Sometimes you work longer; sometimes you work less. It’s all up to how Char dictates what Mother Nature will throw at you on any given day.

After breakfast and his morning constitution, Jack was in the back yard, something that always got Todd riled up. “He’s not my dog. He’s the neighborhood dog. Why is it only my yard that he likes to mess up?”As Todd came downstairs to head off to work, Jack jumped into the back of Todd’s truck. Apparently, he needed time away from the neighborhood kids today.

Today would be spent at the Rodanthe House. Some of the plants weren’t in the ground yet, and Todd was concerned that they may have blown away in yesterday’s weather or, more likely, blown away in the back of one of the contractor’s trucks. As it turns out, he needn’t have worried; the entire inventory was still there. Todd instructed the guys on the layout of each plant and the distance they had to be planted apart from each other so they had room to spread out as they matured. Once everything was explained to the crew, Todd took Jack down to the water’s edge.

“It times like this, it’s good to be the boss,” he thought to himself. He didn’t have to do the grunt work anymore. Hell, he was getting a little too old for that. The one thing that can be said about working landscaping under the hot tropical sun is that your body gets older a little quicker than the average person. So, Todd and Jack spent a couple hours under the clear, blue Carolina, sunshine-filled skies. Todd watched as Jack went chasing down the beach after some seagulls. It seemed silly that Jack would keep trying like that; he’d never, ever caught one, and God knows he’d tried! Both Todd and Jack liked chasing fiddler crabs as they scurried down their burrows built in the sand. They too were much too quick for both man and dog. Jack soon bored of losing to the other animal species on the beach, so he romped over to the piece of driftwood that was bobbing back and forth with each wave. Jack snatched it just as a little rogue wave came and knocked him back several feet onto the shore. Todd knew that he would be spending the next 20 minutes or so doing his best “Nolan Ryan” impression as he threw the driftwood as far as he could so Jack could chase after it and bring it back. Thankfully, it seemed that Jack would tire out at the same point that Todd’s arm could no longer take the strain of heaving the piece of wood.

But play time would now be over, and it would be time to check in on the crew and let them break for lunch. As Todd was heading over the protective sand dune back to the work site, he glanced over his shoulder back to the water just in time to see four or five dolphins swim parallel to the shore about 50 yards out. “In search of food,” Todd thought. And at that moment, the seagulls, being the scavengers that they were, flew out and began trailing the swimming mammals looking for trace pieces of food. “Yes indeed,” Todd thought,” Life is good in my own slice of paradise.”

But that feeling of satisfaction was short lived, and once he returned to the job site, Todd discovered that even more of their hard work had been destroyed, this time by the general contractor working on the kitchen rehab. The contractor decided that he would just lay his marble countertops onto something non-abrasive so they wouldn’t get scratched or damaged. Apparently, the freshly planted lavender shrubs were the exact right place for this. Todd had gotten back just as one of his guys was about to take a swing at the contractor’s head. Fortunately, that encounter was thwarted. But would other fights erupt in the future if he wasn’t there? Certainly, Todd thought, he couldn’t be on the job site every minute of every day until completion. He could just call off his guys until the inside work was completed. But there were two problems with that: it was in direct opposition to his Mission Statement for the OBX Landscape Company. Remember, they under promise and over deliver on every job! So they couldn’t afford to take time off from their work. Otherwise, they would never make the job deadline. And secondly, and even more importantly, if his guys didn’t work the job, they wouldn’t get paid. There was no other job that he could dump them on right now. In most cases, these guys had wives and children to feed. No, a solution had to be found.

Todd rounded up all the contractors --the carpenters, the plumbers, the electricians --and had a quick meeting. He very nicely pointed out to each that his company worked for a lot of wealthy businesses and individuals on the Outer Banks. And if each contractor could see their way of being more careful of his crews’ work, then when those businesses and individuals asked his opinion about whom to hire for certain jobs, as they often did, he would feel good about recommending them. Each contractor, seeing the logic of what Todd was saying, agreed that they would be more careful.

So, the crisis was averted, and a long 10-hour day was complete. What is it the commercials all say about this time of day? Ah, yes….it’s Miller Time! It was time to head to the Happy Dolphin for a quick one, two, or three….

Chapter 8.

It’s Saturday. So, there is no work today, not for Todd or his crew. As is his habit, the Weather Channel is on and a coffee is in his hand. It must not be a work day for Char either as some hairy guy named Bob, dressed in a suit that seems about two sizes too small, is on the TV. It’s not as pleasing to watch today.

Nothing was mentioned about Izzy. “Must be another storm that just went away,” Todd thought.

It was going to be a pretty day on the Outer Banks with temperatures in the 80’s and calm winds. It wasn’t going to be a surf day, but it would be a great day to head over to Roanoke Island and do some stand- up paddle boarding with Chuck.

Chuck and Todd had been friends for years. Their friendship lasted longer than the relationship that Todd had with Chuck’s sister, Kim. Todd and Kim dated off and on for about two years. She was a stereotypical surfer girl with blonde, flowing hair, who didn’t need or use much makeup. A real “earthy chick” Is how Todd described her. Kim was a free spirit and never really got why Todd was so devoted to his work. She was more of the mindset that if the waves were pumping anywhere between the northern beaches and Hatteras, you went surfing. On her priority list, earning a living was way below surfing. In fact, everything to Kim was less important than surfing. Chuck was a bit more balanced than his sister. He also was always on the water--paddle boarding, surfing, kite surfing, wind surfing, kayaking--but he was able to combine his passions into his work life. Chuck was the owner and operator of the Roanoke Island Outfitters Group, a company that rented out water sports equipment and provided guide services for various kayaking expeditions across the “Tar Heel State.” They had even ventured into South Carolina and Virginia.

Todd and Kim had remained civil and even friendly since deciding to go their separate ways. There would always be a spark between them, an ember that would never fade, but it was too much of opposites attract, apparently. The best thing to come out of that relationship was the friendship Todd and Chuck had formed- a bromance, Kim would always kiddingly say, despite the fact that Chuck had been happily married to his 8th grade sweetheart from Manteo Middle School.

A quick cup of coffee, some scrambled eggs, and a sweet potato biscuit made by Chuck’s wife, Trish, and Todd and Chuck were out the door. If he could, Todd would have come over seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for Trish’s sweet potato biscuit. That was worth the 30-minute drive alone. After breakfast, Todd and Chuck decided to head to downtown Manteo, just a short walk down the street, to put their paddle boards in the water at the public boat ramp near the bridge to Ice Plant Island and Festival Park.

The water was as smooth as glass, nary a ripple, and the paddling was easy. They headed out the canal and into the open water of the sound. With the calm conditions, no sailboats would be out today creating an obstacle- free day on the water. Off at about their 3 o’clock, as they hit open water, was some sort of marine life. It could be bull shark, which were often swimming in the warm, brackish, shallow waters of the sound. Most people didn’t realize it, but they were usually there. Recently, there was even a report of a bull shark as far upriver on the Mississippi as Illinois. More than likely though, the marine life would turn out to be dolphins. There was a group of four kayakers who rented their boats from Chuck that were in hot pursuit of them, whatever they were. That was part of the beauty and charm of living in such a place; you could interact with the dolphins in their own environment.

Because Chuck’s business was also weather dependent, Todd knew that Chuck would be keeping an eye on the weather disturbance off the Cape Verde Islands. Chuck also saw that Tropical Storm Izzy had been downgraded back to a depression. He knew that sometimes that happens and then redevelops back into a powerful storm. But that didn’t seem to be what Izzy was likely to do. Todd and Chuck both agreed that that was the last they would see or hear of Izzy.

There is nothing like a beautiful day on the water to help rejuvenate one’s soul. And today was exactly what Todd needed after a long week of working with the Hyatt people and the contractors at the Rodanthe House. Just as they made their way back down the canal and to dry land, Trish texted to say that she and Kim were at Pete’s on the Water (more often referred to as PW’s), and to come meet them for a bucket of clams and a pitcher of beer. Never one to pass up an offer of clams and beer, the boys walked the block down the docks to PW’s.

Sometimes Todd found it difficult to hang with Kim in a social setting, especially when her natural free-spirit would cause her to flirt with the fisherman and tourists that would hang out at PW’s. But tonight, she was on her best behavior, and the night went by without incident.

Chapter 9.

Todd woke up with the early light and immediately felt remorse for waking up in Kim’s bed. He didn’t want to fall into that pattern again. It was a pattern that never seemed to work out to his advantage. He was always the one who was getting hurt; Kim always came out the other end of each break- up completely unscathed. And if this continued, he knew that would be the case again.

Thankfully, the night before, Kim had heard about a possible swell coming in at the point on Cape Hatteras, so she was up and gone in her Jeep, chasing the surf before Todd got up. She loved that Jeep. It was black, always had the doors off, and the top down. She would throw her boards in the back, along with a backpack full of snacks and a thermos of coffee, and down the beach she would ride. At least with her gone, there would be no awkward conversations; he could just get into his truck and head back over to his house in Kitty Hawk. So, Todd got up, went to the outside shower, got cleaned up, dressed, and left.

But he didn’t head straight home. First there was a stop to grab another sweet potato biscuit. I mean, why not? He was just down the street. As Todd entered Chuck and Trish’s house, he was met by a mixed set of reactions--a frown from Chuck and a smile from Trish. If Todd was in their kitchen this morning, they knew where he spent the night, and it wasn’t at home in Kitty Hawk.

Todd had the whole day in front of him, free from any obligations. As he left the island and drove across the Manteo-Nags Head Causeway back to the beach, he remembered that his beloved Cleveland Indians were deadlocked in a 1-1 weekend series tie against those hated New York Yankees. The Happy Dolphin had the MLB package, and Todd knew he could watch the game from there. But first he stopped at home for a change of clothes.

Todd pulled into the driveway and was met by Jack who gave him this look as if to say, “Dude, seriously? I know where you’ve been. Now, how about some food?” Both he and Jack went out onto the deck. Jack ate while Todd sat with his coffee. After they finished, Todd took Jack (or was it the other way around?) over to the sound. They walked out onto the pier to play their favorite game. Todd would throw a tennis ball out into the water as far as he could while Jack would jump off the end of the pier, swim to the ball, swim back to the shore, and then run down the length of the pier and drop the ball. Then he’d be ready to do it all again.

Jack, after all, was a yellow Labrador retriever, and that’s what they did. The tourists always loved watching this game of throw, swim, retrieve, and repeat. In fact, Todd had caught the attention of a few of the tourist girls with this game. “Best way to meet women,” he always said.

It was now closing in at around 1pm. The game would be starting shortly. Todd and Jack walked the short distance back home. All the way, Jack shaking the wetness out of his fur while Todd got splattered. When they got home, Jack laid down under the house in the shade and fell asleep. Apparently, he was up guarding the empty house all night. Todd grabbed his wallet and keys and headed out for the Happy Dolphin.


About me

Greg Smrdel is a stand-up comedian and a writer. He performs all across the country and is a contributor for My Outer Banks Home Magazine. Greg has a special affinity for the Outer Banks and her people.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
This story is a complication of a couple of storms that I've been through. Those that have also ridden out hurricanes will recognize the emotions and passions of the characters. Those that haven't will have a better understanding of what it is like to face mother nature.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
Don't give up. Even when its bleak, there is always hope!
Q. What books are you reading now?
I'm currently reading the Harrison Weaver mystery series by my friend Joseph LS Terrell. These stories also use the OBX as a backdrop.