The beach at Economy Lake was quite rocky, with hardly a spot to place a bare foot on solid ground. Tufts of grass were known to hide little pockets of broken freshwater clamshells. Susan complained about these rough conditions on her feet each time her mother asked her to play outside.
Since daddy wasn't here, she felt like she was underfoot all the time. And playing on the beach was her escape.
"Well then wear your sneakers," her mother said. "It's quite a simple plan. There now, no more feet getting torn and scratched."
Susan found out mommy was right.
Water had to be hauled from the lake; dishes needed washing and a general tidying up required. There was so much going on, she was glad to help in any way. That gave mommy a chance to be by herself. "Private time," she called it.
Susan had wanted to go to Truro with her daddy, but he said she would be in the way. She knew the real reason, though. Danny must have done something bad, because daddy was very upset.
He tried to make up a whole bunch of excuses like---"Need to go shopping for food," and "Got to make phone calls to the Children's Aid," and "Maybe I should check something out at work."
But she knew daddy needed to talk to the Police. "And I have to contact our insurance agent in case other damages are found," she also heard him say to mommy.
Susan decided to take a little rest and carefully placed the tea towel on the sink before stepping outside the trailer. She noticed her mother still looking out over the lake. "Okay mommy," she smiled as she was waved over. “Look, a pretty seashell!" Susan shouted, holding it up proudly. "Now let's walk together. Okay, just you and me."
Her mother agreed it was a good idea.
"That's a lake clam shell, dear. You need salt water for a sea shell." Then Anne proceeded to give a short lesson on various shells, as she stepped barefoot in the shallow water. So much for that great advice to Susan a short while ago, Anne reminded herself.
She was raised on a farm along the shores of Cape Spear near Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick. And it taught her a lot about the ocean. Anne explained the differences between Mussels, Quahogs and Razor Clams. Susan was a good listener.
"Oh, the water feels so good she said. Where's Walt?”
"He's getting hotdog sticks for our campfire tonight. You didn't forget, did you mommy?"
"Right." Anne did forget. A promise is a promise. It is truly fascinating how children remember things adults sometimes wish they would forget. And yet that's what makes them loveable little people. At times they continue to prod, remind and startle you, all in the same few minutes.
"You startled me, Walt."
"Well. What do you think? Neat, eh?"
"Don't you think the sticks are too short? You might have to sit in the fire to cook your dogs."
"Mom, they're OK. You'll see."
She looked out over the lake and mused about the island in the distance. It didn't look so far away, now that the mist had cleared. Anne agreed with Larry it might be a good idea to explore it with the kids. From here it looked rather mysterious.
As Anne cupped her eyes from the sun, she thought she saw a plane circling the island. Or, maybe it was an eagle.
Danny was watching the scene below. He knew he couldn’t be seen from his spot high up on the rocky ridge. There was a clear view through the leaves from here and he could observe most activities going on in the campsite.
Good thing he had taken the 7X50 Busch binoculars from the Reynolds home. They surely brought up the view. He could even read words on the side of the trailer---Prowler. Not much farther away a woman and two children stood still by the beach. They were staring up at the sky.
He wondered what they were looking at.
The boy must be Walt and the girl, Susan. Yes, it's them, the whole Reynolds family. Well, almost all there, except for the father. Or, should he say, his father?
It was too far away to make out their exact features, especially with tree branches blowing back and forth. Danny had walked all around the old campground last night before finding them. Their site was in a quiet section near the far end of the grounds. Since no other lights showed, except for that old lady's in her small trailer on the far side, he had to be very quiet.
Danny didn’t have to be too bright to know this must be Economy Lake, from the broken sign that only had "OMY LAKE" left. Something must have eaten the first half. Mr. Lapointe once told him porcupines liked that kind of stuff. Or else someone had blasted it off with a shotgun, using it for target practice.
Right now he felt like finishing off the other part.
Danny was able to sneak close enough to confirm their names. It wasn't too difficult, since no one had any inkling of being observed. They had no need to. Without other campers in the vicinity it was easy moving around and listening to their conversations. Voices carried easily in the evening's stillness, especially since the children always seemed to be shouting.
He read some of the mail at their house that identified Anne and Larry. Also report cards at the house told him both children were quite intelligent. Walt and Susan were nice names. Even Danny realized it wasn't polite reading someone else's private letters. But he had to.
Now he crept slowly past the trailer when everyone finally stopped talking. It was lonely sitting by the shore throwing stares into the lake. He thought about what he planned to do. He resolved to carry out his plan and give the whole family a good scare. It would be a form of punishment, something they would never forget.
The man, his father, was gone down the road somewhere. Probably went for more food. Danny had seen him drive away this morning. Supposed to be staying overnight in town he heard. Now Danny had a chance to do something quickly. To leave some sort of message, just in case the father---his father changed his mind and came back tonight.
Danny used a sharp rock to scratch a message on the side of the trailer, facing away from the lake. Then he cut a small hole in the canvas with the blade from his pocketknife. It was large enough to see what stuff they had inside; might be handy in case he wanted to "borrow" something.
He almost giggled as he made his way back to his little spot several hundred feet away, underneath a large spruce. It was a cozy hideaway, from which he could easily see the trailer.
It had taken him almost an hour to construct his cozy shelter made of carefully selected spruce boughs. The natural camouflage easily hid his pup tent from observation. At the same time he kept a careful eye out for the return of the kids or their mom. They must have gone for a long hike along the shore. Or they might have gone for a dip.
That gave him more than enough time to complete his project.
His Boy Scout training taught him to use young boughs for a soft mattress under his tent. It also provided a shield of insulation above the cold ground. Then he crawled into his sleeping bag for a short rest. Danny was not looking forward to another night of being alone. It wasn't the same as being in a house with solid walls.
In the outdoors there was only you and the wind, and wild animals.
During the night his leg began to itch. Scratching didn't help. It wasn't too bothersome at first then a pain made its presence known. He turned over onto his left side. The boy tossed and turned restlessly, mumbling incoherently.
One leg remained outside his sleeping bag, his pant leg moving up the calf. His shirt top opened, taut skin showing. Bony ribs against the pink acted as protruding steps across his chest. Danny knew he was too skinny. Even at school, his chums call him "bones." That’s why he didn't learn how to swim very well. This kid didn’t plan to be on public display for anyone.
His lips moved soundlessly. Turmoil seemed to be taking place within his mind. An image on the edge of darkness, someone with shadowy eyes, now replaced with a stream of light. It's the moon. His eyes opened wide as a dazzling moonbeam entered the tent’s open doorway, then across his freckled face.
He experienced a tingling feeling. As if he was on a path from earth to sky. It's a strange sensation, sort of soothing and comforting at the same time. From far away, voices seem to vibrate through his inner being. And words collect in phrases that seem to pierce his tough-guy attitude.
"Don't give up on yourself, Danny, I love you." His mind reacts. Cloudy thoughts develop into visions of anger. He's confused. His father wants to be forgiven. “No, go away. You don't love me. Mom, you said things would get better. You promised" his very own voice cried out in the darkness.
Danny exhaled deeply as he completed his dream. Drifting off into the thankfulness of rest, sleep curled around his thin frame.
Somehow he didn't feel so alone anymore.
Larry’s station wagon woke everyone up. A couple of backfires in the forest created a disturbance in the orderliness of Nature. It sounded as if the muffler had blown off. Now there was a loud sputtering as trails of smoke marked his return journey.
He was driving with determination, so that he could have a special day today. He needed to have fun with his family and provide them with some great memories. It was the only way he knew how to wipe away the sadness threatening to build even more in his heart.
Susan was first to poke her head from the tent trailer. "Daddy!" she shouted. It marked the beginning of good moments.
Later, they took pictures, laughed at each other's antics, and chased through the woods and back until they fell on top of each other gasping for air.
The day was truly blessed. Good weather, the sun shining just right, and marshmallow clouds floating across a blue sky. Canoes were prepared for a trip around the shoreline. Trout poked their heads above the now disturbed lake surface and teased them into action.
After Larry’s earlier hugs and "Hello's" it was more "fun-time," the way he believed a family should enjoy each other's company.
Then both parents fulfilled a promise and took their children fishing. Adults watched in fascination as young shouts of glee greeted each nibble. Both Walt and Susan were ecstatic as they each landed two trout. Cooking would come later, after reminiscing about their adventures.
Anne had Susan in her canoe and Larry had Walt. "Everyone wears lifejackets," Anne had said before they started. She spotted Walt trying to forget his just because he was an excellent swimmer.
"Everyone wears lifejackets!" Larry had thundered at the time, in full support of his wife. No way was he going to give Walt a chance to try and negotiate anything. "Walt, remember our trip, just the two of us? Don't blow it."
How could the boy forget? He was so excited, just the two of them. Father and son were going on a canoe overnight to the island, just the two of them. "Right, dad. I promise. It won't happen again."
Larry and Anne had decided it was crucial for each of them to spend extra time with each child, one on one. It was important for them to feel extra special. And it would certainly assist in their maturing, helping them realize one day they would be separated. Perhaps by large distances, so this time together was extremely important.
Neither of them looked forward to the day their children moved out on their own. They wanted to make the most in the sunlight of each other's company. Anne was comfortable about being alone with Susan, since the island wasn't so far away. And the boys would be gone only one night.
Yes. Anne and Susan would be just fine.