Just down the road between Columbus and West Point, where the asphalt turns to gravel, there’s an opening in the trees revealing a peek at the meandering Tibbee Creek.
On any given day, during any given season, fishermen and fisherwomen can be seen sitting on overturned buckets or walking the creek’s edge just to wet a line. Those in boats, boaters, call them “bank-walkers.”
Fishermen on the bank cast in the middle of the creek and fishermen in boats cast up near to the bank. Hard to figure.
When temperatures hovered near the 100s, there wasn’t much fishing going on, but there was something else.
One day it appeared. A tall soft-sided red suitcase trimmed in black. Right at that opening to the creek sat the suitcase, like it was waiting for a bellman at some fancy hotel. The bellman never arrived, and for days the suitcase sat there tall and straight. Folks wondered about the suitcase, but no one touched it. Things aren’t like they used to be.
Then I passed by one evening and saw the suitcase had been violated. It lay sprawled open like a mouth when the doctor says, “Say ahhhh.” A tongue-like flap exposed the contents which from a distance looked like road maps.
Shortly thereafter, the contents were poured out on the dirt bank and the empty suitcase floated, opened, in the waters of the Tibbee. For days, the suitcase and spilt contents remained right there. Still no fishermen, boaters or bank-walkers came to fish.
Then late one afternoon passing by again, I glanced over for the suitcase and noticed it was gone but the contents remained. That day, I decided to stop and investigate.
There was no traffic on the back road; still, I left the car running to make my getaway. I didn’t want anyone to see me pilfering the red suitcase contents. In fact, I didn’t really want to pilfer, but I was curious what secrets the contents might reveal.
I have no way of knowing what may have been taken from the suitcase, or how it might have gotten there — though the airport is only 4 miles away. The suitcase could have arrived by plane, train or automobile.
Closer to the creek I discovered the missing red suitcase, it was now dark and completely submerged in the Tibbee.
On the bank I took a stick and moved the contents about. There were stacks of Sports Illustrated magazines, they were dried, faded and wrinkled from sun and rain. I did not see the “swimsuit” edition.
There was a beige brassiere; 38C, padded, fairly good condition, and a wadded up gray T-shirt. I pushed it around with the stick to expose a red logo and black lettering: “Air Control Engineering.”
The only certainty about the red suitcase and its contents is that, wherever it was bound, it will not arrive.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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