Fahrenheit 52

The Secret of Skull Island

"You made a business card?"

"Of course I did! How else are we going to be take seriously at the museum? They'll never believe a regular kid."

Kal looked at the handwritten, laminated piece of blue construction paper.

Penelope Green, Arkaologist

"Penny, I don't even believe you."

"Then give me that back before you drop it. Just keep rowing. We're almost there."

The fog blanketed the still water in the cove. Kal had no idea where Penny was navigating them -- he felt terribly lost already, and he knew these waters better than most adults. He'd kayaked here hundreds of times before and had never heard of this "Skull Island."

But Penny was Penny.

"There!" she shouted. "Come around port-side. It'll be easier to climb up."

Kal grunted and directed their orange Ocean Kayak II to the rocks where Penny was pointing. The sun caught him in the eyes, a perfect white circle burning through the clouds, and he turned away quickly. But not quick enough -- a burnt moon hovered in his vision, even with his eyes closed. He remembered his cousin John's warning: if you stare at the sun long enough, you'll get to see its flames, but then you go blind. Kal had no reason to believe that wasn't true. He considered risking it one more time. He'd be able to turn away quick enough. It would be awesome to see one of those flames.

"Ouch! Kal! What are you doing? We just hit that rock!"

"Sorry... so this is it? Skull Island? Looks more like Pile-of-Rocks Island."

"Haw-haw. Throw me that rope," said Penny. She hitched it to a root dangling over the rocks and stood up in their craft. A full year older than Kal, Penny had lived next door to Kal ever since Kal's family moved to Orcas Island when he was in the first grade. Penny was eleven, with curly coppy hair, now pulled into a ponytail under an ancient Mariner's cap. Kal knew more about the Mariners and Ken Griffey Jr. than Penny ever would, and he coveted that hat.

Penny leapt off the kayak and climbed up the rocks.

"Oh, grab our bucket," she called back to Kal.

Kal grumbled but complied, following her up the slimy rocks onto the island, with the blue Lowe's cement bucket in hand.

"Ugh! It smells," said Kal.

"That's just one of the islands many defenses, Kal. Haven't you seen Raiders of the Lost Ark? Any time there's treasure, there's booby traps."

Kal lifted up his red life jacket to his nose and sniffed the canvas. It smelled musty in a good way. He looked around. Skull Island had some grass. Moss, really. They found remnants of an old campfire near a meager excuse for a tree.

"So, where are they, Penny? The dinosaur bones..."

"Oh, ye of little patience, my young padawan."

Penny crouched down and started digging. She unearthed something white rather quickly.

"Woah!" shouted Kal.

Penny smiled. "These bones are everywhere, Kal. This must have been the home of a whole colony of tiny little dinosaurs. Now start digging!"

In a half hour, they'd found dozens of bones of all shapes and sizes, all bleached white. The two carefully dusted them off and placed them into their bucket. Kal even found a bit of a skull, which he put in his shorts pocket.

When the sun finally poked through, they tried arranging their bones into a full skeleton.

"Let me go first," said Penny. She arranged them into a rough stegasaurus shape.

"That makes no sense. There's no backbone, Penny. Let me try," said Kal, taking over. There were clearly two separate dinosaurs in their discovery. Penny started nodding as Kal arranged them.

"Well, yeah, I knew were two skeletons. I was just testing you. Anyway, you realize this is obviously a brand-new, never-before-discovered species. We're gonna get to name it. I'm thinking the Penelopasaurus.

"The Penelopasauras..." repeated Kal.

"Well, I did discover Skull Island, after all."


"Fine, fine! The Penelepo-Kal-asaurus. Happy? Doesn't quite roll off the tongue as easily, but whatever. Now, c'mon. We're gonne be late for camp. We'll bring these to the museum this afternoon."

They put the bones back into their bucket, climbed down to their kayak, and rowed back to the inlet where they lived.

As the last clouds faded from the summer haze, another boat came around to the far side of Skull Island.

"Bill, toss me the bag."

"Are you sure this okay, Henry?"

"Bill -- I've been leaving trash on this pile of rocks for years. Besides, you don't want anyone knowing about our little cock-fighting arrangement, do you? The police go through our trash now after our last run-in."

Bill nodded and handed over the black plastic bag. A claw had poked through the plastic and it scratched Bill's finger, without drawing blood, luckily.

Henry climbed up the rocks and emptied the bag onto the mossy island. Before leaving, he bent down and arranged some seaweed over the eyes of the chicken carcasses.