The nasty weather continued without a letup. Couldn’t get out to the wheel. Couldn’t really even stay on the back porch, although I manned up for a full cup of coffee before fleeing inside.
The cottage was warm and cozy, but what it really needed for days like this was a fireplace. I didn’t think I could stretch the definition of “reasonable expenses” to include installing one. Perhaps I should buy a fire pit for the back porch. Or better yet, a chiminea. That would kill two birds with one stone: add cozy, and let me stay on the porch during cold weather.
I was restless to get back to the island, but not really restless to get out of the house. Occasionally the TV habit kicked back in and I picked up the remote, caressed the buttons, pointed it at the dark screen while holding fond memories about flipping through a hundred channels. But I didn’t really miss it. Whatever else came out of this assignment, one thing was for sure: I was going to be changed by the experience. Didn’t even mind cooking my own breakfast, although I needed to stock up on victuals more unhealthy than what I had in the cupboard if I was going to miss a couple of days at Peckerwoods’—I was seriously under-consuming my recommended daily allowance of cholesterol.
And I dreamed a lot. Mostly about the island. They weren’t all erotic dreams, although some were; they didn’t always wake me up, and even those that did I often didn’t remember clearly. One was about a bonfire and had the drums and vague figures dancing, but that was all I could recall. Another started off with Chai and some serious foreplay but ended up with the golden-haired woman instead, although in my dream I was so shocked I got up and left her there, white robe bunched up around her thighs (not unexpectedly, the carpet matched the drapes). That one did wake me up and left me a disturbed mess. Couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, exactly. Just seemed, I don’t know, incestuous or something.
By Friday morning the rain had slackened off considerably, enough that I never seriously contemplated not going to Peckerwoods’ for breakfast. The Internet said there was going to be an opening in the weather for a while that day; maybe I could even get out to the island.
“You know what y’all need to do?” I stopped sopping up my eggs long enough to tell Sabrina as she refilled my coffee. “You need to set up a TV in here on Sunday afternoons for the NFL. I’ll bet you could fill the place up. Last weekend I had to drive twenty miles to find a place to watch the game.”
“Nobody’d come, silly. We don’t have a liquor license. You can’t watch the Falcons without a beer, and for sure not the Panthers. And besides, most people have their own TV. You’re the only person in town who doesn’t have one.”
“Yes, my wise love, all of that is true. But football is way more fun with a crowd. Gets you out of the house so the wife can’t nag you about fixing the leaky sink. Not that I have to worry about that: my fiancé would never hassle me about something as mundane as plumbing.”
“Less’n it was her own plumbing that needed attention.”
“And everybody would go along with BYOB. You could make up a special snacks menu for Sunday afternoons only. Wings and stuff. And have ice buckets for people to put their beer in for a couple of bucks.” I raised my voice so everyone in the restaurant could hear me. “Hey, listen up. How many of your would come here on Sunday afternoon if Peckerwoods’ had the game on?” Half a dozen hands went up. “You can even bring your own beer.” Another dozen joined them.
“So answer me this, hot shot: if we hauled in a TV or two, would you leave your lady friend behind and come watch the game? You already admitted that you don’t like to get up out of bed on Sunday afternoon when there’s somebody there to get up from.”
“I said no such thing.” I puffed up indignantly. “And besides, that’s for fishing, which happens at like oh-dark-thirty, not on Sunday afternoon. Why, I’ve already had breakfast and been to church by then.”
Sabrina laughed. “You are far and away the slipperiest silver-tongued devil I ever had a conversation with, and that includes a lot of men who were so desperate to get in my britches they’d say anything. Course that was a long time ago.” She picked up my cup of coffee and dumped it back in the pot. “You obviously don’t need any more of this.”
By noon the rain had stopped, although it was overcast and dreary; by one I was headed out to Avalon. The wind was still fresh and the water had a nasty chop, but I just took it slow, adjusting my heading to quarter the waves like Lucas had shown me.
I’d have never found the island if I didn’t have it in my GPS and know exactly where I was going besides. It was like it had gathered up the mist and gloom and drawn it around itself. A foreboding place indeed, except I wasn’t foreboded; I couldn’t wait to get there.
I had a pretty good rain jacket, but my pants were thoroughly soaked from the wet underbrush by the time I made it up the path. I knew I couldn’t stay long, I’d freeze my ass off.
In the gloom, the hilltop looked very different. The circle had a sinister feel, although it wasn’t directing its malevolence toward me. That doesn’t particularly make sense, but I don’t know how to describe it better. Like the feeling you get in an ancient fortress, maybe, a sense of the spirits of those who had died there before. Warning the unwary: “You may linger here a while, but don’t be disrespectful or we’ll slit your vein and drizzle your blood on the stones where ours was spilled.”
Wow. Where did that come from?
What I did with my time was sit in the center of the circle and imagine the stones I’d seen in my dreams. It took a while to turn my thoughts off and focus, but I’d gotten better from walking the wheel. And suddenly there they were. A dull gray lighter than the sky, standing stark against the gloom. Not really towering—they were about my height, not nearly tall enough to tower—but solid. Eternal. Laughing at my puny lifespan.
I sat there, quiet and motionless, drinking it all in. And listening to the stones laughing at me without any sense of disquiet.
An increasing awareness of just how cold my feet were finally nudged me out of my reverie and headed me back toward the path. Just as I was leaving, I had an idea: I should build a wheel up here. How powerful would that be?