The disaster was great for me and Scud. We were given time off school to help clear up the beaches. Not that we did much. There were experts fixing the birds. And there were men in orange suits spraying the sea with chemicals. Everyone in the town wanted to do something but no one could really do anything. There were some people standing around just crying. Old Bill Western from the market was crying — me and Scud saw him with snot at the end of his nose, muttering “the birds, the birds” to himself like a poem.


Everywhere you looked there was oil and people in plastic suits. It was like the high season and for us and it was all excitement. “Let’s get oil on our shoes and leave trails through the streets,” we said; “Let’s go into Seaview Gifts and mess up Phellp’s carpet;” but they wouldn’t let us on the beach.


The oil was good for Da, too. It gave him something to do. They needed volunteers up at the estuary for a week’s work, and he went up there to help; he packed his case and put on his galoshes and oilskins and he looked like he was going to war or something.


“I’m not sure what I can do, but at least I can do something,” he said, and I was dead proud of him even though it wasn’t a real job.