Monday, June 20, 2005

Waiting; Gulls on a Fence

Waiting: gulls on a fence, photo by Mary Stebbins Posted by Hello

Discovery at Little Hog Island, Part 50

Dana picked up one of the cats and petted it. The cat was black and sleek and purred ferociously.
“I thought you were allergic to cats!” Ross said.

“I ab, but I still love theb,” Dana answered, sniffing and sneezing.

“I’ll put you in the cabana,” Ami said. “It’s one of the guest areas I keep the cats out of. Guaranteed safe.”

“That’s a big probise. Especially after all the events of the past few days.”

“Sorry, I take it back. It’s guaranteed safe from cat dander. That’s all.”

Ami grabbed a bottle of wine and ducked into the bathroom for towels. Dana and Ross followed her out to the cabana, in the back. It was a tiny shack made out of plywood, up on stilts. Inside, it seemed bigger than it did on the outside. There was a main room with a tiny kitchen and couch, a miniature bedroom with a narrow bed and dresser, and a bathroom not much bigger than a closet. It had a shower so narrow Dana wasn’t sure she could squeeze into it. And a screen porch. The screen porch was furnished with 3 wicker rockers with big fluffy pillows. Dana collapsed into one, sneezing and rubbing her itchy eyes, and gratefully took the wine that Ami offered.

Ross sat between them sipping his wine and looking out to sea. Out to Peggy’s boat was more like it. Dana followed his glance and saw two boats running circles around The Roseate again. Ross rose and stalked silently out of the shack.

Part 51

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Looking out from the Pier

Looking out from the Pier Posted by Hello

Discovery at Little Hog Island, Part 49

But Ross turned the boat toward Hog Island, Big Hog Island, and the two boats, his and Amy’s cruised side by side into a slip. Dana accepted Ross’s hand up without arguing. It seemed she was going to Ami’s, whether she wanted to or not.

Ami led the way. Dana followed her and Ross came behind. They climbed a series of rickety steps that swayed and bumped against a rough rock wall to a landing that sagged and shook so violently that Dana feared it would collapse, hurtling her to the rocks below. The wooden walkway over the rocks was slimy with algae and the sandpaper strips that had been laid down for traction were peeling off raggedly and flopping under their feet. Dana had a sudden image of what the house would be like, and when Ami opened the door, and flipped on the switch, there it was: exactly what she’d expected. The house was a disaster. Stuff was piled on every surface including the floor. Cats roamed the house, sat on the table, slept on the counters.

Dana sneezed, sneezed again, and then sneezed in a whole series of barking reports. “I bight dot be able to stay here,” Dana said, “I’b allergic to cats.”

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Carts on the Pier

Carts on the Pier, photo by Mary Stebbins Posted by Hello

Discovery at Little Hog Island, part 48

As he retreated and swerved back around, Dana realized Ross couldn’t possibly hear her in the roar of the boats. Another boat was approaching, careening wildly, heading toward them. It too swerved at the last possible second. A woman’s eyes rolled white with shock and fear. The dark face looked like a mirror image to Dana. Then she knew—Ami.

Were Ami and Ross the ones who’d been rocking Peggy’s boat, throwing rocks through her window?

Ross circled, more slowly now, and pulled up beside the skiff. Ami followed, pulling up on the other side.

“Oh, my God,” Ami said, her face looking blanched of all color, “We almost hit you, we’re so sorry!”

“Ami called to tell me that she had seen boats circling the Roseate and had seen a rock break a window. We were coming to try to help, and it never occurred to me that you’d be out in the skiff.”

“Or me. We’re so sorry! Did you see who was circling you?” Ami asked.

“No, we couldn’t see in the dark. Did you recognize the boat or boats? Do you make a habit of watching me?” Peggy said, sounding more than a little annoyed.

“Ross had said you had Dana and there could be trouble and to keep an eye out.”

“I thought Ross was busy with some family emergency,” Dana said, addressing not Ross, but Ami.

“I told Peggy to tell you I’d explain later,” Ross said, sounding half apologetic and half angry.

“I did tell her, but I can see why she might be concerned. This has been altogether too much excitement for me,” Peggy said, “Why don’t you take Dana and I’ll go back to the Roseate. If anyone wants to take up a collection for her window, poor thing, let me know.”

Ross helped Dana into his boat and Peggy rowed rapidly away into the darkness toward the Roseate.

“Why don’t you guys come over to my house for a drink and maybe spend the night?” Ami suggested.

“I think I might like to just get my bike and my gear and head north to a quieter spot, if you’d just take me back to camp, Ross.”

Friday, June 17, 2005

Driftwood. Posted by Hello

Discovery at Little Hog Island, Part 47

The boat swerved at the last possible moment. In the faint running lights, Dana could see it was Ross.

“Ross!” She screamed.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Wiccan Skull, photo by Mary Stebbins Posted by Hello

Discovery at Little Hog Island, Part 46

Part 1, Part 45

“Billy Owens. All three of them, and Buck, don’t want you raising Billy Owens from the grave.”

“That’s it? That’s all? Because of all the Billy Owens offspring? Everyone must know about it by now.”

The boat rocked and swayed violently. Another boat circled fiercely, swept by a few feet away and then sped off. There was a clunk on the wall beside the window. “They missed, the fools, they’re probably drunk,” Peggy said.

They went out on deck and picked up another object that was swaying precariously on the edge, about to slide in. “GET RID OF THE INTERLOPER!” It said, in even larger letters, “OR ELSE.”

“Or else what?” Dana asked. “Should I leave? You know, there are other islands with Roseate tern populations. I have a map. I could easily go somewhere else.”

Peggy swept up the glass shards and taped Saran Wrap over the hole in the window. She made them another green drink. “I don’t want to sound like a wimp or a naysayer,” she finally answered, “but if I were you I would carefully consider the peace and serenity it might bring you to do your tern research at some other location. I don’t think you’re in any real danger, but this can’t be much fun for you.”

“It’s not,” Dana said. “I’m curious-er and curious-er, but I have limited time and need to get my project done. If you are willing to take me back to camp, I think I will pack up tonight and head north.”

They hadn’t rowed more than a hundred yards toward shore when they saw a boat coming, bearing straight down on them, fast.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Underwater Posted by Hello

Discovery at Little Hog Island, Part 45

Part 1, Part 44

“Sometimes those boys, I mean men, are so juvenile,” Peggy said, and her face softened a little. “They could at least have tied on a few twenties to pay for my window.”

Dana let her breath out and started picking glass shards from her arms. “You know who did it?” she asked.

“No,” Peggy answered, “but I have some guesses.”

“Starting with Glenn?”

“Maybe. Or Garrett. Or Harlan.”

“Harlan? Why Harlan?”

Part 46

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Gull Skull

Gull Skull, with algae. Photo by Mary Stebbins Posted by Hello

Discovery on Little Hog Island, part 44

Part 1, Part 43

In a shower of glass, a white object tumbled onto the table. Both women had leaped back in their seats, but it was too late and there was nowhere to go. Flecks of blood from the shards of glass welled up on their hands, arms and faces.

“There goes the air conditioning,” Peggy said, almost hissing, picking up the object. It was wound around with fishing line. She took the smaller dagger from the shelf and cut the line. It parted instantly.

“I thought that was ornamental and ceremonial,” Dana said.

“I keep it honed razor sharp,” Peggy answered, in a low mean voice. Dana did a double take and looked at her closely. Peggy’s eyes were narrowed and hard. She unwrapped a paper from around a jagged stone and carefully unfolded and flattened it.

“GET RID OF THE INTERLOPER,” it said in large block letters.

Dana shivered and looked at the dagger and the hard look in Peggy’s eyes.

Part 45

Monday, June 13, 2005

Sanderling on the shore

Sanderling on the shore. Photo by Mary Stebbins Posted by Hello

Discovery on Little Hog Island, Part 43

Part 1, Part 42

“In my opinion, yes, and no.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Just this: I learned the hard way that when people say, it can’t get any worse than this, it always can. Things can always get worse, no matter how bad they are. And this is not the worst worse it could be.”

“Hmmm. That doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement for the Apostles.”

“I worship the Goddess, myself. The Goddess, and the Horned King. And I don’t mean Satan.”

“Are you a Wiccan?”

“High Priestess.”

“I can see that.” Dana looked around the small cabin where they sat drinking something green and delicious. There were five-pointed stars and chalices and a dagger and antlers and other Wiccan objects woven carefully and discreetly into the décor. On a small shelf above the sink were candles, including a black one, fresh flowers, and other objects. “Is that an alter?” Dana asked, pointing.

“Yes it is, how did you know?”

“I’m a bit of a Wiccan myself. But I lean more toward the Shamanistic aspects of Wiccanism.”

“Well met. Blessed be.”

“Well met. Blessed be. What kind of smoothie is this?”

“A green drink smoothie, full of fresh mints, lambsquarters, St. Johnswort, and other herbs. The base is frozen and fresh pineapple with a little mango and coconut.”

“I love it. Thank you.”

“It’s soothing and refreshing on such a hot evening.” Dana nodded happily. They sat in silence for a few moments, enjoying their drinks. The boat rocked gently on the waves and the air conditioner hummed faintly.

A sudden shattering broke the stillness.

Part 44

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Big Appetite

Big Appetite, gull on wharf with fish, photo by Mary Stebbins Posted by Hello

Discovery at Little Hog Island, part 42

Part 1, Part 41

“No. It’s terribly ironic and prophetic, but it was a joke. He’s got grey and blue make-up on. At the time, we all thought it was funny.”

“It doesn’t seem very funny now, in retrospect, obviously. He’s very cute in his senior picture. Very cute; I can see why you all liked him.”

“He was more than cute, he was really nice. A gentleman and a scholar, as we used to say back then.”

“Not entirely a gentleman if he got Dorothy pregnant out of wedlock.”

“Me, too.”

“He got you pregnant, too?”

“All four of us.”

“You’re joking, right? I hope you’re joking.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Did all four of you have his babies?”

“Yes. And Ami had twins. One dead boy had five children.”

“This is like a soap opera.”

The World Turns. And so it does. I’m afraid it doesn’t end there, either.” She shuffled in the drawer. “Here they are,” she said, “all five of them. They were born days apart. This was when they were 16 and headed out on a school trip to Iceland.”

“They look identical. I can’t tell them apart. I’ve met Simon, and I can’t tell which one he is.”

“They all took after Billy. This is Peter, Paul, Simon, Matt, Mark. Matthew is mine.”

“The Apostles. Was that intentional?”

“We didn’t plan it, if that’s what you mean. But, I think we were each trying to turn back the tides of fate in some small way.”

“And did it work?”

Part 43

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Harbor at night, photo by Mary Stebbins Posted by Hello

Discovery at Little Hog Island, Part 41

Part 1, Part 40

“When you said food and drinks were waiting at home, I pictured a yuppie palace, the way you were talking. I wasn’t expecting this.”

“No, the Roseate is no yuppie palace, but she is lean and acrobatic as a tern and handles like a dream. She’s small, but I think you’ll find her comfortable.”

“You live here?”

“When Hal and I split up, he took the house and I took the Roseate and I’ve never regretted it.”

“Harlan, Harlan Harrison. You married Harlan.”

“Yes. He was a very handsome boy, the tall dark stranger type. Just the opposite of Billy Owens.”

“You had a crush on Billy.”

“We all did.” She opened a drawer under the counter. “Look, our yearbook. The Outcrop. 1964. That was a long time ago. Here’s Billy, here’s Harlan, I have post-its marking the places.”

“‘Billy, the most likely to drown at sea.’ What the heck is this? Was this taken after is death? This is sick.”

Part 42

Intertidal Rock. Photo by Mary Stebbins Posted by Hello

Friday, June 10, 2005

Discovery at Little Hog Island, Part 40

Part 1, Part 39

Dana backed up into the bushes and watched the little skiff move slowly into the cove. The person navigating was unfamiliar to her. A skinny man . . ., no a slender woman. A slender, willowy woman with a pixie haircut. In the faint light, Dana could see hints of grey. Salt and pepper. A pretty face. She stepped back out of the shadows.


“Here,” Dana answered. “Let me guess, you’re Peggy.”

“How’d you know?”

“Well, there are two women I haven’t met, and Ross said that Ami looked a little like me.”

Peggy cocked her head and regarded Dana in the dim light. “Yes, she does look like you. Or vice versa.”

“Where’s Ross?”

“He’s had a family emergency and asked me to pick you up and feed you. He apologizes profusely.”

“Why did he call you?”

“Dorothy is involved with the emergency, which he said he'd explain later, and I guess he couldn’t reach anyone else, he didn’t say, really. I don’t mind a bit, I’m rather eager to meet you. Hop in, I’ve made us a nice cool summer feast. A mini feast. It’s too hot to eat much. And some light frosty smoothies with a touch of vermouth and tonic. All waiting at home. I thought you might want to stay with me tonight. I have air, and it would be dreadful in a tent with this heat.”

Peggy turned the skiff and rowed, not toward land, but out to sea.

Part 41

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Shell with Red Mite

Shell with Red Mite, on tidal rock, photo by Mary Stebbins. (All photos by me unless otherwise noted.) Posted by Hello

Discovery at Hog Island, part 39

Dana sat on a rock with her feet in the water. Her shirt was rolled up and tied under her breasts, even though her stomach was anything but flat. It was still hot.

Ross had dropped her off while it was still dark and the tide was partly out. She had watched the terns wake, and spent the day making notes, photographs and sketches. The tide had come up, gone down, and was now coming up again. Now, it was getting dark and she was watching the terns go to sleep for the night.

Soon, Ross would be arriving to pick her up and take her out to eat. Earlier, she’d eaten a breakfast turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes and a similar lunch turkey sandwich and two apples. And taken lots of tern notes. Finally.

Earlier in the week, Dana had started to wonder if she would ever get any research done, but now she'd done the equivalent of three days of work in a single day. Thinking about it irritated her slightly. It was not her preferred method of working. She would rather have had a leisurely breakfast, spend 3-4 hours taking notes, come back to camp for a swim and some reading time, and start over the next day. But she might have come at the same time every day and not noticed the differences in behavior with dawn and dusk. So she had to be grateful to Ross for suggesting the idea. Ross, after all, she reminded herself, had more experience at this than she did.

It was too dark to see the terns now, but still desperately hot. She stripped down and waded into the cold water. She had just resurfaced when she saw an approaching light. She ran in, pulled her clothes crookedly onto her damp body and stood with her day pack full of gear at the docking cove waiting for Ross, but when the boat came closer, she saw in the faint bow light that it was not Ross at the helm.

Part 40

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Discovery at Little Hog Island, Part 38

Little Hog Island at Dawn

"What is that painting of in the bathroom?" Dana asked, as she came back into the dining room.

"It's the landing cove on the outer bank of Little Hog Island at Dawn. As you may have noticed, it's almost never that calm. I took a rare photo and Dorothy painted this for me to give Garret as a gift."

"I remember that well, she really worked hard on that painting, Rheta," Ross said.

"I think I saw the spot where I hid my kayak. I thought there were more rocks."

"The tide was really high. The rocks don't show. I think it's a little faded after all these years."

"It was one of Dorothy's early works. "

"I let her borrow it . . . "

"And she won a prize. She was so pleased."

"It is a pretty nice painting," Dana said. "Why didn't Garrett take it?"

"He didn't take anything. He walked out one day with only the shirt on his back. Later, when he knew I was away, he came in and took a few more things. I'm saving it for him."

"Do you think he'll come back for it? Will he want it?" Posted by Hello

Waiting, Sunset

Waiting, sunset. Posted by Hello

Discovery at Little Hog Island, Part 37

Part 1, Part 36

"You might be interested in this," Rheta said, fishing a browned clipping out of the bottom of the heap in the folder.

"I can't read it," Dana said, mournfully. “It’s too faded.”

"Here, wait a sec." Rheta fished out a photocopy that must have been taken years ago. It too was yellowed and faded, but still legible.

Dana read it aloud to Ross, "Cletus Orgenmyer has been arrested and is awaiting trial for poaching the Hogs on Hog and Little Hog Islands. RCMP constable Josiah Elander reports that Orgenmyer has removed and sold every pig on the two islands. Myrtle Elander says the terns on the island will have a chance to recover from eggs and chick losses to the hogs, and suggests changing the name back to First Shipwreck Island and Second Shipwreck Island, as they were formerly called. Orgenmyer claims to be innocent of all charges and says he was framed by Elander."

"I have another clipping somewhere that says that Myrtle Elander hired Orgenmyer to kill the pigs because she wanted to save the terns and pigs were eating their eggs and chicks."

"How did the pigs get there?"

"Well, let me see if I can remember. It seems to me that long after the first settlement was abandoned, but before the lighthouse was built, another extended family tried to homestead the island and thought they could let their pigs run wild on the island, but they got so wild they couldn't catch them. They started on Little Hog Island but either swam the channel or were released there by someone. For a short time, they ran rampant on both islands and were decimating the tern population. It’s amazing to me that anyone cared. In a way. Those were different times."

"They never changed the name back," Ross observed.

"I guess they did, legally. But the Hog Island name stuck and eventually, they changed it back."

"So what happened to the settlement?" Dana asked.

"I guess there was a huge storm. Parts of the buildings were knocked down, nearly everyone was killed, and the meager crop they has was ruined. The few survivors went elsewhere."

"And the lighthouse?"

"The same. Apparently there was a little boy living there, the sole remaining child of the lighthouse keeper, who was a woman. She had been the wife of the keeper, but he’d been killed earlier and she stayed on, even after all her children but one were drowned. He was a painter. A painter and a poet. Both of them were killed in the storm that knocked down the lighthouse."

"I thought you weren't even sure it was a lighthouse," Dana said.

"Oh, that was on my first trip to the lighthouse site. I was pretty sure, even then. Since then, I've never really stopped researching. Not that it obsesses me or anything, I just keep an ear to the ground."

"Speaking of keeping an ear to the ground, do you have any idea why Garret wanted you to take my tent?" Dana asked.

Ross and Rheta exchanged glances.

"What's going on here? Do you know something that you're not sharing?"

Part 38