Fahrenheit 52


The little girl was reading the biggest book the cousins had ever seen.

“Quick! Hand me those.”

Cole ripped the binoculars off his younger brother Gabriel's face, not realizing (or caring) that the strap was still wrapped around his neck. Gabriel shoved Cole away until he lifted the strap over his buzz-cut and then handed over the binoculars.

“Yep," said Cole, clucking thoughtfully. "That’s definitely it.”

“Really? You mean it, Cole?” asked Alice, Will's little sister.

"Not possible. It's not supposed to come out 'til the fall," said Maddie. "My librarian told me."

"Guess you're wrong again," said Jimmy, Maddie's little brother. "Anyone got any gum?"

“I wanna see!” said Daniel, yet another of Cole and Gabriel's brothers (there were still two more siblings in this particular branch of the family, but they were both very little and back at the Coast Guard house on the hill where they were all staying for the week). Daniel slipped underneath Cole's arms and wiggled the scopes out of his hands.

Will didn’t need the binoculars to confirm what they were looking at. If Cole said it was the book, then it was the book. After all, Cole was the one who turned him onto the series in the first place. In fact, Cole was currently on-track to shatter every single one of Will’s summer reading contest records at St. Anne’s Elementary School. Will didn't exactly love this trend, but at least his titles were going to a cousin.

“Wow! It's as big as the Bible!" said Daniel. "Wanna see it, Will?"


Will took a turn with his uncle’s surprisingly heavy binoculars. There was no question about it - this was Book IV. Will recognized the typesetting of the text, for one thing. Then there were the little monograph pictures at the top of each new chapter. Will felt a rush in his chest. What was going to happen in this one? Even though Will was about to enter freshman year of high school, he was just as excited about the series as his younger cousins and his little sister. If only he could get a glimpse of the book's cover... so he could just see the title. That would be enough.

“Lemme try, Will," said Maddie. He handed over the binoculars.

“What do you think it’s about?” asked Alice.

“Magic,” said Gabriel.

“Ha-ha. No, but really," said Alice. "Should we go down the beach and ask her?”

“No," said Cole with authority. "We should just… borrow it.”

“You mean, like, steal it?” asked Gabriel.

“No. I mean borrow. Like a library. That way, we can all read it!”

Cole didn’t bother explaining how they’d be able to simultaneously read the book once they'd borrowed it. He didn’t have to. The brothers had an arrangement, of which the cousins were well aware of (and somewhat disturbed by). First, they'd play a rock-paper-scissors tournament. The overall winner got to start the book first, then, whenever they reached 50 pages, they’d rip them out and hand the little folios to next one down the line. If you were last (aka really bad at Rock-Paper-Scissors), then your pages were sand-crusted, PB&J smeared, and obviously crumpled beyond belief, but they were now yours to devour. Will and Alice much preferred the more sensible just-get-multiple-copies-at-the-library approach, but, on an island in Buzzards Bay with only one teeny general store and certainly no library or bookstore, the boys' approach seemed reasonable. Also, Will reminded himself, no library or bookstore would even have the book yet.

"How are we gonna do it?" asked Gabriel. "We're gonna have to sneak up on her."

“We can do the seagull thing,” suggested Daniel.

“Genius!” said Cole, patting Daniel's head.

“What’s the seagull thing?” asked Will.

The brothers laughed. Maddie and Alice and Jimmy and Will waited for an explanation, which Gabriel launched into as they walked back to the house on the hill. Apparently, last August, they'd caught a seagull with their bare hands. Here's what they did. Dig a hole, big enough for one brother to hide inside. Cover the hole with a beach towel, and place a big hunk of bread in the middle of the towel. The other brothers stand watch. When the a seagull came swooping down, they'd howl, "NOW", and the hidden brother would pounce up and wrap the terrified, flapping, squawking Scuttle in the towel.

"No. Way," said Maddie. "That didn't happen."

"Way," said Gabriel.

Cole and Daniel nodded. It happened, they assured her. And they could do it again to distract the girl with the book. Who could ignore a bunch of kids catching a seagull? Hopefully she'd come running over, and then another cousin could swoop in from behind and grab the book from her chair. Simple, really.

“Heyo, boys! Did you bring back the binoculars?”

“Yes, dad!” called Daniel back to his father at the top of the hill.

The kids raced up after Daniel and found their parents sipping coffee in beach chairs, looking tired and rested at the same time.

Uncle Finn held the binoculars to his face.

“I think I've spotted something...” he said.

The cousins all looked at each other.

“The book?” asked Daniel.

“Huh? Book? No. I see… yes, there's something moving in the ocean. Headed to Cuttyhunk. It might be wreckage from a ship."

“Dad! Lemme see!” said Gabriel.

“Okay, here," said Uncle Finn. "To the right of the road. Do you see that blue thing bobbing the water?”

“Yeah!” said Gabriel.

"What is it?" cried Cole.

Uncle Finn stared at the kids with a serious look.

“Treasure, obviously.“

Book IV was forgotten. The rest of the morning was spent watching the blue treasure box drift towards their island. It was taking forever, they all agreed.

As eldest, Will was elected as the official retriever of the treasure. As long as Will could remember, his Uncle Finn had always given him “missions” in the backyard, like "Go find a piece of bark, wrap in the biggest leaf you can find, bury it in the garden, bring back three stones, line them up, and put a potato bug in the middle of the stones and let me know which stone it touches first." This mission was no different. It was of vital importance. Will would not be returning empty-handed. He took one of the rickety bicycles they found in the house's basement and raced down the hill towards the rocky shore where the blue box was headed.

As he rode, Will began worrying that it might get stuck somehow, or drift past the island, or, worst yet, that someone else might get to it first. So he pedaled as fast as possible.

His fears were unfounded. Will waded into the shallows of the lapping water and reached out towards the blue box.

It was exceptionally light.

It was the size of a briefcase.

It was... blue styrofoam.

Will returned to the house with piece of the blue styrofoam, and held it aloft, like a trophy. Everyone cheered at their treasure and then they ate hot dogs and Kool-Aid for lunch.

At night, before dark, they hiked inland through town, past the lone general store, to watch the sunset on the tallest peak of the island. In the distance, on the far side of Cuttyhunk, where there were no houses or roads or people, was the Tower.

Will knew they all were wondering who put that stone monolith there and why.

Uncle Finn seemed particularly quiet. Then he said, “You did well today with the floating treasure, everyone. Tomorrow, I think we're ready. We’re going to the Tower.”

Everyone cheered. When they returned to the house, the kids all climbed into their one room, which was filled completely by all their cots so that there was no longer any floor space, and they read Garfield comic books by flashlight until they dropped off to sleep, one by one.

In the morning, there were a few dropouts from the quest. Eventually, the Fellowship was formed as Uncle Finn, Will, Jimmy, Cole, Gabriel, Daniel, and Joey (the youngest brother). They set out early, with sandwiches, Oreos, and jugs of water. They hoped to be back home by early afternoon.

They did not meet that goal. But they did reach the Tower, after scrambling through a mile or two of nothing but pricker bushes. They all looked like they'd messed with the wrong cat on the wrong day. Uncle Finn's face was particularly battered, having had to hold both Daniel and Joey in his arms through the bushes, because they were both crying, and he'd been unable to protect his face from getting scratched.

But they all made it the far shore, and then they walked along the beach towards the Tower.

When they finally reached it, their hearts sank. The Tower was in the middle of a lake. A lake that they hadn't been aware of before.

They stopped for lunch and considered their options.

"Wait! I see a boat!" yelled Will.

Will scrambled down through the trees and flipped over the rowboat into the water.

"Let's go!" he cried.

"That's not going to fit everyone," said Uncle Finn. "Maybe a few of you can just go?"

"I'm going!" said Jimmy.

"Me, too," said Gabriel.

"That's a good first crew," said Uncle Finn. "Will, too. We'll stay here and go next."

Gabriel, Jimmy, and Will set out in the rowboat. Will had found a large tree branch and used it as a punting oar, like that Skeletor guy who took lost souls to Hades on the River Styx. Jimmy meanwhile propped himself up on the bow of the boat, his leg perched, like Washington crossing the Delaware. Gabriel took the vitally important role of bailing out the boat, because, of course, they quickly learned their craft was riddled with holes.

"Hurry!" shouted Gabriel.

"I'm trying," said Will. "It's not exactly easy!"

There was no harbor or any good place to land on the Tower's island. The tiny island was covered in pricker bushes and probably poison oak. The water in their boat was nearly at two inches now.

"Let's just go for it," said Will. He pushed the boat as hard as he could into one of the bushes, and then climbed past Jimmy onto the island. He bulldozed through the bushes towards the Tower, and Jimmy and Gabriel followed him.

Will reached a clearing. He stood in front of the stone Tower.

He reached out his right hand and touched a stone, half-expecting to be transported somewhere amazing, like Hyrule.

When that didn't happen, Will ran around the Tower once, spotting a bronzed sign that said something important about someone important named Gosnold.

Will ran into his cousins. "Did you all touch it?"



"Good! Let's get outta here before our boat really sinks."

Will pushed them back across the pond. The rowboat sank right as they reached the shallows in front of their cheering cousins. Uncle Finn trudged out to meet them, and they all tried to lift the boat out of the water, but it was too heavy under the water. The rest of the fellowship would have to wait for another trek to touch the Tower, perhaps even another year.

When they finally returned to the Coast Guard house, it was time for more hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob, and another round of Monopoly long enough to have someone (usually Gabriel) flip the board.

"So, are we still on for this thing?" asked Cole, as they all climbed into their beds that night.

"What thing?" asked Will.

"The book!" said Alice.

"Oh, right," said Will. "Yeah, I mean... I do want to see you guys catch a seagull, so..."

Morning came early. The cousins begged their parents to take them to the beach, with just enough desperation to draw suspicion from their mothers.

"You better not be trying to catch another seagull," said Aunt Elle.

No one said a thing, other than Cole, who might have grumbled, "Mmmm."

Wagons and chairs and coolers in tow, the whole family finally reached the beach by mid-morning. But the little girl -- and her giant book -- were gone.

Luckily, Will's dad had brought down his old seining net, and showed the kids how to use it. The cousins spent the rest of the day catching teeny minnows and hermit crabs in the shallows, feeling like ancient mariners.