We run under a canopy of idle gantry cranes to a concrete pier. The facility is tiny, as far as seaports go. It is the watery equivalent to a neighborhood municipal airstrip, but also is home to several factories. Not too far along the curl of the bay, the smokestacks of a petroleum refinery spout flame into the sky like giant pilot lights.
Moored alongside the pier is a flat-top freighter. Interestingly, this freighter is low-slung, with its deck level to the pier. This is peculiar, as most freighters are built to float high above the waterline - take it for what it’s worth, it’s a dream, after all.
We cross the gangplank and steal away onto the ship. The crew is nowhere to be found. The deck is empty except for a about a dozen cardboard packages, each the size of a large watermelon.
Our group sets off to work the mischief we’ve come here to do, which is to reenact the events of Boston Tea Party. We make quick work of the parcels, and before too long all of them are floating in the brackish water.
Our devious deeds complete, we make a break for home. I stop after a few steps even as my friends are already scaling the perimeter fence. Standing on the concrete pier, I notice that one of the parcels we had tossed into the water was addressed to me. Pasted onto it was a letter I had written that had been stamped “Return to sender.” I focus with razor sharpness on my home address emblazoned on the envelope.
Paranoid thoughts steal into my mind. I’m really in trouble now - when the police arrive to investigate, they’ll get my street address from those packages, and somehow know that I was responsible for trespassing in the port facility. So that’s when I do what I’d felt heretofore was unthinkable - I sit down on the pier and dangle my legs over the edge, then slide off and land in the water.
Surprisingly, the water is shallow, rising up to about my waist. The water is brown and perfectly opaque, topped with that soap bubble sheen you get when mixing petroleum and water. I am thoroughly disgusted.
I wade through the sludge, keeping up a vain attempt to have as little of me touch the water. Once I get within reach of the packages, I scoop them up into my arms, snatching up the ones addressed to me and leaving the others.
All of them have my name on them.
“Crap!” I say, slapping the water with my palm. At just that moment I clap my jaws shut. It wouldn’t help to have someone hear me, nor did I want to risk accidentally ingesting some of the sludge I was wading in. A mental checklist of carcinogens flashes through my mind. My skin prickles.
I corral the floating parcels and wade back to the pier. That’s when I realize that there is no ladder. The dockside is a sheer vertical face that rises well over my head. With my arms extended, I can just barely curl my fingers over the edge of the pier.
Knowing I’ve already put myself through too much to leave without the parcels, I throw them over my head onto land. Then, in a feat of superhuman strength (at least for me), I leap up, catch the lip of the wall with my hands, and haul my dripping-wet body out of the water.
I flop onto my chest atop the pier, roll onto my back, panting for breath. I am winded. The industrial stink leaves a coppery tang in the back of my throat. I scramble to my feet and reach for the packages so I can make my getaway.
Inexplicably, the packages have become several times heavier. Mind you, only a moment ago they floated on the surface of the water, and I did just throw them up to the pier from below, but now I can hardly budge even the smallest one. My only explanation for all this is that the packaging must have been made of oil for it to float so easily on the water below.
My ears perk to the sound of distant sirens drawing nearer. Forgetting the packages, I sprint - sneakers sopping wet and gushing all the way - to the perimeter fence and the alleyways beyond.