The island empties out after Labor Day, or I should say it begins to, and sometimes you notice it even in late August, when college kids are heading back to school, like Laurie, who went back really early.
Out where we live on West Fog, down a winding, rutted sand road, the tourists aren’t too much of a factor, though sometimes kayakers poke into the cove and wave at us when they see us and turn around fast and head back out.
But the deeper you get into September, the more you feel it—the place emptying out. The light’s sharper, the sun’s rays lower, the shadows deeper, the nights chilly enough to make you want to build a fire.
It always gives me a sad feeling and a happy feeling at the same time. “A bittersweet pang,” Briggs might say. Maybe it’s just that I have too much homework, and I’d rather be out in the brisk air.
The roads are ours again. Mom says finally she doesn’t have to take the back roads to get where she’s going or take twice as long to run errands. You see people you haven’t seen all summer, and people stop to talk and pass the time.
We were sitting at the table, eating dinner. Out the window, the sky was the color of blue metal with a touch of pink behind the spikes of the pines as the sun disappeared. Dad was ashore and sitting with us for a change.
He looked up from his pork chop and applesauce that Mom had made.
Dad: Yeah, I like having the island back. But I do have mixed feelings. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad when they leave, because you can move and breathe again. You don’t have to fight for a parking space in town. But by June, I’m sure ready for a little spice in our lives.
Mom (shaking her head): Those crowds get old fast. And the crazies and gawkers and clueless ones get on your nerves. I feel like I’m wearing a straitjacket. But what can we do? The island would be nothing without them.
Dad: We’ve got plenty of crazies all year round.
Mom: I’ll give you that.
Dad (cutting into his chop): Speaking of clueless, did you ever hear what a tourist asked Philbrick down at the town dock one time?
Me (looking up): What?
Dad (smiling): Guy with his wife from Kansas or somewhere pulls Philbrick aside. “Excuse me, but look at those boats,” he says, pointing at the boats on their moorings in the harbor. “How do they do that?” “Do what?” says Philbrick, trying to pull away. “Point them all in the same direction and get them to stay that way?” The guy’s beaming. “It’s almost like they did it just for us.”
Me: Are you kidding?
Dad (shaking his head and chuckling): Ask Philbrick when you see him.
He went back to his dinner.
I guess you have to feel sorry for people like that, not knowing what they don’t know. The clueless ones.
Or maybe not. Maybe they’ll just remember that day for the rest of their lives, the time someone—the Magician of Fog Island—arranged all the boats on their moorings the same way, just for them.