Spicy Encounter?

Hello Sound

Reaching the Currituck Sound in record time, we drove across the bridge, and I posted a picture of the waves on social media with my husband’s traditional greeting that still makes me laugh, though he’s been saying it for more than twenty years:  “Hear the Sound?”

(He also asks for a burger and fries at the ATM machine, but that’s a story for another time.)

As we neared the Duck sign that marks the turn to our street, I dug into my purse for the keys to our favorite place to relax.

Just as my fingers found the keys, Matt said, “Hey, look at that.”

“What?” I asked, looking up but seeing nothing unusual.

“There,” he said, gesturing to the delivery van in front of us.

And there it was—the image for my favorite Outer Banks Seasonings—a lighthouse surrounded by blue waves in a circular frame of golden yellow.

He grinned as the imaginary beams from the lighthouse logo lit up my face.  “You want to follow him?” he asked.

“Yes!” I exclaimed.  But I thought he was teasing me.  Born in the city, he is not one to speak easily to strangers on the street.  He’s grown used to his wife’s propensity to engage in gregarious conversations with strangers, but he’s not one to actively pursue a person he doesn’t know.

But he passed our turn and focused on the van, saying only, “I hope he isn’t going all the way to Corolla.”  Matt knew how much I loved those spices.  I’d been buying them for ten years, and one year I even bought them to put into a holiday gift basket for each of the secretaries in my office.

But the spices had recently disappeared from the shelves of the local seafood market.  I’d searched the Internet and found them only available in, oddly, the Duck Post Office.  I’d sent Matt to the post office, but he came back empty-handed.  For almost a year I’d been unable to find them.  I still have one bottle of garlic pepper on my spice shelf, but my favorite, Pamlico Bay Seasoning, was emptied months ago.  Matt has heard me mourn its loss every time I make Maryland crab soup, as I whine about the fact that ordinary bay seasoning just isn’t as good.

Luckily, the driver stopped at one of Duck’s most famous visitor sites, the Duck Deli, a little cottage that was once the only restaurant in town.  Matt found a rare parking space in front, and I jumped from the car and hurried toward the van, waiting for its driver to come back from the kitchen.

The driver returned, opened the door of the van, and tossed a bread rack into the back.  My face fell when I saw no spices in the van.

“Hey!” I said.  As he turned and looked at me warily, I hurried on, “I love those spices!  And I haven’t been able to find them in months.”

I blurted out my story, and he began to smile.  He introduced himself to me and told me that he and his son had recently opened Proof Bakery and that I could get the spices there—that they had changed the packaging.  When I told him how much more I liked his spice blend than that more famous seafood seasoning from Maryland and how my crab soup hadn’t tasted the same since, he laughed and told me that he was originally from Maryland, too.  He gave me his business card and invited me to visit, laughing when I told him my name.  “Well, now, that’s a mouthful of name, isn’t it.”

I laughed and promised to pay the bakery a visit.

“So did he think you were a stalker?” Matt asked as I slid into the passenger side of our SUV.

“Nah.  We’re in the south,” I grinned and told my husband the spicy story of my encounter.

Had we seen that delivery van at home, where a few years ago two snipers alleged to be in the same sort of van terrorized our residents for months, we would never have considered chasing the Spice Man down.

Don’t talk to strangers.  It’s the mantra we use to protect ourselves and our children.  But when I think of all the friends who started out as strangers to me, I’m reminded again that nothing is either/or.  We live in a both/and world, and sometimes it’s worth the risk to talk with a stranger.

And as we turned onto our street and drove toward the water, the Sound was perfectly silent.  But I could hear it, just the same, reminding me that life happens in the in-between.

So tell me your stories of silent sound.

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