Well, what happened is: We just went along. What could they do about it? We were on the boat. They didn’t want to go back to Put-in-Bay and lose the afternoon (and it was a beautiful afternoon—bright and blue and cloudless). They put us up on the deck so we could see, told us to shut up and leave them alone. Which we were perfectly glad to do. Oh, and they also told us they’d have a few things to say to our parents—and maybe the Coast Guard—when we got back. That we were not perfectly glad to hear.
We did have wonderful view from near starboard (right) side of the boat. We watched Middle Bass slip by us, and then, up ahead, also on the starboard side, Rattlesnake Island. I’d read about it, too. It’s only about eighty-five acres. I’d read that they named it, probably, not for any poisonous snakes but for its shape. Now it’s a private resort—with its own little airstrip.
I had to correct the college-boy captain of the Don Juan when he started telling stupid stories about how dangerous it is to be on the island, what with the thousands of rattlesnakes that are just waiting for you to land so that they can bite you, drag you back their caves and eat you. I could tell by his fiery face that he wasn’t too thrilled to be corrected by a sixth grader.
After we glided by Rattlesnake, we steered almost due south toward Green Island, looking ahead of us like the green, tree-covered mound it is. I was trying to spot the ruins of the old lighthouse I’d read about, but then remembered they were on the western side of the island—the other side. And as I was thinking about that, a humbled Harriet hovering by my side like a frightened child (which, for now, she was), I began to feel something ominous. The return of a headache, the same I’d felt when we were on the ferry the day before. The closer we got to Green, the more intense it became. It was all I could do to stand, gripping the rail that ran along the gunwale so fiercely that I felt it might snap.
Then the darkness dropped, almost immediately. There was no gradual dimming of light, no slow arrival of a weather front. One moment it was a sunny July afternoon; the next, a dark December evening. The air, bitter cold, reeked of rot. I could see nothing, hear nothing but a low, throbbing moan. I glanced to my side where Harriet had been standing. Nothing. She might have been there, but I never could have known. It was black, and no sound I made could compete with the thrumming that now seemed certain to shatter my eardrums. I released my grip to cover my ears.
A sudden jolt. Our boat had hit something? And I was in the air, and moments later, the icy water of Lake Erie. I heard a single splash beside me. A splash I hoped was Harriet.
Despite the sharp cold, the water was not deep—my good fortune. And even better fortune? Moments after I hit the water and heard the splash beside me, I heard Harriet’s cry: “Vickie! Are you there? Vickie!” She’d been catapulted overboard, too.
I answered, and we quickly found each other in the dark and the cold, my hand gripping hers with a grateful fierceness. “We’re close to the shore,” I said. “Just wade forward.” She mumbled a reply. Behind us, we could hear voices from the Don Juan.
“We hit a *** rock!”
“Let’s head back … we don’t want to sink out here.”
“Where are those two stupid girls?”
“They probably ran below.”
And we heard the Don Juan pull away, its revving engines drowning out our feeble cries for help.