‘Avalon? No, that's down by Cape May.’
‘Not Avalon, New Jersey, Dad. Avalon...where King Arthur went...Dad?’
‘That's just a story, son.’
‘But, Dad, look...’
‘You read too much.’
The sea sighed. Green waves curled into the breeze, the spray fled up and back, a shimmer of pearl in sunlight. Beyond the crests, beyond the blue swells, rose a wooded isle he had never seen, not that summer, not the summer before. With each wave he saw it more clearly. It seemed so close now, the boy felt he could swim there, just dive through one of those breakers and swim all the way under water, across the sun dappled bottom to that white shore. The boy began to run, voices calling after him. He splashed through the shallows, and dove through the soft green wall beneath the falling, foaming crest.
Up he came spluttering. The sea had cast him out. He pushed his hair out of his eyes. But there, across the strand a slope loomed up, thick with trees. In their cool shade, a pavilion stood. Alone, it beckoned. He glanced back for the other beach, for his family waving him home. Only the green waves greeted him.
The boy climbed the pavilion steps. In a bed at its center slept a man, older, bearded. A golden crown inset with garnets waited on a pillow beside his head. Peace and strength flowed from him.
‘His time is not yet,’ said a voice behind him, ‘but now you must return.’
Nine tall women stood before him, all robed and veiled in white. The first caressed his cheek.
The boy awoke on the hot sand, choking out salt water. His father bent over him, cradling his head, looking scared and a bit cross.
‘Oh, thank God, it wasn’t his time,’ murmured his Nan as she pressed her daughter’s hand.