It was a typical spring morning, with a light breeze and small swells lapping up on the beach. I was awake long before sunrise prepping my tackle and brewing fresh coffee with only one thing on my mind—getting to the beach and driving my aluminum spikes into the cold, wet sand.
I’m not a complicated man and have lived within casting range of the coast for my entire life. Cell phones and other unnecessary electronics never played an integral part in the story of my life, and multi-million dollar mansions now occupy my once desolate stretch of coastal paradise. Surrounded by such lavish properties, my small cottage sticks out like a sore thumb, but I would never want to live in such a giant estate anyway, nor could I afford it.
I never checked tide charts or wind forecasts, but I occasionally glanced at the palm trees outside for a weather report. Whether there were 2-foot rollers or 10-foot breakers, I could be found in the wash getting baptized by the sea. Over the years I’ve seen a lot on the beach and nothing ever came as a surprise. Beached whales, illegal immigrants and turtle hatchlings were only some of the more odd sights I’ve seen while searching for a hot bite. However, one fateful April morning two years ago turned my whole world upside down.
Upon arriving at my favorite stretch of sand I began the morning as usual—searching the suds for clams and sand fleas. Stumbling down the shoreline I managed to capture 24 perfect pompano baits in only a few minutes. Little did I know this was just the beginning of a much bigger find!
A few steps later and I again saw the telltale V of a burrowing flea and dropped to my knees to dig it out. After grabbing the crab-like critter I noticed what appeared to be the corner of a black trash bag protruding from the sand. A steward of the sea, I always remove trash from the beach and without hesitation began digging up the plastic.
As I continued digging I realized what I was exposing wasn’t trash at all. Carefully wrapped in black plastic was a square package weighing approximately ten pounds. Only out of sheer curiosity, I tore the corner of the bag open to reveal a tightly packed, plant-like substance. Confirming the odor, this was clearly marijuana likely discarded by smugglers far away and long ago. Who knows exactly how the package landed there, but here I was with illegal contraband now in my possession.
I reluctantly carried the package back to my house and contemplated for days what to do next. Should I call local authorities? Should I return the package right where I found it? Instead, an acquaintance convinced me he knew someone who had a cousin who had a friend who had a co-worker who knew a guy that I could sell it to and quickly make thousands! He assured me no one would ever know. Though I’ve learned to enjoy the simpler things in life…who doesn’t like a little extra cash?
In hindsight, I made a terrible decision influenced by greed and peer pressure. Yes, my friend did know someone who had a cousin who had a friend who had a co-worker who knew a guy I could sell it to. The one detail that slipped through the cracks was that the “guy” was an undercover police officer. As soon as the exchange was made, I was immediately apprehended and ultimately faced prosecution to the full letter of the law. “I found it and was planning on donating the money from the sale to a beach restoration project,” didn’t convince anyone.
I had no prior criminal record, but because of that one mistake it won’t be another 37 months, 11 days and 4 hours before I feel the waves at my feet and sand between my toes.