The Cay Summary
The novel opens, and we're given the initial setup. It's 1942. We're on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, and World War II is under way. The island is being stalked by German submarines that arrived during the nighttime and are targeting the area's oil refineries and tankers.
We're also introduced to the protagonist, Phillip, a young schoolboy who has never seen war before. He's "not frightened, just terribly excited" (1.5). Don't worry; that will change. We also meet Phillip's father, who works for one of the oil refineries and is the reason the family relocated from Virginia to Curaçao. Phillip and his dad have always been close – unlike his relationship with his mom. She's a bit of a nervous type and (as we will find out later) kind of racist. There's also Henrik van Boven, Phillip's school friend who is Dutch and with whom he plays around the city of Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao.
The arrival of the German submarines spells trouble for Willemstad. The oil tankers are in danger and many of the sailors refuse to get on board for fear of being torpedoed and sunk. Phillip's mother wants to go back to Virginia with her son, which creates tension with Phillip's father. Once the German submarines blow up the S.S. Empire Tern, a big British tanker, she decides to leave once and for all and is determined to take Phillip with her. Phillip wants to stay on the island with his dad, but his mom books passage for him to sail with her on a ship called the S.S. Hato.
As luck would have it, the Hato is torpedoed by the Germans. Phillip is knocked out during his evacuation from the ship. When he finally comes to, he is no longer on one of the lifeboats. Instead he's on a raft with a black West Indian man with a very thick accent named Timothy and a cat named Stew Cat. Timothy builds a shelter on the raft for the two to rest under.
Timothy and Phillip don't really get along at first. For one thing, Timothy rations the water instead of letting Phillip gulp as much as he pleases. To make matters worse, Phillip loses his sight from his injury during the torpedo blast. He goes completely blind.
The man, boy, and cat drift in the sea and finally happen upon a small cay (island). Timothy steers the raft to the island, even though Phillip wants to stay at sea (better chance of rescue, he thinks). On the island Timothy builds a hut and catches langosta (lobster) for the castaways to eat. Timothy eventually reveals that the two of them are probably in an area known as the Devil's Mouth. (That doesn't sound good.) The place is rarely accessible by ship, so they realize that their only chance of rescue is that a plane might see the smoke from a signal fire.
Tensions build between Timothy and Phillip as the two attempt to live together on the island. Phillip realizes that Timothy can't spell, which causes Phillip to feel all high and mighty. Timothy, meanwhile, pushes Phillip to do tasks that he doesn't want to do (like weave sleeping mats). Eventually the situation blows up. Phillip calls Timothy ugly and stupid and Timothy smacks the bratty Phillip in the face. For some reason, this act of violence seems to knock some sense into Phillip. He realizes that Timothy is only trying to help them both survive on the island. Phillip decides he wants to be Timothy's friend and asks Timothy to call him Phillip instead of "young bahss" (9.3).
After the fight Timothy and Phillip grow closer. They talk about their backgrounds and families. Timothy makes Phillip a cane to help him get around the island, and Phillip learns how to do things like fish. Phillip even eventually climbs a big palm tree to get coconuts – a major triumph for him. Despite his blindness, Phillip is becoming more independent and empowered. Meanwhile we learn that Timothy is in poor health. One day he gets a fever, and it's Phillip who must be the protector and caregiver.
Timothy, who practices voodoo, starts to believe the island is cursed with bad luck, and he thinks that Stew Cat is the problem. Phillip worries for Stew Cat's safety, but Timothy performs a ritual that doesn't hurt the cat in the least, though it scares Phillip to death.
Around this time a tempest (hurricane) strikes the island. Timothy and Phillip prepare as best they can, but their shelter is blown away. In the end, Timothy shields Phillip from the storm with his body, while the two hold onto a rope around a palm tree. Though he lives for a few moments after the storm, Timothy eventually dies; his body is cut, bruised, and bleeding from the wind and debris. Phillip is thankful for his friend and buries him.
Soon after Timothy's death Phillip begins navigating the island alone and has a couple of adventures. He wanders into a bird nesting ground and is attacked. Then a moray eel bites his hand. A plane flies overhead once, but Phillip is unable to get the pilot's attention with the signal fire. Eventually Phillip discovers how to make black smoke using oily bundles of sea grapes. In no time he successfully flags down a plane. Success!
Phillip and Stew Cat are finally rescued and reunited with Phillip's family. An operation in New York miraculously restores Phillip's sight. The family returns to Curaçao, but Phillip's friend Henrik seems so young now that Phillip decides to hang out with the black West Indian people instead, who remind him of Timothy. As the novel ends, Phillip is studying charts of the Caribbean and dreaming of returning to the cay one day.
- The novel opens with the arrival of German submarines in the waters surrounding Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, an island inhabited by the Dutch off the coast of Venezuela. (Shmoop note: The Dutch aren't native to the island, though they have controlled it since 1634. Learn more about the history of the island here.)
- The narrator, we learn, was asleep in his house in Willemstad.
- We get a date: February 1942. Sounds like World War II to us.
- The submarines are attacking oil refineries on Aruba, the island west of Curaçao, and some small oil tankers.
- The narrator is not so much scared as excited. He wants to go to Fort Amsterdam to look for enemy U-boats (German submarines) and shake his fist at them with the other people, but his mother tells him he has to stay home. School has been cancelled.
- More information: our narrator's name is Phillip.
- While his mother is busy, Phillip takes off with his friend Henrik van Boven, who is Dutch. The boys head to the fort, where they had played when they were much younger, pretending to defend the island from pirates or British invaders.
- The boys then head to a bridge over the channel, but there are no ships there.
- Henrik, whose Dad is with the government, tells Phillip that almost nothing is left of Aruba. Phillip finds Henrik's know-it-all attitude a bit irritating.
- Phillip says he bets the Navy is on the way. Henrik asks, "Our Navy?" (1.22). Phillip says no. He means the American Navy. We learn that Phillip and his family are American.
- An army officer orders everyone off the Queen Emma bridge.
- Phillip returns home and his mother is upset when he tells her where he's been. She shakes him and holds him.
- Phillip's mother, unlike Henrik's, is a nervous woman. She always fears he'll be hurt.
- Phillip's dad, also named Phillip, gets home from work from the refinery. His mother says not to bother him.
- Phillip and his dad used to be pretty tight – hiking and fishing and sailing – but he's been pretty busy lately.
- Phillip asks his dad if the Germans will shoot at them tonight. His dad doesn't know but says he wants Phillip and his mother to sleep downstairs.
- Phillip's mother comes in and tells him not to ask so many questions. His dad says he has a right to know.
- Phillip's mom, he tells us, did not want to come to the island from her home in Virginia. His dad brought them, though, so he could work for Royal Dutch Shell as an expert in refineries – all for the war effort.
- Phillip's mother often talks about their home in Virginia. Phillip was only 7 when they came to the Caribbean. There's some distance now between his mother and father.
- Phillip asks his father why they don't bomb the submarines. Phillip's father tells him it's because they have no such weapons on the island.
- Phillip's father adjusts the blackout curtains and returns to work. Phillip is in bed but can't sleep. He keeps thinking about the Chinese sailors on the lake tankers. And the Germans – will they come?
- Phillip gets out of bed, grabs a hatchet from the tool house, and puts it under the couch where he's sleeping.
- Phillip's dad returns and gets into a fight with his wife, Grace. She wants to go back to Norfolk, Virginia. He says it's not safe unless she flies. She says she won't fly. Stalemate. He returns to work.
- Phillip thinks about leaving the island; he would miss the people and animals and places. He is "awake most of the night" (2.12).
- The next morning Phillip's father tells him that the Chinese sailors won't sail on the lake tankers. They're charged with mutiny, but Father says that they have a right to be afraid of the German submarines.
- The island begins to run low on fresh water, which is usually brought in on the big tankers.
- Around February 21 some of the Chinese sailors agree to man the lake tankers, but then another tanker is torpedoed and the fear returns.
- A British tanker is to set sail, and Phillip's father takes him into the Schottegat to see the launch. Sure enough, the tanker is torpedoed by a German submarine and vanishes into a "wall of red flames" (2.26).
- That night Phillip's mother says she is taking Phillip back to Norfolk. His father doesn't order her to stay but says she is making a mistake.
- A little time passes until one day in early April, Mother tells Phillip that Father has gotten them a place on a boat for Miami. She tells Phillip it's his last day of school.
- Phillip is pretty ticked off and feels "hollow inside" (2.34). He calls his mother a coward and says he hates her. (Harsh, Phillip, harsh.)
- Phillip tells his dad he wants to stay with him, but his father says to go with his mother.
- Phillip says goodbye to Henrik van Boven and boards the S.S. Hato, a small Dutch freighter. His father jokes that the Germans wouldn't waste a torpedo on that boat, but he checks over the lifeboats anyway.
- Phillip hugs his father, then the ship sets sail down the bay. Mother points to a tall man waving on the wall of the fort. Phillip knows it's his father.
- The ship hits the open sea and heads to Panama to make a stop. Phillip stays on the deck looking at Curaçao until his mother calls him inside.
- As you probably guessed, a torpedo does indeed hit Phillip's ship early in the morning on April 6, 1942.
- Mother calmly leads Phillip out onto the deck where the captain is giving orders. Phillip and his mom are handed into a lifeboat, but when the boat is lowered, everyone is plunged into the water.
- Crash, boom, smash! Something hits Phillip from above.
- Several hours later, Phillip opens his eyes to find himself on a boat with a "very old Negro" whom Phillip thinks is pretty "ugly" (his word, not ours), and the cook's cat named Stew (3.14).
- The old man tells Phillip he pulled him aboard the raft and doesn't know exactly where the others are. He talks with a thick West Indian accent and calls Phillip "young bahss [boss]" (3.12).
- Phillip is pretty freaked out, so he has himself a good cry. The old man introduces him to the cat, Stew. Phillip gets seasick and pukes over the side.
- The old man builds a flimsy shelter from some pieces of raft and their clothes. Phillip falls asleep. When he wakes up, his head hurts more than ever.
- He asks the man his name and learns that it's Timothy. Phillip introduces himself as well and asks for water to drink from the keg on the raft.
- Timothy will only give Phillip a little drink. Phillip gets snotty and starts complaining, but Timothy won't budge. He's a stubborn guy, and says they have to conserve water.
- Phillips starts to think that maybe he agrees with his racist mother – who is not so much a fan of all the black people on Curaçao.
- The day passes and the flying fish begin to jump around on the sea. Timothy catches one, skins it, and gives the two biggest pieces to Phillip to eat.
- Phillip doesn't want to eat the raw fish, but Timothy starts sucking on his right away.
- Phillip turns on his stomach and pouts, thinking of home. He tells Timothy that he wouldn't even be there if not for his stupid mother.
- Timothy zings him by asking if his mother "started dis terrible wahr, eh, young bahss?" (3.73).
- The raft keeps drifting along and Phillip begins to think how strange it is that he, a white boy from Virginia, is on a raft with a "giant Negro" (4.3).
- Phillip recalls seeing black people in Virginia and Willemstad, though he never knew any. Henrik did, though.
- Phillip learns that Timothy's home is Charlotte Amalie, on St. Thomas, one of the Virgin Islands. Phillip tells Timothy that he is American too, since America bought the Virgin Islands. Timothy says he never thought about that.
- We learn that Timothy is an orphan who never knew his parents. Phillip thinks Timothy is probably from Africa since he looks like men in jungle pictures he's seen. Also, Timothy does not know quite how old he is.
- Phillip says he is 12, which Timothy says is a "veree important age" (4.21).
- Phillip's head soon begins to hurt, and he sleeps tucked up against Timothy with Stew Cat at his feet. When he wakes, his head still hurts, and they eat some food.
- Phillip's eyes are getting hazy, and Timothy thinks it might be from looking at the sun.
- Phillip sleeps some more under the shelter. When he wakes up he thinks it's night. It's not night, though. Phillip is now blind, and everything is black.
- Timothy is shocked at first, but he tells Phillip that the blindness is only temporary. The same thing happened to a man in Barbados, and he got his eyesight back.
- Phillip's pain is gone, but he still has a good freakout. His fear turns to anger at Timothy and his mother. He starts hitting Timothy, which Timothy lets him do, until he grows tired and falls back onto the boards of the raft.
- On the third day drifting at sea, an airplane flies overhead. Timothy calls to it and lights a torch, but nothing happens and the plane disappears. They're alone again.
- Phillip starts to put his hand in the warm water, but Timothy stops him. The waters are swarming with sharks. As long as they stay on the raft, though, they should be okay.
- Timothy says Stew Cat is bad luck, but to cause his death would be even worse. Phillip doesn't believe Stew Cat is bad luck.
- Phillip asks Timothy what he sees, and Timothy describes the water, the sky, and a bird called a "booby" (5.36).
- Phillip wonders if he'll ever see a bird again.
- Early in the morning Timothy spots land. Hurray! Phillip is so excited that he stumbles across the raft and falls into shark-infested waters. Way to go, Phillip.
- Timothy jumps in and yanks Phillip out of the water by his hair and then yells at him to be more careful – crawl on the raft, for goodness sake.
- Now, back to the island. They are about two miles away from it, but from what Timothy can see, it is a "veree smahl islan'" with no people on it (6.20).
- Phillip doesn't want to stop because he's convinced they'll have a better chance of being rescued out at sea or by finding a bigger island.
- But Timothy insists that they are going to land on the island. He tells Phillip they will get help there.
- Timothy steers the raft close to the shore, swims Phillip in on his back, then drags the raft and Stew Cat up on the sand.
- The sand feels good on Phillip's feet. Timothy says there are langosta on the island – creatures like lobsters. Yum.
- Timothy says he'll find a place to camp, and Phillip is alarmed because this means they won't be rescued soon. Timothy says not to worry, that he will build a fire for aircraft to see.
- Phillip asks where they are, and Timothy talks around the question but never really answers. He says he doesn't know, but Phillip doesn't believe him. The boy can sense that Timothy is holding something back, much like Phillip's father used to do when he was younger.
- Timothy goes off to find a place to camp. Stew Cat wanders away, and Phillip gets scared. He is not into the whole being alone while blind and on a desert island thing.
- Stew Cat returns, followed by Timothy. Phillip has a hissy fit and tells Timothy never to leave him alone again. Timothy says he won't.
- The two eat some biscuits and chocolate. Phillip calls Timothy out and asks him to tell him what he's been holding back, saying, "I'm old enough to know" (7.44).
- Timothy admits that he thinks they're on a small cay in a part of the sea known as the Devil's Mouth, which is "several small islands tucked up inside great banks of coral that made navigation difficult" (7.46). That means ships rarely go by.
- Phillip thinks they may be on the island forever, but Timothy tells him not to worry, they will signal an airplane. But how will the airplane know they are not native fisherman?
- Timothy has no answer, but gives Phillip some more water to celebrate reaching land. Phillip drinks it "slowly and thoughtfully" (7.57).
- Timothy makes a hut while Phillip thinks about his mother and the search that he is sure is going on for them. He tries not to think about his blindness.
- Timothy finishes the hut and asks Phillip to look at it, which, of course, he can't. Phillip is thinking some pretty nasty stuff about Timothy, calling him a "stupid old man" in his head (8.4).
- Much to Phillip's protests, Timothy leaves to catch some langosta. Phillip is scared again and mad at Timothy for leaving him alone, thinking his bigoted mother is right about black people.
- Phillip begins to cry, holding onto Stew Cat for comfort.
- Timothy returns with langosta, but Phillip gives him the silent treatment. They eat and then crawl into bed, where Timothy groans a lot. Phillip asks how old he really is and Timothy says he's more than 70.
- In the morning the two begin setting up their rescue device. Timothy makes a fire pile down by the beach; they will use the smoke to signal a passing aircraft.
- Timothy says they must write something on the sand, but it turns out he can't spell. He's too stubborn to admit this to Phillip, but Phillip figures it out anyway.
- Phillip spells out "HELP" on the ground with a stick. He feels "superior" to Timothy (8.52). What a brat.
- That afternoon Timothy starts to make a rope for Phillip to use to make his way to the fire pile if Timothy is out getting food.
- After pulling vines from the rope, Phillip is tired and doesn't want to work anymore. Timothy tells him he has to do some more work and tries to get him to weave mats for them to sleep on.
- Phillip is being a huge brat and says he can't help because he's blind. Timothy says he knows a blind man who is an excellent mat maker.
- This does not convince Phillip and the kid throws a fit. He calls Timothy an "ugly black man" and makes fun of him for not being able to spell (9.19). OUCH.
- Timothy is furious and smacks Phillip in the face.
- Surprisingly, Timothy's slap actually knocks some sense into Phillip, and the kid finally realizes that Timothy is only trying to help.
- After awhile Phillip calls out to Timothy, who shows him how to make the mat. Phillip asks if the two can be friends and Timothy says "you 'ave always been my friend" (9.29).
- Phillip asks Timothy to call him "Phillip instead of young boss" (9.30).
- On the seventeenth night it rains, filling up the catchment that Timothy built, a trough made out of two boards from the raft.
- It rains for almost two hours. Phillip loves the rain because he knows it's there without seeing it. He can "hear and feel it." (10.5) He wants it to rain all night.
- The two talk about Phillip's home and mother, and Timothy's childhood. Timothy can't remember much, but he didn't go to school and was working on a fishing boat by the age of 9.
- Timothy tells Phillip about the annual carnival where he dressed up in a donkey hide and paraded around drinking rum.
- Phillip thinks about his racist mother and asks why there are "different colors of skin, white and black, brown and red" (10.13).
- Timothy laughs and asks why fish are different colors or there are different flowers? He tells Phillip that beneath the skin, "all is d'same" (10.13).
- After Timothy falls asleep, Phillip wishes his father and mother could see them together. He snuggles against Timothy, who feels neither white nor black.
- The next morning they have pompano (a fish) for breakfast. Timothy hints to Phillip that he should climb a coconut tree, but Phillip isn't brave enough.
- Timothy puts the coconuts out of his mind and mentions how much Phillip has changed: his skin is all brown now and his hair is ropy. His clothes are in tatters and his eyes stare (which kind of creeps Timothy out).
- Speaking of eyes, Phillip asks Timothy when his friend from Barbados got his vision back. Timothy says it was after a few months, but Phillip reminds him that he had said before that it was only "three days" (10.35).
- Oops. Timothy changes the subject and says they should get to work. Phillip observes that he does that a lot now. He asks them what work they have to do, and Timothy is flustered and rattles off a big list.
- Timothy makes Phillip a cane. Phillip walks around the island with it and gets to know its shape and layout.
- From what Phillip can sense, the island seems lovely; he wishes he could see it.
- Phillip grows less dependent on the vine rope and even on Timothy, which Timothy encourages. Phillip has an idea why, but he doesn't want to think about the possibility of Timothy dying and leaving him alone.
- That night Timothy and Phillip are complaining about not being rescued. Timothy speculates that an evil spirit is harassing them, and it's probably Stew Cat's fault. Maybe the cat is "d'jumbi," the evil spirit of a dead person (11.17).
- Phillip knows that West Indians practice "obediah" or "voodoo," but he doesn't believe in that stuff (11.16). He defends Stew Cat.
- In the morning Timothy and Stew Cat are gone, and Phillip is frightened. He circles the island using his cane and finds Timothy on the north side.
- He asks where Stew Cat is, and Timothy says probably hunting a lizard. Timothy is cutting a piece of wood and says he hasn't seen the cat.
- The two go back to the hut to eat breakfast, after which Timothy slips away with his hunting knife.
- Phillip searches for Stew Cat with no luck, though he thinks he hears faint meows over the wind.
- Phillip freaks himself out and thinks that if Timothy hurts Stew Cat, he might hurt Timothy. He considers getting on the raft, but after checking the rope, he finds that it's been cut loose!
- Phillip is scared. To top it off, he accidentally steps on a skate (like a sea ray).
- Phillip trusts Timothy but is scared by all this "jumbi" stuff (11.51).
- Timothy finally returns to the hut and nails something to the roof. Phillip investigates it with his hands. It's a carving of a cat with spikes driven into it.
- Phillip feels weak and sits down on a log. Timothy comes along and drops Stew Cat in his lap. Timothy had the cat out on the raft while he carved the figure to chase off the jumbi.
- Timothy tells Phillip that their luck will change now.
- But it doesn't, Phillip tells us. It only gets worse.
- Phillip awakes one morning in May to find Timothy taking ragged breaths, fighting for air.
- Timothy tells Phillip he has malaria. Phillip puts a damp cloth on his head, but Timothy's teeth keep clacking and hot air pours from his mouth.
- Later that morning Timothy becomes delirious; he just laughs and mumbles.
- Around noon he tries to get up and wander around the island.
- Phillip hears him crash down the hill and then splash into the water. Then – silence.
- Phillip goes down to the beach and finds Timothy in the water. He drags him to shore, which takes forever because Timothy "must have weighed two hundred and twenty or thirty pounds" (12.18).
- Phillip covers Timothy with grape leaves and brings him water from the hut.
- Eventually his fever breaks and Timothy wakes up, asking how he got on the beach.
- The two return to the hut with Timothy leaning on Phillip for support. Phillip says Timothy never really regained his strength after that.
- Late May comes around; Timothy and Phillip have been on the island for 48 days. (They've been counting the days by dropping pebbles in a can.)
- Timothy is afraid he'll come down with fever again, so he decides Phillip needs to learn how to fish by himself.
- He takes him down to a fishing hole on the reef. Along the way he's placed pieces of driftwood to serve as guideposts.
- Timothy describes the hole to Phillip. He teaches him how to bait his hook with a mussel, which is easy for Phillip since he used to fish with his dad.
- Using rusty bolts as sinkers, Phillip catches a fish. Though he had caught fish before, Phillip feels he has done "something very special," since he was now learning to do things "by touch and feel" (13.21).
- Phillip does all the fishing after that.
- Timothy and Phillip find lots to talk about, like the origins of the island. Phillip teaches Timothy all the things he knows about volcanoes and how the animals and plants probably got there by storms or birds.
- Timothy is fascinated. Phillip is happy to finally be able to teach him something.
- On the fifth afternoon of that week, Phillip decides to finally climb the coconut tree, much to Timothy's delight.
- He gets about ten feet up and freezes. Then he comes back down. Sensing Timothy's disappointment, he goes again (forgetting the knife) and at the top pries loose two big ripe coconuts.
- The two drink the milk and feast on the meat.
- Timothy feels as though he has finally "graduated" from Timothy's survival school (13.50).
- It rains that night. Phillip remembers Timothy's face, but now it does not seem ugly. It only seems "kind and strong" (13.52).
- Phillip asks Timothy if he is still black. Timothy laughs.
- It's a hot morning in July, and Timothy and Phillip are on the north beach collecting calico scallops. The sand is coarser on Phillip's feet there. Timothy explains that north sides of islands are always bleaker.
- All of a sudden they hear what sounds like a gunshot. Timothy says it's just the sea. Trouble is apparently brewing, probably a hurricane.
- They abandon the calico scallops and head back to the hut to prepare for the storm.
- Timothy lashes the keg to a palm tree and ties the remaining rope around a palm for them to cling to if the waves get too high. Phillip begins to see the preparations Timothy has been taking all along.
- Timothy explains that this is a freak storm; most storms don't come till later in the fall. This year, though, "d'sea be angry wid all d'death upon it. D'wahr" (14.8).
- Phillip worries about Stew Cat, but Timothy says he'll get up in the palm. Phillip doesn't want anything to happen to any of them.
- Timothy makes further preparations and strips the raft. He recalls a similar storm from 1928, when he was on a schooner called the Hettie Redd. He was the only one who survived.
- The two have a big meal late in the day. The fish, Timothy says, probably won't return to the reef for at least a week.
- After food, Timothy cleans his knife and puts it in the tin box, which he lashes high on the tree. He tells Phillip they're ready.
- The sun goes down and the air is hot and heavy. A breeze begins to ripple and then clouds gather. Well after dark the rain comes, and then the wind picks up.
- Lizards soon storm the hut to get out of the rain, and Phillip gets a little freaked out.
- It's storming big-time now. The surf crashes against the hut. Eventually the hut blows away.
- Timothy covers Phillip's body and Stew Cat's as well. The storm washes over them for almost two hours.
- Eventually Timothy takes Phillip to the palm and lashes the two of them to the tree. Timothy's body takes the full force of the storm, but Phillip can still feel the rain.
- The raging rain stops for a bit as the eye of the hurricane passes, and the two sit on the ground. Timothy's voice is hoarse. He's cradling his head and making hurt noises.
- The rain and storm start back up again, and they're back clinging to the palm. The water crashes over them and Phillip blacks out.
- When Phillip comes to, Timothy is cold and limp, but breathing. Stew Cat is gone.
- Phillip works for a long time to pull the knots loose that hold Timothy to the tree. He gets him free and then holds his hand.
- Timothy is weak and can barely speak, but asks if Phillip is OK.
- Phillip touches Timothy's back and can tell that he's been cut badly by the wind and sea. Both of them are completely naked, their clothes torn from them. Timothy is bleeding, but there's no way to stop it.
- Phillip falls asleep. When he wakes up, Timothy doesn't answer him. Timothy is dead.
- Phillip is beyond tears. He goes back to sleep, but when he wakes, he hears a meow. It's Stew Cat. He holds him and cries.
- Phillip is now "blind and alone on a forgotten cay" (15.45).
- Phillip digs a grave for Timothy. He is a little angry at his friend for leaving him all alone, but after some reflection he recognizes the sacrifices Timothy made for him.
- Somehow, Phillip's blindness helps him accept his loss. He buries Timothy and thanks him.
- Then Phillip begins the huge task of putting everything back in order: he unlashes the keg, cleans the debris up, and makes a bed of palm fronds. He begins to understand why Timothy spent so much time training him to move around the reef.
- Phillip also finds a bunch of fishing poles that Timothy has lashed to a tree for him.
- The birds start returning to the island, and Phillip continues the clean up. One day he wanders into the birds' new nesting grounds and is attacked by them. Stew Cat defends him and kills the birds. Phillip doesn't blame them for defending their home. "They were fighting for survival after the storm, just as I was" (16.33).
- Ten pebbles go into the time can, and Phillip is sick of eating fish. He decides to go down to the fishing hole to search for langosta (lobster).
- He sharpens a stick and heads to the reef with Stew Cat. He explores the reef for a while and then dives for real. On his first try, he catches a lobster – hot diggity dog!
- Phillip dives several more times, but with no luck. He decides to give it one more shot, and when he goes down he finds a hole that he thinks a lobster is probably hiding in.
- Phillip dives for the hole once more, and something strong and painful latches on to his arm. He breaks free to the surface, and the creature unlatches from his hand.
- Back on shore, Phillip's wrist is bleeding, but not badly. The teeth went deep, though. Later Phillip figures out it was probably a moray eel that grabbed him.
- He never goes diving in the fishing hole again.
- Without Timothy to serve as his eyes, Phillip's sense of hearing and touch become stronger. He hears the gulls, the breezes, the lizards, and even the paws of Stew Cat.
- One morning in August Phillip hears the drone of an airplane. He grabs the fire stick and lights the signal fire. Though he gets the fire going, the plane leaves.
- Not surprisingly, Phillip is depressed. But he figures out that maybe he needs to make dark smoke rather than white (most wood burning creates light-colored smoke). After a little thinking, he realizes he can use bundles of oily sea grape to create dark smoke. Having made the plan, he feels better.
- On August 20, Phillip hears thunderous noises and explosions – possibly a nearby destroyer fighting with submarines.
- Phillip takes his matches and goes to the signal fire. He sets off two signals then hears the drone of an airplane. He lights the third signal, throwing on pile after pile of sea grapes.
- The sound of the aircraft gets closer and swoops down overhead in a roar. Phillip yells out, "Timothy, they've come" (18.44).
- The aircraft makes another circle but eventually flies away. Silence. Phillip has been defeated again. He thinks the pilot may have mistaken him for a native, since his skin is so dark now.
- Phillip looks at Timothy's grave and asks why he didn't take him with him.
- Around noon Timothy hears bells and voices – it's a small boat coming to save him. The black smoke worked after all!
- An American voice calls out, and Phillip and Stew Cat are taken on board. Before they leave, Phillip sends one of the sailors back for Timothy's knife.
- Phillip tells the captain what ship he was on. The captain can hardly believe him, since the Hato was sunk way back in April.
- The ship docks in Cristobal, Panama, and Phillip is taken to the hospital. His mother and father fly over and are in a state of shock. His mother keeps apologizing. Phillip finds it hard to tell them about Timothy.
- Four months later Phillip gets his eyesight back, thanks to an operation in New York.
- He then returns to life in Willemstad with his parents. He sees Henrik van Boven sometimes but feels much older than the boy after all that's happened to him. Now he mainly hangs out with black West Indians near the bay and the market, since they had known Timothy.
- Phillip's father's work finally ends, and the family leaves Curaçao.
- Phillip now spends hours looking over charts of the Caribbean. He plans to charter a schooner one day and return to the island he shared with Timothy.
- He won't know the cay by sight, he says, but he'll know it when he closes his eyes. He will say, "Dis b'dat outrageous cay, eh, Timothy?" (19.45).