The morning dawned glorious on the island, bringing a golden sunrise and soft, steady breeze off the sea. The gulls busily patrolled the shoals for shell fish stranded by the tide, squawking greetings to each other as they kited above the beach. The ocean had gotten over its tantrum from the night before, and lapped gently at the shore, as if it had never seen a storm. The island itself, however, had plenty of scars from the night before.
Logan stood on the little deck that faced sea, sipping a cup of coffee surveying the damage left from the storm. Sand had whipped up and buried his walk way. The lone tamarack pine that shaded the cottage and stood tall and proud against the light tower, had lost its top and now stood humbled and dwarfed by the cottage. The power lines that connected his little cottage with the town lay in a tangle on the ground, wrapped hopelessly around the busted telephone pole that once supported them. The pole laid low his gate and part of the fence with it. The electricity would be off until the power company sent a crew from the mainland to replace the pole but he had his generator and his oil lamps, so Logan was not terribly concerned.
It had taken the repair crew from the Coast Guard only an hour to get the lighthouse back online. They restarted the generator, recalibrated the timing, and checked the giant bulb for damage. It flickered back to life only an hour after it had gone dark. It had been the only light on the island until the sun rose. Then it dutifully blinked off, and went back to sleep until it would be called back into service at sunset.
It would be more of an issue for the school if the power was out for long. There were generators there of course, but they would be used only in the common areas, and only for emergencies. The dormitories would be dark. He smiled thinking about the fun the students would make of that. The great black out of October! Classes would surely be cancelled as many of the teach staff relied upon the ferry to get to and from the island.
The phone line lay in a tangle on the ground, so there would be no use trying to call up to the admin office. He glanced off toward the cliffs edge where the school’s fortress wall and turret stood. All looked dark, as he suspected. He could rightly assume it was safe for him to stay home, cozy in his cottage for the day, and who would fault him?
He felt a brush at his leg and heard the plaintive chirp of “feed me, please.”
“Ah, good morning Thistle.” He reached down and lifted the gray tabby, cuddling her on his shoulder for the morning snuggle. “I see you fared well in the night. Hungry?”
Thistle nestled down on his shoulder, burying her nose into his collar, purring.
“What’s that? Stay home? Thistle, you temptress, you know I have a duty to attend all those young minds. . . what? Closed you say? Are you sure? Well then, home for the day it is.”
He set her down on the wide deck rail, stroking her long coat. The cat, impatient for her breakfast, jumped down and trotted back into the cottage, headed for the cupboard where her food was kept.
“Coming, my lady. No rest for the weary servant, I see.”
Logan dutifully poured some kibble into a bowl and set it down under the kitchen window, where he happened to see a frazzled looking Nettie coming up his walk.
“Logan? Are you home?”
He hurried to greet her. “I’m here, what’s wrong Nettie? Did anyone get hurt in the storm?”
Nettie stood straight and loosed a sign of relief. “Lord no, I came to make sure you were ok. I’ve been worried all night.”
“Oh, why? Come in, I’ve got a kettle on the wood stove for coffee.”
“Why? Look around!”
Logan had not taken a full survey of his little yard from the front. Indeed the damage was a bit more than he had first thought. The tamarack had not only shed a few limbs, but half it’s trunk. Amid the tangle of telephone line there were other bits of debris, lawn chairs, flag poles, mailboxes–none of which belonged anywhere near Logan’s end of Gibbons Island. In the middle of the lane, lay the wreckage of lobster boat that had been berthed in the harbor not far from the ferry dock the night before. Looking further up the lane, there were more bits of buildings and boats strewn far and wide, all the way into town.
“See?” Nettie said, tugging at his arm, pointing toward the town. “The store’s a mess. The front porch blew clear into the street and took awning with it. Other than that, I’m good. The gas station is out of luck though. The canopy over the pumps fell right down.”
“I had no idea. . . well then, I guess school really is off for the day.”
Nettie laughed. “At least! I’ll have that coffee if you’re still offering.”
“Of course, come on it.”
He led her to the table, and set out the cups. The cottage seemed normal to Logan, as he never used the lights much anyway. His wood stove sufficed for his cooking needs and his oil lamps lit his way. He rather enjoyed the quiet brought about by the absence of the refrigerator hum, though he did make a mental note to only open the door briefly in order to keep the milk cold for Thistle and the half-and-half from going off. All in all, Logan’s only reminder of inside the cabin of any storm was the window that had blown open, the remains of the broken lamp still scattered on the floor.
“Watch yourself, there’s glass there.”
“Well I can see why they used to build them this way,” Nettie said, giving the thick timber door frame a pat. “This old lighthouse and cabin are probably the best built things on the island, besides the school of course.”
“I’d say you’re right. Once I latched the sash I never felt a breeze.” Logan poured some coffee, then cup in front of her. As he set down the sugar and half-and-half, he noticed the look she was giving him. “What is it, Nettie? Are you sure you’re ok?”
“That lightning bolt lit up this whole end of the island…it sounded like an atom bomb. How…did you not get hit?”
Logan sat down silently. “Bolt?”
“Land’s sake, Logan, I saw it. Everyone saw it. We thought the whole point exploded. It looked like your cabin was on fire. Like a big ball of fire. I couldn’t even make out the lighthouse in the glare. And it lasted a long time.”
She’s seen the light? He looked toward the shelf where he’d placed the box after locking it. It looked innocent enough, just a wooden box with a rusted old hinge. “The coast guard.”
“The coast guard, they sent a repair crew. They arrived just after I made it home. Perhaps it was the lights from the ship you saw? They were quite bright and their dock is right aside the cabin here.”
“It must have been but…sure looked like a fireball.” She set her cup down, not looking up as she spoke in a near whisper. “I thought I…I thought we lost you.”
Logan was taken aback, unprepared for Nettie’s tone, and not sure how to respond.
After a moment, she looked up with a little smile. “You didn’t call me to tell me you made it home, you silly ass.”
“Call—Oh! I promised and then…” he folded his hands and bowed his head. “Guilty. I forgot. I am truly sorry, Nettie. I had no idea you’d worry.” He smiled. “Thanks.”
She nodded, taking a sip from her cup. “Phone line was down anyway. Only thing on the island that’s working is the lighthouse. Fat lot of good that does the rest of us though.”
“Oh I don’t know,” he said with a raised a brow and a side glance. “It keeps us safe from the curse.”
“Oh, you!” She laughed, waving her hand. “I don’t believe that old curse. Do you?”
“Absolutely,” he said then sipped his coffee. “And so does Thistle.”
“Oh well then, it must be true. Cats know these things.” She pushed her cup away then stood with a sigh. “Well, thank you for the coffee, but I need to get back down to the store. I’m still open, even if the porch is gone.”
“Doing any business?”
“Well, there’s a run on candles, go figure. I left my niece, Lucy in charge. She’s got a wicked bit of huskter in her, and a nose for a profit. She’ll open the birthday candles and sell ’em one at a time for a buck a piece if I don’t rein her in.”
Logan led her to the door. “I’ll walk that far with you if you don’t mind. I need to get over to the school.”
Nettie’s smile brightened. “I’d enjoy the company. You goin’ to school anyway?”
“Half the staff will be stranded on the mainland. The students are going to need a bit of managing,” he said, pulling his jacket on.
“In other words, you’re worried they’ll go wild and run the provost up the flagpole by his underpants,” Nettie suggested with a wink.
“Indeed, you’ve guessed it. And after all, when they do, they’ll need my advice on how high to raise him.”