Eat the Shark

Bullet spent his first night on the island in somebody’s hammock. The backseat of the junked Toyota he found up a short, slanted alley would have sheltered him nicely, but a Trini with keep-out sunglasses and a map of Africa on his T-shirt had already staked it out. Recognizing the American as competition, he blew poison rays at him, and Bullet moved on. On a street named Tranquility he came to a small violet house whose windows and doors were closed. He hopped the fence. In the backyard he found a hammock strung between two palms. As the sun went down he climbed in, gathering his hurt close. It was not the best beginning to a new country, but how good could it be if it was going to be his last?

It took him a while to fall asleep. He lay in the hammock listening to the sounds of Port of Spain. The city of his death was a noisy place. He knew you weren’t supposed to look at it that way. You didn’t get to choose the country you died in. But the SIDA had him where it wanted him (he liked the Spanish word better than plain old English AIDS). Besides, from the moment the ferry shoved off from Puerto Guiria he had felt a strong sense of being piloted. There was a wind, he believed, blowing him in a specific direction. Behind the wind blew the breath of Monique.

Venezuela had been a disaster. It’s the end of capitalism, Allison, the Peace Corps girl, had told him way back in Quito. In Venezuela people know how to share. So Bullet went there, hoping the new socialism had room for a foreigner like him with downscale needs. It took no time to learn that what the Venezuelans shared was a shitload of grief. They hassled him like a stray dog.

In the hammock, when a rain shower came down in the night, he couldn’t help thinking he was the target.

He woke as the day broke and should have moved on. But he stayed in the hammock, paralyzed with remorse about Allison. She was a good person. She spent hours telling him about her Peace Corps work in the middle of Paraguayan nowhere. She built a school, which put her way ahead of him in karma points. And what did he do? He made love to her. Probably, he transmitted his filth. He would give anything to take it back.

He was so twisted up with guilt he didn’t hear the back door open. Before he could move, an Indian woman in a robe the same violet color as the house came shrieking at him with a frying pan. He didn’t understand a word she screamed, which confused him. He’d been told they spoke English in Trinidad. At the first blow of the pan he fell out of the hammock. At the second he was back on his feet. His instincts kicked in, and he was out the gate before she was able to do serious damage.

He had some money in his pocket, enough to see him out. Good thing, because he was too weak to work. He also had a bagful of Valhallas for when the pain peaked. Right now he needed a clear head to come up with a plan. Directed by Monique, his feet knew. They took him to a restaurant called Arabian Sands, where he ordered a shish kebab not because he was hungry but as a kind of rent for resting space.

He liked the place, which smelled like somebody else’s home. The walls were covered with cheesy posters of camels and belly dancers. A giant string of worry beads was nailed above the cash register, where the man of the family sat smoking cigarettes and adding up columns of numbers on scratch paper. He had the kind of belly Bullet would have liked to have. It was enormous and soft and quivered like jelly when the man stood.

In his prime Bullet had been good at scoping out people in their situations. Even now it did not take him long to make sense of the place. They were Syrians. The two women doing the important work were Belly Baba’s wife and her sister. The miniature crone in black they all ignored was his mother. The hard part was figuring out what they meant when they opened their mouths. It was a cross between Arabic and Caribbean, and Bullet couldn’t quite catch the lyrics.

Two local women, one black and one Indian, ran around doing the scut work. The black one touched Bullet dangerously. Some women lived in the house of their sexy self. Others had to be reminded to visit. Zenzele was the second kind of beautiful, which had always appealed to him. Even in motion her face was round and placid. Her fingers were butterflies. Her small upright breasts were islands in the sea of his recurring dream.

When she picked up his empty plate she told him, “Why you come to this place?”

She meant Trinidad, not the restaurant. It was not a belligerent question, just direct.

“I’m looking for my mother. She was shipwrecked.”

She nodded. “You very sick.”

“I’m getting better now. The worst is past.”

“Last night birds came into my dream.”

“How many?”

“So many. They picked me up and flew me.”

It was an interesting conversation, but Belly Baba was glowering. One shish kebab bought Bullet only so much rest. Time to leave.

He did not mind the idea of dying so much as running out of time.

Out on Tragarete Road the sun showed no mercy. Dazed in the hot brilliance, he heard voices putting him down. Big deal big deal big deal. The words came from two yellow birds on a telephone wire and were clearly meant for him. But the insult led to his first break in Trinidad. Stung, he went blindly up the sidewalk until he came to a white wall he was too short to see over. A little farther, and he came to a gate. It was chained, but somebody had left the padlock open, and he went through the gate into a cemetery.

The place he snuck into was a city for dead people, made up of orderly and respectable neighborhoods. Marked with signs, the streets were wide and paved. He strolled up Twelfth Street feeling easy for the first time in a long time. He had been scavenging so long he forgot what being a tourist felt like.

Some of the tombs were grand palaces, but right alongside the most elaborate structures, modest headstones with smiling round heads were planted like revenge. The closer he got to the cemetery center, the farther away the city sounds became, although those squawky yellow birds were flying everywhere. It had to be the oldest boneyard he ever set foot in. The etched letters had faded from many of the headstones, but he was able to make out dates like 1812 and names like Marquez and Chapeaux and Hardy.

Lulled by a liquid sense of peace, he was off his guard when he turned the corner onto Lisle Avenue and a giant stepped into the street, blocking his way. The giant opened his huge mouth and roared something. Maybe it was English, and maybe it was a question, but Bullet only heard noise. The man stood there in a blue coverall, arms folded on his enormous chest. His skin was smooth khaki. His dreads stood up like a family of antennas. His noble face was stern. Although he knew he should be afraid of the guy, Bullet could not help admiring him. The big man kept talking, his voice rising, and gradually Bullet made out a few of the words.

“You cannot stay in Lapeyrouse.”

“Why?”

The man shook his head and raved for a while. When he shut up, Bullet understood the theory. Too many homeless people sleeping in the cemetery would draw the police and ruin a good thing for the fortunate few. It bothered Bullet that this dignified giant was the one who got to decide who stayed and who didn’t, but he was used to that kind of injustice. Why did only some people get the SIDA, while others living worse lives stayed clean?

He made reassuring noises, throwing in a Spanish word or two for effect, and moved on. He had every intention of leaving the cemetery. He was too weak to be devious, or clever. But at the corner of Eleventh and Pearl, the name on a towering mausoleum caught him up short. For a moment he couldn’t catch his breath. Frazer. Monique’s last name was Frazer.

He looked behind him to be sure the giant wasn’t patrolling, then stepped over the ornamental iron fence with an unfamiliar feeling of reverence. The mausoleum was built of pink stone that glowed as if lit from within. Blocks of hewn granite made steps going down a level to an imposing stone door on which a lion’s head bristled. Everything about the resting place that Ezekiel Frazer had built for his family was top of the line.

This could be no coincidence, tossing up in a West Indian cemetery where the finest burial place in the world just happened to belong to Frazers. Not now, when the SIDA had eaten Bullet’s resistance. He said the name softly. Frazer. Not so much the sound as the idea of it blew him away. He made his way to the shady side of the mausoleum, set down his pack, and took out the plastic bag where he kept his Valhallas. Horse pills were what they really were, but they took him to the heavenly hall. He put one on his tongue, wishing he had some water to wash it down. Monique, he said before his mind broke into kernels and started popping. It wasn’t a prayer, it was grateful recognition.

 

One of those soft-sky tropical sunsets was making the cemetery majestic when Bullet came back from Valhalla. He stood up. Best to move. Moving pushed the poison out of his system. There was no sign of the giant, so he explored a little. The loop on the padlock on the stone door at the bottom of the granite steps was half an inch thick, and the lion snarled silently at him. But up at ground level he found a small back door like a servants’ entrance. That door was locked, too, but the screws fastening the strike plate were loose, and he easily worked the lock off. Big deal, jeered the birds. When he opened the door, the smell of death was overpowering.

The thought of going inside appalled him, but an irresistible feeling of complicity drew him anyway. He could not make up his mind. He closed the door and took a seat on a lump of carved stone that might once have had a purpose, thinking about Monique. In his pack he carried a picture of her, but he had to be in just the right mood to look at his mother. In the photo she was standing off to one side of a group of Phuzzy’s friends, and it was hard to make out her features. When Phuzzy Williams, who was a marijuana dealer first and Bullet’s father second, took the picture, he had almost left her out. That figured.

In the years Bullet spent under Phuzzy’s roof, he had cut his father forty miles of slack. Weed for the Working Man was a cool slogan, but the business did not prosper, and Phuzzy never figured out how to do anything else. More often than not, he looked at his son as though he couldn’t remember why there was a kid hanging around the apartment. Bullet could handle that. His expectations were low. What he could not forgive were the lies in which his father had wrapped the mystery of his mother. She was a rodeo cowgirl in Montana and walked with a limp thanks to a mean bull. She was a fortune-teller with a heart of ice and the hands to go with it. She had a disease of the mind that gave her the ability to smell sin on people. Before Bullet learned better, every time he asked Phuzzy he got a different story, and his mother had a different name: Rhonda, Clarice, Mary Catherine.

The summer Bullet was twelve he found an old driver’s license belonging to a woman named Monique Frazer in the bottom of a dresser drawer and knew it belonged to his mother. He had her same green eyes. Sitting on the stone, he remembered how the discovery had pierced his heart. That summer he saw a woman on a billboard. She was beautifully round, radiating suck and sustenance, and her name was Monique. The image on the billboard filled his imagination so full it never stopped spilling over.

It was getting dark fast, the way it always did in hot places. Moved by the old familiar rawness, Bullet closed his mental eyes, stood up, and went down into the mausoleum through the servants’ entrance. The smell was strong, the air was crunchy, the darkness was complete. His knee bumped something that turned out to be a bench. He lay down on it, determined not to dream.

 

He slept like coal but woke in the morning alert and horrified. He knew exactly where he was. He hurried up to the light and made his way out of the cemetery to the Syrian restaurant. He ordered a cup of Arabic coffee and nursed it until it got cold. He was shivering. That might be the disease. More likely it was a reaction to sleeping in the Frazer vault. He was lucky. Belly Baba was preoccupied with the task of adding impossibly long columns of numbers.

Everything was connected. It was Bullet’s shivering that drew Zenzele to the table where he sat. She was smart and knew she had to speak slowly for him to understand her island English.

“What thing do you want above every other?”

“To find my mother. What about you?”

She shook her head, wouldn’t answer, although it was clear she wanted him to know.

He spent more money than he should have that day, renting space from Belly Baba. Zenzele was a magnet, Bullet a fingernail of iron. But he also perversely enjoyed the company of the Syrians even though they looked down on him. It had to do with home, his most important lack. As often as Zenzele could get away with it she came to his table with a rag to wipe the top, or a bowl of superfluous sugar.

“I have to leave,” she told him once, bringing another coffee as if he had ordered it.

She meant the island, not the restaurant.

“Why don’t you take the ferry to Venezuela?”

“Not Venezuela. North Dakota.”

Bullet felt the lust snaking through his body becoming a kind of love. That was how it had been with Allison, too. She was the only woman he had made love with since he learned he was sick. It was unfair, getting AIDS from a needle. He had almost never used needles. But once he knew what was wrong with him, he had made his peace with the consequences. He would live without love. And he stuck to his resolution. Allison was his one moment of weakness. Afterward he tried to confess his sin but was too late. She was leaving for Guayaquil on the bus. He spent money on a taxi, racing to the station the instant he made up his mind to tell her, but she was nowhere to be seen.

“There’s nothing you’d like in North Dakota,” he told Zenzele. It was the most he could muster, at the moment, in an effort to keep her away from him.

As soon as he could bring himself to stand he left the restaurant. The day was spent, and he knew without admitting it to himself that he was going to sleep on the bench inside the pink mausoleum again.

Fighting his lust, keeping it from becoming love for Zenzele, took the strength out of him. It took everything he had to slog back to the Frazer deathstead. To get there he set goals: walk to the next street sign, rest. Walk to the crypt with the angel heads, rest. Walk to the next family of low-rent headstones, rest. On his fourth rest the giant appeared, and Bullet felt the despair of certain failure. But something unexpected happened. When the giant opened his mouth, Bullet understood the words.

The big man leaned toward him, flared nostrils wrinkling in contempt. “You got the smell of death on you, boy.”

Why deny obvious truth? Bullet nodded. “What’s your name?”

“Nelson.”

“Is that your first name or your last name?”

It turned out to be both: his given name a tribute to Mandela, his surname a survival from a famous English sailor Bullet had never heard of. He did not believe this man Nelson was connected to the admiral who saved the British Empire from sinking, but he respected his need for family history.

“Come,” Nelson commanded him.

Bullet wanted to go with him. He knew by the man’s tone of voice that his heart was softening toward him. But his legs did not have the power to support him. His weakness embarrassed him deeply.

Nelson crouched at his side. “What name the sickness you have?”

“Cancer,” Bullet told him.

Nelson shook his head, but that did not necessarily mean he didn’t buy the lie. “What you doing in my country?”

“I came here to marry a woman. Her name is Zenzele. She’s beautiful.”

“You plan to make this woman sick?”

“I love her too much to do that.”

“Best you go back to America, die in your home place of birth.”

“I can’t. There’s not enough time.”

Nelson stood up and walked quickly away, but Bullet knew he was coming back. When he did, he handed Bullet a kind of damp thin bread wrapped around yellowish vegetable goop. It was a roti stuffed with chana, Nelson told him. Taking small bites and chewing slowly, Bullet was able to get down a third of it. He had been in situations like this before that could go either way. Nelson was tending to be his friend but might still turn on him. Trying to tip the scale in his own favor, Bullet asked him why he lived in the cemetery.

Nelson scowled, and Bullet thought he had miscalculated. But the Trinidadian giant was glad to tell his story, which in Bullet’s weedy condition was hard to follow. His attention wandered. Once, during a complicated part of the story, he had to visualize and then climb an internal mountain to get away from the pain, which had taken the form of a saber-toothed tiger. But he got the gist of Nelson’s life. It had to do with persecution. He had been robbed of his inheritance. All he wanted was what belonged to him by right. Never mind vengeance, he loved God too much for that. The Port of Spain police were in on it, the sons of bitches. He had been living in Lapeyrouse for long, very long now.

When the time came, Nelson helped Bullet home, gentle as a nurse. He admired the Frazer property and seemed to find nothing strange in the idea of sleeping inside a mausoleum.

“You leave that little door halfly open all day, inside smell so much better all night.”

“I love Zenzele,” Bullet told him as he collapsed on the ground alongside the mausoleum wall.

“You always try to kill the person you love?”

Bullet would have protested, but another terrible tiger came tearing after him. That meant climbing another mountain. The hard part was seeing it first.

It began to feel like commuting. He woke on the bench inside the mausoleum, went to a tap Nelson showed him and washed, then headed for the Syrians’. He spent enough money to earn the shelter he took there, so it was on principle alone that Belly Baba refused to welcome him when he showed up every morning. But the old man’s wife and her sister had human hearts and occasionally smiled at him. Zenzele pretended to be angry with him, or else she really was. The days felt long, his supply of minutes dribbled, but Bullet stayed strong in his resolution not to touch her.

On his fifth day in Port of Spain, Zenzele let him walk three blocks with her, going home after work. The exercise wore him out so he didn’t mind leaving her on Cipriani. She seemed to like it when he kissed her hand good-bye, touching his lips to every knuckle of every shapely black finger. The sixth day she worked late. It was dark when she stepped out into Tragarete Road, and she let him lead her by the hand to the wall by the cemetery. He did not take her inside, just to an alcove of dark quiet along the edge where they both sniffed a little at each other’s newness.

“The Arab ladies, they say you bad for me. You are dangerous man, like drinking poison from that little brown bottle they keep in their kitchen.”

“Maybe they’re right.”

He wanted to kiss her, to put his tongue in her mouth and scour the nourishment he needed. She would not have stopped him. But he held himself back.

“Listen to my bargain,” she said.

“Bargain?”

“We trade. I give you a home to stay in. I nurse you well. I give you love.”

“And what do I give you?”

“You marry me. When you are not sick we go to North Dakota. Then you are free, you freely go where you like to go.”

“And you stay in North Dakota.”

She nodded and smiled. The idea behind her bargain did not bother him. It seemed open and honest, like her. But he was curious.

“What about my mother?”

She had thought about Monique, too. “Tante Elizabetta, I take you to her. She know all about your mother. She is my grandmother. Not just mine, she everybody’s grandmother.”

It was perfect. Too perfect. He wished he had cancer, some other disease she could nurse that was not contagious. The only way to protect her was to anger her.

He shook his head. “It won’t work.”

“Why?”

“You’re black. I’m white.”

At first her surprise was bigger than her anger, but the anger caught up quickly.

“You stay away from the Syrians,” she said, spitting the same contempt at him that Nelson had, diagnosing his sickness. She ran down Tragarete Road. Bullet’s frustration was bigger than he was. After a few minutes a car alarm went off on a side street. It made the lonesomest sound.

When Zenzele was gone, though, he felt something lifted as if from his back and thought, despite himself, of Monique. Was she proud of him, of what he had done to save a beautiful stranger? She had to be.

That night he was pleased when Nelson brought a party to the Frazer mausoleum. He needed to get his mind off Zenzele. The six men who showed up with the giant were trusted residents of the cemetery. They all had skinny arms and coughed the same dry hack, as though they’d practiced together. They accepted him as their neighbor because Nelson said it was okay. As the minutes of the night seeped out of Bullet’s cup they lay around on the Frazer grass drinking wine and eating roti sandwiches and telling thought-provoking stories, which Bullet only half followed. The sense of being close to Monique, of feeling her approval, was better than the wine.

Lying on his back, he must have been drifting when they started saying something about sharks. The word caught his attention, and he opened his eyes. Overhead, a few stars gleamed in the black like things forgotten and left behind. Listening carefully, he gradually figured out that there was a place up the coast called Maracas Beach where you could eat a shark sandwich and wash it down with Peardrax, whatever that was. He felt a fierce longing to go there, to eat the shark, to drink the pear, but he knew that it was too far away and he had no time. He did not remember going down into the mausoleum. They must have carried him in.

The next day he almost stayed away from the Syrians, but curiosity finally drove him there at lunchtime when the crowd was biggest. He ordered a lamb gyro and sat in a corner alone. Zenzele brought him a bottle of soda water he didn’t order and talked to him as though nothing bad had happened between them. She was wearing a seashell necklace, and the light and easy way it swung on her neck when she turned her head made up Bullet’s mind for him. He was going to accept her deal.

“What day is today?”

“Tuesday.”

“What is your day off?”

“Off?”

“When you don’t work.”

“Thursday. On Thursday I will take you somewhere.”

“Where?”

“A quiet place, Mister Bullet. Private. Tante Elizabetta live very close.”

He nodded, unable to speak as a wave of red hurt washed over him. He was shivering, and Zenzele moved away.

The problem was getting through the rest of Tuesday and then all day Wednesday. To do that he needed help. At the cemetery he went looking for Nelson. It took him a long time, and the search wearied him, but eventually he found the monumental tomb where the Trini lived. It was made of smooth, sand-colored stone and decorated with statues. Angels and saints and buff-bodied horsemen with bows and arrows went all around the sides and up over the top of the enormous tomb. They seemed to be taking part in some sort of heavenly hunt. In their stone stillness, all of them—angels, beasts, and men—were lathered into a frenzy. It was unsettling if you thought about a cemetery as a place of rest, but Bullet had an open mind and found the hunt scene energizing.

The inside of the tomb was a surprise for several reasons. Coming down into it Bullet found a table with two folding chairs. On the table were magazines, and a lantern glowed. In one corner canned food was stacked neatly alongside a steel drum like the ones Bullet had seen people playing in a park. Under a framed photograph of Nelson Mandela stood a bed with a large pillow. In the shadow of lantern light Nelson was sitting on the bed. He was crying.

It took Bullet as long as it had taken to find the tomb to understand that Nelson was crying because he had seen his daughter. Dezareh lived with her mother in a poor-people’s neighborhood along an inlet where egrets fishing the oily water had to pick through the garbage floating there. The police would not let him near the girl. It was part of the conspiracy against him. But sometimes he snuck close. That morning he had spent an hour watching his daughter from a safe distance. She was playing outside with a stick and a ball, and his heart broke as if for the first time. For Bullet, the egrets somehow made it worse.

Sitting in one of the folding chairs he waited until Nelson’s fit of sadness finally passed. The big man stood up as if he had forgotten why he was crying, although the rims of his lordly eyes were red.

“I’m dying,” Bullet told him.

“You think I don’t know that? You think I do not see it every day in the complexion of your sickened face?”

“I hurt all over. It used to be just some of the time, but now it’s all the time.”

“More than one kind of hurt in this world,” Nelson pointed out.

It was the signal Bullet hadn’t known he was looking for. He took his pack from his back and pulled out the plastic bag of pills.

“What the name of those pills?”

“Valhalla.”

Nelson nodded, and they both went there.

What was left of Tuesday evaporated, and when Wednesday happened they got rid of it, too. On Thursday morning when Bullet woke he was on the floor beside Nelson’s bed, his tongue remembering the way red wine had wrinkled his taste buds. Nelson was nowhere to be seen. Thinking about Zenzele made him feel guilty. And resolved. She must know what was wrong with him, she had to. For reasons of her own, which he had no right to know, she didn’t care. He had held himself away from love for a long time. Now, this close to the end, he deserved some of Zenzele’s. And his curiosity was overwhelming. What did Tante Elizabetta know about Monique?

Getting to the Syrians’ cost him several centuries of pain. The bad thing about Valhallas was the residue of poison they left in your system, a chemical trick played on the innocent and formerly innocent alike. But he hid the ugliness he felt and believed he looked halfway fine when Zenzele showed up to collect him.

“In North Dakota,” she said.

“What about North Dakota?”

“We can have children.”

They spent the next hour deciding what sort of family they would have: how many kids, what church they would take them to, their names and the foods they would feed them. A minivan bus finally delivered them to a neighborhood that had to be like the one where Nelson’s daughter lived, although Bullet saw no egrets, and the water running through the inlet was so brilliant in the sun it looked as clean as the day on which the idea of water had occurred to God. Run away, he kept wanting to say to Zenzele, you better run away. Instead he held her hand. They were both sweating. He had been strong for so long, except, of course, for Allison. Days away from death—that was how he felt, or how he thought he felt—he had the right to love and a little knowledge.

The empty shack-house she led him into belonged to a friend who was away at work. There were three small rooms. In the back one, a decent bed with a pale blue coverlet and a flowery smell in the air. In all the touching that was going on Bullet had not yet let any liquid of his come into contact with Zenzele’s skin. She pushed him onto the bed, then stood in front of him and proudly stripped.

“What about Tante Elizabetta?”

“She lives the next street over. She is a curandera, the grandmother of everyone around. She makes sick people better. But also she knows about the dead.”

“Maybe my mother isn’t dead.”

Zenzele shrugged. “Tante will know. But first, time for us.”

She bent over and unbuckled him.

“Wait,” he said.

“Wait why?”

“I’m thirsty.”

“I have no money.”

“I have some. In the pocket of my jeans. You go out and get something.”

She was amused. How could he even think of postponing true sweetness for a mere Coca-Cola? But her idea of North Dakota was a powerful motivation, and she dressed without complaint, only leaving off her bra. When she kissed him good-bye he deflected her lips.

He gave her a moment to be gone, then put on his shoes and hurried outside, where the sun went for his throat. His feet were against him and he stumbled, loping to the place where the minivan had left them off. This is it, he realized. Time’s up. Although he still had a handful of the pills, the new pain was too much to handle with a Valhalla.

In the taxi he blacked out leaning against a man who wore a pair of sneakers around his neck like a garland. He had no specific memory of getting out of the vehicle, only of the ages he passed through on the way back to Lapeyrouse. Halls of agony, that’s what they were, and he limped through them one by one. At the Frazer mausoleum he collapsed inside the fence and lay baking in the sun. The decision to let go was conscious. If he had any luck left he would die today.

It didn’t happen. Nelson shook him awake at dusk. He pointed to the sky. “I thought you went up.”

Tonight, Bullet almost told him but changed his mind. He sat up.

“Easy, Americano boy,” Nelson said. “You want another hallow pill?”

Bullet shook his head. The relief he felt at not having infected Zenzele was like wind blowing across a tender field in his brain. “Tell me about the shark.”

“What shark that you talking about? Your brain addled by too much sunshine on the head now?”

“The bake and shark. On the beach.”

“What about that shark?”

“Tell me.”

Having many of his own, Nelson understood need and sank onto the grass next to Bullet to tell him about Maracas Beach and shark sandwiches and the carbonated pear drink you washed them down with. Light lingered in the sky, or that was how it felt to Bullet. A family of those yellow birds had gathered in the branches of a bony brown tree. Bananaquits, Zenzele called them. They were talking about him, no doubt of that, but this time they did not use words of condemnation. Nelson kept putting in more details: the sand, the silver waves, steel drummers looking out to sea.

Listening, Bullet was struck by the different way time was moving now. All of a sudden there was plenty of it.

“My mother is dead,” he told Nelson.

It had taken Trinidad and the ordeal with Zenzele, but he was sure of it. If Monique were alive, she would have found him. She would have let him know. He was just as sure that she knew nothing of what had happened in the shack with Zenzele. That hurt, but he forgave her. To his surprise, he forgave himself for not remembering her face.

“I am sorry about your mother,” said Nelson, who understood most important things.

“I’m going.”

“To Maracas? That what you mean?”

Bullet nodded. It did not seem impossible. The new way time was working shortened distance. Not tonight, of course. Right now he was too weak to move. But he was going.

“What you do at Maracas Beach?” Nelson wanted to know, skeptical and kind at the same time.

“Eat the shark,” said Bullet. “Drink the pear.”

“Eat the shark,” Nelson echoed quietly.

Monique was dead. Zenzele was safe. With the calm certainty of new knowledge, Bullet knew it was true. He was going to eat the shark.

About Mark Jacobs:
Mark Jacobs has published over eighty stories in magazines including The Atlantic, The Iowa Review, New Letters, and The Idaho Review. He has stories forthcoming in Playboy and The Kenyon Review. A former foreign service officer, he lives in rural Virginia and plays lead guitar in the Double Crossed Band.