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Night on Manitou Island - Chapter Excerpt


“Get a move on, Teddy, or we’ll miss the boat back.”

            The two of them hurried along the sandy trail that hugged the outer fringes of Manitou Island. Overhead the sky was a radiant blue, with a veil of thin cloud drifting in from the west, where the deeper waters of Lake Michigan roiled and churned and sometimes strange things stirred to life.

As they jogged around the next bend, Amanda Albiston and her little brother, Teddy, found themselves much farther away from the lighthouse and the adjacent ferry pier than they had expected.

            “They’ll wait for us,” Teddy said, almost out of breath.

            “I don’t think so,” Amanda replied.

            “Sure they will.”

            “Run harder, will ya? Maybe we can still make it.”

            Teddy tried to keep up to his big sister, but it was no use. She was a good head taller than him and had a much longer stride, especially when she was upset or scared, as she was now.

After all, it had been her idea to go to Manitou Island, somehow convincing Mom that she was old enough, at 13 years old, to watch her younger brother for the day. Teddy was still surprised that Mom had gone for it. Yet it had given her a chance to relax at Nedows Bay Beach for the day with Kyle and Derrick, the two-year-old twins who took up so much of her time now. If Dad had beenhere, he would have gone with them. He always loved a good adventure. But he had to fly back to Chicago early. Once again the real world had gotten in the way.

            Amanda and Teddy ran along the switchback trail, through the last cluster of white oak and low-lying shrubs. Three long blasts from the ferry boat’s horn echoed through the forest.

            “It’s leaving,” Amanda said.

            The brother and sister still had one small hill to traverse before they were at the ferry dock. It wasn’t a big hill, the kind of obstacle that was easily forgotten amid the sights of Manitou Island – the groves of old growth white oaks, the deserted homesteads and the vintage lighthouse that towered one hundred feet over the south tip of the island.

            Above them, nearly invisible for now, a majestic full moon hung in the sky, just above the western horizon. It was the second full moon of the month. What some called the blue moon, a time when everything could be turned upside-down.

            As Amanda and Teddy crested that last hill and caught another look of the ferry pulling away, they knew they were too late.

            “Wait, wait for us,” Amanda shouted and jumped several times into the air as she reached the dock. “Please wait.”

            But the ferry with its white-colored hull was already moving well offshore.

            “It’ll come back,” Teddy said.

            “No, it won’t,” Amanda said, shaking her head. “It’s gone.”

            Indeed, it was. The sister and brother stood at the end of the wooden dock and watched the vessel as it rapidly pulled away, heading toward the lighthouse offshore and the remaining miles between them and the mainland. They stayed there, neither of them saying a word, watching until the ferry boat was nothing more than a dot.

            “When am I going to learn?” Amanda said. She sat down at the end of the pier, with her daypack lying alongside her. “I knew we needed to turn back earlier. But, no, you knew better.”

“It’ll be OK,” Teddy said as he scrambled down next to her. “I’m sorry. I just get carried away by new stuff. I mean, I wanted to see it all.”

“But they told us that was impossible,” Amanda said, glaring at him. “South Manitou is too big a place to see all in one day.”

“We came close,” Teddy said, trying to coax a smile out her.

“And because of it, we’re stuck here. A whole lot of fun that’s going to be.”

            They sat together at the end of the pier, gazing out at the deep channel separating them from the mainland.

            “Why can’t you ever listen to me?” Amanda asked.

            At such times, Teddy liked to pretend he was like a reed in a marsh; able to bend with the worst that the wind and the sky could bring down at him. Amanda was a year older than him, but when she became upset it was like she grew in force, like a goddess from an old myth or fairy tale.

            “It’s OK,” he repeated and dared to tap her on the back with his hand. “We’ll get out of this. We always do.”

            “And it will be my fault,” Amanda snapped. “My fault – again.”

            The view from the end of the pier was pristine and serene. Not that Teddy was dumb enough to point out such things, not now. But as he sat there, waiting for his sister to say something, even if it was to yell at him, he took in the blue waters, with the growing chop, that separated them from Leland and the cottage their family had rented for the weekend. Directly across the way was Sleeping Bear Dunes, the national seashore, with Pyramid Point, an impressive column of light-brown sand and scant vegetation, which looked close enough in the later afternoon sun.

            Teddy fished his cell phone out of the front pocket of his cargo shorts.

            “You sure you canget a signal?” Amanda asked.

            “Can’t hurt to try.”

            “Remember what the ferry captain said. We’re well offshore and even in Leland our cell reception was sketchy.”

            “Shhh,” Teddy told her. “Mom’s number is ringing.”

            Amanda watched as her little brother’s face broke into an excited smile. He began to talk but soon stopped.

            “Something happened,” Teddy said and stared down at the phone like it was a good friend that had somehow disappointed him.

            “Let me try the Bluebird,” he said, pressing more buttons, “where we’re supposed to have dinner.”

            “What can they do for us?”

            “Tell Mom, tell somebody,” Teddy said, “so they can get somebody out here to save us.”

Amanda started to answer, but Teddy waved her off, excited again.

“Hi there, we’re on that island,” he told somebody on the other end.

            “Manitou,” Amanda whispered. “South Manitou.”

            “We’re on South Manitou Island and we need some help. We got stuck out here. The ferry boat left us. I was wondering if somebody could –”

            Then he stopped and stared at his phone again.

            “What happened?” Amanda asked.

            “It broke up. Just like the other time.”

“Broke up?”

“Yeah, there was a buzz and it just cut out for some reason.”

“Try it again.”

Yet when Teddy did so, he couldn’t raise a soul.

“That’s weird,” he told his sister. 

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