Two coastal eagles rode the spiraling air currents high above the distant headland’s granite cliffs.
Nancy thought they were soaring high enough to spot her. She imagined the eagles watched her flying in her swing on this spit of an offshore island where she lived, friendless, with Mommy and Daddy and her infant brother.
“Nancy,” Mommy called. “Come watch the baby.”
Nancy ignored Mommy’s call. Instead, she pumped her legs defiantly, tilted back in her swing until her dark brown hair–hair the color of eagles’ wings, she fancied–swept the ground like trailing fringes of drapery. The increasing rush of wind past her ears smothered Mommy’s second call.
“Nancy, answer me. I can’t manage everything.”
Mommy never could manage “everything”. And Daddy was always babying the instruments and gauges inside what he called the Weather Shack. He fondly monitored the computers that recorded, analyzed and interpreted the data streaming in from the troposphere.
Nancy’s knuckles whitened on her swing’s chains. Her sneakers aimed at the eagles, targeting the center of their circle. She often wished that the links of chain bolted to the tubular steel frame of her swing–which on this almost barren islet was anchored to the exposed bedrock–would snap and let her sail sky high, as high as this pair of eagles she saw every day.
Nancy heard her infant brother wailing in his crib. She knew Mommy would soon storm into the yard, forcibly halt the swing, grab her disobedient daughter by the arm and tow her inside to tend the baby.
Nancy pumped harder. She scrinched her eyes and prayed for magic–or a fairy godmother like Cinderella’s who could change pumpkins into coaches–to transform her swing into a kite, or a glider, and fly her to the sky.
She hated minding the baby. Since his arrival he’d claimed most of Mommy’s attention. And he wasn’t any good as a playmate. He was no better company than the few birds–sea parrots and gannets–that nested on the island and screeched and fled if she approached.
When she had first learned she would be having a baby brother, Nancy had said, spitefully, “I’d rather have a kitten.”
But no cat or dog was allowed on the island. Mommy was allergic. Well, now Nancy was allergic. She was allergic to boredom. She was allergic to loneliness. For an eight year old, the endless repetition of cartoons on satellite TV was no substitute for real live friends.
“Nancy!” Although still inside the house, Mommy’s voice sounded nearer.
Nancy pumped until her thigh and calf muscles ached. She pumped until her butt clenched as if striving to release the swing’s scalloped seat and propel Nancy like an ejected fighter pilot towards the jet plane contrails, up where the eagles’ wings weaved an invitation.
Nancy’s swing swooshed and swooshed. Her toes pointed skyward; her legs strained; her arms, elbows locked, extended; her hair streamed earthward. Nancy swung cradled in her swing like a stone in the pocket of a slingshot. Through slit eyelids she drew the eagles closer as if her vision was telescopic. Her gritted teeth hissed in harmony with the wind whistling an eerie elfin melody in her ears.
Dreamlike, her brother’s wails faded. Mommy’s commands grew muffled. With a final whispered incantation, Nancy unclasped her fisted knuckles.
The outside door slammed against weathered clapboard and Mommy huffed into the yard.
Nancy’s empty swing ticked slower and slower, like a pendulum winding down.
Three coastal eagles rode the spiraling air currents high above the distant headland’s granite cliffs.
Harold Walters lives in Newfoundland, the most easterly point in North America. His house is closer to Dublin across the Pond, than to Hollywood, behind him to the west.