John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“Things are different than they were in the olden days.”

“Underneath, things are always the same. On top, on the surface, all the fads and fancies and quote new ideas end quote are just a lot of random noise.”

“If you say so.”

“Think it out for yourself, Tod. The big words still work.”


“Do we have a deal?”

“I guess so. Okay.” The boy looked sidelong at him and got up from his position straddling the log. He bent and picked a sand spur off the side of his gray running shoe. He looked at Wade again and then walked over to the crest and looked out across the brushy meadowland. He had looked at his father with curiosity combined with a small astonishment. You have to keep showing them a little more of yourself each year that goes by, Wade thought, or you become a stick figure, a drawing of daddy, a kind of symbol of outgrown authority. And if you stay too far away from their sulks and despairs, you can end up like Bruce and Jean Addison wondering for the rest of their lives why they hadn’t given Karen some help before she hung herself.

“All yellow flowers, eh?” Tod asked.

“Yellow and gold. Thick with them. A big bright blanket.”

“Next month?”

“I’d say a couple or three weeks. There’s some just beginning to show over there on the far left.”

“It must be something to see.”

“If I get tied up at work or anything, take the Whaler and come out for a look. Bring a friend. And bring a sieve and a bucket. You can get some nice coquinas on the outside beach as it gets cooler.”

“I know.”

“Would you like to go take a look at Bernard Island? I can show you how Loomis claims he was going to subdivide it.”

“Why not?” the boy said listlessly. But, watching and listening carefully, Wade decided that the listlessness was not quite as genuine as it had been. Tod had adopted an attitude toward this little excursion today, and he was not about to abandon it all of a sudden no matter how he might feel about it. So it was a question of honor and of consistency. Wade had the belief he had pried open a small window and let in some light that sooner or later would become welcome.


Early on a lazy Sunday afternoon Tuck and Maria were entangled in another one of Maria’s experiments. She was unrelentingly inventive, and as intent, ritualistic and consumed as a child with a new dollhouse. The bedroom draperies were closed, leaving his room in a golden half-light. It diminished the contrast between their bodies, his crenelated skin, gray body hair, sagging brawn and her slender ivory elegance. He told himself he did not hear the door chimes. He told himself he had merely imagined them. At last Maria said in a rusty voice tight with strain, “Maybe they’ll go away. Oh God, make them go away. Please.”

He cursed, pulled away from her despite her groan of protest, donned his yellow terrycloth robe and padded to the front door. He saw that it was his dockmaster, Jack Simms, standing out there, reaching with his thumb to sound the chimes again. He opened the door and said, “For chrissake, Jack!”

“Jeez, I wake you up, Mr. Loomis? Hey, I’m sorry. I saw both your cars and I figured you were in.”

“What do you want?”

“I don’t know if it’s important or not. It’s about somebody talking to Ez Feeney about those deeds we’re supposed to forget about we ever signed them.”

His irritation faded. “That’s the gate guard, the tall skinny one?”

“Yes sir.”

“Come on in, Jack.” He took him to a corner of the big living room where a long couch and two chairs and a coffee table were placed to facilitate private conversations. Simms dusted the seat of his cutoffs with both hands before sitting cautiously on the couch.

“Who is talking to Feeney?”

“Well, not anymore. I mean it was back a ways, this man came to see him and said he was from the real estate people, Rowley/Gibbs. He faked Feeney out. Fed him some shit about how he could maybe get ten thousand dollars from the feds for having give up his land out on the island. Feeney told him that I couldn’t afford that kind of land either. He gave Feeney his business card, and his name is Wade Rowley.”

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