Down East 2013 ©
After a remarkably mundane dinner at The Larboard — a dinner that consisted primarily of hot dogs, Shredded Wheat, and marshmallows — I decided to see what was happening in The Village. You know, journalistic inquiry and all that. It’s odd, though, that I rarely seem to wonder what’s happening in The Town. Maybe that’s because The Town is entirely predictable. Right now, the townspeople are walking along the damp and blustery streets, picking up stray twigs and saying hello to each other, talking about the wind as though it weren’t the exact same wind that blows across The Town every single day during the summer, wondering aloud who’s passing whom in the Race Toward Senility, and griping about how the young people never stay on the island for very long. Small town life is a lot like starring in a very short play with a lot of performances.
But things are always amazing in The Village, and that’s where I went. I talked Cory into giving me a ride down there, even though I knew she thought doing so was the equivalent of contracting jock itch on purpose. But The Village is the closest thing I have to my dream: wild living, unpredictability, and true freedom. I climbed out of the Homicidal Baby-Blue Bronco and walked over to a crowd of people lying around by the ocean. I could hear the tires squeal behind me as Cory shot back toward The Town.
The people were heavily into multiple cases of beer and numerous baggies of pot. I helped myself to a beer and flopped down on the sun-warmed stone next to a skinny guy named Dennis. I had seen Dennis before — he seems to live like a scavenger dog in The Village, eating scraps and drinking other people’s liquor — and I don’t like him very much. He seems to be one of those low-level addicts who maintain a solid buzz 24/7 and spend their time pestering people. He turned to face me with the goofy grin of someone who is seriously drunk but doesn’t know exactly why.
“Dude — gonna do it?” he slurred. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I shrugged and turned toward the sea.
“I’m not gonna, dude,” Dennis declared. Then he belched. Then he grinned with pride at the rendition. “No damn way I’m gonna do something like that, man.”
I shrugged again. I have no interest in what Dennis mumbles about when he’s plastered.
A short while later, after the sun had shifted enough to shine too much in my eyes, I got up and looked around. Up the beach a short way to the north, some Villagers were piling a bunch of driftwood, cabin parts, and lumber scraps into a rectangular heap about ten feet across and four feet high. I found another warm beer in a crumbling styro cooler and headed over to see what the wood pile was all about.
The director of the wood-heaping detail seemed to be a stout, red-faced woman who everyone calls Maple. I’d seen her around The Village a few times, and we talked for a little while during that first-night party, but I don’t really know her very well. She is in her mid-forties, with graying hair framing a perpetually sunburned forehead, and she sweats and pants all the time, like someone who never did the kinds of things that make people sweat and pant. She was urging Villagers to haul bleached logs from the beach stones and toss them high on the swelling pile. She found a shattered pallet in a weed-clogged crawl space under one of the cabins, and she dragged it along. I picked up the other end and helped her pitch it onto the heap.
“So what’s this for, anyway?” I asked in my best reportorial style.
“Walk tonight,” she said. It made no sense, but that didn’t stop her from acting as though it did. Not wanting to look entirely clueless, I nodded with great conviction.
“Walk,” I said. “Ah. Tonight, is it?”
Maple picked up a tide-battered sneaker, paled to nearly uniform white by the salt and the sun, and tossed it on top of the driftwood and scrap pile. I thought that the shoe fell a bit outside the general theme, being made of canvas and rubber instead of wood, but I opted against offering my critique. Instead, a made a note in my little Eastport Sun-issue reporter’s notebook: “Walk tonite — Maple.”
Maple gave me an exhausted stare, as though I should have received the memo instructing all junior reporters to report to Maple at noon sharp for the wood-piling detail. “I don’t know if you’re invited,” she said, blowing a stray wisp of grey hair out of her eyes.
Now The Village is many strange and wonderful things, but it is not long on decorum and formality. In The Village, you don’t really need an invitation for sex. So it was hard to imagine that the “Walk Tonight” was limited to some kind of secret-handshake crowd. I figured that Maple was just overheated and in need of some gentle, heart-to-heart conversational support from a professional trained in the art of listening.
“So tell me what the hell this ‘walk’ is,” I counseled, “or I’ll write nasty things about you in my blog.”
Maple decided to employ a seriously sweaty arm to wipe sweat from her seriously sweaty forehead, which basically amounted to an exchange of prisoners with no net gain for either side, and then she opted for a tone of address normally reserved for reassuring conversations between “Adults Who Know a Great Deal” and “Mewling Infants Who Still Think That Pooping is Scary.” From a journalistic standpoint, it worked for me.
“We’re firewalking,” Maple explained. “Tonight. We build a huge bonfire, we sit around it for a while drinking and smoking and chanting and aligning our auras with the mystical powers of the universe, and then we walk barefoot across the searing hot coals. Afterwards, the survivors have a lot of really great sex.”
I think she was pulling my leg on the “survivors and sex” part, but the event sounded pretty cool. It beats roasting marshmallows and singing campfire songs.
So I stuck around, despite my lack of an embossed invitation impregnated with florescent ink and implanted with microchip security devices. I suspected that I really wouldn’t need much of an excuse for being there.
—Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — Amber4295: Walk barefoot across hot coals? Like, what for?
Comment — SunTanDude: Sounds awesome! I’d do it if I were there.
Comment — NavyBrat414: Sounds stupid. You’re going to risk permanent injury for some silly little kick? No thanks. I’ll get my kicks in more meaningful ways.
Comment — PeaceNick: Like blowing up people who disagree with U ; ) ?
Comment — RedRooster: Live it up, mate. You only go around once in life.
Comment — BeatlesFan355: If you don’t do it, how are you going to know what it’s all about?
Comment — Gemstone: I don’t think you should along with this, Van. You really could get hurt.
Comment — MapleLeaf249: Go, Maple! Clearly a good Canadian woman.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here .