Enjoyed this excerpt? Buy the book!
Print and eBook formats available.
“TAKE US SOMEWHERE people rarely go.”
The two American men sit across from Delroy, fanning themselves and sweating. Inside the rum shack it is hot and the cheap plastic chairs stick to the skin. An oscillating fan perched on a table gives short moments of relief.
Delroy takes a sip from his sweating Carib bottle and sets it on the plastic table. When he speaks to the men, he dulls his Jamaican patois. “What you like? Fishing? I know a nice hole out ’pon the reef. Deep. You can catch all manner of fish. Good for snorkel or scuba, but me nah rent out them things.”
The two men shake their heads. The other one, the one with the buzzed blond hair, says, “We just want a secluded beach. Our girlfriends would like to do a little tanning. Maybe go swimming all by ourselves. You know, that sort of thing.”
“I know the place you want.”
“You want carry there, gon’ cost eight thousand.”
“That’s pretty steep,” the first man says. “That’s, what, a hundred and fifty bucks?”
Delroy shrugs. “Going out that far burn plenty petrol.”
The men take out their wallets. Delroy sees their credit cards, photos of smiling white families, dog-eared business cards. Between them they sort out their shares, putting together a pile of colorful Jamaican banknotes, placing them in Delroy’s cracked, pale palm. He gazes down at the images of Michael Manley’s face. For a moment he thinks of war in Arnette Gardens, shots in the night. Then he tucks them into his shorts pocket.
Delroy drinks the last of his Carib and starts to rise. “Collect your things.”
Outside the eggshell-white shack, an onshore wind stirs the trees. Down a dirt lane, at the ocean’s edge, is a row of zinc-roofed shacks and beyond them is a salt-bleached dock. Crowding against the pylons are wooden boats painted in greens and blues and yellows. One of them is Delroy’s, the Christiana, a 32-footer, made of sturdy wood painted black and green. Delroy built the canopy, installed the outboard motor, sanded and de-barnacled and patched the old boards himself. It is all he has left.
Waiting in an air-conditioned rental car are two young women in sunglasses. The two men wave at them and they get out, already in their brightly-colored bikinis, hair tied up above their heads and sarongs bought in a market stall snug around their hips.
Delroy goes down the dock and climbs onto the Christiana and begins getting her ready for the trip. He watches as the group rummages through the car and stuffs towels and sunscreen bottles in a canvas bag, locks up the car, and makes their way down the slope to the dock. He lights a cigarette and lets it dangle, smoldering, from his lower lip. He hears the girls fuss over the gaps between the boards in the dock, and the men try to coax them into trusting its rickety slats. They need a hand to climb into the Christiana. The men discuss the obvious homemade design and inferior craftsmanship while the girls squeal as they step in and lose their balance. He says nothing in defense of his boat and tries to keep his face expressionless.
There are two rows of unpadded benches under the canopy, and five separate screwed-on mounts for fishing rods. The group pairs off, one couple per bench, and Delroy opens a seachest and hands them all stained orange lifejackets. When they are situated, he powers up the outboard motor. It rattles like machine gun fire.
Once they are away from the dock, Delroy opens up the throttle. Christiana lifts her chin and cuts proudly through the blue water. The girls’ hair pops from their bands and streams back, free and wild. They laugh and scream at the sensation. Delroy looks at the smooth skin on their upper backs, the flat space between their shoulder blades. They are young and beautiful, like Althea was. He remembers that space well and the sensation of pressing his lips into the back of her neck and breathing in the smell of rose from her perfume and coconut from her hair.
“I’m Ray, by the way,” one of the men says. He turns around and offers his hand. The sunglasses are back on his face. An orange cord keeps them safely looped around his neck. He has taken off his baseball cap so he won’t lose it in the strong wind, and Delroy can see the first hint of a balding patch.
“Delroy Lawrence.” Delroy takes one hand off the tiller long enough to shake the man’s hand. He doesn’t really want to know their names. But they always want to tell him. And small talk. They always want to engage in small talk.
“Pleased to meet you. This is my wife, Nikki. And this is Garrett and his fiancee Katie.”
Delroy nods politely. He squints against the wind. The boat hits a series of taller waves and pops up and down, her underside slapping the water.
Not looking their direction, Delroy asks, “How you like Jamaica?”
“It’s gorgeous,” Nikki says. “I love the beaches. It’s so peaceful.”
“You’re so lucky to live here,” says Katie in agreement. Her dark, straight yellow hair is like a pennant.
“Ever been to America?” asks Garrett.
Delroy shakes his head. “My whole life I never left this island.”
“Seems like there’s a lot of money to be made in Negril,” Garrett says. “So many tourists. I’ve never seen so many nice resorts in one place. Well, not since Maui.”
“So,” Nikki asks, “you grew up in Negril then?”
In his mind Delory is thirty-one, wearing the uniform of the bauxite plant where he is working, and he is climbing off the crowded bus. His shoes crunch on gravel and broken glass and bottle caps. The sun is dropping behind the hills, casting long shadows across Collie Smith Road. Some youths sitting on the corner have a portable radio playing Chaka Demus. Everywhere there are people on the streets, walking with bags or liming on porches.
It is 1991, and he is just married, and he passes through the weedy tenement yard and climbs the pitted concrete steps to his second-floor apartment. Inside it is oppressively hot, though the windows are opened full. Althea is in front of the windows combing out her niece’s hair. She drops the comb and hugs Delroy as he comes in.
She has made saltfish and rice and Delroy goes into the tiny bedroom that has just enough room for a bed and dresser. The slats of the jalousies let in a hot breeze which provides little relief. He changes into pants and a white shirt and has some dinner. Althea’s niece stays around long enough for some food and then leaves, and once the night falls he and Althea walk to her sister’s place in nearby Delacree Pen. He is tired from his day at the factory but he is still young enough that he has the energy to sit up with his in-laws until late at night, drinking rum on the porch and playing dominoes until the night grows late and cool and the sounds of their chatting and the tiles being slammed down on the little handmade table echoes across the darkness. On the way back, they catch a car because the streets are not safe this late, and Althea falls asleep against his arm and her braids fall around his lap. He looks through the car window at the neighborhood where he has lived most of his life, where he met Althea, this graveyard of Kingston’s forgotten slums. He loathes it. It is a trap, and it has caught both of them. He vows to God that he will dig himself free of it and escape with Althea to someplace safer.
“No. Kingston,” he says, and leaves it at that.
The shallow water becomes deep water, and they travel under clouds that give a break from the sun, and the conversations drop off as the tourists watch the sea pass. After almost an hour, Delroy spots the tiny flat island that is their destination, a low line dividing water and air. It sits atop a scattershot of small coral heads that jut out into the sea.
His passengers come awake as he changes gears, coming in slower. Underneath the boat the deep blue has given way to rocky protrusions. Then there is sand, sculpted into ribs by the movement of the uterine waters. And then Delroy chokes off the throttle and the motor goes silent and the Christiana drifts in to rest against the solid beach.
They gather their bags and the men jump off into ankle-deep sand and help the women down. Delroy grabs loops of rope hanging off a ring on the bow and jumps overboard to tug Christiana farther up the sand. He does this by himself while the others fan out and climb the dune, leaving tracks as they go.
The sun has returned. Delroy’s skin warms under its renewed assault.
“You have three hours,” he says to the group, once he has crested the low hill. The girls are laying out blankets, kicking off their shoes. Nikki squats to fish out suntan oil.
“Why so short, dude?”
“Round here the weather change fast,” Delroy says. “Best we make the crossing before the sun get low.”
“Will you rub some oil on my back, baby?” Katie asks. Nikki wants the same.
As the men tend to their women, Delroy returns to Christiana and eats a patty from his styrofoam cooler, washing it down with a Banks beer. He sits on the hard bench and watches the tourists. The girls tug off their tops, and Delroy can see their white breasts and pale nipples. He averts his eyes and tells himself he he’s too old for a woman. That he doesn’t need one anymore.
“Touch it,” Althea says. She is naked in bed with him and it is dark and for once he can’t hear any gunshots. Arnette Gardens is quiet except for distant music coming from another tenement. “Go on, you can’t hurt it.”
Delroy runs his hand under the sheet across her belly. It is rounded, firm, and hot. He spreads his fingers out and lays his palm flat on the spot just under her navel and in moments feels a kick. He smiles and though it is dark he can see her eyes on him.
Escaping the ghetto is now something he must do for his baby, as well.
Some months into her pregnancy, Althea comes to see him at the factory, carrying a lunch of curried goat and they eat together during his short break on a crumbling wall overlooking the Kingston harbor. A great rusty container ship slowly makes its way from right to left as they eat. Delroy tells Althea how his father owned a small boat and would take him fishing. That was before his father left his mother and she had to move to south Kingston, and Althea nods and tells him someday maybe he can afford a boat. He doesn’t want to tell her he has been saving money. It is still a secret. He wants it to be a surprise. So they watch the ships and the poisoned harbor water and when it starts to rain, they rush under the zinc roof of a rum shack for shelter.
On nights when the gunfire pops in nearby streets, the shottas from the Jungle Posse or Action Pak or Renkers Posse or the Trench Town Crew emptying rounds into the night, they leave their tiny bedroom and spoon on the couch. The rabbit-eared television plays an American movie and the fan blows across their chilled skin, and they hide out away from the windows for fear of stray bullets. One night a round punches a hole through their window and chips concrete on the ceiling. He holds her close and she starts to cry and he shushes her and almost tells her about the money, and about how he plans to buy them a house in Christiana where they can raise their baby girl. Christiana is inland and high up in the hills where it is much cooler, and he knows she will like it. They can escape the heat of the slums of Kingston. He almost tells her but he decides to keep the secret a little longer. He wraps his arm over her belly as if he could shield his baby from the bullets.
The two men are sauntering up the beach. Delroy climbs down off the boat and goes up the sand to them.
“What’s around this side?” Garrett asks.
The women appear asleep. Their skin already looks more bronzed in the sun. The one with dark hair has a pair of earphone cords leading to her ears from a small music player she holds in her hand. She is upright, breasts on display.
“Let’s go check it out,” Ray says. As the two men trudge up the sandy ridge, their rubber slippers fishtailing sand, Delroy trails behind, mostly out of a desire to get away from the white women and their thoughtless nudity.
Delroy is still up on the dunes, wading through a patch of wild grasses, when he hears Garrett cry out. Delroy comes over the ridge and sees the two white men farther down the shore, surrounded by a flock of hovering, frantic white sea birds.
He looks back at the Christiana, nestled in the lee of the sickle-shaped island. The white underbelly is exposed and it looks secure. He turns back to look at Ray and Garrett and then makes his way over the gritty embankment toward them. Dead shells crunch under his shoes.
Once he gets closer, he can see the object of their excitement. A trail of crescent marks in the sand leads out from the thundering surf at the tideline to a ragged hole in the dunes. Palms bow over the hole and dense brush on the bank casts a deep shadow across the sand. Even from where Delroy is, he can see something large and grey resting in the small crater. Ray and Garrett are jogging over toward it.
“Hey!” he calls, but the surf and the screaming birds drown out his voice. Something has him nervous. They are alone out here. No other boats venture this close to this lonely island. He feels like he is walking along the edge of something.
He half-slides down the dry sand until he reaches the tidal zone and makes his way toward Ray and Garrett. They are standing near the pit, and as he gets closer Delroy can see the grey object is the leathery, scarred back of a huge turtle. It is partially obscured by the walls of the hole it has been digging, gritty sand sprayed across its back and stuck to its wet legs. It lies totally still but for the occasional flip of its back flippers. With each flick, a handful of sand sprays backward out of the hole.
“You can’t interfere with the turtle,” he says. “The government protect them.”
Garrett is standing with his hands on his hips. “Who said we were going to ‘interfere’ with it?”
Ray walks around the edge of the hole, fanning himself with his baseball cap. He slaps it back on his head. “Look at its eyes,” he says. He kneels down to get a closer look. The turtle is motionless, and it seems to look up at him with eyes crusted with grit. Its eyes are black and full, deep.
“Like it’s watching us,” Garrett says, and steps closer to it. “Why isn’t it moving? Boo!” He takes a quick step toward it to startle it. It doesn’t move.
“I don’t think it’s scared of you, Gare.”
“Well, it’s stupid if it isn’t. We’re twice its size and we outnumber it.” Garrett looks down at it, and bends over so his hands rest on his knees. “You think it’s laying eggs?”
“You know,” Ray says, “in some places turtle is a delicacy.”
“Like where?” Garrett asks.
“Well, I’ve seen it on the menu in St. Lucia. There was this place that had turtle everything. Soup, fritters, steaks, whatever.”
“The soup was good.”
“Hey,” Garrett asks, turning to Delroy. “How long do you spend in jail for disturbing a turtle in Jamaica?”
“Is not all the turtle illegal,” Delroy replies. “Just this kind.”
“Oh. Well, there’s nobody out here to know.” Ray looks at the turtle. It is flipping again at its nest, only half-heartedly, as if it is considering abandoning this area now that it has been discovered. Delroy silently wills it to start moving, leave the nest and the egg-laying and just get back to the ocean. He doesn’t know why.
“Best we go along,” he says. “The rain gone come heavy a evening.”
“The weather’s not going to get bad,” Ray says. “Didn’t you see the report?”
“You can’t make your bets pon the weatherman’s say so.”
“Look, it’s crying!” Garrett says, and points down at the turtle. Its eyes are seeping a clear fluid.
“Weird,” Ray says.
“You’re from the Caribbean. Do you know how to cook it?” Garrett reaches out a toe and pokes the turtle. It rocks slightly with the nudge, but doesn’t move. It continues to stare forward, over the curve of sand and out to the surfline. Garrett, emboldened by this, reaches out with his hand and touches the turtle’s back, his fingertips probing along the ridges and lines of its shell.
“Ew, it’s wet.”
“What do you expect, dumb-ass? It came out of the ocean.”
Garrett wipes the wet grit from his fingers and walks around the turtle again. “Why doesn’t it run from us? Look at it just sitting there! Come on, turtle. Do something. Move.” He stops behind it and his feet sink into the loose dirt walls of its crater, collapsing one entire side.
“That took like hours for this thing to dig, I bet.”
“You’re right,” Garrett says, laughing. “How you like that, turtle? That sucks, don’t it? How about I do this side?” Garrett brings his foot down the soft sand of another side, causing it to cave in and partially cover the turtle’s right flipper.
Ray laughs. “You’re mean,” he says.
“What? I’m not hurting it.”
A warm gust comes in across the reef and whips at the sand. The row of dried-out palms rattles disapprovingly, their brown fronds blowing like a woman’s hair. Delroy looks again in the general direction of the Christiana. The women are still sunning. They look like beached porpoises.
“Come on, get out of the hole,” Garrett says, snapping his fingers as if to goad the turtle into motion. He moves around behind the turtle and nudges it forward with his foot. It hunkers down, limbs out at its sides, head bobbing slightly on its leathery neck. “Why doesn’t it pull into its shell?” he asks. “I thought turtles did that.”
“This is a sea turtle,” Ray replies. “Maybe only land turtles can.”
“We had land turtles back in Jersey,” Garrett says. “They’d always be going back and forth from the overflow pond near the highway and the river. When you’d throw rocks at them they’d just suck right in, so you couldn’t see them no more.”
“I don’t think sea turtles have that kind of shell.”
“But that’s okay, because we would just put firecrackers in there.”
“You guys were demons.”
“Come on, it was only for fun.”
Delroy says, “The tide rising,” though he is lying.
Garrett squats down and shoves on the turtle as hard as he can. “Damn, this thing is heavy,” he says, and brushes sand off his hands. As if understanding, the turtle pushes once with all four flippers and moves forward a few inches. Piles of sand from the collapsed sides tumble down in behind it.
“O-ho, it’s moving!” Garrett says.
“How can it move such a huge body with those little feet?” Ray asks.
The turtle slides all the way out of its hole then stops, its head turning right and then left, as if waiting for further sign. Garrett comes around and kicks it once in its hind quarters. Sand sprays up from his sandals. The turtle is jarred from the kick and begins crawling again.
“Yeah, that’s right. Get your ass moving! Don’t you want to get to the water?”
Delroy doesn’t stir, transfixed. The turtle cranes its head back to look at him.
“Don’t stop, turtle! Keep going!” Garrett kicks it again but it remains inert.
Althea is pregnant enough now that her shirts stretch tight over her belly and sometimes she holds her hand on her lower back as she walks. Tonight she puts on her nicest evening dress, the white one with the little flower design, and Delroy puts on a white button-up shirt and tan slacks and the two of them go to the evening church service in Whitefield Town. As the sun sets, the congregation sings to the Lord and dances and the pastor talks about how the Devil dulls the wits of good men until they no longer recognize evil. The congregation nods and calls out their agreement and wave church programs to cool themselves in the lingering heat of the evening despite the fans blowing at the corners of the room, and when it is over they all file out into the night to catch a car home. But there are no more taxis for Althea and Delroy so they start walking. Althea looks back at him with a smile as she talks about her nephew being baptized in the coming days, and that’s when Delroy hears the first hollow pops of gunfire. It comes from somewhere else in the night, but he knows they need to get home soon. He says, “Gunmen a warring,” and takes Althea’s hand and they move faster down the street, past the men sitting on curbs drinking rum and past the Rasta with his Ital cart smelling of curry. People around are disappearing into doors. Althea holds him back, complaining. “I can’t run. Me belly too big now.”
“Maybe it needs more motivation,” Ray says, and he looks around him, then walks off to a nearby grey lump in the sand. It is a coconut husk, decayed and split from the elements. He hefts it above his shoulder and lets it drop on the turtle’s back. There is a flat thumping sound and the coconut bounces off into the hole.
“That thing is solid, man.”
Garrett jogs up the slope and comes back down with a fresh coconut, this one green and firm. He arcs his arm behind his back, coconut in hand like a football ready for a pass, and throws it as hard as he can toward the turtle. It strikes with a crack like gunfire and tumbles away doing spins in the air. It comes down several yards away and rolls down the wet sand toward the waterline.
The turtle starts moving now, flippers pushing forcefully at the ground, its bulk moving with surprising speed down the gradual slope toward the promise of the ocean, the freedom of open water and easy movement.
From somewhere closer by, there is a pop-pop-pop of automatic gunfire. Delroy’s heart is pounding. They need to get off the street. “You hear that?” Delroy says, but Althea is already speeding up. All around is gun and war, he thinks to himself and feels the iron-cold hate in his gut. He hates his job, hot days in that factory with so much loudness and dust in the air. He hates Whitefield Town, he hates Arnette Gardens, he hates Kingston. He has enough money now to move them to Christiana but he doesn’t want to tell Althea yet because he wants to have a little more saved before he gives up his job. He doesn’t yet know what he will do for work in Christiana and that scares him. He and Althea leave the street and run through the red-dirt yards where fires burn in metal barrels. Concrete walls between properties are covered in the symbols of local posses and pocked with old bullet holes. Althea is terrified, panting beside him, holding her belly with one hand and clutching Delroy’s hand with the other.
“Now it wants to go, eh?” Garret says.
“Damn, I never seen a turtle run before,” Ray replies.
The turtle can see it now, knows its danger and recognizes that the only safe place is in the water twenty yards away. A powerful wave crumples and surges a fan of water up toward it, rushing across the coral sand, then falls away. The turtle is still too far from tide line. A thrust from its powerful back flippers flings sand into their faces.
“It ain’t getting away so easy,” Garrett says, and jumps in front of it. The turtle jerks to a stop, eyeing him with its wide, black orbs. Its head hovers over the sand, wavering a little, calculating. Garret steps slowly around its side while it considers him, then crouches down and gives it a heavy shove, his feet digging into the loose sand. The turtle lurches up and over onto its back. It rocks with the force of the shove. As if running across an upside-down, phantom beach, its legs begin flailing at the empty air.
Ray howls with delight. Garrett gasps and wipes his hands on his pants. “Where you gonna go now, huh? You’re on your back!”
“That’s death to turtles,” Ray says. “And I mean big time. Look at it kicking around like that!”
Through the press of houses they jog, and for a while they don’t hear any more gunshots. Away from the streets the houses become a maze, crowding around central yards with muddy standpipes or lining narrow, trash-filled alleys. Doorways hang open with thin curtains flapping. Unpainted wooden shacks with zinc roofs sag on top of concrete blocks, emitting the smells of cooking chicken or rice or saltfish. Treelimbs hang low over empty lots filled with coconut husks, empty plastic bottles. Tinny reggae music from cheap boom boxes combines headily with the smells in the air. Delroy notices all this with the senses of a man who has already moved to someplace better in his mind, and a bitter resentment is all that is left over. He hates these people for their poverty, for not working like Delroy has to get out of these bitterly-contested ghettoes. Let the dons fight over their scraps, and may the Lord help the good people rise from their sufferation.
But as they end up back on the main road, still jogging, they hear the gunshots again. A car’s tires squeal. Althea pulls back as if she wants to seek refuge in the yards again, and Delroy nearly stumbles. She lets go of his hand. He turns to encourage her to keep moving, but she is lying down, her legs scissoring out across the dirt. Delroy sees some boys to his left, none much older than their mid-teens, scattering and jumping over the walls and taking cover behind a parked car, and the gunshots are very loud. One of the boys falls and a corona of red sprays on the wall behind him. Althea lets out a soft sound like a grunt. Delroy stares down at her and sees the blood. Her dress has torn open and he can see her underwear and there is a raw hole in her side and he can see wet bone.
The turtle’s white underside is leathery and appears armored, but somehow soft and vulnerable at the same time. It lets out a sudden cry, just a croak or burp, really, and flaps helplessly at the air.
“Leave the thing be,” Delroy says, but the two men don’t hear him. He isn’t sure if he said it or just thought it.
Garrett goes up the dune. He stops near the base of the palm trees, which stand like lone warriors, and steps into the tangle of low-lying beach brush. After a moment, he crouches down, then stands back up with a huge sun-bleached rock. He holds it cradled in his arms, fingers slipping over its jagged coral surface. With a grunt, he staggers back down the dune, lifting it up over his head like a professional bodybuilder.
“Wait now man!” Delroy cries but it is too late. Garrett lurches forward to hurl the coral rock down on the turtle. It slams into the turtle’s exposed underbelly and there is a sickening crunch, and the turtle bleats out a coughing cry. The rock does not bounce or roll, but stays in the shredded pit it has made in the turtle’s chest. Blood wells up and brims around the edges of the rock. There is a slick pop, and out from behind the turtle’s tail drops a single pearly egg, big as a golf ball, glistening with mucous. It tumbles into the sand, grit sticking to it, and comes to a stop a foot away. The turtle makes another choked cry, this one much quieter, its eyes open and staring down the beach at the curling breakers, the rolling tides, the vast horizon. Its front flippers stroke in imaginary water, then are still.
Kneeling beside Althea, Delroy speaks to her, lifting her head so she can look at him but it just rolls around in his hands. Her eyes gaze upon nothing. He hears a hoarse wailing nearby and realizes it is him, and he is just rocking on his knees howling as he holds his Althea. Inside, the baby is dying as well. He has a sudden fierce desire to take it out and see if it can live on its own. He lets Althea down and presses his face to her belly and begs the baby to come out. It is so close. It needs only a few weeks. “Come out, likkle baby,” he cries and presses at her belly but then there are people pulling him away and covering her up with a blanket. The car with the gunman has already sped away and Delroy can hear machine gun fire roaring in the night as a rival posse returns fire, and so the vengeance begins. They are pulling a blanket over Althea and the blanket is spotting red and for the first time in his life Delroy wants to kill a man. But he does nothing, he has never done anything. The devil has taken him.
Standing in the wind, holding back his mop of bushy blond hair, Ray looks down at the turtle, silent. Garrett isn’t laughing, though an open-mouthed grin is still stuck on his face. The blood, vivid red against the gold color of the sand, the green of the sea, are the colors of his world.
Delroy rushes Garrett, landing a solid punch on his neck before the man is able to respond.
“What the —?” Garrett spits in shock. He pushes back, but Delroy is like a mad dog now, and he comes again. He bats away Garrett’s outflung arm and smashes a fist into the side of his head. Then something powerful knocks him aside. It is Ray, coming to aid his friend. Delroy is thrown to the ground. The two men stand over him, and before he can rise, Garrett recovers from his shock and lands a kick on Delroy’s side.
Between the two of them, Ray and Garrett are able to keep Delroy down. He is fifty, and no longer able to fight back against young men. There is no fire left in him except his old anger, and even now he knows that anger is powerless. It has aged, like him, grown soft and lost its muscle and lots its hope. All his hope bled out twenty years ago and he is an old man with no life left in him.
They keep him on the ground and kick and punch him until their wrath is sated. When they back up, Delroy spits blood onto the sand and rolls over so he can see the uncaring sun. A sea wind flaps his shirt.
“Did you see that?” Garrett sputters. “He punched me!”
“Is this how you treat paying customers?” Ray asks. “There was no cause for that.”
“No goddamn gratitude with these people. Come on,” Garrett says, and he and Ray trudge up the sand to the rise of the dune and then are gone.
When he feels enough strength returning, Delroy sits up in the sand. His side flares with white-hot pain, and he can only see out of one eye. He touches his face and feels wetness and the flesh already beginning to swell. He rolls onto his hands and knees and crawls over to the turtle. The eyes are partially lidded, crusted with sand and wet. Delroy looks at the dappled and fitted plates of its pallid underbelly. In the center, a tiny blood sea and a coral island.
The egg is still there, alone in the sand. Delroy picks it up as tenderly as he can and crawls, grunting at his pain, over to the hole the turtle had been digging in the loose shore. He scoops away palmfuls of grit and rests it in the empty place he has created and then tucks it under a blanket of sand.
About the Author
BRIAN REEVES is a Portland-based writer, English teacher, and former Peace Corps volunteer. His short story “Wild Horse” was published in Sand Hill Review and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His novel A Chant of Love and Lamentation was a Finalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. — readbrianreeves.com