The loss of an unrealized family treasure.
The boy was ten years old and small for his age. He was a forgotten child, a child who came unexpectedly into the world and not altogether wanted. He was shy and withdrawn, with pale blond hair, gray eyes behind thick glasses and small fingers that distinguished him from his peers. His eyes were most striking; the color of cold, dead ashes and old, old long before their time. His family was well to do, but that came from honest, hard work. Work that always seemed to take priority. His only sibling, a brother nine years his senior, was mostly a stranger to him, as were his parents. When he was younger it was daycare to watch over him. His weak constitution attracted every sniffle that came his way, requiring a parent to be home more often than they liked. This wouldn’t do, so, from the age of five on, the boy had a nanny. His nanny met the responsibility of his care, if not the spirit of it.
The boy attended distant private schools, spending hours a day on the train with his nanny, and so he had few friends.
"I’m sorry we don’t have time for activities after school," she said, often. "I have other responsibilities that require my attention. You do like to eat my dinners in the evening, don’t you?"
"Yes, Nanny," he replied. He no longer bothered to hide his disappointment.
"Perhaps, when you’re a bit older and can take the train yourself, you can stay after to play sports or join friends after school," she said.
Through a yawn he nodded. "Maybe, someday," he thought. "Maybe." The sharp smell of the flinty dust of the worn, stale air of the train always set him drowsy. He drifted off to sleep, as he did most days, leaning against his nanny. Often, with the gentle rocking motion of the speeding train, the boy dreamed he was sailing on a swift clipper, rolling on the high seas.
Being city dwellers from Brooklyn, one of the brownstones on State Street, he had little opportunity for outdoor play. His street was little more than two car widths with concrete sidewalks and young elm saplings space about twenty-five feet apart. His home was old with tall, metal ceilings, tiled baths, dark rooms with few windows. One was hard-pressed to find evidence that a young child lived there. His nanny was older than his parents, and often took her own naps in the afternoon. His brother, home from university only on holidays, was seldom home for company. His was a solitary life of simple and lonely self-entertainment.
Toys he had aplenty; there seemed no end to them. But it was books that were his favorites, his passion. As a toddler, his mother sometimes read to him. However, it was his older brother who had read to him most. The boy truly loved listening to his brother read with the different voices, giving life to the characters, adding gusto to the action. When the boy learned to read, he read voraciously, and, in fact, almost ravenously. No doubt his insatiable reading habit was behind the need for his thick glasses. He was careful not to hoard books without reading them. "Nothing feels more wasted than a library full of unread books," his father had told him. Together, he and his father added more shelves on the walls in his room, a room he shared with his brother. The first shelves had been mounted by his father and brother, when his brother was younger. Now, almost two walls were filled floor to ceiling with books. Some days the boy’s father would surprise him with a new book he picked up on his way home from the office. Other times, usually one Saturday a month, the father and son could be seen taking subways and buses around the city to find new bookstores. On one particular Saturday his father wouldn’t divulge to him where they were going. Taking subways they found themselves on East 11th Street, between University Place and Broadway.
"What are we doing all the way down here, Father?" the boy asked. In reply, his father simply pointed at a used bookstore a few steps down the sidewalk.
"Antiquarian Books Bought and Sold.," he read aloud. "What does that mean?" he queried his father.
"Antiquarian, like antiques. Books here are very old and rare. A client was telling me about this shop. The owner buys and sells antique books. On my lunch break earlier this week I popped in and saw something I thought you might like. I asked the owner to hold it for me until today."
Outside there was a bargain table, books marked three for a dollar. The boy’s father didn't even slow to glance at them, though, and pushed the glass door open. There was a tinkle of small bells as they entered. Unlike other bookstores the boy and his father had visited, this one had a kind of old-paper, musty-leather smell; new bookstores had an acrid, new-paper and glue smell. At the counter sat a man reading a cloth bound novel. The Lady in the Lake, the title read.
"Good afternoon," the man said. "How can I help you? Oh!" The man’s eyes broadened with a smile and he began rummaging under the counter. "You asked me to hold this for you, I believe." He pulled a book wrapped in brown paper out and placed it on the counter. The boy’s father smiled.
"Yes. Thank you. How much do I owe you?"
"It’s a second edition in decent shape and the dust jacket is intact. One hundred thirty dollars takes it home with you," said the man.
The boy’s father took out his wallet and started thumbing through bills, then paused. "What about tax?" he asked.
The proprietor smiled and waved it off. "My calculator needs new batteries so don’t worry about it. If the governor stops you, tell him the tax was included in the price."
“Thank you," said the boy’s father, and he passed the money across the counter. Then he handed the book to the boy. The boy looked up, eyes bright with curiosity and excitement, and took it.
"Can I open it?" he asked. His father nodded his assent. The boy tore off the wrapper, handed the paper to the outstretched hand of the proprietor. "Father! Treasure Island! It’s beautiful! Thank you!" The boy was enthralled with the beauty of the book.
"I know you have a fine edition of it at home, but I thought you might appreciate a copy of this from a time when Robert Louis Stevenson was still alive," said his father.
"It's a wonderful gift, Father. I'll treasure it."
It had been glorious, that day for the boy, but the time between days like it grew longer as his parents’ jobs took up more and more of their time. It had been almost three months since he and his father had gone on a bookstore trek. Nanny didn't want to take the boy on irksome treks like that.
"I'm too old to go traipsing around the city for books you can get at the library," she said. "You know, the New York Public Library is one of the finest in the world."
"I know. But it's not the same as having a book for your very own, to read whenever you want."
Springtime had been very disappointing for the boy as he seldom saw his parents and his brother was still at university. For the annual spring play at school, the boy, as President Abraham Lincoln, was to recite the Gettysburg Address at the end of their Civil War drama. As he walked out on stage, he scanned the audience for his parents. He couldn’t see them, paused in stride to look again. His nanny was there, of course, but no one else. Then, movement from the back caught his eye; his brother waved him on. As the star and President Lincoln, he couldn’t very well stand on the stage all night, gawking. He struggled to keep his face solemn and sad as he approached the podium. After the show his nanny was helping him remove his beard and costume when his brother appeared.
"Oh, this beard must itch! How can you stand it?" she asked. The boy shrugged.
"You get used to it, I guess."
"Hmm. You may be right, there. They say you get used to hanging if you hang long enough," she said. She pulled at glue from the beard stuck on his cheek while he made contorted faces in response to her tugging.
The boy saw his brother approach, a sparkle in his eye. "You were great, little man! You sounded great! Your voice was so, so, I don’t know, presidential! And you never looked at your envelope. Did you really have it memorized?" he asked.
"Yes! I couldn’t fit all on the envelope and anyway I wanted to show Mother and Father how well I could do it. Are Mother and Father here? I couldn't see them."
"Mother called from Chicago from her editor’s conference. Her plane was delayed. She sounded really very upset. She thought she might miss your performance."
The boy looked crestfallen. "And Father?"
His brother sighed. "Father was called back to the firm; something about new litigation. The senior partners asked for him and he called to say he might not make it. I’m sorry little man."
"Your folks are busy people, boy. You must make allowances," said his nanny.
The boy didn’t say anything. He finished taking off his beard, plucking sticky glue off his face, changed behind a screen. When he rejoined them he asked his brother, "Did Mother and Father come to see your performances?"
His brother cocked his head with a look of curiosity. "Mother came, but not Father. He worked even more than he does now. It’s different now, they both need to work. And I didn’t have a nanny."
"It’s no fun like this," the boy said.
"I know it takes a little of the joy out of your performance," said his nanny. "But your parents are still very proud of you. Proud of both of you, I might add."
The older brother smiled in reply and put his arm across the shoulders of his younger brother. They headed for outside in the clear, chill, spring air to catch the subway home.
The boy’s one joy, indeed, his one fascination was with the tremendous fish tank his parents had kept from early in their marriage. It was a sea water aquarium, easily one hundred and fifty gallons in size. A myriad of crabs and exotic fish, kelps and fern plants and snails, starfish and living coral thrived within this little world. When the boy was young, he would stand on a chair while his father tended the life forms, or when his father added pieces to the theme of the tank: pirates and treasure. There were sunken ships and treasure chests, old-time divers with shiny, bubbling, brass helmets. And standing on the chair, the boy would drink in the salt smell of the tank, strong enough to sting his nose. The boy stared down into the aquarium; his imagination bubbling right along with the divers in the tank. His favorite piece was a strange curiosity. It was a sailor, legs buried to its knees in the gravel, its arms upraised but bent at the elbow, and the head slowly bobbing up and down, reflecting the ebb and flow of the current. In the boy's imagination, this sailor was always the brave pirate hero of his fantasies.
Hours and hours he would spend, staring into the aquarium, imagining fierce battles when pirates attacked clippers, or swift retreats when war frigates gave chase. First, the pirates would win, taking away treasure to bury and leaving their quarry to burn and sink. Then, the ruthless navy would hunt them down and assail the pirate vessel, taking prisoners and sinking the ship. And always the boy would imagine the navy men, in their own lust to recover the treasure, would torture the captive pirates one by one, hoping some cowardly brigand would give up the secret to the buried treasure. No one ever did. And the boy would imagine the merciless navy, down to the last captive pirate, would do their worst to break him. That hero sailor, after seeing the gruesome deaths of his shipmates, would be tested under the evilest of tortures: to be buried to the knees at a low tide mark and to watch as the tide turned and his life ended slowly, buried beneath sea. Ha! It never worked! Pirates and rebels all had a resolve no navy man would ever grasp!
In the summer of his tenth year, rather than another wearisome holiday in the Catskills, where his parents and older brother always found entertainment and delight (he found neither), his parents chose a different location for their holiday: the rocky seashore of Maine. And, what’s more, his tired old nanny would visit her own family in the city and tend the aquarium. What luck! His parents were puzzled at his excitement; his older brother typically annoyed, as the boy quivered in anticipation. He nearly burst from within with enthusiasm for the adventures to come.
His parents rented an overlarge cottage on a narrow peninsula; beach and sea across the road in front, and the deep canals of tidal marshes in the rear. Inside, salty sea air mingled with the smell of bacon from the previous tenant and that of fresh paint in the cottage. Paintings and prints of fishermen tending their nets or rowing against a high sea, or tall ships sailing, adorned the walls. Driftwood, shells and sea glass dotted tables and bureaus. The outside was gray shingles, weathered in the salt air, with a ship’s wheel mounted near the peak. Even the water tasted brackish. The boy had his own bedroom, too, and windows, windows! facing both east and west. Sunrise on the beach and sunset deep in the swamps; he could hardly contain himself when they finished unpacking. "It was going to be an absolutely glorious holiday," he thought.
His first day on the beach the boy discovered older people under wide-brimmed sun hats walking the hard sands at low tide, stooping to pick things up. Overcoming his timidity to these strangers, he saw that they picked up sand dollars and bits of sea glass and he knew, he knew! this was to be his treasure. Day after day he walked and combed the sand and tide pools, collected and sorted his precious treasures. And with each venture the boy traveled farther and farther from the spot where his parents camped under their umbrella, reading manuscripts or law briefs in silence, or sleeping in the shade. On the sixth day, when the boy was late for lunch, his mother scolded him fiercely. Where had he been she demanded. Didn’t he realize something could have happened to him? She charged his older brother to watch over him.
"Mother, this is unfair!" his older brother argued. "I’ve made friends here and I'm off with them most days. Why must I watch over him? He's ten years old and there's nothing but beach for a mile in either direction. He'll be fine."
"You're his older brother and you should watch out for him," his mother responded. They quibbled some more, and compromised that the older brother would watch him for part of each day.
The boy was furious. His protests and promises went unheard or simply dismissed. He resented it, as he always had, and now he began to fantasize about fleeing, joining with pirates for real adventures. Adventures where his voice would be heard, heard and heeded, as the voice of command. But there was no escaping his brother, none what-so-ever. His holiday continued, but some of the thrill of discovery and adventure was gone.
The boy checked the calendar every day for the tide times to plan his treasure hunting excursions, until one morning he saw a day marked near the end of the month with the one word, "departure." His days at the shore were numbered!
On many occasions the boy had overheard some of the older beach walkers commenting about the weather and sports, local politics and tourists from away, and one phrase seemed to stick: "In Maine, if you don't like the weather, wait a minute." He awoke one morning to a shift in the weather. It was raining heavily and the wind blew sheets of water against the windows. The boy could see the wind blowing the surf and spray back out to sea between blasts of wind and rain on the glass, and sighed with resignation. There would be no treasure collecting today. He retired to his room to sort his treasure. Sudden inspiration sent him dashing to the kitchen where his father was working at the table.
"Father, I was wondering if it might be possible to add some of the treasures I've collected here to our aquarium at home."
"Mmm? What? What did you say?" his father responded with a glance over his briefcase.
"I was wondering if it might be possible to add some of the treasures I've collected here to our aquarium at home I said."
“Treasures? What treasures?" This time his father did not look up but continued to scribble notes in the margins of a brief.
“The treasures I found here, on the shore. I've found shells, sand dollars, sea glass and a starfish. An old gentleman on the beach told me to lay the starfish on something flat in the sun to dry out. Then it will be hard, he said, and if I'm careful, it will last a long time."
"Um, hmm." His father looked up, stared above the boy's head across the room in thought. "Perhaps some of the sea glass, if we sterilize it in hot water. We want to be careful not to introduce any bacteria or disease that could kill our aquarium. Maybe a shell, but we should check with a pet shop or two before we add them." His father's attention went back to his work.
“Thank you, Father! I'll select the biggest and most colorful pieces now, and boil them," said the boy, and he hurried back to his room.
"Hmm? Yes, we'll talk about it when we return to the city." His father was unaware that the boy had left the room.
Early the next morning, the boy awoke before his family. He was chilled and his bed felt damp. The furniture seemed sticky and rasped as he opened his draw for clothes. Outside the fog was heavy, but it wasn't raining. He dressed quietly, crossed the cottage interior and poked his head out the door. Outside the morning fog was so heavy there was a dull layer of moisture on everything; beads of water laid so gently, so completely the world was wrapped in watery gray cellophane. His first steps broke the tiny beads; behind him he left wet footprints where no water had seemed to be. The air smelled of salt, tasted of it. It was wonderful! Within moments moisture condensed on the hairs of his arms and legs. He saw the breeze before he felt it as the wave of chill fog passed through him; an uncontrolled shiver ran from the base of his spine to his neck, jerking his arms and head like a silly puppet.
On the beach the sand was cold, so cold it felt wet. Wet, like the sand was liquid itself. The smell of salt was stronger here, mingled with cold seaweed left high on the beach. It filled his nostrils. Breathing deep it tickled his nose. He smiled. As he continued to inhale deeply his lungs felt cleansed, healed. The sound of the surf was muted with the oppressive weight of the fog. The waves broke as snowy white foam and gave way to a churning cold, gray avalanche of water. Down at the water's edge the surf crashed in thunder. Out beyond the breakers the sea rippled shades of gray and black, like ribbons of undulating snakes. The fog was so penetrating the moisture was tickling the base of every hair on his head. When touched, it released all its water, soaking him there. What few gulls he spied decried the icy, wet chill.
On the beach, the boy turned to his left. He'd seen, on other days, from a distance, a jetty extending out into the sea, but was never able to walk the distance and return on time. Now he would make that journey. The boy jogged at the water's edge toward the stone wharf, cold sea water rolling over his feet. Where is that jetty? he thought. His universe had become endless dull fog, gray sands and white, roiling foam. Just as he was about to turn back, the pink and gray of the granite blocks reared into view. He had reached more than just the jetty.
The far end of the jetty was swallowed by the fog. Climbing up, the cold granite blocks felt sharp, bit into his hands and feet with gritty teeth. The boy hopped and jumped between the boulders, heading out toward the sea. The boy marveled at the crudely paved path the mammoth blocks formed, wondered at the strange, myriad of holes drilled into the stone. He passed fishermen bating lines and casting away from the levee. He could see the glow of their pipes as they sucked in the smoke, smelled the sweet scent of their tobacco exhalations. He was forced to dodge the bloody heads and entrails of small fish, used for bait. "Pollock," they called them. The gamy fish smell sent his imagination into a maelstrom of images; he was walking the quay to his ship, moored to take on provisions. Small fishing vessels were unloading their catch, old salts tended their nets and smoked on deck. He continued on.
When the boy stood out at the end of the jetty, he licked his lips and tasted briny. The salt stung his nose; the back of his throat smoldered with the sharp burn of it. Here his shirt clung to his skin with a cold, serpentine feel. The spray of crashing waves almost felt warmer than the fog. The gurgle of the receding sea between the rocks sounded solid, like stones rolled against each other under the surface. Somewhere in the fog he heard the subdued clanging of an unseen channel marker. This, his greatest adventure yet! Alive, he felt so very alive. With a final, deep inhalation, drinking in the living salt and sea, he turned to head back to the cottage, happier than he had ever felt.
When the boy returned to the cottage he could hear the loud voices of his brother and parents through the closed door. As he entered they drew quiet, and the silence frightened him. Then the screaming started. His brother and his parents screamed and stomped, smacked their hands on tabletops, shouted and gestured savagely to each other. Who was watching him? Who was responsible? How could this happen? No one addressed the boy. He went to his room and quietly closed the door. A little later there was a knock at his door and his brother stuck his head in.
"Mother has said you are to remain in the cottage for the rest of our holiday. I will stay to watch you."
"Oh," said the boy and then a thought popped into his head. "I'm sorry you'll miss out on being with your new friends."
"It's OK," his brother responded; a fleeting smile died on his lips. "Where did you go this morning?"
"I walked to the jetty and out to the end, where the surf soaked me in the spray. I wanted to do that before we left for home."
"Yes, it is beautiful out there. I've been myself. Well, only one more day left, anyway." And his brother retreated, closing the door behind him.
From outside the door the boy heard his mother say, "Move," and the door was thrust open. She squared herself in front of the door, hands on her hips, and surveyed the room, looking for something incriminating, something upon which to unleash her anger. Her eyes locked on the top of his dresser and narrowed. "What is this trash?" she demanded.
"It's all my treasure from the seashore," he said. "It's what I've been searching for and collecting everyday." The boy had several piles for different colored sea glass, a small pile of sand dollars, three four clam shells, two sea urchin shells, and a dried starfish. One of the older walkers on the beach told him sea urchins and starfish were more rare than sand dollars.
"I expect this, this trash to be gone tomorrow when we pack to leave," she said with a tinge of disgust. "We won't be bringing any foul-smelling souvenirs home with us." His mother turned, left the room without hearing her son, jerking the door closed behind her.
"But it's my treasure," he said in a tremulous voice to her retreating back.
Early the next morning, under a red dawn, the boy awoke to find his mother standing over the bed.
"Just making sure you followed directions. I half expected you to be attempting sneak out this morning. Your father and I are going to the beach for one last day. You will remain inside all day. You really gave us a scare yesterday and we need you to understand how serious it was. You could have fallen in and been dashed against the rocks, or simply disappeared out there, and we were worried. Your brother will be here to watch you. You will help your brother with packing up the car, as we will be leaving early tomorrow," she said.
She turned to leave, paused in the doorway, then swiveled her head back to him. "Maybe if you and your brother finish before dinner he'll take you out to the beach one more time," she said. A smile of hope flickered across the boy's face; his mother smiled slightly and closed the door.
She left his room, growled some directions to his brother, and not long after that he heard his parents leave the cottage, the screen door creaking then slamming shut. The boy got up, dressed and went into the kitchen. His brother was preparing breakfast for them both.
"Mother said I was to be sure you threw away some trash before we pack. What is she talking about?" he asked.
"My treasure. Everyday I collected sea glass, sand dollars, shells and sea urchins on my walks. You've seen me collect some. She doesn't want me to bring it home."
His brother reached down and mussed his hair. "I'm sorry, kiddo. If there was a way of burying it in the suitcases so she wouldn't find it I'd help you. But you know she'll search," he said. 'tell you what, though, I'll talk to her later. Maybe I can convince her to let you bring some of it home."
The boy looked up at his brother and, for the first time, it was with a true and deep affection for him. His brother wasn't so much the stranger anymore.
"I hope so," said the boy. "Father said I might be able to add some of my sea glass treasure to our aquarium." He smiled. His brother smiled back and mussed his hair again.
"Come on, little man. Let's eat," he said.
After breakfast the boy went to his room to get his clothes ready for packing. After removing his shoes and clothes from the closet, he saw a set of shelves in the back. On one shelf was a small metal box. He reached in, took it out and opened it to looked at its contents. It had a deck of playing cards and poker chips inside. Inspiration flashed in his mind and took the box with his shoes and dumped them on the bed. He took the playing cards and chips and put them in the shoe box, replaced it on the shelf. Then the boy gathered up his treasures and placed them in the small metal box. "Mother will think I did not bring the shoe box with me, and so won't notice it missing," he thought.
His brother knocked on the door. The boy quickly threw his clothes over the box, covering it from view. His brother said, "I'm just going out to the car to get the suitcases out of the trunk and bring them in. I'll be right back."
Opportunity flared in his head momentarily and he rifled the garments for his treasure box. He heard the outside door close and then he himself padded swiftly across the cottage and quietly left, holding the door as it closed, so as not to alert his brother. He turned toward the beach and hesitated. The car was in front of the cottage and his parents were on the beach. He put no further thought into his decision and darted toward the salt marshes to the rear of the cottage. He would bury his treasure and perhaps, perhaps next year they would return and he would find it again. His thoughts leaped with excitement, as did his feet, racing into the maze of channels of the marsh. "I will draw a map," he thought. "A map to find my buried treasure. And the navy will never find it!" He ran on, heedless of the twists and turns he was making, slipping in the oozing mud. He fell more than once, climbed back to his feet and ran on. The smell here was different, harsh, pungent. It still smelled salty, like the beach, but here it smelled of rotting saw grass, stagnant pools, dead crabs and fish. It smelled of decay; a festering, poisonous smell. It smelled of death. Still he ran on, unaware of the sudden rush of ominous-looking clouds overhead covering the sun.
The boy took another turn, then fell, sliding to a stop, covered in slime. He stooped to retrieve his glasses, rinsed them in a shallow pool. A cul-de-sac, a dead end. A ripple of thunder forced his attention to the sky. "If it rains," he thought, "Mother and Father will come off the beach and back to the cottage. I'll bury my treasure here." On his hands and knees he began digging with earnest, until a sharp pain in his fingers brought cry to his lips. Looking down he saw two fingers were weeping, then streaming blood, deep gashes across both. In his hole a piece of broken shell protruded from the muck. Glancing around, he grabbed a rock and used it to scrape his hole deeper. Thunder grew louder, more frequent. Lightening streaked the sky. Wind rustled the saw grass, then bent it flat with a ferocious blow. When he couldn't reach the bottom laying flat he decided it was deep enough, thrust his treasure box in and started pushing the dirt and muck over it. The sharp pungency of the gray and black ooze set his eyes watering.
He felt a tickle at his toes. Crab! He whirled with a jerk but it was just sea water, a pool of it expanding, spreading around him. Small fish from a tidal pool darted out, burrowing through the widening shallows. He turned back to his hole, finished filling it and started to rise. The puddle had reached round his knees and was growing deeper. The tide had turned and was coming in. The boy grabbed several more rocks, piled them over his treasure box as a cairn and turned to leave. The rising sea was at his ankles.
A new sound and sensation came to him; heavy, heavy rain began to fall. It grew darker still. The boy began at a trot, trying to follow his own footprints back out of the marsh. It wasn't long before he couldn't see them; the sea was almost to his knees, the splashing rain obscuring his vision. Still, he did not panic. He made his way as fast as his legs would allow, slipping, sloshing, often becoming mired in the muck. Both feet were bleeding from many little cuts. When the in-rushing sea reached his waist he knew he had to try to climb the sodden mounds of saw grass to get above the tide. He might be trapped on an island of sharp grass and shells, but he would be above water.
Through the rain he saw what looked like the best spot. Some rocks at the base of a mound would give him a step up and out of the sucking mud. He gripped the sharp rock, saw the blood washed off his hand in the rain, stream in rivulets down the rock. One foot up, he used his good hand to assist. He thrust his fingers deep in the mud and grass, feeling shell pieces cut his fingers. He pulled, got his other leg up to the rock. Now with both hands, pain screaming, blood streaming, he began to pull himself up to the top. He was pushing off the rock with his toes when he felt it shift. The stone sank away from him, the mud gave way slowly under his fingers and he slid back down between it and the mound. Jagged edges of the rock cut deeply into his calves. The boy wailed, tried once more to pull himself out. He slid further down, pulling mud and saw grass with him, burying him. Between the rock and the mud, he was pinned from just above the knees down.
He couldn't reach the grass, couldn't find a handhold to pull himself out. The sea water was above his waist, the rain drown out all sound. The wind hurled cold daggers of water into his skin. The more he struggled the more the rocks and shells cut into his legs. He took a breath, bent down under the surface and raked at the grasping sludge to free his legs.
In a small rowboat, the boy's parents looked from the bow and gunwales, calling for him. An old man pulled at the oars, was mumbling to himself something about a red sky in the morn. They didn't hear him. In the stern, the older brother tried to pierce the depths of the channel through their wake. With a cry, he spotted the boy, pinned four feet under water, his arms floating up with his head bobbing up and down in the current. The boat rocked suddenly, violently. Following his mother, the older brother plunged over the side. He pulled her struggling body back to the surface, pushed from below as his father pulled her sobbing, limp form back into the boat. With a look from the father, the old man stowed his oars, took the boy's mother into his arms. The boy's father climbed over the side and, together, father and son dug the boy out, raised his body into the boat. Overhead, a gull cried in a red sunset, wheeled off.