A thick fog was rolling in off the Atlantic when I turned right at the Bi-Lo and, half a mile later, pulled up in front of what my GPS told me was 714 Jungle Road. Jerry McNab was living in Edisto Beach, I’d been informed, and from late afternoon through last call he could usually be found at a bar called Ayel’s at this address.
I climbed out of my Jeep, zipped my windbreaker against the chill, and looked around. Beach houses on stilts, mostly, each of them with a yellow and green Edisto Realty “For Rent” sign strapped to its balcony. It was off-season, the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and the coastal island seemed sound asleep, the houses dark, no vehicles in their carports.
714 Jungle Road was a lonely strip mall, only half a dozen storefronts wide. There was an art gallery, a nail salon, a shuttered ice-cream parlor—and, yes, a bar with one sad string of twinkle lights blinking around its entrance and plate-glass window, but it was called the Invariable Length, not Ayel’s.
And then the penny dropped: Invariable Length, I-L, ergo Ayel’s.
I went up the eight weathered pine steps and in the door.
The bar was practically empty. Not a customer in sight, just a tall guy with a bushy red beard and a KEEP CALM AND DRINK LOCAL BEER t-shirt and a red-and-white striped apron tied around his waist behind the bar, drying a pint glass with a dishtowel that had seen better days.