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Last Man
on Howling Head Island

by David A. Rhodes ©2015, Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-341501-18-4, 134 pp
 

As the gale blew stronger in the blackness, there, arose across the land, the mournful sound of a howling dog, carried across the rocky island...

“I write these words for anyone to read.  Do not fear for me, for I know the path well.  The others have all gone before me.  I am tired now and in need of rest. After all that has happened, I remain the last man on Howling Head Island.”

1. The Departure from the North 10

2. The Arrival at Howling Head Island 16

3 The Discovery of the Infant 20

4 John Kettle Speaks 24

5 Working at the Long Boat Inn 26

6 Escape from Hannah’s Accident 29

7. The Abandoned Village 37

8. The Plague of Rats 41

9. The Raiding Party 48

10. Eleena Survives 54

11. The First Spring 59

12. The First Summer 63

13. The First Autumn 66

14. A Full House 69

15. The New Arrival 76

16. Plans for the Hunt 78

17. Time Passes 80

18. The House of Thorns 81

19. Visiting Plans 87

20. The House at the Spring 89

21. The Nightmare 94

22. Bruce the Hunter 98

23. Alone Again, Disasters 103

24. The Wreck in the Dunes: The Scorpion 106

25. The Whirlpool 113

26. Whale Island 118

27. Hannah the Queen is Found 122

28. The Return to Howling Head 132

29. The Story of the Scorpions 136

30. A Message from my Father 137

31. A Final Departure 145

The sea, like a sleeping serpent, glistened in the morning sun.

By noon the breeze had freshened, shattering the smooth surface of the sea into a million scaly fragments. As darkness fell the hungry sea began to hunt. The wind whipped the waves into a froth which blew high onto the shoreline. As the gale blew stronger in the blackness, there arose across the land the mournful sound of a howling dog which carried across the rocky island.


The Island of Howling Head arose from the sea, attached to the mainland by a flat salt marsh which often disappeared beneath the tidal flow at the peak of high tides, so that the grasses almost disappeared completely beneath the waves. The island arose on the ocean side to a ragged cliff from which one could look far out to sea. Just offshore of this jutting of the land was a smaller rocky islet which gave the island its name. The soft center of this offshore spire was hollowed out by the wind and waves, forming a cave with an entrance on the side facing the larger land mass. The Islet was separated from the main island by sharp rocks at low tide and a raging tidal flow at high tide.


The marsh joining the larger island to the mainland was crossed with tidal streams and bridged by a narrow road which led from the wooded mainland to the tiny island village of Howling Head. The name came from the sound which exceptionally strong winds brought forth from the hollow islet in the sea. Fierce gale winds blowing through the cavities brought forth sounds resembling the howling of dogs. It was a mournful cry heard throughout the island, and believed to be a harbinger of great danger.


The road to the mainland had a series of wooden bridges that crossed the winding tidal creeks of the marsh and then spanned the harbor to meet at the major building on the Island, The Long Boat Inn. The Inn had been built using stone from a nearby quarry. It was a favorite place of merriment for tourists who visited the remote settlement during the brief summer. The inn was called “Long Boat Inn” after the boat building industry of the earliest settlers, which was whaling. The rowed “long boats” were launched from the larger sailing ships to carry the harpoon crew to the prey. There were a few other permanent inhabitants who eked out a living from the sea or farmed the sheltered areas in the lee of the hilltop, and some retired visitors who appreciated the solitude of the island. There was a general store that carried hardware, fishing and hunting supplies, and building materials, a service station and a chapel which met the needs of the population, summer and winter.


Now, the island and the Long Boat Inn were almost abandoned. A small room had been built inside, on the dance floor where once merry music had been heard. The door to this small, cobweb filled cubicle was not locked. Two of the rooms’ walls and its ceiling ended around the large stone fireplace which was built into one side of the main area of the Inn. Upon a tiny table in this sparsely furnished room was an open book. On the dusty first page of the book were scrawled these words:


“I write these words for anyone to read. Do not fear for me, for I know the path well. The others have all gone before me. I am tired now and in need of rest. After all that has happened, I remain the last man on Howling Head Island.”


My name is John Kettle, a name given to me by my grandparents.

Dave Rhodes, wasCanadian born in the year 1933, but has been a life-long resident along the Atlantic seaboard, with the exceptions of two years spent along the Sea of Japan during the Korean war and visits to the eastern coasts of South and Central America, the great lakes of the U. S. and Canada as well as coastal Alaska. He loves small towns, the shorelines, the beaches, bridges, jetties and the inland marshes and wandering streams and rivers, having grown up hunting and fishing for the creatures of these beautiful areas.
As a carving artist he is well known as an accurate maker of working wooden decoys or beautiful decorative folk art, selling at shows as well as the internet EBay auction. Some pieces are pleasing to look at on the mantle, while others are used by scientific groups across the nation as far west as Hawaii to lure shorebirds into nets where they are harmlessly captured and then tagged with devices that track their travels by satellite as and when they seasonally migrate. Now being semi-retired he lives with his wife Nancy in Ocean City, NJ

Last Man

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