“Jump Tina!’ I shouted, “hurry up, the tide’s coming in!” My sister was stuck on the same boulder she always got stuck on.
“Here,” I said, tapping my walking stick on a big flat rock, “aim for this one.”
Tina swung her arms as she shifted her weight back and forth. Suddenly she stopped and nearly fell off her perch into the swirling water below. She just stood there biting her lower lip; she looked like a scared chipmunk.
Sure all the rocks were slippery with kelp and covered with razor sharp barnacles; but scrambling over that craggy point was the only safe way to get to Hobo Jungle.
“We should have ditched her!” My new friend Vicky said. “just do it scardey-cat!” She yelled.
My goofy sister was making me look dumb in front of Vicky.
“Look Tina ” I called, ” you’re the one who wanted to come along!” The mist of a nearby wave brushed against my face; the tide really was coming in. “If you can’t keep up the beach way, we’ll have to use the train bridge.” As I spoke, a distant train whistle shrilled.
“I’m not chicken,” Tina replied. She took her walking stick, an old piece of bamboo, held it in front of her like an acrobat and jumped. She landed with a crunch on a barnacle encrusted rock. “OK, let’s go,” she said and trudged on as if nothing had happened.
With the fairgrounds behind us; the three f us made our way to our forbidden destination.
Hobo jungle is the place your mother tells you not to go to. The place were people disappear and unspeakable things wash up on the shore. But where else could we catch a glimpse of a ghost the Saturday before Halloween?
“Barroommaa!” A distant foghorn wailed. Ahead the distant cypress trees became veiled in mist. There on the outskirts of nowhere, a heavy Autumn fog rolled in.
Shreds of mist drifted by. Tina’s brown hair was already starting to curl in the moisture. I brushed back a curl of my own hair as I bent to pick up a half open clam shell.
“Gross!” said Vicky, “what’s that?”
“Evidence of low tide,” I said mysteriously. ” Charman is seen during low tide…So they say.” i figured the Vicky would enjoy a good ghost story at this point.
“No, no, not Charman!” Tina whined pitifully as she covered her ears. Tina’s boogy-man was Charman, she had nightmares about him. I had to check under her bed at night to make sure that Charman wasn’t lurking there. And yet, she could never resist my terrifying saga.
“Who? What? Tell me!” Vicky demanded.
As she gave Vicky a side-long glance, Tina slowly lowered her hands from her ears.
“Red tide brings him out,” I began. I shook my clam at my audience and it’s contents giggled ominously. Charman is a doomed phantom. He howls in grief as he prowls the land between the fairgrounds, Hobo Jungle, all the way to Foster Park and Camp Comfort.” Pausing for dramatic effect, I could hear Tina panting like a trapped rabbit.
Scorched in a terrible fire that destroyed his home and family, Charman is hideous beyond belief. He is covered in putrid rags, matted hair and a monstrous stench surrounds him. He cannot live, he cannot die; he is over two hundred years old. In his cursed loneliness, he roams the land calling for the ones he lost, calling, calling…”
“Ack, awok, ack, ack!” A piercing cry passed overhead. Vicky’s eyes flew open wide.
“Seagull.” Tina said flatly. Yet we were all shivering as we squatted on a flat rock shrouded in a heavy fog.
“We sit right now in the phantom’s tragic path. In his dreadful solitude, he steals way children who are never heard from again. Call his name out loud and he will take you way forever!”
Suddenly, I stood up and screamed a the top of my lungs: “Hey, Charman, come and get us!”
“No way!” Vicky cried as she sprang to her feet. ” You’re a liar!”
“Charman’s real,” Tina told her.
“You’re both crazy,” Vicky barked. “You and your stupid clam! I’m out of here!” Vicky knocked the clam out of my hand and shoved me hard as she scrambled past. I stumbled backwards and wedged my foot between two huge boulders. I heard a clatter and splash as my walking stick fell into the water. ”
“Wait up Vicky, I’m Stuck.”
“Oh, smart move klutz!” Vicky said with a sneer.
“Maybe we can both pull her out?” Tina said. I could hear and see that the tide was coming in. Soon the entire point would be underwater. I had to get my foot free while there was still time.
“Look over there,” Tina whispered. We all turned to see a vague figure looming out of the thick, damp layers of fog.
“It’s Charman, you idiot!” Vicky screamed. “This is all your fault, you called him!”
“No, Vicky, that was just a dumb story,” my voice shook with fear and pain. “please if you don’t help me, I’ll drown!” Again the foghorn brayed it’s lonely warning.
“Charman!” Vicky cried. She bolted over the rocks and vanished into the fog.
Tina stared at me in amazement: “She left you to drown! She’s older than you Lisa, but she’s more chicken than me!”Tina tried to push the boulder away but it was impossible. She then took her bamboo walking stick and wedged one end under the massive stone, she put all her weight on the other end. The bamboo bent for a second, then shattered into a million pieces.
“Tina, Listen to me, run for help!” The water swirled above my ankles and was rising fast. Tina couldn’t swim yet. “Go! Charman’s coming!” I fought to keep the panic out of my voice.
“Uh-uh, I’m not chicken.” Tina picked off a crab that was crawling up my trapped leg and flicked it into the water. “Dumb old Charman. I’ll kick him right here!” She pounded her knee as she spoke. Despite the throbbing pain in my ankle, I laughed to see her so fierce.
“Charman, you big meany!” Tina shouted. I opened my mouth to sat something too but instead, I was sapped in the face with a big, salty wave. Foamy water swirled around my waist as I sputtered the salty spray out of my nose and eyes. I looked up but Tina was gone.
I turned frantically this way and that but I couldn’t see her. Where was she? Did she run for help after all? Had she been washed out to sea? At first all I could hear was my own heart pounding, then water rushing over rock and sand. That rumbling, growling sound told me that the next wave was going to be really big! Oh where was my sister?
“Look what I found, floating over there?” It was Tina. Relief flooded over me as Tina came scrambling over the rocks, clutching my walking stick. She stuck one end under the boulder just as before and hefted on it. The boulder wouldn’t budge, it was just too heavy. I kept silent as I caught a glimpse of that vague figure again moving closer to us in the fog.
“Ack, awok, ack!”
“Seagull.” Tina said without looking up from her work. A series of smaller waves began to pound against us. The water was past my knees and rising. Tina dug her front teeth into her lower lip and leaned hard on her lever. Suddenly my foot went numb, I was free! Tina clapped her hands and bounced up and down: “Yay! The water made the rock less heavy!” And she climbed over to me.
We were too late! I looked up and saw a huge green wall of water coming toward us, curling as it rose. It was the biggest wave I’d ever seen. “Hold your breath!” I ordered. I pushed her down in front of me and grabbed a hold of the boulder.
A gargantuan blast of icy salt water blasted over us and crushed us against the boulder. We were under so much water I thought that my lungs would explode. The wave then pulled back with such force I was certain we were going to swept out to sea. But the rock we were clinging to held; finally the water receded.
“Crawl!” That was all I could do. Tina tried to pull me up onto the levy. If only we could go along the train tracks back to the fairgrounds before the train came! I heard a noise, it wasn’t a bird or a train. Someone was right behind us! I swung around with my fists clenched; no one was going to get my sister without a fight! Tina too, was swinging wildly.
“Hold on girls, I don’t stand a chance against you two wild-cats!” Not a monstrous howl, but a woman’s voice broke through the fog. The I saw that she wore a Parks Department uniform. “Let’s get you two off the rocks, don’t you girls know that the tide’s coming in?”
Tina and the ranger helped me limp to her jeep which was parked near the fairgrounds. We sat wrapped in warm blankets as the ranger gave first aid to my ankle. “I would never have seen anyone in this fog,” she said as she wrapped an ace bandage on my injury; “but I heard all this ruckus so I came to see what all the trouble was. Strange,” said the Ranger shaking her head, “out of the fog, I saw another girl running toward the fairgrounds. I tried to help her but she took off screaming as if she had seen a ghost! Was she a friend of your’s?”
Tina and I looked at each for a moment. Then at the same time we both said, “No way, she’s not my friend!” Tina ave me a toothy smile and punched me in the arm. “Poke spoke, you owe me a coke,” she chanted. I nodded. I knew I owed her much more than a soda.