What beach this was, Louis wasn’t certain. Rock and sand, a harbor town, and everywhere the sort of broken pottery he’d combed for as a boy in the 1940s. Let his brothers fill their pockets with sticks and shells, ordinary sea glass: he knew how to look for the curved ridge on the underside of a slice of saucer. Flip it over and find the blue flowers of Holland or China, a century ago or more. Once, on the beach outside their summer cottage down the Cape, he had found two entire clay pipes, 18th century, while his six older brothers sharked and sealed and barked in the water; beyond them he could see, almost, the ghosts of the colonists who had used the harbor as a dump, casting their broken pottery out so he could find it in his own era and put it in his own pockets. But this wasn’t the Cape, or even Massachusetts. His brothers were mostly dead. That is, they were all of them dead but in his head only mostly: they washed up alive every now and then, and Louis would have to ask himself: is Phillip alive? Is Julius, Sidney?
Study the beach. Here, half-buried: a tiny terra-cotta cow with its head missing, otherwise intact, plaything for a child dead before the industrial revolution. The sea-worn bottom of a bottle that read Edinbu before the fracture. Lots of bits of plate, interesting glaze, violet and coppery brown. All his outgrown fixations had returned to him now that he was old. On an ordinary day in his bedroom at home he might hesitate to reach down for fear of falling over. Not here. He found the pottery and snatched it up. A teapot spout. A cocked handle from just where it had met cup. A round brown crockery seal with a crown and the word FIREPROOF. He thought: that which is fireproof is also waterproof, but he wasn’t sure whether that were true. Good picking anyhow. Some boy was calling far off for his father, Dad! Dad! He looked up. He was that father. There was his boy. Boy: a full-grown man, shouldering a plaid bag, standing on the steps that led from the storefronts of the harbor town down to the little beach. On the street above a man in a kilt passed by. A Lady from Hell. What they called the Black Watch. They were in Scotland. His son had brought him here, to this island.
“We’ll miss the boat,” his son said.
“Let’s not,” Louis answered, and put the treasure in his pockets.