Peter Benchley's Creature
of the California grays, would be tangible evidence of serious scientific work. There would be stories in newspapers and on television. Brendan Finnegan would have to eat his words and find someone else to harass.

    12

    MAX'S foot slipped on the slick boulder, and before he could catch himself he skidded down its face and found himself standing in water up to his ankles. He called himself a few names, then sloshed through the shallow water till he came to a place where the rocks were smaller. He climbed them and continued his circuit of the island, stepping carefully from rock to rock, aware now of the truth of what Tall Man had told him: low tide makes for slippery rocks.
    Tall Man had given him two fish to feed to the heron. He had approached the bird gingerly, for it was big, its beak was long and sharp and its dark eyes followed him as if he were prey.
    Max had dropped the first fish, fearing for his fingers, and the heron had snatched it from the water, craned its neck and swallowed it whole. The heron had seen the second fish, and had taken a step toward Max. Max had forced himself to stand his ground, dangling the fish from his fingertips, and the heron had plucked it from him with surgical precision, its beak missing Max by millimeters. Then Max had tried to touch the heron, but it had turned away and marched back to the center of its tidal pool.
    Max had nothing special to do, his father and Tall Man were both busy, so he had decided to go exploring. At low tide, Tall Man had said, you could walk all the way around the island on the rocks, and he had already made it nearly halfway around, had reached the far southern end.of the island, before skidding off the slimy boulder and soaking his sneakers.
    He came to a small pool—a big puddle, really— where the tide had receded from a basin in a boulder, and he knelt down and bent close to the water. He saw tiny crabs scuttling among the stones, and periwinkles clinging motionless to the bottom, as if patiently awaiting the next high tide. He watched the crabs for a moment, wondering what they were doing.that made them look so busy—feeding? fighting? fleeing?—then stood up and continued on.
    The larger rocks were spattered with guano and littered with clam shells and crab shells dropped from the air by gulls, which would then swoop down and peck the succulent meat from the shattered shells. The smaller rocks closer to the water were coated with algae and weeds, and in niches between them Max saw matchbooks, plastic six-pack holders and aluminum pop-tops from soda cans. He picked up those he could reach and stuffed them into his pockets.
    He came to a spot where the rocks looked too slimy and their faces too slippery for him to climb over them safely, and so he walked up the hillside and crossed twenty or thirty yards of high grass toward the biggest boulder he had ever seen: at least twelve or fifteen feet high, probably twenty feet long, a remnant of the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last ice age. He circled the boulder, looking up at it with awe, then began to search for a way down the hill to the rocks.
    He walked between two bushes, tested his footing and started down.
    Something caught his eye, something in the water, not far out, no more than ten yards away. He looked, but saw nothing, and he tried to articulate for himself what it was he had seen: movement, a change in the shape of the water, as if something big was swimming just beneath the surface. He kept looking, hoping to see the dorsal fin of a dolphin or the shimmering shower caused by a school of feeding fish.
    Nothing. He kept going, walking slowly, stepping carefully among the wet rocks.
    He heard a sound behind him: a splash, but a strange kind of splash, a plopping splash, as if an animal had risen out of the water and submerged again. He turned and looked, and this time he did see something—a ring of ripples spreading from a spot just offshore. There was a vague hump in the surface

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