Snow Islandby Katherine Towler
George Tibbits steps from the ferry on a Spring day in 1941, and Alice Daggett is there to watch his silent arrival with the other Islanders. He is a recluse in his forties and the owner of the Island’s twin houses. She is a sixteen year old who spends her days attending the one-room schoolhouse, running the Island’s only store, and waiting for her real… See more details below
George Tibbits steps from the ferry on a Spring day in 1941, and Alice Daggett is there to watch his silent arrival with the other Islanders. He is a recluse in his forties and the owner of the Island’s twin houses. She is a sixteen year old who spends her days attending the one-room schoolhouse, running the Island’s only store, and waiting for her real life to begin. As the isolated Island community is drawn into war, 'Snow Island' tells the story of two people who face the consequences of loss and choices made in love.
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Room eleven was at the end of the corridor. When he cautiously turned the handle, George was reassured each year to find the room the same: the furniture, the wallpaper, the dirty surface of the lone window, all just as it had been that night in 1919 when he came home from the war. The bed was in the same place against the wall, with the bedstand and small, bent rocking chair beside it. An oval mirror hung over a dresser on the opposite wall. These were the only pieces of furniture. His first act on entering room eleven, after setting his suitcase on the floor by the dresser, was to take the rocking chair and place it by the window. Then the room was arranged just as it had been the night of his first homecoming twenty-two years earlier, when he sat in the dark without sleeping, staring out at the rooftops and the docks and the black surface of the bay, not knowing what he would find on the island.
Like the rest of Priscilla Alden, room eleven had suffered in the years since then. George wasn't sure when the paint had begun to chip off the metal bedstead or the wallpaper to peel away from that spot up by the ceiling. The decay of the room came about slowly, in buts and peeves, and it was only now, returning as he had every year since then, that the small signs of collapse seemed to accumulate, to add to something, though he couldn't see what.
In a vague way, George puzzled over this as he sat by the window on this dark morning, watching the rain fall. In the street down below, a woman walked quickly, holding her arms against her chest. The collar of her worn raincoat was turned up around her next, and she wore a thick scarf around her head. The last glimpse of the woman as she scurried around the corner and up the hill toward Front Street only confirmed what he already knew: room eleven was another place, the streets of Barton belonged to a different time, and the world, the world itself was not the same and never would be. These thoughts flickered silently in the corners of his mind and then, like the sight of the woman's back, small and gray, hurrying off, faded.
He had not planned on the rain. He came to Barton with the intention of spending only one night in the Priscilla Alden and taking the morning ferry to Snow Island, just as he had on that distant day, when he came home from the war. George studied the almanacs and listened to the announcers on the radio, waiting for the perfect day, one which matched that first homecoming down to the lavender light reflecting off the sidewalk as he stepped from the train. This year the weather had tricked him. He arrived in Barton on a clear evening when the sharp circle of the sun was low in the sky, and the air had that clean, blue tinge to it. A soft breeze carried up from the docks, warm with the smell of salt and dead fish, the pleasantly dank odor that hung over the town even at high tide. He imagined waking in the morning to the bright, still day he remembered, hovering expectantly between spring and summer, unable to make up its mind. Instead there was the rain, falling in that determined way it had kept up ever since. He had no choice but to wait for it to end, sitting out the hours while the water on the windowpane turned the docks to thin, fluid lines in the distance. He could have taken the ferry over in the rain, but that would have defeated the entire purpose of his coming. He wanted to duplicate that first homecoming as precisely as possible because it was only then, for a moment, he could forget what waited for him on the island that spring morning; he could make himself believe it might have been different.
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