Taking a Walk on the Wild Side of a Maine Island
I’ll finish telling you about the Coffin dinner from a few days ago. Having disposed of the evening’s light chit-chat — covering the usual cocktail-party topics of politics, work, cold-blooded murder, that sort of thing — I sat down with Coffin, Inc., for a nice New England meal. Cory had rustled up some broiled salmon, boiled potatoes, boiled spinach, and boiled corn, a meal that undoubtedly put a strain on the island’s supply of fresh water. Henry had rustled up some more whiskey. I sat with the others at a long table covered with a white tablecloth and some slate-blue candles. Meg sat next to me, and Cory and Henry held down the ends of the table.
The meal was great, and the conversation was pleasant. Cory, poking a fork up at me for emphasis, talked about the time she and Henry went hunting out on Bird Island, a short distance off the coast. They had set a goal for themselves of twenty big, fat birds — enough to break up the winter’s long rendition of salted codfish — but after three days, they had only bagged twelve geese and five ptarmigan. Seventeen birds. Three short of the total. But they had used up most of their fresh water, and they were completely out of food. They knew they could eat the birds they had shot, but that would move them further away from their goal. So they stuck it out another day, determined to plant buckshot into at least three more geese. The geese, however, had other plans, and they all stuck it out on some other island. So Henry and Cory spent another night on Bird Island, suffering through the thirst and the hunger. Next day: nothing. The following day: still nothing. Then, just as they were about to give up and steer their little boat toward home, a large flock of honkers soared overhead and came in to land on Bird Island’s marshy little pond. Three shots. Three birds in the bag. Henry and Cory returned home fifteen pounds lighter, but dammit it all — they had achieved their goal.
I have no doubt that the story has benefited from some stretching, varnishing, and buffing over the years, and the intensity with which Meg ate her dinner suggested that she had heard this all before. But Cory told the story with bravado, waving her stout arms to punctuate points, and dropping to a whisper when the suspense began to build. Henry enjoyed every word of it, basking in the heroic glow that the story gave him. I began to wonder whether he had asked Cory to tell that story to me over dinner, just so I would include it in my blog. Then I remembered that hardly anyone ever reads my blog.
After dinner, I went for a walk with Meg. The evening was dark, with a thumbnail moon flickering behind fast-moving, black clouds. Salt and chill snaked through the wind, and Meg slipped an arm around my waist. Just to be gentlemanly, I slipped an arm over her shoulder.
“So you spend a lot of time down in The Village, don’t you?” Meg asked, after we had walked along the beach in silence for some time.
I admitted that I did.
“What’s it like down there?” she asked softly.
I almost tumbled into the ocean. Grand Seal Island is rather small as islands go, but Meg had evidently never been to the south end of it. It’s like the Great Wall of Moral Uncertainty runs right through the middle of the island — right over the Stump, it seems — and the residents of one side never venture over to the other. The wall is invisible. You can’t touch it or feel it. But it’s like the people on both sides have peed back and forth along each side of it, and interlopers instinctively feel nervous and vulnerable when they sense the scent. Only Floyd seems impervious to the Wall, crossing from one side to the other whenever he needs to sell drugs or visit The Pad. Other than Floyd, and maybe his mom, I’m the only one who seems immune to the Wall’s message of territory and trespass. North and South Korea are chummy by comparison.
So I spied an opportunity. Meg, this wooden little puppet-girl, the darling of Grand Uptight Island, has of course never been to The Village. A trip to The Village would blow her mind.
It would blow her mind.
Loosen her up.
Introduce some serious fun in her life.
Show her that existence on earth is not limited to dusty volumes of literature and slow walks on the beach. It’s not confined to stuffy little lives in stuffy little houses in a stuffy little town.
There’s a whole wild world out there, and The Village is its local pinnacle. It’s time for Meg Coffin, virtuous daughter of the mayor of a town that was old and staid and set in its ways long before the Lowells spoke only to Cabots and the Cabots spoke only to God, to visit The Village. Take a walk on the wild side. See how the bottom half lives.
So I broached the subject as delicately and subtly as I could.
“It’s incredible! Wanna come?”
I offered to take her down there sometime soon, and she accepted. In fact, she said, “I’d like that.” Which of course left me to wonder what she meant by “that.”
We strolled along the beach for a while, talking about the sea and The Town and the fact that her family seems comfortable with the idea that whacking incumbents is good for democracy. (I’m still not buying Henry’s story, but it’s a fun line of conversation. You don’t often get to say things like, “So — if the President pissed off your dad, would we have to invoke the Rules of Succession?”)
When we got back to the porch of her house, the downstairs lights were off. Henry and Cory were apparently upstairs, leaving the porch dark in a not terribly subtle gesture that seemed to indicate their approval of me.
It’s strange. Meg is sweet and everything, but I’m giving serious thought to encouraging Bo to run for mayor, just so the Coffins and the Minots will rub him out and leave Eliza for me. And yet, even after the horrible Ranting Journalist episode, Henry and Cory seem to have decided that I’m an OK guy. This family is definitely odd and charming and scary and —
Meg kissed me. We were standing on the porch, and she just turned and kissed me in ways that careened away from GSI Quaker and toward New Orleans Brothel. Her hand was definitely massaging my butt, and her tongue was moving in ways that suggested that she was not as innocent as I had thought. Despite my firm conviction that Eliza is the Perfect Woman, Meg was doing an excellent job of capturing my attention. I kissed her back, for a brief moment only, and then shifted to a friendly hug goodnight. I think Meg and I can have a lot of fun together, but I don’t want her thinking that she’s the One For Me.
Are you reading this, Meg? I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything.
Who am I kidding? Except for the Idiotic Venting Escapade, no one reads this blog at all.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — Gemstone: Maybe you should tell Meg how you feel in person, Van.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.