They drove a crooked road on their way back to Massachusetts and their new life together. Most of Michael’s family had moved to Florida years ago and were spread out across the state. They stopped in Orlando to visit with his elderly father and two of his sisters before turning north to visit Dana’s relatives.
Dana’s Aunt Mary lived in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously settled (by Europeans) city in the United States. She was one of Dana’s many aunts, on her mother’s side of the family. Mary was expecting them. She was almost ninety years old and still played golf with her friends every week.
Michael valued close family relationships and enjoyed getting to know Dana’s Aunt Mary. His Great Aunt Mary, whom he loved very much as a child, was like a grandmother to him. While the two women visited he repaired a leak in the refrigerator and fixed a few other things around her home.
Dana and Michael explored St. Augustine after saying goodbye to Aunt Mary. Tom’s Shell Shack, on A1A, immediately attracted his attention. Giant clam shells, bleached shark jaws, varnished puffed up blow fish hanging from the rafters and weathered pallets laden with conch shells littered the entrance way into the slightly fishy smelling interior.
The bespectacled store owner, Tom, greeted them with a nod from behind the check out counter and resumed working at his computer. Natural light filtered through the long and dusty store front picture windows. Row after row of shells and nautical bric-a-brac filled the shop from floor to ceiling.
Michael wondered if he should ask Tom for permission to sound test shells, but decided not to. He asked Dana to shield him from the anti-theft cameras, as he discretely discovered which shells made the best sounds. They found a dozen shells that met with his approval. He paid Tom for the shells and they happily left the shop, for completely different reasons, I’m sure, and headed North to New England and Spring.