Chapters 17-19 Summary

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Ten days after the big storm, Phillip finds that he is tired of eating fish and decides to look for scallops or langosta at the bottom of the fishing hole. Carrying a sharpened stick, he dives beneath the surface and manages to catch a langosta after only a few tries. Greedily, Phillip continues diving in search of more. On his last attempt, he discovers the opening to a deep crevice. Phillip inserts his hand to see if anything is inside and is bitten by an unidentified attacker.

Phillip is able to push himself back to the surface, but the creature’s teeth have sunk in deep, causing great pain. He later concludes that he has been bitten by a large moray eel. He never dives into the fishing hole again.

Phillip listens for sounds from the sky constantly, and one morning in early August he finally hears the faint drone of a plane. Phillip lights the signal fire and stands on the beach, waiting in anticipation, but the plane does not come near.

Crushed with disappointment, Phillip momentarily loses hope that he will ever be rescued. After a while, though, his resilient spirit reasserts itself, and he begins to think about what might have gone wrong. Phillip concludes that perhaps the plane did not seen the signal because the smoke had most likely been white, and he tries to find things he could add to the fire to make the smoke more visible.

On the morning of August 20, 1942, Phillip hears the sound of explosions in the distance and the drone of an aircraft. He lights the signal fire again, this time adding bunches of sea grape to make the smoke black. Suddenly, there is a “deafening roar” overhead. Phillip is certain that rescue is imminent and feels ecstatic, but once again the plane flies away. In complete despair, Phillip returns to his shelter with Stew Cat and throws himself down on his mat. Looking toward Timothy’s grave, he asks, “Why didn’t you take us with you?”

About noon, Phillip is roused by the sound of a bell, the “slow chugging” of an engine, and voices. He runs down to the beach and finds a small boat and a man walking toward him. The man is an American from a destroyer that has been hunting German submarines nearby. The plane that had flown overhead had indeed seen the black smoke from Phillip’s signal fire and had radioed the ship for help. The sailor and his companions are shocked to find Phillip and Stew Cat on this cay, which is so small it does not even have a name. They are even more astonished when Phillip tells them he is from the S.S. Hato, which had sunk more than four months previously.

Phillip is reunited with his parents in Panama. His mother had returned to Curacao after being rescued from the Hato, and Phillip finds her much changed. He tries to tell both his parents about Timothy and the cay, but though they listen thoughtfully, Phillip gets the feeling that neither of them really understands the significance of his experiences. After several operations at a hospital in New York, Phillip regains his sight. Then, in April 1943, exactly a year after he was lost at sea, he returns with his family to Willemstad.

Phillip has a lot of difficulty fitting back into his old life in Scharloo; his friends now seem very young. He feels more at home along St. Anna Bay, talking to the Black people there. He is drawn by the lilting sound of their voices and is delighted to discover that some of them had known “old Timothy from Charlotte Amalie.” When the war is over, the Enrights go back to the United States. Phillip spends much of his time studying maps of the Caribbean Islands and resolves one day to return to find the “lonely little island where Timothy is buried.” Phillip thinks he might not recognize it by sight, but if he goes ashore and closes his eyes, he will know immediately that it is the “outrageous cay” he once shared with his loyal friend, Timothy.

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Chapters 15 and 16 Summary