The Sand Palace Four
Nick Volkov, 22
Ariel Spencer, 22
Wyatt Smith, 22
Sheila Murphy, 22
Nick, Francine, and Jade-Marie Volkov
Ariel, Wyatt, and Jason Smith
Sheila Murphy O’Connell and Penny O’Connell
Nantucket Island was thirty miles out at sea, with no bridge or tunnel connecting it to the mainland. Often gale force winds cut it off from boats or planes, and even on mild summer days, fog could drift around the island, enclosing the small world in a shimmer that made Nantucket seem almost unreal, a fantasy made of salt air, mist, and dreams.
Most summer days were clear, bright, and beautiful. For a century, people had come to the island to enjoy the warm beaches, the sparkling ocean, and easy evenings under the stars, dining at restaurants with top-notch chefs.
The natives and the “washed-ashores” resided on the island year-round. Others came for the summer, filling Nantucket’s guesthouses and hotels. The small town of Nantucket had a movie theater, library, amateur theater, classical concerts, and bookstores, all within walking distance from the hotels. A person could step off a ferry onto the cobblestones and walk to their hotel or house. In the 1990s, the super-rich summered on Nantucket, but no one knew who they were, because they didn’t want to “stand out,” considering it vulgar.
When first built in the seventies, a hotel named the Nantucket Palace towered in fake aristocratic grandeur at the corner of South Beach Street and Easton Street. Every islander knew that “the Nantucket Palace” was a ridiculous name for a hotel on an island settled by Quakers who believed in simplicity, but summer people flocked there because it was close to the shops, the yacht club, and the beaches.
In the nineties, the Palace was sold to an entrepreneur who wanted to make the hotel contemporary and cool. He hired Sharon Waters to deal with the paperwork. Sharon was a prim woman in her thirties who loved nothing more than adding figures on her desktop calculator. She had no problem working at a hotel that was in the middle of a renovation. Sharon had worked for the former owner. Now she was smoothly and happily dealing with the mounds of tedious paperwork for the new owners, who had demolished much of the hotel before being ordered to cease work until every form was signed, submitted, and approved. This fall and winter, the owners would build the new hotel and planned to name it Rockers. Sharon’s office was just above the basement with its industrial-size laundry, four single bedrooms for staff, and one bathroom. Sharon was appointed to find tenants to rent the bedrooms in the basement of the one wing of the hotel that remained.
The word was out that there was summer money on Nantucket, and in the late spring, college graduates from near and far swarmed the island, looking for jobs and temporary living quarters. Of the many applicants, Sharon had awarded the rooms to the four people she thought least likely to hold wild parties or destroy them.
First, Ariel Spencer, who came from a good family, had just graduated from a good college, and lived in a pleasant Massachusetts suburb. Ariel had the quiet, sweet manner of a person who knows she’s fortunate and wants you to be fortunate, too.
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