Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

One Small Step

Summary: On Squire’s Isle Day, the island receives a very special guest.

Her bags had been mostly packed for a week, sitting next to her bed like a signpost that said, ‘Yep, you’re really going, get used to it!’ When the big day finally came, the first day of her vacation, she washed and packed her toiletries and her favorite pillow and carried the two large suitcases out to wait for the airport shuttle. She tapped her foot against the sidewalk, the pessimistic side of her brain telling her all the things that might go wrong. The plane could be late, the weather could be bad, the reality might not live up to the fantasy… but no. She had been very careful about creating an unreal idea of what to expect. Everything she was looking forward to was tangible. She could see it in the photographs.

She couldn’t wait.

Her fellow passengers on the shuttle didn’t share her excitement. They were too sleepy or too stressed, or just too entrenched in their own things to care about her or where she was going. After a few aborted attempts at conversation, they arrived at the airport. She checked in and made it through security without a hiccup. She wandered the bookstores until finally she sat down at her gate and looked through the enormous glass windows at the tarmac.

It was her first flight, her first real trip to another state. Haley called it “her quarter-life adventure,” and she decided she really liked the phrase. She had started a blog with that as the title, not that she’d told anyone about it. She revealed things on the blog that people in her real life didn’t know, and that was the whole point of the trip.

While waiting for the plane to arrive, she took out the pages she’d printed and opened them to look at the photographs. Just looking at the island made her grin. She couldn’t believe she was just a few hours away from arriving there… Squire’s Isle. She took out her laptop and went back through the pages she’d bookmarked.

In 2007, a disc-jockey named Nadine Butler accidentally came out of the closet and took a stand against the homophobic reactionary decisions that threatened her job. It was like something out of a modern-day fairy tale. In the end, Nadine had kept her job and found the woman she was meant to be with all in the same day. A happy ending for all involved. It was nice to believe that happy endings were possible, that the good girls could win once in a while. She found her eyes watering and blinked the tears away so she could focus on the pages.

After Nadine took a stand, the island changed. People became more accepting of “alternative lifestyles” until it was just a lifestyle. They had an out lesbian currently running for mayor, and she was married to an elementary school teacher. She’d read one blog that said the town’s fire chief was also gay.

She folded the papers and put them back in her bag. She was thinking of Sheila Cobb, who had quietly resigned from her position as the girls’ softball coach when one of the parents found out she was gay. A few months later, her house was for sale. She thought of all the times someone at work had asked her when she was going to find someone and settle down, smiling and telling them she was just waiting for the right one to come along.

The plane finally started boarding, and she tried to steady her nerves as she joined the people stepping onboard. Squire’s Isle, WA, by way of SeaTac… She settled into her seat and looked out the window. She had gotten turned around in the airport so she wasn’t entirely sure which direction was west. Still, she looked and she smiled, imagining it somewhere in the hazy distance. Look out, Squire’s Isle. I’m on my way.


The plane landed a little after ten in the morning, and she picked up her rental car and was back on the road by eleven. She drove from the airport, through Seattle, north to Anacortes. The ferry wasn’t due for another thirty minutes when she arrived, so she bought a ticket and walked to the point where land met water. She wasn’t technically on the edge of the continent; there were straights and inlets and curves that made the coastline hard to figure. But as far as she was concerned, she was as far west as possible. And out there, just a short ferry ride from where she stood, was Neverland.

Squire’s Isle became her dream destination as soon as she heard about it in 2010. She started saving her pennies, eating at home instead of going out, waiting for movies to come out on DVD so she didn’t have to pay theater prices, conserving gas by walking everywhere under two miles… She put aside money from every paycheck and soon she had a nice little Trip Budget saved up. Then there was just the question of when to go. She didn’t want to be crushed by tourists, but she also didn’t want to be alone. She wanted the reassuring buffer of other people to make her less solitary when she made the trip.

When she discovered the annual celebration called Squire’s Isle Day, that date became her target. She told her friends and coworkers she was going walkabout, that she needed to visit a place that had been calling to her for years. A few of them laughed, one or two just nodded like she was a crazy person who needed to be appeased, but more than she expected had accepted it completely. Some asked where, some seemed to think it was none of their business but they wished her luck.

She boarded the ferry, reminding herself to breathe, and went up to the deck to watch as they moved away from the dock. The air was unbelievably cold, given that it was middle of the summer, but she braved it for the chance to watch her dream come ever closer. She felt like she was guiding the boat, and going back inside was putting more distance between her and her destination. She had a flash of that sappy movie about the boat and resisted the urge to declare herself royalty. But only just.

The trip took just under ninety minutes. By the time they were finally closing in on their destination she had given up standing outside to thaw out in the front observation deck. She stood when the ship angled toward a new dock. They got closer and she could see the arched wooden sign that welcomed travelers to the island, and she grinned wide as she gathered her bags and hurried down to get into her car.

She drove out onto the main road, took a right in front of the boardwalk, and leaned toward the window to breathe in.

That was Squire’s Isle air. She was actually here. She parked at the entrance to the harbor and looked at the masts bobbing in the sea of sailboats. She turned on the rental car’s radio and scanned the stations until she found the right frequency. The Five Man Electrical Band was in the middle of ‘Signs,’ and she smiled and moved slightly in her seat in time to the music. She left her window rolled down and stepped out onto the street.

Squire’s Isle trees, Squire’s Isle buildings. The people on the boardwalk were mostly tourists, but she figured at least a fraction had to be residents. She focused on the people who were working; the waitress at Gail’s Seafood Shack, the man standing in the doorway of Joe Lack’s Pizza with a newspaper, the two women in white tunics and checkerboard slacks smoking outside the back door of the seafood restaurant… they were Squire’s Islanders.

In the car, “Spirit in the Sky” gave way to an advertisement for a place called Yolk Folks, and then after a brief pause, the DJ started speaking. She tensed and turned her head toward the car. She had heard Nadine Butler’s voice on the internet, of course. The KELF website had clips and MP3s people could listen to. But this was different. It was live, and it was coming from a building that was most likely within walking distance of where she now stood.

“Hello again, my lovely friends. This is Nadine Butler, and that must mean you’re listening to KELF 1220 AM, and that means I think you are just super. We’re going to take a little break from the music to advertise some other really super people who help keep the lights on around here, but I’ll get back to the music as quick as I can. Call in with your requests, and for your chance to be today’s Tourist of the Day. The number is 232-KELF. We’ll be right back with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Paul Simon, and all your favorites, right here on KELF.”

She waited until the first commercial started to lean in the window and take her cell phone off the seat. She dialed slowly so she wouldn’t mess up, certain that she would hear the evil buzz of a busy signal. But to her shock, the line rang. She looked down with the vague memory of her childhood when telephones had cords you could twist when you were nervous. Why on earth had they gotten rid of those wonderful cords?

“KELF, this is the Pixie. How are you today?”

She opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

“Hello? Shoot…”


“Whoa! Hi, there.” Nadine laughed. “I thought we’d gotten disconnected. Is there something I can play for you?”

Her knowledge of any music recorded during the sixties and seventies evaporated. “I… don’t want to make a request.”

“Well, honey, we stopped delivering pizzas.” Nadine sounded like she was smiling. She was very good at putting a smile in her voice, and it was contagious. “What’s your name?”

“Um.” She thought about lying, but what was the point. “Nadine.”

“Yeah, honey?”

“No. Uh, m-my name is Nadine Medders.”

The other Nadine gasped. “Oh, my! It’s rare to meet another Nadine. Such a rare and beauteous name. Where are you from, name twin?”

“St. Paul. I’m a police officer there.”

“Oh, this just gets better and better. Well, Officer Nadine, what brings you to the island?”

“I wanted you to be the first person I told I was gay.”

Silence on the other end of the line. Her face was red, and she was just barely holding it together. “See, I’m a cop. And it’s hard enough getting accepted by the boys without… i-it’s just easier to not tell anyone. But I’m sick of not telling anyone. And I found your story online, and the novel about everything that happened, and I decided I was tired of hiding. But I thought it would be symbolic to do it here.”

“Are you on the island, Nadine?”

“Yeah. I just arrived.”

“Okay, I’m going to make you my Tourist of the Day. That means you–”

“I know what it means. I’m-I’m honored.”

Nadine laughed. “I’m the one who should be honored. Come by at three, okay? I’ll come down and say hi.”

“Are you serious?”

“You flew halfway across the country to say this amazing, wonderful, huge thing to me. Like I’m not going to walk downstairs to give you a hug? Please. Listen, do you want me to play your call on the air?”

She considered it, then shook her head. “No. I don’t think I want–”

“I understand. I’ll just let people know that you’ve been chosen as the Tourist of the Day. Are you sure I can’t play something for you?”

She laughed. “I can’t think of anything I want to hear.”

“That’s okay. I’ll get something appropriate for you. Nadine, thank you for calling me and for including me in this. I really am honored, and I look forward to meeting you. Are you a shrimp like me?”

“Uh, no… sorry.”

“Ah, that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect.”

She laughed and reluctantly ended the call so Disc Jockey Nadine could go back to work. She hugged herself and looked down the street. It didn’t look any different. It was easier to tell a stranger because they didn’t have any preconceived notions of who she was supposed to be. She wasn’t a daughter, a partner, a friend, a colleague. To Nadine Butler, she was a blank slate.

The commercials ended, and Nadine’s voice drifted out of the car. “Welcome back, folks. We had a very special call during the break, and I’ve named a very special person my Tourist of the Day. She knows who she is, and she knows why. I want to thank her for the courage it took to call, and I hope it leads her to being courageous in other things. This song is just for you.”

A vaguely reggae song started, and she laughed when she realized it was “I Can See Clearly Now.” She wiped at her eyes and rested her back against the car, tapping her foot as she considered the possibilities that lay before her. She’d told one person. A stranger, sure, but it was still a scary step. Sometimes telling a stranger was even scarier than telling a friend. But she’d done it. And now… well, like the song said. She looked up and smiled.

Nothing but blue skies.

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