If you ever get round to visiting the Fisher, I’d recommend a trip to Kramer’s Neck. It’s gotta be the coolest stretch of land and water in the whole of the U.S.A.
Sure, on the map it doesn’t look like much—maybe the head of a pterodactyl or the hammer on a hammerhead shark. But up close at ground level, it’s my favorite spot on the Great Marsh.
First off, it’s got the best beach on the coast. Da says it’s a barrier beach, which means that it’s mostly sand dunes. These are made up of the whitest sand I’ve ever seen—like the kind that comes out of hourglasses when you break them. Every time there’s a storm, the dunes move too.
Second off, it’s swarming with piping plovers. These are funny little hoppy birds with orange feet. They’ve got black splotches on the tips of their beaks and the tops of their heads and the rings of their necks. It’s almost like they dunked their heads in ink.
They’re also endangered. Granddad says that folks used to stick plover feathers in hats. I can think of plenty of better places to stick stuff.
Third off, it’s cram-packed with interesting veg-e-tation. There are bayberries and dwarf yellow birches and winterberries and strange herbs that Mom used to dry in the attic and stick in her tea. It’s got pitch pine and scrub oak towards the top of the neck and cranberries and marsh grass down near the middle. And when you get to the end, it’s sand to kingdom come.
When I was little, before they got to not talking, Mom and Da used to take me on the boat to Kramer’s Beach. It was the one place on earth where they seemed to be happy.
That’s where I met Grimmy the Sand Giant. Grimmy was leftover from before the dinosaurs. He was so big that only his head fit under the beach. The rest of him had to lie stretched out beneath the sea.
I don’t want to get you too excited about Grimmy. Most of the day, he’d be napping. But sometimes, if you were lucky, he’d open his mouth for a snore and swallow a teenager. Mom met him when she stepped on his eyeball. He said she was the cutest pain in the iris he’d ever seen.
Grimmy was cool, but so were the sand dollars and the drip castles. Summer hurricanes kicked up the waves offshore and for days you could body surf like nobody’s business. Those were good times.
I hadn’t been in the waters off Kramer’s Beach since November, so it was pure pleasure to be back, watching the clouds play patterns on the dunes. To my right was Hog Island; to my left was the scrub. Up ahead was the glistening mouth of the river and a Bay stuffed with stripers.
And that’s when I had one of those rev-e-lations that they talk about in the Bible and stuff.
Maybe Kramer’s Beach could be my bait!
Granddad always said that a memory was more powerful than a nuclear device. So why not invite Mom back for a break this summer? It took care of my worries about time and place in one fell swoop. All I had to do was get her happy with the sea and the sand and the weather. Then maybe she’d remember what she was missing.
Planning was everything, of course. You wouldn’t want to stick her in the middle of a tourist jam with babies pooping in swim diapers and the greenflies biting. But a good stretch in August, when the air loses that awful muggy haze, might be nigh on perfect. Especially on a nice, peaceful day.
I was in the middle of recollecting one of them—the morning that the three of us found a live horseshoe crab—when I heard the noise. At first, it kinda sounded like an angry mosquito buzzing about my ear.
I looked round to see if I could find it.
Nothing. Not a wing.
The noise got louder.
I took a second look.
Then a third.
And that’s right about when I wanted to die.
Coming down river was a Coastie boat. There was no mistaking it—grey cabin, red inflatable topsides, and the air of owning the water. It was blasting past moorings at the speed of light.
Now, if there’s one thing I hate more than a Coastie boat, it’s a Coastie siren.
No mistaking, I was in what Granddad calls a dill pickle. Somehow the Coasties had been able to make it through the channel and up the river. That meant they had enough clearance to chase me all the way to Fisher Harbor. Yeah, I could go back to Hog Island, but then I’d be trapped. They’d snag me coming out on either end.
That meant my only way out was the Bay. And there they’d catch me for sure.
Since I didn’t know what to do, I did what Granddad usually does—I kept right on going. That stupid siren was getting louder and louder as I got closer and closer to the mouth of the river. It stirred up a loon that was biding its time near the tip of Kramer’s Beach. The bird pounded its wings against the water, sang out like a lonely ghost, and rose in a swirl of orneriness.
The moment that loony tune hit the air, I had another divine in-spir-ation.
If you remember, the tide was awfully low. Almost out. And when that happens, the mouth of the Fisher becomes littered with hidden sand bars. I mean, these suckers are all over the show.
Especially around the tip of Kramer’s Beach.
With a top clearance of four feet of water, you can take a kayak or a canoe or a Woodbury skiff over a sand bar.
But you can’t take a Coast Guard boat.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Coasties knew this. They’re smart. They train for years to catch crafty criminals and drug dealers. But when people get mad at me, they tend to chuck their common sense in the trash.
I jammed the outboard to full speed. We were gonna need to be a lot farther along for my plan to work. The Rita Anne took off like a cheetah, racing past the end of the Neck and into the greenie blue water.
The Coasties were still holding their course, coming straight at me. I had to hand it to their boat maker. That sucker blew through the waves like a knife through cod flesh.
I got the Rita Anne in position and waited.
They got closer.
And I waited.
And as soon as I could see the whites of the eyes of the Coastie on the bow, I stood up in the stern and did what Granddad did to the enemy.
I showed him my underpants.
That did it. The Skipper gunned those two Series 60 engines into overdrive and let the siren wail. There was now 825 horsepower of fury bearing down on me at a full 48.9 miles per hour. I hauled up my jeans, whipped the Rita Anne round to the north, and revved her up to fifteen knots.
Over the sandbar we flew, the Coastie boat gaining on us with every second. Faster and faster it came, the lean, mean missile of the law.
The keel hit the sandbar with an almighty thud! The Coastie on the front did a triple flip over the bow, landing feet first on the bottom of the river. He shook his head like a waterlogged dog and stared sorta dazed at the sky.
It didn’t take long for the rest of the crew to come running onto the deck. Most of them were clutching their lifejackets and spitting up insults. The tallest guy of the bunch raised his hand and shook his fist.
“YOU STUPID EFFING KID!”