So school and holidays slowly returned to their normal patterns. And I went to school, endured my classes (every now and then—something interesting; not as often as I wanted—especially after my year with Mrs. Falkner), played and talked with Harriet at lunch, then home to read and work in the basement, figuring things out … reading in the evening. Doing what little homework I had to do.
Mrs. Eastbrook and Harriet were often at our house—or we were at theirs—and this was very comfortable for both Harriet and me. We both liked the other’s parent. It was a nice arrangement. Two families joining. Sort of. At first, both Harriet and I had thought that maybe our parents would do more than socialize—that they’d marry, join our families officially. But that didn’t seem to be happening, and pretty soon both Harriet and I were considering the other’s parent more like an aunt or uncle. And Father and Mrs. Eastbrook acted toward each other—certainly around us—more like brother and sister, not a husband and wife.
Father always took his two vacation weeks in late July, and we always went to the same place, one of the islands in Lake Erie. There are lots of them in the western part of the lake, ranging in size from Kelleys Island (nearly 3000 acres) to tiny ones where there’s hardly even room to take a single step. Some of the names are so strange, too: Mouse Island, West Sister, Green Island, Sugar Island. Some are open to the public, some are owned by the U. S. or Canadian government, some are refuges for birds and other wildlife, some are private property. One—Rattlesnake Island, a creepy name—is a private club, the whole island.
Look at a map of Ohio, and you can see how we went. We drove north on I-77 to the Ohio Turnpike, then headed west to Exit 6, where we picked up Ohio Route 53, drove north to Catawba Point. There we caught one of the ferries—the Islander was my favorite—and chugged four miles to South Bass Island, usually called Put-In-Bay. The trip on the water took only about twenty minutes.[i]
In 1995, the summer after sixth grade, I convinced Father—and Mrs. Eastbrook, too—to let Harriet go with us. Her mother was a little reluctant—Harriet would miss some lessons, some club meetings—but when Father talked to her about all the exciting things we could do on Put-In Bay (and on the other islands, too), she finally gave in.
Father liked to get on the ferry before noon, and it was more than two hundred miles to Catawba Point from Franconia, so the night before we left, Harriet slept at our house so we could get an early start.
In the middle of the night, I woke up thirsty and went down to the kitchen for a drink of water. When I got back to my room, I could see in the dim glow of our nightlight that Harriet—though asleep—was twisting around on her bed and mumbling things I could not understand.
I went to her bed for a closer look. Her eyes were open and were moving rapidly around. The sounds she was making were louder, but still impossible to make any sense out of.
I leaned over to her and whispered: “Harriet … Harriet … wake up.”
At first she did not respond to me at all, but when I repeated what I’d said—this time a little louder—she started up so suddenly that I yelped in surprise.
“Vickie!” she said. “What are you doing? You scared me!”
“I scared you!” I cried. “You scared me!”
“Yeah, you were twisting around on the bed, your eyes were swirling around, and—”
She sat up quickly and used both hands to smooth her long hair back out of her face. “Oh, Vickie,” she said, “I was having the worst dream!”
“It wasn’t the monster again, was it?”
We heard the door open. Father!
“Girls? Is everything all right?” He flipped on the light. “I heard some noises coming from here.”
“I just had a bad dream, Mr. Stone,” said Harriet. “I’m okay now.”
“Are you sure? Is there anything I can do?”
“I’m sure.” She made a laughing sound that I knew was not real. “It was a dumb dream, really. I’m sorry I woke you up.” She sort of laughed again.
“All right,” said Father. “Be sure to let me know if I can do anything, though.”
He turned out the light, pulled the door softly shut. I sat in bed beside Harriet; she was shivering with fright. “Don’t talk about it too much,” I warned. “I’ve heard that if you talk about a bad dream, you’ll remember it—maybe even dream it again.”
“Okay,” she said in a very small voice. “But there’s just one thing …”
“There was a big snake thing, Vickie.”
“It was in a lake,” she said. “It was swimming across a great big lake.”