A Place Called Uglyby Avi
There'sno reasoning with Owen.The island cottage where he and his family have spent the last ten summers must be preserved.And he's going to do it. Never mind that bulldozer stands outside, ready to move in and level the place for a modern hotel. Never mind that summer's over and Owen's family is hurrying to catch the last ferry or that school is/b>… See more details below
There'sno reasoning with Owen.The island cottage where he and his family have spent the last ten summers must be preserved.And he's going to do it. Never mind that bulldozer stands outside, ready to move in and level the place for a modern hotel. Never mind that summer's over and Owen's family is hurrying to catch the last ferry or that school is starting or that nobody sees it his way. Alone, fourteen-year-old Owen is going to stay and save the beautiful place others call ugly.
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"Owen! Time to go!"
I was spying down from behind the crest of the sand dune back of the house. Our car looked like an upside-down bug, a bug with spindly legs waving franticly in the air Fishing rods were sticking out the back window, my bike was hanging off the rear, and the roof rack was piled with more junk than we had brought. It was the end of summer Labor Day Two o'clock in the afternoon. Tune to go home.
But not me. I was going to stay.
"Owen! Time to go!"
My parents stood there, helpless, not knowing where to even begin to look for me.
"Owen!" Dad shouted again, cupping his hands around Ins mouth. The sound carried over the beach, over the dunes, across the East Neck. It seemed to make the marsh grass ripple, twisting the leaves slightly, green sides flashing.
"He's not serious," I heard Mom say.
"Yes he is," Dad answered carefully, like he does when he's trying to make up his mind. He was dressed for the city: shoes polished, slacks creased, even a white shirt.
"His brother or sister would never have pulled a stunt like this," my mother said. "It's absurd!" She used a hand to keep the sun's glare out of her eyes as she searched for me. "He can't stay alone."
My father checked his watch. "If he doesn't show up in five minutes, he will. Any later and we miss the ferry. That's the impossible part. We'll be stuck here."
They were really upset. That's what I had been counting on, not giving them any real choice, or time.
"I just don't believe him," Mom said wearily. "Owen!" she called again. "I bet he's out therewatching and listening to us."
I was so nervous I closed my eyes.
"Where's that note of his?" my dad asked.
My mom began to read: "Dear Folks, I've decided not to go. I've decided to stay here. Don't worry. I can take care of myself. Owen."
Then my mom added: "He spelled 'decided' wrong both times."
I opened my eyes and watched my father poke the front tire with his foot. "You know how much he loves the place," he said, glancing back at the house.
"What difference does that make?" my mother burst out. "It's a dumb, immature stunt."
"But he's done it," Dad said, opening the back door of the car and pulling out my suitcase.
"What are you doing?" Mom asked, alarmed.
"We have to go, don't we? And he's determined to stay, isn't he?"
"For God's sake..."
"Look, he can't stay for more than a couple of days," said my father. "Let him. I'm fired of all his lecturing about how we cave in. Really, what can happen? People know him. Even the phone is working."
"Tell you what: We'll leave word in town. If Owen doesn't leave after two days, we'll have the policeman put him on the city bus. It's worth it. Two days alone, and he'll give up on his own. It's better than having him sulk for weeks." He took some bills out of his wallet. "How much do you think I should leave?"
Mom objected. "He's fourteen. He's supposed to be starting a new school."
My father looked at his watch again. "Find him. You've got two minutes."
Mom began to say something, then angrily jerked the car door open, took her seat, and slammed herself in. My suitcase in his hand, Dad hurried back to the house.
I watched him go. Having clothes and money was more than I had counted on. I only had six bucks in my pocket.
A few moments later my father was back. "Owen!" he shouted for the last time. As he got into the car I heard him say, "We'd better tell the people at Janick's that he's still here."
I lay there, heart beating wildly, not daring to move, knowing that if they saw me, they could make me leave.
"Go! Go!" I kept yelling in my head.
Car wheels spinning in the sand, they backed up, swung around, then churned up the driveway until they reached the hard road. I watched them speed away.
They were gone. And I was alone.
I lay atop the dune trying to get my breath back. It took a while. But when I did stand up, I dug my toes into the sand and looked down.
In front of me was Norton's Bay with its silent, endlessly lapping waves running seven miles west from Grenlow's Island -- where I was -- to the mainland at Fairport. The tide, still moving out, had left the sand glistening with seawater tears.
Off to the left was the dead-still salt marsh that marked the end of the East Neck, thick with spiky grass and firm paths of sand, a place to dig for mussels or hunt for crabs.
To the right, the long, sandy beach.
And before me, about a hundred feet above the high-water mark of twisted, dried seaweed, beyond the sea wall of wood, stood the house, the only one on the East Neck.
It's what this is all about
More of a cabin than a house, it was supported by stilts two feet over the sand. It had been built for summer use and had only three rooms, plus a bathroom, a kitchen, and a screened-in front porch, the screens dark green from being so old. You could look out, not in.
The house had a shingle-covered roof and once white walls that had come to be a dead-fish gray. There was a chimney too, left gap-toothed by cement falling out. It didn't even stand straight...
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