March 14, 2009
By William Dirmeyer BRONZE, Maryville, Tennessee
William Dirmeyer BRONZE, Maryville, Tennessee
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

A wave washes up on the shore and curls lightly around the brown toes of a boy before racing back into the water. He kneels upon his scratched knees in the sand, and leans over the water, peering into the ripples and eddies of the next wave. The shore is silent save the lapping of the waves and the cry of distant birds, and the boy is alone amid the grassy hills and sun- baked shores of the island. He turns and runs to the dunes with the next swell, and then tumbles back again, babbling meaningless words to the water.

A seabird wheels high above a rocky knoll sprinkled lightly with dandelions. The boy stands with his arms wide open to the encompassing sky and ocean, the blue sphere which forms his living cage. His arms rise further until he grasps the sky, and he screams like a gull, and spins in endless circles. His wings are faster and more desperate than the seagull, which can not match him in pace.

For thousands of days the sun looks down on a brown-skinned child playing on an island amid barren mountains and vibrant forests. He sings with eagles, dances with swallows and swims in the ocean with gleaming fishes. From the silent shores to the still meadows to the tips of rocky crags, the island is at peace, and the boy basks in it.

Another wave breaks upon the silent shore, and the boy is alone no longer. Luis, a tall, coarse man, who wears a brown beard around white teeth upon whiter skin, pulls his iron boat upon the sand. His wife, whom he calls Susan, raises herself shakily from the boat his and hands him a rucksack, a small box, and a tall, gleaming gun. He'd gotten the items in a distinct order'the gun from a friend when he was yet a boy, the box and the rucksack from the ship that had taken him here, and the wife from the small school where he'd graduated. Today, he is an environmentalist. It is his goal in life to save.

Luis loads the gleaming gun with power and ammunition, and with a crack fells a seabird on the shore. He will test it for poisoning and pollution in order to save the rest of its flock. Susan opens the small box from the boat carefully. She wades into the water, and then scoops up waves into a small glass tube. She carefully clips small pieces of vine, takes pictures with a waterproof camera, and finds footprints on the shore, made by bare feet, pointing north.

The boy reclines in an overgrown valley with fruit strewn around him, juice on his dark chin and a smile in his eyes. A delicate leaf twirls in his hands. He holds it in front of his eyes and raises it to the sun, letting the green light trickle across his face. The man and the woman find him there sitting on the grass, smiling, with one hand on his stomach, and a leaf across his face.

Luis and Susan take the boy to their boat, and make signs with their hands and their lips. They point to the boat, the water, and a distant white blob on the ocean. The boy watches them with a furrowed brow. Luis is still pointing; Susan is still tugging at his shirt, shaking her head. But the boy only looks at the man's knapsack and his shining gun.

He leaves the shore unnoticed and walks deep into the island's forest to a shaded meadow. The boy ties around his chest a strand of sea grass, and slides a long thin stick between the grass and his shoulder blades. The tender bark of a tree covers his feet, and he sits amid the spring flowers babbling to himself meaningless words.

Luis and Susan argue on the shore as the waves break against their leather feet. She wants to force the boy onto the ship for his better good; he wants to test the island's air and water first, as they had come to do. Eventually, Susan notices the boy's absence, and they hasten into the jungle to find him.

They sit in the meadow as the boy lies amid the trees, clad in leaves and bark with a long thin stick tied to his back. Luis studies him inquisitively; Susan smiles, a mother at last. He grins toothily at them and closes his eyes in the moist grass. As the sun begins to fall across the island, the sigh of the palms and the drone of the insects overtake them all. They, too, rest in the meadow among the tall grasses as birds wheel above them and waves lap at the distant shore. Hours later, the man awakes. The sun sets low over the ocean, lighting the water into flames. As Susan sleeps, Luis discovers two small facts that will haunt him forever'his gun is no longer tied to his back, and the boy has disappeared into the forest. Luis pulls a long thin stick from his weapon's holster and gazes at it in horror.

A shot rings out over the silent shore, across the stone mountains, through the turbulent jungle and to the verdant meadow, where a man lies wracked in the throes of despair. Luis finds the boy slumped in the deep grass, a last breath hissing through his lungs. He cups in his open palm a thin stick, but to Luis's feverish eyes it is a gun.

The boat clings precariously to the billowing sea. A bearded man rests a small child against the waves. The water parts across the boy's back, and he slides silently into the welcoming depths.

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