Teetoncey

Free Teetoncey by Theodore Taylor

Book: Teetoncey by Theodore Taylor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Theodore Taylor
now.
    Ben said, "Shipwreck, Tee."
    The eyes narrowed.
    There were parts and pieces of wrecks, anything from bow or stem sections to ribbing, every few miles up and down the beach; some half buried in sand. Some surfacing again after a storm. Once they were stripped down, no one paid much attention to them.
    Ben stopped and got Tee down off the cart, walked her over to the
Carmichael's
stem, and then persuaded her on up. The sun was out and the sea was behaving itself. It was a pretty day.
    Ben thought maybe that just seeing a wreck would jog her memory and dear her mind. It didn't. Mainlanders usually frog-jumped all over the wrecks. Tee just stood there like a statue; looking more at the beach.
    Ben felt compelled to say something. "Spring an' summer, we sea-feesh all up an' down here. Haul nets. For croaker, spot, butterfish, sea bass, blues..."
    For all she cared, Ben thought, they could be fishing for mule dung.
    He got her down and back up on the cart. Now, he knew what it was like to be a nurse. He cut inland to circle around Heron Shoal and then dropped back down to the beach.
    As they jogged along, Ben thought that if she'd been a boy and could talk and listen, he could tell her about Reuben's trip down Cape Lookout way to watch the whaling. Lookout was at the bottom of Core Banks, last of the real barrier islands, on south of Ocracoke and Portsmouth Island.
    Reuben had sailed down as a boy, by himself, taking three days to go down and back. There were five or six crews camped from Shackleford Banks north to Hatteras in the spring, putting lookout "crow's nests" on the highest dunes and then waiting for the whales. They went out in boats and harpooned them; towed them ashore and cut the blubber out, boiling it in big kettles on the beach to get the oil. That went at thirty-five or forty cents a gallon. They'd also sell the whalebone "baleen." They got more than a dollar a pound for it, Reuben had once said. Diamond City, on Shackleford Banks, was the whaling capital of North Carolina.
    Although there wasn't as much whaling now, Ben planned to take the same trip in
Me and the John O'Neal
when he could. But there wasn't any use in trying to tell her about it. She wouldn't be interested, anyway, he thought. British girls would be concerned with fairy tales, likely.
    Going on south, he couldn't resist saying, "Ghosts out here at night, you know. They walk the beach in full moon." She was looking over the side, paying no attention.
    One night he'd come out with Frank Scarborough and they'd seen something near the
Calderon,
which was a Spanish wreck. Even the shapes of the hulks were spooky at night. With silver light on them, they looked like wooden skeletons.
    If the weather was good, it was a custom to take anybody from the mainland down on a full moon. Summers, especially. Once, they took Kilbie Oden's cousin, who was visiting from Charlotte, down to see them. He almost rendered his heart from fright.
    Ben had put on a sheet and hid in the
Hettie Carmichael
After Frank and Kilbie brought the cousin, Ben began making "wooing" sounds all over the place and then jumped up. What a story that boy had to take back to Charlotte, Ben often thought. But he admitted later that even he didn't like waiting all alone on the wreck until the others got there.
    "What moon were you born under?"
    No answer.
    "Mine was dark That means I'll never be thrifty an' strange things will happen to me."
    No answer.
    Why even talk?
    But it was true. The moon controlled the tide, which everyone knew, and the tide controlled the Banks. Wood cut on a dark moon never burned well. No one ever planted a garden on a dark moon, and death always came on an ebb tide.
    Ben got restless and decided to walk for a while. He got Tee down and turned her loose. She did seem to be interested in what was on the beach. She squatted to examine a Scotch Bonnet shell, turned a horseshoe crab over with her foot; then picked up a clamshell. She seemed to be looking at the

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