A NANTUCKET GHOST STORY
By Drake Raft
Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse. Look at it --a mere hillock, and elbow of sand; all beach, without a background. There is more sand there than you would use in twenty years as a substitute for blotting paper. Some gamesome wights will tell you that they have to plant weeds there, they don't grow naturally; that they import Canada thistles; that they have to send beyond seas for a spile to stop a leak in an oil cask; that pieces of wood in Nantucket are carried about like bits of the true cross in Rome; that people there plant toadstools before their houses, to get under the shade in summer time; that one blade of grass makes an oasis, three blades in a day's walk a prairie; that they wear quicksand shoes, something like Laplander snowshoes; that they are so shut up, belted about, every way inclosed, surrounded, and made an utter island of by the ocean, that to their very chairs and tables small clams will sometimes be found adhering, as to the backs of sea turtles.-- Chapter 14, Moby Dick
Copyright 1998, McGucken & jollyroger.comAll rights reserved.
A NANTUCKET GHOST STORY
Mrs. Von Baron and Mrs. Starbuck paid me twenty-five bucks an hour to hit tennis balls with them every Thursday morning for an hour straight. They hated running after things, but on that last morning I was making them run all over the place-- I kept having to apologize. They must have thought I was on drugs or something. I didn't do drugs, though-- they're against the law. It was just that I couldn't get the previous night out of my head. If you knew Wilson, Wilson and girls, you wouldn't have been able to stop thinking about it either. He's told me stories-- in detail.
The previous night Wilson had gotten me lost. It was tough to get lost on the 14x3 miles of Nantucket, unless you strayed off onto the back roads, which we'd done, trying to find this one last party. A thick fog was blowing in, intermittently glowing in accordance with the sweep of the Sankaty lighthouse. I was doing seventy on some random dirt road-- that was as fast as I dared to push the wired wheels on my ’73 MGB. I had to wake up early for tomorrow's lessons. I just wanted to get home and get some sleep. I'd tried to get Wilson to leave Bruce's party for over an hour-- I finally had to drag him away from Kirsten, or Kristen-- the blond girl he'd been hooking up with the whole summer. Wilson was tripping pretty bad on something. He kept rolling down the window to get sick.
"Take a right up here, buddy. It'll get ya there."
"I've got work tomorrow." I told him, staring straight ahead on down the road.
"It's a left then," he said in the same calm voice.
The gas light blinked on. I hit the steering wheel.
"You'd better take a right up here, then."
I reached for the volume of the radio, and I drowned him out with 'What if God was One of Us' or something. There'd been no other cars in sight for like half an hour. The winding road split the dunes in two. I pressed my foot down on the accelerator-- not that it made much of a difference or anything. Nantucket's actually an O.K. place to grow up, even though most mainlanders will tell you it's bland. Wilson kept singing over and over, "People won't stop screaming, driving me insane, I'm going off the rails of a crazy train," giving it his best Rhandy Rhodes solo. He finally got bored and shut up. But it didn't last too long-- there was something he needed to tell me. He turned the radio off to do it.
"Drake, man, there's something I've got to tell you," he said. "You're going to hate me." I did what you're supposed to do when someone keeps building on a grand opening like that-- nothing. "I’ve got` to let the cat out of the bag. . . I went out with her."
He nailed me-- I'll admit it.
"I went out a couple of times with Windy. . . While you were on vacation. I saw her at a party, and it just kind of happened."
"That's news to me," I said with a poker face. My heart was pounding.
"Way back in June. It was just a fling though. . .she's all yours though. . . . She told me that you guys were seeing other people-- we were both kind of drunk. Did you ever--"
"We were seeing other people."
"Dude, the thing though is," he laughed. "The thing is here-- it's that I knocked her up, man. But like she's got a right to her own body and everything, and she's loaded. . ."
All of a sudden I recognized where we were, and I slammed on the brakes, throwing us against our seatbelts and eliciting and expletive from Wilson.
"What the &#$@, man?" We were at the Top O' the World. Windy and I had found this place at the beginning of the summer, I mean stumbled upon it--
Just after dusk we had gotten lost on our way home from the Sankaty pier. It was early evening and we were driving down this two-lane dusty road when all of a sudden Windy thought she recognized where we were. She grabbed the wheel and made me turn onto this one dirt road leading up a hill. Weeping willow trees grew on both sides. Windy told me that she was sure that she had come here with her father, to the slate-shingled cottage at the top of the hill, to buy a kitten. It 'd been when she was little, and she'd chosen the kitten with three white paws. Mittens, she'd named it. The Willow trees, gnarled, low to the ground, and leaning Southwestwardly in accordance with the perpetual urging of the Nantucket North Easters, were planted close together and I had to drive slowly through the green tunnel of dangling branches. Beyond the trees was a clearing. A huge old white farm house sat on the very top of a hill, a couple hundred feet in front of us. Gables and pillars and the whole Colonial bit. Close by stood the charred skeleton of an old barn leaning away over to one side.
"Oh, I love ghost houses," Windy said in this low voice. For certain things she used this really low voice.
We pulled closer, passing a sign which read, "The Coffins, Top O'the World & Altar Rock." Someone'd carved a four-leaf clover into a grand old Oak tree, and someone else, more recently, had added a cross inside of it. A lonely frayed rope hung down from its branches. The overgrown driveway formed a large circle around the house, and we parked behind it, close to the burned-down barn. Most of the house's windows had been boarded up, and I noticed that the few windows that weren't boarded up still had pains of glass in them.
Windy walked up to the house and tried the door. She was wearing a white faded t-shirt and these faded jeans with holes in them-- my old jeans. I whistled at her, as a joke of course, and she turned and smiled at me, "It's locked." It was a really beautiful view from up there, the top of the world. We sat on the Coffin's front porch for awhile, looking out over the sprawled-out fields of brambles and dune grass on one side, and the glistening ocean azure on the other. I thought I picked out the red and white striped Cape Cod light in the distance—forty miles off, but as I watched on, it progressed across the horizon, demonstrating that it was but a ship. For the mainland cannot be seen from Nantucket. The green rolling moores and brown dunes of Nantucket deepened in hue as they receded, before blending into the slate-shingled town and then finally halting at the azure. And beyond that was circumscribed the blue boundary of water and air.
Windy kissed my ear . She whispered, "let's make this our secret place."
"I'll never tell anyone."
"Hey man," I said, turning down the music and looking right at Wilson. "You believe in ghosts?"
"Aww man, not now dude. Comin' down hard."
"Did you hear about those Satan Worshippers back in May?"
"Yup," he said, rolling down the window to get sick. "What's your opinion on the matter?"
"You were in Australia when it was in the papers," I said. "Why don't you open the door to do that. . . "
"Some other time, man."
"But the papers never even knew the full story. Jackie's father told her that the police kept the story quiet because they didn't want to cause any unnecessary panic or anything. Jackie made me promise never to tell anyone, so you've got to promise you won't tell." Jackie's dad was a cop.
He looked at me. "I promise, man."
"Well there's this deserted mansion up on the top of that hill, and there were these kids last summer who were camping out in the barn beside it, and the barn burned down. At first the police thought it was just a tragic accident type of thing, but then, before they completed their report, someone found a body of a girl in the house itself. The body and face had been mutilated, and the teeth were all pulled out so there was no way of telling who it was. . .one of the doctors described it as an adult abortion." I was just thinking of this Joyce Carol Oates book they'd forced upon me in honors English at Princeton. "No-one knew where the kids came from, and there were no missing persons reports filed around here, so the police just kept it quiet. Whoever it was had written all these strange symbols on the walls with her blood. . .pentagrams and stuff."
"The police wouldn't keep that quiet," he said. "Take it easy, bro-- "
He rest his head back and closed his eyes.
"They had to," I told him. "Everyone would've panicked. Makes ya wonder how many other things they keep quiet." The moonlight streamed in through the windshield-- he had a tight grip on the seatbelt. "Let's go check it out." He knew he had to.
We got out and walked up the moon-lit dirt road. The fog was breaking up above us, and the haloed outline of a ghostly moon shone through now and then. Wilson whispered that maybe we should roll up the windows and lock the car. "Nobody's going to hide in the car," I told him, "Unless you do."
It was pitch black under the gnarled weeping willows. I was half believing my own story. Wilson told me to wait up as I made my way through the dangling willow branches. I froze, listening to his breathing as he stumbled along.
"Drake?" he asked. "Take it easy, babe-- some jerky at Bruce's was passing around some strange stuff tonight." He'd stopped. I fumbled around for something to throw. I picked up a small rock up and tossed it up the road. It hit a branch, and he took off towards it. I waited 'til he was passing right on by, and I whispered, "Wilson." He shot up about ten feet in the air and landed sober.
We continued on through the hanging willow branches, Wilson sticking to my side. We came to the edge of the clearing. The Coffin mansion stood against the black sky, intermittently illuminated by an almost full moon, fading in and out as the augmenting wind ushered in a rolling fog off the Atlantic. Some of the boards had been pried off the windows since I'd been up there with Windy. The house peaked out at Wilson and I through those black holes, waiting to see what we did. . . We stood there, in perfect silence-- I wondered what time the crickets had gone to sleep. I broke the utter stillness. "Let's go and see if we can get in."
"Dude. Not good." He whispered.
"The front door might be open."
"No flashlight, man."
"We've got the moon," I said, taking a step towards the house. Right then I heard this crazy noise-- I mean I heard something. "Shhh," I said, "listen."
"Let go fag." He’d grabbed my arm.
"You're freaking me out man." He read the moon-lit sign, "Top O' the World." The noise! It came again.
"Holy $%&#." It sounded like a kid crying.
"What is it?" Wilson whispered. The noise came again-- closer. My eyes strained in the darkness. My heart was beating like a madman. I braced to run the hell out of there.
"It's coming!" Wilson bolted. My feet didn't wait for my eyes to see it, and I was gone. I turned though, just before I dove back into the weeping willows. I glimpsed this small, black shape bounding 'cross the silvery grass straight towards us. A cat. Wilson crashed through the branches ahead of me.
Wilson had jumped in the driver's seat, and I reached in my pocket for my keys as I vaulted over the hood of the car, banging the hell out of my bad knee. I threw him the keys. He peeled out of there, gravel flying and all, and I reached over and flipped on the headlights. There was a black cat-- in the middle of the road. Frozen still, its yellow eyes reflecting the headlights. It was too late to brake or anything.
"Whoa," Wilson was breathing hard, "Where'd you find that place?"
"Windy and I used to go up there."
"You had me going," Wilson laughed after a moment's silence, "If there's any life up there, it's not good life."
"I think you got it."
"Yeah, you hit it, dude. I felt, I think."
"Back there, when I flipped on the lights."
"I didn't see a cat."
"It was there. A black one."
Nobody said anything for a bit, and then I remembered something. I'm not sure why. Hey man," I said, looking for the sign to route 8. "Remember that time I gave Windy The Catcher in The Rye? And you said she wouldn't get it?"
"Hey-- I was kidding about Windy fag." He laughed.
"You serious?" I looked at him. "Awww man."
"You should've seen your face though, when I told you. I thought you were about to kick my ass."
"I was, jerky. I was gonna defend her honor."
"As if." He laughed. "As if honor exists when you're doing it all in the fifth grade." Nobody said too much else the rest of the way home. And I couldn’t get to sleep that night. The more I thought about it, the more I became certain that Wilson hadn’t been kidding about Windy. He had been kidding about his kidding.
Anyways, all that stuff was buzzing around in my mind all the way through the lesson at the Brant Point Tennis Club. Their hour lesson never lasted more than forty-five minutes, on account of Mrs. Von Baron's asthma or something. We walked over to the bench at the side of the court that had all of their tennis stuff on it-- I smiled and winked at Bootsy who was sitting on my extra Wilson Profile. She'd just gotten her hair bobbed. She was about the only member with a decent sense of humor-- her and the guy who swept around every morning-- only he wasn't a member.
"I like your new glasses," I told her, "they add to your eruditeness."
She extended her foot so it rested on my shin, "you know I don't have glasses. You're just saying that because of my hair."
"I like your hair too, even though it detracts from your eruditeness."
"What's eruditeness?" she asked.
"When you get it, you'll know," Mrs. Starbuck offered. She poured herself some ice water from the pitcher that I had to fill twenty times a day.
"Bootsy, don't you have swim practice now?"
"It's too cold to swim."
"Too cold?" Mrs. Starbuck smiled, "Drake, do you think it's too cold?"
"Cold water's the only reason I swam all those years."
"I don't want to swim."
"Bootsy," Mrs. Starbuck said really impatiently, "I want you to go and get back in that water this instant."
"That language." Mrs. Starbuck closed her eyes.
"Barbara Streisand!" Bootsy's voice ran the gamut of a couple of octaves.
"Right now young lady!" She pointed at the pool, "You're developing an attitude I don't like. I don't like it at all."
"O.K., O.K. Rush said it." Bootsy said, getting up slowly, "you don't have to yell at me. . ." She marched back towards the pool, singing, "All in all, I'm just another brick in the pool."
Mrs. Starbuck let out a deep sigh and smiled at me, "She used to love swimming, I don't know what's gotten in to her. If it were up to her, she wouldn't do anything."
"Rush is a bad influence," I joked.
"There's just too much trash out there," Mrs. Von Baron shook her head piously. "It's impossible to raise kids anymore in a decent manner."
"Oh, and Drake, perhaps we should warn you," Mrs. Starbuck said quietly, looking at Mrs. Von Baron, " about Mrs. Taylor."
"Oh yes," Mrs. Von Baron said, touching my arm, "Mrs. Taylor is going to try to book all the courts on Tuesday mornings throughout September, and she isn't allowed to do that." She was standing so close to me that she had to look straight up.
"She tried to do it all last year, for her and her friends," added Mrs. Starbuck.
"And it's against the club policy which states that one person can only sign up for one court." You could tell it was pretty important from their expressions.
"And Mrs. Taylor and her friends have their practices just about every other weekday, so it's only fair that others should get to play on Tuesday."
"Those A ladies think they own the courts. And they have a history of being real..."
"Bitches," Mrs. Starbuck laughed, covering her mouth, "Oh, I don't believe I said that. Pardon my French." She could be a card.
"But don't let them take advantage of you Drake, we know you're nice, just don't be too nice. Just give them that smile of yours and tell them no."
"Teach them to play the fair way."
"It's a matter of principles," Mrs. Von Baron said, giving me this look, "Sherry, don't you think that he has just the most adorable smile?"
"Definitely, if only I was fifty years younger," she said and they both laughed. "Oh I'm sorry Drake, are we embarrassing you?"
"I'll get over it." I said. They were always kidding me like that. Smiling and giving courtesy laughs-- it's what tennis was all about at the Club. "Would you like me to sign you up for court time for Tuesday?"
They looked at each-other, "Oh, no, not this Tuesday, we've got to volunteer at the hospital, but somewhere on down the line, we're going to want to play."
They left me to pick up all the balls. All two hundred of them which formed a green carpet on their side of the net. They never volunteered to pick up the balls, but hey, they always paid me for a full hour lesson which never lasted too long. Country Club mothers are an O.K. breed, but I wouldn't want to go on a camping trip with them. I grabbed one ball hopper in each hand and started picking up the balls. The wind swirled the grey hard-tru of the courts. I tried not to breathe the stuff, though skin cancer will get me before lung cancer does. I kept singing in my head this one song I had kind of been working on. Wilson and I used to write songs all the time, and we'd played a couple of places, but now it kinda sucked. I mean standing in a smokey room, trying to look like you didn't care. We both played the guitar. I was always thinking up these crazy lyrics, no matter what I was doing-- I just missed flunking out. Princeton's a crazy place, though. I thought that everyone was going to be really smart, but that was the brochures. Everyone was too busy distributing "save the world" fliers to hang out. About the only reason they'd talk to you was if they could put it on their resume.
A piece of ice landed a couple of inches away from me. Up in the balcony overlooking the courts was the regular gang of little kids in their swimsuits. I glanced up and they all ducked and disappeared.
"Where'd you learn how to throw, tough-guy?"
His head popped back out of sight and the hyenas started up again. I continued picking up the balls, whistling a loud, corny tune. It was echoed back to me from the balcony.
"Whatya whistlen'?" a kid's voice asked from behind me, scaring the hell out of me. It was Bootsy, wrapped in her towel from head to toe. Her teeth were chattering.
"Dixie. That was an awfully quick practice. Sprints today?"
"That's not how it goes," she told me.
"How does it go?"
"Can I pick up balls with you? Becket said that you let her."
"Only if you show me how to whistle Dixie."
She made her mouth into an 'o' but all I could hear was the hollow sound of her blowing.
"You're gonna pass out, dude."
"I did it just last week."
"Hum a few bars." She was about turning blue.
She hummed a few bars of something which almost sounded like Dixie.
"That's it all right, but I don't know how much good Dixie can do for you if you can't whistle it."
"I like humming better," she smiled, "In Church I hum when everyone's singing, but mom gets mad. She says I do it too loud. You want to hear my favorite?"
"Hum me your favorite Church tune . . . hymn."
"How about Jeremey," she said. She took a deep breath and started humming at the top of her lungs. The grand chorus from the balcony echoed her musical efforts. She stopped and looked up there.
"Who's up there?!"
"Up where?" I said loudly.
"In the balcony! Stand up Jerky boys!" she commanded, and there was utter silence.
"I am standing up."
She scowled at me. "Smart butt."
"Them, huh." I raised my voice a notch, "Today I was going to have a contest to see who could pick up the most balls. But since you're the only one who showed up, I guess you get the free ice cream sandwich." Nobody stood up. Kids know when you're being corny.
Bootsy yelled, "If you don't stand up and show yourself, I'm going to come up there and beat you up or something. . .or I'll kiss you!" Her ultimatum was followed by the rapid thudding of bare feet on concrete. Then Bootsy started into one of her nutty shows. She began pacing back and forth, swinging her shoulders, her hands guns with the thumbs and index fingers at right angles. "All right pardner." Her towel had become a cape. "This town has no need for a men who are too aferd to show themselves."
"Yellow dude," I corrected, "too yellow to show themselves." It cracked me up-- she was good too, I mean you could tell she was really very intelligent or smart or whatever--she skipped fourth grade last year. She knew eight times more about acting than all the Princeton drama-flamers combined.
"We need men of character and conviction." she drawled.
"They're the best type to kiss. If you're a cowboy."
"I wouldn't kiss any of them," Bootsy said. "Brrrrrrrrr." She was shivering. She wrapped her towel around herself-- her cape I mean. "Except maybe Mikey Robertson."
"Is he number one on the list now?"
"No, he's wierd."
"You should see how he stares at me now that he thinks I like him."
"Well hey, that'd freak me."
Bootsy's ball hopper was filling up and she had to lift it with both hands.
"I have to give you-- Do you want to take the stupid-idiot test?"
"You're wasting your time here-- I always ace 'em."
"You're too old to be dumb, probably. . . What color is the sky?"
"Blue," I said, "and that's without looking."
"Umm, what color is my earring?" she asked. She lifted up here bobbed blond hair so I could see it better.
"Silver," she corrected, "be serious Drake-- where do pickles come from?"
"Pickle trees," I said.
"This is stupid-- never mind." She grinned, cocking her head to one side. "And so are you. What kind of drugs do they put in your cheerios?"
"I live in a drug-free school zone." I said, pouring my full ball hopper into the shopping cart. "I get mine from my mom."
"Why do you say things like that?"
"Like you get your drugs from your mom."
"Dude, if I told ya, I'd have to drop ya."
"Like Snoop Doggy Dogg-- I saw a picture of him." She wrinkled her nose. "I would eat lunch with you," she said, hitching a ride on the front of the filled cart, "but mom is taking me to the orthodontist. I'm getting damn railroad tracks in my mouth."
"Watch it tough guy."
"All I said was darn."
"Railroads-- don't knock 'em. My grandfather drove a caboose."
A car honked it's horn. Mrs. Starbuck was sitting at the wheel of her black 911 Porsche. She had the top down. Bootsy covered her mouth with her hand. "Oh no! I forgot to give you something. "Wait mom!" She screamed about seven times louder than necessary. She ran into the women's bathroom. I smiled and shrugged at her mom. Mrs. Starbuck was in a hurry or something-- she wouldn’t lay off on the horn.
"Drake!" Bootsy returned, holding a white envelope.
"Wilson gave me this to give to you while you were out on the court giving lessons. . . it's top secret." She handed it to me and ran off towards the car. "Bye Drake, and don't forget, tomorrow we do lunch!" Top secret had been written on the envelope:
Last chance mission tonight. Midnight. Altar Rock. Don't make plans. You have to be the ghost, up at the Top O' the World. I got Chuck and those guys thinking that my great great grandfather Coffin hung himself up at the top of the world a hundred years ago tonight, at midnight-- hook, line and sinker. Have to mow all day. Should be back at about seven or eight. Stop by after your last supper with Windy.
With cordial regards to you and the new house,
Wilson Coffin(The chiznit)
The temperature dove on that clear Nantucket evening. Windy stood with her hands inside the arms of her sweater as I got my jeans jacket out of the trunk for her. Tomorrow I was leaving for college-- yesterday we'd run into each-other jogging and agreed to do something. I thought it would be a good idea to come up to the Top O' the World one last time. I was kidding. Nobody ever wraps up these relationship things these days, 'cause relationships aren't supposed to exist. To go out with someone is to oppress them for the capitalistic patriarchy or something. I'm not kidding-- I learned it in econ. 101. Anyways, I was freaked out-- sort of. I'd written this poem for her. I wasn't so sure I wanted to give it to her anymore. I had the stupid thing in my pocket.
"It's cold out," Windy said through her teeth.
"Do you want to stay?"
"If you do."
"For awhile, while there's still sun." We walked over to the front porch and sat down. Some of the windows had been smashed, and broken glass lay all over the place. I wasn't much in the mood for talking. Neither one of us said anything for a long time.
"You want to go?" I asked.
"If you do. . ."
"Are you mad," she said before I could get up, "at me?"
"No. . ." We just sat there for a long time, not saying anything. The sun was getting low, and I was freezing my ass off.
"What's wrong with you?" The way she asked it bothered me.
"Nothing, I'm just thinking a lot. . ."
"About what? Do you want to talk about it?"
I shrugged. She was being unusually communicative.
"You're mad at me. . ."
"No I'm not," I said, looking right at her.
"I don't know," she said, looking down, "I think you are. . ."
"I'm not. . . It's just everything." I waved my hands about.
"Oh boy," she sighed. I saw her kinda look down at her watch. "You shouldn't take things personally."
"I just don't get you. I mean I never got you. I totally admire you, but you start in on the littlest thing, and you make it into something huge."
"Awww man. Something's messed up out there. You're looking through the wrong end of the telescope. You always look--" I sat up and took a deep breath. "I mean it just seems tough on everyone to make things work. Every time I try to do something-- it seems like there's just this total indifference out there. I mean I want things to matter. I feel stupid as hell trying to tell you this. It's none of my business, even though we said we loved each-other and all that and did all the things or whatever. And that cracks me up. 'Cause those things were sacred once. And they meant something. And there was this context or community or whatever which supported the eternal part of love-- not all the infatuation stuff, which fades no matter who or what probably, but like the deeper promises that you feel not in your heart, and not in your mind, but like in your soul. I mean I just don't know what to do. Like today you just date around and after enough people it all falls into place, like when you've been divorced seventeen times? Where's the honor in that? Everything’s so pagan. Where's the meaning? Things could--"
"You have to do what you like." She was squinting in the sun.
"Yeah, that's Wilson's religion too."
She looked at me. She knew I knew, but I was surprised she let on. I was surprised she just didn't let it slide, along with all the rest of entirety. "Who told you?"
I shrugged. "The cat." The black cat had snuck up behind me and poked it's head out in-between my arm and body, its whiskers just barely brushing my arm. When it meowed it sounded just like a kid crying. It had white paws and a white nose. Wilson had missed it. Or at least it had a few lives left.
She looked at me, the way they sometimes do, "You don't know how bad I felt about it."
"Feelings for those who will never feel."
Her sky-blue eyes fixed on me. "What'd he tell you?"
"Hey kitty." I scratched the cat behind her ears. "Tell Windy what you told me."
"It's not a perfect world."
"Yeah-- but I don't confuse myself with it."
"Uhhh." She shook her head and laughed. "OK, like you're perfect." Windy reached out for the cat and it hissed, arching its back. "How many people have you slept with?"
I didn't say anything, and she answered her own question.
"Sixteen-- so you could have sixteen kids out there right now, maybe more."
"As if they wouldn't tell me."
"So you would've married them."
"I would’ve asked them about it."
"Even if it wasn't right."
I laughed. "It would've been right."
"So then we would've never happened. OK, I see it all now. The only reason you went out with me is that you failed to get anyone pregnant. Now there's a sign of a deep, quality relationship-- I'm just another. . ."
"At least you are."
She maintained her stoic composure. "If you ever come down off your high horse and realize it’s not a perfect world, you might have a chance of enjoying life."
"A chance would’ve been nice." She didn’t flinch. "And I know it’s not a perfect world, but it's the way I dream. You know? It’s never been a perfect world, but at least it seems that men once strove for ideals, and that concepts like honor and duty and a respect for the innocent and unborn endowed their lives with profound meaning. I'm afraid that someday I might wake up and find myself accepting all the Barbara Streisand of your drugged out sex-today-abort-tomorrow-for a Porsche-Rolling-Sto--"
She slapped me. "Don't make fun of Evie's religion."
She grabbed my keys and made for the car. The wind was blowing her hair back, and the soft pink light made her look pretty as hell. Love is about the only four letter word they don't teach in school, and I didn't understand it. For it made little sense to have loved that which you never liked. She jumped in the driver’s side without opening the door, and I got up and ran to it—I remembered what happened the last time she tried to drive my stick.
She had the MG started when I jumped on in.
"Dude, I'll drive."
She put it in first and let the clutch in. The engine would've dropped out had we not been on gravel. We tore down the hill with the stones flying everywhere, chipping paint of the rear sides of the car. I reached over for the parking break and she threw a punch at my head. And then, just as she was shifting into second, a cat darted out in front of us. A Ford Explorer was barreling along from the other direction and thick pines lined the road, so she couldn’t have swerved even had she wanted. Trapped somewhere between man and nature, I felt the sickening bump. Windy didn't blink, and I didn't look back, 'cause I knew what I'd see. She put the car in third, and like calmed down a bit, so I figured I'd let her drive on home. I didn't feel like driving.
Dressing up as a ghost tonight seemed like the perfect thing to do. Halfway home I looked over at Windy, and she had the exact same pout on her face that she had had back at the Coffin's. The same pout she used in that one perfume ad she'd been in last year-- only here she was wearing something. She drove on home to the big old Starbuck mansion and stopped at the bottom of the driveway.
"It could've been yours. Maybe I just didn't want to hear you bitch about it." She got out and slammed the door. I sat there and watched her walk all the way up her driveway. I thought of putting the poem I wrote for her in her mailbox, but I didn't, I wasn't in the mood. I just watched her walk.
I considered going home to get a sheet for my ghost disguise, but my parents would've held one of their grand interrogations. They were here for the week, living in the tiny cottage my grandfather had left in his will. He’d bought it for $149 fifty years ago. About a month ago some investment banker offered him $800,000 for the property, but there was no way I was ever letting anyone sell it. You'd think a year at college for me would've my parents a bit, but no-- every time I left a house they were in, they grilled me about my philosophy on life. Anyways, you don't need a sheet to be a ghost-- that's stereotyping. The DJ on the radio said it was seven-twenty, and I headed over to Wilson's.
There were no cars in his driveway. His mom was never home-- she practically lived in Switzerland. She'd won a Gold Medal for downhill in the Olympics, and now she was a big-time ski-instructor. I have no idea why she settled in Nantucket-- not to raise a family or anything. I walked up to the door, rang the bell, and went on in. There was no sign of the Indian butler who took care of the house. Chief. His name was Chief-- at least that's what everyone had always called him. Rumor had it that Chief descended from the original Wampanoag tribe who had bestowed the name of Nantucket upon the island, as the word meant "far off land." Wilson lived in a huge old house, and Chief was always popping up all over the place. You'd be in the shower or something, and he'd hand you the soap. I turned on the old MTV, just for a change. I turned it off. Wilson and I hadn't cut our hair for a year. We had a bet. It's a good conversation starter-- long hair I mean.
The back of Wilson's split-level house consisted of huge glass window-walls. It overlooked the Sankaty Head Golf Course. In the evening it could be pretty, like it was tonight. There's a large marsh just beyond his backyard-- the setting sun reflects off of the sparkling water, through the salt cattails, projecting rippling waves all over everything in the room. I picked up the phone to call Cindy. I dialed her number, but I hung up as soon as it rang. She was my girlfriend from a couple of years ago-- I didn't really feel like talking to her. I could predict exactly what we'd say. If I called her she'd go, "are you psyched to back to school," and I would say that I was, like I had to. We'd talk about the summer for a minute, agree to do e-mail, and say good-bye. It would've been dumb, considering I'd seen her twice over the summer. I held the phone for awhile, trying to think of someone to call. No-one came to mind.
There was a party or something somewhere-- I could hear music and voices-- barely. I got up and walked out the sliding doors, on to the brick patio. It was still warm from the afternoon sun. The crickets grew louder, and I could tell that the voices and music were coming from somewhere on the other side of the golf course. Not directly west where the sun had just sank, but a bit Southwest, behind some small hills about a quarter of a mile off which helped to make the sixteenth hole the hardest. Wilson and I had gone sledding there one Christmas, a long time ago. His grandfather once told us that he was sure that they were Indian burial mounds. Maybe Chief was hanging around to guard them. I recognized the bass line of John Lennon's "Imagine," and suddenly I was thinking about this one crazy night with Windy out on the fifth green. . . everything reminded me of her. . .I stood on the edge of a fairway for awhile, looking out over the golf course. The wind shifted and the music became louder. I went back in the house, put my old tennis shoes on, and set out across the golf course. It felt ten times better to be outside, moving along under the stars. The air was cool and dew had already formed on the grass-- it wouldn't rain tomorrow. I knew it would be a long time until I would see skies as clear as these. I looked up to see if I could pick out all the summer constellations I used to know. Now that I knew the names for the stars, the wonder had been blunted. I kept on thinking that the little scotch pine trees were people. The Chief. From the top of the first hill, I could see for miles around me because everything else was so flat. Lookout Point is what we used to call it, and if you looked East, you could see the shimmering blue of the open Atlantic away off in the distance. I picked out the lights of a freighter heading South, and breathed in the fresh salt air which you get so used to, as it pervades all. From up here the music and the voices were almost distinct, even though the immense gathering was still a good half mile away. The hostess lived in the old tower house. We always called it the tower house because it has this medieval tower rising above its green copper roofs. Mary Starbuck had had it built back before Melville’s day with a small whaling fortune, before she became a Quaker and found the premises too exquisite for a Quaker’s humble tastes. It had traded families over the years, before they converted half of it into the Nantucket whaling museum. The Starbucks lived in the other half now, as they’d traded their spiritual heritage back in for their material one. Their father had nothing to do with the Starbuck coffee company, which was named after the first mate of the Pequod in Moby Dick, but rather he’d acquired a small fortune by representing Microsoft. Melville had chosen the name for the stalwart Quaker character in his novels after having noticed the prominence of the Starbuck name while passing through Nantucket. The three Starbuck daughters went by Windy, Courtney, and Bootsy, and during my few summers of teaching tennis on Nantucket, I’d been close with the eldest and the youngest, while having barely known Courtney at all.
There was a big swimming pool in her back yard, and as I got closer, I discerned that it was her sister's party. Courtney's, I mean. She was a sophomore in high-school. I walked past a few couples wandering on the golf course and smelled the sweet scent of weed. It made me sick. By the time I was at the perimeter, I'd recognized three faces. Everyone looked about ten years younger than me-- baggy pants, attempted goatees, everyone smoking the obligatory clove. I was feeling thirsty and I spotted a keg, so I walked on over to it and got myself drink.
The million lights lit the yard bright as day. Some guys were throwing screaming girls into the swimming pool. There were about a thousand different groups standing and sitting all over the yard. A lot of people had a bunch of crap in their face-- rings and stuff. There was this really tan girl wearing a yellow polo shirt and a white mini-skirt looking at me, and I smiled over and she smiled back. Her legs were dark, and she was wearing a gold bracelet on her ankle. I had bought one for my sister last Christmas. Some guy with his hair slicked back came up and put his arm around her.
I decided to split the scene and head on back to Wilson's-- hang out with Chief. Maybe he could give me a few tips on haunting houses. I felt a tugging at my jacket. It was Bootsy.
She was wearing this huge REM t-shirt which practically went down to her ankles.
"Whoa, am I glad to see a rock 'n' roll rebel I know." I smiled, "What's up?"
"Just the sky," she said, "for the eightieth time." She was holding a book behind her back. Probably one of those corny Judy Blume pre-porns I'd teased her about.
"Getting a head start on your glory teenage years?"
"I can never sleep when Courtney has her parties. If I close my window, it gets too hot, and then I really can't sleep--"
"It's freezing tonight."
"I got you a going away present." She said.
"Cool dude-- I'll be back next year ya know."
"Where's your car parked? It's for your car. I have to put it on the mirror."
"It's not here right now, but I'll--"
"What, did you fly here?" She asked.
"I walked here."
"From your house?"
"I walked from Wilson's."
"Never mind then," she said really impatiently, kind of rolling her eyes at me. "I'll send it to you or something." I didn't tell her that I didn't take the car to school-- I could picture my dad driving the Mustang to tennis with a pair of fuzzy dice, as it became his weekend car when I returned to school. Bootsy put her left foot on mine. "Can I ask you something--"
"You just did--" I said. "Is this another test?"
"I was calling you all night, but your mom kept answering-- I wanted to ask you over the phone."
"You'll get mad at me." She looked at me, like I had done something. "You'll never trust me again."
"Yes I will," I told her, "I'll always trust you." I put out my hand for our secret handshake that she'd taught me.
"Promise you won't get mad at me?"
"Promise, Scouts' honor." I held up my three fingers. "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, court. . ."
"I know, I know." She stood up on her tiptoes and pulled down on my shoulder. She started whispering, "I know what you and Wilson are doing tonight."
"You read my top-secret?!" I said really indignantly. I was joking her of course.
"Sorry," she said. "Are you mad at me?"
"I should be," I said, "but it wasn't a top top secret."
"So you're not mad at me?"
"Not really." I said. "Though that's not to say that someday someone might betray you-- and then what could you tell them, knowing what you did to me?"
"Can I go with you? I made a ghost costume and everything."
"No," I laughed. "Your mom would kill you-- then you would be one."
"I won't tell her."
"Then who's going to drive you there?"
"You will," she grabbed my arm with both hands and stood on her tip-toes, "Pleeeease?"
"It depends-- Are you reading The Great Brain?"
She shook her head. "I'll pick up balls for you all next year."
"Or are you reading that Are you There God, It's Me, Drake?"
That's when I recognized Mrs. Starbuck walking towards us. "Bootsy, your mom's on the prowl. Make like a bush or something."
She looked and put her hand over her mouth. "Uh oh, she's looking for me!" she said, ducking behind me, "don't move!" I watched as Mrs. Starbuck navigated through the indifferent partiers-- I wasn't too hot about the idea of Bootsy hiding behind me. At least I wasn't the oldest one here anymore. I ducked my head down and hid behind the brim of my baseball cap.
"Tell me when the coast is clear," Bootsy whispered.
"Sure thing dude."
"I'm not a dude!"
"Dudette," I corrected myself. I looked down as her mother passed by and continued on in the wrong direction. She had her hair tied back-- she looked really young. "All right," I whispered, "the coast is clear, now scram!" I said, giving her a little smack on her behind, "and don't let the golf course get you!" Whatever that meant.
"Will you pick me up before you go?"
"If it were daytime," I told her, "I'd have no hesitation, it's just that you should really--"
"All right all right all right," she said. You could tell she was pretty annoyed with me. "All I know is that I'd take you." She turned and walked off.
"Write me!" I called after her.
I had absolutely no excuse to hang around anymore now that the most intelligent girl had left the party. I got up and headed out through the crowd-- I saw this girl walking towards me who I recognized from somewhere. She had a white tank top on and long, light-brown hair. Her eyes were darker than her hair.
"What are you doing here?" She smiled.
"I'm the accidental tourist," I told her, but she didn't hear it because of the music, and I repeated it into her ear.
"Oh, are you going to write a good review?" she asked. She'd seen the stupid movie.
"I taught you tennis a few years ago."
She gave it her best courtesy laugh and tossed her hair back. When you think of pretty eyes, you think of green or blue, but her eyes were pretty as hell, and they were black.
"Who're you here with?"
"Nobody-- I heard it from across the Golf course, I was at Wilson Richardson's"
"Wil!" she said, like he was her long lost pal, "How's he doing?"
"Same, I guess, what's your name?" I asked. She was wearing a thin golden necklace with a small cross.
"Jenny," she said, "You're Drake, you go to Yale and you just finished your first year."
"No, not jail." I said. "I go to Prison."
"You're majoring in writing and the first time you ever had sex was at Chuck Allen's house, with Cindy," she giggled, "and you think blow jobs and things are gross."
"Where is he?" I said.
"Who?" She laughed, and I felt his arm around my shoulder.
"Drake man." Wilson was wearing a torn G'n'R t-shirt. My t-shirt. "This is Jenny," Wilson said, putting his other arm around her, "and this, this needs no introduction. . .this is the number one Tough-guy." He was stoned. "Are you in on the mission?"
"Hell yeah." I said.
"What mission?" Jenny asked.
"Uh oh," Wilson said, "A third party heard from." He laughed. "Tell Drake your life's mission."
"You know, about your future plans and all."
"Tell him what you were just telling me, don't be shy dude."
"Why?" she said, really indignantly, "you're being queer."
Wilson shook his head. "She's going to be a model. She's already been in Seventeen Magazine. Her mom won't let her model until her grades come up, but I'm sure she's smart enough to do both." Jenny shot a confused look at him. "She's sixteen and some day she's going to go be a famous actress. She says that she wants to do it, before she grows old and get wrinkles. That's a wonderful world out there, full of creative geniuses, she ought to fit right in, you think?"
"Why are you making fun of me?" she kind of tilted her head to one side.
"Do you think there's more to life than just looking good? It depresses me, but I can't kid myself, like Drake does. Did you ever read Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy?"
"Of course, there's a lot more to life, but it's more fun," she smiled. You could tell she was trying to play along. "I would hate being ugly."
"Hey-- answer the question. You read Nietzsche?"
She gave him this look.
"Nietzsche said we need more people like you in this world, to make it such a beautiful place. Nietzsche wrote it when he was twenty-five. You read Nietzsche?"
"You know, just because someone is good-looking, that doesn't mean that they're an airhead."
"That's not what he was saying at all. Nietzsche knew that the most beautiful were the smartest-- the Greeks."
"My dad said insecure people are always quoting from books." She smiled.
"Yeah," he smiled, "it's my will to power-- to control your beauty with my Truth. And I'll tell ya-- I know a hell of a lot you'll never see. Do you know what a supra man is?"
"I know everything I need to," she said.
"Then you're not a very curious person."
"I know you want to kiss me." She said. "And I know you need a life."
"Thus spake Zaruthstra," Wilson called after her.
I looked at Wilson. "Alright, let's go."
"If she's old enough to want it, she's old enough to have it." He looked at me. "Tell me you didn't want her. Just 'cause you go to Princeton doesn't mean you're exempt. All it means is that you go to Princeton."
It was getting on towards midnight. "I've got to split and go back to your house and get the car. You've got to get Chuck and Kozak and those guys up to the house."
"Don' worry 'bout it." Wilson said. "They're all here. They're getting high out front. They're getting high so they can pretend they got into Princeton. Do you read books there?"
"Enough to know that a little learning's a dangerous thing. So you're going to bring them up there? At twelve?"
"What the hell are you so worried about?" He lit a cigarette. "Don't worry so much." He took a drag off it, opened his mouth as if to say something, and then closed it again. He turned to leave, and then turned back to me, taking a few small backwards steps. "I never did like you." He looked me in the eye.
"So?" I said. "You didn't like your kid all that much either."
He stopped, took a step back towards me. "My what?"
"You know, tough guy."
He laughed. "That was Windy's gig." He laughed again. "You’re so damn heavy—you’re bringing the whole world down."
"I’m just saying where it is."
"That was Windy’s gig."
"I guess." I said. "If you don't believe in ghosts."
I turned and began walking away. I turned back. "Didn't Nietzsche say God was dead?" I asked.
He turned and looked at me.
"Well Nietzsche's dead."
The smart thing to do would have been to just go on home and get some sleep after leaving the Starbuck's. I still had to pack for school. The golf course spooked the hell out of me on the way back-- I kept expecting one of the little pine trees to turn into Chief, and come after me with a tomahawk or something. By the time I got back to the Wilson's, I was winded from running. There were no lights on in the house, just flickering shadows from the big-screen T.V. That's how Chief watched his T.V.-- every single night-- he always turned off every light in the house. I didn't waste any time getting the hell out of there.
I put the radio on, not too loud or anything-- I was in a mellow sort of mood, and I headed over to the MacGregor's house. I couldn't get old Windy out of my brain-waves. I shouldn't have said all that stuff. I am pretty damn judgmental. I’ll admit it. I know people say you’re not supposed to be, as Jesus didn’t approve, but the thing is he does. All he said was that you ought to forgive people, but the thing is, you’re supposed to judge them first. For without judgment there can be no wrong, and without wrong there can be no right.
About halfway to The Top O' The World I got the weirdest spooked-out feeling-- I swear to God I have ESP or a sixth sense or something. Everyone's always telling me I'm psychic. I craned my neck and looked over into the back seat. There she was, lying on the floor, looking up at me.
"How'd ya know?" Bootsy asked, popping her head up, "I didn't make any noise." She was pretty disappointed.
"I just knew," I kind of laughed, only my voice was shaking all over the place. "It kind of made sense."
"Don't take me home!" She climbed over into the front seat. She had a white sheet with her.
"I've got to," I said, driving slowly, looking for a place to make a U-turn.
"Nooo," she said. She wanted to go pretty badly. "It's your last night here."
"I'll be back," I said.
"That's what my dad said one year ago today."
I looked over at her. She was biting her lip. "Awww man-- it was rough out there for a lot of our parents."
"Yeah, right." She said and went back to biting her lip.
"It's not that long," I told her, "Besides, we'll keep in touch. You’d better email me. This night will seem like yesterday next May. I promise you."
Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here had come on the radio, and Bootsy started singing along-- she knew all the words. I looked over at her and watched her put her seatbelt on. She was on the small side, even for a fifth grader, and she took shoulder strap and put it behind her head. She looked pretty as all hell in the green light coming from the from the dashboard, her bobbed hair and all. I looked back at the road. I was about to cry.
"Drake," she whispered, "What's wrong?" I didn't say anything-- I couldn't really talk--and all of a sudden she was sitting right next to me. She had put her hand on my shoulder. "If you want to take me home it's OK."
"No," I swallowed.
"Drake," she repeated, "Maybe we can both go home-- if you want. Are you mad at Windy?" "No," I laughed. "We're almost there."
"I'm sorry," she said. She still had her hand on my shoulder. "It's rough on you guys too. I would've wanted it too."
"Jesus." I sighed. She knew.
"Couldn't you have sued Windy to have it?"
"It wasn't mine, dude."
"Whose was it?"
"Awww man, it doesn't matter." I took a deep breath. "It's just that. . ." I said, "but I don't want to say that-- too many people saying how everything's messed up. There's a whole industry devoted to it, and they keep messing it up more. I mean you're not, and that's enough. It was all of ours." I wiped a tear with the back of my hand. "You believe in ghosts?"
"Hell yeah." She nodded right away. "Heck yeah I mean. People have to go somewhere-- it wouldn't make any sense otherwise."
"Socrates and Jesus would’ve agreed." I turned some stupid grunge band off. My life didn't want a soundtrack. She took her hand off my shoulder and just sat there, looking straight ahead and whispering something. We passed the ancient Entering Coffin Country sign.
"What're you whispering?" I asked her.
"Take the top down and the wind'll tell you."
It was freezing out, but I pulled over and took the top down. And that's how we drove the rest of the way there.
Soon after the passing cornfields turned into trees, we began our ascent out of the Valley. I hung a right onto the dirt road and drove up through the willows, not slowing down or anything. Broken branches covered us when I burst out into the clearing. I slammed on the brakes and skidded-- Bootsy got a kick out of my driving. My brights lit up the MacGregor house. The cloud of dust stirred up by my car slowly drifted across it. I sat there for a good minute-- there was nothing spooky about the old house at all. I parked the car a couple hundred feet away from it, behind some bushes. There was no moon out, and the house was defined by its absence: a black silhouette against the starred night. The Great Point Light threw its faint glint periodically across the sky. We got out and walked towards the house, Bootsy a little in front of me.
"It's so quiet," she whispered. The sea breeze which usually prevailed had died.
I hopped up onto the porch and tried the door, but it was locked. I gave it a few good kicks, but it didn't give. I picked up a board and banged on the door handle for about a half an hour until it finally bent and snapped off. I practically broke every toe in my foot when I gave the door this one big kick; it 'd been nailed shut.
"Maybe we should climb in a window," she suggested.
"They're all nailed shut." I picked up the board to throw it through the window, but I didn't. I didn't feel like being a ghost. Not if it meant breaking the window-- I couldn't help thinking about the awful noise it would make. I put the board down and turned to Bootsy. She was kneeling, stroking a cat. A black cat with white paws. She looked up at me.
"You want to go home?" I asked.
"Home?" Bootsy said, "You don't want to be a ghost tonight?" She picked up the cat. "This cat looks just like Mittens."
I walked over and stroked the cat behind the ears. "Not really in the mood, dude."
"He must live here," Bootsy said, putting the cat down. "Can I take him?"
"No-- he's got a home." Right then she did the weirdest thing-- she took my hand-- I mean it was cool, but it wasn't exactly something you would expect someone barely eleven years old to do. We walked back to the car, Bootsy kind of leading the way. She climbed in the car on the driver's side, and sat right in the middle. She turned the radio on and put it on AM. She found that one Smashing Pumpkins song, but then Rush's voice cut across it. "He's funny." She put her head on my shoulder and dozed off. I could tell 'cause she started snoring. She slept the whole way back. Rush was saying, "We've come to the point where it's considered sophisticated and smart to see nothing but gray areas and nuances. . . Moderates who take pride in their lack of ideological conviction are held up as paragons of wisdom. And anyone who does take a stand, who does dare tell the truth, is vilified, impugned, castigated, and greeted with a cacophony of indignation. My friends, this is a prescription for a new Dark Ages." I was gonna skip class to listen to him next year. I stopped a couple of houses down the road before hers, down on Perkins, so that her mother wouldn't see me. I got this idea. I nudged Bootsy and reached in my back pocket for the envelope. I looked-- I hadn't put Windy's name on it.
"Bootsy, hey kid, we're home." I handed her the poem. "Hey there-- wake up. We're home." I cut the engine and lights, and rolled to a stop infront of her house. "Here's something I wrote-- it was a cool summer, dude." I don't think she woke up, not completely anyways. I mean she'd let me call her dude with protesting. I watched her walk across her lawn and down the side of her house, dragging her ghost sheet. The silence was of the most perfect kind.
I waited a few minutes to make sure she’d gotten in safely. Then I restarted the car, and soon as I got out of earshot of Bootsy's house, I floored it. I turned Rush up as loud as he'd go, and I roared on back towards The Top O' The World. About a mile away I noticed it. There was a flickering glare of yellow and orange shadows up on the hill, just beneath a giant plume of gray. They'd lit the house on fire.
Driving up through the weeping Willows, I saw the headlights of like five Jeeps and Explorers coming on down. Nobody was gonna get by. I stopped and got out. There was Wilson's Cherokee. I went for it. I heard Windy. "Drake! Oh my God, Drake! We thought you were in the house!" She was crying. She ran up to hug me.
"I was." I said. I walked by her to where Wilson was getting out of the car. I walked up to him. He was taller than me. We just stood there for a small eternity.
"He's got a gun!" Somebody said.
I just stared into his eyes. People'd gotten out, and they were standing around. Everyone was perfectly silent, waiting for the first swing to be taken in the dancing shadows. He had this stupid gun tucked in his pants.
"You're over-dressed dude," I told him. "They aren't filming."
Then everyone heard it. A soft crying broke the silence. The cat stood up on its hind legs in-between us and pawed me, looking up and meowing. "Owe," I said, bending down and picking it up. "Watch those claws, buddy." I looked at Wilson. "You believe in ghosts?" I heard sirens off in the distance.
"You guys have a story to tell." I picked up the cat, turned around, got back in my car, and headed home. Bootsy would be glad to have it.
I caught the eight AM ferry to the Cape the next day. Before I left I asked my mom to take the cat over to the Starbuck's. I stood at the front of the ferry, not looking back, knowing that if I ever returned to Nantucket, it would be as a ghost.
And just one more thing here which'll freak everyone out whose ever taken an English course or anything, 'cause I'm gonna break the most fundamental rule, and I'm gonna preach, and pass judgment on all that happened. 'Cause I think that that's what's going on here. It used to be OK to care about things. It used to be that people didn't grow up being told that there's no good or bad or right or wrong and that everything's just gray and everything.
I'm no historian or anything, but about all I know is that when I look at my grand-parents I get a sense that there once was this thing called honor. And defending it was what kept 'em together. They both did it. Nobody was oppressing anybody-- they were in it together. And I think it's tough to defend honor when most people don't want anything to do with it, 'cause they think it gets in the way of their freedom. But the thing is, you can't have freedom without moral responsibility. I mean you can't have life. I know it's an antique, oppressive way of thinking, and all, but maybe it's what's needed to keep people from killing that which they conceive. I'm sorry I broke the postmodern rules here, and ruined the story for the trained reader, but that's what I was trying to say.
And I don't think you can keep God out of things for long, for even if nobody mentions Him, or talks about Him, or brings Him up, or anything, there'll still be some Bootsy somewhere, and she'll still know right from wrong, 'cause the thing is, He's inside the kids. All I'm saying is that this is what Nantucket will always mean to me, and that it'll always be cool, 'cause it was in the midst of the Grey Lady’s fogs where I learned to believe in ghosts.