Winter break has arrived, and I’m looking forward to getting out on the water a lot with Dad and Mom, though we’re probably not going till the wind lies down. A gale is blowing today after the snowstorm. Vacation means doing a lot of gear work in the barn. I don’t mind. I do think about not going to Costa Rica, though. I have to laugh when I think of Briggs surfing.
The weekend’s been snowy, and I like that. Yesterday Dad had to go into town to the bank, and he told me I was free for the rest of the day. I was going to take my skiff over to the barrier beach to see what might have washed up in the recent blows. I was walking down the dock when I saw Hallie Ryder rowing right into the cove.
She got up to the dock and let her boat drift.
Hallie (looking up at me): Did you hear about the snowy owl that was spotted over by Saltworks Cove?
Me (wishing I had): No. When was that?
Hallie: A couple of days ago. Want to go look for it?
Me (my heart doing a little dance): Sure. Want to take my skiff?
Hallie: Let’s take my boat. The outboard might scare it.
I climbed in and she rowed us out of the cove, around the point past her place, and toward Saltworks Cove, which is like a little bay with a neck of land that’s all dunes on one side and a huge salt marsh on the other.
We really didn’t talk much, just about the snowflakes chasing each like they were playing a game, and how we were glad to be on vacation, stuff like that. Mostly we listened to the creak of the oars in the oarlocks and the gurgle and splash of the boat’s wake and watched the snowflakes vanish into the green black face of the water. Or at least I did.
We rowed outside the neck of land, scanning the dunes for the owl, and then we went into the cove and rowed around there. We didn’t see the owl, but we did spot two swans, brilliant white against the dark water even in the snow.
Hallie (shipping the oars and watching the swans swim along the edge of the marsh): Mute swans. They mate for life. But they’re supposed to be mean, too. Get too close to them and they come after you and try to peck you. They’re strong enough to break your arm.
Me: They always surprise me. They’re so bright.
Halle: Yeah. They aren’t native to our area. They were brought to Long Island back in the 1800s. They spread from there.
The wavelets kissed the hull of the boat as we drifted and the flakes settled on Hallie’s wool cap and ponytail. The cold air made two red blossoms appear on her cheeks.
Me: Maybe the owl moved somewhere else, like the barrier beach. Want to go out to take a look tomorrow if the weather’s good?
She turned to me and smiled.
Hallie: Sounds good to me. Let’s leave early.
Oh, yeah: I have something I need to tell you. Mom said that she wants me to start spending more time on my schoolwork than on writing about Fog Island. She said I’d served my sentence long ago. My grades haven’t been exactly what you’d call aces, either, so she said school comes first. So I guess this is it. When I told Dad I was writing the last piece, he said it was my “swan song,” which was kind of funny given that Hallie and I had just seen a pair of them.
So goodbye for now, and thanks for reading about my island.
One last thing: Mom and Dad got a letter from Mr. Moodie, the guy who wrote the book about Briggs and me. He said he has a new book coming out called A Sailor’s Valentine and Other Stories. It’s not for kids, but it is about being on the water, so how bad could it be?