I took the boat out a couple weeks ago to see my friend Ralph on one of the islands that dot the bay. I passed a long peninsula where empty houses and untended fields stared out to the ocean; dead, motionless. “I remember when a couple of those houses were filled,” I later told Ralph. “They seem so mournful now.” “Not many people want to stay out here,” he said. “There’s better money in the towns.” It was a truism, but that’s the way I like it. Ralph and I can repeat the same thought four or five times in different ways, and that’s how we keep talking about the good stuff. This time was different.

“You should know that they’re not always deserted,” Ralph said after a long pause. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Well,” he hesitated, then slowly added, “some nights, you can see the ghosts of people who lived there and everything lights up again. “That sounds like an old sailor’s tale,” I said with a grin. “Don’t I know it, and I’m an old sailor. But come back next Tuesday and I’ll show you,” he replied.

So, I did. I took my fishing boat out again to Ralph’s island and picked him up at the dock. The tide was high, and you could smell smoke coming through chimneys. We headed out to a spot where you could see many of the old houses. “Now we wait,” said Ralph. We kept quiet and had a couple of beers, smoked cigarettes just like old times, except we don’t throw the cigarettes in the water anymore. At one point, he grabbed my shoulder and pointed. I looked in the direction of the houses. Nothing. Ralph was leaning forward, though, his hand still on my shoulder, lost in reverie. Occasionally, he would point, and I would follow his indication, but all I could see were the usual shadows and waves. After ten minutes or so, his hand relaxed.

“Did you see that?” he asked, smiling and somewhat breathless.

“Oh yes,” I lied.

“All those lights were lit again. How breathtaking was that?”

“I’m…speechless,” I said, trying to sound filled with awe.

“And you could even make out the people in their colorful clothes walking to the cliffs?”


“And the dancing going on in the houses!”

“Astounding,” I gasped.

“There was no dancing.”

Ralph sighed and sat back down, lighting another cigarette. The ship jabbed back and forth in quick rhythm with the waves. The dozens of floating buoys on the lobster traps glowed in the moonlight like fairies dancing on the water.