Anchored off Gadus Island, we meet Carey

Photo by Joyce Bartlett

This is a continuation from the June issue of an excerpt from Dave’s upcoming book, The Ghosts of Gadus Island.

July 2022

By David Roper

August 1985
Fog, Gadus Island

Cleo awoke to find their world embraced by a blurry soft white and edgeless cocoon of fog. Without sitting up, she could look aft through the cabin hatch and see the fog’s thickness. She knew Sophie, her teenaged daughter, would be frustrated and angry about being trapped for one or more days by this weather.

The fog was so thick she could barely see the steering wheel in the aft end of the cockpit. Oddly–or maybe not–Cleo wondered what the ancient people, what the Red Paint People who had lived on this island, had believed about fog. Was it an invader? Why did it come to shut out their world? Why did it always go away? Why did it never hurt them? And what did their shamans say about it?

Sophie finally arose and came aft. She sat on the seat across from the galley, rubbed her eyes, then pulled back and wrestled with her long hair before wrapping a turquoise scrunchie around it. “Mom, what time are we leaving?” she asked, without looking up.

“Did you look out the hatch?”


“Thick fog. We’re stuck for a bit, Sophie. But…”

Sophie picked up Poppy’s old logbook, then slammed it back down on the table. “Shit!”

Cleo caught her breath, gave Sophie her kindest smile, and, in the nicest tone she could muster, said “Sweetie, I don’t make the weather. But you know what? My grandfather Poppy would see this positively, as an opportunity. He’d say: ‘Fog gives us a chance to look inward, and then, when it lifts, there’s clarity’.”

Sophie just rolled her eyes.

Then a sudden swishing sound. Then it came again. “Someone’s out there,” Cleo said, climbing the cabin steps to look out into the fog. Sophie got up, moved to the port side of the cabin, pressed her nose against the glass of one of the portholes, and peered out. The swishing continued. But she could see nothing. “A fish. Maybe a big fish,” Sophie said. “Or a whale. God, maybe it’s a whale.”

“In here? In this tiny harbor?”

Sophie pulled her head away, and wiped her breath off the fogged up porthole glass. There was a thump on the port side of the hull. Both she and her mother froze. “What was that?” Sophie asked. She looked back through the porthole. Not two feet from her eye, part of a hand–four white, wrinkly fingers– emerged, hooking itself over the rail cap on Archaic’s deck. Sophie let out a shriek that seemed to shatter their foggy world, reverberating throughout Archaic and the whole of Gadus Island. She shot forward into the bow cabin, slammed and locked the door, wrapped her arms around herself, and hyperventilated.

A few moments later a voice arose from the water along Archaic’s port side. “Hello. Ah, hello on board Archaic. Ah, sorry if I startled.”

A young man’s head, barely more than an outline in the fog, appeared just above Archaic’s rail. Cleo stood frozen at the top of the main hatch steps, staring at the man’s face as if he were an apparition. “You terrified us both.”

“Again, sorry. It’s hard to do anything but sneak up in a fog like this.”

“Well, there’s always the idea of making a bit of noise in advance. Or how about ‘hello’ or ‘excuse me’ when you’re some ways off. We thought you were either a whale or a ghost.”

The young man smiled sheepishly, while still sitting in the skiff and hanging to the rail. The two looked across at each other, neither saying anything for a few moments. Then he stood up carefully in the rowing skiff. “Actually, there was, or are, ghosts. Here, actually, in fact, on the island,” he said finally, his voice assuming a tone of local knowledge and authority.

“Is that so? Well, at least it’s not you. Being the ghost, I mean,” Cleo said, sliding her hand across her forehead in a phew! gesture. Cleo moved up to the cockpit, grabbed a cushion, turned its fog-wet side over, and sat down near the rail by the young man. “You must be from the shack ashore? Otherwise…I mean, I think we’re the only boat in here.” Closer to him now, she could see a depth in his eyes, a gentleness, a soulfulness. He was tall and seemed agile, easily balancing in the skiff as a slight swell rolled into the harbor. He wore grey gym shorts and a maroon hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with 1985 World Environment Day across the front.

“I’m the caretaker here on Gadus for the summer. It’s part of my environmental internship. I’m focusing on sustainable living, marine organisms and their environment. Anyway, I just wanted to come out and check on you, see if all was okay.”

“I bet. Especially after you heard that bloodcurdling scream!”

“Well, no. Actually, that occurred after I…”

“I know. I know. We’re fine,” Cleo said. “But thank you.”

“Well, I’m sorry I made you scream.”

“Oh, that was my daughter. She’s still hiding in the cabin.”

“Then please tell her I’m sorry.” He looked into the nothingness around him, shaking his head like a wise old mariner. “I think we’re going to be socked in for a while. Glad you made it in last night before it dropped on us. You’re welcome to come ashore if you’d like. I can show you around. There’s quite a history. And I’m pretty proud of my garden; I could show you that. And I could show you some of the artifacts I’ve collected for the little museum shed the Conservation Land Trust has set up, and also…”

Sophie’s head of black hair slowly rose, then her face appeared in the main hatch, catching his attention.

“Oh, hello. Hey, sorry I scared you.”

Sophie studied the young man while pushing some stray hairs back over her ears. “It’s okay. I guess. It’s just that I was looking through the porthole and suddenly these creepy white waterlogged fingers slithered up on the rail, like some sea monster or from some Stephen King flick.”

He looked at his hands. “Oh. Yeah. That would be kind of creepy. You see, I’m wet a lot. Bailing the skiff, I mean. And pulling up echinoderms…”

“Echino what?”

“Oh, well, you see, Echinoderms are members of the phylum Echinodermata of marine animals. The adults are recognizable by their radial symmetry, and include starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers, as well as the sea lilies.” He looked back at his fingers. “I can show you if you’d like. In fact, here in the skiff…” He bent down, then dropped out of sight.

Sophie looked at her mother. Rolled her eyes.

When he reappeared, he was holding what looked like a hairy, dull brown cucumber with a bunch of finger-like tentacles around its mouth. “This is a sea cucumber. Cucumaria frondose.”

Sophie recoiled. “Maybe you shouldn’t touch it.”

”Oh, actually, it’s fine to touch. In fact, you can eat it. Some people even eat them raw.”

Sophie turned her chin down, looked away, and closed her eyes.

“Very interesting,” Cleo said. “Well, thank you for stopping by. We have some chores to do now, so…”

“Oh, sure. And my name’s Cary. Cary Thompson.” He leaned over the rail, put the sea cucumber down on the deck, and reached out to shake hands.”

Cleo and Sophie leaned back slightly from Cary, lifting their right hands in a half wave rather than risking a handshake. “I’m Cleo and this is Sophie. So nice to meet you. And I’m sure we’ll see you later.”

As Cary rowed away, Sophie looked wide-eyed at her mother before putting a hand to her mouth, trying to stifle her laughter. “Oh my God, Mom. We come all this way, get trapped in the fog in a remote island, and this super cute guy my age suddenly appears from nowhere, and…and… AND HE’S A TOTAL NERD.” They both turned toward Cary, who was slowly disappearing, consumed by the fog.

Cleo looked at her daughter. “Holy sea cucumber, Soph. Don’t let that one get away!”

They both began laughing uncontrollably. Something they badly needed to do together and hadn’t in a very long time.

David Roper’s upcoming novel, “The Ghosts of Gadus Island,” is scheduled for publication next year. Dave is the author of the three-time bestseller “Watching for Mermaids,” as well as the sequel “Beyond Mermaids” and the novel “Rounding the Bend.” All are available through or