The Island – Part 1
“C’mon, Sam! We want to go swimming! Can we take the boat to the island? Do you want to go to the island, Sam?” Dressed in white shorts, and a navy blue bikini top, and red flip-flops, Marnie stood impatiently on the dock waiting for her brother. She held a navy New York Mets T-shirt in her hand.
“You’re being bossy again,” Tom scolded, tipping his head to the side and squinting his eyes against the mid-morning sun.
Marnie wrinkled her forehead. “No, I’m not! I’m not being bossy. I’m being a pest. There’s a difference.” Marnie stuck her head in the air, crossed her arms, and stared up the hill at Sam.
Sam loped down the hill. He was wearing light blue swimming trunks, a gray New York Mets T-shirt, a New York Mets ball cap, and flip-flops. He carried a backpack, and a navy and white striped beach bag.
“Mom said you have to put on sunscreen, Marnie. She said you can’t go swimming until you do,” Sam called down the hill.
Marnie danced impatiently from one foot to the other. “Argh! I don’t like sunscreen! It makes me itch! It makes me itch all over!”
Sam stopped walking, and pointed with his thumb back toward the house. “Well, you can argue with Mom about that. I’m not letting you go in the water until you put it on,” Sam chided with a shrug and quirk of his mouth.
Marnie threw her hands up. “Fine! I’ll wear the dang sunscreen.”
“Good! Now come get your bag. You forgot your towel, and your lunch.” Sam held the beach bag out for Marnie to retrieve.
“Can’t you bring it to me? You’re comin’ down here anyway!” Marnie huffed.
“Nope! Mom and Dad told me to stop babying you. Come get your bag,” Sam said, standing his ground.
“Fine!” Marnie rolled her eyes, and stomped up the hill, swinging her arms back and forth dramatically.
When Marnie reached her brother, she took her bag, set it on the ground, and pulled on Sam’s hand so that he would bend to meet her.
“Thank you, Sam. Thanks for taking me and Tom swimming,” Marnie said. She kissed her brother on the cheek, and then blew raspberries.
Sam dropped his backpack, scooped his sister up in his arms and blew raspberries on her tummy. Marnie giggled and squirmed.
“Sam! Stop it!” Marnie said between giggles.
Sam set her down on the grass, and messed up her hair. She wasn’t wearing her baseball cap today. Today her strawberry blonde hair hung loose – all the way to the middle of her back.
“C’mon, Marnie! I’ll race you to the dock!” Sam took off running.
“Oh! I’ll never catch you! You’re too fast!” Marnie raced after him, and only caught him when he slowed down enough to let her.
“C’mon, Squirt! Get in the boat. We’ll row over to the island, and have lunch. Sound good?” Sam picked up Marnie, and swung her into the rowboat.
Marnie nodded emphatically. “Sounds good! C’mon, Tom!”
Tom stared down at his toes for a moment. He lifted his chin, and a flush of embarrassment rose in his tanned face. “Um… I don’t swim too good. My mother told me I have to wear armbands.”
Marnie giggled. “Aw, Tom! Don’t be silly. It’s okay! I’ll wear mine, too. Mom packed mine so that I could swim out real far – that way if I get tired, I can just float. I like wearing my armbands sometimes.”
Sam ruffled Tom’s hair. “How about if I teach you swim, Tom? I taught Marnie how to swim, and she’s a pretty good swimmer. Would you like that? Would you like me to teach you?”
Tom tipped his head, and looked up at Sam. “Really? You’d teach me to swim?” Tom’s face showed a bit of confusion – and excitement.
Sam nodded. “Yeah. Sure. I’ll teach you to swim. You’re not afraid of the water, are you?”
Tom held his head up high, pulled his shoulders back, and puffed out his chest. “Nah! I’m not afraid of the water!” Tom held Sam’s gaze.
Sam smiled, and nodded again. “Good! Let’s get you into a life jacket, and then we’ll head over to the island. Marnie, put your life jacket on, please. I don’t need Mom yelling at me.”
Sam reached into the boatshed and pulled out three life jackets, and handed the jackets to Marnie. Next, he grabbed a nearly deflated inner tube and a hand pump. He set the inner tube and the pump on the floor of the rowboat, untied the boat from its cleats, dropped the stern rope into the back, threw the bow rope to Marnie, who neatly placed it at Tom’s feet. Sam stepped into the boat, and settled onto the middle seat. It wobbled just a bit. Tom sucked in a breath and grabbed Marnie’s arm.
Marnie patted his hand. “We’re okay. Even if we tip, the water is real shallow here. You could stand up okay.”
Tom took a deep breath, and then finished putting on his life jacket.
“Ready to go?” Sam asked.
“Hang on!” Marnie shouted. She scrambled around Sam to the front of the rowboat, knelt down, then turned and flashed a smile in Sam’s direction. Tom, sitting wearily in the back of the boat, simply nodded.
The water was calm and clear. It was a perfect day. The sun was shining. There was a soft summer breeze. There was not a cloud in the sky, and the tree toads were calling for heat. Marnie leaned over the side and watched fish scurry beneath the boat – she could see clear to the bottom of the pond.
Marnie turned around, and pointed over the side of the boat. “Tom, look over the side. Look at the fish swimming under us!”
Tom hesitantly leaned to side, and watched the fish. “What kind of fish are those?”
“If the fish are big, probably bass, sunfish or bullhead. If the fish are small, probably minnows. Minnows make great bait,” Sam replied.
“Do you guys go fishin’?” Tom asked. He turned in his seat and watched Sam row the boat.
Sam nodded. “Yeah. Sure. We go with Dad sometimes. Sometimes Marnie and I go – just the two of us.”
“Marn, do you like to fish?” Tom asked.
Marnie didn’t answer. She was staring straight ahead in the direction of the island.
Tom tried again. “Hey, Marn! Do you like to fish?” he shouted.
Marnie didn’t answer. Sam dipped an oar into the water and splashed water onto his sister. Marnie spun around, and wiped water off her face with her arm.
“Hey! What’d you do that for?” Marnie yelled – her brow crinkled with anger.
“Tom was speaking to you. What are you looking at?” Sam replied, squinting his eyes to see what had Marnie’s attention.
Marnie nodded her head toward the island, and then pointed. “There’s an old guy on the island. I’m trying to figure if he’s real or not real,” Marnie replied.
Sam looked in the direction his sister was pointing, and then shrugged. “Not real. I don’t see anyone. Tom, do you see anyone on the island?”
Tom peeked around Sam, narrowed his eyes, and stared fiercely in the direction Marnie was pointing. He shrugged, and shook his head.
“Nah! I don’t see an old man,” Tom replied.
Marnie tipped her head to the right, and then she gingerly stood up in the small bow of the boat. She tipped her head to left, and continued to focus on the island.
Tom, while not at all cold on this beautiful summer’s day, shivered and hugged himself against the chill rising up his back to his neck.
Sam continued to row. The closer they got to the island, the more certain he was that Marnie was seeing a ghost.
“Marnie, I don’t see anyone on the island. Some of my friends are probably on the other side swimming, but I don’t see anyone on this side of the island,” Sam informed his sister.
Marnie shrugged, turned slightly, and then knelt down again, resting her arms on the bow. Under her breath, she muttered, “Well, I can see him, and he looks angry.”
Marnie turned around. “Sam, do you want me to help you row? Are you getting tired?”
“Do you think you can get back here without tipping over the boat? I don’t want you to tip the boat over?” Sam teased.
Marnie nodded, and gently made her way to the middle of the boat, rocking the boat only a bit.
“How was that? Was that okay, Sam?” Marnie asked.
“That was pretty good, Squirt! Now, sit here with me. You can help me row,” Sam replied.
Marnie sat on the seat in between Sam’s legs, and then leaned her back against his chest. She planted her feet firmly on the floor, and grabbed ahold of the oars. A soft breeze blew Marnie’s hair up into Sam’s face, and it tickled his nose and chin.
“Geez, Marnie! Your hair is in my face! Where’s your cap?” Sam asked.
Marnie tipped her head up so that she could see Sam. “It’s in my bag. I think it’s in my bag, anyway.”
Sam sighed. “Okay. Well, we’re almost there. Help me row, and we’ll get there faster.”
Marnie held tight to the oars, even though hands weren’t big enough to wrap all the way around. Sam, of course, did most of the work, but Marnie liked to help. She always wanted to help.
“Sam, look! We’re nearly there!” Marnie screeched. “The man is standing right there! He’s on the dock! Can you see him?”
Sam rolled his eyes. His frustration with his sister’s gift was often hard to control. He knew she could see ghosts – it was just irksome sometimes.
“Marnie, you know I can’t see him. Tom, can you see him?” Sam asked with a hint of annoyance in his voice.
Tom shrugged, and then shook his head. “Nah! I don’t see anything.” Tom dared himself to look up at the dock, but he didn’t. He sat behind Marnie and Sam – eyes tightly closed.
“Well, he still looks angry about something. He’s got a cranky face, and his clothes are wet and dirty, and he looks…famil…famil…” Marnie furrowed her brow, searching her words and studying the man on the dock. She was sure she knew him.
“Familiar?” Sam asked.
Marnie awkwardly snapped her fingers, and nodded emphatically. “Yeah! Familiar!”
Sam nodded, and then frowned. Who was this man his sister could see on the dock? No one had lived on this island in years. The bridge to the island had collapsed 3 years ago. Marnie couldn’t remember that. He barely remembered it. Sam gave the oars one last pull, propelling the boat to the dock. He set the oars into the boat, grabbed ahold of the dock, and loosely tied off the back of the boat onto a cleat.
“Okay, Marnie! Hop off and tie the front! Tom, can you please hand Marnie that rope? It’s right there by your feet.” Sam instructed.
Tom glanced down at the bottom of the boat, spotted the rope, scooped it up and held it out, waiting for Marnie to take it from him.
Marnie scrambled onto the dock, rocking the little boat as she went. Tom sucked in a breath, grabbed ahold of his seat with one hand, but continued to hold the rope out to Marnie. Marnie reached out and took the rope from Tom, and then skipped to the cleat positioned at the bow. She planted one foot against a pylon, and tugged on the rope – with an exaggerated grunt, she brought the boat closer the dock. She expertly crisscrossed the rope around the cleat, and then stood back and beamed.
Sam smiled. Marnie had come a long way since last summer. Last year she could barely get out of the boat without help, and now she was pulling the boat to the dock.
“Well done, Squirt!” Sam lauded. “Next year you’ll be able to row me out to the island.”
Marnie’s eyebrows shot up and her face lit up with a smile. “Do you really think so, Sam? Do you think so?”
Sam smirked. “Well, maybe not all of the way to the island, but some of the way.”
Deflated, Marnie dropped her shoulders – but just for a moment.
“Hey, Tom! Come on! Hop up on the dock!” Marnie danced back and forth, encouraging Tom to join her.
“Is that cranky man still there?” Tom asked warily, as he took off his life jacket.
Marnie glanced around, shrugged, and then shook her head. “Nope. He’s not here right now. I don’t know where he went. Maybe he went swimming on the other side of the island.” Marnie shrugged again, and held out her hands.
Marnie took off her life jacket, and dropped it into the bow. She lay on her tummy, and reached for her bag, but she couldn’t quite reach it. Sam leaned forward, grabbed her bag, and held it out to her.
“You better put some sunscreen on before you forget. Mom will kick my butt if you get a sunburn, again,” Sam advised.
Marnie threw her head back and rolled her eyes. “Argh! I hate sunscreen! It makes me itch!”
Sam helped Tom up onto the dock, and then stepped onto the dock himself.
Sam, hands on his hips, stared down at his sister. Marnie glanced up at his stern face, sat on the dock, and took a bottle of sunscreen out of her bag. She held the bottle out to her brother.
“Can you put it on my back, please?” Marnie asked – a pouting scowl on her face.
Tom giggled. “You’re gonna trip over that lip and fall in the water, Marnie Reilly.”
Marnie glared at Tom, and wrinkled her nose up at him.
Sam laughed. “Marnie, your face is going to freeze that way.”
Sam put sunscreen on Marnie’s back and shoulders, and then handed the bottle back to her. “Don’t forget to put it on your face this time, Marnie.”
“I won’t forget. Does Tom need sunscreen?” Marnie glanced at her brother, and then over at Tom.
Tom shook his head. “My mom put sunscreen on me before I left home. I’ll be okay.”
Sam dug into Marnie’s bag, and found her baseball cap. “Here, Marnie. Put your cap on, ‘cause if you don’t, your head will burn.”
Marnie snatched her hat, jammed it onto her head, and stood up. “Can we go swimming now?”
“Yeah. Help me grab the stuff out of the boat,” Sam said. He stepped into the rowboat, and handed Marnie the inner tube, the armbands and the air pump. “Let me pump these up here so that I can leave the pump in the boat. It’ll just take a minute.”
Marnie turned around with a loud huff, and then set off toward the shoreline. Tom stayed to help Sam. When they heard Marnie talking to someone, both glanced up. Marnie stood at the end of the dock chatting with someone they could not see. She was quite animated, and then she started yelling.
“No! You can’t tell us we can’t come here! We can swim here any time we want! You’re a ghost! You can’t…” Marnie stopped yelling abruptly, and listened.
Tom and Sam watched as Marnie had a conversation with someone neither of them could see or hear. Marnie nodded, and then turned and ran toward her brother.
“Hey, Sam! That man… umm… Mr. Barnes! He said we can’t swim here! He told me to tell you that there’s a bad man on the island! He said the bad man is living in Mr. Barnes’s old cabin! Mr. Barnes said that the bad man killed him, and that he would kill us if we find him!” Marnie stopped running, turned, and pointed to the eastern end of the island. She took a deep breath, and then sat on the dock.
Sam cocked his head to the side, and squinted up at his sister. “Marnie, are you making up stories to scare us? Is that make-believe or is that true?”
“Swear to God, Sammy, I’m not playing make-believe! It’s true! I swear on my life it’s true!” Marnie replied – her eyes wide, not with fear, but with determination. “You’ve got to believe me, Sammy! It’s true!” Marnie reached, grabbed Sam’s hand, and pulled on him until he bent close to her. “He’s going to hurt someone. We have to stop him,” Marnie whispered loudly.
Tom slunk closer to Sam and sat down on the dock. He pulled his knees up to his chin and his hugged his legs tight to his chest. He watched Sam closely, and then turned to Marnie who was dancing from foot to foot. Her face flushed red, and her aquamarine eyes were wide. Her little fists were white-knuckled – she looked like a fighter getting ready to take a swing.
“Don’t you think we should tell our parents and call the police?” Tom squeaked out.
“No! We’ve gotta warn Sam’s friends! They’re swimming on the other side of the island where the bad man is! We have to tell them to go home!” Marnie continued to bob back and forth. She glanced over her shoulder, and abruptly stopped dancing. “Something bad is going to happen,” she whispered loudly.
Sam nodded, set down the air pump, and rubbed his chin. His friends were on the other side of the island waiting for them. Should he warn them? Should he go tell his friends that his sister, who sees ghosts, just spoke to a ghost who told her to leave the island? Should he just get Marnie and Tom back into the boat and leave – now? He glanced in the direction of home. Maybe he should go get his father. His father would know what to do. Yes. They would get back in the boat, go home, and tell their father what Marnie had seen and heard. Sam stood and dropped the air pump and inner tube into the boat. Just as he turned to share his plan with Marnie and Tom, a bloodcurdling scream ripped through the woods.
“What the heck!” Sam shouted.
“We gotta go home. We gotta go get out parents!” Tom cried.
“We can’t get home fast enough. We can’t row that fast! We gotta go help Sam’s friends. Come on!” Marnie grabbed Sam’s hand and began pulling in the direction of the scream.
“No, Marnie, you and Tom need to stay here! You could get hurt. I’ll go. You stay here!” Sam said firmly.
“Nuh uh! I’m coming with you!” Marnie shouted.
Sam scanned the dock, looking for a place where Marnie and Tom would be safe. He saw the old generator shed. It had a hasp lock with a metal pin on the outside. If I can just get Marnie into that shed, she’ll be safe, he thought.
“Well, we’re going to have to find weapons, Marnie. We can’t fight a bad man without weapons. Let’s check that shed over there,” Sam said, pointing to the generator shed.
Marnie ran ahead of him, as he had hoped she would do.
“Tom, can you help Marnie? Can you see if you can find something to hit the bad man?” Sam asked, waving his hands toward Marnie so that Tom would run to the shed with her.
Tom hopped up from his seat on the dock, and raced toward Marnie and the shed. “I’ll help her!” he called over his shoulder as he went.
Marnie reached the door, and pulled on it. It wouldn’t open. She glanced up and saw the lock. She grasped the pin and pulled up, but she was too small to pull the pin high enough. She hit the door out of frustration.
“Dang door! Dang lock!” Marnie shouted.
When Tom reached her, he stood on his tiptoes and tried too. The pin wouldn’t budge.
“Tom, you’re shorter than me. We need Sam,” Marnie said with a roll of her eyes. “Sam, we can’t open the door!”
“Hang on! I’ll get it,” Sam replied.
Sam reached out, pulled up on the pin, but it wouldn’t move.
“It must be rusted,” Sam informed them. He pulled harder, but it still wouldn’t move.
Sam thought for a second, searching for an alternative – but knew he had to take them with him. They would be safer with him, than left here on their own.
“Okay, we’ll all go, but you two stay behind me. You understand, Marnie? You don’t run ahead! If you run ahead of me, I’ll tell Mom and Dad that you didn’t listen to me,” Sam warned.
“Okay! I won’t run ahead of you!” Marnie growled, and rolled her eyes. “Let’s get big sticks and rocks! We can hit the bad man if he tries to get us!” Marnie said, stomping off toward the other side of the island. “Oh! Look, Sam! You could hit somebody really hard with this stick!” Marnie struggled to pick up a large piece of driftwood.
“Marnie! What did I say?! I said stay behind me!” Sam scolded, his face red with anger. “Don’t run ahead!”
Marnie skidded to an abrupt stop, dropped the piece of driftwood, and turned toward Sam – bewilderment showing on her freckled face. She wasn’t used to Sam getting angry with her. Annoyed, yes. Angry, no. She waited for Sam and Tom to catch up, and then she took Sam’s hand.
“I’ll stay behind you, Sam. I’m sorry,” Marnie replied, dropping her gaze to the ground.
“Make sure you do!” Sam replied with a frown.
Marnie simply nodded her head – not daring to lift her gaze to meet Sam’s. Sam bent over and picked up the piece of driftwood. He nodded with approval.
Sam squeezed Marnie’s hand. “Thanks, Marnie. This will make a decent club. I hope I don’t need to use it.”
Marnie finally lifted her head and eyes up to meet Sam’s gaze. He winked at her, gently tugged on the brim of her cap, and she grinned up at him. Sam glanced around to see where Tom was. Tom stood directly behind Sam – his face white as sheet, as he uneasily twisted and pulled on the hem of his t-shirt.
“C’mon, Tom. Everything is going to be okay. You, and Marnie and I will go hunt down the bad man, huh?” Sam spoke quietly.
Sam was unsure whether the bad man would be the hunted – or if they would be, but he had to do something. His friends were on the other side of the island, and someone had just screamed. Sam rationalized – he had Marnie’s gift to lead him in the right direction. Marnie would tell him if there was danger. She would know. Sam glanced down his sister. She was holding onto his index finger with her small hand. Sensing that Sam was looking at her, Marnie glance up.
“It’s okay, Sam. We’re okay,” Marnie reassured.
“Which way should we go, Squirt?” Sam asked. His gaze turning to the shoreline, and then back to the woods.
Marnie closed her eyes, and whispered. Tom tipped his head, and strained to listen to what Marnie was saying. Sam knew Marnie was speaking with her grandfather. Papa Jack always answered when Marnie called him.
“Papa says the water. He says the water is the way,” Marnie said with assurance.
“Marnie, you hold the back of my shirt with one hand, and hold Tom’s hand with the other, okay?” Sam said.
Marnie nodded, and grabbed ahold of the back of Sam’s shirt. She turned, and held out her other hand to Tom. Tom glanced at her hand, took a step back, and stared into Marnie’s green eyes.
“C’mon, Tom,” Marnie coaxed. “We’re okay. My Papa Jack is watching over us, and I’ll bet if you ask her, Annie will too.”
Tom closed his eyes, just as Marnie had done a few moments ago. He thought about Annie. She appeared to him, and she smiled. Tom’s mouth lifted into a small grin. He opened his eyes, and grabbed ahold of Marnie’s hand with confidence.
They set off to catch a bad man – Sam leading the way, and holding tightly to the driftwood club Marnie had found. Marnie held tight to the back of Sam’s shirt, and Tom, with all of his might, gripped tightly to Marnie’s other hand.
Sam, Marnie and Tom kept low, and moved quickly along the reedy and pebbled shoreline of the pond. Mosquitos buzzed around their ears, and dragonfly wings glinted iridescent blue and green in the bright sunlight.
Marnie stumbled over a tree root, lost her grip on Sam’s shirt, and toppled into the shallow pond with a small splash. Tom, still gripping Marnie’s hand, stumbled sideways, clumsily reached for a seedling with his free hand, and saved himself from following Marnie into the water.
“Stupid tree!” Marnie hissed.
“Ow!” shouted Tom, as he scrambled to his feet.
“Shhh!” Sam held a finger to his lips, and then offered his hand to Marnie to help her up.
As Marnie and Tom collected themselves, another scream from the other side of the island made them all jump. Sam turned in the direction of the scream, and then to Marnie and Tom.
“You two stay here! I’m going to help. You stay crouched down here. Don’t move! I’ll come back to get you. If anyone comes near you, throw pebbles at them. Throw the pebbles really hard!” Sam darted off in the direction of the scream, leaving Marnie and Tom alone at the edge of the pond.
Frowning, Marnie rang out the water from her hair.
“I’m not staying here. I’m going to help,” Marnie said with determination.
Tom scowled. “Sam told us to stay here! We gotta stay here! He’ll get mad at us if we follow him.”
Marnie quirked her mouth, shook her head, bent down and started picking up pebbles. “Nah! He’ll be happy to see us. We’re gonna take these pebbles and chuck them real hard at the bad man,” Marnie replied. “Come on, Tom! Fill your pockets with pebbles!”
Tom threw up his hands. “Marnie, Sam said for us to stay here!”
Marnie stuck pebbles into her pocket, twitched up the corner of her mouth in thought, and glanced sideways at Tom. “Okay. You stay here. Mr. Barnes will keep you company. I’m going to help Sam!”
Tom’s violet eyes grew as large as saucers. “Mr. Barnes is here?” Tom asked, pointing a finger to the ground. “Mr. Barnes is here? Right now?”
Marnie shrugged. “Can’t you see him?”
Tom’s eyes darted left, then right. He turned in a circle, and then back to Marnie. “Nah! I don’t see anybody! You’re just tryin’ to scare me!”
Marnie quirked up the right corner of her mouth, held out her arms and shrugged. “Okay. You can stay here. I’m going to help my brother.”
Marnie waited. Tom stuck out his bottom lip as he thought about his options. Stay here with Mr. Barnes – the dead guy, or go with Marnie, get yelled at by Sam, and run into a bad man. Tom glanced from left to right, his furrowed brow relaxed slightly when he spied a rusty crow bar leaning against a tree. Tom bent to pick up the crow bar just as another scream echoed. Tom’s face clouded with anger. He picked up the crow bar, swung it onto his shoulder, and stomped toward Marnie. He grabbed her hand, and pulled her along the pebbly path.
“C’mon, Marn! We’re gonna get that bad man! Making girls scream – that’s… that’s… Well, I’m gonna whack him!”
Marnie grinned just a little. “Okay! Let’s get him, Tom! Let’s beat up that bad man!”
Marnie and Tom marched around the edge of the pond, holding tightly to each other’s hand. As they drew closer to the sounds of splashing and murmured conversations, they slowed their pace, and crouched down a bit. Peeking through the long grass, they could see Sam speaking with a group of kids about his age. He turned in their direction, but he didn’t see them.
“Okay! I’ll be back in a sec. I’ve gotta go back and get my sister and her friend. If I had known about that tree swing over the pond, I wouldn’t have thought someone was hurt. Why do girls always have to scream?” Sam laughed, and then turned in the direction of Marnie and Tom.
Marnie and Tom exchanged glances.
“We better go back to where Sam told us to stay,” Tom whispered.
Marnie nodded, and turned to race back to where her brother had left them before Sam caught them lurking in the reeds. Marnie and Tom stopped dead in the tracks. A man stood in front of them – he was huge – bigger than any one Marnie had ever seen in her life. Mr. Barnes stood to the side of the man – he was motioning for Marnie and Tom to turn and run, but both Marnie and Tom froze.
…to be continued