This summer, when I arrived at the beach that we used to call “Frank MacDonald’s” beach and then just “Frank’s Beach,” and later “The Climb Down Beach,” but which should have rightly been called “Margery’s Beach,” because she loved it so much more than anyone else, I told the cliffs and the sand and the ocean that she had died. I had to tell them. How could such wild things know about a death that had taken place within the confines of the machine that is New York City? When I shouted this dry fact from below, the red clay cliffs did not fold heavily inward, tumbling to the sea, the grey granite did not burst apart, exploding from within, the white limestone didn’t collapse, or crumble to powder bringing the green grasses which clashed as always with the blue sky down into the grey sea and onto the white sand beach.
The cliffs and the beach and the green kept on standing. They remained beautiful and wild. How? How can that be? How can that place continue to be and to be beautiful without her love? Even when she was far away, her love sustained it.
Every day I ask myself, how can I do it? Live and love and read and write and sleep and work and cry and laugh without her love to sustain me? Even while I am asking, life goes on, the beach goes on. I don’t understand.
Arriving in Nova Scotia after spending all of her 13 years on the Upper West Side of Manhattan was an experience in absences for Zora. There was an absence of other airport gates besides the one she was exiting by, and a dearth of faces of different races or ethnic backgrounds. Except for she and the two kids getting off the plane with her, everyone here looked like they might be related by blood.
Then there was the absence of demonstrated emotion. At Kennedy airport she had seen running, hugs, and sobbing at the departure terminal. Here, a tiny unsmiling elderly couple greeted an arriving, middle-aged man. The father looked his son over with pale neutral eyes from under shelves of wiry eyebrow. He chewed fiercely at his tobacco and went over to spit the juice into a trash can. The mother smiled from a four-foot distance and inquired about the flight, and whether he had had to wait long for the plane. All three of them had the high cheekbones, the light blue eyes, the skin that was too pale, and the dusty colored brown hair that Zora saw all around her. The contrast made Zora feel too tall, too dark and too young.
The gate was clearing out now. Most people had walked over to the small carousel down which luggage would appear in its own good time.
“Who’s going to meet us?” whined the little boy with the thick wire rimmed glasses. Zora had pointedly ignored this skinny seven-year-old for the whole flight. He had worried aloud about the lift off, the snack packaging, and the rain. She didn’t want to arrive encumbered by a worrier. She had her own concerns. She had just caused the demise of her family.
She knew it was her fault. If she hadn’t been so angry she wouldn’t have broken into her father’s art studio where she was never, ever supposed to go. Then she wouldn’t have discovered all the pictures of her Dad with Ms Lidell, his assistant, and she wouldn’t have told her mom about them, and everything would be as it was before. Instead, she had watched her family dismantle itself with surprising speed and very little fuss, as if the cords that connected them together had been too slender to snap, just breaking with a little “zip.” Her father had sent her up to a work camp in the wilds of Cape Breton for the summer while he and her mother figured out their divorce.
Zora looked around the little airport terminal. It was dimly lit and quickly emptying. The third child who had been on the plane looked even more out of place here than she did. He was about 16, had a huge Afro, big light eyes, and a tattoo of the Puerto Rican flag on his heavy dark upper arm. He was wearing cutoffs and a jean jacket over a tee shirt that had the black power fist stenciled on the front. He looked completely adrift in this pond of pale, white, Scottish faces.
Still, nobody stepped up to claim them. The seven year old was whimpering now and had removed his glasses to wipe them on his formerly clean white shirt. The airport cleared, and everyone else from their flight claimed their luggage when it descended the carousel. Zora noticed a thin, middle-aged man quietly standing by the luggage wheel. Was he here for them? He stood as straight as a spruce tree, of which she was about to see many more than she had ever imagined existed. He had the locally requisite small, fierce looking, bright blue eyes, which were aimed straight ahead, and those impossibly high cheekbones. His lips were very thin and his small mouth was pulled in tight. He wore a heavy checked red flannel jacket and green men’s work pants. He did not look at her or seem to take any notice of her or the other two. Zora had never met anyone so straight or stone still when not in motion.
“Are you here to meet the kids from New York for the camp?” she shouted, as if he might be deaf as well as still. His facial expression didn’t change, but his eyes lit up.
“Yes, my dear,” he said. “My, aren’t you a big gurl then?” he asked, in what sounded to Zora like a Scottish accent from an amateur production of Macbeth. “I thought the only girl would be just 13, and so, a bit smaller dy’see? So I wasn’t sure about you three. But the big boy looked right, and so did the little one. I was just thinking it must be you.” He paused to take a closer look at her. “I’m here to pick you up and take you back to the camp. I’m Joe Kennedy.”
Outside it was a rainy warm dusk in an ugly industrial town. Zora realized she had to run to keep up with this old man, who was simply walking. She caught up to him at the back of an extremely old, red pickup truck into which he was tossing her heavy pack as if it were a marshmallow. Joe Kennedy went back for the little boy’s huge bag, with which the child was still struggling at the airport doors, and hefted this too into the back of the truck without effort.
“Climb in,” he said, pulling down the back rail. He offered Zora a hand into the bed of the truck, took the little kid with him into the cab and left the older boy to fend for himself.
“Hook that back up,” he shouted out the open truck window. The teenager struggled to climb in and hook the rail after him and finally managed it just as the truck fired up with a roar and surged away down the road.
The boy stumbled over Zora’s foot.
“Oh, shit, sorry,” he said as he thumped himself down beside her with his back to the cab. “This old guy isn’t fucking around, is he?” Zora just looked at him.
After the end of her family, she had decided it was best to stay uninvolved with everybody until she had everything psyched out
“I mean he was just hitting the accelerator, just flooring it as if we weren’t back here, you know what I mean, Man?” the boy said. It was pitch dark out now and still drizzling. There were no stars, no moon, and no city lights, only the occasional car that came up behind them and honked before passing. Dark woods loomed on both sides of the road. It would probably be best to get this kid on her side if possible.
“Can you drive?” Zora asked, just for something to say. The kid considered the proper answer to this irrelevant question.
“Well, of course, I could drive if I needed to, but I haven’t exactly tried it before. Not too many opportunities to drive a vehicle have as yet come my way where I come from.”
“And where is that?” she asked obligingly.
“I am Apache Ramos, A Proud Puerto Rican Playwright from The Bronx,” he answered.
“Well, I am Zora Siegel, a Wimpy Whitey from the Upper West Side,” she replied. She leaned her head back in the straw of the truck’s bed and eventually slept.
She awoke after an unknown period of time had passed. The truck’s noise was increasing as it went much more slowly, climbing around tight hairpin turns. In the headlights she could see that there were thick spruce woods on either side of the narrow dirt road. Huge tree figures loomed black over the truck. The rain had stopped and Apache was asleep on the floor of the truck. It felt very late at night.
With a rattle and a sigh, the pickup turned slowly onto a steep driveway. It strained itself up a tiny hill and wheezed to a stop. The lights went off and they were immediately engulfed in the most complete darkness that Zora had ever experienced. She stood up against the splintery wood guardrails of the truck and strained her eyes to see into the distance. She heard a rusty creak and a thunk. No dome light came on. No one called. She heard someone come around the truck and lift down the gate. Then she heard him heft some rucksacks out of the back, and start up the hill, calling back over his shoulder “This way. C’mon, then.”
The sound of the little kid running at Joe Kennedy’s heels was puppyish. Apache woke up, shook his head, snorted and jumped down out of the truck grabbing the remaining bags. Zora leaped down into darkness, and followed the sound of Joe Kennedy’s feet walking along a steep path up a hill in high grass. They came around the side of the hill and arrived at the front of a big farmhouse. The door was standing open. Moths drifted in the light. Joe Kennedy didn’t pause at the doorway but hiked right on in. He dropped the bags with a thump on the floor of the entryway, which had blue painted wooden walls and ceiling and an old linoleum rug with a faded flower pattern running down the center of the smooth bare floor. A bare hanging bulb illuminated it dully. Joe Kennedy stood quietly, waiting for something. The children were enormously tired and the strangeness of the place began to sink in.
Explosively, a woman as tall as Zora came charging in from the other end of the hallway. She looked like a crabby old imp. She had small pale blue eyes, and her hair was blond gray, straight, and ear length. She had pulled it back behind her ears with no effort to soften the hard lines of her face, just to get it out of the way. Getting things out of the way seemed to be a major motivation with this woman. She marched into the hall scuffing the bags out of her way with a hiking boot and telling Joe Kennedy in a crackly voice to “pick up the stuff, pick it up and get the kids going, it’s late.” Then she stopped moving for a second, her hand on a duffle bag and smiled up at Zora. She stuck her hand out toward Apache. “I’m Joan,” she said. “Joe, you take the boys up to “The Shed, “ I’ll take this one to “The Barn.””
Zora stooped down to pick up her heavy pack. Joan was already out the door and marching steadily up a hill in the pitch-blackness. She didn’t glance back. They weren’t big on waiting here, it would seem. Zora humped the heavy pack and trudged after Joan. It was still raining. She couldn’t imagine a nastier setting for a city girl than a dark wet wood, late at night, in a strange country with odd-looking people leading you uphill to a barn in which you were expected to sleep.
Joan slid the big barn door open and light leaked out. Up in the loft, girl’s voices could be heard. “You’ll sleep up there.” Joan said. “Give me your bag.” She took the pack from Zora and, without a pause hiked up the creaking ladder with it. Zora followed.
There was a large hayloft up above. A huge tarp of a dark green color was spread out on of a bed of fresh hay. On top of that were laid various sleeping bags, and on top of these were three girls. Two of them looked impossibly alike, and the third, completely different.
“You have a new roommate,” Joan said smiling at them. “This is Zora. Breakfast at 7:00, Zora, see you then!” She scrambled back down the ladder as easily as if she was eight years old, and, poof, she was gone.
The three girls looked up at her. The twins had sour expressions on their identical flat faces. They each had thick glasses and thin dark hair. They had four identical puffy pouting lips; four squinty pale brown eyes and they pushed two short fingers against two pairs of horn-rimmed glasses to slide them up two pug noses so that they could see her better. They looked at her. Zora had time to wonder which was born first before anyone spoke.
“You notice she didn’t ask if she wanted dinner,” said one of them.
“All you can think about is food,” accused her sister.
The third girl was very thin and tall, and had huge kinky blond hair. The hair had hay in it and looked as if it hadn’t been combed in quite a while. She smiled up at Zora. She had a silly crooked smile.
“I’m just saying, Joan should have offered Zora dinner. It’s late,” whined the first twin.
“I’m Martha,” the other one went on, “and this is Ellen. She’s my sister. We’re twins.”
“No kidding?” Zora responded.
“Yeah, identical,” said Ellen, “but I’m older.”
“But only by five minutes, big deal,” asserted Martha aggressively.
“I didn’t say it was a big deal, I was just telling her!”
“You always have to tell everyone right away.” Martha accused.
“I do not,” replied Ellen.
The other girl sighed. She spoke to Zora as if the twins weren’t there.
“This is my punishment for being 13, “she said, “The older girls get to sleep in a tent and the younger ones have to go in a cabin. Joan can’t decide if 13 is older or younger so she put us 13s in here. There are only three of us. I’m Alice.” She stood up shaking off hay and reached out her hand. She was almost as tall as Zora. Zora took her hand and shook it.
“I’m Zora,” she said.
“Put your bag here.” Alice opened up a wide place for Zora’s sleeping bag beside her. She put Zora in between herself and the twins.
Six weeks later, Zora was sent down to Joe Kennedy’s house to bring the workers more nails and help with the building. The campers were making him a new house. In typical Sight Point Camp fashion, Joan had dropped her off at the highway to walk the whole two-mile long road to Joe Kennedy’s alone, carrying the heavy nails in a ripped brown paper bag. The road was very bad and it had rained for the last three days so the potholes were huge and full of muddy red water. The sky was still dark with rain clouds. There was no wind. The mosquitoes were having a wonderful time breeding in the puddles, and they were all delighted to see fresh blood on the hoof coming down the road. Zora pulled her hands in under her poncho so they couldn’t chew on them, and walked.
The puddles looked like orange mirrors garishly reflecting the green spruce trees on either side. Her boots stuck in the mud and there was a weird sucking sound as she pulled out each foot. In her previous life she might have found reason to feel sorry for herself about this walk and being asked to do it alone in the heat and bugs. But complaining, whining and self pity were treated at Sight Point Camp with social ostracism. Complainers found themselves alone. Zora had begun to enjoy this stoic way of dealing with the world. It seemed to negate all the Arty, New York City values she had been raised with, and now hated.
Zora kept walking and swatting at biting insects. She finally got to the place where a little spring of clear cold clear water trickled across the road and she stooped down for a drink. This was where Joe Kennedy got all his drinking water, which he hauled in buckets the remaining quarter mile to his house. Coming up the last hill, Zora heard hammering and saws. She saw a rusting graveyard of the camp’s old and older trucks, vans, and VW Campers. After she passed them she came to the big barn, which was tilting with age but still in full use.
Over the rise, she saw the half finished house. It had no roof yet, but the new picture window had been installed in the front where Joe Kennedy would be able to see the small mountain up at the north end of Broad Cove, and in front of it, his barn and animals. Several of the older campers were working up on the roof frame. Zora stumbled through the mud to the front door, and stepped over several litters of tiny kittens that were eating out of cat food tins left for them in the yard. Inside the roofless house, she handed the nails to Apache, who seemed to be in charge. Then she took off the rain poncho and went out to see Joe Kennedy
He was collecting vegetables from his garden. His garden was everything his house would never be; neat, well cared for, lush and exuberant. He shouted to her through the leaves as he pulled up carrots.
“Hello, Zora. How’re you doing dear?”
“Fine, fine, and yourself?” She found the Cape Breton cadence irresistible. As soon as she heard it, she started to use it.
“Oh, well, I’m just fine dear, just fine. I thought I’d get us a few carrots. Break up the monotony of Joan’s cooking, d’ya see.” He looked at her with a wicked little smile tightening his thin lips. He had discovered that with Zora, he could poke fun at Joan. She would join in, but never go too far.
She loved the soft rolled Rs of his speech.
“Well, you don’t want to spoil us.” She responded with a very sad, serious expression on her face. “We might never be able to get along on camp food afterwards. We could all be ruined by those carrots, forever.”
“Maybe you’re right, dear,” he raised his thin eyebrows. “Maybe I had better eat them all myself, for safety sake, or feed them to Fred here.” A small brown horse with an incredibly swayed back had stuck his face hopefully over the garden fence.
“You have to take some risks in this life,” said Zora. “Me, I think I’ll risk it all on those carrots, ”
“Well, you know best I suppose,” he finished, emerging from the green garden with an enormous basket filled with carrots and cabbage.
Zora still thought he was the straightest standing man that she had ever seen. Now that she had known him for almost two months, his eyes no longer looked fierce to her, despite their small size and cold ocean color. It took an experienced observer to perceive his small facial changes when he was happy or amused. A slight tightening of the corners of his lips was a smile. If the corners went up at all and the sharp cheekbones pinked, that was hilarity. After years with New York Jews who emoted all over the room if they had the slightest occasion, she found him a relief.
She helped him carry the vegetables back to the house. Two of the councilors were setting up lunch on a trestle table built out of two sawhorses and an old door. Zora could see that it was creamed corn soup again and slabs of bologna on oatmeal bread. She was glad of Joe’s carrots. At least they were fresh.
Apache was covered in sweat and baked a dark brown by the sun. The wind cooled them down as they sat outside on top of the rusted cars and ate their lunches. It was pleasanter out here than inside the house. Even though it was brand new, not even finished, it already had the smell of a bachelor who never does laundry, keeps too many animals and has no shower. It never occurred to Joe Kennedy to open a window. If he wanted air, he went outside.
A group of dirty, fluffy sheep floated about in the field, munching gently at the stubble and turning to look stupidly at Apache and Zora once in a while. In the last month and a half, Zora had gotten used to the strict Sight Point Camp life. She had grown to admire the work ethic that drove it, and the forceful personalities who enforced it. Apache, on the other hand, was getting restless. The complete lack of anything illicit going on just rubbed him the wrong way. Most of the rules here were more implicit than explicit, but they were taken no less seriously for that. No drugs, no drinking, no cigarettes and no sex between campers or councilors. Zora could see him chafing under the controls. Not that he disagreed with any one of them particularly. It was the general principal of the thing. A “Proud Puerto Rican from the Bronx” did not just knuckle under and turn into an angel. He had his self-respect to think about, Zora could see that. So she had been waiting to see which rules he decided to break and was ready to help him break them when he made up his mind. That’s what friends were for, after all.
Sitting up on top of one of the VW vans, munching on the carrots that were the only really edible part of the lunch, he finally came out with the proposal she had been expecting.
“Circumstances seem to necessitate,” Apache said, “the need for a late night celebration of the completion of the roof out in the woods next Saturday.”
“Ah,” Zora agreed
“The nature of the celebration would seem to me to be dictated by the roof itself.”
“ Well,” quested Apache, “What is it in a roof’s nature to be?”
“Still no. I mean, yes, but not to the point, as it were.”
“High, of course.”
Zora smacked her forehead. “Of course,” she said.
But on the next Saturday, it was raining. It became Alice’s job, therefore to rid The Barn of its twin infestation for at least an hour. She volunteered to lead them away, and insinuate them into a councilor party at the beach, then return. So, after supper, Apache sat on the edge of the loft and began expertly rolling joints. Zora took the first joint as it was finished, and lit it. They hunkered down in the hay and smoked it up to get the party started while they waited for Alice.
Zora began to feel its affects quickly after it was all gone. She pictured Ellen and Martha in their haste to get to a “real” party stumbling through the fading light of the fields, yelling and flapping like the wild turkeys that lived in these woods. She described this cartoon image to Apache. They both began to giggle.
“I already made the twins characters in a short play I wrote.” he boasted. “They were easy to write, like comic book characters for the stage. They are so unreal, man, so very twinnish. Like Tweedle Dum and Dee, so lost in their own twinnitude that they do not see how far out there they really are.”
“Would you let me read it?” Zora asked. He didn’t answer. “Will you let me read your play?” she said again.
Apache looked her in the eye. “No, I don’t let people read anything until I’m finished.”
“Am I in your play?” Zora asked. “If I’m in it, you have to let me read it.”
“Yeah, you are. There’s this white girl who is sent away from her rich family and becomes the hardest worker. She is the coolest person in the play,” said Apache
“Of course she is,” said Zora.
“Of course she is,” Apache agreed very seriously. Then they both exploded into laughter. Apache worked hard and he didn’t complain. And tonight was the great roof celebration. So when he asked her why she was up here in Cape Breton, she told him the truth. Apache was appropriately furious.
“Man, that really sucks,” he said with sympathy.
“Yeah, my dad’s an asshole.” Zora replied seriously, and then broke into snorts of laughter.
“He should have sent you to military school!” Apache suggested. He stood up in the hay “Yo, You, girl!”
“Yes Sergeant?” Zora stood up at attention as best she could in the tilty hay.
“Swab out those fucking latrines.”
“What did I hear you say, girl?”
“I said your Mama!”
“Don’t you talk about my Mama! How ‘bout your Mama? She ‘bin hit with the ugly stick.”
“Yeah, well, your mama swims out to troop ships.” This was an expression that Zora had heard her father use. They were both laughing and saluting. Then Apache yelled “Drop and give me fifty.” And he took a swipe at her with a handful of hay.
She fell over and Apache tripped over her and then they were lying face-to-face in the hay. She looked at him. He smiled into her eyes. Gently, he shifted over and kissed her deeply on the mouth. He had wide lips; they were smooth and not too wet. She shifted and her thigh rubbed against the hard bump in his jeans. Apache murmured something quiet.
“Thou art the most beautiful damsel that I hath ever seen.” He sighed.
“And thou art the most gracious lord.” Zora rubbed her leg against the bump. Apache groaned.
At just that moment, a head came up over the edge of the loft. It was covered in iron-grey hair and had a loud screechy voice emanating from it, exactly like the voices of one of the local crows. It was Joan.
“I smell smoke!” She screamed at them. “Who’s been smoking in the barn?” She was sputtering mad, squawking up at them, and shaking her fists.
Zora and Apache leapt to their feet.
“Get down here, immediately,” She shouted. Her head went away and she stood at the foot of the ladder the picture of self-righteous fury. Zora hoped Alice would sense what was going on somehow and stay away. She climbed down the ladder behind Apache with as much dignity as she could manage.
Apache was attempting to look truly penitent, but not doing it very well. A little stoned grin kept creeping into the corners of his mouth. Zora could tell that “young man in trouble for breaking the rules” was a much more familiar roll for him than the “good hard-working boy” one he had been playing. He visibly relaxed into the familiar part. They stood there, side by side while Joan raved at them like a lunatic.
“One spark, that’s all it takes in a barn to set the whole thing ablaze. It could sit there for hours and only flame up while you girls were sleeping hours later. The youngest child knows better than to light a match in a hay barn. My gosh, where were you two raised anyway?”
“New York City,” ventured Zora, “no barns there.”
“We told you there's no smoking at camp. Do you think I want kids roasted? Answer me!”
“Then what were you thinking?”
Zora realized that she actually hadn’t thought about fire at all and she was sure Apache hadn’t either. It was the least of people’s worries when they were smoking dope, where they came from. They had just thought about having fun and breaking some rules. She started to feel badly about the whole fire thing. But then Joan started in again.
“You realize that you could have killed someone? Fire is dangerous.” She began pacing back and forth in the hay. Would she send Zora home for this? Where was home? Dusty fluffs of hay drifted on the air.
“Jesus, Joan,” Apache said in his most appealingly honest tone, “I’m so sorry. We just didn’t think.”
“You’re darn right you didn’t think.” Answered Joan. “That is obvious!” The more she spoke the more the anger seeped out of her. Apache helped her by nodding extravagantly at everything she said.
“I would have thought someone your age, Apache would have a little bit more sense…”
Apache kept nodding. Zora couldn’t believe he was being such a wimp. Didn’t he have any pride?
Well, she was dammed if she was going to be talked to like that. She didn’t want to be sent home, but she wouldn’t turn into a beaten dog. Joan’s attention slid off of Apache and onto the one who was not looking appropriately cowed.
“And Zora, how would you have liked to wake up in flames later tonight? How about seeing the twins hurt…”
“No comment,” said Zora
“This is not a time to be funny!” Her voice started to climb up into a crow squawk again. Apache elbowed Zora fiercely in the side.
“The twins…or how about Alice?” She said. Zora made no reply. My God, This lady and her camp had almost taken her in. She had begun to think of this place as a safe corner. She had even liked the hard work and given all her energy to it, and now this crap.
Apache spoke up. “We’re really sorry, Joan, really. It’ll never happen again.
“It had better not happen again…” She raved on for a while more. “Alright, since you’re so sorry, you’ll do outhouse cleaning for a week and…”
“I’m not sorry,” said Zora quietly.
Joan was silent. Apache widened his eyes at her. Somewhere in the distance, Zora thought, Alice was hiding and listening to all this. “I am not sorry. You have too many foolish rules here. You are only trying to control each of us.” She stopped and listened to what she had just said. Did she even really think that this was true? All she knew was that at this moment, Joan reminded her of her father.
“Your statements are beside the point, said Joan. “You are responsible for your own actions, right now for lighting matches in the barn. All right then, Apache may go and he has latrine duty for a week. When you feel sorry for almost burning down the barn, you can go also. Until then, you may just stand right here!” God, she sounded just exactly like her Dad.
Joan turned on her booted heel and marched down the hill muttering to herself. She stopped, turned back. “Apache?” she called.
Apache shrugged at Zora, whispered, “just apologize and we’ll go finish the joint in the woods,” and he went off with Joan.
Zora stood on the hill.
It became very quiet. She slapped a mosquito. Time passed. Then, Alice appeared out of the dark. Her wild blond head loomed up at Zora with her white blob of a face shining in the middle.
“Well, I guess that was fun, eh?”
“Did you hear that bitch yell at us?”
“Yeah, I did. She was quite pissed.”
“Could you believe Apache? I would never have thought he would just cave in like that. I mean, isn’t he supposed to be the tough Puerto Rican from the Bronx? What a wimp. And I was just about to let him kiss me too,”
“Yeah, almost, before, up in the barn. But Joan came and started her yelling and I’m glad she interrupted us. Now that I know what a wimp he is, I wouldn’t let him touch me”
“But Zora, he’s just playing along to get her off our backs. That’s what I came to tell you. We have the other joints and are waiting for you behind The Shed. The rain has stopped. Apache’s friend will stand lookout this time.”
“I can’t go.”
“Just say what they want to hear, man. It doesn’t mean nothin.”
“I won’t apologize. I didn’t do anything wrong.” There was a silence.
“Well, y’know, fire is dangerous in a barn, man.”
“No one said it was dangerous. They just made a stupid rule about smoking.”
“Right, you couldn’t know. But it is dangerous. Couldn’t you just apologize for a mistake, man and we can get on with the celebration?”
“Oh. Why not?”
“ Fine, okay…I guess,” she said. Finally, she wandered off down the hill. There was more silence. The stars came out of the black gradually. The stiller and quieter it became the more stars she began to see. More time passed.
Zora heard Joan stomping up the path. She had a large flashlight which she shown on the ground at both of their feet. “Well? Are you ready to say you’re sorry,” she asked?
“But I’m not sorry.” She said. Joan didn’t care what anyone really felt, just if they said what she wanted to hear.
“Then you can stand here all night!” Joan shouted
“Okay,” she said quietly. She could do that.
Joan narrowed her eyes “You’re a pretty tough one, aren’t you?” she said
“No tougher than you are,” Zora answered.
Joan tipped her head back and laughed. She straightened back up and scrunched up her lips. They considered each other. “That’s for darn sure,” she said.
Joan stared at Zora some more. Then, she turned on her heel silently and went.
The moon began its climb over the hills behind the barn. It was a bright full moon. It extinguished the stars as it came up.
Zora stood still. Later, Alice came sneaking up the hill and into the barn.
“You should have come, man, it was fun,” was all she whispered before going up the ladder. It got quiet up there.
“Come on up, Zora.” Alice whispered down to her. “She’s forgotten the whole thing.”
Had Joan forgotten? Was she going to leave her out there all night? So, okay, she could do that. Zora sat down on a bale of hay. Little bats came swooping across her view. Cool, she had never seen bats before. They swirled around catching moths.
Not that it mattered to her what Joan cared about. She didn’t like Joan anyway. She could take care of herself, hadn’t she proved that? Coming up here to God knows where by herself and all. She was surprised to see a tear drop off the end of her nose. She slapped it away.
A wind came up and started to blow the grasses in great waves. The waves started down by the cliffs as the wind blew in off the ocean, and then rippled silver with moonlight up the hill towards her. An owl hooted. Down below she could just make out the real waves shooting spray as they hit the cliffs. It was chilly.
The wind was washing someone towards her. He was blowing up the hill from the farmhouse like the mast of a ship riding on the waves. He was straight and tall. Joe Kennedy.
He came up and sat down beside her on a bail of hay. Nothing was said for a while. The wind blew the grass. The ocean crashed.
“She’s still awake too, y’know,” He murmured softly. He always referred to Joan as “She.” “She’s up in the living room talking to her mother about you. But she won’t come back to see if you’re still here or have gone to bed. She won’t come check on you, same as you won’t go up to bed. I told her you would still be out here.”
“I’m still here.”
“Two peas in a pod, that’s what Ganny said, meaning you and Joan.”
“I won’t apologize. I did nothing wrong.”
“Y’could have burned us down.”
“I didn’t know that. I’m not from here. I just knew about stupid anti-smoking rules. They go for down at the beach as well. No fire danger there.”
“True, but smoking can kill you.”
“I’ll make my own decision about that, thank you.”
“As you like.”
More time passed. More wind blew the hay. The moon was overhead now. She could see Joe Kennedy quite clearly, although only in black and white. Not that he had much color in the brightest of lights. He just sat there, straight backed. It seemed he could sit there with her forever. His eyes shone in the dim light, grey and small, like a foxes.
A sudden deep breath entered her. It reached all the way down to the bottom of her lungs. She breathed it out slowly. All at once, she was very sleepy.
“Well, I’m going up. Sorry about the smoking in the barn,” she said.
“I’ll just sit here a bit more,” he answered, “good night.”
“Good night, Joe,” she said. She was so tired now she had to push herself to climb up the ladder. She crawled into her sleeping bag. She was glad that he was still sitting out there.