Boats and Trucks and Elephant Seals

Wed, 11/28/2012 - 1:24pm

The Pesky Pond Troll of Clay Head Swamp (aka PPT) scampered down to the beach, such as it was post-storm, to enjoy the morning sun. It was November and a chill wind was blowing but it was still the sun, big and orange and glorious, “just like a shiny orange,” his less than poetic self thought.

It was cool, but he had his ever-perfect fur coat to keep him warm. The big rocks were still stone cold from the night, and logs freshly washed ashore were still damply cool from the sea, so he situated himself on a very big timber log that landed during the first big storm, one that had been there long enough to have been dried by the sun.

Things were very different. These storms had cut into his cliffs and great boulders had fallen to the beach, big enough to crush a little Pond Troll, and he was very glad he’d been sensible and stayed inside as much as he’d wanted to go out and yell into the wind, practicing his King Lear: “Howl, howl, howl, howl…” down there in the wind and rain, among the stones.

He studied many things from Shakespeare to the Farmers’ Almanac, but especially the Block Island boat schedule. During the summer he loved to watch the ferries pass, every day cheering on the traditional vessel even as the high speed zoomed past it like some floozy throwing her white feather boa over her shoulder, letting it trail behind her. It became more complicated in the fall, but the PPT enjoyed mastering the times and dates in the little boxes on the calendar the company distributed and people left scattered along Clay Head Trail. Well, maybe they didn’t exactly leave them… more they put down their backpacks, never suspecting there was a most clever Pond Troll in the bushes, waiting to rummage for snacks and treasures. People were funny, they always had redundancies: a B.I. Guide, a B.I. Times, a boat schedule, they didn’t need all that stuff, people got paid real money to sort through others’ accumulated junk and discard what they didn’t need. Anyway, he always left them with at least one publication and a bottle of water, he had no reason to feel guilty.

BUT, there was a boat going by and this, he was certain, was not an early boat day. It happened every now and then, some special charter, usually carrying fuel (whatever happened to the good old days when no one thought about the perils of people and propane?) but this had been happening too much lately.

The PPT was quite tech savvy and had access to all forms of news media and he had seen pictures of the damage to the road near town, built where roads probably shouldn’t be, right on the edge of the wild Atlantic, but that was another issue. He had dismissed the reports that the reconstruction was starting soon — when did that ever happen?! But all these boats needed to be investigated.

It was time to hitch a ride. He would have liked to have carried one of the numerous backpacks he’d liberated over the years, but he knew it attracted attention appearing to float down the road on its own. He snorted as he headed for the main road; that Potter kid had all that magic but he still needed a cloak to be invisible. (The PPT considered himself quite sophisticated, but in fact he had a bit of difficult separating fact and fiction, and fully expected to someday meet — well, sight — Harry the Wizard.) He, the PPT, didn’t need no stinkin’ invisibility cloak to stay out of sight! He didn’t even need to worry about footprints the way he used to — between the deer and dogs and big birds and human walkers, the ground was always disturbed.

It was a dump day, that was a good thing, he could just scramble up the embankment south of West Beach Road and hop onto the back of a truck. The vehicles were big, he was light-footed, no one ever noticed anything, they were too busy trying to pick up speed after turning the corner back onto the pavement.

He nodded his approval at the work being done on the pretty white house beside the road, it was one of this favorite houses. He did miss the man who used to live there. He always suspected that man knew about the PPT — he was never surprised when he picked up the glass he had set on the grass and the Scotch was drained from it.

Things looked okay, a branch fallen here and there, then the truck blew past Scotch Beach and the PPT almost fell out. All that sand! He looked at the dunes and they looked odd, still there but different, as if at every access the ocean had poured through carrying the beach inland.

He’d barely had time to process the thought when they reached the State Beach (he was NOT going to call it the Town Beach) although it looked more like a desert than a beach.

Then he saw them, piles and piles and piles and piles of rock along the road, turning it to a single lane highway, mountains of gray rock, quarried and cut, nothing like beach stone, more like photographs he’d seen of elephant seals cluttering beaches in California. He could count them if the driver would just slow down, and as if reading his mind the vehicle slowed, only to take the turn to the New Harbor. The PPT peered over the back to the truck and ohmygosh, there were even more piles of rock, extending out Corn Neck.

All those boats, all that rock, this was A Project! As the truck continued up past the Fire Barn, down by the Power Company, toward town, the PPT thought about how much he loved construction equipment; he even had several hard hats, his most cherished from the company that moved the Southeast Lighthouse. Maybe he could score another! Christmas was coming early. Then the truck made the Surf turn and his heart sank. The green light at the end of the breakwater was gone. How could that be, he thought fleetingly, before he saw IT, just in time to poise himself to leap and land in the little park.

The Lobster Pot Christmas Tree was back! Nothing else mattered, they’d get the road fixed, they’d stick a green light on a buoy, the sand would be moved or blow away — or everyone would just get used to it — it didn’t much matter, the Lobster Pot Christmas Tree was back and the PPT was climbing to the top of it to stake his (delusional) claim.

And as he watched all those boats and trucks and heavy equipment, he was a very thankful Pond Troll.