The old man sits on his porch facing the sea, an oyster-shucking knife clutched in one barnacle-chewed hand. It’s not much of a weapon – the blade is thick and stubby, made more for prying than anything else – but, as some salts are fond of saying, it ain’t the length of a thing matters, just what you do with it. Captain Avery knows goddamned well what he’s going to do with his little sharpened bit of steel, knows he should have done it years ago. The entire town is to blame, really, but the time for sticking blame to things is done and gone. Vanished into the Atlantic, like the children and grandchildren and every blessed tot from ages four to fifteen. Even the tourist brats, not that there were a lot of them hanging around here in October. They usually only showed in July, lining up with their parents along Main Street to gawk and squawk as the annual roundup brought a wave of flashing manes and tide-slicked hides down the thoroughfare. Hooves clattering like tossed bones on the oystershell. Yellowed teeth and yellowed eyes peering out from beneath matted forelocks, tracking the chubby fingers outstretched to stroke. Ave feels a little queasy thinking about it.
He watches the whitecaps with his own rheumy eyes, heart thrumming. Occasionally a ray of light from Assateague Lighthouse cuts through the evening mist, there and gone again, there and gone again.
He too is waiting for the ponies to arrive.