The house is old, the ceilings low and the stairs steep. Painted on the risers are these words: "Watch Your Step. It May Be Your Last." The walls are unpainted tongue and groove pine....that is, where there are walls. The kitchen is just exposed ancient heart pine framing members. There is an old metal bed in the downstairs bedroom, and a dresser pushed up against the wall. A few simple chairs and a table or two adorn the living room. A wooden cable spool, covered with seashells, rests on the screened in porch. Across the dirt road, past the marsh grass, a lonely red light flashes languidly on a channel marker. In the distance I hear the distinctive "quawk" of a night heron. A few scattered stars peek out from an overcast sky.
Inside, six friends sit around the poker table. Nearby, scribbled on the wall are the penciled accounts of the 1933 & 1944 hurricanes ("14 foot tides," "Island completely under water," ""3 feet of water pounding through this cottage, "Porch blown off and front windows shattered"). But this night is quiet. We push the windows open and prop them up with sticks lying on the sills. Only a gentle breeze rustles the cotton curtains.
We play until midnight.
I get on my bike and pedal through the dark, silent village. On Lawton Lane I spy my porch light welcoming me home. I walk up my stairs, crawl into bed, and fall asleep.
This month's newsletter discusses the planned replacement of the seven bridges on Ocracoke Island in early 2008, and explains some of the issues we will face. You can read it here.