Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | February 22, 2008

Riven Rock

Jamestown, Rhode Island. August 7, 2006.

Riven Rock Fireplace

A continuation of Dutch Island…

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

He was sprawled with one leg over the arm of their grandmother’s favorite deck chair, the brim of his faded black New York Yankees baseball cap covering his squinty eyes.

“Where have you two been? Kissing on the beach?”

Aaron said nothing, but Nora scowled, “Shut up, Ollie.”

“You know Edgar Allen Poe married his first cousin.” The nine-year-old swung his leg back and forth, one shoelace dangling down to the wooden planks. “Her name was Virginia. She died of a horrible disease…”

“Oh my god, you’re such a weirdo.” Nora brushed past Ollie, but he reached out and grabbed her arm.

“…it was called tuberculosis, not as bad as the plague, but…”

“Let her go, Ollie.” Aaron opened the screen door, but he knew that once that kid started talking, there was really no hope left for a clean getaway.

Nora wrenched her arm out of Ollie’s hand, but he only grinned. “Oooh! You’re turning red! Nora and Aaron, on the beach! K-I-S-S-I-N-G! First comes love, then the plague…”

“Shut up!” Nora yanked at the brim of Ollie’s cap, and held it down over his nose and eyes. His legs kicked out, shoelaces flailing.

“Ow! Stop!”

“Take it back!”

“La la la la la…” Ollie teased, then coughed. Spit splattered Nora’s hands.

“Eeew! You’re disgusting!” With a grunt, she threw the hat into the bushes lining the porch. Ollie’s curly blond hair stuck out in all directions, and his eyes opened wide. He leapt off the chair, lunging for his older cousin, but she ducked into the house with Aaron who slammed the door shut and latched it.

“Let me in! And get my hat!”

“Get it yourself!” shouted Nora, and disappeared up the stairs, with Aaron following close behind.

The cousins slept in three small rooms above the kitchen in the old house, which was called Riven Rock. The outside was stone gray shingles and dark green trim like the sea water. Inside dozens of rooms full of color, clothes, towels, people, voices, and footfalls exploded like the crystals inside a geode. There was a geode sitting on Nora’s bedside table, a gift from her mother the geologist. Outside, it was just like any other rock. Inside, rose-colored crystals shone and sparkled. The pink matched the room Nora shared with Aaron’s sister, Sarah. The walls weren’t pink—they were dark brown planks like the rest of the house—but every inch of the furniture was painted the same shade as the wild roses that grew down near the beach. Across the hall, Nora’s little twin sisters, Emma and Molly, shared a room with yellow flowery quilts, yellow bureaus, and a yellow lampshade.

Aaron’s room was green and he had it all to himself because Ollie had always slept in the other twin bed in his mom’s bedroom on the grown-up side of the house. There wasn’t any dad to sleep there, and never had been. Ollie’s mom was the youngest of three sisters, the only one without a husband. Aaron’s mom, who was the oldest and went to church every Sunday even on vacation, explained to her children that Ollie was a gift from God. Can you return gifts from God? Nora had asked when Aaron told her.

The year God presented newborn Ollie to the family, when Aaron and Nora were finally old enough to run across the slippery slanted slate rocks on the beach without falling, they had discovered that they could remove the boards from the wall separating the pink and green rooms. If Nora stood on top of the brass mantel at the head of her bed, and Aaron stood on tiptoes on his pillow, they could slide each board in the wall up and out at an angle. Shhh, Aaron would say, quiet, careful, do you hear someone coming? But then Nora would start giggling as the boards landed bouncing on the bedcovers, and she’d cover her mouth trying to keep it in until Aaron hit her with his pillow. Next thing they knew, pillows, stuffed animals and clothes would go flying through the air from one room to the next in an epic battle to be the last one standing. After the dust settled and their breathing slowed, Nora would climb through into the green room and lie in bed next to her favorite cousin, snuggling close.

Now they were thirteen, too old to be in the same bed, but not too old to wonder about strange lights or whisper secrets late at night. The twins were brushing their teeth, Sarah was taking a shower, and Ollie was locked out on the porch. Aaron and Nora could have sat together in one room, but instead they separated, she to pink and he to green, and began the ritual of the boards: slide, tilt, remove, slide, tilt, remove.

“We’ve got to go to Dutch Island,” said Nora.

“And how are we supposed to do that?” Aaron removed the last board, and placed it carefully in the small pile at the foot of his bed.

“In a boat, obviously.”

“Well, yeah… but you know they closed the island last year.”

Nora made a face, and mimicked a bossy teacher’s voice, “No hiking, no camping. There’s asbestos and dangerous holes from old wells!” She leaned forward and rested her arms on the opening in the wall. “Who cares? We’ve been to that island a million times before, and we never fell in any wells.”

It was true. Definitely not a million times, but Nora’s mom had taken them over in the sunfish once or twice, and one time all the cousins, except for Ollie who was too little, had spent a whole day there at the abandoned lighthouse on the point with a picnic lunch and plastic bags for collecting shells and rocks. Two years ago, Aaron had rowed the skiff almost all the way over to the island, and that was before his growth spurt.

“You could row the skiff over, easy,” said Nora.

“That’s not the point. They’ll never let us go.”

The “they” he meant was mostly his mom and Nora’s dad. His mom, Aunt Judy, had been against Dutch Island for as long as anyone could remember. She told Nora once, the summer they took the picnic to the lighthouse, that it was a dangerous, evil place. However, Aunt Judy also thought white bread, electric guitars, scented candles, video games, and fortune cookies were dangerous.

Nora’s dad, on the other hand, had nothing against the island, but post a sign by a chair somewhere saying “sitting prohibited” and Mr. Freeman would stay standing until he fell over. When the town posted the signs last year warning about asbestos, Nora knew their trips to the island were over.

But now there were lights where there shouldn’t be lights, and Dutch Island called to her with a voice as peristent and clear as the waves breaking on the base of sentinel rock.

Nora grinned. “Who said anything about asking for permission?”

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Responses

  1. “Inside dozens of rooms full of color, clothes, towels, people, voices, and footfalls exploded like the crystals inside a geode.”

    Oh no! Exploding clothes! Exploding towels! Exploding people! Exploding voices? Exploding footfalls? Ambiguous.

  2. It’s POETIC, Virginia! That’s one of my favorite lines. And my critique group liked it, too.

  3. […] Chapter 2 […]


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