A rapping at the door jerked Kliu's head up out of the book. The sunlight streaming in the window was partially obscured by a dark shape, Nance's face.
Kliu rubbed his eyes. Titty had just captured the Amazon and rowed it out of the harbour on Wild Cat Island all by herself . . . and what was Nance doing here? And was that really sunshine streaming in the window after three days of relentless rain? Kliu put the book down as Nance impatiently banged the door. He ran over to the door and opened it to the blinding glare of the sun on the wet porch, and Nance who slid past him into the house, clutching a big book to her chest.
"Where did the sun come from? How did you get here?" asked Kliu a little incoherently, still in a daze.
"First there was a big bang," said Nance, "and eventually stars and planets formed. . . ."
"You know what I mean. I thought it was raining. And before you answer my other question let me say that I know you walked, I just wasn't expecting to see you. What I really meant is what are you doing here?"
"People who pay attention know that it stopped raining about an hour ago," said Nance, throwing herself onto the couch. "I left as soon as it stopped. I couldn't wait. I've got something to show you. It's so exciting; I found the answer to our problem."
"What problem?" asked Kliu, sitting on his armchair.
"You know, what we are going to make with all the rocks we collected. I found a great idea in this book. Come over here and I'll show you." She held up the book.
"That's a gardening book," said Kliu as he sat beside her. "I thought we already decided not to make a garden. That's sure not what I want to make."
"Wait, let me show you," said Nance. "It's the coolest thing . . . look."
She leafed through the pages and then shoved the open book into his hands. The heading on the page read "Zen Gardens" and there were three pictures of gardens with a few paragraphs of writing. The first picture had a little stone pagoda with a piece of smooth curving driftwood arching over it and a twisted gnarled bonsai to the left. An iris bloomed at the edge of a miniature pond with three lily pads and one flower bud. The next picture had raked gravel with huge strangely shaped rocks placed here and there. In the right corner was a tall planter with a hanging evergreen, its branches snaking out among the rocks. The third picture had no plants at all. Flagstones surrounded a square in which designs were made with different colours of pebbles. On one side of the garden was a simple wooden bench
Kliu skimmed the paragraphs and caught the words meditate, serenity, and tranquil. A feeling blossomed deep within him spreading a warm glow throughout his body. Let the rocks be the garden; a place to just sit and discover the beauty in ordinary things. He gazed at the pictures for quite a long time.
"Nance, this is so cool. I never thought of a rock garden with no plants. We would hardly need any tools to do something like this. Just something to level the ground."
"I could bring a couple of hoes from home," said Nance. "And I bet we already have enough rocks. It's a good thing we collected three different kinds. Let's go out and pick a spot."
"Shouldn't we wait for Simon?"
"Okay, but it's so hard to wait now that we know what we are making, specially after all that rain. I need to do something."
"We'll have to think of designs and draw up plans. We could get some ideas and then tomorrow when we get Simon he could help us chose which plans are the best."
Nance jumped up from the couch. "Let's do it now. Where's the paper and pencils?"
"I'll get them. We can work at the table by the window. We just can't mess up my dad's stuff. I wonder where he is anyway. He's been working so much that he hasn't had time to do anything with me, but he usually tells me when he goes anywhere."
Nance laughed. "I saw him on the beach on my way over here. He said you were so into the book you were reading that you didn't even look up when he told you he was going out. Apparently he asked you if you wanted to come with him but all you did was grunt."
"I don't remember that."
"I believe it," said Nance as they both sat down at the table. "When I got here I had to bang and bang on the door to get your attention. You should have seen your face when you looked up. It was like you were in another world . . . what were you reading anyway?"
"I found this really old book. It's from 1930 or something like that, but I like it a lot."
"There's lot's of good books that are really old, like the Narnia books and Secret Garden and Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz and . . ."
"Okay, but I'd never heard of this book before and it's really good. It's called Swallows and Amazons. Have you ever read it?"
"Never heard of it. What's it about?"
"It's about these kids who are about our age, well some are younger and older, and they get to sail on this lake by themselves and camp on an island they call Wild Cat Island. Can you imagine being able to do that?"
"Yeah, we should do that."
"We couldn't sail to an island on our own in the ocean."
"Yeah, but we could camp on this island on our own. Think about it."
"I don't mean just pitching a tent out behind the cabin," said Kliu.
"Neither do I," said Nance. "There's a creek not far from my house, we could hike up it until we find a place to camp. You know, backpack our tent and supplies and stuff. Really on our own."
"That would be so cool. We could do it after we finish making our garden. Hey, when I finish the book do you want to borrow it?"
"Sure," said Nance, starting to concentrate on her drawing. "What do you think about a sailing boat for our garden? It could be like a floor mosaic, like the Romans made."
"I don't know. If it's a Zen garden shouldn't it be more of a Japanese style of thing?"
"Mount Fuji and a setting sun?"
"Here in the book it says the best designs are "non-representational" so they can be "open to interpretation". Listen, "The abstract design does not impose preconceived ideas, but frees the mind in the way of a mantra, enabling one to enter the state of supreme tranquility."
"Well, that's as clear as mud," said Nance. "What's it supposed to mean?"
"I think it means that if you look at a picture of a boat you will see a boat. And if I look at the picture I will see the same boat you see, but if it's an abstract design we will both see something different."
"It won't mean the same thing to me as it does to you?"
"Right. And it won't make us think a certain thing, our minds will be free to chose. We can just look at the garden and feel . . . content."
"Something like that. I don't really know if I explained it right, but that's how these pictures made me feel and that's sort of what I want the garden to do. Does that sound weird?"
"It sounds pretty awesome. I didn't know you were such a thinker."
"Sometimes I even amaze myself."
"So what's a mantra?"
"You know, in the book. It said the design is like a mantra. What's a mantra?"
"Okay, so I don't know everything. Let's get to work on our designs."
They sat at the table sketching designs and discussing ideas for setting up the garden. They had to consider the amount of each type of rock they had, their general sizes and shapes, and how best to contrast them against each other. The table was soon littered with discarded ideas. Kliu's dad came home to find them deep in the middle of a discussion of colour and texture. He said hi, and offered hot chocolate, then set about making it. As they drank their hot chocolate, they shared their best designs with him and explained all their ideas for the garden. The bright sunlight was no longer shafting through the window onto the table as they worked. The sun had moved and lowered and was now filtering through the western trees. Nance looked at her watch and jumped up.
"I've got to get going. I promised I'd be home for supper" she said.
Kliu ran out onto the beach with her and watched her as she jogged over the rising spit of sand and out of sight. He walked down to the water's edge. It was three days since he had been outside, since he had stood there in almost the same place drenched to the skin and blinded by the rain. Now the evening sun pearlised the ocean's surface, giving it a magical quality. He bent, picked up a flat stone, and skipped it over the smooth surface.
"We could make it right here," said Nance, stopping at a level spot between the cabin and the encroaching woods.
"I think we should put it right in front of the cabin, near the porch," said Simon.
"That's just because it's close to our rock pile and we wouldn't have to carry them too far," said Nance. "Besides it's not level enough there, not like this spot."
"Now who's being lazy?" asked Simon. "If we made the garden over in front of the cabin, everyone would see it as soon as they arrived. We would just have to do a bit of extra work to level it,"
"If it's over here, people can see it just as well," said Nance. "Anyway, who are all these mythical people that are supposedly going to come here and look at it?"
Kliu left Simon and Nance to argue and walked further on, through the bushes and saplings that were crowding ever closer to the cabin. That morning he and Nance had collected Simon and explained their idea for a Zen garden to him as they made their way back to the cabin. Now he was finding that having all three of them together wasn't making choosing a spot for the garden any easier. Neither of the two liked any of the spots the other had chosen, and he hadn't liked any of them at all. They were all too right there, in the open. None of them gave him that feeling he was searching for; that illusive feeling that he found hard to describe which he had felt as he looked at the pictures. What they needed was somewhere more enclosed, more private.
Kliu skirted around a stand of trees, and came to a gap bounded by two hemlocks. Nestled between their feathery branches a sandy enclosure opened up, bordered by Oregon grape. At the back an old arbutus sent a russet branch swooping across, low and horizontal. Kliu stood still for a moment, his senses singing, then he slowly walked across the sand and sat on the branch, gazing back through the gap between the hemlocks. He watched the sea, little wavelets tumbling over the rocky shore. He sat, lost in the moment, unaware of the passing time, sure of one thing only. This was it, the perfect spot for the Zen garden.
"Where are you?"
"Did you see where he went?"
"I don't know, I think he was tired of your arguing," said Nance.
"My arguing?" said Simon. "I'll tell you who was arguing."
"Okay, face it. We were both arguing. Kliu! Where are you?"
"Come back, we've stopped arguing," called Simon.
The calls finally filtered through to Kliu and he ran to the gap in the trees calling, "Over here! I've found the spot for our garden."
"That's a bit far to haul the rocks," yelled Nance.
"It doesn't matter, just come and see."
"Relax, we're coming," yelled Simon.
"It had better be good," said Nance as she ran up to Kliu where he stood in the gap between the hemlocks. She stopped and just stood and stared.
Simon came up to the two of them. "What's up?"
"Look," said Nance. "Look! It's exactly perfect. We couldn't find a better spot if we took a hundred years. It's even got a bench in the back, see. That arbutus branch."
"Come and see the view from the branch," said Kliu.
"Wow!" said Simon.
"And the sand is pretty level. It'll make a great base for the rocks. All we have to do is pull up a few tufts of grass and smooth it out with a rake," said Kliu, excitedly walking around the clearing. "The size is great for the amount of rocks we have. It won't be so bad bringing the rocks over here, after all we brought them from way further already."
"Yeah, but that took days," said Simon. "We only have a week."
"What do you mean?" asked Nance. "There's over three weeks left of summer holidays."
"I have to leave in a week," said Simon, running his hand along the smooth wood of the branch and absently picking at a thin shred of bark.
"We thought you were staying all summer," said Kliu.
"So did I. I mean . . . we were supposed to, but my aunt is going to have an operation so my mom is going to help her look after her kids and clean her house and stuff and I have to go too."
"But we have plans," said Nance. "We were going to tell you today. When we finish the garden, we are all going to camp on our own in the woods by the creek near our house. We got the idea from this book Kliu is reading where the kids do all sorts of cool stuff on their own."
"I would never have been able to do that anyway, " said Simon.
"I think we could have convinced your mom," said Nance. "We could have said we were going to stay in a tent behind my house, after all it is sort of behind my house. She didn't have to know how far behind my house it was."
"We would have had to tell her," said Kliu. "But still, Simon, we really did want you to come with us, and we might have convinced her if our parents talked to her. It's not going to be the same without you."
"Why don't we ask if you can stay here with us for the rest of the summer?" asked Nance.
"No, you guys, I wouldn't be able to," said Simon. "It really sounds cool to go camp on our own, and it would have been great if I was allowed, but I doubt I would have been allowed."
"But now the rest of your summer will be so boring for you, looking after a sick aunt with your mom," said Nance.
"No, it won't be so bad," said Simon. "Actually, we don't usually stay with my aunt because she lets her kids do way more things than my mom lets me do. My mom will be so busy with my aunt and the house that my cousins me and will get to do lots of stuff. They live on a farm and they get to ride their ponies all over the place."
"Maybe you can camp with them way out in the fields somewhere," said Kliu.
"They'd probably go for that," said Simon.
"Well," said Nance, "I guess this means that we'd better get to work right away. Don't worry Simon, it won't take so long to bring the rocks over here. We'll get it done before you have to go, no problem."
They ran back to the cabin and started moving the rocks. They still only had one bucket, so they took turns using it. The other two filled their t-shirts with rocks and carried them that way. They spent the rest of the time until they had to take Simon home carting rocks, stopping only to eat a quick lunch. The afternoon was filled with the sound of rocks knocking against each other in their t-shirts, rattling in the bucket, and the rush of the rocks as they tumbled to the ever-growing pile next to the gap between the two hemlocks.
For the rest of the week the children worked hard carting the rocks, preparing the ground, and laying out their design. They decided on making a huge circular motif. Meandering lines in white quartz spiralled out from the centre with the dark green dallasite forming the background. They placed the rocks carefully in the sand so that their greenest side showed, or with the green underneath and the white end showing as part of the quartz design. They circled the whole thing with a ring of flowerstones. In the very centre, Kliu placed a piece of driftwood he had found on the beach one evening. It was beautifully smoothed, gnarled and twisted, its branches curving protectively around a central cavity, the heart of the piece where he was going to place his special flowerstone when he found it. He hadn't yet found a flowerstone at all, but he kept the hope that one day he would find a perfect one, like the ones Dave Peters had described to him that day long ago. The day that had started him on his search and had led to the creation of their beautiful rock garden.
Kliu stepped back and looked at their handiwork. Nance squatted down and shifted a rock, placing a little one in the small space she had opened up.
"Stop fiddling," said Simon from his seat on the arbutus branch. "It's finished. You're just going to wreck it if you keep moving things around. I've been telling you for an hour that it's done."
"I think it finally is done," said Kliu. "It's hard to believe. It seems like we've been doing this forever."
"What if we just move that rock over there just a little," said Nance. "And then put another one over here beside this one, and change that one from a green one to a white one?"
"No, no, no," said Simon. "Get it through your head. It is finished. You're driving me crazy."
"I see what you mean Nance," said Kliu. "And then if we changed this line over here to curve upwards a bit more it would make it more balanced."
"I think we need more white," said Nance. "Simon, take the bucket down to the beach and collect a whole bunch more white rocks while we move things around a bit."
"Forget it," said Simon. "You've been making me do things like that all day. If you want more rocks, get them yourself. As far as I'm concerned it's done. If you keep working on it, I'll just leave." He got up and started to walk around the rock garden, out of the enclosure and onto the beach.
"Come back," said Nance and Kliu chasing after him. "It's finished. We were only giving you a hard time."
Nance threw herself on the sand, laughing. "I'm sorry Simon, but you're leaving tomorrow so I have to bug you while I can."
"You are such a pain," said Simon, sitting down beside her. "I'll be glad when I'm gone."
"Me too," said Nance.
"Thanks a lot."
"Come on, don't get mad," said Nance. "You left yourself open for that one. You know we're going to miss you. Think of it, I'll be stuck with just Kliu when you leave."
"Ignore her," said Kliu, joining them down on the sand. "She's obviously had too much sun."
"Way too much sun," said Simon.
The three children lay back on the sand, quietly contemplating the sky, content. The satisfaction from finishing their project was immense. The rest of the afternoon stretched before them, full of possibilities. The best thing was that Simon didn't have to go home until the morning. It was his last day on the island and Kliu's dad had arranged it with Simon's mom that he could sleep over. He wasn't allowed to camp out, which is what they had all wanted, but they were able to sleep on the cabin porch, which was almost as good.
"So here they all are, hard at work"
"I've worked a bit like that in my time."
Kliu opened his eyes to see his dad and Dave Peters standing over them. He didn't know when he had fallen asleep, but it seemed like Simon and Nance had been sleeping too, from the way they were stretching and rubbing their eyes.
"We came to see the big project," said Dave Peters. "Assuming it's finished, of course."
"Finally," said Simon.
"Well, were pretty anxious to see it, not having been allowed to yet. We were getting ready to storm the ramparts till we found you all passed out here," said Kliu's dad.
They all got up. Nance led the way to the two hemlocks, the tall graceful guardians of the inner sanctum. They passed through into the serene enclosure. Everyone was quiet, the children expectantly, the two adults silenced by wonder.
Dave Peters sat on the arbutus branch and said, "You sure have done justice to the natural beauty of this spot. This will be a special place for me to come: I salute you all."
"I'm blown away," said Kliu's dad. "You kids are really amazing. I never thought you were making something quite like this." He gave Kliu a big hug and patted Simon on the back. Nance sat beside her grandfather and took his hand.
"I'm glad you like it," she said, "because you live here all the time. You are the one who will come here the most."
They all stayed there for a while, as the kids excitedly shared the details of the whole experience, from inception to culmination, and then they slowly walked back to the cabin to prepare their evening meal.
"Hey, are you guys awake?" whispered Nance, as she lay in her sleeping bag on the cabin porch.
"What?" mumbled Kliu.
"Come on, wake up," hissed Nance as loudly as she dared.
"Okay, okay, what's up?" asked Kliu.
"Stop talking, you're waking me up," said Simon in a sleepy voice.
"That's the point," said Nance.
"So what's so important that you're waking us up at . . . 12:30?" asked Kliu, as he checked his watch.
"We're moving, that's what's so important," said Nance. "It's Simon's last night so it's our only chance to go sleep on the beach by the rock garden."
"Do you think we should?" asked Simon. "We promised we would stay on the porch."
"We didn't promise anything," said Nance. "We said we would sleep on the porch. There is a difference."
"And we have slept on the porch, " said Kliu. "We never said we wouldn't move in the middle of the night."
"Yeah, but . . . I don't know if we should," said Simon. "What'll happen in the morning when your dad gets up and we're not here."
"He'll figure it out," said Nance.
"He'll understand," said Kliu. "Come on, it's your last night. Think of it . . . sleeping under the stars."
They slipped out of their sleeping bags and rolled them up, then tip toed down the stairs. They ran out into the warm darkness and followed the trail they had made to their garden, now so familiar that they had no trouble following it by only the light of the moon and stars. The ocean hushed against the beach to their left. They lay their sleeping bags just outside the gap between the two hemlocks, and silently entered their little garden. They could dimly make out the tracery design of the rocks in the darkness of the enclosure. The long arbutus branch reached out to them, and they sat and stared up at the circle of stars above them.
"They are so big and bright out here," whispered Nance.
"There's Vega up there, see, the brightest star," said Kliu. "And the other really bright one is Deneb."
"Do you know the names of all the stars?" asked Simon. "How can you tell what they are? When I try to find anything, even the Big Dipper, I can't find it. I can't see all those patterns that they show in books."
"I can't tell much either," said Kliu. "But my dad and I have looked at the stars a bit. I know about those stars because they're the easiest to see. There's another one too, called Altair, but you can't see it from here because of the trees."
"I know about them," said Nance. "They make the summer triangle. And Simon, I can help you find the big dipper and the little dipper, but we have to go out on the beach because here the trees are in the way."
Simon and Nance went out to the beach to find constellations, but Kliu stayed behind in the garden by himself for a few moments. A splash of moonlight silvered the twisted branches of his driftwood centrepiece. All he needed now was to find the rock to place inside those cradling branches. The flowerstone that would look a lot like the round piece of sky that was visible from where he sat, the flowers set like stars in the dark groundmass. Kliu could hear Nance's voice as she pointed out the star configurations, and Simon's, a little louder and more excited as he found them. Loneliness suddenly crept in on Kliu, catching him unawares. He quickly got up and went out to join the other two.
"And see, low down over there, that's Cassiopeia," said Nance. "It sort of looks like a stretched out W."
"No, where . . . oh yeah, I see it. Cool," said Simon. He turned and saw Kliu. "Come over here, look it's Cassi . . ."
"Cassiopeia," said Nance.
"That's a cool name," said Kliu looking where they had pointed. Then Simon proudly showed him both the big and little dippers.
"It's not that hard when you know what to look for."
"Well that's all I know," said Nance. "My grandpa could show you a bunch more. He knows them all. He taught me all the ones I showed you, and a few more, but I can't remember them properly. He has a telescope he sets up on the beach sometimes and we even let the little kids come out and look through it."
As Nance talked, they made their way back to the sleeping bags. She had Simon laughing over her stories of things her little brothers and sisters had said and done on these stargazing outings. They settled down in their sleeping bags on the soft sand.
"You are so lucky, Nance," said Simon sleepily. "You don't know what it's like to be an only child. It would be so much fun to have brothers and sisters like you do. I think we really miss out, right Kliu? Wouldn't you like to have brothers and sisters too?"
"But Kliu did ha . . ." said Nance, suddenly stopping herself as she felt a tenseness coming from Kliu, beside her.
"What did you say?" asked Simon.
"I don't know. I lost my train of thought. I don't even remember what we were talking about," said Nance, yawning.
"You know, about being only children and mi . . ."
"Oh Simon, stop babbling," said Nance. "I'm so tired. Let's sleep. Goodnight."
"Goodnight Nance. Goodnight
"I think he's already asleep," said Nance when Kliu didn't answer.
Kliu lay there, stiff, staring up at the stars. The summer triangle ranged above him. The names of the three stars echoed over and over in his head, Vega, Deneb, Altair. He took the corner of his sleeping bag and wiped tears from his eyes, all the time concentrating on those three names, repeating them over and over and over.
Nance and Kliu stood together on the rocky headland watching Simon's boat grow ever smaller, the wind ruffling their hair. That morning they had all walked the stretch of beach between the two homes in near silence. When they had climbed the rock, they said goodbye and the two had stood, almost as they were standing now, and watched Simon disappear into the forest, to appear in a short time on the smooth rock of his beach. They had stayed there, watching for more than an hour as the final preparations were made, until Simon stepped into the boat and it cast off, then they had waved madly and jumped up and down as Simon did the same from his retreating boat.
"He can't see us anymore," said Nance.
"Let's head back. You've got to pack up all your stuff for our camping trip."
As they walked back along the beach, Nance chatted on about their camp out up the creek, but didn't get much response. Finally she gave up and broke a promise she had made to herself. It was time to talk about 'it'.
"Kliu, you're not paying attention to a word I'm saying. Don't try and tell me you're so quiet because Simon has left and you miss him, cause I'm not buying it."
"Well of course we both miss Simon, but we can still have fun and be happy. He's going to have fun with his cousins not sit around wishing he was with us. Anyway, I know something else is bothering you. You've been all moody since last night when Simon was talking about being an only child and I almost blew it by saying something. We both know what I almost said. In fact you were even getting moody before that. You get like that a lot, I've noticed."
"So what? It's my problem. I'll deal with it."
"That's just it. It is your problem. But stop kidding yourself, you're not dealing with it."
"I don't want to talk about it." Kliu started to walk faster, rushing through the detritus, scattering it.
Nance grabbed his arm.
"Slow down. You need to talk. It's tearing you up inside."
"You don't know what it's like. Just leave me alone."
"Okay, fine," said Nance. "If you don't want to talk then don't, but I'm going to talk so slow down and listen."
"Whatever," said Kliu slowing down a bit, but not looking at Nance. Instead he looked out at the sea, a dark slate green today, and watched a seagull swoop low over the waves, its lonely cry echoing through the rush of the waves.
"Your dad told me about the accident, about your mom and your brother and sister, and how you don't want to talk about it. Wait . . . slow down, I only want you to know that I know. I'm not going to talk about it. I'm going to talk about me. Did you ever wonder why there's me, eleven years old, and then all my little brothers and sisters who are only three and five and six?"
Kliu slowed down and glanced away from the sea toward Nance, and then straight ahead to the rocks they had to climb over to get to the next beach.
"When I was three my dad died. Maybe you think it wouldn't affect me very much because I was so young, but I was very close to my dad. He was a fisherman, and fished the salmon season. The rest of the time he was at home with me working on the house. We used to have a great time together . . . I can still remember it clearly. He played with me, let me help him work, sang songs and read me books. When he didn't come back from that last fishing trip, I used to ask where he was and when he would come home, and cry and cry because the answer was always the same."
"I'm sorry, Nance . . . I say dumb things sometimes. It's like I think I'm the only one, like I'm all alone."
"Hey look, I'm okay. That's what I'm saying. That's why I'm telling you this. I've got a great step-dad, and the little kids, and I've got lots of good memories of my father that I carry around with me all the time. My mom and I talk about him a lot. I sometimes worry because my step-dad is a fisherman too, but I can't change that. He likes being a fisherman. Anyway, my point is that you can't keep it all inside you . . . it just grows bigger and bigger and hurts more. And you can't forget them because remembering is the best thing."
"Look, Nance, thanks for trying, but . . . I'm just not ready."
They kept walking in silence, but a different silence than before. Not the tight strained silence that had cut between them earlier, but a comfortable silence that held them together. As they came near the rock garden, Kliu slowed down.
"I'm just going to sit in here for a bit, okay?"
"Sure," said Nance. "I'll wait at the cabin."
"I won't be long."
"Okay, see ya."
Kliu paused at the entrance to the garden, and called out to Nance, "What you told me . . . it did help."
Nance gave him a smile and a wave. He stood and watched her for a moment and then went through between the two hemlocks. The little clearing enfolded him with a deep calm. He skirted the rocks and sat on the Arbutus, stroking the smooth surface, tracing his fingers through colour changes from ochre to sienna along the curve of the branch. He gazed at the design in the rocks, let the tracery lines take his eyes on their winding course through the grey-green bed. A course that led to the centre and the twisted driftwood with the empty core. The lines caught him again and led him as they spiralled and turned in upon themselves. His mind emptied; everything became the moment. No time, no space, no thought. He shook his head and looked about him. How long had it been? A minute? An hour? An eternity? He had no idea. All he knew was that he felt unburdened and refreshed. The gloom of the morning had slipped away, replaced by a feeling of well-being. He got up and slowly made his way out of the garden. Nance would be waiting.
Kliu had his full pack strapped on his back, clothes and provisions for their week in the woods. Nance carried his sleeping bag. They were on a new stretch of beach for him. Up till now he had never gone further east than the rocky spit. At first it was because he had denied himself the chance to go and find the cabin on the bluff in an attempt to avoid the possible warmth and friendship of the people who lived there. Later, after he met Simon and Nance, it was because they daily made the trek in the opposite direction to collect Simon in the morning and return him in the afternoon. For some reason he had never accompanied Nance on her way home, not even part way. It was as if he was still avoiding something, still denying himself, but now, today, he felt ready and excited at the prospect of finally seeing that cabin that he had thought so much about.
The landscape started to change. Trees no longer straggled down to the rocky shore, but were held back by jutting rock. Large jagged boulders spilled to the beach. Cliffs rose higher and higher sending rocky headlands into the sea. They were never totally cut off, like the cliff they had to climb to get to Simon's, but they had to scramble over rough tumbles of boulders. Finally Kliu saw it. A rocky bluff jutting out into the sea, arbutus trees, blown and stunted by the winds, their branches reaching out as if to grasp and hold back a rambling cabin that seemed on the verge of wandering over the cliff's edge. It was even more stunning than he had imagined. To live in a place like that . . .
In the curve of the outcropping a crescent of beach was caught, not sandy, but with the beach rocks that Kliu had grown used to rather than the mass of large boulders he had just crossed. There, in the shallows, was the pool that Nance had told him about built with a dyke of the larger stones, and further back was the zigzag path leading up to the house where Nance lived.
"You are so lucky to live in a place like that," said Kliu, as he stared up at the house.
"Yeah, I hate going back at the end of summer. Grandpa gets to live here all the time but we have to go back to the mainland for school. Our other house is pretty ordinary. When I grow up, I'll come and live here all the time and write."
"Yeah, that's what I want to do. I like to write adventure stories and read them to the kids. It's fun."
"Wow. I have no idea at all what I want to do," said Kliu as they started up the path. "It must be wild up there with all the kids though. I mean, the way the house is on the cliff and that; don't you worry about them falling or anything?"
"I know it looks dangerous from here but it's really pretty safe. The whole yard is fenced and you can't get around to the front. Well, they can't anyway. They know where they are allowed to go and they are pretty good about it. They can't go down to the beach unless they are with me or mom or dad or grandpa."
"How do they like this climb up the cliff?"
"They're usually pretty good and stay together, but they're just kids so sometimes they whine a lot and want to be carried. I usually give Lilly a piggy back part of the way cause she's only three. Hey, now you're here, you can do it."
"Thanks a lot."
When they reached the top Nance opened the gate that led to the fenced in back yard. It may have been fenced, but that was the only thing controlling it, otherwise it was like the top of any other bluff. Scrubby grass grew in patches on the rocky ground, along with salal and mahonia nervosa. Moss clung to rocks. A few of the arbutus were also in the fenced off area, along with some stunted pines. In and amongst these plants were riding toys, balls, toy trucks, and a rope swing tied to a high branch in the largest arbutus. As they entered the yard, the kids came running. There were only four of them, but to Kliu it seemed like there were at least a dozen. They jumped all over Nance, shouting in excitement, then turned and stared at him with huge eyes. In the sudden quiet, Nance introduced them.
"This big guy here is Avery. He's six. Next are the twins, Maggie and Tavis. My mom doesn't believe in giving twins similar names like Susie and Sammy or something. And she never dresses them in matching outfits either, thank goodness. Anyway they hardly even look alike."
"They all look alike," said Kliu. "And they all look just like you."
"So now I've got a runny nose and dirty hands and messy hair and scratched up knees? Thanks a lot!"
"No, but you've all got green eyes and straggly brown hair and dark tans and . . ."
"So do you, but you're not related."
"My haiw's not stwaggly!" piped up the littlest one. "Nance, you nevew intwoduced me."
"Sorry. Kliu, this pesky little imp is Lilly. As you may have noticed she has a bit of a problem with her r's."
"Kids, this is my friend Kliu who I was going rock collecting with all the time."
"Hi, Klee!" they all called.
"We're gonna call you Klee," said Tavis. And he ran around the yard yelling, "Klee, Klee, Klee," at the top of his voice.
"You'll just have to take them as they are and get used to them," said Nance. "Oh, here comes my mom."
A comfortable looking lady came
out of the back door. She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, her hair tied back
with a piece of string. She had a streak of blue paint on her cheek, and a
welcoming smile. She held out her hand to him.
"So you're Kliu. We finally get to meet you."
Kliu looked up into her warm green eyes and suddenly felt tears spring up in his. He held them back and did his best to greet her. She took his hand and led them all into the house, talking all the while to everybody, and Kliu's moment of discomfort passed. Amid the jumbled confusion, Kliu found himself in a cosy, cluttered kitchen. Pots were bubbling on the stove, and all the kids, from Nance to the youngest, were starting to set the table.
"Take your back pack off and just toss it in a corner for now, dear," said Nance's mom. "All this bustle is probably a bit overwhelming for you. Don't worry, you'll get used to it. If you want to wash your hands for supper, the bathroom is through there." She pointed to a door behind him.
Kliu went through the door and found himself in a hallway that led down two small steps and along for a few metres. The washroom was neat and well crafted, for a house with no running water it was still able to give the semblance of it.
When he got back to the kitchen, the table was set and supper was ready. Dave Peters had joined the noisy crew and they all sat around the large table on a motley assortment of chairs. They had chili with rice and fresh baked biscuits loaded with butter. There was a hubbub of talking throughout the meal. Their camping plans were discussed and developed. Dave offered them an old canvas pup tent, which could be set up between two trees, quite like the tents in the Swallows and Amazons book. Nance had brought the book back with her and was planning on reading it later in the evening.
The one stipulation that Nance's mom had made was that they couldn't have a campfire at their campsite in the forest. They would have to come back to the beach to do all their cooking where there was no risk of setting the forest ablaze. Nance and Kliu accepted this readily. After all, to be able to camp on their own for a week was amazing in itself, and the trek to the beach wasn't a big deal.
All the little ones were clamouring to be allowed to come. They didn't think it was fair for Nance to bring her friend to visit and then go off alone with him right away. This too was solved. The next morning Nance and Kliu would pack their equipment and supplies up to the camping spot, set up the tent, organise their camp, and set up their outpost and kitchen down on the beach. The following day they would come back and take the little ones to spend the greater part of the day with them and then bring them home in the evening. After having appeased the children, they would be on their own for the rest of the week.
The plans made, the meal done, and the dishes taken care of, Nance took Kliu on a tour of the house. There were numerous short flights of stairs and narrow halls leading from one area to the next. The cabin, being built on the uneven rocks of the bluff, had to adjust itself to the terrain. Kliu left his pack in a tiny bedroom that looked out over the other side of the bluff. Nance pointed to the darkening distance. Kliu could just make out the mouth of the creek where it came rushing out of the forest and over the rocks to the sea. Tomorrow they would be hiking up there on their adventure. Kliu felt a thrill of excitement at the prospect, but that old heavy nostalgia was with him too. To be in a home with a warm and boisterous family was not easy for him. It brought back memories that he strove to suppress.
Nance led him on, showing him all the bedrooms. One by one the children joined them, adding their comments to what Nance had to say. The living room was right out on the point of the headland with big uncurtained windows filled with sea and sky. In the centre of the room was the fireplace Dave had told him about so long ago. The usually dusky flowerstones it was made of had been waxed and polished so much over the years that the flowers showed up as they did on wetted rock. The quartz trim reminded Kliu of their own little Zen garden that they had left behind a couple of miles down the beach.
"It's better than I imagined it," said Kliu. "Not just the fireplace, but here, this house, everything."
"It's been fun showing it to you," said Nance.
Maggie came up to him and gave him her big green-eyed stare. "You like rocks?' she finally said, and took his hand, leading him to a bookshelf in the corner. "These are Grandpa's special rocks."
There on Chinese black lacquer stands were flowerstones like he had never seen. There were five altogether, ranging in size from a lime to a large mango. The small one, the size of a tiny Mexican lime, held one beautiful clear flower that glowed up at him. The next two were bigger, more grey in colour, with the flowers etched deeply where the feldspar had eroded. The fourth was a flat ovoid, dark black with a splash of starry clusters. The fifth was the one Dave had found in Japan. Kliu remembered how Dave had described it to him. A flower three inches across, so big it was called a chrysanthemum. A few long narrow crystals were scattered across the back of the rock, but in the front, on the fat rounded part of the mango shape, was the huge flower. The crystals were long and creamy, glowing softly in the dark groundmass.
"Can I hold it?" he asked.
"Sure, it's a rock. You can't break it," said Maggie.
"Don't play with it and lose it," said Lilly.
"Don't be silly, Lilly," said Avery. "He's not a baby like you."
"Am not. You are," said Lilly.
"I'm not a baby. I'm way older than you."
"Cut it out you two," said Nance. "Come on Kliu. I want to show you my mom's studio."
Nance led Kliu through an archway and into an east facing room that was almost all window. Canvasses were stacked against one wall; a paint-smeared table was covered with tubes, jars, and brushes; two easels held works in progress; and four finished canvases rested against the other wall. The paintings were all of the island: the rocks, the bluffs, the trees, the sea. They were all realistic but they were not like copies of nature, photographs. They had a style of their own, a sensitivity to the subject that took it a step further to another level.
Kliu fingered the brushes and looked at the tubes of paint and remembered another studio at the bottom of a garden. A pottery studio with a wheel and a kiln and shelves of bisque dried pots, jars of glaze, buckets of slip, and blocks of rich dark clay. And the stools with the children like three little owls watching. And someone at the wheel, pulling the clay with her fingertips as it spun around, shaping, forming, giving it life. And as the memory overwhelmed and engulfed him, he crumpled on the ground, arms tightly clasped around his legs, head to his knees, sobbing silently. Nance shooed the children out and ran to get her mother.
Nance's mother found Kliu sitting where he had been left, staring blindly at one of her paintings, tears stilled, his lips moving firmly, repeating over and over to himself softly, "I will not remember."
She sat on the floor beside him and stroked his hair, "It's okay," she said. "It's okay to remember."
He leaned against her and said. "It's so hard. I like it here so much but everything makes me remember. The kids, your studio, you."
She put her arm around him and held him close. After a few minutes he said. "My mother used to do that, stroke my hair when I was sad."
"That's a good memory."
"But it hurts so much. And then I remember what happened and that's a bad memory. And there's nothing I can do to change anything and I'm so alone."
"But you still have your dad, he needs you and he loves you and he wants you to be happy."
"I know. And I try to be happy . . . and I can be happy if I don't think about it and don't remember."
"But it's always there Kliu. And if you don't do anything it will get worse, not better."
"But it's too hard."
"But you need to remember. They need you to remember."
"Remembering won't bring them back. Nothing can help them. They're dead." Kliu broke down sobbing, hugging Nance's mom close to him. "They're dead."
"Tell me," she said "Tell me."
"My mom was taking an order to the store where she sells . . . sold her stuff. Gero and Lita went too. They wanted me to come, but I was playing on the computer, building empires, stupid stuff. I should have gone. But I was too into my game, and my mom said, ‘Okay hon, we'll be right back. You'll be okay on your own. Love you,' and I didn't stop playing, I just said, ‘Thanks mom. Love you too. See you in a bit,' and Gero and Lita went running out with her, laughing and talking, and I never even said goodbye to them, I just kept playing the stupid game, and they never came back . . . they never came back. They were gone so long, so long. And then the phone rang. I was done my game for a long time. I was bored. I wished I went with them. I thought maybe they had gone for a treat, without me, and I was sitting there, doing nothing, wishing I had gone. And then the phone rang."
Kliu started quietly sobbing again and Nance's mom hugged him close and stroked his hair. "You're doing well," she said.
"It's too hard," he said.
"It's okay. You did really well for the first time. You can stop if you want to. It's okay. You were very brave to tell me all this. Thank you, Kliu."
"No, there's more. I have to tell you more. It's the worst part, but if I tell you now it'll be over. I'll have said it all. I answered the phone, hoping it was my mom telling me they were a bit late and she was bringing me a treat but it wasn't my mom, it was my dad. He sounded sort of strange. He asked me how I was and said he was coming straight home. I said mom was out and she was late and he said, ‘I know. I'll be right home, stay put. See you soon. I love you,' and when I hung up the phone I felt really weird and I knew something was wrong. My dad was home in ten minutes but it seemed like hours. When he came to the door I began to get really afraid, I don't know why. Then when he came in I saw his face, and I ran into his arms and started to cry, ‘What happened, what happened,' and he told me. He told me as nicely as he could, but they were already dead. How can anyone say that in a good way? They were already dead and I couldn't change it. I couldn't say, ‘Hey, wait up. I'll just exit this game and come with you.' I couldn't hug my mom and my brother and sister. If I had gone with them I could have been dead too and then I wouldn't hurt so much. If I had gone with them, they would have had to wait for me, just for one minute maybe, but long enough. Long enough that when they got to that intersection, the dump truck would already have run the red light before they were in the middle. Before they even reached it and my mom would have said, ‘Look at that fool running a red light, he'll kill himself one day,' only he didn't kill himself he killed them and it's all my fault. That's what hurts the most It's all my fault."
Nance's mom just sat and held Kliu's limp body. He was done. It was all out now. He had no power left, he couldn't speak any more if he tried. He couldn't move. She wiped the tears from her own face, then brushed his hair back and kissed his forehead. After a while she said, "Kliu, you are not to blame. Don't ever think that. Things happen and there is nothing we can do about it. You can't say if. There is no if, there is only what happened and it can't be changed. For some reason you have to live without your mother and brother and sister. We don't know why but we do know that it wasn't your fault and there was nothing you could do to change it. But you can keep them alive inside of you and there is only one way to do that. By remembering. And when I say remembering, I mean remembering the good things, not reliving that day over and over in your head, but remembering little things, special moments."
Kliu looked up at her and gave her a weak smile. "Thank you . . . for listening."
"Thank you for telling me. Now I think you should go to bed with some hot chocolate and get a good sleep."
"I don't want to have to see anyone tonight, even Nance," he said.
"You don't have to. Nance will understand. Is it okay to tell her what you told me?"
"Let's go then. Up you get and I'll help you to your room."
Kliu leaned on her as she steered him down the passages to his room. He sat in the bed and stared out the window at the dark sea as he drank the hot chocolate that she brought him. He still felt bad, that is he didn't feel good, but through his overall weakness he felt better than he had done, and he felt extremely tired. Completely physically and mentally exhausted. He finished his hot chocolate and lay back, knowing that he hadn't washed his face or cleaned his teeth or anything, and he didn't care, he just lay there in a state between sleep and wakefulness, and gently drifted on the night air among stars, stars on stones, black stones with creamy stars made of lath shaped crystals, flowers really.
The next morning Kliu awoke feeling refreshed but a little unambitious. There was a tapping on his door and Nance stuck her head in.
"How're you doing?"
"I'm okay. Come on in."
"My mom told me."
"Feel ready to camp?"
"That's good. Hey, I read a lot of that Swallows and Amazons book last night. I think I'll have to be captain Nancy Blackett and you could be . . ."
"I know you're going to say Titty, and I don't want to be. Can't we just be ourselves?" said Kliu.
"Okay, I was only joking anyway and you're right, I was going to say Titty . . . but she's cool."
"But she's a girl and I'm not."
"Anyway, I have this great idea. We could make maps of our camp and our outpost and here and your cabin and give everything new names."
"That's a good idea."
"Okay, get up and let's go have breakfast. Do you think you can find your way to the kitchen or should I wait for you?"
"I can find my way."
When Kliu entered the kitchen, he could tell that there was something wrong. Nance was sitting eating her cereal with a grim look on her face. The little ones were all quiet. They turned and stared at him as he entered the room. Nance's mom looked up from pouring cereal, and gave him a smile.
"There's Cheerios or Shreddies."
"I'll have Shreddies, please," he said, sitting beside Nance. "What's up?"
"We can't go camping today," she said. "Mom was listening to the radio and there's a storm coming. Don't you think it would be cool to camp in a storm?"
The children all looked at Kliu with their great big solemn eyes, waiting to see what he would say.
"Not really, Nance," he said. "Our tent could get blown away, trees could come down on us, and we'd be freezing cold and soaked."
"So you don't really mind?" she asked.
"As long as we can still camp when the storm is over." He looked over to Nance's mom. "How long is it supposed to last?"
"The weather report said it should blow itself out by the morning," she said as she passed around the rest of the bowls of cereal.
"So we could go tomorrow instead, right?" asked Kliu.
"As long as it's all over."
"I was afraid you would be upset," said Nance.
"It's okay. Anyway, I think it's better this way. I already felt like hanging around here today instead, but I didn't want to tell you."
"Yay!" said Tavis. "Klee is gonna play with us."
"Take us to the beach!" cried Lilly.
"He didn't say he would play with you," said Nance. "Maybe he just wants to rest."
"No, I'd like to," said Kliu. He turned to Nance's mom. "Would it be okay to take them to the beach?"
"Sure, it's not supposed to get stormy until late afternoon."
"Do you want to Nance?" he asked.
"Please, Nance, please," clamoured all the little ones.
"Okay you little pests, but you have to be good and do everything that me and Kliu tell you, or we'll dunk you," said Nance.
"You won't," said Maggie. "Mom, Nance is gonna dunk us!"
Suddenly the breakfast table had returned to normal and was quiet no longer. Kliu smiled and ate his cereal, letting the sound of it pour over him, not really listening to the arguments and exclamations. They all finished up their breakfast quickly and in an hour were on their way down the path to the beach. As Nance had foretold, Kliu was besieged for piggyback rides. Avery decided that he was much too old to need any help, but the others were relentless. They set off with Maggie on Kliu's back, and Lilly on Nance's. Part way down Tavis and Maggie changed places, and when they were almost down, Avery decided that there was nothing childish about piggyback rides and insisted on a turn after all.
Kliu spent the rest of the day in a half-daze. Everything they did reminded him of his family, and even though it was painful, he let it happen. Maggie especially tore at his heart. Even though her eyes were green and Lita's had been a clear blue, and she was a year or two younger, her direct gaze reminded him of his sister. She also had the same way of knowing when something would really interest Kliu, and brought him rocks and crabs and shells. She paid attention to details, like the tiny furrowed lines on a shell, reminding Kliu of the time Lita had brought him a leaf and had shown him all the veins in its back. Avery reminded Kliu of Gero, the way he tried to act older but couldn't help but enjoy all the childish pleasures. And everything reminded him of his mother. The water, the rocks, the wind that started to pick up in the trees, the swaying branches. All these things he saw in terms of colour and texture, pottery glazes, brush strokes, the swish of her hair, the whirr of her wheel, the clay forming under her hands.
As the day wore on it became oppressive, tension building for the gathering storm. They had stayed down on the beach all day, picnicking by the pool, and by late afternoon they were worn out and ready to return to the house. By the time they were half way up the path, big splashy drops began to fall. They hurried the tired children along and made it into the house before the rain began in earnest. As they were eating their evening meal, thunder rumbled and lightening streaked across the sky. The wind tore at the branches and sent waves pounding on the rocks below. After supper they went into the living room and watched the wild ocean. Dave lit the fire, warming the room and bringing comfort with the soft glow of the flames and the smell of the burning logs.
Nance threw herself onto a big overstuffed armchair by the fire. "You were right, Kliu. There is no way I would want to be in a tent right now."
"There's no way you would be in a tent," said her grandpa. "No tent in the world could stand up to this. You would have been poor, miserable, bedraggled things knocking at the door by now, without the strength left to open it yourselves. That is if you made it that far."
"Well it's true young lady. Did I ever tell you about the time I was caught in a storm when I was hiking the Malahat back in forty-eight, or was it forty-nine? Well the year doesn't matter, but there was a wind that was ripping up the trees and the thunder was right on top of the lightening. It was so dark I couldn't see and then the lightening would crack and everything was blazing white."
The whole family sat around the fire as their grandpa told stories. Tavis snuggled up beside Kliu on the couch and Maggie hopped onto his lap. Avery sat a little further along, staring at his grandpa, hanging on his every word. Nance's mom sat on the rocker with Lilly already fast asleep in her arms. Soon all the little ones were asleep and Nance's mom and grandpa took them to their beds. Nance and Kliu stayed by the fire listening to the howling wind.
Kliu woke early. His room was washed with a pale, clear light. He went to the window and looked out. The sky was still streaked with a tinge of orange, and the sun had almost completely risen. The water was still and silky, glazed with the early morning light. Kliu dressed quickly and slipped out of the sleeping house.
Branches were strewn all over the back yard and the path down to the beach. He cleared them off to the side as he made his way down the path. Driftwood and sea wrack had been pushed far up the beach by the heavy seas. Kliu waded through it and walked across the rocks to the water's edge. The wall that made the children's pool was only half there, the rest of it had been ripped apart by the battering waves. The part that still stood had gaping holes. Kliu waded into the cool waters and started to rebuild the wall, pulling large stones from the shallow water and piling them in the gaps. He worked tirelessly, not caring about getting wet, but thinking only of the little kids and how much they needed to have the protection of the pool. The wall grew steadily as he worked. He had filled the holes and was starting to rebuild the part that had been totally washed away.
Kliu reached into the deeper water and grasped another rock. It felt rough in his hands, different from the others he had been pulling out. He glanced at the rock as he heaved it onto the wall, and stopped in mid motion. It was amazing. The rough spots that he felt on the rock were flowers, feldspar crystal groupings that stood out on an eroded groundmass of dull black. He turned it in his hands and studied every tiny detail. The crystals were long, wider at one end and tapering slightly to the other. The groupings were like delicate flowers, Chinese characters, star clusters. They ranged from the size of a dime to that of a quarter, and they were spread over the rock like a flock of gulls in flight, random yet so beautifully balanced.
Kliu left the water and walked up on the shore to sit in the sun on a large boulder. He sat and stared at the stone. This was what he had been looking for all summer; this magical, wonderful rock that he held in his hands. And as he held it he felt warmth seep through him that had nothing to do with the sun. He felt that hollow emptiness within him filling and closeness to his mother, to Lita, and to his brother, Gero. It was a bond, binding them within him where he could never lose them. He looked up and saw Nance coming towards him.
"We were wondering where you were, and then I looked out a window and saw you down here, in the water."
"I was rebuilding the wall. The kid's pool was almost totally destroyed." As Nance came closer, he held out the flowerstone. "Look what I found."
Nance took it from him and held it up. "Wow. It's huge. It's awesome. You could be blind and still see this rock - it's like Braille." She handed it back to Kliu. "Come on up and have breakfast. I know you haven't eaten yet. And get on some dry clothes, you're soaked."
"Am I? I never noticed."
"No, really. This is the first time I realised how wet I am, and how cold. I was so warm a few minutes ago. "
"You're shivering. Let's go."
When they got into the house, Kliu showed his rock off to everyone. Dave was very impressed. "Well now you've got your Suiseki stone," he said. "And from my beach too. I should charge you for it. But I don't think you could afford it; it's priceless."
"Get some dry clothes on and
I'll make you some scrambled eggs and bacon," said Nance's mom.
After he had eaten, Kliu sat at the table with Nance and her mom. Dave Peters had taken the younger ones out to help him collect all the fallen branches in the yard.
"You know, he's right about a Suiseki stone," said Kliu. "This isn't just a rock. This flowerstone has connected me back to my mom and brother and sister." He turned to Nance's mom and said, "Before I was taking away their faces and taking away their names and locking them deep inside where I couldn't find them. Now I can see them again."
She gave him a hug. "I'm glad."
"Nance, do you mind if we don't go camping yet today? There's something I really need to do. You can come with me if you want."
"I know what you need to do. Let's go now. When we're over there, let's stop and see your dad and get an extension on the camping trip. I still want a full week."
Kliu and Nance hiked up the beach, the flowerstone in the pack, hanging heavy on Kliu's back. They rounded the last stretch of shore and went up alongside the trees, and through the gap between the hemlocks. The little garden lay there, serene and untouched in its sheltered circle. The piece of driftwood was in the centre, waiting. Kliu took the stone out of his backpack and then tiptoed carefully over the design of rocks. He placed the flowerstone gently in the hollow at the heart of the twisted branches. He retraced his steps and sat with Nance on the arbutus branch. The garden was now complete, and he . . . well he was starting. It was going to take some time, but this was a good beginning.
After a while he turned to Nance and said, "You know, I'm going to take it home with me. I'll bring it back next year when I come."
"You're coming back next summer?"
"Nothing can stop me. We'll take Simon camping with us next summer, you'll see."
They left the garden quietly, stopping at the entrance for one last look before they ran off down the beach, back to the cabin high on the bluff and the prospect of a week long camping trip on their own.
Out over the waves, a lonely gull dipped and soared, its long slow wail echoing across the swell.
© 2003 Copyright held by the author.