Chapter Sixteen

Blaine Hall, Room B102
University of Washington, Seattle
March 21, 1957

Dear Mother and Daddy,
I just finished my human paleontology final exam - the last one of winter quarter. A week ago the professor, Dr. Osborne, told the class he’d give us as long as we wanted for the normally three-hour test; I’m not sure now if he was joking, but I thought he meant it at the time, so I showed up at eight for the final with four blue books in hand. At eleven o’clock I was just getting started - you can imagine my horror when he called for the blue books! I reminded Dr. O. of what he’d said, and he asked me to follow him to the Anthropology Department. I wrote for the next two hours, regurgitating every mandible, cranium and femur ever discovered. I think I got a good grade in that course.
I’m eager to see your new apartment, but something’s come up here, so I plan to spend spring break in Seattle...

When the alarm clock rang at three thirty Saturday morning at the end of finals week, it took me half a minute of fumbling in the dark before I could silence the buzzer. I got dressed, lifted my duffle bag over my shoulder, and tiptoed downstairs. The kitchen staff would arrive at five thirty, heralding breakfast with the aroma of frying bacon, but at three thirty the first floor was deserted. Although I could have gone stomping through the living room without anyone’s hearing me, I walked stealthily, keeping to the rug, and avoiding the creaking floorboards. The lock on the front door opened with a resounding thunk; I went outside and pulled the door closed behind me, and as the lock slid noisily back in place, I hoped I hadn’t forgotten anything.
David was waiting for me in the driveway; he put my duffle bag in the trunk beside his own and gave me a quick kiss. His unshaven cheek brushed against mine; it felt like sandpaper, and I reached up to touch his face.
     “Sorry, I overslept. I’ll shave on the boat. I don’t suppose you’ve eaten anything, have you?”
     I shook my head.
     “Me neither. We ought to have breakfast before we leave; this is going to be a long day.”
David pulled in at a truck stop on the way to the marina. In contrast to the silent residence hall and the empty streets, the parking lot full of men chatting and smoking cigarettes was an oasis of activity in a dark city two hours before sunrise. We took seats at the counter next to a group of truck drivers engaged in a lively discussion with the waitress, a leather-faced woman in her late forties whose straw-colored hair clashed with her olive complexion. The man sitting beside me had his sleeves rolled up and his elbows on the counter, exposing a devil with an octopus tentacle for a tongue tattooed on his left forearm.
“Shee-it,” he exclaimed, waving cigarette smoke in my face. “If it was up to me we’d go into Hungry and drop an A-bomb on the Reds. You know why we don’t? It’s the damn Jews and Commies in Washington.” David nudged me with his elbow. “Hell, you know the Russkis are goin’ to attack us sooner or later, so why don’t we beat’em to it? Those guys in Congress are yellow, that’s why.”
The waitress refilled his coffee cup. “Yeah,” she agreed, "those fuckers don’t have any balls.”

When we reached the marina it was still dark, and David started the outboard immediately, eager to get underway. As soon as we cleared the breakwater, he turned the tiller over to me and went on deck to hoist the sails. Together we’d studied the chart of lower Puget Sound: we would leave Seattle before dawn and head north toward Whidbey Island, pass it to port, and continue up the Saratoga Passage into Skagit Bay. David was timing the trip to take advantage of the slack current at Deception Pass, a narrow and turbulent ribbon of water between Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands, where the swirling currents boil through at speeds up to nine knots at maximum flood. According to his calculations, slack water would occur at six in the afternoon, and we had to be ready to transit the pass precisely at that time or anchor somewhere and wait until the following day. Once through Deception Pass we faced another open stretch across the Rosario Strait that divides the eastern portion of the Sound from the San Juans.
David’s destination was Boone Island, scarcely more than a dot on the chart, one of the many small outcroppings in the southern San Juan chain. He was purposely mysterious; he told me only that he’d visited the island once a couple of years before and had always planned to return.
Aboard Sturmvogel, I’d never been out of sight of Seattle, and I watched eagerly as the lights of the city receded in the distance, replaced at dawn by steep evergreen-clad shores to the north. The weather was clear with just enough wind to sail, but David kept the motor going because we had a schedule to meet.
We took turns steering and navigating; using a hand compass, I marked the bearings of buoys, bluffs and towers, charting our steady progress northward. Even though the city was far out of sight, civilization still surrounded us. We passed a number of towns on Whidbey Island, an occasional sea plane flew overhead, and we saw a few ferries and other small boats, powerboats mostly, carving broad V’s in the water in their hurried passage north.
We reached Skagit Bay by late afternoon and since David calculated we would keep our rendezvous with Deception Pass on time, he turned off the motor and we sailed for an hour before sighting the bridge over the channel. To port lay lovely Cornet bay, and we debated whether to anchor there for the night. I wanted to stay; we'd already been underway for more than twelve hours, and I felt apprehensive about trying to find Boone Island in the dark, but David prevailed. I cast a wistful glance at the bay as we headed for the narrow passage between the steep wooded bluffs, and understood how Columbus' sailors felt gazing back at the Pillars of Hercules.
After the anxiety of going through Deception Pass, the glassy smoothness of Rosario Strait was almost anti-climactic. David set a compass course and noted the log reading; with darkness obscuring the landmarks, we would be navigating by instruments from that point. The wind died to a whisper and David started the outboard again while I went below to open a couple cans of stew and heat the coffee. We ate dinner in the cockpit, spooning our stew from deep plastic soup bowls, while watching the sun go down behind the forested mountaintops.
David knew much of Puget Sound's history and, as night fell, he told me stories of Indian raids on the first settlements, of the smuggling of Chinese laborers and of the early British exploring parties. The last thing I remember is his story about a farmer who found a cache of smuggled opium and used the drug to cover his barn, thinking the brownish-red material was paint.
“Kate, wake up; we’re here.”
I yawned and looked around. A full moon was just rising in the east and to the west a black silhouette loomed out of the water, but in the dark I couldn't make out the features of the island, if indeed it was an island.
“How long was I asleep?”
“I’m not sure, maybe about an hour. You don’t do much for my ego. I was rambling on at great length how the Haidas tried to massacre the governor’s family back in the Indian Wars of 1856, when I realized my entire audience had fallen asleep. It’s an occupational hazard for a biochemist.” He gave my shoulder an affectionate squeeze. “That’s Boone Island over there. I’m going to cut our speed and head for the cove. How about getting the windlass handle for me?”
We approached the island slowly, and as we neared the shore, I could make out a tiny bay, barely large enough for three boats to anchor, a thin strip of beach and, behind the beach, a solid phalanx of trees, somber and indistinguishable in the moonlight.
“How deep is it in here?” I called from the foredeck.
“About twelve feet; when you’ve let out fifty feet of chain let me know and I’ll start backing down.”
David brought the boat to a halt and I let go on the windlass. The 35-pound anchor splashed into the blackness below, followed by the rattle of chain on the bow rollers. When the anchor was set, I sat with my back against the mast and watched the moon trace an undulating pencil of light across the surface of the bay; the scent of evergreens drifted from the island. Daybreak would bring airplanes overhead and powerboats out in the strait; perhaps the island was inhabited. David hadn’t told me. But for that one night were isolated from man and from the works of man.
I returned to the cockpit, where David was holding a small flashlight between his teeth and writing in the log.
“What a beautiful evening,” I sighed.
“Isn’t it though? After that nap you should be good for another two or three hours at least. How about joining me in a cup of hot buttered rum.”
“Is it big enough to hold both of us?”
“Smartass!” David exclaimed, whacking me across the bottom.
He went below, lit a match and Taylor roared into action. With the burner’s orange flame illuminating the galley, I caught sight of the dirty dishes in the sink.
“While you’re down there, could you heat me some water for washing the dishes?”
“Leave them for tomorrow.”
“No, I don’t want to face dirty dishes first thing in the morning. I’ll wash them before we go to bed.”
David didn’t answer and I heard him filling the tea kettle.
When he returned a few minutes later, he was carrying two steaming mugs.
“Here, try this; I didn’t put much rum in yours.”
I tasted the drink. “Mmmm it’s good.”
David sat down in the cockpit beside me and extended his long legs across the well to the seat opposite. I snuggled close against him.
“Have I told you today that I love you?” I asked.
“No, I don’t believe so. That’s a capital offense aboard the good ship Sturmvogel. It’s called disrespect for a ship’s officer and the punishment is keelhauling.”
“What’s keelhauling?”
“The captain takes the miscreant below, strips her naked and … hauls up to her keel.”
I laughed. “You can be so silly sometimes. When I see you in public, proper and dignified, as you were at the AAAS convention, I can scarcely believe this side of you exists.”
“I know. I’m schizoid. The other me is Leopold. I like David much better, don’t you? Leopold‘s such a pompous windbag.”
We sat for a long time in silence, enjoying the night, relishing the thought of having no schedule for the next six days, no watches to look at. I was falling asleep with my head on David’s shoulder when an eerie wail floated through the trees and across the water.
“What’s that?” I asked, sitting up.
“A loon.”
“Oh.” I put my head back on David’s shoulder and shut my eyes. “Loon. Isn’t loon a lovely word? I remember when I was in high school and used to shelve books in the library. There was a novel called Loon Feather. I always meant to read the book because of the beautiful title, but I never did. It was about the Chippewa Indians, or maybe it was the Iroquois. What were the six tribes of the Iroquois nation? The Oneida, the Onondaga …"
“You’re not making a whole lot of sense.”
“I know; I feel all warm and sleepy. It must be the rum.”
“I didn’t put enough rum in yours to make a kitten tipsy. I think you’re a closet narcoleptic. Come on, Kate, let’s clean up the galley. You wash, I’ll dry – and we’ll go to bed.”
David lit the kerosene lamps and we washed the dishes. When he’d dried the last bowl, David disappeared into the forward cabin and returned with two sleeping bags, his old blue one and a red bag I’d never seen before.
“I have something to show you. You see this sleeping bag? It’s brand new. Now I don’t want you getting any grandiose idea that I bought the bag for you, because you made it abundantly clear to me at Christmas how you feel about receiving gifts. On the contrary. The bag's for any young woman who spends the night aboard with me, so tonight you may use it.” David was having a hard time keeping a straight face. “It has one interesting feature.” He opened both bags, laid one on top of the other, and zipped them together, making a double bag.
“There! What do you think of that?”
“Very cozy. Tell me, am I the first one to try it out?”
“Let me see,” he said with mock seriousness. “Well, there was Janet, and then there was Linda and then…”
I wadded up one end of the bag and tried to cram it in his mouth. “I always suspected you had a sadistic streak.” We struggled for the bag and fell on the bunk, laughing. David propped himself up on one elbow and looked at me. “Kate, I love you.”
I took his face between my hands and kissed him. “I’m so glad we came here.”
“It’s time for sleep.”
“Sleep?” I asked mischievously.
David became serious. “Yes, sleep. Remember the conversation we had last week? We have plenty of time for sex; tonight we can be lovers in a different way.”
I changed my clothes in the small head compartment and put on a heavy flannel nightgown, a “Mother Hubbard,” I’d bought in anticipation of the chilly nights.
“Good grief!” David exclaimed when I returned to the main cabin and pirouetted in front of him. “Who designed that thing? Margaret Sanger?”
“See? I’m doing my part.”
I climbed into the bag and flicked my tongue against his upper lip.
“Uh-uh. Not tonight. Let’s just cuddle.”
“’Cuddle’. How well you pronounced it.”
“I have an expert speech teacher.”
“Are you sleepy?”
“A little. Why, do you want to talk?”
“I’ve been wondering about something for a long time.”
“Would you tell me about Helen?”
I couldn’t see his face in the dark, but I felt him give a start.
“Where did you hear about Helen?”
“From you. The first day we met, when I came to the interview, don’t you remember? We were just saying goodbye and you asked Frank if I reminded him of her. Later on Frank told me he hardly knew her.” I realized bringing up Frank wasn’t a good idea, but it was too late.
“That's true, he didn’t. Helen moved back east shortly after Frank came to the university.”
“When I asked Frank about her, he wouldn’t say anything directly, but I could sense something was bothering him. What didn’t he want to tell me?”
“There isn’t much to tell. Helen was a graduate student in the department about three years ago. She was a little like you, slender, a bit taller, and very quiet. She wasn't in any of my classes, and for the first few months she was here I hardly noticed her; Helen was married and had a little boy, so she didn’t socialize much with the other students. Occasionally she spent a few evenings in the lab when her husband was out of town – he was a salesman – and she could get a babysitter. That’s how I got to know her; we had coffee together a few times. Poor Helen; she wanted so much to finish school and teach, but her husband had other ideas."
“Is that all you did, drink coffee and talk?”
“Kate, there was nothing between us.”
“But Frank was so evasive - something must have happened.”
David sighed. “I went to a party - it must have been about two years ago - at the apartment of a physiology professor. Helen was there, along with a number of the other graduate students and some of the younger staff, and when the party broke up, about one, I offered to give her a ride home. She'd seemed happy enough earlier, but as soon as we reached the car, Helen told me her husband had walked out, just packed his bags and disappeared.”
“Then what?”
“She stared to cry and I … "
"And you ...?"
"I tried to comfort her.”
“You kissed her.”
“All right, yes,” he replied huskily. “I kissed her; I can’t say I’m proud of my behavior that night.”
“What was Helen’s reaction?”
“She was like a lost child. She wasn’t looking for anything physical so much as sympathy. I know it sounds like I was taking advantage of her, but I swear what I did wasn’t premeditated. I had every intention of driving her home, seeing her to the front door and saying goodnight, but one minute she was crying and the next minute I was holding her.”
“Did you make love to her in the car?”
“No, but … no. Don’t torture me, Kate. I felt very ashamed afterwards; I still do.”
“What happened when you drove her home?”
“That’s the funny part, I didn't; the car wouldn’t start.”
“Oh, come on now!”
“Honestly; it’s God’s truth. The battery was stone dead. I didn’t want return to the apartment because I was quite sure I had lipstick on my face, so I took a long walk in the rain to find a phone booth; I called the Triple A and a cab for Helen. By the time I reached the car I’d sobered up – I don’t mean I was drunk, just carried away – and I’d regained my senses. I paid the cab driver and Helen went home while I waited for the road service. A week later she dropped out of school and moved back with her parents. She wrote me a note thanking me for my help – no mention of the party - and I answered, wishing her good luck. End of story.”
“If the car had started and you’d taken her home, would you have slept with her?”
He sighed again. “Helen had a baby sitter, so maybe she wouldn’t have invited me in. If she had …I like to think I would have said goodnight to her at the door.”
“But you’re not sure?”
“You’re not merely jumping to conclusions, you’re vaulting across whole canyons. For God’s sake, don’t rake me over the coals for something that never happened.”
“Did anyone else know? When I asked Frank, he said gossip really gets around in your department, but he’d never heard a word about you and Helen. At the same time, I could tell he was hiding something.”
“The coffee at the HUB was public and completely innocent. Frank left the party long before Helen and I did, but maybe someone just happened to mention to him later that I gave her a ride and his imagination supplied the rest. As for what occurred in the car ... I was parked more than two blocks from the party. I’m positive no one saw us. Frank’s antennae are always working and he’s incredibly perceptive, so if anyone was going to be suspicious, it was sure to be Frank. I’m sorry I told you; I can see you’re upset.”
“No, really, I’m not; I’m just sorry for Helen. Actually, I feel very objective about the whole thing. Was Helen in love with you?”
“Not for a minute. Unfortunately, other young women don’t find me as irresistible as you do. To begin with, I was much too old for her.”
     We both started to laugh.
The cry of a loon drifted across the water; I fell asleep in David’s arms, trying to remember the tribes of the Iroquois nation.

The sun was streaming through the open hatch when I awakened in the morning, and for an instant I couldn’t remember where I was. Then the memory of Saturday’s trip came back to me and I stretched, lazily. It was Sunday; David and I still had five whole days ahead of us before we had to return. David… suddenly I realized he wasn’t in the cabin.
“I’m out here.”
I sat up and saw him sitting in the cockpit, looking out over the water.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m making the sun rise.”
“You're what?”
“I’m making the sun rise. When I came out here at six it was still dark; I’ve been concentrating hard and behold,” he said, gesturing with his arm, “the sun's almost over the top of that mountain. Another fifteen minutes and you’ll be safe.”
“Safe from what?”
“From being sacrificed. Remember those Aztecs, how you told me they believed the sun wouldn’t rise without human blood to nourish him? I’d hate to offer you up now, just when I’m getting so fond of you.”
“Sorry, the sun prefers virgins. I’ve been 4-F since the New Year.”
     David stuck his tongue out at me. “Want some coffee?”
     “I’d love some,” I replied, snuggling back in the sleeping bag. He came down to the cabin, poured me a cup of coffee and held it out, a good six feet from where I was lying.
     “Aren’t you going to bring the coffee to me? Oh, David, have a heart; surely you don’t expect me to get up at this hour.”
     He sat down beside me. “What ‘this hour’? It’s seven o’clock.”
I sighed. “I thought we weren’t going to keep any schedules this week.”
“We’re not, but are you planning to spend our entire vacation in bed?”
I pulled the sleeping bag up to my chin and batted my eyelashes at him. “That’s not such a bad idea, is it?”
David yanked the bag down. “You little minx; I have a better idea. Let’s go for a swim and have breakfast on the island.”
“Swim over to the island! Are you crazy?” I sat up and looked out the porthole toward the beach. “Do you have any conception how cold the water is?”
“Indeed I do. It’s about eight degrees.”
“If it were eight degrees we’d be in pack ice.”
“Eight degrees Celsius. Listen to my idea. I’ll put everything we need – our clothing, towels, food and so forth - in this heavy plastic bag. Then I’ll tie the bag on top of the lifebuoy. You’ll go first and I’ll follow, towing the buoy. It can’t be more than a hundred feet to shore.”
“Beautiful,” I said, curling up in the bag once more. “Your plan has one fatal flaw.”
“I know you’re a good swimmer; don’t tell me you can’t swim.”
“It’s not that; I didn’t bring a bathing suit.”
“Neither did I; that’s the fun part.” David was grinning from ear to ear. “Come on lazybones, up!” He made a lunge for the sleeping bag, pulled the zipper down one side and uncovered me. In anticipation of enticing him back to bed with me, I had slipped off my nightgown.
“How efficient, you don’t even need to change.”
We packed the plastic bag with everything we needed for the day, including several pounds of Swiss cheese, water, a large salami and four cans of juice. When we were ready and David had the package tied to the lifebuoy, I stood hesitantly on the toe rail. I still felt shy to have David look at me naked, especially from a distance, and I waited with my arms crossed over my breasts.
“Don’t dive in,” he cautioned me. “The bay’s so cold you could gasp and take water into your lungs. Just ease into it, over the side”
I did as he instructed and gasped anyway, but at least my face was out of the water. My teeth chattering from the cold, I struck out immediately for the island, stopping only once to make sure David was right behind me. After what seemed like the crossing of the English Channel, my feet hit the sandy bottom and I waded ashore, picking my way gingerly among the rocks on the beach. David followed a moment later and I went back to the water’s edge to help him with the lifebuoy. Shivering with cold, we carried our provisions up to a sandy spot and lay down, hugging each other.
“I've read,”David mused, “that two hypothermic people warm up faster if they're of opposite sexes and in very close proximity to one another.”
“You're making this up.”
“Even if I am, don't you think it's an experiment worth conducting? In the interest of science, of course."
“It’ll never work; our swim transformed me into a permanently frigid woman, and look at you. You’re so shriveled you’ll never function again.”
“Don’t be too sure of that.” He pulled me to him and pressed me down in the sand.
“Right here? Out in the open like this?”

Hunger finally got us up. “We could eat here on the beach, but I have a better idea. The last time I was on this island I found a tiny pond a few minutes' walk inland; it’s sheltered and I think we’ll be warmer there.”
I opened the plastic bag and started to take out my blue jeans and t-shirt.
“Don’t put your clothes on; let me enjoy you this way.”
“What if there’s someone else on the island?”
“I don’t see how there can be. This cove is the only anchorage; on the rest of the island the banks are steep and the trees grow right down to the water’s edge. I know what you’re going to say – what if another boat comes in here?”
“I’ll smear my body with mud and run down to the beach screaming and brandishing a stick.”
The thought of David Rosenau, Ph.D. playing a lunatic made me laugh, and I agreed to leave my clothes in the bag. We pulled the lifebuoy above the high-water mark and went off in search of the pond, carrying our provisions with us.
Thirty feet beyond the beach the evergreens parted slightly, revealing an overgrown path leading to the interior of the island. We followed the trail through a miniature jungle of tree ferns until we reached a small pond – no more than forty feet across – fringed with tall grass along the shoreline. I stuck my foot in the water and found it was pleasantly warm; something darted in front of me and I recoiled.
“Look, David!” I exclaimed as a salamander came to rest on the surface, five feet from where I was standing.
He glanced at it. "Taricha torosa.”
“How do you know that?
“It’s a Pacific pond newt, a common laboratory animal.”
I waded into the water toward the newt, trying to repress a shudder of revulsion as mud oozed between my toes. One quick grab and he was mine. The newt was about six inches long and the color of terra cotta; he lay still in my hand and examined my thumb with curiosity. The newt’s flat head and upturned jaw gave him an endearing expression, rather like an amiable simpleton.
David followed me into the water, and we splashed along the shoreline like a couple of children, grabbing at the newts as they swam by.
“Well, if we’re stranded on this island at least we won’t starve,” David remarked as we released the last of our catch.
    “Ugh! I’d rather eat cheese and salami. How about it?”
     We waded to the bank, made a nest in the center of a tall clump of grass, and spread out a bath towel. David sat down cross-legged and started slicing the salami with his penknife while I opened the cans of tomato juice; we ate with our fingers, washed our hands in the pond, then lay down and dozed, warmed by the sun and secure in our grassy kingdom. A few flies buzzed overhead, but the twitch of a leg sent them away; now and then a dragonfly hovered over us, noiselessly, only to dart off. The island was awake.
I heard the drone of a small plane’s engine before I saw the plane itself, a one-engine Piper, flying about 1000 feet above us, directly over the island. I felt very naked. “Do you think the pilot can see us from up there?”
David squinted at the sky. “Probably not. If it'll make you feel more inconspicuous, I’ll camouflage you.” David reached up and drew a long blade of grass over me.
“Let’s stay here forever,” he suggested.
“We’ll eat clams …”
“… and oysters…”
“…and fish …”
“…and berries. Somebody did live on Boone Island once. The last time I was here, I found the ruins of a cabin about a quarter of a mile from this pond. Whoever he was, he had a vegetable garden that’s gone to weeds and he planted a small apple orchard. I’ll show you later.”
“Are we starting to live on the island right now, or are we going back to civilization first?”
David considered for a moment. “I think we’ll have to make one trip back – for seeds, you know, and a few chickens … and books, plenty of books.
“We’ll be like the Swiss Family Robinson” I giggled. “Where will we live?”
“I’ll build us a log cabin.”
“I’d rather have a tree house, one with a vine ladder. Why did they live in a tree anyway? Do you remember?”
“Probably because of all the dangerous animals on the island. I don’t think safety will be much of a problem here unless the newts mutate into dinosaurs.”
“All right then, we’ll live on the ground in a log cabin. What will we do all day? And what about Sturmvogel? We won’t sink her like the Bounty mutineers did when they reached Pitcairn Island, will we?”
“Oh no, we’ll need Sturmvogel so I can go fishing. I’ll carve a dugout canoe for going back and forth to the boat. When I’m not fishing, I’ll be farming. And you? Let’s see … you’ll be feeding the chickens, sewing our clothes and … taking care of the children, of course.”
I turned on my side to look at him. “Children?”
“Yes, children. We are going to have children, aren’t we?”
“I hadn’t got that far yet.” I started to laugh. “Did you ever read Cheaper by the Dozen?”
David shook his head.
“I read it about six years ago. I was so enchanted with the Gilbreth family that I decided someday I’d have twelve children, too. I worried I might not able to feed such a brood, so I came up with the idea of giving them dog food. To test my plan I made a dog food meatloaf for dinner one night and served it to my parents without telling them what was in the dish.”
“How did it taste?”
“It was awful! Just before dinner a friend of my parents dropped by unexpectedly, so of course they invited him to eat with us. He took one bite and got the queerest expression on his face! That poor meat loaf … it wouldn’t even hold together; it sort of disintegrated into a pulpy mess.”
“Twelve’s a bit many.”
“How many were you thinking of?”
David put his hand on my abdomen. “Oh, four or five.”
A cloud passed in front of the sun and I drew closer to David. We were straying into dangerous territory. David stood up and offered me his hand. “Come on; I’ll show you what’s left of the cabin and then we can dig clams for dinner.”

Go to Chapter Seventeen