number but couldn’t bring myself to hit enter. I’d give my mom onemore day to enjoy herself, and then I’d play my role as stool pigeon.
I fell asleep hugging the renter’s guide to my chest, drifting off to recitations of the family’s phone number, which I’d memorized like a versefrom the Bible.
I did the same thing the next night, and the next.
Stilt was getting desperate and had to resort to unconventional tactics.One evening, just before sunset, he canceled our patrols and led us abouta mile down the beach. A crowd had gathered near a hedge of Porta Pot-ties, and as we got closer I could hear the low pulse of a drumbeat.
Soon I made out the circle of men with conga drums and the mazeof marimbas just past the tide. The sun looked like a hot coin as its edgebegan to slide behind the water.
“Dusk is a powerful time,” Stilt told us. “Direct your will toward the
Like starlings, whose little squadrons can fuse into a vast swarm,
our small flock merged with that of the aging hippies. In the middle of
the drums was a mass of dancers in homemade costumes jerking their
bodies around to (or despite) the beat. A few women had their cheeks
painted with lopsided flowers and kept whacking each other with the big
mesh fairy wings they wore on their backs. One man was dressed like
Santa Claus. It was March.
Our group began to join in the festivities. After a couple swigs froma flask produced from a fanny pack, Godwit and Yellowlegs really cutloose. My mom followed them into the middle and danced between twoold women wearing Renaissance fair dresses whose twirling skirts hadsurprisingly huge circumferences.
I hung back with Coot.
“I don’t like this,” Coot said as he fingered his telescope like a piccolo.
“Stilt is playing with fire. He doesn’t know what kind of forces he might
But Stilt didn’t seem too worried about loosing sinister energies upon
the beach. I saw him talking to one of the fairy women near the marim-
bas. He pointed to one of her wings and said something, and the winged
woman laughed so hard I could see all her tiny, crooked teeth. Theoreti-
cally, I hoped my mom would catch him flirting, but I was relieved to see
she was still lost in the dance, swaying between the spinning skirts with
her eyes closed. I really didn’t want her to see that.