What happens in chapter 8 in The Water is Wide?

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In chapter 8 Conroy decides to move from his house on the island and back to his family home. It means he will have to take a longer commute across the river, but he says he has always enjoyed the trip, and anyway, he can no longer stay in a house that is infested with vermin.

In the first few months his trips to school are as pleasant as they've always been. It becomes a bit more difficult when winter kicks in in December, but it is nothing compared to January and the most "severe [in South Carolina] cold spell since 1952. "For in that week I met the father of cold, the grand cold, the inquisitor of cold, and the pope of cold."

He struggles on until the school board send him a letter telling him that his travel expenses have simply become too expensive and they can only afford to pay for his gas on Mondays and Fridays. The rest he will have to pay himself.

After everything he has done for the school, Conroy is furious. It is not in his nature to just let it go, so he decides to confront the board during a school meeting. The chairman Piedmont decides not to come, but this works in Conroy's favor. He tells the two men there, Bennington and Sedgwick, that they hold no power and they are just saying what Piedmont told them to say. When Conroy attempts to leave the room in protest, they call him back and say, "I know where we can get cheaper gas."

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Chapter 8 begins with Conrad deciding to move out of the cabin he has been renting on the island and back to the mainland, due to a mouse problem. The commute by boat is generally a very enjoyable experience for him, though he eventually has to contend with the freezing cold of winter and the dense fog that follows it.

While he comes to greatly enjoy his commute by boat, it causes tensions with the school board over the increase in fuel costs. They insist that they will only pay for the boat's fuel on Mondays and Fridays, a truly untenable position for Conrad. This issue is not the only administrative disagreement between him and the county; and, as he says, "It is hard to pinpoint accurately the precise moment when [he] lost favor."

After threatening to walk out of a meeting with two of his superiors, Conrad is able to reverse the decision on the boat funding, and he even gets approval to bring milk from the mainland to aid the island. However, in doing so, he "had earned the enmity of a man who would . . . not rest until the wolves cut [his] flanks from behind": Mr. Bennington.

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In Chapter 8, Conroy leaves the house he is renting on the island and decides to commute to and from the mainland every day.  He describes the experience of crossing to the island by boat each morning - the amazing sense of peace and solitude of "being the only person in a vast stretch of water" when the weather is clement, and the trials of dealing with dense fog, turbulent winds and waves, ice, and rain when the weather is more capricious (Chapter 8).  Conroy's decision to commute leads to problems with the school board, which does not feel it should have to pay for his gas and the upkeep on his boat.  After a number of heated confrontations with boardmembers on this issue and others, Conroy reaches an uneasy truce with them; they will cover his expenses for now, but there are signs of further conflict to come.

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