In the house, there's an oval beach rock, with a tiny chessboard painted on it. Red and black squares, very carefully drawn. A chess rock.
That rock, with its chessboard, has been in the house for years and years and years. Sometimes upstairs, on the shelf over the radiator. Sometimes on the little table in front of the couch, sometimes on the windowsill over the sink.
It wanders, but it stays.
A ways back, when the house was newly built, I used to trespass on Lillian Hellman's beach, going past the Rainbow House. I'd have my beagle dog with me, Laurie Beagle.
One day, a little girl had set up a lemonade stand, on a board beside the house. 25 cents for a cup of lemonade.
Her name was Kathy, Kathy Ostrow. The Ostrows had been renting the Rainbow House summers for years.
Sometimes, when Kathy wasn't outside, I'd hear a thumping noise coming from the house.
Kathy liked Laurie Beagle. With great delight, she'd pet her and play with her, when we'd pass by.
The Ostrows came to dinner, leaving Kathy with a baby sitter, and they explained the thumping noise.
Kathy had cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease. The mucous doesn't come up from where you breathe. Her father had to put her over his knee and thump her back, to bring the mucous up, where she could cough it out.
I said how I'd like Kathy to come with them, the next time they visited.
The Ostrows said that even the fumes from a gas stove would be bad for her.
"I suppose playing with Laurie would also be bad," I said. "Laurie does shed."
No, playing outdoors was alright, where the air would take any dog hairs away.
Kathy graduated from lemonade to painted rocks. I bought the painted chessboard. 50 cents.
It came about that I was going off-Island for a day. I could have shut Laurie in the house. I wondered if it might be fun for her and for Kathy, if Kathy could play with her outdoors, by the Rainbow House.
The Ostrows said that would be fine.
When I came back that evening, there were Kathy and Laurie, chasing each other between a dune and the house, the little girl's hair streaming in the wind, the dog yelping, each of them trying to catch the other.
I didn't come to the Island for a year or so. When I was back, I ran into Kathy and her mother on Main Street, in Vineyard Haven. Kathy was gawky, smiling, big braces on her teeth, taller, but Kathy. No longer a child, becoming a grown-up.
Later, I heard that Kathy had died.
Still I see her, hair streaming in the wind, delighting to be chasing Laurie Beagle behind the sand dune, hair streaming in the wind.
Kathy's chess rock.