I must have been 15 yards from shore when I noticed that my black backpack was snatched from the now distant lifeguard stand. I looked at the empty seat in shock, as if royalty had been dethroned. My sack of belongings sat so prominently moments ago.
Three adolescents made their way off the beach, walking their bikes through powdery sand just right of the tall red throne. They slowly approached hilly pavement.
"I can catch them," I thought as I noticed a small black item hanging from one of their handle bars. It was time to swim swiftly. Like a steadily advancing laser, I glided across the ocean's brown salty surface - my arms rotating like tenacious oars, and my motorized feet propelling me through the agitated Atlantic...
Soon, the water's depth subsided enough for me to stand upright and shift from swimming to sprinting. As if with blinders alongside my left and right, I focused my eyes solely on the distant trio of thieves - as if doing so would increase my speed. With a portion of adrenaline, my feet lightly sped through the super soft, warm powdery sand as salt water droplets whisked off my hair, onto my body, then finally onto the thirsty ground. As I ran, the odds seemed to be a toss up: the culprits were moving as slowly as snails while dragging their bikes through the unfavorable sandy beach. Even with this advantage, the vast distance between us didn't seem to decrease quickly enough as I sprinted in their direction. I remained silent - the notion of shouting for help didn't enter my tired mind.
Finally hitting the inclined pavement, I saw the kids pedaling out of sight over the hill. They turned right on Avenue A as I reached the summit. My hopes of catching up to them faded as I turned the corner, finding the avenue frustratingly empty...
Out of breath and defeated, I walked briskly north on A1A. In the shade of an incomplete structure sat a man touching the screen of his cell phone as it lay alongside him. His over-sized shades, graphic tee, and trucker hat identified him as a local.
"Hey man...can I...use your cell phone please? These kids just stole my backpack." Still short of breath, I recalled that my phone was in my car, which was inaccessible because my key was in my now abducted bag.
"What?!" The man, whose name I'd soon learn was Chris - showed genuine, instant concern. I called 911 as I walked back to the infamous lifeguard stand to ensure my backpack was still gone. I hoped my wandering from where I met a now phoneless Chris didn't worry him. Just then, he pulled up in his gray van to get a description of my backpack. I handed him his pone with gratitude as I related the details.
"I'm gonna make a quick run and see if I can find them," he said with confidence. In the back of my mind, I wondered if he knew the kids in question...
Alone again, the fresh water shower looked inviting.
"Jehovah?" I silently prayed while making my way to the rinse station. "I know you won't just drop my belongings back into my lap. But please give me the wisdom and peace of mind to deal with this."
The rushing cold water was sweet to the taste and soothing to my skin. I chose to find shade under an umbrella outside of South Beach Grill - the lone Crescent Beach establishment atop the hill at the corner of Cubbedge and A. Sitting in calm solitude, my mind's eye saw Chris finding my things. I envisioned offering him a set of May magazines that were by now surely hot to the touch in the backseat of my car.
In what seemed like an instant, Chris' metallic van pulled up slowly. As I silently lifted my head, he reached into the passenger seat and held up my backpack! Like a school kid excited to see that his late dad finally arrived to pick him up from school, I sprang to my feet and briskly walked around the van to its passenger side.
"I think I found your stuff," announced Chris.
I remember saying thank you about three times. My backpack was a mess as I rummaged through it. White sunblock blotches covered the inside and outside like an inverted cow. My wallet was torn open and like fallen confetti, clipped note-cards I used to rehearse a recent Christian convention interview covered the seat and my backpack. I looked at my typed scriptural thoughts, then looked up at Chris...
"Are you a believer?" He asked.