Swooner’s Island

When the town dammed the spring to create Swinfish Lake in Marsuoin Park, no one knew that an island would remain after four months of trickling inflow. Once the lake had finished growing and the water began to slip over the spillway, people stood on the shore and laughed at the island, small and low in the middle. They knew that when you’re an island as insignificant as Swooner’s, newlyweds don’t chase each other up and down your shores, brochures don’t brag about your beaches, and castaways would rather drown than call you home. You’re class-D, the lowest island rating, just above a floating turtle. You get one tree, one dock, some scraggly underbrush, and you’re probably shaped like a baked bean.

Swooner’s allotted tree is a sycamore at the north end; its dock faces south, toward the gazebo. Nothing in its appearance would explain its allure. Perhaps there’s an illusion of privacy beyond what the location warrants. On Swooner’s Island, you can observe the world with indifference and detachment, the way a cat looks out a screen door.

Town tradition dictates that once a romantically inclined couple has planted their cross on the island, other couples go to lesser places for their kissing trysts; Swooner’s simply isn’t big enough for group wooing. Mayor Chibble tried to implement reservations once, with disastrous results. You can’t plan love. When your evening enters its second hour and she’s still at your side, still smiling, and hasn’t slapped your face or called you a hog, you want to row her to the island for a kiss and snuggle, not schedule a night two weeks ahead by signing a clipboard in the town hall lobby. When wooing, timing is as important as personal hygiene; more so, since stinky folks seem to always find each other.

On Aedre Day, September 18, the air is so charged with ardor that even married couples have reported feeling it. In the evening, during the dance and the fireworks, securing Swooner’s is like having box seats at a ballpark, but the attraction isn’t baseball—it’s romance. You sit at the edge of the dock with your feet in the water, looking at Japanese lanterns and plastic lights strung along the lakeshore as fireflies pulse around you. You pull her close, catch the scent of her hair and feel her touch for the first time. She wiggles her shoulders and settles in. Music leaps from the bandstand and slides across the water; fireworks erupt in the sky, lightspray shimmering with delight, hesitating before plunging to earth, filling you with satisfaction. It’s as if you’re in an old romantic movie, black and white like true love, 90 minutes of anticipation that culminates, not in a contemporary film of moist bodies tangled together like two nightcrawlers on a rainy evening, but with the first kiss of classic cinema, the best kiss, the only kiss you’ll remember; then credits, so nothing can temper the bliss.

I don’t know who named it Swooner’s Island, I only know why. (Actually, I do know who named it, but I needed a catchy closing line.)

[Image caption] During the past week numerous residents have reported a stray dog roaming the town. It is a male, of medium size, and appears generally healthy. Although I have not seen the animal, I have drawn this likeness based on the descriptions of others. The dog is said to have a sweet disposition. If anyone knows the dog’s owner, please inform Mayor Chibble.

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