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Trails in the Sand

Trails in the Sand

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Published by Patricia Zick
***Love Triangles, Endangered Sea Turtles, and BP's Oil Spill

***A Florida Novel by award-winning Florida author, P.C. Zick

When environmental writer Caroline Carlisle sets off to report on endangered sea turtles during the BP's oil spill, the last thing she expects is to uncover secrets - secrets that threaten to destroy her family, unless she can heal the hurts from a lifetime of lies. To make matters worse, Caroline's love for her late sister's husband, Simon, creates an uproar in a southern family already set on a collision course with its past.

From Caroline's sister: "My sister is nothing more than a common whore," Amy said when Simon told her he was leaving her. "You just have to face it and get over some childhood notion about her being your soul mate."

On BP's oil spill: "Two weeks after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, dead sea turtles began washing up on the beaches near Pass Christian, Mississippi. Beach walkers discovered the stranded animals on sand darkened by the blood seeping from the turtles' nostrils and underbelly."

Using BP oil spill timeline and facts as the backdrop, Trails in the Sand explores the fight to restore balance and peace, in nature and in a family, as both spiral toward disaster.
***Love Triangles, Endangered Sea Turtles, and BP's Oil Spill

***A Florida Novel by award-winning Florida author, P.C. Zick

When environmental writer Caroline Carlisle sets off to report on endangered sea turtles during the BP's oil spill, the last thing she expects is to uncover secrets - secrets that threaten to destroy her family, unless she can heal the hurts from a lifetime of lies. To make matters worse, Caroline's love for her late sister's husband, Simon, creates an uproar in a southern family already set on a collision course with its past.

From Caroline's sister: "My sister is nothing more than a common whore," Amy said when Simon told her he was leaving her. "You just have to face it and get over some childhood notion about her being your soul mate."

On BP's oil spill: "Two weeks after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, dead sea turtles began washing up on the beaches near Pass Christian, Mississippi. Beach walkers discovered the stranded animals on sand darkened by the blood seeping from the turtles' nostrils and underbelly."

Using BP oil spill timeline and facts as the backdrop, Trails in the Sand explores the fight to restore balance and peace, in nature and in a family, as both spiral toward disaster.

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Sections

  • CHAPTER 1
  • CHAPTER 2
  • CHAPTER 3
  • CHAPTER 4
  • CHAPTER 5
  • CHAPTER 6
  • CHAPTER 7
  • CHAPTER 8
  • CHAPTER 9
  • CHAPTER 10
  • CHAPTER 11
  • CHAPTER 12
  • CHAPTER 13
  • CHAPTER 14
  • CHAPTER 15
  • CHAPTER 16
  • CHAPTER 17
  • CHAPTER 18
  • CHAPTER 19
  • CHAPTER 20
  • CHAPTER 21
  • CHAPTER 22
  • CHAPTER 23
  • CHAPTER 24
  • CHAPTER 25
  • CHAPTER 26
  • CHAPTER 27
  • CHAPTER 28
  • CHAPTER 29
  • CHAPTER 30
  • CHAPTER 31
  • CHAPTER 32
  • CHAPTER 33
  • CHAPTER 34
  • CHAPTER 35
  • CHAPTER 36
  • CHAPTER 37
  • CHAPTER 38
  • CHAPTER 39
  • CHAPTER 40
  • CHAPTER 41
  • CHAPTER 42
  • CHAPTER 43
  • CHAPTER 44
  • CHAPTER 45
  • CHAPTER 46
  • CHAPTER 47
  • CHAPTER 48
  • CHAPTER 49
  • CHAPTER 50
  • CHAPTER 51
  • CHAPTER 52
  • CHAPTER 53
  • CHAPTER 54
  • CHAPTER 55
  • CHAPTER 56
  • CHAPTER 57
  • CHAPTER 58
  • CHAPTER 59
  • CHAPTER 60
  • CHAPTER 61
  • CHAPTER 62
  • CHAPTER 63
  • CHAPTER 64
  • CHAPTER 65
  • CHAPTER 66
  • CHAPTER 67
  • CHAPTER 68
  • CHAPTER 69
  • CHAPTER 70
  • CHAPTER 71
  • CHAPTER 72
  • CHAPTER 73
  • CHAPTER 74
  • CHAPTER 75
  • CHAPTER 76
  • CHAPTER 77
  • CHAPTER 78
  • CHAPTER 79
  • CHAPTER 80
  • CHAPTER 81

Trails in the Sand

P. C. Zick

Copyright © 2012 P. C. Zick Cover Design: Travis Miles All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. The characters, events, and dialogues portrayed in this book are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems without permission by the author. The only exception is by a reviewer who may quote short excerpts in a review. ISBN: 1481255797 ISBN-13:978-1481255790

DEDICATION
To my husband, Robert At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet. Plato

P. C. ZICK

STOKLEYS, CARLISLES, AND MCDERMOTTS
Stokleys
Arthur Stokley (1900-1970) married (1925) Lillian Mallard (1905-1987) Children: Sugar (1930) married Whitey Douglas (children: Red, Beatrice, Johnny, Sally) Candy (1933) married Carl Ramsey (children: Lance, Judy) Cookie (1935) married Fred Standish (children: Freddy) Apple (1937) never married, no children Alex (1939-1956) Gladys AKA Gladdy (1940) married Jack Carlisle (children: Amy, Caroline) Gladys Stokley Carlisle (1940-2007) married (1959) Jack Carlisle (19312001) Children: Amy (1960-2008) married (1983) Simon McDermott (1960) – adopted Jodi (1990) Caroline (1965) married (1989) Gus (divorced 1990); married (1996) Rich (divorced 2001); married (2009) Simon McDermott

McDermotts

Bob and Pat McDermott Children: Simon (1960) married (1983) Amy Carlisle (adopted Jodi, 1990); married (2009) Caroline Carlisle Gary (1963) married (1983) Sally Douglas, daughter of Sugar Stokley Douglas) John and Laura McDermott (uncle and aunt to Simon and Gary) Children: Jason (1960-2010) married (2005) Susan

Other Characters

Holly Jacobs – Caroline’s best friend Sam – photographer who works with Caroline George Compton – a former lover of Gladys Stokley Paul Montgomery – adopted 1957 by a family close to Stokleys
iv

TRAILS IN THE SAND

How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment to start to improve the world.
Anne Frank

v

PROLOGUE
1956 – St. George Island, Florida Alex and Gladdy Stokley sat on the sand as the reddish glow from the setting sun disappeared and left the beach shrouded in darkness. The light of day remained only in memory as the waves rhythmically beat upon the shore where the brother and sister sat in silence. “Moon’s rising,” Alex said half an hour after the sun left the horizon. “See the light edging its way over there? It’s going to be full tonight.” The tide was going out as they sat on a linen tablecloth that served as a blanket; they smuggled it out of the family’s beach house as they escaped the rage of their father an hour earlier. Alex produced a crumpled pack of cigarettes from the front pocket of his white T-shirt. He cupped his hands to light the match and then the cigarette. He pulled a second one from the pack, lit it from the already glowing stick, and handed it to his sister. Gladdy touched her brother’s hand before taking the offering. “Everything’s going to work out,” Gladdy said. “You’ll see. Daddy will forget all about it once he goes back to work on Monday.” “He’s not going to forget, Gladdy. Not this,” Alex said. “And neither will I. Do you think you can forget it ever happened?” “I can try. You can try. Let’s just put it out of our minds as if it never happened. Please, Alex. We have to.” “It won’t work. It’s hopeless,” Alex said. “Look,” Gladdy poked her brother who was older by ten months.
1

P. C. ZICK

She pointed to the edge of the shoreline only feet away from where they sat on the sand. The light from the rising moon illuminated the beach in a soft white bath. “It’s a loggerhead,” Alex said as a sea turtle lumbered out of the ocean and laboriously began its march to the dune line. “You can tell by its big head.” “I bet it’s going to lay eggs,” Gladdy whispered. They sat motionless as the turtle, not more than fifty feet away, pulled itself through the sand. The loggerhead moved slowly but steadily, using first the front right and then the left rear flippers to pull it forward. Then it repeated the action with the other diagonal flippers. Its march from the sea was distinct from the other species of turtles that came ashore in Florida to lay eggs. The green turtle, Kemp’s ridley, the leatherback, and the hawksbill also laid their eggs on the beaches of the peninsula, but loggerheads were by far the most numerous. The female loggerhead, so graceful as it floated and swam in the ocean, now tromped through the sand dragging nearly 300 pounds of body weight. Every few minutes, it would stop and dig its snout into the sand. “She’s testing the temperature,” Alex said. “That’s exactly how it was described in that book Daddy threw in the trash tonight.” Alex read any book he could find about the ocean. Archie Carr just published a book about the sea turtles, and Alex checked the book out of the library in Calico, where the Stokleys lived, before they came to St. George Island for the summer. He’d received special permission to keep it for three months. When his father came to the dinner table that night and saw Alex sitting with his elbows on the table and The Windward Road propped up on his glass of milk, Arthur Stokley snatched the book and walked out through the kitchen to the back porch and threw it in the trash. “We do not read at the table,” Dr. Stokley said when he returned. “You have the manners of a heathen and the sense of a moron. You never fail to disappoint me.” “But that was a library book,” Alex said. “All the more reason not to have it at the dinner table,” Dr. Stokley said. “You’ll have to tell the librarian you lost it, and earn the money to pay for it.” When the turtle reached the edge of the sea oats and grasses protruding from the dunes, she swept the sand with all four flippers before
2

” “Did you know sea turtles always return to lay their eggs on the beach where they were hatched?” Alex said as he walked backwards into the sea following the trail of the female loggerhead. what are you doing? You can’t go swimming after dark – the undertow is too strong. but as she sat transfixed in her spot on the beach. “Are you counting how many eggs she’s laid? The book said they can lay up to 200 in one nest.” Gladdy said. After digging for what seemed like an eternity to the teenagers. She used her cupped rear flippers as shovels and began to prepare the cavity for the eggs. “Alex. “That’s mucus to keep moisture in the nest while the eggs incubate. Alex rose from the sand and followed the loggerhead.TRAILS IN THE SAND using her front flippers to push sand out of a large area. “The eggs will hatch in about two months. they watched as the sea turtle filled in the cavity with its rear flippers and then swept the area in an effort to disguise what lay beneath the surface. The loggerhead kept rotating her body around the area until a place big enough for her body indented the sand. “We’ll find a way. “There’s 83 and 84.” After counting 124 eggs. but the only answer came from the sound of the waves lapping the beach. Alex never returned with them. she began the slow return back to the ocean.” Gladdy yelled out over the surf.” Gladdy pulled the corners of the tablecloth up around her shoulders and waited for her brother to reappear. 3 . The process was repeated over and over again. Remember 124 eggs and remember the location. The waves came back to shore time after time. Be sure to come down here every night and wait for them to emerge so you can help them go home. Gladdy. They watched as three eggs dropped into the hole followed by a clear thick liquid. the ancient creature placed itself in the body pit with its rear end just at the edge of the cavity. “Alex.” Alex said. and he went under. nearly two hours after she came from the sea.” Alex turned toward the ocean and kept walking until the sea engulfed him. When the turtle finished her job. come back.” “I’m up to 82.

breaking the silence of a warm spring day in north Florida. Simon pulled his kayak up alongside mine as a mullet jumped out of the water in front of us and slapped its body back into the water. A great blue heron spread its wings on the banks and lifted its large body into the air. However. “Do you remember the spot where we always swam?” my husband Simon asked. 2010 Our paddles caressed the water without creating a ripple as we floated by turtles sunning on tree trunks fallen into the river. We should spend all summer on the river. “Isn’t it around here?” “I can’t remember back that far. The leaves on the trees were fully green and returned to glory after a tough winter of frosts and freezes.” I said. The magnolia flower buds would burst into large white blossoms within a month. The white spider lilies of spring covered the green banks. The heron led us down the river of our youth stopping to rest when we fell too far behind.” I said. we finally escaped our work on a warm Tuesday morning in late April. and the dogwoods dropped their white blossoms a month ago. “Still the dumbest fish in the river.CHAPTER 1 Caroline – April 20. 4 .” Simon said. “I hope things settle down. Wild low-growing azalea bushes were completing their blooming cycle. Simon and I missed the peak of spring on the river.

Promise me you won’t be disappointed if she refuses. I vowed to curtail my traveling. I eventually forgave Simon. and sea turtles to become ice sculptures. did.” Simon didn’t respond. When we were kids. “Let’s hope for a quiet hurricane season. sixty miles away. Miraculously.” Simon said. Those idyllic days ended when he married my sister Amy.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Maybe we can get Jodi to come with us when she gets home from Auburn. Either our voices or the sound of lapping water from our paddles sent it swimming. the majority of the stunned sea turtles survived and were in the process of being released back into the warming waters. even when she died two years ago. Augustine over the winter months as freezing temperatures caused iguanas to fall from trees. When Simon and I married the previous year. “At least winter is over. and as I was finishing writing a series 5 . Just when the cold weather disappeared. As an environmental and wildlife freelance writer. Jodi. Simon and I spent many days in an old canoe on this river. “Don’t count on it.” A turtle dove from a rock into the river as we approached.” I said. The sea turtles hadn’t fared so well. Yet Simon never complained when I left our home in St. I’d written dozens of stories since January on the rescue and recovery operations. my niece. That upsets me more than anything. manatees to congregate near power plants. Even though I didn’t miss or mourn my sister. He kept busy with the opening of his new law office. She lost a mother she loved and believed Simon and I trampled her mother’s grave when we married nearly a year ago. The supreme effort to rescue cold-stunned turtles and rehabilitate them for release was overwhelming in its sheer numbers of both wildlife and volunteers.” “I wish you wouldn’t be such a pessimist. I never forgave Amy. relocated from his previous home in Calico. which usually happened when I tried to talk about his daughter Jodi. I was happy to note the freshwater turtles didn’t seem impacted by the atypical cold of the past few months. I followed the sea turtle story for three months from the Gulf to the Atlantic coasts of Florida.

He stayed for more than a week helping Jason’s parents and his widow. 2010. As I sipped the aromatic brew.” he’d say. Jason had been his best friend. Simon went home to West Virginia for the funeral. and I’d look up into his smiling face. On the morning of April 21. “I’m glad we’re playing hooky today. If my eyes weren’t open when he came into the room. who was pregnant with their third child. “Sounds like a plan as long as you don’t find any sea turtles to rescue along the way. C. Simon.P. baby. Every morning he brought me a steaming mug of the brew along with the morning papers. I’ve got my hands full with you. ZICK of articles on the cold winter’s impact. I learned that volcanic ash from a recently erupted volcano in Iceland was costing airlines $1. thanks to L’Oreal. Simon used only the darkest roast with an oily sheen. I would have missed mention of it if I’d gone to the bathroom when George said an oil rig had caught on fire in the Gulf of Mexico the night before.” I said. His eyes mirrored my own blue eyes. his blue eyes twinkling a greeting. he bent down and gently kissed me on the forehead. The two remained close over the years. It was only a blip on the charts of the day’s news stories. On April 5. “It’s about time we made it back to the river. At one time. I glanced at the morning’s headlines before the television and George Stephanopoulos diverted my attention. The day before the Supreme Court 6 . “Good morning. As I flipped the channels to find more news. Simon’s had turned white while mine remained the same color of our youth. but now with age. other news took precedence over this minor incident occurring miles off the coast of Louisiana.” “Let’s keep floating until we reach the Suwannee River and then the Gulf of Mexico.” The next morning the whir of the coffee grinder woke me as Simon churned beans into grounds for our daily ritual. Until Simon and his family moved to Florida when he was fourteen. and I knew Simon mourned Jason’s death.7 billion to combat the loss in flights.” Simon said. I savored that first sip of coffee every morning. we both had blonde hair.” “Don’t worry. Simon left for West Virginia. his cousin Jason McDermott was one of the twenty-nine coal miners killed when Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine exploded.

the anniversary of Pearl Harbor – a day of infamy.” Simon said.TRAILS IN THE SAND overturned a ban on videos depicting animal cruelty. but all agreed everything was under control. but I’ve only heard it on ABC so far. trying to determine the level of my reporter’s barometric pressure climbing up the back of my neck.” I said.” my husband said. Matt Laurer announced the death toll after the April 14 earthquake in China now topped 2.” “It sounds like it has the potential for a real disaster. “Sure wish I could have gotten that interview. but it bothered me when all the reports said the fire still burned. “Were you listening to NPR in the kitchen?” I asked Simon as he came back to bed with his cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice. anniversaries. In my family. April 20.” I said. I took another sip of coffee.” I said. and deaths more often than not occurred on important historical dates.000. My best friend Holly was 7 . “They also said a former miner decided to talk about conditions at Upper Big Branch mine.” “And the West Virginia explosion occurred on your mother’s birthday. the morning newspapers contained no reports. Why?” “Just a curious little footnote to the news this morning. birthdays. “No. was the eleventh anniversary of Columbine. but officials are confident the men are on lifeboats that haven’t been found yet because of the smoke on the water. The report said eleven men are missing.” A couple of the channels gave a brief account of the oil rig fire. Two of my aunts had been born on December 7. He knew very well I kept track of dates and wondered at the curiosity of so many significant occurrences in history coinciding with other dates important to those closest to me. CNN reported that a former coal miner at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia decided to give an interview detailing the unsafe conditions at the mine prior to the explosion two weeks earlier. But nothing more on a little oil rig burning in the middle of the ocean. “And the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day is tomorrow. “It seems an oil rig caught on fire out in the Gulf last night. Since the fire occurred the night before. April 5. I hoped that was the case. How did they have any idea what lay below the surface of that fire? “Yesterday.

For nearly three decades. The drugged bear stumbled into the Gulf of Mexico before collapsing from the tranquilizer. I traveled across the country for stories filled with dramatic flourishes that somehow touched lives. I wrote about environmental disasters and crimes whenever I received a tip from my sources that I’d cultivated and coddled over decades of trying to find the perfect quote. I wrote a story a few years back about a wildlife CSI lab in Oregon. or I’d never have a story. However. The biologist wanted to knock the bear out temporarily. and my sister died on the Fourth of July just two years earlier. I felt something akin to hair rising on my neck. I made my living by writing about the environment and wildlife. “I guess I better make some calls. He swam out to rescue the unconscious animal. “I’m a little skeptical that all is well in the Gulf. 8 . with human interest thrown in the mix.” “Getting one of those hunches?” Simon asked. First. For the sake of my career. Photos of the rescue taken by a resident went around the world. I wrote investigative pieces about illegal dumping of hazardous waste in rivers in far too many places in the United States. when I felt the tingling in my ears that sent a shiver down my spine. ZICK born on Christmas Day. not drown him. and I followed a group of camel traders in the deserts of Morocco. “My ears are starting to tingle. I wondered where to start finding out about the fire.” I said.P. I waded through the swamps of the Everglades hunting the invasive Burmese python. so I better listen. but my transformation was still a work in progress. all in pursuit of the story. Love works miracles. I began to pay attention to every little detail. I learned over the years to follow those instincts. but I had a journalist’s instinct for news whether I was dealing with my job as a freelance environmental writer or as a woman assessing a person’s intentions.” I wouldn’t say I was clairvoyant or possessed powers of prescience. that was probably a good thing. I needed to question everything. C. The skeptic in me was still simmering beneath the surface even though my marriage to Simon the year before took some of the sharper edges off the knife of my cynicism. dragging it back to shore. One of the most recent stories took me to the Panhandle of Florida where a bear wandered into a residential neighborhood only to be darted with a tranquilizer by a wildlife biologist with the state wildlife agency.

“Just when I thought our lives might settle down. flipping through the newspapers. 9 . I curtailed the scope of my writing.” I said as I leaned forward to give him a kiss on the cheek. I made the decision to give our marriage my full attention. concentrating on stories from the southeastern Atlantic coast.TRAILS IN THE SAND When Simon came back into my life. “You and I will never settle down.” Simon said as he sat on the edge of the bed. It’s our karma to be perpetually stirred up.

but leased by BP for drilling its Macondo well.” The rig. The drilling continued. and natural irregularities in the geography. with plans to make it a production well when 10 . 2010 Details about the oil rig explosion and fire slowly leaked into the news as it became more than a blip in the media. aerial shots showed a five-mile long oil slick. was owned by Transocean. Within days.000 feet below sea level. despite hurricanes. When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig fell into the ocean on April 22. including BP. Louisiana. the Coast Guard announced a week after the explosion that 5.CHAPTER 2 News reports on Deepwater Horizon – April 22-28. But Macondo’s rich source of crude oil held hope of a lucrative revenue stream for BP. equipment malfunctions and failures. confused the public. BP decided to retreat temporarily. forty-miles southeast of Venice.000 barrels of oil per day were spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. Often the early reports contradicted each other. As problems mounted throughout the spring of 2010. knew how to stop it. Deepwater Horizon. Even though BP tried to downplay the amount of oil gushing from the well.000 feet under the seabed. Most of those missing workers probably knew Macondo wasn’t meant to be drilled. 5. and 13. and no one. the name BP – British Petroleum – became synonymous with “oil spill. Problems plagued the drilling of the exploratory well from the start. and spread distrust between all parties involved.

By April 20. or so the experts and officials in charge believed. They decided a standard pressure test to be certain it was sealed wasn’t necessary. oil rig. The eleven missing men never made it to the lifeboats as early reports suggested. the Macondo well conducted its own pressure test and blew the hell out of the cement. By 10 o’clock on the night of April 20. a shot of cement blasted into the 13. “Mother Nature just doesn’t want to be drilled here.” one of those men reportedly told his wife just before he reported to duty earlier in the month. and anything in its path.000-foot hole in the sea’s bottom sealed the well.TRAILS IN THE SAND the engineers solved the problems. 11 . The Deepwater oil rig explosion left them dead.

” “Need to keep my baby in that sweet little aphrodisiac. her forehead crinkled into a frown as she considered how to find out more about the oil rig fire in the Gulf of Mexico. He lived a simple life. Simon watched his wife sipping her morning coffee. he was fourteen and she was nine. He walked down the stairs of the old farmhouse and entered the kitchen. He noticed the disrupted earth around the sycamore tree most likely dug up by an armadillo. You ready to start putting up salsa?” “You bring me tomatoes. Caroline continued to switch channels between the news shows looking for just a little bit more information. and his feelings for her were anything but simple for three decades.” Simon said. “We should have tomatoes within the month. “And your salsa is the hottest this side of Cuba. and I’ll dance the salsa. Only one thing ever complicated his life. He put his cup in the deep sink and glanced out the back window. the one room they completely remodeled after they bought the house. “I’m going to check on the garden while you do your Lois Lane thing. He leaned over to her side of the bed and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. Finally. When he first met Caroline. “You know you grow the best in the world.” When Simon headed out of the bedroom. 12 .” Simon said.CHAPTER 3 Simon Simon liked to keep things simple.” Caroline said. his life was simple again.

Simon sprouted seeds in damp paper towels.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Caroline won’t be happy about that. and I’ll even bring it out there. He knew that short of shooting the ugly animal. The dew was fresh on the grass between the back stoop and the garden. They’d be rolling in zucchini in a few weeks. eggplants. there wasn’t much to do to keep them out of the yard and digging at the roots of trees.” “How can I refuse that offer?” Caroline walked toward Simon with two cups in her hands. “How come you don’t age?” Simon asked as he took the cup from her. Caroline knew every way to bake. and summer squash. and she never looked more beautiful. those were the simplest things in life. Notice how these shorts almost come down to my knees?” “I miss Jason.” Simon said. food appeared on the table. with Caroline. Peas were nearly finished as well. Gardening was the one simple thing Simon always had in his life even when it became a battlefield with his first wife. peppers. The spinach plants were bolting their way to seed now that warmer weather began its descent. Simple and delicious meals prepared with loving hands. grill. Caroline still resembled that cute tow-headed tom boy in cut offs and sleeveless tank top standing in the yard of her grandparents’ house. He placed the plants in the ground. She was in shorts and a T-shirt. Despite the years since they first met. he concentrated on the tomatoes. He planted the sprouts in pots. To Simon. 13 . Or maybe not. broil. The suddenness of the longing he felt for his cousin who died in the mine explosion a few weeks earlier surprised Simon. but for now. the garden was their place of peace and love.” he said aloud. “Do you want another cup of coffee?” Caroline called from the back door. Simon was forever grateful the nonnative animal left his vegetables alone. The staked tomato plants boasted tiny yellow flowers that would turn into fruit in a few weeks. then you’d see what the years have done to me. “I’m pouring. Within a few short weeks. and roast that vegetable. He walked outside. “You need your glasses and more coffee. Simon would plant another crop of both in the fall. watching Simon cross the street to introduce himself for the first time. He usually managed to keep his emotions in check. boil. Caroline still impressed him with her talents in the kitchen. However.

” “But her dad still works there. Susan’s having a tough time right now. They lost their only child. We spent most of our childhood with each other until my parents carted us off to the deep south of Calico. Also. “I know we didn’t see each other very often over the years. It’s going to be less about the men who lost their lives and more about politics. we were closer than Gary and I ever were.” “I don’t think you and Amy would have ever been close. too.” “That’s even more reason not to go. for sure. that makes it difficult for siblings to bond. too. Mom really wanted me to try and make it. C. Speaking of West Virginia.” Holly was Caroline’s best friend besides Simon. Jason and I were different too.” Simon said. “The baby is due in two months. have you talked with your parents or with Susan this week?” “I talked with Dad yesterday. and everything seemed fine. and you were close to Jason. she was preparing to go to the prom with you. She lived in Miami. When I was eleven. even if you were twins.” Caroline said. “You and Gary were three years apart. but not in time for the service Sunday. but when we did. now she’s afraid to come out against the company. Uncle John and Aunt Laura are trying to understand.” “It was the hinterlands. Look at Amy and me. but it’s not going to be the same now. but it’s difficult for them.” “Do you think you need to go back soon?” “Probably. Right now. Jason was pretty excited about it. but she and Caroline still kept in close contact with one another. they’re all trying to decide if they’re going to that big memorial service on Sunday. and we managed to become friends. Susan is adamant she doesn’t want to go. I heard this morning that President Obama is supposed to attend. That makes it extremely difficult for her. Are you still thinking 14 . I don’t know what I’d do if I lost Holly. but I already went to the private service so what good would this do?” “Your folks probably just want you with them.P. Florida. But we always thought West Virginia was a little behind the times.” Simon said. but he had that salt of the earth demeanor I always found calming. “Is there anything wrong with the pregnancy?” “Dad said she went to the doctor last week. You were too different. But then you were Amy’s age. ZICK “I know you do.

None other has ever known. Simon sang the words to the first chorus as he remembered his life without Caroline. “I could use dull for just a few days. he hummed the tune to a song that haunted him during those years when Caroline lived in the Everglades. On Monday.” It surprised Simon when Susan chose it for one of the songs at Jason’s funeral. that’s for sure. Simon attempted to make a life with his first wife. Amy. but this oil rig thing might pull me to it.TRAILS IN THE SAND about coming with me when I do go?” “I want to. “And He walks with me. April 5. isn’t it?” “Never dull. Simon hoped for the same thing. “In the Garden” was the only tune he could pluck out on the piano. and He talks with me. He kept in contact with his family who all believed Jason made it to the fully stocked safety chamber. High methane levels detected prior to the explosion may have been sparked by the mantrip. he thought about those four days after the explosion as they waited for news about Jason. even after Caroline returned. As Simon drove north from St. thirty-one miners toiled at their jobs until the loud blast silenced twenty-nine of them forever. and Caroline went back to her vigil in front of the TV. Augustine to West Virginia the day after the explosion.” Caroline said. and it stayed with him. And He tells me I am His own.” Caroline said. As Simon poked around in his plants.000 feet below the surface of the earth. even 15 . “It’s always something with us. including Jason. still not found. And the joy we share as we tarry there. When she escaped Calico. At 1. 2010. West Virginia. That left four men. Turns out the hymn was one of Jason’s favorites as well. and eventually their daughter Jodi. an explosion ripped through the gut of a coal mine near Montcoal. he listened to all the news reports for word on the men. As Simon continued to hum the tune.” Simon went back to his meditations in the garden. the shuttle used for transporting the miners through the tunnels. They recovered twenty-five bodies almost immediately along with two surviving miners who were taken to the hospital.

the high concentration of methane forced rescuers to higher ground. Hope held its breath until the evening of April 9 when the tenuous thread of hope broke. However.P. ZICK after arriving in Beckley and sitting vigil with his family. Fire still burned inside the mine. West Virginia governor Joe Manchin faced the cameras and announced four more bodies had been found. The news of two rescue chambers with ventilation and basic survival supplies offered a fragile lifeline to the families who all hoped the trapped miners were waiting in the chambers. C. Jason’s body among them. 16 .

After I hung up with my Coast Guard source.” he said.100 million gallons of potential crude oil that could be released. Finally. 2010 My hunch about the explosion in the Gulf of Mexico proved to be correct. it covered 800 square miles. its size tripled. knew nothing. On April 25.” he said. I’d been pestering my sources for information. Reports varied on how much oil was spewing from the ground. The eleven men thought to be in a lifeboat were dead – they never made it off the rig. which is close to 2. “This is going to be equal or greater than Exxon Valdez. The Valdez was a ship with a known quantity of crude oil.CHAPTER 4 Caroline – April 25-29. “The ‘aw shit’ moment occurred yesterday. For days. we heard repeatedly that it wasn’t as bad as the worst oil spill disasters in U. I never thought for a minute that they were hiding anything from me. I noticed an email from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about the oil spill. the oil reserves in the Macondo well were estimated at 50 million barrels. Now it seemed as if it would go far beyond. That was startling news indeed. history. and the well continued to send forth the fossil fuel from the bowels of the earth unabated. I’d been waiting for outcries from Audubon and Defenders of 17 .S. one of my sources at the Coast Guard could tell me something of substance a week after the explosion. Within two days. but reconnaissance planes showed the slick growing. That first week. but all those who should know something.

” Gina said.” “Are there a lot of employees working on this?” “I know we have dozens of law enforcement officers in the air doing reconnaissance missions to see how close it’s coming to Florida and an equal number of biologists on the water taking sediment and water samples. She recently replaced the crusty.” Gina explained that under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 – instituted because of the Exxon Valdez spill – the government was in charge. often drunk. “There really isn’t anything to report. “Just eight hours a day right now. “I got your press release today. but that will change if we see oil here. but BP was considered the responsible party. “I guess they think there’s a chance BP can be billed for the hours at some future date. I’m supposed to have someone from the FWC in the pressroom at EOC at all times. Now it seems they did. the press secretary at the FWC. ZICK Wildlife. former press secretary at the FWC. I was at the briefing this morning at the EOC and one of the speakers told us it’s not a matter of ‘if’ the oil hits but rather ‘when. except that one of our 18 . “They sent out an email this morning telling employees to document all the hours spent on the oil spill. but whenever I’d called Gina.” “Why are they taking samples? Do they think the water in Florida is already contaminated?” I asked. “And the worst part is no one knows what they’re doing. C. “What can you tell me?” I asked Gina.” I said when I called Gina. too. “They need preliminary samples to compare with samples taken from here on out.” Gina said. “Is it as bad as I’m hearing?” “Not sure what you’ve heard.’” “Is EOC fully operational at this point?” The Emergency Operations Center for Florida was located in Tallahassee and usually only activated for hurricanes or tropical storms. which made life a whole lot easier for me.” “Do you think it’s too early for a story?” I asked. Our biologists are here. she said the state agency didn’t have anything to report. The federal and state agencies involved didn’t know who was giving orders at this point. giving wildlife updates every morning.P. but it’s not good. Gina Bowers and I had a long relationship – she used to work for a South Florida television station when I was living in the Everglades.

I took notice right away of his white blonde hair and a smile revealing teeth bigger than his face.” However. 1974 – Calico. “We’re working on fact sheets. otherwise. I’d faced many of those in my life. My momma always used to say. I sat on the front porch swing staring at him and his younger brother when he lifted his hand and smiled. “It’s a good thing your momma’s dead. talking points. “Do you need them right away or can you wait until they’re approved by the biologists?” “I’ll wait for a few days. Florida The day I first met Simon. isn’t it?” The word “apocalypse” echoed in my brain. but they’re public record.” Aunt Sugar said. I was far away in my home in the Everglades when she died three years earlier. and they want all the information to be as accurate as possible. but so far. the aunts didn’t understand how it had always been between Simon and me. you will be the death of me yet. The smile mesmerized me when he flashed it the day he moved in across the street from my grandparents’ home.” “Our biologists are extremely concerned that folks are going to try and rescue the poor critters so we’re trying to figure out all the logistics with that.” Luckily. “You marrying Simon when Amy is barely laid in her grave would kill Gladdy for sure. one of Momma’s sisters might have accused me of making her prediction come true. “Caroline Carlisle. ever since the day we first met in 1974.” “Kind of like preparing for the apocalypse. Even today – thirty-six years later – when he returns from his law office and walks into the kitchen of our home. I was still alive.” Gina said. I am 19 .” “Can I get a copy of those?” “They’re for the call centers and media folks in case wildlife starts appearing covered in oil. It was bad enough when they let me know they agreed with Momma when Simon and I announced our marriage plans.” Gina said. There’s not a whole lot of information on how wildlife might be affected by oil in their habitats so a couple of us are spending hours each day trying to track down information. that sort of thing right now.TRAILS IN THE SAND biologists made a report to the full commission. and smiles that smile.

“This is my sister Amy. I’ve got the picnic basket. “Glad” did not describe any of my mother’s many 20 . Momma’s out in the car and Daddy’s trying to calm her down. they just say awful things to one another. “They pull hair or anything?” “No. What’s your name?” I managed to mutter a response.” Amy was chewing on her fingernails so I knew it had reached the level of pointing fingers and laying blame – on all sides.” I said.P.” he said when he crossed the street with his brother. “Momma just told Aunt Sugar her cake tastes like soggy cardboard.” I pointed to the rambling three-story white clapboard house across the street with porches running around the entire outside and an out of place turret on the one side and a steep main roof – Tudor meets Victorian in Southern Gothic style.” I said.” “Nice to meet you. born Gladys Lorraine Stokley. but we lived close to Pittsburgh. “My name’s Simon. “They moved in over there – all the way from Pittsburgh. we’ve got to go. The most I got was a smile from my father. No one ever laughed at anything I ever said. The screen door slammed behind her. ZICK nine years old again transported back through the years to Calico circa 1974. I looked down at his smiling face unable to breath. she’s fourteen.” Simon continued to stand in the front yard even though his brother high-tailed it back across the street. Those types of comments generally provoked some type of rebuke from Momma. too. C. “This is Simon and Gary. “Might be more fun it they did pull hair. and we need to get out of here before it starts. but he would quickly pull the paper up in front of his face so “Gladdy” wouldn’t see. and he’s eleven. That’s somewhere up north.” Amy said. as I got up from the swing.” she said as she pushed open the screen door. “Family fight?” he asked. “This is my brother Gary. but it didn’t matter because Amy opened the front door just then and told me it was time to go. West Virginia. “I guess I better get a move on. Grab the casserole on your way through the kitchen. “It’s never good if Momma sits in a hot car for too long. We just moved here from West Virginia.” He laughed. I’m fourteen. Never was a nickname such a misnomer as the one assigned to my mother.” I said. “Caroline.

the following Sunday. he didn’t die then.” 21 . if Momma gets over her spell. when I was almost five. it took a month of Sundays.” I raised my hand in good-bye and walked toward the screen door. Caroline.’ you’d think his heart was attacking him.” “Your grandpa died when he kicked your mother out?” Simon asked. but that time my grandpa kicked my mother out. When do you think you’ll be back?” “We’re here just about every Sunday. I guess I’ll see you on the Sunday of your Momma’s recovery then. “You sure have a special way of talking.TRAILS IN THE SAND mercurial moods. ‘Gladys Lorraine.” Simon grinned. One time. “I’ve got to go now. and now he’s dead. leave this house immediately. “No. If not. But the way he turned red when he screamed. “Good bye. He died the following year after eating cornbread at the turkey shoot in Newberry.

“Its movements at this point depend on the currents and winds. “We stand ready to do whatever we need to do to protect the resources of Florida. President Obama’s week began in West Virginia at a memorial for the twenty-nine miners killed on April 5. declared Deepwater Horizon a “Spill of National Significance. but never before executed formally. The FWC’s history included working with the Coast Guard to prepare response plans in case of an oil spill. Janet Napolitano. until now.” the chairman of the commission said after hearing the report.” On the same day as the FWC report. converged on Louisiana. including the President of the United States.CHAPTER 5 News reports on Deepwater Horizon and Upper Big Branch mine – April 25-29.” a designation created after the Exxon Valdez spill.” a wildlife biologist reported to Florida’s wildlife agency in late April. The world.” Even though there were no reports of oil spill effects on wildlife yet. 2010 “The slick continues to grow. We’re preparing for the worst and hoping it won’t get to that point. the secretary of homeland security. and we are very concerned. whether the oil reaches Florida’s shores or not. the biologist warned that the size of the spill indicated a prolonged event. CNN reported on April 27 that although the Upper Big Branch 22 . “This accident may have serious impacts on the areas where our fish and wildlife spawn.

in Seattle.TRAILS IN THE SAND mining disaster was the worst one since 1970. Washington. an assistant secretary of Labor for Mine Safety told a Senate committee on April 27. 23 . Meanwhile. it was only “one of three horrific workplace catastrophes during April. After the disaster at Upper Big Branch. Seven workers met their death in an explosion at the Tesoro oil refinery.” The reports of the eleven men who died in the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe were widely reported. the Mine Safety and Health Administration planned to begin using its powers to shut down unsafe mines. No one much remembered an event that occurred on April 2. 2010. the agency decided it might be a good time to enforce safety laws and regulations that had been in effect for decades.

but the words didn’t come. as the sounds of the coming night settled upon them. “Remember catching fireflies and putting them in jars? I used to do that with Jodi when she was young. Simon took her hand and brought it to his lips.” Simon said. “You can’t forget. Simon knew he should say something to comfort her. It’s difficult to be pregnant and alone – without-a-partner alone. “Never for one single second.” “What about Susan?” “She decided to stay home. closer to the porch than the frogs. but they said Uncle John and Aunt Laura appreciated it.” 24 .” “I know. “Look.” Caroline said. Caroline shut her eyes. a firefly. The frogs from the pond across the road began their nightly cacophony after one lone bullfrog croaked signaling the others to begin their calls. not moving or speaking. Can’t say I blame her. vied for their auditory attention.CHAPTER 6 Simon Simon hung up the phone after talking to his dad in West Virginia and turned to Caroline sitting next to him on the front porch.” Simon finally said. “It was as crazy as I predicted. too. She loved those lightning bugs as much as you.” They sat on the glider. “They wanted to tell me about the memorial service last Sunday. Crickets. can you?” he asked.

This shouldn’t be happening. I’ve always wanted to honeymoon in coal country. It set her apart from her mother 25 .” “It’s not like that. “It’s as if you never even loved her. Jodi felt abandoned by the only family she had left. Then when Simon and Caroline decided to marry.” she said. too.” Jodi was right about her mother’s illness. “Ready for a road trip?” “When?” “Tomorrow. Forty-seven U. It’s almost as if you’re both being spiteful. Although he’d been surprised at the venomous response by Jodi. “Susan said she’d talk to me about it when I come up there. but wrong about Simon’s efforts to save her. “What did your dad say about the lawsuit?” Caroline asked. “I forgot all about the first disaster in April.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Do you think she’ll ever forgive us?” Caroline asked. Simon understood his daughter’s shock at his marrying her Aunt Caroline. “You know how Momma felt about Aunt Caroline. “I know Momma was sick for a very long time. bringing Simon back to the present situation in West Virginia. We could make it a second honeymoon.” “I’m getting a little tired of hearing you say that.” Jodi’s emotional distance loomed as the one dark spot on their otherwise peaceful and happy life. Simon sighed and said what he always said to Caroline when she asked this question. but she also had an idea for a story on worker safety in the coal mines.” Simon loved Caroline’s passion. Simon’s daughter harbored resentment and anger over the marriage.” Jodi said. and that’s what he attempted to offer Caroline every time she brought up the topic. and you didn’t do anything to help her get better.” Simon said. workers killed in less than a month working to bring us gasoline. He understood how much the events of the past two years had traumatized Jodi. “Give it time. “Seven men died in an explosion at an oil refinery in Seattle.” Simon said.” Simon knew Caroline wanted to stay in Florida to monitor the oil spill story. and you know it.S. and coal. She was still mourning her mother and her grandmother. Her words reverberated in his brain when he told her. His only hope was time. three days before Upper Big Branch.” “Perfect. oil.

” Simon said after he hung up the phone.” “Everyone understood.” Jodi said.” “I hope she passes the courses. Simon wondered if the college would even contact him if she failed a class because he had a suspicion calls and letters went directly to the house in Calico. She believed in causes and people and humanity. “I took early exams in two classes. “We could pick her up at Auburn on our way to West Virginia.” Caroline said. “You certainly don’t have much confidence in her. Even though Jodi had plenty of money from the trust Simon set up for her after her mother died. but I can do that through email. “The house needs a lot of work. at least I asked. too. “Everyone’s in a holding pattern right now and preparing for the worst.” Simon said.” “Do you know what her schedule is? She might be in the middle of exams. “I must have woken her. “When something happens is more like it. “I spoke with Gina today. he still held control over it until she turned twenty-one. I still feel bad about missing the funeral.” She planned to stay at home alone all summer and catch up on her reading. The house was hers to do with as she wished. Her deadline for the impending papers became the excuse for not going to West Virginia. but he didn’t feel he had the right to offer her advice. he discovered she wasn’t at college. although he thought the same thing.” Simon said.” Simon thought she should get a job for the summer. just like they’ll understand if you have to fly back to Florida if something happens with the oil spill. I don’t think you’ve ever met her. “And in the other two I need to turn in papers. When Simon reached Jodi that night. and at least she was doing something constructive.” Simon said. ZICK and sister.” Simon said. C. He’d never changed his contact information with the university.P. 26 . “She sounded kind of groggy.” “How about I call Jodi and ask if she’d like to come with us. She decided to come back to the house in Calico early.” Caroline said. just like Momma wanted. but she’s the press secretary at the FWC.” she said. “Even if she says no. “I’m going to finally have it painted. It’s probably a good time to go to West Virginia.” Caroline said.

27 .” “Let’s just see what happens. I’m still in charge. “There’s nothing we can do about it tonight. “Until she turns twenty-one.” “Give me a little time. leaving Simon alone outside with the crickets and fireflies. “Maybe you need to quit trying to convince me everything’s fine with Jodi.” Caroline said before she rose from the porch and went inside the house.” “Who doesn’t have confidence in her now?” Caroline asked.” Simon told Caroline.” Simon said.TRAILS IN THE SAND “I need to remember to change my contact information at Auburn. We both need to have a little faith in her.

CHAPTER 7 History of coal mining disasters in the United States Wildlife exhibits the first signs. The early miners in West Virginia in the 1880s were mostly European immigrants and African-Americans. and not enough workers 28 . killing at least 400 men. Methane most likely ignited coal dust in two mines. it needs to be coated with lime. and they served a sort of peonage in those early mines. They rented or bought their own equipment and lived in company houses. The fear of death never left their doorstep because the owners of those mines did nothing to ensure the safety of those workers. Coal miners knew it to be true. That’s why in the earliest days of coal mining. If the canary kept singing. the canary keeled over. acting as the harbinger of coming environment disasters. and that distinction was sealed in 1907 when the worst mine disaster in history occurred on December 6 at the Monongah Mine in West Virginia. This small songbird could detect the smallest quantities of methane and carbon monoxide. Now it’s an accepted fact that to keep coal dust from becoming combustible. It was a hard life. West Virginia’s safety record was one of the worst in the nation. and the miners escaped. and their pay went to the company store for food. the miners would take a caged canary down into the mines with them. if not 500. Rumblings among the families of the victims at Upper Big Branch hinted that more than one hundred years later coal dust sometimes accumulated because Massey was cutting corners. during the day and during the night. the mine was deemed safe. If the singing stopped.

more than one hundred years after the disaster in Monongah.TRAILS IN THE SAND were available to make sure the lime was applied to keep the dust levels low. When the workers went down into the mine on April 5. a caged canary might have warned the miners to the danger lurking in the air. 2010. 29 .

All those hospitalizations.” Jodi slumped in her chair when she heard the pronouncement from the doctor.” Jodi’s grandfather said. Jodi thought she was prepared.” Jodi’s dad said he knew the doctor was right.CHAPTER 8 Jodi Jodi grew up in constant fear of her mother’s death. “There’s not a thing wrong with my daughter. When Amy died two years earlier. she learned one thing very well. Greg Simpson tell her father on one of those emergency hospitalizations.” “Gladdy.” Jodi heard Dr. “Maybe we should think about what he’s saying. “Or you need to admit her to the psych ward at Shands in Gainesville. Amy is going to die. Greg is only trying to help. Greg Simpson. and you’ve always been a trouble maker. As an only child. “I’ve known you since before you were born.” “I hope you all do think about it. “Somehow you’ve got to make her eat. She retreated into a 30 . The shock of her mother dying came to Jodi slowly despite all the false alarms over the years.” Dr. She was eight years old that time.” GG – Jodi’s Grandma Gladys – said. still didn’t prepare the daughter for the loss of her mother. No one noticed her sitting there. but then Gladys interrupted the discussion. “Otherwise. Simpson said. each time never knowing if Amy would come home or not. She learned soon enough that no one can ever prepare for death.

but go careful on the gravy. Even though. and she received great gifts from her aunt every birthday and Christmas.” “You always did stick up for that child. “Your Aunt Caroline has better things to do than come home to be with her family. but Aunt Caroline never came home to Calico. “She’s a very unhappy woman who only cares about herself. “I’m going to check on the garden. “I don’t know why. “That’s all he does.” Jodi’s momma said. She still does if the picture of her from her latest article is any indication.” Jodi said. leave the poor girl alone and let her eat what she wants. at the age of eight. It’s a wonder Caroline hasn’t been the death of me yet. Jodi’s father. No wonder Jodi turned her Aunt Caroline into her idol. “You do not want to be anything like your Aunt Caroline. and she never could take it off.” “Do you mean that latest article she wrote about that butterfly down in Miami?” Amy asked. Momma.” he said. and so did Caroline at that age.” GG said. “How come Aunt Caroline doesn’t come home for the holidays?” Jodi asked one year at the Thanksgiving dinner table. “She looks fine. Simon. “I want to be just like her when I grow up. “It’s nearly extinct.” Jack Carlisle. GG stomped off.” “Gladdy. her hero.” GG said. “I can’t believe someone pays her to do that. Jodi’s grandpa said.” “Why in the world would she write a whole article on a blue butterfly as if someone even cared. Jodi had never met her in person.TRAILS IN THE SAND hole of her own making while the grownups ignored her as they retreated into their own lies. her role model.” Amy said. That’s what happened to your Aunt Caroline. Jodi talked to Caroline on the phone occasionally.” Jodi said before she realized her mistake. leaving the men staring at one another.” At that. You don’t want to gain any extra weight at your age. “Now eat your cornbread dressing. stood up.” GG said.” Amy said when Simon went out the back 31 . she knew her Aunt Caroline loved her and understood her better than these people standing in the hospital waiting room arguing while her mother wasted away in a room nearby. “It’s the Miami Blue Butterfly.

she always thought her mother and grandmother were just envious Caroline escaped Calico with an exciting career. 32 . “Now as I was saying. Now she wished she’d listened to Momma and GG more carefully. but you’re right. “I’ll never forgive either of you.” Jodi’s grandfather said. C. “Simon is married to that garden. “It amazes me you both came out of my womb. let him be.” “I hate to say it about my very own daughter.P. When her father called asking if she wanted to ride to West Virginia with Caroline and him. Amy.” “Now. Amy.” she thought as she hung up the phone after politely refusing the offer.” “I think I’ll join Simon.” Amy began once her father left the dining room. “You women don’t need me around.” GG said. “Simon’s a good man and a successful lawyer. not me. He’s made something of himself in this little town.” Jodi never believed these two women – the only source of information about Aunt Caroline besides her aunt herself.” GG said. “my sister Caroline believes the whole world rises and sets on her life. ZICK door.” Jodi wished she could join the men. she thought she’d rather slit her wrists than spend thirteen hours in a closed car with them. Until her father announced he was marrying Caroline. She knew her mother and GG had more to say.

but at times. 33 . As we drove we listened to NPR when we could. When my father-in-law retired a couple of years ago. Simon and his family moved to Calico in 1974. As we sped up I-95 through a small bit of Georgia. could take a job teaching at nearby University of Florida.” Simon said.” I said. but why wasn’t the government enforcing the regulations?” I asked at one point. Simon’s father. Simon’s parents did a reversal of what most folks did. “We can point the finger at the companies all we want.” “Our greed for energy. it was difficult to find any station not broadcasting country songs. as cheap and as quickly as we can pull it out of the ground. We planned to be at Simon’s parents in Morgantown sometime before 9 p. we heard a commentator remark on how large corporations such as BP and Massey Energy ignored safety regulations and even citations. they moved back to Morgantown.CHAPTER 9 Caroline We left for West Virginia early on Friday morning with coffee mugs filled and snacks packed in the cooler. so Bob McDermott.m. especially driving through South Carolina. almost two hours south of Pittsburgh. “It took twenty-nine miners to die for the mine safety folks to suggest that perhaps they should be using the powers granted to them decades ago. fuels the energy companies to bring it to us fast and cheap. “It sure looks as if both disasters could have been prevented with a little more precaution.

perhaps. “I’d move back. too.P. C. “Right. The conditions left them beholden to the mining companies raking in the dough while the workers lived in cobbled together houses huddled close to the mines. The Queen of England. I’ve no desire to move back to coal country.” “Wasn’t there some story about a canary in the mine he brought back to life?” “I never believed that one.” Simon said. “He came to this country penniless. Except when he left his mother country.” I said as the wildflowers of spring streaked by us in the median of the highway. “I’ve often wondered about my grandfather and how he managed to escape the life of a miner to become a respected doctor. My family never said much about his life prior to becoming a worshipped doctor in Calico. “I’m a Florida girl.” Simon said. I read enough to know that not many young people ever found the means to leave the mines all those years ago when the miners lived in company towns.” I said. there was a King in charge over there. if it wasn’t for the winters. Any parent who accepted their children as they were received tons of 34 . And why would that make him such a hero? Didn’t they take those canaries down in the mine knowing full well they’d die if the gas fumes were too strong?” “Maybe he slept with someone important. It was probably one reason I wanted to write about this latest disaster. He escaped a life underground in the mines by the grace of God and the owner of the mine where he worked. but the story always intrigued me.” “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” “Stranger things have happened. right near where the explosion occurred. Don’t worry. came from England in the 1920s to work in the mines of West Virginia.” “You’d move back alone.” Simon’s parents came out to the driveway to greet us when we pulled in after dark. Bob and Pat McDermott were nearly perfect in my eyes. “They never stopped missing that part of the country. born and bred. My family had its own history with the coal mines. ZICK “I’ve never understood why your folks moved back to West Virginia. You’re lucky you got me to come back to north Florida after living in the Everglades for so long.” Simon said.” I said. Arthur Stokley. My grandfather.

“Is she still enrolled?” “You’ll have to ask your son. “I’ve got some chicken salad all ready in the fridge because I bet you’re hungry.” “She left college early?” Pat asked. “She’s fine.” “It’s disheartening. driving in the dark like that.” “Are we going to see them tomorrow?” Simon asked.” 35 .” Pat said when we got out of the car. She gave me a hug. too. Momma would have been waiting in the living room for us.” I said. “Caroline.” she said. and when we entered the house she’d probably say. too.” “I bet you’re both tired.TRAILS IN THE SAND brownie points from me. “It’s been a long month. you’ll be the death of me yet.” Pat pulled me close for a hug as we stood in the living room. She came home from school early so she could work on the house. “She’ll come around one of these days. “I’m sure of it.” “Good to see you both.” “How’s Jodi?” Pat asked as we walked into the house. “Susan wants to talk to you about a few things. “They’re expecting us for lunch. and it’s good to have you home. Susan said she’d come over. She’s concerned about making sure an accident like this one never happens again. “I keep thinking we’ve come so far.” Bob said.” Bob said. too. leaving the men pulling the luggage out of the car. He talked to her. John and Laura are very happy you’ve come. but then these horrible disasters keep happening.

leatherback. oil continued to gush into Gulf waters at 5. Alabama.CHAPTER 10 News reports on Deepwater Horizon – early May Ten days into the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Many of the birds in those areas were already on the Endangered Species list. Louisiana declared a state of emergency on April 29 as the oil slick neared the state’s fragile coastal areas. The most abundant in numbers is the loggerhead. Mississippi. threatening its natural resources. These ancient creatures from the sea would soon surface and come ashore to lay eggs in nests all along the Gulf beaches. The slick spread to one hundred miles in length and forty-eight miles wide. and green sea turtles are listed as 36 .000 barrels per day with no solution in sight for capping the powerful well. listed as a threatened species. and Florida. The timing coincided with the birds’ breeding and nesting season as the oil pushed its way toward their prime habitat off the coasts of Louisiana. In this coastal region. but now getting ready to nest on beaches dangerously close to the moving oil slick . and migratory birds. As the oil continued pushing out of the earth unabated. Some folks worried about the brown pelican. recently removed from the list because of its increasing numbers. five species of sea turtles occur. Kemp’s Ridley. Bird conservationists began shouting for action as the oil made its way to sensitive nesting areas for seabirds. hawksbill. shorebirds. wildlife officials and lover worried about the sea turtles.

TRAILS IN THE SAND

endangered. All would encounter oil whether nesting or not. Preparations began as April ended in anticipation of wildlife coming ashore in need of rescue or burial.

37

CHAPTER 11
Caroline “I was West Virginia’s coal queen in 1990,” Susan said. “Once you’ve worn the crown of a coal queen, you’re always a coal queen.” Simon and I sat on the front porch of Susan and Jason’s home in Beckley as Susan explained why she struggled with her loyalties. We’d driven from Morgantown with Bob and Pat early in the morning, and now sat with Uncle John, Aunt Laura, and Susan talking about Massey’s offer of a $3 million cash settlement. So far, Susan had not received the offer. Pat and Aunt Laura brought baked goods, from pumpkin bread to blueberry muffins, that now sat on the porch table as we drank coffee and talked. “It’s probably hard for you to understand, Caroline,” Uncle John said, “but coal gets in the blood. Jason felt it from a very early age.” I understood about a place getting to a person. I realized it one night, right after Hurricane Andrew hit back in 1992, when someone asked me why I stayed in a state so vulnerable to the inevitability of devastating storms. I was in Nevada working on a story about the lakes around Reno when Andrew hit Homestead, off course from the predictions of landfall nearer Miami. While eating dinner at a hotel bar in Reno, I watched the news about the devastation. I told the bartender I lived close to the storm, and couldn’t get through on the phone lines to find out if my house made it through the storm or whether my neighbors and friends were safe. “I wouldn’t live in Florida near the coast for any amount of
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money,” the man sitting next to me said. “What makes you want to live there?” I smiled and wondered how to reply. Florida offered suffocating summer heat and humidity, threatening hurricanes for nearly half a year, crawling bugs of all shapes and sizes, and lounging lizards lapping up spiders, but Florida was under my skin. How could I explain it to someone who’d never lived there? The man who asked the question said he was from Iowa. “It’s all I know,” I said. “It’s a part of me. I couldn’t live anywhere else.” “It’s probably not quite the same thing,” I said to Simon’s family as the afternoon sun beat on the roof of the porch. “But I understand how a place gets to you. The Everglades does that for me. It’s one reason I haven’t sold my house down there.” “My family was never miners,” Pat said, “but we’re connected to this place. It’s why Bob and I moved back. All those years in Calico never gave us the same feeling of being home, of being safe.” “That’s how it feels being married to Caroline,” Simon said. “I feel for the first time in my life that I’ve found my place. No offense, Mom and Dad.” “None taken, son,” Bob said. “You didn’t need to tell us that – it’s written all over that smile on your face.” Susan shifted her weight on the porch swing where she sat next to me. At eight months pregnant, she looked appropriately uncomfortable. “You feeling all right?” I asked. “Baby’s kicking up some dust,” she said. “I can’t believe I’ve got another whole month of this.” Her eyes filled with tears, and I reached over and patted her hand. “Have you ever gone down into a mine?” I asked her, mostly to take her thoughts away from where they’d gone. “Not until last year,” Susan said. “The mines never allowed girls inside. The boys took field trips there during school, but the girls went to the glass-blowing factories instead.” “How come?” I asked. “Until recently, the common belief around here was women were unlucky in the mines, and so we were kept out,” Susan said. “But last year there was a celebration of the twenty-fifth coal queen contest, and all the
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former queens were invited to come back for lots of special events. One of the events included a trip down into the mine.” “How was it?” “It was an eye-opener. Every woman married to a miner or anyone who loves a miner should be required to go down there and see what it’s like for those workers every single day. Jason tried to explain what it was like, both the passion and the fear, but I never understood, really understood until I experienced the confinement, smelled the coal, and felt the dampness. And then I got it. It might have helped my mom overcome her daily fear for my father’s life if she understood.” “It might have increased her anxiety, too,” Pat said. “How did Jason end up working in the mines?” I asked. “None of the McDermotts were miners, were they? I read somewhere that most of the miners come from mining families.” “I know exactly when Jason decided to work in the mines,” Simon said. “Like Susan said, when you’re a boy growing up in this area, field trips were to the steel towns and the coal mines. It’s not like Florida where you take a field trip to Disney World and call it educational.” “I’ll have you know I learned a whole lot about world cultures and agriculture while visiting Epcot,” I said. “I bet you did. But we learned about the real world, and the important connection our area made to the rest of the country. Jason and I were in the same grade, and I remember the year we visited a coal mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.” Simon said Jason begged to go down into the mine, but the school kids weren’t allowed. “I took one look at those flattened little cars – the mantrips – that the men rode in to move through the mine, and I was amazed that Jason wanted to go anywhere in them, but he did. He was sorely disappointed when they said he couldn’t.” Even though Simon and his family moved to Florida shortly after that field trip, he never forgot the look in Jason’s eyes when he asked to go down there. “Something happened to Jason that day as the miners stood around telling tall tales from underground, and it never left him,” Simon said. “Despite your best persuasive techniques, Uncle John, you couldn’t stop Jason from doing what he most desired.”
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“You’re right about that, Simon,” Uncle John said. “His mother and I got to the point, where we decided nothing else would make him happy. That’s how you love your children best you – you let them go with your blessing. They’ll always love you for it, even if the decisions they make turn out badly.” “I don’t regret it either,” Aunt Laura said. “He had to work in those mines.” When Jason graduated from high school, he moved to Beckley and attempted to get a job in the mines. It wasn’t easy for him, Susan said. “In those days, there was a waiting list to get hired in a mine run by a big company,” Susan said. “It took years, but he eventually landed a job at the Upper Big Branch mine and loved every minute of his job.” “Did your daddy introduce you to Jason?” I asked Susan was the daughter of one of Jason’s coworkers, and she was ten years younger than he was. After dating for five years, they were married. “I think it might have been one of my brothers,” she said. “My father thought he was too old for me.” “We thought the same thing,” Aunt Laura said. “Jason always said we were more protective of you than a mother hen.” “Jason was determined when we married, he’d have a nice home for us to raise our family,” Susan said. “He was almost forty when we finally made it down the aisle. I think my parents were starting to doubt his intentions.” “We were, too,” Uncle John said. “But he finally did everything he said he was going to do, even if it meant he was going to be a father again at the age of fifty.” Susan and Jason’s other children were five and seven years old, and within a few weeks a third child would add to the mix. “I was a little stunned when I heard he was going to be a father at fifty,” Simon said. “I was just thinking he was the same age as me, and he’s going to be a father again,” Simon said. “What? You wouldn’t want another child?” I asked. “I’d love to have another child, but you said, and I quote here, ‘that ship has sailed.’” “On the high seas to the other side of the universe,” I said. “Don’t worry, you’re safe.”
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“That’s too bad because a new little grandchild would be wonderful,” Bob said. “Gary and Sally can’t have children, and we don’t get to see nearly enough of Jodi. We were hoping she’d come with you on this trip.” “We were, too,” Simon said. “I’m sure she’ll come with us next time.” I stood up and began carrying the plates of muffins and breads back into the house. “I think the flies are getting ready to nest in these,” I said. “Time to put them away.”

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CHAPTER 12
News reports on Deepwater Horizon – early May Wildlife experts and volunteers continued to prepare for the worst as April gave way to May. Uncertainty in the movement of the Gulf Stream caused emergency operations to open in Tampa and Miami with an eye on the North Carolina coast as a possible area where the slick might move if the winds continued. As the wildlife struggled, another uncertainty loomed. Hurricane season started June 1 and lasted for six months. Questions swirled about “what if?” By the first week of May, two weeks after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, dead sea turtles began washing up on the beaches near Pass Christian, Mississippi. Beach walkers discovered the stranded animals on sand darkened by the blood seeping from the turtles’ nostrils and underbelly. The Sea Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi, opened a special laboratory to hold twenty-three loggerhead, leatherback, and Kemp’s Ridley carcasses awaiting necropsies. “While it is not unusual to have a few dead sea turtles each season, the number in the past week surpasses the usual number for an entire nesting season,” said a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The necropsies will help determine whether the animals died from problems associated with inhaling oil fumes or from consumption of fish contaminated with oil.”

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CHAPTER 13
Caroline The morning after our visit with Susan, I sat in my in-laws’ living room reading the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. In an article giving all the updates on the oil spill, I noticed one bulleted point of interest. Sea turtle carcasses were piling up in the Gulfport area. I could only imagine the horror the beach walkers encountered when finding the massive bulk on the beach. I saw my first dead sea turtle two years before on the Fourth of July as I walked along the shore of Vilano Beach east of St. Augustine on the Atlantic Coast. July 4, 2008 I walked that day in 2008 determined to make a decision about what to do next with my life. I moved from south Florida when my mother died the previous year with the intention of making a home with Simon. However, Amy’s illness thwarted those plans, and I was in limbo trying to figure out my life. Simon remained a prisoner to a sick woman unwilling to let him go. Whenever Amy suspected Simon might be thinking of leaving, she did something that would hold him in place. It had been two months since we decided to wait, and now Jodi was home for the summer not knowing her parents’ marriage was held together with vicious threats. Simon and I talked periodically, but the pain and despair in his voice left me even more bereft. I didn’t know what to do to help him. The situation
44

I stopped in my tracks. we agreed to keep that money in an account to pay for the expenses on the house until it sold. and then we’d split the proceeds. what did it really matter in the total scheme of things? I kicked the sand in front of me. I thought about moving back to the Everglades. I’d empty all my savings. but if I didn’t venture out for a story soon. all I wondered was how long I could pay the insurance and taxes on the empty house from the small fund Momma left for Amy and me. I couldn’t count on that money. but instead I pulled my cell phone out of the pocket of my hooded sweatshirt 45 . Before Amy stopped any communications with me. I didn’t care if the red knot – a small sandpiper on the verge of extinction – was finding less and less food to fuel its yearly migration. and even if it did result in Joe Schmoe in Kokomo trading in his SUV for a Prius. my writing and the pursuit of a tale to tell kept me from wallowing in self-pity over Simon. It all seemed so hopeless. It was a loggerhead. but the real estate market in Florida was so depressed that the only way to sell would be to give it away for pennies. and I worried about money with no income. which created problems for prey and predators alike. I still had my small shack there on the edge of the marsh.TRAILS IN THE SAND resonated with hopelessness. not even bothering to look out at the ocean that usually put things in perspective. I felt myself giving up and not caring if climate change caused the birds in the Northwest to migrate earlier and earlier. The smell of the large rotting carcass assaulted me. As I sauntered down the beach kicking at the coarse sand made up of the coquina that covered many of the old buildings in the country’s oldest city sitting just across the Matanzas River. I always felt my writing might have some impact on someone somewhere to do something. Momma and Daddy’s house in Calico had been for sale for months. I kept hoping things would change. I didn’t hold out for such lofty aspirations. but on that morning in 2008 when the rest of the country celebrated the Fourth. Just before I rounded the corner on the beach that bordered the inlet leading from the Atlantic Ocean to the river. I no longer burned with desire for finding a story. washed ashore on the waves of high tide. Perhaps I would be inspired just being back there where I had created so many different stories over the years. But in the current climate of my life. I stopped short and thought about running the other way. I wasn’t writing or even pursuing any stories. Previously. A dead sea turtle blocked my path. I managed to save some over the years.

” Jodi rarely called me. then surely Simon and I could find a way to journey together. The night before I dreamed of high winds howling outside of my window as the alligators sought the mud holes in the swamps to ride out the storm. as I continued to stand guard. and I’m on Vilano Beach about one-quarter of a mile south from the on-ramp to the beach. and the skyline of St. but I had the number on speed dial for the mornings I did patrol the beaches looking for nests.P. Their walls bore the very soil where I now stood. I was certain the dream signified the winds of change blowing into my life. what’s up? It’s pretty early. I stood as an impediment to their carrion. Death can mean rebirth. ignoring the dead mammoth critter in their midst. C. This is Caroline Carlisle. Those buildings had withstood a century of ocean storms and flooding. the kind woman dealing the cards told me.” I stood there for a few minutes after I left the message. “Aunt Caroline? It’s Jodi. I rounded the curve of the shoreline. “Good morning. Augustine came into view on the other side of the river. I thought. Ghost crabs scuttled from one hole to the next. My phone began vibrating in my pocket. The osprey and hawk knew it too. by now. “Jodi. so I continued my walk. She 46 . and that’s why I decided that my walk this morning would be spent ruminating about what to do next. If they could do that. so it was probably near 8 a. They swept close by hoping to peck at the meat left on the beach for their nourishment.m. Drawing the Death card did not mean someone near me would soon die. There’s a dead sea turtle washed up on shore. It usually meant the start of something new. The fort stood as fortress and protector to these shores and had done so for 400 years. “It’s Momma. They took her to the hospital a little while ago. I wasn’t working as a volunteer that morning. The least terns and laughing gulls swept down upon the beach. I knew it from a Tarot reading I’d had years ago. watching life swirl around the dead creature from the sea. ZICK and called the sea turtle hotline. And the waves continued to crash upon the shore in a steady and sure beat. isn’t it?” I’d come out to watch the sunrise this morning. Our main communication came through Facebook where Jodi had “friended” me last year.

you will be the death of me yet. even as a ghost haunting my brain. Daddy rode in the ambulance.” “That’s just it. “What am I going to tell my sisters?” she said after I announced my second divorce. If Momma was still alive. “I’m sure Aunt Sugar will survive my second failure just fine. My two failed marriages never failed to occupy my mother’s list of inadequacies on my part. maybe you’d be able to keep a husband. “Caroline.” “What does that mean?” I asked. and if you’d listen to me instead of keeping your head buried in a book.” Momma dearest just couldn’t leave it at armadillos. all I could do was wonder at the insanity of chasing an armadillo off the front porch. I fluctuated between a size ten and twelve most of my adult life. and I’m at the house waiting for Uncle Gary. “I think she’s in a coma or something. and Momma saw that as a sign of my weaknesses. “Who cares about your sisters? What about me?” I asked her. you’d know that Amy was only doing her duty as wife and mother. She looked awful blue. I knew I loved Simon 47 . “Nothing.” her voice reverberated in my brain after I reassured Jodi I was on my way.” All my life I knew certain things to be true. Why didn’t they just shoot the damn thing? “It’s different this time. Plus. but not about Amy’s emergency.” My sister hadn’t eaten much of anything but her fingernails for almost three decades. You probably should come. she would be sure to have plenty to say about the armadillo. And I ate like a normal person just to get back at Amy for being so svelte. “Armadillos have no place on front porches. Sometimes. there was always a homily to spout. she will survive it just fine because she’ll take great comfort in rubbing it in my face that my daughter didn’t fall far from the tree. And if you’d take more interest in your weight like Amy does. her body rebelled after years of abuse.TRAILS IN THE SAND collapsed when she came downstairs to chase an armadillo off the porch. I think she thought I married poorly and divorced well just to spite and embarrass her. a rebuke to shout. As an adult.” “For God’s sake – an armadillo?” Amy went to the hospital so many times over the years that the real news was the armadillo in my mind.” Jodi said. Aunt Caroline. it’s just an expression.

P. and Simon smiled slightly when he saw me. “Her heart simply gave up fighting and pumping the blood necessary to stay alive. The doctors often worried that her heart was just going to up and fail one of these days. The only member of my nuclear family I missed was my father. but one thing remained the same for me. “The Pirates lost again. I’ve been wondering how long it would take you to get down there. Now you have my undivided attention. “I think I need to go to Gulfport. I knew my father loved me no matter how much my mother proclaimed I would be the death of her one day. And I couldn’t speak the truth. Much had changed in the two years since Amy’s death. After I hung up the phone with Jodi. which was the awful sense of not feeling anything at all. I worried I was a bad person because I hated my sister Amy even before she married Simon.” “If you’re waiting for my blessing. “It’s all over now. I had no idea. I could have said a million things to her. If she woke up and saw me standing vigil. Underneath it all. Jodi was crying. “She’s out of her misery. and they suspect it’s from the oil. I knew I wouldn’t enter that hospital room.” is hollow sounding even if it is the truth.” Simon said. but not for myself. and Simon was staring blankly over her shoulder. C.” Simon said. What did you say about Gulfport?” “I think I need to go there. ZICK McDermott from the minute I laid my eyes on him when I was nine years old. Sea turtles are washing up on the beaches dead. As I continued to hold Jodi.” he said. “Did you say something?” “You never listen to me. “I might as well talk to the air when you’re reading about your precious baseball team.” I said. but none of them would have any meaning. Simon and Jodi stood in one of the hallways holding one another. I’m so sorry. “I 48 . I walked over to them.” I told Simon when I put down the paper. she’d have a heart attack. When I arrived. He sat on the sofa across from me reading the sports section. don’t bother.” “I came as soon as Jodi called.” “They’re not so precious. I drove the to Gainesville where Amy lay blue. I felt great sorrow for her.” Jodi turned from her father and came into my arms. and I didn’t want it to happen when I strolled into the room.

I can fly back this afternoon. The past few months. She planned to live in Calico in her old home while she decided what she wanted to do with the house. She didn’t attend our wedding – no one did except for Simon’s brother Gary and my friend Holly. 49 . I wasn’t always so sure.” “Are you going back to Beckley?” “Not today. but it was a tentative and fragile relationship. It’s really out of my area of expertise. refusing to speak to either Simon or me. “I’m going to make some phone calls to editors and see if I can get an assignment.” “How about if we drive home tomorrow? I’ll spend the rest of today doing what I can up here. but Susan called while you were in the shower. she stayed in Calico the fall semester of her sophomore year. but I do know how to talk to other lawyers. especially when it came to Jodi. I’ll find her a lawyer who can handle it or see if the other firm is considering a class action suit. but I was helpless to do anything. and he understood. things seemed slightly better. After her mother died. but she refused with the same cool refusal she offered her father when he asked her to come to West Virginia. so I’m going to talk to them. especially right now. If nothing else.” I said. He knew me. Augustine.” “It’s about time you started paying your way around here. Despite the painful choices we made. we were a team. She said this morning after seeing another news conference by Blankenship about the mine explosion.TRAILS IN THE SAND didn’t have a chance to tell you. “Your work is important. Audubon might be interested in something.” Simon said. she’s ready to start the paperwork to file suit. A West Virginia law firm has already filed one suit. and we can leave as early as you want in the morning. so it’s probably all right.” Simon said. I worried she was too young for the responsibility.” “They won’t have any results for a few days. While you’re doing your job. I’ll make some inquiries and try to get an assignment for an article. I smiled at my husband.” “They trust your advice. We asked her to spend the summer with us in St. and we told her we planned to marry.

I don’t think she should do that before it’s even determined why the explosion occurred.” Caroline said. reports on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill filtered through the car’s speakers wherever they managed to pick up a news station. “I’m pretty sure if they come knocking with that big check. Simon made it clear that entering into a lawsuit with other families could force the company into making sure miner safety came first. “More than money.” “Good. Susan wants changes made in the mine.CHAPTER 14 Simon As Simon and Caroline headed back to Florida.” “Jason chose a good woman. In between the horror story of unchecked gushing oil and wildlife worries.” “Just like you.” Caroline squeezed Simon’s knee as they passed the exit for Savannah. she’ll say no. they talked about the mine explosion and Susan’s decision. She told Simon she was interested 50 . Simon made an appointment for Susan to meet with a law firm in Beckley already handling suits for other victims’ family members.” Simon said. Georgia. She wants something good to come from the bad even though $3 million would mean an easy life for her and the kids. because her signature on that check comes with strings. “I’m proud of her. Even though Susan was still considering her options. She’ll never be able to say anything about the explosion and how it was handled.

“You just have to face it and get over some childhood notion about her being your soul mate.TRAILS IN THE SAND in learning about all the options. It was the place where he first realized he loved Caroline. giving off a glow on the skin and flickers of light in the eyes. When he learned about seed germination in his science class. He didn’t know that his presence in her life kept her fragile hold on sanity intact. He’d made the mistake of telling her about Caroline soon after the first bombshell. and herbs.” “We might have a couple ready to eat although it’s still early. Some of his best and worst memories came from that garden and house. and Simon helped her in the garden. “I’d love a tomato sandwich with mayo and Swiss cheese. Caroline and Amy’s grandmother Lillian had a large garden in her backyard. Simon didn’t react like most men when Amy turned away from him physically. and when Amy and Simon bought that house. he continued her tradition in the well-worked soil. Soon she turned the entire garden over to Simon who loved the climate of northern Florida where he managed to squeeze three growing seasons into the mild weather months – something impossible to do in West Virginia. Some women’s beauty enhances as they grow older and come into a sense of selfhood. peppers. He no longer had to pretend to find Amy attractive. Amy 51 . It’s an internal type of beauty emanating from inside. Simon wasn’t surprised by the reaction. and it was the place he discovered he hated Amy. After the doctors nixed that idea and Jodi came into their lives. his passion for growing things from seeds grew. He was relieved.” Amy’s reaction to Simon’s news of imminent departure met resistance and denial. They only attempted intimacy in the early years when they were trying to conceive a child. His mother Pat planted a few tomatoes.” Amy said when Simon told her he was leaving her.” Simon’s love of gardening started when he and his family moved to Florida. Jason’s dad and Simon’s dad both agreed to go with her the following week. “Do you think we’ll have any tomatoes when we get home?” Caroline asked. the stilted attempts at awkwardly going through the motions of intercourse ended. November 2007 “My sister is nothing more than a common whore. Pat always had an abundance of seedlings to start her garden. but he thought Amy would at least recognize that their marriage ended long ago.

she slept through the night.” “I’m not going to talk about Caroline. which included her husband. sleeping. Her skin was gray. but she began as soon as she found him sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. “She breaks the hearts of those who love her. “You are not moving out. ZICK had none of that – her illness robbed her of any sense of health. Those marriages 52 . but it didn’t last very long. weak from years of not eating. Amy screamed.P. “You’ve never been a good sister to her.” Amy said. and her eating habits. Her frail body. and her eyes only flashed in anger – usually at Simon and always when her sister’s name was mentioned. and when he went to check on her.” Simon said. Amy liked to control her immediate environment. “You’re going to be left alone with a broken heart just like her first two husbands. Simon heard her wailing through the bedroom door. “I can’t believe you’re throwing away your family on a woman who is incapable of maintaining any relationship. but she ignored his responses. Augustine just as soon as he fixed a few things around the old house once owned by Amy’s grandparents. he thought perhaps Amy might be relieved to end the exhaustive role of protecting the façade of a marriage. fell into a stupor. Simon told Amy he was leaving soon after Jodi left for her first year of college. her daughter. even before he dropped his bombshell. she lay sprawled across the bed. You tried leaving before when you fled to her house in the Everglades. pulled her hair. did it?” “You know very well why I came back.” “Her first two husbands weren’t broken-hearted. He thought by the time Jodi came home for the holidays. Amy would have adjusted. Amy listened more to her mother than she did to Simon. In Simon’s naivety. “Get that right out of your head this minute. remember? That didn’t last very long. C. The only person who could ever control Amy was Gladdy Stokley Carlisle. Caroline tried to warn him that things might not go so smoothly. He walked outside and called Caroline before Amy woke and started it all over again.” she raged when Simon said he was moving to St.” “Me? Not a good sister? She’s stealing my husband.” she said.” Simon said. her hair dull. Thankfully. In fact. and then she shut herself in the bedroom after the first round. bit her nails. but he told her he knew Amy better than she did.

“You’re both fools. “What are those?” Amy asked as she sat on the couch reading a magazine. Simon.” she said as she turned and walked away.TRAILS IN THE SAND broke up by mutual agreement. he heard the grunts from the extreme effort Amy was exerting to pull up the plants of Simon’s beloved vegetable patch. and my body. ripped from their 53 . until Simon decided the house was ready. The late autumn crop of vegetables neared harvest time. “Our divorce papers – I’m giving you the house. the shock wore off. and then I’ll file them with the court. When he brought down the first two bulging suitcases.” Simon said as he pulled shirts and pants out of the closet. He watched for a few minutes. “Stop! Stop killing my garden. and he ran to her screaming.” Simon pushed the document toward her. he noticed the back door open. watching him pack. even though the air conditioner was running.” It went on like that for two weeks.” “She never could stand it that I married you.” He ignored her and continued putting clothes in the suitcase. Simon waited for the wailing to start.” until he reached her and dragged her away. my house. Look at me. As he stepped out into the night on the stoop. she had nothing. All the while. and he’d boxed up everything from his office. of my life. When he finished work for the day. and then we adopted Jodi. “There’s only one thing you love as much as her. I’d kill her. He left it on the coffee table and went upstairs where he began to pull his clothes out of the closet and dresser drawers. but she refused to look at it. Amy followed him into the bedroom. “If she were here. It was dusk. She’s jealous of me. he came into the main living area of the house and laid some papers down on the table. All you have to do is sign them. alimony. But it was too late. not quite believing she was capable of such an atrocity. mesmerized by her act of viciousness. “I wish her a slow and painful death. but he saw the frantic movements in the garden outside the back door. The remnants of the garden lay on the ground.” “No you wouldn’t. and then remember what a fat cow Caroline is. Suddenly. but nothing came.” she said. and setting up a trust for Jodi’s college education.

he called Caroline with the news. Why she’d want to stay with a man who clearly doesn’t love her is beyond my understanding. 54 . Greg often treated Amy during her many hospitalizations over the years. “I know. “She’s lost her mind. “Simon. so I didn’t have to explain. he came over and gave her a sedative to quiet her down and help her sleep. and Amy always wins. It’s always this way. how can you possibly leave her?” Caroline asked. ZICK home in the warm soil by a woman who hated food and sought revenge on her husband’s beautiful bounty.” They talked in the morning. and we’ll talk in the morning. and she went berserk when reality hit her.P. “She didn’t believe I was leaving until tonight. but it didn’t make any difference.” “Where is she now?” Caroline asked when he finished telling about the ripped up plants. Thankfully Greg understands Amy’s emotional state. “I called Greg. She kept saying I was killing her.” Simon said. and as a personal favor to me. C. Simon stayed with Amy until she died. Afterwards.” Greg was an old family friend who took over Arthur Stokley’s medical practice after Arthur died in the early ‘70s.” “We’ll figure something out. I know. We both need to get some sleep.

but in this house. but Jodi figured it out once Simon announced his plan to marry Caroline. Her mother’s presence hovered in the air forming a dark cloud over her head whenever Simon or Caroline called the house. Her father and aunt betrayed her. then everything fell apart. These framed pictures kept her company through a desolate and lonely childhood. but her mother told her what happened. Her mother never told her the reason Simon wanted to leave. It’s one reason Jodi came home from college early – she always felt her presence stronger in the home where they’d lived as a family. Even if Simon hadn’t told Amy the truth. Jodi’s father didn’t know it. 55 . they were young and happy. but Jodi doubted it. She sensed her presence in everything she did. but he stayed. Jodi knew her mother would have figured it out. As Jodi walked down the hallway to the kitchen. Jodi ended those conversations as quickly as she could. Just the three of them until Jodi went off to college. The bitter caricatures they grew into didn’t exist in this museum of Stokley family history. they betrayed her mother. She knew her father tried to leave before Amy died. she looked at the photos of all the Stokleys as she often did. Maybe her mother never knew. Jodi knew she’d feel the same way. Most of the family members on the wall still lived in Calico.CHAPTER 15 Jodi Jodi knew her mother watched over her after she died. but most of all. Even without Amy’s ghost.

Gladdy was sixteen. GG’s scowl contrasted with the bright smiles of her sisters. Arthur Stokley. she received mixed messages. “Why did you name your fifth daughter Gladys?” Jodi asked the next photograph on the wall. GG would never talk about him. equally young. hailed from England. already uncorked. “Why did you walk into the ocean that night while GG sat watching you?” When she reached the kitchen. Even Alex looked happy with the bow and arrow set resting in his lap. She poured a glass and went back to the hallway. he wore a tuxedo. “They don’t need to know when I came home from college or why. was seventeen. The only son. He drowned a few months after the photograph was taken. her brother. She was the baby and the fifth daughter. A young couple circa 1925 dressed in wedding clothes smiled stiffly from an ornate wooden frame embossed with gold. GG?” Jodi asked the photograph of the young woman standing next to her brother. “You sure were handsome. One of her favorites pictured GG and all her siblings – four sisters and one brother – sitting under the Christmas tree when GG was six or seven. either of the marriage just confirmed or the photographer setting up the shot. Her father never met him. making them what some folks called “Irish twins. and Alex. Candy. The woman wore a bridesmaid dress.” Jodi said as she continued her walk to the kitchen. This photo showed the aunts in all their glory with GG and Alex sitting in the front. Whenever Jodi asked any questions about her great-grandfather.” even though her great-grandfather. Arthur Stokley looked both kind and stern with his slight smile edging higher on the right side. and Apple. Uncle Alex.P. she opened the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of white wine. Alex. had been born ten months before GG. Those photographs gave Jodi comfort and companionship in this old empty house.” Jodi knew the photo was taken on the front porch of this very house on the day of Alex and Gladdy’s sister Cookie’s wedding in 1956. C. Lillian Stokley appeared frightened. is it. ZICK She paused in front of the photograph of GG and Alex. Sugar. She asked Caroline at Amy’s funeral if she remembered him. Cookie. Her mother claimed she didn’t remember much because he died when she was ten. 56 . “It’s none of their business.

whether it was intended or not. ‘Your granddaddy delivered me into this world.D. “The least they could have done was named GG Pecan or Ginger.” “That’s why it’s so weird to hear about the scary. right?” Caroline finally asked Jodi.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Not really. Up until his death. After the doctor’s death in 1970.’ I heard a million times growing up. It happened the year before he died. sugar cookies. Arthur Stokley built the house where Jodi now lived in 1932. the family placed a historical marker on the door of the office for the man who birthed almost everyone in Calico from 1925 to 1960. trying to keep the peace.” “It certainly made a statement – one that was very clear to Momma. ginger snaps – that kind of thing. “All my mom would say was she was scared of Grandpa Stokley.” “He was scary. He built a wing on the house for his office. Candy joined Sugar.” Jodi said. “I was only five when he died. “Arthur Stokley. I remember one Christmas when there was an awful fight between him and my mother.” was replaced by “Simon McDermott. a sign hung on the sidewalk announcing the doctor’s presence. M.” Caroline paused for a minute as if searching for something more to say about her grandfather. I’ve had the same problem my whole life. and Momma and he never really made up as far as I can tell. Esquire” in 1987.” “What happened?” Jodi asked. They built a clinic on the edge of 57 . Stokley’s great-granddaughter?” “I remember that too as a child. and Grandpa decided it was time to build something substantial by Calico standards. but loved Grandma Stokley. Dr. “You know he was the town’s doctor. It’s what Aunt Sugar does most of the time now. knowing how the town felt about him. Grandma also baked a ton of sweet stuff: pecan and apple pies.” I said. “Do you know how many old people still pat my head when they find out I am the great Dr.” she said. Even if I didn’t know it.” “That’s why the aunts are named after sweet stuff. Gladys seems like a cold slap in the face. “I’m not sure it’s possible to live in Calico and not know that. cruel man from you and Momma. there’s the plaque on Daddy’s office door to remind me. right after the birth of Candy. the second child of Arthur and Lillian.” “I understand.” Jodi said. and Grandma Stokley stood around wringing her hands.

Aunt Caroline. All of Amy’s childhood photos showed her as an only child with either her mother or father or both standing next to her. Stokley was mostly retired. C. Stokley. and by this time. Jodi downed the glass of wine as she continued to stare at the photographs. It was as if Caroline didn’t exist. there are no empty spaces for you to fill. They were her friends. “You aren’t allowed here.” 58 . except for the occasional patient with a sore throat or flu.” Jodi said as she raised the empty glass to the entire gallery of photos depicting the live and dead relatives. Dr.P. ZICK town in 1960. and she was relieved her mother never put any photos of Aunt Caroline up there. “As you can see. Even the new doctors at the clinic asked him to come over occasionally just to make a cursory visit to a patient who was refusing treatment until “Doc Stokley” gave his blessing on both diagnosis and treatment. Some of the old timers in town wouldn’t let anyone else touch them except Dr.

and all the religious holidays were extravagant parades to church and home again for fireworks between the aunts over pistachio pudding and seven-layer salad. We did funerals exceptionally well. It’s where we first realized we loved one another several decades earlier. fertilized. They could be very religious when the occasion demanded it. We enjoyed sitting in the lawn chairs pulled close to the garden to talk over the day’s events as we sipped a glass of wine. Somewhere in the sporadic Sunday sermons 59 . feeling the heat on my skin and in my heart.CHAPTER 16 Caroline – May 5 I stepped gingerly between the raised beds that held the tomato plants’ roots in soil carefully prepared by Simon. The sound of Simon’s dejected and defeated voice still haunted me when he called to tell me Amy ripped up his garden before she collapsed into a druginduced sleep. I felt the death of his garden more deeply than I felt the death of my own sister. I didn’t grow up in a particularly religious family. I held one of the warm orbs to my nose and inhaled a lifetime of memories with Simon and gardens. Even though gardens had played a backdrop to our lives. and I was helpless to stop it. and it’s where we’d had some of our most meaningful conversations over the years. this was the first garden we planted. Then the awful memory came flooding back without my permission. The sun began its ascent in the sky as I stood there remembering. and the guilt lay heavy on my soul. and harvested together. I picked several red tomatoes to chop into an omelet for our breakfast before I left for Gulfport.

we’d all head over to my grandparents’ house for Sunday dinner where the minister’s admonitions to treat one another as we would treat ourselves remained back at church echoing among the empty pews. but they thought cruel. My father was what my aunts called “well-read. I listened intently to the minister’s pleadings to turn over oneself to Christ to be born again in the eyes of the Lord. She did homework with friends. In this new life I imagined for myself. As I sat in the back pews of the First Baptist Church of Calico. After church. I would never be told to hush my mouth. We were roommates in the dorm our first year and remained roommates through four years of college. life might be easier.P. or I’d say something I thought funny. I asked him about redemption and becoming born again. Momma didn’t have any real friends except for the aunts. As a child. Amy depended on Momma for those things. but I don’t remember one of them ever sleeping over or Amy going over there for the night. Keeping her as a friend for decades was the biggest surprise of all. but mostly I kept to myself. I didn’t have many friends until I met Simon. Other children annoyed me more than not. and they’d run home crying. while my family dived into mounds of mashed potatoes and swam in rivers of gravy. C. and I would be allowed to play with other children besides my sister and my cousins all older than me. When I asked Momma. she told me not to use the Lord’s name in vain. I would play with other kids in the neighborhood. I didn’t receive much help from my own family in understanding. I met Holly who became as close as a sister to me. I never quite knew how to achieve that goal. so I developed the habit of simply ignoring them until they went away. When I went to college. whatever that meant. but she didn’t have girlfriends she spent endless hours talking to on the phone or shopping with at the mall. I didn’t have many role models for friendships. but I thought it might make me a better person. ZICK of my youth. My father told me it wasn’t anything I needed to worry about. I yearned to understand sin and redemption. and their explosive relationships didn’t bode well for teaching me anything about friendship. I thought perhaps if I could come back into the world as someone else.” if reading the New York Times Sunday edition every week in our small north Florida town made a person well-read. Until Simon moved in across from my 60 . As a child. I was fine born the way I was. Amy had a few friends in high school.

I hated it when other children wanted to change my rules or wanted to make up their own. “I’m not sure how I’m going to write about it. When I asked Simon about it soon after I’d moved back.” Simon said. “That means everything to me. that she wouldn’t know what she’d find when she walked in the front door. it was the first time I enjoyed the company of another person.” Simon said as he leaned over and kissed the top of my head.” he said. It took decades to realize that perhaps I was fine the way I was. Jodi didn’t have any friends either. Amy liked having her at home. I planned to leave for Mississippi as soon as I finished the coffee and repacked my suitcase. “She worried constantly that her mother would die each time she was rushed to the hospital.” Simon said. “At least. I can’t shake the image of wildlife heading into disaster though. she simply refused to let me ignore her.TRAILS IN THE SAND grandparents.” I said.” I said as I listened to the reports on the currents keeping the oil slick off the coast so far. “Hopefully things will be better with her not having the daily worry over her head. and I learned the value of having someone in my corner. “But now I better wave a 61 . It reinforced Momma’s proclamations on my limitations and my own nagging suspicion that I was simply a bad person. sipping the last of the morning’s coffee.” “I have every confidence you’ll find a way to weave your magic with words. so she didn’t encourage Jodi to make friends. “She knew she was needed at home. When Simon entered my life. he said Jodi grew up always worrying about bigger issues than friendships with others.” “That probably made it risky to ever bring anyone home with her. Simon and I sat in the living room watching the latest reports on Deepwater Horizon. “Not like a regular kid.” “She didn’t have such a great childhood. Then with Holly. did she?” I asked Simon after we were married.” I said. I never realized until the past year how much of a burden Jodi had on her young shoulders. There were days when she was growing up. Going away to college was one of the best things for Jodi.” The morning after our return from West Virginia. “I think she was afraid to make friends. it’s not moving very fast in any direction right now. it was more fun to play by myself and make up my own rules.” “And she didn’t dare go over to anyone else’s house after school. “We’re dodging bullets.

” “I wish it was you covering it. you do the best job covering wildlife and giving a fair perspective. but it was a slow process since so many different agencies were now involved. “Everyone’s talking about the birds and the dead sea turtles. C. “And I’ll try and reach Joe at the AP. I heard he’s covering the story in Louisiana. The first nests will probably hatch the last week of June with the majority popping out mid-July.” “I agree. If they do the raking at night.” 62 . I heard this morning that the uncertainty in the weather makes it even harder to predict where it’s going.” she said.” Kate said.” I said. “Write about it. “I don’t see how we can prevent the oil from coming here if they can’t stop that geyser. This could interfere with the good vegetation out there. it’s only a matter of time.” Kate said “They want to start raking the garbage off those beaches in advance of the oil and volunteers are forming groups to go out and do major beach clean-ups. I told her where I was headed. one of my sources with Florida’s fish and wildlife agency called. George Island today and spend the night there before heading to Gulfport. Publicize our news releases with some of the media outlets you work with. “We could lose thousands of newly hatched turtles if they make their way into the grasses that could be covered in oil within days. She was one of the few state employees who understood the value of good media relations. and they were writing the protocols for volunteer groups to follow. “What can I do to help?” I asked.” “The nests won’t start hatching for another month or so.” “I’m sure Audubon will run something – they’ve got a huge volunteer base. You understand the science. I think I’ll drive as far as St.” “It’s not just the oil that has me concerned. but I’m worried about sea turtle hatchlings even more. and I often used her as a source. Kate Johnson was a sea turtle biologist with the FWC. But she had something else on her mind. it could disturb sea turtles attempting to come ashore to nest. ZICK magic wand over my suitcase so I can get on the road. I also worry those untrained volunteers could just sweep away hundreds of nests on the beach unknowingly.P. right?” “That’s right.” She said she was working with folks from other agencies.” As I repacked my toiletry bag. and she was happy to hear I was going.

and the turtles. and you’re thinking of Ernest Hemingway. “Who says I can’t be the next John Steinbeck?” “I certainly hope not. frogs.” I said. caught the bug of feminism. Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath. and birds of the Calico River that bordered our town were my friends.” Maybe it was easier that way – she never had to take responsibility for anything. Nature became my home. You can’t depend on a man. How did you manage to study both things?” “My mother made me do it. Momma. child?” Momma asked. I might never have pursued either biology or writing. especially the way you act. Isn’t he that writer who killed himself a few years back? Is that the kind of life you want for yourself?” “Of course not. if only my father had allowed her to work. if only she hadn’t had children.” My mother. but somehow I think if you can get the message across in fewer words. “You need a profession you can count on to support you.” Momma said when I was sixteen and told her of my career plans. Everything revolved around the male-dominated world and was made even worse when the male you have chosen turns out to be a disappointment. If not for Momma telling me I couldn’t do it. And it was true. and talked 63 . or observing the world around me. I did stand out as a little odd. writing. Florida.” Momma stared at me as if I’d lost my mind.” I said. He uses ants and oysters to tell his tale.” I said. “I want to be a writer. “You can’t be a writer. “What’s more exciting than studying marine biology?” “That’s why you’re so unusual.” “Uncle Alex? He liked to write?” “He loved nature. absolutely loved everything about it. If only Momma had gone to college. Momma’s life was a mix of “if onlys” and “you didn’t allow. you have truly mastered the art of language. with all her southern belle wiles. I want to write a book like The Pearl – so brilliantly poignant and symbolic.TRAILS IN THE SAND “I had to study something besides writing when I went to college. “How do you know these things? Sometimes you talk just like Alex. “Where did you come from. The Grapes of Wrath is all right. And I guess in the world of Calico. young lady. She now had plenty to blame on her circumstances. I spent long summer days down on the riverbank reading.

After I hung up. You’ll need something to do with your life. she was gazing out the kitchen window into the back yard. C. why did my uncle Alex follow the sea turtle back to the ocean? The waves swallowed him whole and hurled him into the deep as food for the sharks. my mother. My mother and her brother Alex sat on a Florida beach nearly fifty years ago watching a loggerhead lay her eggs. George State Park later in the day.” “I wish I’d known him.” I arranged to meet Kate and some volunteers at St. ZICK about it like you do. sat waiting. He never returned to the beach where his sister. just like you.P.” Momma was no longer staring at me. 64 . I thought back to a story Momma started to tell me on the night of my father’s funeral nine years earlier. too. “At least you’ll be able to teach. Momma.” she said as she turned back around. I decided to spend the night on the island before going to Gulfport the next day. What if I study marine biology? Is that a substantial subject?” “It’s something. “He loved chasing fireflies. After witnessing that miracle of nature.

creating a growing plume of oil headed for the very places where the birds and sea turtles nested and where the hatchlings and fledglings would soon emerge. continued to spew forth its molten mess.CHAPTER 17 News reports on Deepwater Horizon – Spring 2010 Nesting season for many of Florida’s wildlife begins in late spring. build sandcastles and drive cars. The volunteers marked each nest with orange tape and a couple of poles until the sea turtle specialists could get out to the beach and form a three-foot square around the nest area. thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean. Sea turtles crawl over natural debris such as beach wrack – that mass of seaweed and other flora and fauna lying at the high tide line. The eggs incubate for approximately seventy days. Already the volunteers who walked the beaches early each morning were reporting more than a hundred nests along Florida’s Panhandle. The Macondo well. They also must drag their heavy bodies over tire tracks and large cavities dug to hold tanned bodies brown from the burning sun. It was impossible to predict with much accuracy the exact date the hatchlings might emerge from the sand. 65 . Multiple threats existed in the year of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. They would be greeted by oily surfaces and disturbed habitat. give or take ten days on either side. Shorebirds build nests right on the very beaches where tourists come each spring and summer to play volleyball. Female sea turtles came ashore to lay nests beginning near the first week in May.

If they did make it to the sea. One female might lay two or three nests in one season. ZICK All of those involved in the sea turtle program began to worry that the hatchlings would not be able to survive very long in the grasses that sustained them for the first year of life before heading to the big deep sea. Their odds for survival were already grim just with the natural order of things. C.P. That’s one reason the females laid anywhere from ninety to 120 eggs in each nest. 66 . their sigh of relief would be shortlived in the year of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Any number of predators lay in wait for those two-inch hatchlings to emerge. so it was a miracle if they even made their way from the nest down the beach to the waves.

Her quest led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and federal standards for the use of pesticides. She knew very well that disappearing robins were perhaps the canary in the coal mine for the chemical industry created quickly and thoughtlessly in the years following World War II. I’d read an article the other day about this idea of repairing the world with goodness and decency. I thought about tikkun olam – restoring the world. tikkun olam drew me to its very fundamental optimism – something lacking in me for most of my life. The turtle didn’t stick around to nurture what it gave to nature.CHAPTER 18 Caroline As I began my trek west on I-10. The female sea turtle did its part by coming back to the same beach where it hatched thirty years before to lay its eggs. It’s a concept well known in the animal kingdom as a matter of instinct. but it still did its part. Rachel Carson began a journey to uncover the reasons. Tikkun olam’s tenets also included the duty to restore the environment. That’s probably what caught my attention about the Jewish belief taught to followers of Judaism: They had a religious obligation to restore peace. nearly fifty years after the publication of Silent Spring. the American bald eagle’s population began showing enough signs of 67 . Despite my lack of belief in much of anything. Who would take the responsibility for this disaster? When dead fish appeared on polluted waters and birds disappeared from the skies after World War II. By 2010.

I passed the exit for Calico. Momma’s four older sisters who still lived there along with seven cousins. Simon turned it into his law office. The trip on I-10 through northern Florida dragged on as I continued my contemplations. My grandfather died when I was five. It was hard to imagine a young woman enjoying living in a house full of ghosts – at least that’s what they seemed to me. C. but could only imagine a sea turtle laying its eggs while a desperate teenager watched. and Amy and I were in the back yard. Gary and Sally promised Simon they would stop by occasionally to check on Jodi over the summer. I was three years old. and most of all through Momma. I thought about visiting the aunts. but I remember very clearly the day he had to put stitches in my forehead. My first memories came from that house. Through my grandfather. and justice. she certainly wouldn’t want me showing up on the front porch of the home I’d always known as my grandparents’ house. I wondered about my obligation to heal the world to bring about peace.P. I dismissed it as a bad idea. Carson began her career as a biologist but her greatest contribution came from her writing. I studied the writings of Carson who became one of my heroes during my college years. I turned on the radio for something to change my mood and heard more about the fruitless efforts to cap the well in the Gulf of Mexico. My uncle Alex walked into the ocean before he could do any restoration work.000. Scientists cited the eagle’s population increase as the result of the end of DDT usage in the United States. freedom. I thought about exiting and going by Jodi’s house. It might be my first distinct memory of both him and my sister. After Simon and Amy bought the house several years before Jodi’s birth. Amy’s illnesses over the years prevented her from making many changes in the décor of the home so it still resembled the place where Grandpa Stokley held court over the residents of Calico as well as the members of his own family. plus Simon’s brother Gary who married my cousin Sally. He left a legacy of wounded warriors in his family. They all remembered being there whenever 68 . ZICK population growth to remove it from the Endangered Species list. I learned the world is not peaceful or fair. Other cousins might have been there. Florida – population 5. but as quickly as I thought it. I inherited that legacy despite the fact he died nine years before I entered the world. If she didn’t want to talk to me on the phone most of the time. aunts.

“Go ahead. and at the time.” Daddy would say. “You were dumped on the doorstep and because you were a baby they had to take you in. and I was in Grandpa’s office with blood on my Sunday dress. “Leave her alone. You don’t have to take my word for it. I wasn’t so certain about Momma.” Amy said “Take this rock and throw it up in the air. “Momma and Daddy never wanted you.” Amy said. It was big enough that I had to grasp it with both hands. and that’s a good thing. I decided Amy probably always hated me. Gladys. Although I knew my Daddy probably always loved me. my hero. you’re going to bust right out of those shorts.TRAILS IN THE SAND the story was retold. five years older. and Momma was yelling at me for being so stupid.” she said. Momma 69 . “Caroline. but I just remember Amy. fluffing my curly blonde hair and giving me a kiss on the cheek before I asked to be excused without finishing the food on my plate. Daddy. but they didn’t have any choice. “She needs to watch her figure now. Then the inevitable happened. I grew up very fast after that. but he’d always pass by my chair. or she won’t be able to take it off later when baby fat isn’t so cute. I did as my sister suggested and took the rock from her.” And that’s the story Amy told whenever the topic arose about childhood injuries and mishaps.” Momma would say almost nightly if I decided to take an extra helping at the dinner table. and you’ll see it really can fly. “She just grabbed that rock and threw it in the air before I could stop her. She often told me she did. Caroline. “I couldn’t believe it. I’ve hated you ever since because you made them so miserable. if you don’t stop eating right this minute.” “But she’s so fat.” Daddy never said anything to Amy. “She’s got a healthy appetite. I tossed it into the air with all my three-year-old might. As I thought about that day.” I was ten when she said that and a ten-year-old mind believes.” Too young to have studied gravity and its properties.” Amy would say as she pushed a pork chop around on her plate. and the parents chastised their children for not cleaning the plate to the last drop. I was amazed the first time I ate at someone else’s house.

” “I wish I could be with you. I did not mourn for the woman who raised Amy and me.” I said. No one knew when. too.” Simon said. If I mourned my mother’s death. I left I-10 behind and headed to Highway 98.” “I love you. it was only for the mother I never really knew.” “So I should say no if my parents ask us to move to Morgantown to take care of them?” “Don’t even tell me about it if they do. even if you are a wimp.” “Pittsburgh isn’t too far away.” “Call me when you get there. The beach was still white here – it was difficult to imagine that one day soon it could be covered with oil.P. “The usual after taking a few days off – overscheduled and wading through the 500 emails that came in while I was away. but we’ve weathered worse things. the road that hugs Florida’s Panhandle coastline. too. You should try ice fishing in West Virginia in January and having to wear wet pants and socks in 20-degree weather. “How’s it going?” I asked when he answered. and it’s really a great city. Some folks call it the Orlando of the north.” “Some folks come from the North Pole.” “Good thing you didn’t come with me then. “I have never been so cold in my entire life. aren’t we?” “That’s very true.” “That’s unnatural and the very reason I live in Florida. “You are such a softie. “Seems we’re dealing with one disaster after another.” After I met with the volunteers and Kate at one of the pavilions at the state park. and no one knew what form it 70 . Besides. I love you.” “Like the time we capsized in the canoe and lost our oars?” I laughed as I thought of that cold January day so many years ago. I think I mourned before she died and for the ugly truth that I’d never really been mothered at all. It was easy to pass the exit to Calico with such memories swirling in my head. I wouldn’t live in Orlando either. C. Then tell me about cold. Then I called Simon. baby. And will for the rest of my days. ZICK evidently had not heard about the starving children in Africa. I drove back to the downtown area of the island.

I checked into the Buccaneer Inn on the Gulf side of the island. “He’s a regular fixture here for two hours every night and because of his arthritic knees he prefers that spot for getting in and out easily. born there seventy years before. He wore an old red plaid flannel shirt and beige slacks with a grease spot on the left leg. There was a small house that served as a hospital in those days. I headed for the bar and a corner stool. I could see the volunteers headed to the beach to pick up trash with the instructions from Kate made abundantly clear: Stay away from those nests and only pick up manmade debris at this time.” Jeff winked at me and refilled George’s glass. he entered and walked slowly to his reserved spot. so mind your p’s and q’s. At five o’clock sharp. “Don’t let George pull your leg about how tough it was growing up here without a bridge.” At first.” “These pants I’m wearing are older than you.” he said.” the young male bartender said. I soon found that George was a rare commodity indeed – he was native to the island. 71 . She also warned that if machinery was necessary on the beach. I minded. “I was born in a house in the Plantation. He walked slowly with a limp favoring his left side. “I’m sorry. That would make him very close to Momma’s age. but everyone was certain it would happen. The island is so narrow that walking to the bay is only a matter of traversing three blocks. you old goat. As I drove. “My mother didn’t go to the hospital in Apalachicola because her labor was too far along to get in the boat. “And your flannel shirt is older than my mother.” said the bartender named Jeff. I settled on a stool two seats away and waited for George to claim his stool. I walked to Harry A’s. but then decided George might be some local color. “He loved every minute of the isolation. that nighttime patrols should cover the headlights on their vehicles to create diffused lighting that would not confuse or discourage nesting turtles.TRAILS IN THE SAND would take. I wondered if he was hot in the shirt and surmised he lived alone.” He sipped whiskey straight up.” George said as he pushed his glass toward Jeff for a refill. but that seat is reserved every day at five o’clock for George. a bar/restaurant facing the bridge cut across the bay to connect St. m’am. George Island with the mainland. but it wasn’t a fancy subdivision back then.

her hair was a dark blonde. Dr. “Gladys Stokley. I know she wasn’t fat. The families only stayed full time when school was out from Memorial Day to Labor Day. By the time I was born. I can still bring her to mind when I want. That’s why I worried about her so after he died. but my mother died three years 72 .” “The fire?” I only knew Alex walked into the sea one night and never returned. We never heard from the family after they left. “Did Momma love you back?” I asked. “About two months after Alex died. but of course. She wore polyester pants and blouses that hid her body. but I was in love with your Momma.” “My mother’s family did that.P. they never found his body. so I guess she made it.” “Trouble? You mean my uncle drowning?” “That was one thing. Then the fire.” This was indeed a revelation.” “Gladdy? You’re Gladdy’s kid? I wasn’t sure she even survived all that trouble.” “I’m sorry to have to tell you this. I always thought Momma tried to hide herself as she put all her efforts into Amy’s looks. Stokley’s house burned down to the ground. until now. As far as I knew. C. Did you ever know a family named the Stokleys?” George turned his head sharply to look at me for the first time. I never thought of Momma as beautiful. and we never saw anyone in that family again. I only knew her as a child and then a teenager. But here you are. and we probably all looked the same to him. “Who’s your mother?” he asked. She was beautiful – she looked something like you do. “How is Gladys? I hope you don’t mind me telling you this. and she kept it tied back in a bun at the nape of her neck. She had beautiful blonde hair and the bluest eyes. ZICK “Now as I was saying. of course. Prior to that he kept his body turned toward the bar. most of the folks with houses back then closed them up from September to April – there weren’t any rentals year round like now. but I couldn’t determine her exact size. “As much as a teenager can who hero worships her brother. I imagined he was used to tourists plying him with questions.

Stokley treated her. Your grandfather delivered me.” I tried to imagine my mother as a teenager inciting the love fires of this man sitting next to me. She was in a car accident. The island folks thought the world of him. George took a sip from his drink and lost himself in the saga that occurred on this island so many years ago.” 73 . “But I saw another side to him because of my friendship with Alex and Gladdy.” he began.” “I’m sorry to hear it.TRAILS IN THE SAND ago. The image of her as Gidget on the beach failed to materialize in my mind. I think I fell in love with your mother partly because of how Dr. I was left heartbroken from unrequited love. and everyone was so sad when the Stokleys left. “Your grandfather was a hero here on the island back then.

” Simon said. “But nothing is going to bring Jason back. and he was very nice about it. and in you he hit the jackpot. Simon knew she was right about one thing. but you’re just being kind. Your dad was very helpful. I’m just tired right now and feel and look like a cow. too. “Simon. at least until the baby’s born.” Susan said. He asked questions like he was a lawyer himself.CHAPTER 19 Simon Susan called Simon after her appointment with the attorney. Jason always had good taste in women.” “You look just fine. but it’s not the same thing. if that made me feel better. I lay awake at night worrying how I’m going to manage raising three kids all alone.” “I guess I’ve trained him well. Nothing would help 74 .” Susan said. I’ll call you in a few days. “I said I needed time.” “How did you leave it with him?” Simon asked. Let me think about things. “It was fine.” “Your family is always willing to help.” “Thanks. I liked him. I’m more than happy to be your conduit if you’d like. He said you could call him anytime to ask questions. “Why don’t you think about it for a bit and call me if you have questions.” “I’m going to need it even more after the baby is born.” “I know.” she said. and I don’t know if I have the gumption to see this thing through.

It didn’t matter if both he and Susan understood that every time he went to work. She usually managed to cheer him up.” Simon said.” “Hey.” “I’ll give you a call when I get back to my room. but we can talk about that later when you’re done. The only thing that would make it all right again would be Jason walking in that door having somehow survived.” “That’s almost as unlikely as Brad Pitt.TRAILS IN THE SAND lessen the pain. Simon wanted to take his mind off Jason’s final moments. after dinner.” Jason was dead.” Simon loved the way stories found Caroline.” “Brad Pitt?” “No. Even though he knew she probably did – it was only human nature to second guess – he hoped she didn’t torture herself with the “what ifs. I’ll let you get back. I don’t want to have you miss any of your time with that gentleman. he’d start remembering Amy’s final morning as he watched her falling off the porch when she gave a final shoosh of the broom to scare off an armadillo. I turned him down and sent him home to Angelina. I’m talking to a gentleman who was in love with my mother back in 1956. he was taking a great risk. He replayed that scene many times. so he called Caroline. baby. Simon wondered if Susan ever thought back to that morning before Jason left for the mine. even if every single boss and manager in the coal mining industry was hauled off to jail. always wondering if he should have offered to go out there for her when he heard her complaining about the “rabid varmint. Seriously.” “You always seem to attract that kind of thing. Old George is having quite a time reminiscing about Momma on the beach. and you’re not going to believe who it is. If he didn’t do something. I just wanted to tell you Susan called about her meeting with the lawyer. “But not quite. Does she wonder what would have happened if she’d insisted he stay home because she might go into labor? Simon asked himself. and he says my grandfather delivered him right here on this island. Those in the mining industry lived with it. Once when covering a 75 . but somehow they still took the rides in those squatty little cars transporting them through the bowels of the earth. “She’s undecided. Are you picking up men at the bar?” Simon asked when Caroline answered on the fifth ring. In love with your mother – that’s incredible. baby.” “What happened?” Caroline asked. “Only one.

Even though Gladys seemed to disdain Caroline’s chosen profession. Despite Jodi’s preparation for her mother’s death over the years. but maybe not right away.” “We’ll be there. as was the custom with the Stokleys. meant for him one day. The over abundance of Corning Ware in the kitchen made Jodi even sadder since Amy’s aversion to food had caused her death.” Jodi said. Simon knew from her silence and tortured face that Amy’s death hit her hard. That woman set off a firestorm of controversy in Florida between the residents who wanted the cats destroyed and the animal lovers who thought the cats should be able to exist right where they were. Despite Simon’s desire not to think about Amy. Caroline did her best to take care of all the details that Jodi and Simon couldn’t manage. Just like that. and Caroline stood next to the open grave. she had another whole story besides the hurricane. I can handle the Stokleys. There was so much food – people in small towns do death so well by baking hams and casseroles and cakes and pies. His despair came from the guilt he felt for not loving her more. C. Caroline carted it all from Simon’s home and brought it over to her parents’ house. Jodi?” “I think so. and Simon ignored the empty space next to Amy’s. right in the gut. Jodi and Simon decided not to host the family afterwards. “Everyone will understand. Jodi. if you don’t want to.” Caroline said as the three of them rode in the limousine to the cemetery.” The pallbearers – all Stokley male cousins – carried the casket from the hearse as Simon. For Simon.P. Simon intended never to be 76 . he knew he didn’t mourn the death of his wife. “You two don’t need to come over to the house. Gladdy’s and Jack’s graves were adjacent. he suddenly remembered the day of her funeral. Amy and her mother always made fun of the stories Caroline wrote as if they had no value in the real world. she managed to find every magazine where she was published. “I would like to go home and lie down after we get through this part. ZICK hurricane on the Gulf coast. They held Amy’s service at the Calico First Baptist Church four days after she died. Simon left the room whenever they started talking about Caroline. Caroline told the aunts and their families to come over to where she was staying at her parents’ house.” Simon said. “Right. she told Simon she met a woman feeding feral cats in a neighborhood near Port Charlotte.

” “I think Amy had it dry cleaned right after your father’s funeral. “I don’t need a repeat of the fireworks after Daddy’s funeral. but for now. but I would like my organs to be donated first.” “Momma always said I’d be the death of her. Besides. In fact. I’ve gone through almost everything here. I need to decide which tablecloth to use to protect Momma’s dining room table from the heat of green bean casseroles and macaroni and cheese that are sure to be dropped off for the reception after the funeral.” “Same here. “I really don’t care where my lifeless body goes.” Caroline said. 77 . I’m certain it is. Amy said she was glad she kept it so you couldn’t make trouble by using it after your mother’s funeral. “You can do what you want after I die. I’m not even sure where it is. “It could still be at our house.” Caroline said. “My soul won’t care.TRAILS IN THE SAND buried there. and I don’t remember seeing it.” Simon told Caroline the night after Amy died.” Simon said.” Caroline said. Amy must have felt the same way.” “You’re not going to use the tablecloth?” Simon asked. “I don’t think I’m up to the aunts’ reaction.

so the letter came here yesterday.” Jodi said. “You still at the paper?” “No.” she said. “My mom’s dead.” he told Jodi on their second date.” she said. and my mom cries when I stay with my dad. and a whole lot of beer to confess the rest about her aunt and her father. I’m waiting for my roommate to finish his exam. “Not yet.” It took her two more dates. and he was one of two friends Jodi made during her two years at college.CHAPTER 20 Jodi “What’s up?” Seth Samuels said when Jodi called him on a Monday night in early May. “My dad yells when I stay with my mom. Once she’d done that Seth and she shared everything. “They find out yet?” Seth now asked her as she walked out into the backyard. “It’s too stressful to choose between my parents.” 78 . and then we’re headed out for a few beers. The paper’s last issue is Thursday so I’ve got a few days. It’ll be a small issue because I’m already down to a skeleton staff. “Not much.” “I don’t have that problem. “My dad never changed his address with the school. even on the holidays.” Seth was the editor of Auburn’s student newspaper. He came from Daytona but found many reasons to stay away from home. The Auburn Plainsman.

. She walked back inside. outlined in blue. She planned to clear the area during the summer. She discarded the idea almost as soon as she thought of it. her father. There 79 . and she wondered where those cabinets and table were today. She sank into the cracked surface and inhaled the scents of cigars and Old Spice – the scents she imagined lingered from her great-grandfather. She looked at the letter and turned it face down on the desk. OK?” She hung up and still stood in the yard. Stokley’s original walnut roll-top desk ornately decorated with gold knobs and handles. Jodi had a girlfriend. “Call me when you read the letter. She thought about calling Crystal. She entered the former office of her grandfather. But girlfriends asked questions. And then she’d insist that she open it while they were on the phone. This side addition to the house consisted of two rooms – a reception area. with a door leading to the front porch and the office itself.” Jodi stood in front of what once had been her father’s garden. picked up the envelope with the Auburn insignia with its block letter “A” on top of the same style letter “U” in white. The two roomed together this past year. She sat behind the massive desk in an ancient leather swivel chair. and most recently. medicines. Her father had left behind Dr.” “Keith’s here so I better go. her only other friend. The fireflies flashed their lights all around her and she contemplated getting a jar from the kitchen and catching a few just like she and her father used to do. “One of these days. Now it was a brambly mess of tall weeds and rotting tomato stakes. M. and the other accoutrements of a small town doctor. and Crystal would also want to know if she’d opened the letter. I’m pretty busy right now with things in the house.D. She tried to imagine the room with an examining table and cabinets with glass doors containing bandages. and carried it through the door off the front hallway.TRAILS IN THE SAND “What’s in the letter?” “Don’t know. She’d seen pictures of the room when it was the domain of Arthur Stokley. “Are you going to open it?” Seth asked. The desk was all that remained from the doctor’s office. and for the first time in her life.” Seth said.

Jodie’s fascination with the Stokley clan surprised Crystal when Jodi confided to her friend that she found comfort in their photos gracing the walls of her home. “Something happened with the tablecloth years ago. She hadn’t opened the package yet. but I know it gets everyone all riled up. I never quite understood it. To her left lay a tablecloth wrapped in plastic from the dry cleaners. We’ll just keep it here. “Why is it such a big deal?” Jodi asked her mother. and it’s the only thing he had of hers when he came to this country. but she wasn’t ready for that yet.” “Is that what happened?” “Isn’t it what always happens? I never asked.” Now Jodi looked at the tablecloth and decided to pull it out of the plastic bag where it had resided for the past nine years. “Aren’t you curious about your birth family?” Crystal asked. “That sister of mine will do anything to stir up trouble. “I remember the big fight when Grandpa died. C. One day she might ask Caroline what she knew about it. and they never said. and she’d brought it into the office. Her mother grabbed it from GG’s house right after GG died and told Jodi she didn’t want Caroline to use it during the reception after the funeral.” Jodi said.” Jodi spied it in one of the drawers in the dining room buffet the other day.” Jodi said. and this tablecloth does it every time. The monograph of “S” was stitched by Arthur Stokley’s mother. “This is the only family I’ve ever known. and that’s fine with me.” Amy said. ZICK was still time to figure it all out.” “I’d think the aunts would want it used on special occasions. 80 .P.” “This tablecloth was brought from England. “Not really. and Caroline won’t be able to find it. but she would. I don’t need to know about a teenage mother who had to give up her child for adoption.

“Did you ever have children?” “We were never so blessed even though we tried.CHAPTER 21 Caroline When I returned to the bar after talking to Simon.” I raised my wine glass and waited for George to hold his glass aloft. “I am smitten. “And when he smiled 81 . His eyes began to water.” George said when I’d settled myself. too. “We’re still newlyweds. that’s for sure. I could look in that woman’s eyes and still see my nineteenyear-old bride. “But you know what? Even after the cancer nearly ate her body away. I saw into her soul – the only place that really matters. What about you?” “Not me. “So you’re going to be just like your Momma and break my heart. “Here’s to the fortunate few who know and embrace the only important thing in life: Love.” George said. “I first met Simon when I was nine. by telling me you’re madly in love with your husband. but my husband has a daughter.” I said.” We clinked our glasses and downed a celebratory offering to the wonders befallen both of us in this lifetime.” I said. Awful stuff.” “I remember that feeling. I pulled my stool up closer to George. He took a deep drink from his glass.” “Then you understand about love and its power.” I said. My wife died last year after a bout with cancer.

yelling at him until the pastor disappeared from sight. I wasn’t interested in telling the story of my life. “He was like one of those neurotic bears pacing its cage at the zoo. not just yet. at that age. “He’d just disappeared into the big deep sea. my heart was beating so fast. “Lots of people blamed Gladdy.” “Were you one of those people?” “She didn’t set that fire. C. “You Stokleys sure know how to keep things stirred up. “The island folks wanted to hold a memorial vigil on the beach since there wasn’t a body for a funeral. and then he’d begin again.P. George Island and all the other small islands in the vicinity. Likely sharks got him. It’s why they let her go that night. But then two months later she 82 . I know that. I only knew I wanted more of it. but Arthur became furious at the suggestion. but that’s another story for another time. he’d stop and stare out to the sea. “I remember him pacing and after a few minutes.” “What can you tell me about the fire?” I asked. I had no idea what was happening to me. The oystermen took out their boats from Eastpoint and Apalachicola and searched the bay between the island and the mainland. Volunteers walked the beaches on St. Said she wasn’t right in the head after Alex drowned. Of course.” George whistled. He threw the Baptist minister off his front porch.” The family closed up the house and left the island the next day.” “Why’d it take you two so long to marry?” “He married my sister first. “Never even got to speak to Gladdy to tell her how sorry I was and to tell her good-bye. ZICK at me it almost made my chest hurt. to us. but it might have been easier for your Momma if they’d kept her overnight after they drug her to the jail over in Apalachicola. It broke my heart.” George said.” The Stokleys stayed inside during that week except for Arthur who stood vigil on the beach in front of the house and received the lack of news with little emotion.” George told me the Stokley family stayed on the island for exactly one week after Alex walked into the surf. Crews went out during the day searching for his body.

I could never understand how he could be such a good and caring doctor yet treat his own daughter like that. I promised Alex. ‘I’ve come to make sure the baby sea turtles make it to the sea. She simply sat staring at the ocean. but I’ve always had my suspicions. I can’t rightly remember all these years later. we turned back around and saw the flames leaping from the house. “He’d do it even if I was Gladdy’s guest for dinner. but who did it.TRAILS IN THE SAND returned alone. I decided George didn’t need to know that Gladys retained some of her father’s qualities.” “Who then? Was it really arson?” “The police were pretty sure someone set that fire. until finally the hatchlings emerged from the nest where Alex and Gladdy witnessed the female loggerhead laying her load almost seventy days before. Sometimes he’d punish her by sending her to bed without dinner.” George said he asked her what she was doing down there.” He discovered her arrival one night when he walked the beach after sunset.” George then told me a few stories about my grandfather and his treatment of my mother. either because the moon hadn’t risen yet or it was a new moon. “I thought she had plain lost her mind. “I was there 83 . I just know it was dark.” George said. and at first she didn’t reply.” Some of my mother’s punishments by her father sounded all too familiar to the punishments inflicted on me during my childhood. That’s I how I know Gladdy didn’t do it. I guess we’ll never know.” George said. “At first. and I almost tripped on her sitting on the beach all wrapped up in a white tablecloth. But then she said. but then she remembered reading that not all of them always made it that far.’” George sat with her every night for nearly a week. “It was a dark night. “My heart ached for her every time he did those things. He said my grandfather often called my mother stupid in front of everyone. she was concerned there weren’t 124 as she’d counted. “But the worst was the night of the fire. “We walked with them to the sea and when the last one had been taken away into the waves.

liked to tell only the parts of the story that created a grand saga of romance and chivalry. He pulled her up from the chair and took her by the shoulders and starting shaking her. it isn’t because there’s nothing there. I never knew why she was sick. I don’t remember if he spoke with an English accent. He was a frightful sight when he came in the front door. It only seems logical that he would since he spent the first two decades of his life in Cornwall. My grandfather embodied the best and the worst traits in a man. I discovered very early in my career that when gaps appear in a story.P. C. He saw your Momma sitting there. And my own personal history of him permeated all those other bits of information. The aunts.” I envisioned Dr. He kicked her backside all the way out the door and down the steps to an old truck the Stokleys kept on the island for traveling to and from their boat on the bay side. Aunt Sugar always said. but he pushed me away with his elbow. Hitler. She found some cousins of my grandfather’s still living in 84 . I gleaned tidbits from the aunts throughout the years. Arthur Stokley on many different levels. Quite the contrary – the gaps are the only story that matters. and my mother inherited a little of both. When I heard Aunt Sugar became interested in genealogy right after my mother died. and he walked over to her and hit her right across the face. Aunt Sugar in particular. and Gandhi all rolled into one Great Ball of Fire. And that was the last I ever saw of your mother or any other Stokley until tonight. but I was cringing. ZICK with Gladdy at the police station when your grandfather arrived. I heard praises from the older gentry of Calico. It’s why he became a doctor. The aunts talked about his childhood and often mentioned his sick mother. but I found it difficult to meld all those levels into one single individual. I thought perhaps she’d be the one to answer some of the questions. I tried to stop him. He was Churchill. but I always assumed it was an illness of some mysterious nature. The lack of information about my grandfather created an abyss in his history that only fueled my curiosity. George’s tale only deepened the impossibility of reconciling who the man was. I found it even more difficult to imagine Momma being so totally beaten down. Your mother didn’t flinch. As a journalist. “I tried to tell him she didn’t do anything.

who was also my cousin and Aunt Sugar’s daughter.” “Yes. but I didn’t mind. my.” “He died a long time ago. and if she read my stuff. “She told me yesterday that you’re acting like you’re getting ready to write something about the family. I’d recently moved back to St. you sure are nosy. “You’ve got Momma real agitated with your questions. “Do you know what happened to Grandpa Stokley’s father?” I asked.” Aunt Sugar said. I asked Sally.” Later on that same visit to Calico. “But I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal that I want to know about our great-grandfather. I thought she had a big interest in our family history. I found it comforting to be in that house by myself.” “If I wrote about this family everyone would think it was fiction.” “She did.” Gary said.” Sally said. especially after Simon told her about us. especially since his son turned out to be such a hero. You’re acting as if you’re writing one of your articles. and you can’t get any life wilder than this family. It seems she discovered he was born out of wedlock. but you do write about wildlife. where I was in the process of preparing the house to sell. “When? How?” “My. When I found out. To my surprise. the great Arthur Stokley.” I said. I stopped doing the family tree a while back – it was just too boring. and it made it easier to be patient during the suspension of time that permeated my life during that period when Simon and I waited. and she’s none too pleased. I invited Simon’s brother Gary and his wife Sally over for drinks at Momma and Daddy’s house. “I’d think you’d be curious. until she found out about Grandpa. she’d know I only wrote nonfiction.” I said as Gary chuckled. I questioned my aunt about her findings.TRAILS IN THE SAND Cornwall. “Now I understand the confusion. She dropped 85 . I brought Sally and Gary drinks as they sat on the screened front porch of my childhood home. Augustine. Caroline. if she had any knowledge about our greatgrandfather.” “He was your grandfather. she laughed. What does it matter now? It’s ancient history. “He died. and I spent nearly every weekend at my childhood home for a few months sorting through the lives of my parents. Amy was no help. unsure of how to proceed.

” “Yes. They hinted that it was rape.” Gary said. “Who cares after all these years? Did she tell you anything else?” “Momma and the aunts obviously cared about his reputation. Do you know that Momma still says that Red’s oldest boy Art married a Jewish girl.” Gary said. Are Red and Rita still ignoring him?” “They are. We don’t like to face the truth much in this family. Momma never told me anything herself and doesn’t know that I know.” “Momma contacted some cousins of Grandpa’s.” “That’s an understatement. Nothing George told me could shock me after being around the Stokley women all my life. “Only thing wrong with him is he’s a tree hugger. Caroline. that sounds like your Momma and all her sisters. “Better hang him at dawn then. but when the government gets involved in telling us how many miles per gallon our cars should get. but I could tell he was beginning to tire from his 86 .” “No kidding! That certainly would explain a whole lot about this family. I eavesdropped on Momma and Aunt Candy talking about it. but please don’t hurt the tree when you hang the rope. and he’s doing important work on the feasibility of renewable energy sources. “Aunt Sugar is missing out. I draw the line. C. wouldn’t it?” “Momma swore Aunt Candy to secrecy and said she was done with the whole disgusting mess. I found him to be one of the saner members of my family. “Art’s a great guy. ZICK that hobby faster than a hot griddle sizzling with grease.” I said. I visited him a few years back after Sally told me he was working on environmental research.” I said. of the incest-variety.P. I’m about the only family member besides you that he talks to. Just like the southern lady I was raised to be. “I don’t mind you folks most of the time.” “So tell me what you heard.” Sally said. just like you. my mother included.” I laughed. and that’s why he never comes home?” Red was Sally’s brother and his son Art was actually gay and living in New York City.

” “I’d be honored.” “If I come back. My reporter’s instinct also told me George wasn’t telling me everything. We’re in it for the long haul. I’m headed to Gulfport – I’m a writer too. “You can try my home phone. I think I’ve only seen the tip of what’s been concealed.” George said.” he said. He wrote his telephone number on a napkin. Although I’m generally not a fan of this type of book. Just like with Deepwater Horizon. I’m doing a story about the sea turtles coming ashore dead. It’s a real pleasure to meet you. if my sources are correct. I’m George Compton. and I hope we can talk again sometime. “You’ve given me a lot to think about and digest. “Of course.” 87 . I had read a couple of his novels – all set on an island off the coast of Florida and involving spies and smugglers and CIA agents.” “What’s your last name?” “Compton. “My assistant will be here shortly to pick me up. “What do you do?” I asked. or just call here and leave a message.” I said. if you consider a journalist a writer.” “Probably not. and now it looks as if we’re not going to escape it.” George said. George. “My family is very good at hiding things.TRAILS IN THE SAND storytelling. I’ve read your books. George Island. will you show me where my family’s house was? They always told me it was destroyed by a hurricane. Working on my thirteenth novel right now. Ever read one of my books?” In fact. Miss Caroline. “I hate reading about it. “I’m a writer.” I gave him my card and told him to e-mail me if he thought about anything significant about my family and their time on St. I read them because of the setting. I get two hours every day to get out of that house and away from my desk.” “Going to be here tomorrow?” “No.” “Please call me if you come back through.” “It’s a real shame about that oil spill. I’d enjoyed his descriptions of nature and the characters of Florida. I’m afraid I’m not much for email.

” On May 6. and Halliburton headed to Washington. D. history is the story of ambition and its consequences.S. Executives from BP. these barrier islands provided the ideal refuge for nesting birds . “The worst environmental disaster in U. to give testimony at Senate hearings investigating the oil rig explosion. “The culture of BP management stressed profits. until now. No one paid much attention because the amount of oil still gushing remained the same. oil began washing ashore on the Chandeleur Islands off the Louisiana coast. Transocean. . while birds and sea turtles unknowingly flew and swam into disaster. .CHAPTER 22 News report on Deepwater Horizon – May 6. 88 . BP announced the stoppage of one of three leaks by a capping valve.C. the world kept its eyes focused on the Gulf of Mexico. 2010 As the disastrous month of April faded into the bloom of May.” said one pundit on PBS. Uninhabited by humans.

When I thought of my family. it appeared as a mass of Christmas tree lights all tangled together with no signs of either end. Other times I felt as if I was on a predetermined path. or a “George” appeared to turn it all upside down. as if they’d been yanked off the tree and tied in knots before being flung into a box that was dropped down a flight of stairs. George turned even my beliefs about my mother upside down. “Caroline will be the death of me yet. The more content I became with my present life. Everywhere I turned. My past seemed to be on a similar path of destruction. yet poignant scene. I didn’t know where to begin to untangle it. It could be Momma’s abuse under the hands of her father led her to inflict some of her pain on an easy target – her youngest child. such as the earthquake that tore apart Haiti in January.CHAPTER 23 Caroline My family’s history drew me to it. There were times I felt Jodi’s rejection of me was the punishment I deserved. although I 89 .” the old tapes played in my head. I was remembering some obscure. the world seemed to be spinning out of control with disasters both manmade as in Deepwater and Upper Big Branch. she doesn’t deserve this amount of happiness after the way she’s treated me. Since the very beginning of 2010. and natural. Momma trained me well to wait for a boot to fall off a cliff above my head and knock me out cold. the more agitated I became about the past.

That’s why we age better than women do. had an answer.P. As I walked to my hotel room. Perhaps Simon’s family came close – but then maybe both Simon and his brother Gary sensed something missing in their normalness. Right after they say it’s a shame your hair turned gray prematurely. you didn’t have Gladys Stokley for a mother. If I believed in curses.” While my family wasn’t the only family mired in dysfunction. And you feel guilt over Jodi.” he said. I felt a tug toward the flushing toilet swirly of my past. yes. from my Aunt Sugar down to her four 90 .” I said. “You shouldn’t dwell on it. of course. They both married Stokley blood – Simon even did it twice.” “How could I resist you with your banged up knees and the dirt on your chin? You were irresistible. I tried to explain to him my feelings and why I felt I didn’t deserve happiness.” “Sure they are. When I called Simon.” “Do you feel guilty or miss Amy?” I asked.” “Momma loved you.” “I think men have more capacity to compartmentalize and put things away. don’t you?” “You’re probably right. “I know you’re feeling guilty because you don’t miss your sister or your Momma. We don’t worry so much. C. Simon. but guilt is a wasted emotion that doesn’t accomplish anything. but I couldn’t put into words the cloud of inevitability I felt hanging over me. when I allow myself to think about it. There might be hope I could change the trajectory of doom that followed my family. ‘That Simon can do anything’ she’d say when you’d do something like bring her a tomato plant you grew from the seeds of the previous year’s crop.” “And you’re lucky you weren’t arrested for being a pervert. “You know she always hated that you paid so much attention to me when we were kids. the ones with function. we certainly had our share. I feel horribly guilty that I don’t miss the woman who was my wife for more than twenty years. Gary’s in-laws. That’s why the idea of restoring the world appealed to me. Mostly I feel guilty that I chose never to tell her how I felt about you until it was too late.” “No. “I feel guilty. I’d be on the back of the garlic truck making necklaces. Besides. Some days I wonder if the extraordinary families are the ordinary ones. I’m sure most folks are shocked to learn I’m older than you. ZICK was skeptical of predestination. But I choose not to dwell on it. I had it much worse – she was my mother-in-law.

How could I do it and remain unbiased? I’d done it many times over the years in writing about the bulldozing of mangrove forests off the southern coast of Florida and the felling of the longleaf pine in the scrub habitats of the southeastern United States. The McDermotts. I would find a way to relate the potential harm to an ecosystem whose wildlife choked in petroleum. I loved writing about the connectivity of nature. I made a mental note to follow up on a story about the depletion of horseshoe crab eggs. Sometimes I had to dig in the dirt for 91 . I walked east as the sky began to lighten and change colors behind a few white clouds on the horizon. Shorebirds stood at attention in the surf. Amy hated going there because she hated the country and the outdoors. on the other hand. He was an only child. St.TRAILS IN THE SAND children. albeit slightly boring. a small sandpiper that flew from the North Pole to Tierra del Fuego each winter. but they always said no. and while my memories of those visits were pleasant with no dramatic flinging of the mashed potatoes and gravy. My instinct told me it did. The next morning I walked on the beach as the sun rose. I learned to fish on that farm during the lazy days of summer. were calm and accepting parents. A recent study linked the decline of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay to the abrupt decline of the migratory red knot. forming a barrier to the coast of Florida where a finger of land points west from the main peninsula. His parents lived into their eighties on the farm in Georgia where Daddy grew up. but it was lonely for a youngster tagging along behind her grandfather and father as they did the farm chores. Right now. My father’s family was normal as well. they could be considered boring. there was another side to the story. I used to beg Momma and Daddy to let him come with us when we visited them. if it came down to that. We visited them at Christmas and during the summers. After Simon moved to Calico. I loved it. Simon’s life reeks with Southern gothic drama only because of his attachment to the Stokley/Carlisle clan. and he’d bring a cane pole with him. Daddy would join me after he finished with Grandpa. Somehow. It is possible to see both the sunset and sunrise on the same beach. but in each case. were textbook cases for Psych 101. George Island lies lengthwise east to west in the Gulf. The destruction of both destroyed more than trees – it starved every single species dependent upon those trees for survival. the task seemed overwhelming. I would run off to the creek running on the edge of the farm and try to catch minnows with my hand.

and he practiced it with precision in his life. By the time the brain gives its signal. Amy and I did our best to make apologies as we followed Momma and Daddy out the door. although lately I’d come to appreciate his ability to go slow. Simon noticed that the month of April. as I did not. Daddy attempted to shut her up. and texture of his actions and words so he didn’t alienate anyone. Simon could walk into any situation. Caroline. We all went back to Momma and Daddy’s house afterwards. survey the mood. He managed it as a lawyer. which may have been a reason those marriages failed. brought hurricane-intense mood swings in my mother. ZICK the other side. C. 92 . My previous two husbands never possessed the quality of balance either. I brought Gus. He mentioned it to me on one of my infrequent trips home in the late ‘80s. Simon told me later that he wanted to come over and put a hand over my mouth because he knew. I often found myself pulling both feet out of my mouth after my instincts kicked in. the stomach is exploding. and I decided it was the proper time to tell everyone that Gus and I planned to marry. and determine the proper tone. and Easter weekend in particular. Perhaps Simon learned from Amy and my mother to conduct barometric pressure readings before heading into a brewing storm. “You are a fool. I admired Simon’s ability to look at both sides of an issue and remain objective. but Momma was on a roll. my then boyfriend and eventual first husband.P. Momma and her sisters fought bitterly when Aunt Candy said Gladdy’s potato salad didn’t have relish in it like their momma always made. posture. My mother began her litany of times her sisters found ways to disparage her in front of everyone. My mixed-up genes confused the issue and prevented me from ever acquiring his knack. I usually plowed right in and then took my assessments. It was similar to the “full” signal that hits the brain after you’ve gorged yourself too quickly to give the brain the proper response time.” Momma said when I made the announcement. that giving my mother surprising news when she was so agitated would not go well. home for Easter and announced our impending marriage after a raucous family Easter dinner at Aunt Sugar and Uncle Whitey’s house. If only I could have applied that approach to my personal life as well. but I usually managed to find it. I hoped some of his fairness might rub off on me.

comforting her as she sobbed her unhappiness. We’ll just move on from here and see where the road takes us. Mr. The man I really loved was standing next to me at the back of the car looking as if he was going to throw up. especially at Easter. We planned to leave early in the morning. You are the biggest disappointment of my life. “Things happen. Maybe the smoke made him sick.” Daddy said. while we carried our stuff out to the car.” There was only one thing wrong with the puzzle Gus hoped to complete. The wind blew the smoke into his face. that’s fine. and Simon and Daddy attempted to talk us into getting a good night’s sleep before driving the six hours back to our cabin in the Everglades. but she is not invited. if it’s any of your business. If you want to come down for the wedding. “I better get back inside to check on the ladies. I don’t take things personally.” 93 . but there was no way we could stay in the house after that pronouncement. and she loves me so everything else should fall into place. “I hope you two will be very happy. I love your daughter. was beyond anything she’d done before. but to have done it so publicly with Gus sitting right there. “Gladdy sometimes says things she doesn’t mean when she’s upset. I’m sorry Daddy.” Gus said from the driver’s seat.” Simon said as I stood waiting for Gus to rearrange the suitcase to his liking in the back of the car. “I’m sorry that happened. “You just caught her on a bad day at a bad time.” “Thank you. I pulled a pack of cigarettes out of my purse and lit one up. She’s always like this in April.” Simon said. but this was really off the charts even for Momma. Gus seems like a good person. But let me offer my congratulations for the both of us. “She’ll come around. and when did you take up smoking?” “I’ve smoked for years. Amy sat on the couch with Momma.TRAILS IN THE SAND “You just go ahead and live in that swamp with a man who doesn’t have a job and see how far that takes you.” Part of Momma’s declaration might have been on point. I thought as I exhaled. She was still angry about the fight with her sisters. Carlisle. Gus.” Daddy leaned down and kissed my cheek before going to the other side of the car to shake Gus’ hand. We left as soon as we could stuff everything back into our suitcases.

when he met Gus for the first time. although they said plenty about the lack of her love life. Her defection hurt Simon more than he’d ever been hurt before. Simon never heard Amy or Gladys speak about a love interest. Caroline never had any boyfriends in high school.” Gladdy said. 94 . “That’s for after the wedding. mostly because he never quite understood it. Simon liked most people. and she never really returned. Augustine. “She’s too mouthy.CHAPTER 24 Simon Caroline ran away from Calico right before Simon married Amy. “I admire that about Caroline. She speaks her mind.” “You don’t speak your mind when you’re in the market for a husband.” Gladys said one night when Amy and Simon came over for their weekly dinner. I bet she tells every young man she dates exactly what she thinks. “Caroline will never find a man. He pointed his glass toward Simon who shook his head. her flight suddenly made sense. One time.” Jack got up from the table and went to the side buffet to pour himself another whiskey. she stayed away for ten years. However. and after she moved to the Everglades.” “What’s wrong with that?” Jack Carlisle asked. she never brought home any boyfriends from college although Jack once told him she had a boyfriend in St. so he was taken by surprise when he hated Gus almost at the first mention of his name.

“Do you think Caroline is like Aunt Apple?” Amy asked.” Gladys said. dear. and Simon was home from college for the summer. how do you know she even dates?” Amy asked.” “Amy. he didn’t think a whole lot about her happiness or not. “You always favored Caroline over Amy. When he heard Caroline was coming home for Easter with a boyfriend named Gus. The only person she’s ever been very close to is that Holly girl from college. All of those are very attractive to men.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Momma. Simon felt a deep stabbing pain in his stomach as if someone punched him. almost sorry he’d turned down the offer of a drink. “She’s not very attractive. and he knew she was right. she’s not a thing like you.” Jack said before he drained his glass. Jack. Caroline is fat. He remembered Caroline’s words of warning before the wedding. “I’d rather know Caroline was happy than who she prefers in a relationship. “You know. maybe she likes women better." The women made smacking noises with their lips.” “Simon. “She never listened to me about food portions. Apple?” Gladys asked. and you know it. Spring 1980 Caroline and Simon stood quietly in the dark backyard of the Stokley house. Simon’s pronouncement that night wasn’t quite true.” “Caroline is a very attractive young woman. As Gus and Caroline drove away the night Gladys insulted Gus and Caroline. However. but especially how things were in his marriage. just say it like it is. “She’s healthy. “Does it matter one way or another?” Simon asked. Spring was upon them.” Jack said.” “I love both our daughters. They stood in the deepest 95 . The flood light on the side of the garage offered only a shadowy dim light over the garden in the back.” Gladys said about her youngest daughter. Is she like my sister. Simon finally understood how Caroline felt when he married Amy. but the discussion ended. what do you think? You spent a lot of time with her when she was younger. He wanted to tell Caroline so many things.” “You are prejudiced. Simon worked very hard at remaining cordial when she brought him home to meet the family for the first and last time. and she’s spirited.

set. They fell to the ground. Simon felt as if he could see deep into her soul. chasing the elusive insects that had fascinated them since their first summer together. poised with glass jars ready to pounce on the fireflies making their presence known sporadically on the dark summer night.P. “I’m going to grow tomatoes this big one day. go. “Did you know tomatoes were considered aphrodisiacs in ancient times?” “What’s that?” Caroline asked as she brought both of her hands up to hold the round redness in her palms. “To feed you and me and our passel of kids. he saw the sparkle of her eyes as they bored into him with intensity beyond her fifteen years. “Why in the world would they do that?” “So they can devour them when they have them trapped by their feminine wiles. His body began to respond inappropriately to the young girl underneath him.” Caroline’s hand touched Simon’s when she brought the tomato to her nose. Simon jerked his hand away from hers.” “Why would you do that?” she asked. He struggled to move away from her as he felt a stirring below the waist. She shifted slightly making it even worse. But look at this tomato!” Simon reached to my left and brought a softball-sized red Beefeater close to Caroline’s face.” he said as he held the fruit to Caroline’s nose to take a whiff. Even though the light from the garage allowed only a glimpse of shadowy faces. His weight hit Caroline full force. lidless jars aloft. Simon forced himself back to reality. “It smells wonderful. ZICK shadows of the yard. “Ready. unable to stop looking at her.” Simon said. Stokley’s tomato plants. but when he did. Simon knew Caroline felt it too as a small smile curled on her lips. and she dropped the 96 . and they both lost their footing. Caroline was only fifteen. He couldn’t feel this way about her. but he was mesmerized by her eyes. Simon knew the teasing went too far this time.” Simon leaned down to grab Caroline by the shoulders to make his point. “Did you know that female fireflies imitate the responses of other species in order to attract male insects of the other species?” Simon asked. C. Simon found himself lying on top of Caroline and staring into her blue eyes. “I missed it!” Caroline screamed. his foot caught under a low-lying vine weighted down with bright red tomatoes. and they ran toward Mrs. “Whoa! I didn’t see that vine.

With as much force as he could muster. he knew it was up to him to build a wall between them because he realized as he lay on the ground gazing into her eyes that he loved her. As the older one. 97 . As Simon went across the street to his house. leaving Caroline on the ground. he admonished himself for crossing a line that should never have been approached.TRAILS IN THE SAND tomato on the ground. It really was that simple and that difficult. Simon pulled himself up and walked toward the garage.

I was written out. I interviewed a woman who found a dead turtle on the beach. I conducted interviews with scientists at the Gulfport facility. I spent three days in Gulfport while more turtles washed ashore.” I told Simon as I made my final preparations to leave Gulfport. In the evenings. Sierra magazine requested a commentary for their special issue on the oil spill. but first I wanted to do a couple of things. and heard what I knew was inevitable from the very beginning. but the numbers of dead sea turtles continued to grow. which in most cases meant leaving it alone until trained professionals could come and handle the petroleumladen animals. I worked on a series of articles for Audubon on the procedures for handling oiled wildlife. I talked to volunteers and walked the beaches with the sea turtle patrol and beach clean-up crews. While I waited. “It’s a good halfway point. “I’m going to spend the night on St. By the end of the week. George Island again.” “And I bet there’s someone there you’d like to harass for a few 98 . The Associated Press picked up a couple of my pieces and asked for more about the potential impacts on the birds and sea turtles. Augustine and Simon. Oil was coming ashore on the barrier islands. so I decided to head back to St. and I spoke to members of the BP cleanup crew standing by for the worst-case scenario.CHAPTER 25 Caroline I listened to the radio and the continued coverage of the oil spill as I drove west. The results from the necropsies were not conclusive yet.

” “I think it’s me you better be worrying about. George Compton. but I’ll try to keep up. you know. That means a lot coming from a writer such as you. Maybe George will help discover another side to her. I was very proud to show everyone and tell them I knew you. I smiled when I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. Pull up a stool and stay awhile.” George and I talked easily as we sipped our drinks. and you know that very well. I hadn’t bothered to call George because I felt certain I was being drawn to something. But why did she continue the terrorism with me?” “She didn’t know any other way to be.” “What’s not to love?” “Lots. young lady. I guess I do have a little more sympathy for her after hearing George describe the beating the night the house burned down. He once loved my mother. He’s a tiger.” “You’re too much man for me. that’s all.” “You’re a sight for these watery old eyes.TRAILS IN THE SAND hours.” 99 . “It’s true women find me irresistible. That was her playbook. Exactly the time George arrived at Harry A’s each day for happy hour. Caro. I told him what was happening in Gulfport. “Good job.” “I did love your mother.” George said as I approached his corner of the bar. Whatever I needed to do would come naturally.” “Maybe.” “They printed one of your articles in Panama City News.” he said. “No one wants to go on record to say those turtles died from inhaling oil.” I crossed the bridge to the island at five o’clock.” I said. I pulled into the parking lot as George’s retreating figure disappeared inside the restaurant.” I said. but these days most of them use walkers. “Everyone is just waiting. She was one of a kind. George.” “That poor man – don’t wear him out now. “I just want to ask him a few questions. “I’ll call you when I get there. and plans were needless.” “Thanks.” Simon said. “I see you couldn’t stay away. It’s good to see one of them walk in the door under her own power.

“I remember the day I was born. “I dreamed of the man – still do in times of trouble.” When George was fourteen. wearing a black fedora. “It wasn’t unpleasant or pleasant. I don’t know who he is. they’d think I was even loonier than they already imagine. so I wasn’t taking stories and incorporating them into a memory as I think we all do from time to time.” “You asked my grandfather?” “Yes. It was simply the only moment – the true ‘here and now’ experience. “See this scar?” He pointed to a tiny white spot of skin in the middle of his right gray eyebrow. Caroline. One day I found him sitting in a lawn chair in front of their house so I mustered up all the courage I could and approached him. “No one talked about it much because my mother would become upset remembering those wretched moments when she thought her first born dead. ZICK “I want to tell you something that I don’t tell many people. Stokley pulled him from the womb with forceps.P. Never shut up since then. He comes to me and gives me encouragement. I know it’s clichéd sounding but that’s what it is. I felt I needed to do something. but as he got older.” 100 . If I did. it became a part of his consciousness. He could hear his mother’s sobs after Dr.” George said my grandfather pronounced him stillborn after Dr. He later said he didn’t have any choice because my mother’s contractions had stopped.” George said. “I remember it as well as I recall the first time I made love to a girl. but he’s always dressed in a cape. he dreamed of the experience.” George took a drink of whiskey. Stokley’s announcement.” George said. “So I turned to the only other person I knew who was there. ‘Live. He remembers a harsh light in his eyes and then darkness and warmth as someone threw a blanket over his whole body. C. hard surface.” so I opened my mouth and let loose. and then a man came to me and whispered in my ears.” At first. I’m allowed a cliché here and there even though I try to avoid it in my novels. “Your grandfather gave me that. he decided to ask about his birth. “I wasn’t ever told the details. “I knew better than to ask my mother.” George described to me the feeling of being lifted and placed on a cold.

Stokley looked at the young man dressed in his swimming trunks until recognition registered. but I laid my hands on that bird and rubbed life back into it. Compton. a young woman just out of college. “Never have I seen anything like it except with a canary one time in a coal mine. I can’t ask my mother.” “That’s what I wanted to ask you about. but it had been a long labor by the time we pulled you out. telling her you were stillborn. George was blue with no heart beat. it took the doctor and his assistants at least five minutes before realizing the delivery room was also filled with the screams of a newborn baby. She said she couldn’t bear to look at your lifeless body every time she reached for a gauze pad or instrument for me. So she took the blanket intended for swaddling you and covered you up like the corpse we all thought you were. how did I come back to life?” “It was the darnedest thing. the hustle of the staff to stop her bleeding. “You had worked yourself into a fine temper 101 . Your mother began bleeding profusely after we removed you.” the doctor said. I was wondering if I was a stillborn.” “What did the nurse do with me?” “She placed you on the metal table holding all our equipment. sir.TRAILS IN THE SAND Dr.” Dr.” Dr. “Our focus went into saving her life since we assumed you were a goner.” George said. and the drug had worn off some. “The nurse pulled back that blanket and there you were. George cleared his throat and the doctor stirred and slowly opened his eyes. sir. Arthur Stokley sat dozing in the shade of a palm tree at the edge of his yard that overlooked the Gulf of Mexico. A book lay on his lap as the teenager approached. “I didn’t realize your mother had come out of the anesthesia. red and squalling. “I’m sorry to disturb you. “George Compton. She still gets upset. and the blanket over George’s face.” the doctor said. too. Stokley said when he pulled George out of his mother.” Dr. You came back all on your own. “But I wanted to ask you a question. isn’t it? The miracle baby. Stokley said. “I handed you over to the nurse. The nurse. was upset.” Between the cries of Mrs.

Stillborn.” “I’ve viewed every moment of my life as bonus time. “George. Do you remember what it looked like?” “Sure do. I’m not sure why – never am when I get those strong instincts – but it seemed like an important story to tell to someone who is seeking the story of her life.” “Mine too. and I’ve lived my life accordingly.” We both sipped our drinks. “I know you. “Sure is. “After you left last time.” George’s comment left me speechless because I felt it.” I said when he finished. George. Anyone who ever came to your grandparents’ house for dinner knew about that tablecloth. who once loved my mother. “George Addison Compton.” “I told you we were connected in some way.” “That is quite a story.” “Your birthday is June 23?” I asked. June 23. she was a housewife and resented the whole world for that. “Writer? Momma? No.P. too. This man. “Why did you tell me that story?” I asked. was somehow connected to me. and its presence always caused quite a stir in the family. “You were meant to be here. you mentioned that my mother was wrapped in a tablecloth when you stumbled on her. the last time I was here. The life I chose could just as easily be simply marked as a small reminder on the island cemetery with a sad little marker. “The day I came back from the dead. only 25 years later. I’ve known you for a very long time.” “Am I seeking the story of my life? I hadn’t thought about it like that. Why’d you ask that?” 102 . but you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about. I wished I’d told you then. that’s for sure. ZICK tantrum trying to let us know that you were alive. That’s one of the things your grandfather was yelling about when he was kicking her to the truck that night. C.” George said. Caroline.” he said as he stared at me strangely. I looked at him with tears in my eyes.” I said. Why?” “My mother kept it. my soul made a choice to live this life.” “Did your mother ever become a writer?” George asked.” “We all make choices every single day that impact more than just this shell of a being. “Now I’m beginning to see why.” “I think you’re right. It was fine linen – your grandfather brought it from England from his mother who stitched the large “S” in the center of it. 1940.

” I said. equally large and empty houses stood as lonely fortresses to the isolated beach looking southward on the Gulf of Mexico. Your Uncle Alex was the director. now that girl could tell a story with words. On either side of it.” George said as he handed me two stenographers’ notebooks with the spiral at the top of 5” x 7” green 103 .” “She probably couldn’t accept that you were living the life she wanted. and she was wholly disinterested in me as a writer – she even made fun of me for wanting to do it. “He wrote stuff in his journals – stuff about nature and science. Maybe you’re thinking of one of my aunts. she ignored it. even though I couldn’t imagine any of those women writing either. and it was just barely 7 p. She even won a writing contest in the Tallahassee paper when she was fifteen.” George’s assistant came to pick him up just then.” “I thought Alex was the writer. and I’d write the next one. “Are you sure we’re talking about the same person? My mother was Gladys Stokley. The site of the old Stokley beach house contained no hint of its former tenants. “Here’s that old story I mentioned. Momma never mentioned once about being a writer. All very romantic. We arranged to meet for breakfast.” George said. I’d already had an astonishing night. I still have the one we were doing when Alex drowned. She dreamed of going to Paris and living like Hemingway and Stein in the ‘20s. “It was your mother all right. and George said he’d bring the story he and Momma wrote together. Said I’d never make a living at it. But your momma. Do you want to read it?” “I would.m. He was talking about a woman I didn’t know.” I was stunned. and then when I did manage to make a living at it. We used to write stories back and forth. “She’d write these wonderful stories and plays and all of us kids would put them on for the adults at one of the houses every summer. Arthur Stokley.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Your mother was a fine writer – she wanted to be an author. and the hatchlings crawled out of the sand. She’d write a chapter of a book.” I said. which was just as well. she was the fifth daughter of Dr. A two-story yellow and white rambling faux Victorian towered over that section of beach. but she was my greatest inspiration. and then give it to me. and then he’d take me to the place where Alex died.

If you can’t wear the hat. I want to ask you one more thing before I head out of here. lawyer.” “I already have. I will have you know that I still write all my novels on legal pads in pencil. I write at least the lead and sometimes a couple of pages. ZICK paper. That’s all right. I guess I’ll have to mail it since you don’t use email.” “It’s just slightly advanced from the rock and chisel. ditch digger. “I start every story on a legal pad with a pencil. Internet. but during the past few weeks. We have something else in common. and you can use it from one computer to another. who knows. I’m going to type it and send you a copy.” “My very dear Caroline. and a cell phone. when it’s typed up I’ll print out a copy for you and put it on a thumb drive.” “The hat?” “A wise man once told me if I wanted to be a garbage collector. I had to wear the hat of that particular job and wear it proudly.” I leafed through the pages. Why do you think my mother gave it all up? How she could just leave it like that and never mention it again?” “Maybe she just wasn’t able to wear the hat. but one was the careful left-handed script I recognized as Momma’s. I refuse to be a Twitterer.” George chuckled. What happened to my mother that made her give up her passion? I wondered. you can’t realize your 104 . My assistant types those pages into the computer that I refuse to touch. The pages were filled with two different handwritings. you might have fallen for me.” “A thumb drive?” “It’s a small device that holds electronic documents. “My goal is to be the last man standing without e-mail.” George said. My eyes filled with tears. Then I type it into the computer. There’s something so solid about the old paper and pencil that I love. C. which were in surprisingly good shape considering their age. I didn’t cry very often. or even a writer. I’ll treasure it. “I made a copy for myself.P. “Thank you.” “Good for you – it’s a curse for sure. In another place and time. It’s odd to think my mother would write a story like this and never let me know.” I said.” “Then she’ll know what to do with the thumb drive. my eyes threatened to overflow with tears just looking at a sunset. editing as I go. but I wanted you to have the original. “You’re my kind of gal.

“Maybe that’s why the man who told you to live was wearing a fedora. so I didn’t listen to her or anyone else who tried to discourage me.” I understood exactly what he meant. I wore the hat. about wanting to be a writer.” I said. But I couldn’t see doing anything else.TRAILS IN THE SAND dreams. mostly from Momma. I had to stand up to a lot of criticism. “You are very perceptive because he’s precisely the one who gave me the advice.” 105 .

Caroline looked as beautiful as 106 . clean-shaven and wearing tan shorts. Caroline finally agreed to have lunch with him. there are still a couple of boxes of Momma’s stuff up in the attic. and brown loafers. I wanted to get on the road.” Simon never liked keeping things from Caroline so it came as a relief when she learned about her mother’s writing on her own. I need to adjust to the news of Momma as writer.” Simon said. Simon arrived at her home to take Caroline to lunch.” Caroline said when she called Simon after visiting the site of the Stokley summerhouse. “I’m going to stop by Momma and Daddy’s house on the way home. After using all his charm. April 2007 The day after the funeral of Gladys Stokley.CHAPTER 26 Simon “George gave me the story he and Momma wrote that summer. a white golf shirt. “Did you read it?” “No. it can wait a little while longer. He arrived a little after ten o’clock. Even though it’s mostly empty. I always thought it was just mementos from weddings and graduations over the years.” “I guess she kept one side of her hidden. “It’s waited all this time to be read. Simon needed to tell Caroline some things. but maybe there’s more there.” she said.

“With a cast iron frying pan in her hand. “Just don’t go and feel guilty because you don’t feel more grief at your mother’s passing.” Simon walked toward her and enfolded her in his arms. We should offer the aunts anything they might want – family heirloom types of things. I need to talk to you.” “I know. but mostly I feel relieved. too.” Simon said when he came in the back door to the kitchen.” “You’re the only one who ever understood me.TRAILS IN THE SAND ever in a purple sundress fitted on top but with a free flowing gauzy skirt. Occasionally. They talked a bit about the house and the next steps. “I need to remember to stop by and check on that tomato plant after you go back home. like that oak sideboard in 107 . I’m afraid. but there are some dishes I’d like.” Simon said. “Let’s get going.” Simon said. I guess I’ll take some of the porcelain Momma collected over the years. businesses closed and new ones opened occupied the conversation. There are a couple of pieces of furniture that are beautiful. She made life difficult for you.” “Amy took that back to our house after your father’s funeral. Except the infamous tablecloth. Amy might want a few things from that collection. It wasn’t a passionate hug. six years earlier.” Simon pulled away from her. You don’t want any of the other family heirlooms. “You look nice. “I probably should feel more sadness than I do. Funny to think of this house being vacant. We probably should just sell most of the furniture with the house. whatever they are?” “I’m not going to fight over the tablecloth – that’s already been done. I want that. “Have you thought about it?” “I don’t need anything. I’m hoping you’re staying for a little bit longer.” “I’m leaving as soon as we get things settled here. isn’t it?” “Somehow I think Gladdy Carlisle will always haunt this house. Caroline made a comment about changes made since her last visit. “Amy said she doesn’t really want anything in the house except maybe a few things that she gave your parents as gifts over the years.” Caroline said as they grinned at one another. She wore her Key West sandals – gold today. and this house feels as if it has spies. New traffic lights. but simply a gesture of one friend to another.” They drove most of the way in silence.

” Caroline said. They discussed the house and its contents a little more. They ordered iced tea and gator tail bites as an appetizer. including your father. Simon leaned back in his chair and took off his sunglasses. She named me executor and gave me power of attorney. ZICK the dining room.” “Amy probably feels the same way. but really. They walked out on a dock to the restaurant that sat on the edge of the water. When they finished. Hopefully we’re going to agree. still surrounded by the old. but you two should probably have a talk about it. She folded the page and put it back in the envelope. huge live oak trees hung low with Spanish moss.” “We came here for a birthday party for your dad. I hold your future in my hands. He stared at Caroline with his clear blue eyes. and hid it from everyone.” Caroline said. just like I remember it. “It’s still beautiful. Caro.” They arrived at the restaurant just then. The trees are a little bigger. It looked like the old place. something we haven’t done much of during our lifetime. Cypress trees lined the edge of the lake. we’ve covered the house and all its belongings. Simon. I’ve realized some things in the past few years since your father died. Is there something else? Did Momma have a ton of money stowed away in some Swiss bank account that you’re going to swindle away from the family?” “That’s right. “So Simon. Gladdy Carlisle made millions on the stock market in the Reagan years.” “Momma? How did my mother give you the courage to do anything?” He slid an envelope across the table. we’ll talk before I leave. I do need to say a few things. C. “We need to go through all the personal things and clean things up.P. Simon.” Caroline said. “Since you started it.” “You always have. “I bet I haven’t been here in more than twenty years.” “Sure. and I suppose paint a few rooms and get it on the market.” Caroline pulled one sheet of paper out of the envelope and scanned its contents quickly. “Your mother finally gave me the courage to do something about it. “She gave this to me right before she died. 108 .” Simon said. but didn’t say anything.” Simon said. I think. I don’t want to haul it to Miami.

and you were carrying a quart canning jar full of fireflies – so 109 . “We’re going to hold on ordering lunch for a bit. but then you’d disappear or rather vaporize. “Probably longer ago than that. “I think I’d like to have that canoe. determined to tell the story without their usual banter. “I wonder if the canoe is still out behind the shed.” Simon stopped and looked around at the other tables.” Simon said.” Simon tried to continue because he needed to tell her more.” she said. “And then there was one day in the Everglades. Caroline shook her head as the waitress refilled our iced teas. The mist disappeared.” Simon finally began. “At first you came to me in a white mist with light glowing behind you. The best days of my childhood were spent in that canoe with you out on the Santa Fe River. “A couple of months ago. The envelope still rested in her lap. “I would reach for you and say your name. he leaned forward and put his elbows on the table. “Could you also bring me a Bloody Mary?” Caroline asked the waitress.” Caroline grabbed Simon’s hand and pulled him to his feet. hon.” “Those were the best days of my entire life.” “That’s fine.” “I’ve always been a figment of your imagination. Caroline watched him as she continued to sip her drink. They stood at the edge of the lake holding hands. “You just let me know when you’re ready. They walked down the three steps that led to the small sandy beach off the deck. He cleared his throat. Caroline motioned for the waitress to come over as she slid the envelope into her purse. Caroline sat with the letter in her lap. then he sat back once again. Cypress knees poked out of the sand.” Caroline told the waitress. sipping her drink after the waitress returned. “We’re going down to the beach for a minute. “The dreams began more than a year ago. the dreams changed. Waves lapped on the shore from the usual Saturday boat regatta playing out on the lake.” Simon ignored her.” Simon said.” Caroline said.TRAILS IN THE SAND “What does it say?” Simon asked. Simon.

“After we’d settled in the living room. I knew something was up the minute I entered the house. Just give it to her and read it together.’” “That’s about right. as he remembered Gladdy that night. ‘Simon.” When Simon arrived. I declare you looked as parched as a dog on a hot summer day.” “That was Momma.” Simon said. C. and grinned.” “How restless?” Caroline asked. still holding his hand.” Caroline said.” Simon said. she called me one day and asked me to come over to the house. and all the aunts for that matter. Please don’t read it before then. Seems Amy told Gladdy that my sleep had been restless of late. ZICK many that the light was continuous and no longer fleeting.” 110 . but she just couldn’t. but not because of your father.P. “Always beware of a southern woman who becomes a southern belle dripping honey from her lips.” Simon said. I could tell there was more she wanted to tell me. and as I did something shifted in her. Gladys was sitting on the front porch with an envelope. Let me get you a lemonade. Your mother knew about love. His eyes filled with tears as he turned to look at Caroline. “Give this to Caroline after I’m gone.” Simon said. “She fell in love with someone the summer Alex died. I can just picture it. But I kept talking.” “Shit. “Then your mother summoned me to the house one night about two months ago. and she never forgot what that felt like. “Something changed in Gladys once she heard. dear.” Simon shook his head. Gladys let me know the reason I’d been called into the spider’s web. “When I called your name it wasn’t just in the dream. “Your Momma was angry … at first. “The week before she died. “Gladdy said I’d been calling for ‘Caroline’ every night for the past six months.” “Did you tell her everything?” Simon looked out over the water and nodded his head.” Simon’s voice broke as the beauty of those dreams and the blinding light returned to him.” “Was it Alex?” “I don’t know.

but she told him about the aspirations she once had. Whenever I’d done that in the past. 111 . but it’s not too late for you or for Simon. Caroline. and I’ve paid for them my entire life. Don’t repeat my mistakes. Despite his protestations to the contrary. would laugh at her dream to be a writer. I’m sorry I wasn’t a better mother to you. no matter the consequences. awful things happened.” Gladys Stokley Carlisle said exactly one week before her car swerved into the path of an oncoming limerock truck. You’ve had to pay dearly for that love. She took out the plain white sheet with sentences written in her mother’s handwriting and unfolded it. “I’ve made terrible mistakes.TRAILS IN THE SAND Caroline pulled the envelope out of her purse. She held it out for Simon to read. You have the opportunity I never had to make it right. “Better to leave them with their vision of me as a silly housewife. she said everyone.” During those last few weeks with Gladys. too. I know you and Simon love one another. she never revealed the identity of her secret lover or the bigger secret Simon knew she held back. mostly her sisters and Caroline. Simon went over to her house almost every day as she told him things she’d kept bottled up for years. You reminded me of so many ghosts from my past that I didn’t want to let you into my heart. and you always have. Never ignore the love you feel for another human being. However. She made him promise never to tell anyone.

She began the job in the early afternoon and worked for a few hours making only a dent in the twenty by fifty foot space. “Then offer your BFF a cold drink after driving through the armpit of Florida to find you.” Jodi said as she gave Crystal a hug. 112 . Miss Jodi McDermott. her roommate from college. “You’re alive.” Crystal said as she surveyed the yard.” Jodi pointed down at Crystal’s carefully painted orange toenails and one-inch heeled gold sandals.” “I’m fine – I’ve been busy. straight and glowing. Crystal’s long dark hair fell to her lower back.” The two young women walked to the house as Crystal slipped her arm through Jodi’s. several inches shorter. Her short skirt and midriff-length tank top wouldn’t protect her from the tall weeds and sandspurs edging the garden. jumped out of the driver’s side. They painted a portrait of contrasts. Crystal. but you’re not really dressed for it.” Crystal said as she walked toward the back of the house. “I can see. Jodi. “You had me worried when you didn’t answer your phone or return my messages. “Need some help?” “Sure. She stood next to a pile of debris and wondered what to do with the garbage when a car pulled in the side drive of the house.CHAPTER 27 Jodi Jodi decided to pull up the weeds in the overgrown garden in the backyard.

When they’d settled on the front porch with cold beers.” “Does your dad know?” “I don’t think. ankle-high work boots. “A letter came last week. Otherwise he and Caroline would be here dragging me out of the house and back to their love nest in St.” “We both know what it’s going to say. Crystal wasted no time ripping open the envelope. why haven’t you opened that letter?” “There’s time.” “And?” “I haven’t opened it yet. “My great-grandfather was Calico’s only doctor. 113 .” Crystal said.” “Follow me.” Jodi said. My momma would probably kill you for it.” she said. “What’s the point?” “We don’t know how long or if they’re outright expelling you. She leaned her blonde head toward her friend. “So have you heard anything yet?” she asked. She stood up from the glider on the front porch.” Jodi said. She quickly scanned the contents of the letter. Augustine. “One semester and then a year on probation.” Crystal said.” Jodi pulled the letter out of the desk drawer and handed it to Crystal. Then my father used it as his lawyer’s office until he ran off with my aunt. Jodi kept her hair short with natural curls softening her sad face and large blue eyes. Aren’t you supposed to be home in Atlanta preparing for some special event?” “The cotillion. I want to hear why you’re down here. I told my folks I wanted to see where you lived so I took a bit of a detour. and a long-sleeved cotton shirt too big for her. “This is quite a house. as Jodi led her down the hallway and then into the office area. Crystal began. Now back to you. Crystal was the flamboyant and outgoing prom queen to Jodi’s quiet book worm that had not yet emerged into a butterfly. but it’s not for a few weeks. and he kept his office here.” “Let’s open it now. “Maybe it’ll be easier with me here to assist you in drowning your sorrows.TRAILS IN THE SAND wore jeans.” “Impressive desk.

My grandparents built this house so there’s lots of history. Augustine for most of 114 . “Shit. I’m almost done.” “You aren’t going with him?” Jodi asked. “The truth isn’t something my family does very well. a blue Honda pulled into the driveway.P.” Jodi sat still on the glider.” Crystal said.” Jodi said. That’s not bad.” she said as she approached the porch.” Crystal held out her hand. Jodi and I roomed together at Auburn this year. but didn’t approach the glider.” Caroline waved to the girls as she got out of the car.” They walked back out to the porch after stopping by the kitchen for refills on the beer.” “Yes. As they settled down on the glider once again. “Probably not. I’ve always wanted to meet your worst nightmare. Caroline. “Then it’s a good thing you’re adopted. “Fine. I’m afraid this oil spill business is going to keep me going back and forth between the Panhandle and St. “I thought I’d stop by for a few minutes and see how you’re doing. You don’t carry those ‘liar’ genes.” She came up on the porch. and I know he’d love it if you could go with him. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.” she said. So would your grandparents. Now I have to figure out how to tell my dad I’m taking another semester off.” “You could tell him the truth.” Caroline said. “I’m on my way back to St. it is.” Caroline said.” “Great. I took a little detour so I could see where Jodi grew up. how’s the work going on your papers?” Caroline asked. “Your dad may have to go back to West Virginia in a few weeks. ZICK “OK. C. And Jodi’s father and his family lived in that house across the street. Augustine for a visit. I’m Crystal. She hadn’t said a word since Caroline got out of the car. and Caroline took it. “It’s very nice to meet you. Crystal. This is a beautiful home. Augustine and needed to stop by my parents’ house. “So you came down for a visit after the semester ended?” “I’m on my way to Atlanta. “It’s Caroline. then maybe you’ll consider coming to St.” Jodi said. “Jodi. “Hi.” “Good.

You might be able to write something for your school’s paper. “Yes.” “That’s a great idea. “He might be interested in doing something. and I’ve just come from Gulfport where they’re bringing in dead sea turtles. He’s interested in environmental writing.” Jodi said.” “Who’s Seth?” Caroline asked. “I don’t know for sure. The other two held up theirs. eyeing Jodi as she spoke.” Crystal said. “He’s the editor of the Auburn paper.” Caroline said as she held up her cans. “What are you picking up?” Caroline told the girls about her visit with George and her 115 . do laundry. They aren’t saying if they died from inhaling the oil. and she accepted. and do something.” “When are you going back?” Jodi asked. They’re cleaning beaches of debris. “I thought GG’s house was empty. aren’t you?” Crystal asked.” “What did you write about?” Jodi asked. When Jodi returned with three cans of beer. Caroline proposed a toast. but it doesn’t look good. and they all touched cans.” Jodi said. “It’s all politics. and there’s concern about the nesting birds and sea turtles. Crystal and Caroline sat on the porch. isn’t it?” Jodi said and all three women laughed. They aren’t anywhere near stopping the leak. You’re always welcome to come with me as well.TRAILS IN THE SAND the summer. “I’m still exploring. “Here’s to stopping the gushing oil.” “What about you? Is that an area you’re thinking about exploring or are you still leaning toward the political end?” Caroline asked. but I’ll probably just have time to unpack.” Jodi offered Caroline a beer. I know he’s following the oil spill very closely.” Crystal said. “Maybe Seth would come down. too. Their season has just begun. You’re a writer.” “It’s awful to think about it. While Jodi went inside. “I wrote about all the efforts being done to prepare in case oiled wildlife comes ashore. and pick some tomatoes before I’m called back for a story. “Seth’s a good friend. Jodi. Now there’s oil in the barrier islands.

ZICK suspicion that maybe the boxes in the attic might give her more information about the secret side to Gladys. He described the ‘S’ embroidered in the center.P.” “Are they all as sweet as their names?” Crystal asked. “I think it’s the same one. Aunt Cookie.” Jodi said. “Aunt Sugar. “GG wanted to be a writer?” Jodi asked when Caroline had finished. She also told them about George’s love for Gladys and the linen tablecloth Gladys wore the night of the fire. if it’s the same one.” Caroline said.” “His story explains some of the upset about the tablecloth. It probably set off a firestorm of emotion among all those Stokleys. Aunt Candy. 116 . and they all grew up in this very house. and Aunt Apple – Momma’s sisters. C.” “What are you two talking about?” Crystal asked. “You’d have to meet the Stokley sisters to understand. “That’s what George said. When Momma told me the story of the night Alex died.” Jodi said. “No one is as they seem in this family. she mentioned grabbing the tablecloth and using it that night as well.

such as copper. The railroad barons could transport it just as cheaply. He pushed for coal-fired electric plants because to him and his cronies during the Gilded Age. and far too often with their lives.CHAPTER 28 Commentary on Power by Caroline Carlisle We are a society in love with our gadgets. Very few of us in the twenty-first century could imagine living without the Internet or cable television. without questioning how either of those luxuries exist. The irony of cheap power came at a great cost to the people who mined it for the great rich bastards in the East. Thomas Edison created more than just a light bulb. They paid with their health. environment. There are still holdouts who refuse to give into the accoutrements of a technological world. it’s very difficult to go back. The poorest regions in the world often occur right on top of the richest 117 . but these folks are becoming the dinosaurs of the post-modern world. We want our ice made without filling ice cube trays. Cell phones have changed our lives over the past decade. do not bring prosperity to the people who live near them. and water clean and pure from the door of our refrigerator. or petroleum. coal powered the new electric lights and appliances cheaply. It’s quite the contrary – the more abundant the resources. A Harvard study in 1995 addressed the “resource curse. Even the dinosaurs have been known to give up their archaic ways because once we sample the ease of life with endless gadgets. the higher the chance of a negative relationship. coal.” Rich reserves.

At first.” Atop the world’s richest reserves of diamonds. within days. wind and waves tear it into smaller pieces where chemical and biological processes change it. When tarballs were spotted off the coast of the Florida Keys in early May. which actually stretches and tears apart the oil until it forms tarballs anywhere in size from as large as a pancake to as small as a coin. C. scientists determined they did not come from Deepwater Horizon. men and countries fight to control those reserves. a panic ensued in fear that the little oily grease balls floated down from the north and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Fortunately. and fossil fuels live some of the poorest people in the world. There’s a reason Africa is sometimes referred to as the “Dark Continent. In an area witness to some of the most atrocious acts of human deprivation and torture. It is a different fight in the Gulf of Mexico in May 2010 as they struggle to stop the oil from gushing out of the earth. gold. As the slick weathers. Angola and the fight for control of the oil and gas reserves off its coast is a case study for this occurrence. 118 . the crude oil appears as a visible slick on the surface of the water. ZICK reserves of minerals and fossil fuels in the world. Tarballs easily confuse wildlife that might mistake those little nuggets of fossil fuel for food. Wind and waves continue their weathering action. Tarballs are small dark pieces of oil formed after an oil spill.P.

“Feels as if I’ve been on the road forever.” “Why’d he do that?” Jodi asked.” I said. “I heard about folks doing that around here.” she said.” I said.” Jodi said. He did that until he blew off four fingers on his right hand. Crystal stood and gave me a hug. too. She wasn’t ready to do anything 119 .CHAPTER 29 Caroline For a few minutes on a Monday afternoon in May.” As I prepared to leave. We all laughed. I put my hand on Jodi’s shoulder.” Crystal said. “He’d go down to the Okeefenokee Swamp. and I sat on the front porch of the Stokley homestead and shared stories of our colorful relatives. “I’m so glad I got to meet you.” “Always seemed like it was cheating. “My uncle BJ used to dynamite fish. Jodi hung back as the air turned heavy in the awkwardness of the moment. just north of here across the Georgia border. Crystal. As much fun as you girls are.” “They called Uncle BJ the master at ‘dy-no-mite’ fishing. and he’d scoop them out. Jodi. I need to get those boxes and head home. “That’s how he fished.” “Doesn’t seem very masterful to me to blow off your hand. Jodi asked me if I wanted another beer before she headed to the kitchen. thanks. the world righted itself for me. “No. Those fish would come floating to the surface.

Just as quickly. noticing for the first time that they were far too heavy to contain only napkins and matchbooks.” “OK. So far. I’d recently had the house painted – eggshell white with yellow trim – in hopes it would sell over the summer. Simon and 120 .” I said. It was the culture. but it was a comfortable home built in the style of a southern Cracker house. I pulled into the driveway of our old Victorian farmhouse in the early evening.P. Augustine. The weather was still cool enough in the late afternoon so we could sit on our slightly sloping front porch that faced east. but I didn’t care. with a broad front porch and tin roof. Today we’d laughed together. and it was the best thing I’d heard all week. As I drove the few blocks to my parents’ house. Crystal was right. We lived about five miles west of St. C. It wasn’t as elegant as the Stokley’s home. ZICK more. the market wasn’t budging. I thought as I shoved the last box into the back seat of my car. They now sat on the hardwood floor of the empty living room. “I’ll call you when I head west again. and I’d never had the inclination to open them until now. Our home took advantage of all those old passive solar practices since it was built before air conditioning became standard in homes of the south. I brushed aside the thoughts.” Momma taped those boxes shut with duct tape. but the ceiling of the porch was painted a sky blue. The house was empty except for the three boxes I’d brought down from the attic a few months ago. Maybe within these boxes lies the next Great American Novel. always were built around the position of the sun to keep out the harsh rays of summer. “Personal – Property of Gladys Stokley Carlisle. I took them out to my car one by one. such as ours. while sometimes patched together with different styles from the native Cracker home to a Victorian hybrid. while allowing winter’s warming sunshine to enter in south-facing windows. Ceiling fans on either end whirred incessantly during the warm weather months.” she said. I wondered about the girls’ sitting at the house drinking beer. Old southern homes. their tops marked in black Sharpies. As I pulled off the sandy dirt road into our driveway. I did my share of drinking with Holly and our other friends during my college years. I spotted Simon sitting on the porch. Our house was painted white with deep red shutters. “I have a feeling it won’t be long. I parked in the driveway of the house I’d lived in for the first eighteen years of my life.

and white that was so beautiful for those few fleeting weeks. but if I didn’t follow those practices. shrimp cocktail. that lined both sides of the house. “I see you’ve started without me. Neither of us 121 . Simon and I shared similar tastes and inclinations for food and drink. large cocktail olives. “You of little faith. I never questioned Momma on the why of these eccentricities. “Come on over here. Who was I to argue with southern ingenuity? I parked in my spot next to the back door and walked around to the front of the house past the fence of azalea bushes. long past their March glory. I bought new fabric and re-covered the cushions in a white and rose-colored floral pattern to match our house. Over the years. both here and in Calico. baby. It was the same with the plastic bag filled with water and a dozen pennies that we nailed over the back door leading to the kitchen. I’m starved. Our kiss was long and luxurious and flavored with the sweetness of champagne. I spent a lot of time on that furniture now gracing our porch.” He’d put out some of our favorites foods: sharp white cheddar and baby Swiss cheese slices.” Simon said as he pulled me close. “I just want to sit her for a minute and enjoy. We always had. dill pickles that we canned the previous year.” Simon said to finish our tribute to Three Dog Night. and chips with our homemade salsa from Simon’s abundant tomato patch.TRAILS IN THE SAND I left it as we found it because we knew that precise color of blue kept the wasps from building nests there. pinks. “You made us snacks. For some reason. Thank you. I did the same with the matching rockers. I opened the bottle when I saw you fly into the driveway. it kept the flies out. Simon. even as kids.” “And here’s joy to you and me. “Here’s to the fishes in the deep blue sea.” I said as I climbed the front steps and saw Simon holding a glass of champagne.” I said as I tipped my glass against Simon’s. I always ended up with wasps stinging on front porches and flies pestering at the kitchen door. “Let’s pray there are some still left after this oil spill.” I said as I collapsed on the old white wicker love seat I’d brought from my parents’ house. these ancient plants spilled forth a symphony of reds. “It’s good to be home.” he said as he handed the full glass to me and began pouring one for himself. In the early spring. Many of those hours were spent with Simon.” I said.

even though she missed her own funeral.” “Your mother still surprises us. Momma has them sealed with duct tape. in particular. photos. It’s hard to believe what George said. “Your mother always had a way with words. “They’re in the back seat. and dark. I’ll admit it was my fault. Aunt Sugar. strong coffee over brown water. Yes. dry. I approached Amy who stood with the aunts. Momma knew how to say it 122 . “This is the most beautiful tribute to your father that I could ever imagine. even from the grave. The three of us pretended Momma’s ashes lay beneath the burlap in the ground when the minister recited the typical words of comfort. “Did you get the boxes?” Simon asked. hearty red wines over pink sweet vino.” Aunt Apple said.” “Jackson Armory Carlisle dedicated his life to his loving wife and their two daughters. He even sent me home with a story they wrote together. admiring Daddy’s headstone next to the hole in the ground that would soon hold Momma’s remains. vegetables.P. hoppy beers over watery pilsners.” Simon and I smiled at one another as we remembered the day of Momma’s funeral three years before – the day before we’d discovered another surprise about Momma with the note she left with Simon before she died. April 2007 In a fitting end to my mother’s “miserable life” – her words – she missed her own funeral.” “And I thought it was just men that used that stuff. Any idea what they might contain?” “Maybe journals. would have fainted to see me throw the urn of ashes into the hole. especially after all the grief I endured when I became a writer instead of a biologist. When I arrived at the cemetery. ZICK liked meat much and stuck to a simple diet of fruits. This only confirmed Momma’s belief that I caused much of her misery. and seafood. We preferred strong. C. I can’t imagine her writing.” Simon said. but Amy and Simon agreed with me that retrieving her from the car in front of the grieving relatives and friends would have been bad form. Why not continue it to the grave? It was a good thing she was already dead. or she would have murdered me for the oversight that occurred at her graveside service. “Yes. and it was my fault. grains.” the inscription read.

Simon. “She’ll kill us from the beyond that’s for sure – or at least you. offended at the disrespect of her daughter who did nothing in this life but disappoint her.” I said. Momma stipulated that the ashes go in the ground and not on one 123 . No sense in participating in regrets now. aunts. “Where’s the urn?” Amy asked. and then at me. I guess Momma’s going to miss her own funeral. “I didn’t think it prudent to walk up with it in front of the aunts who claim we burned Momma at the stake. why do you always have to come home and ruin everything?” Amy looked from me to her husband.” I pointed down the road near the end of the line on the driveway leading to the graves.” By now. You fictionalize everything. The urge to laugh had suddenly passed.” “Hello.TRAILS IN THE SAND all in just thirteen precise words. “No one else around here gets our sense of humor. while Amy glared first at her husband. and evoking the spirit of Gladys Carlisle.” “You made your choice a long time ago.” “She always said I would be the death of her. I hoped the aunts would allow us discretely to walk away without following with curious ears and wagging tongues. Caroline.” Amy said. Simon followed Amy and me away from the gathering crowd. Caroline. “Well. but I need to speak to my sister. “And why are we having the memorial here at the cemetery? I told her when Jack died that it just wasn’t proper.” I walked back to the gaping hole in the ground and greeted my aunts. Simon was laughing aloud. “Caroline. I hate to interrupt. “The service is scheduled to start in exactly two minutes. I would never want to make Momma out to be a liar.” “It’s back in the car. I envisioned our mother stomping away from the gravesite. I miss you. I didn’t want the high drama that plagued Daddy’s funeral to push its way into this one as well.” I said. and I covered my mouth with my hand to prevent the aunts from noticing the broad grin across my face. “That’s not exactly how they said it. No wonder you’re such a celebrated journalist.” Simon said. stomped away from Simon and me to return to the sides of the grieving aunts.” Aunt Sugar said.” Simon chuckled. “You two are disgusting. “But why on earth she insisted on being cremated I’ll never understand. here it is.

P. C. ZICK

of our mantelpieces. Just as she said Daddy wanted, too. All we had to do was pick her up at the crematorium, bring her to the cemetery, and place her in the hole. Only there was a line at the crematorium in Gainesville, and I arrived at the cemetery too late to lay Momma to rest. So she sat in the trunk of my rented Ford Escort while the rest of us extolled her virtues. Heaven – or hell – must have been full of hot air on the day of Momma’s funeral. At least we didn’t have to spread the ashes. If we had found a heart among her remains, we would know for sure the crematorium forgot to clean out the debris from the body that went before our mother’s. At the reception at the house, I looked around at the home filled with decades of living. Amy and I had many decisions to make regarding this house and its contents now that both our parents were dead. Why hadn’t I started talking to Momma about making decisions about the house? Now it would be left to Amy, Simon, Jodi, and by default, me. It wasn’t going to be easy negotiating all of this with Amy, who always despised me. Now without Momma around to direct her every action, I wondered how she would survive. “Are you staying here all by yourself, Aunt Caroline?” Jodi startled me out of my thoughts as I stood looking at the tablecloth and a spot of shrimp dip soaking into its precious fiber. I missed the old linen one that always caused such family dissension. It had much more character than this plain white one with no embroidered initials. “Yes, I am. Think there’s ghosts in this house?” “I was thinking it would be fun to come over and sleep here with you tonight. Sort of a girl’s night – a pajama party – if you’re up to it.” “That sounds like the best offer I’ve had in months – maybe I’ll let you have a glass of that champagne I saw in the frig, if you don’t tell your folks.” “I have champagne at all the family’s special occasions. This probably qualifies.” “Yes, the passing of Gladys Lorraine Stokley Carlisle qualifies. We must toast your grandmother’s life.” “I know she wasn’t the best mom in the world,” Jodi said. “But she actually did all right as a grandma.” “That’s great to know, Jodi. She did have her moments, and she loved you very much.”
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“I see you didn’t use the infamous tablecloth,” Jodi said. “I wanted this reception to be quieter than the one six years ago, and besides I don’t know where it is.” I wandered onto the front porch. I wanted so much to remember the best things about my momma and ignore the worst. Maybe Jodi could help me with that gargantuan task. My father managed by accepting her. I knew Momma’s teenage years hadn’t been easy, and there was the thing she started to confess to me after Daddy died – a dark mystery that haunted her for as long as she lived. Maybe now it could be put to rest. I wished for a cigarette even though I’d given up smoking the year before. Smoking was an on and off again thing for me. I’d quit for a few months, and then a trigger or a visit home would set it off again. Luckily, I didn’t have any with me. I fought the temptation to run down to the corner store and spend a fortune on a pack. “Caroline, do you think you could stop avoiding me long enough to sit down and chat for a few minutes,” Simon said. I hadn’t heard him come out onto the porch behind me. “I haven’t been avoiding you, Simon. It’s been a difficult day.” “You know as well as I do that you avoid being alone with me for two minutes. There have been times in the past few years when you’ve managed to avoid even seeing me when you’ve come home. Can’t we try and change that today?” He held out his hand, and I looked into his eyes. I took his hand, and he led me off the porch and around the side of the house to the backyard where Momma had a small kitchen garden. She grew a few tomato and pepper plants and lots of herbs. Simon pointed to the largest plant. “I gave her that potato-leaf heirloom last year. She loved the tomatoes it produced – so big and firm – for her famous spaghetti sauce. You know your momma wasn’t all bad.” “I’ve been trying to remember that today. Jodi said she was a pretty good grandmother.” “She was great with Jodi. She never treated her like she did you.” “I survived. It made me stronger, but you already know that.” “You should be grateful, Caroline. You fared much better than Amy did. That’s why I wanted to talk to you. Can we talk sometime before you leave? I mean really talk, away from here – I have some things I need to
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say to you.” “Simon, what’s the use? It’s better to leave it. No sense in bringing back false hope. That’s what those fireflies were that we used to chase – false hopes of light for a brief second.” “You don’t know what I have to say. Have lunch with me tomorrow.” I looked into his blue eyes – almost a mirror image of the blue in my own eyes. Simon and I were so similar, we might have been mistaken for the siblings rather than Amy and me. When I allowed myself to look into those eyes – which had been infrequently for the past eighteen years – I knew the connection between us would never be broken no matter how many barriers I erected or how far I managed to flee or how many times he pulled me close before pushing me away. “I’ll meet you for lunch tomorrow,” I said, not certain at all if this was a wise decision. The next day, when Simon made his confession, and we read Momma’s note, the world changed for both of us.

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Jodi “She’s nice,” Crystal said as she and Jodi watched Caroline back out of the driveway. “I’m getting another beer. Want one?” Jodi asked. Crystal nodded her head. Crystal stood in front of Simon and Amy’s wedding photo in the hallway when Jodi came out of the kitchen with two cold beers. “Wasn’t Caroline in the wedding?” Crystal asked. “She didn’t even go to the wedding.” “Why not?” “I’ve heard a couple of reasons over the years,” Jodi said. “Depends on who you ask. Mom always said Caroline was jealous; GG said Caroline was selfish; Dad always feigned ignorance.” “You ever ask Caroline?” “She said a great opportunity came up to take a summer writing course at Columbia.” “The truth usually lies somewhere in between,” Crystal said. Later, after the two were lying in the bunk beds in Jodi’s room, Jodi began talking about her mother and GG. “Momma was different around GG than she was when it was just the two of us.” “Better or worse?” “Definitely more judgmental, harsher, especially when it came to
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Caroline. She always despised her for some reason.” “Maybe she saw her as a threat. Caroline is a good-looking woman, and she’s successful. My mom always tells me other women are threatened by that.” “It’s funny, but GG and my mother always made fun of Caroline, saying she was fat. GG always said Amy was the real beauty.” “No offense, but unless your mother always took rotten pictures, I’d have to say Caroline beats her in that department.” Jodi didn’t disagree. In every photograph from Amy’s childhood through adulthood, she appears frail and dull. Dark circles under her eyes accentuated a drawn face. As she aged, her hair became thin and limp. And she never smiled for the camera. Jodi had seen pictures of Caroline as a child at GG’s house, and she was quite the opposite. Her cheeks were always red and her eyes crystal clear blue. And she was always smiling, even if sometimes it was a sardonic grin as if she was sharing a joke with the person behind the camera. They didn’t look like sisters at all. “Do you think your father and Caroline fell in love before he married your mother?” Crystal asked. “There’s something about your parents as a couple in all those photos downstairs. They just don’t seem like a couple, even in the wedding photo.” “I can’t think about it,” Jodi said. “Let’s get some sleep.” But Jodi did think about it for a long time after she heard Crystal’s breathing deepen into sleep. As she lay in her childhood bed, she knew her parents hadn’t loved each other as most couples did. They bickered, but that’s not unusual even for loving couples. She knew they weren’t close. They never touched and rarely looked each other in the eye. They seldom talked to each other, but rather had conversations through Jodi. “Can we go to the movies this weekend?” Jodi might ask. “Ask your father,” Amy answered, even though Simon sat at the table across from her. “Can we, Dad?” “It’s all right with me, if your mother wants to go,” came Simon’s reply. They’d go to the movies, but Jodi always sat in the middle. As she got older, she always offered to let them sit next to each other, but they always put her right in the middle.
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Amy never worked outside the home. She kept an immaculate house, but she never cooked, except in a perfunctory manner. Simon and Jodi added the color and spice to meals. Amy might broil three small pork chops or bake three tiny chicken breasts, while Simon made twice-baked potatoes, sweet potato casserole or grilled vegetables. Jodi learned to make rice and pasta under her father’s direction. She loved cooking with her father, but meals were painful affairs. While Simon and Jodi ate, Amy pushed her food around the plate. “Momma, why don’t you eat?” Jodi asked when she was younger. “I ate a snack earlier, and it filled me up.” Jodi soon learned her mother lied about eating. When she asked her father about it, he usually shrugged and said he didn’t know why she didn’t eat. One time Jodi asked GG, but she soon learned not to bother her with questions about her mother. “Momma needs to eat more,” Jodi said to her grandmother one day. “She gets sick because she doesn’t eat.” “Your momma is just fine the way she is,” GG said. “She gets sick from exhaustion, that’s all. She does so much for you and your father. I don’t know why she doesn’t let Simon hire a maid to clean that house.” Amy never said anything about Jodi’s appetite, which was on par with Simon’s. They ate normal portions and enjoyed the meal. The one time she suggested Jodi might want to watch how much starch she put away, Simon – in a rare moment – addressed Amy directly. “Jodi can eat all she wants,” Simon said. “Don’t ever mention it again.” The severe tone of his voice made Amy sit up and look him straight in the eye in another rare moment. She didn’t say a word, but she never mentioned what Jodi ate again. Amy heaped plenty of attention on Jodi, even if she didn’t set the best example in the kitchen and at the dining room table. They sat together for hours in the evening as Amy read to her. When Jodi grew into novels, Jodi read to her mother. Amy loved to put together jigsaw puzzles, so there was always a table set up in the living room. Jodi would join her mother there when she came home from school, and they’d talk about Jodi’s day while they searched for the pieces of the puzzle. Jodi longed to participate in a sport or some after-school activity, but every time she tried something, such as dance or soccer, her mother
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would be hospitalized, and Jodi would stop participating to help her mother. Amy’s gratefulness at Jodi’s presence helped ease Jodi’s yearning to have a normal life with friends and activities away from home. Her father brought some normalcy to her life. He took her canoeing and fishing on the weekends. Amy didn’t like being outside, so they’d leave her at home or at GG’s while they explored nature. “Your aunt Caroline and I spent a lot of time on the banks of this river,” her father often said as they sat fishing. “She loved this river and being outdoors.” As Jodi lay in bed wishing for sleep, she thought about Crystal’s question. Maybe they’d always loved one another, she thought. “Then why didn’t they marry each other back then?” she whispered as she drifted closer to sleep, yet no closer to figuring out the mystery of her parents.

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Simon After Simon and Caroline fell into the tomato patch, they never chased fireflies again. Simon knew he must turn away from Caroline, who was only fifteen. At twenty, he was nearing the end of college and preparing to enter law school. Even though he didn’t date much during college, he dated one girl off and on for three years. His experience with women was limited to her, but it was enough to let him know what he felt for Caroline was not brotherly love. That summer after the encounter among the tomatoes, he turned all of his attention on Amy. It was easy to do in some ways because Amy was so appreciative of the attention. And Gladys approved and encouraged the relationship. He stopped the usual summer activities of canoeing and swimming in the local springs with Caroline. Caroline still went by herself. She didn’t seem to have friends her own age. Simon asked her father about it one day. “She says most of the girls her age are into boys and silly things, such as hot curlers and hot pants. They aren’t interested in catching frogs or fireflies, I guess,” Jack said. “I think she misses you, Simon.” “You have to understand, Mr. Carlisle, I just can’t hang out with her the way we used to,” Simon said. “You’re probably right,” Jack said. “I think she was starting to get a big school-girl crush on you.” Simon kept quiet about his big college-boy crush on Caroline.
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“But you don’t love her the way you love me. choking to death all life with its humidity. ZICK Amy and Simon dated for the next year whenever he came home from Auburn. Caroline asked to tag along.” Caroline said as he pulled out of the parking lot of Montgomery’s Grocery. sunshine. After earning his bachelor’s degree at Auburn. Amy and her mother planned their wedding through his first year of law school. She earned a degree in accounting and began working for her father after graduation. you know. and they never talked about the last time they did. Sometimes he wondered if everyone just made the assumption they would marry and his lack of opinion in the matter was taken as acceptance. Simon entered law school at the University of Florida in Gainesville.” Caroline said. When he moved back to Calico.” Simon finally said. Simon pulled over to the curb of the magnolia-lined street.” Simon said.” Caroline said. It was easier to go along with them than to argue about something that didn’t really matter. He gripped either side of the steering wheel. Simon put his forehead on the steering wheel of his white Honda Civic. Caroline was lost to him by this time. Gladys gave Simon a list of items she needed from the grocery store when he stopped by to see Amy. Amy stayed at home and went to the University of Florida. hoping Caroline would simply stop talking.P. The whitish yellow flowers of the tree had passed their peak as May slid into June and the last of the flowers died. Simon knew he probably asked Amy to marry him. “And that’s all there is to say. but he could never remember for sure. “You can’t marry her. He turned toward Caroline as the whir of the car’s air conditioner continued to shield them from the already rising heat of the morning. “I’m going to marry Amy in three days. Caroline and Simon occasionally canoed down the river. and heat better suited for water creatures than humans. “I knew it for sure that 132 . Meanwhile. He moved back home and commuted to school. C. but they never again chased fireflies in the dark. Caroline finished high school. You know as well as me that you always have loved me. The suffocating blanket of a north Florida summer settled over the landscape. “I love her in my way. As the wedding day loomed.” “But you don’t love her.

” “I’m not a kid anymore. It’s too late to do anything about it. Simon. His brain told him he was doing the right thing. May 2010 As Caroline recovered from her days on the road. I’ll walk home from here. that’s not you. Caro. Maybe not right away. and you love me. you do know how sick she is. Caroline left for New York City for a writing seminar at Columbia. And you knew it then. the 133 . It doesn’t matter what I feel. “I don’t need you. she just has trouble digesting food. I’m a woman. Simon felt powerless to do anything. Simon attempted to work in his small law practice. Amy and Gladys never quite forgave her for abandoning the wedding so abruptly. Besides.” By the next day. I’m eighteen. You don’t need me either.TRAILS IN THE SAND time we fell into the tomato plants in Grandma’s backyard.” She opened the car door and let herself out while Simon begged her to get back inside.” “But it’s OK to hurt me?” “You’re strong. we can’t. too. and Amy needs me. I’m going to college in the fall. But don’t think I’ll be waiting around when you discover just how miserable you are without me. You’re going to make a lot of people miserable.” “Caro. Simon. His heart told him Caroline was right. I couldn’t hurt her that way. “That’s just the way it is. She can’t take a breath without consulting your mother. However.” “And that’s what you want? You want to become one of my mother’s little perfect soldiers. and you know it. His thoughts often wandered up to Susan in West Virginia and back again to the darkest days of his life. “I will never accept you and Amy. You’ll survive. What kind of jerk would I be if I broke it off now? Sometimes life doesn’t always work out the way we want. you know that. too? Simon. don’t you?” “She’s not sick. Caroline. You were just a kid. but you wait and see what happens.” “Don’t ever call me that again. and you’ve got to grow up and accept it.” Caroline said.” Simon said. you need to go to college. I’ve promised to marry Amy.” He shook his head “I am going to marry Amy. I had to forget about you. Amy isn’t strong.

” “I’ll see.” “That’s good. He was a nice man. Everyone’s just waiting. “Right now Caroline is reorganizing and keeping track via phone and Internet.” “What do you mean?” “I’m thinking about buying a hybrid car. No amount of money will bring Jason back. Just trying to lessen my dependence on electricity and gasoline.” he said.” she said.” Simon said when she answered the phone. “Caroline wrote a piece for Sierra on our oil dependence. He’s the editor of the school paper. “Crystal just left.” Simon said.” “That’s what I saw on CNN this morning. “I’m thinking about making some changes around here so I can say I’m part of the solution. “She wanted to see where I lived. He was buoyed by the conversation with Jodi and his announcement to her. “She’s probably going to file suit with a couple of other families. he decided to go home for the rest of the day. He’d been mulling these thoughts ever since they came back from West Virginia but hadn’t voiced them yet. Nothing’s happening at the moment. Dad. It’s a sad situation. and I’ve been thinking a lot about our dependence on fossil fuels ever since I read it last night. Caroline liked her.” “That’s good. What’s going on with Susan?” “She’s due any day. too.P. Caroline said I might be able to come with her if she goes to cover another story on the oil spill. C. “I hear you had some visitors yesterday. The door had opened a crack. These were the most words Jodi had spoken to Simon at one time in more than a year.” “Sounds noble – good luck with that. I was thinking of asking my friend Seth. Maybe we could visit her on the way to West Virginia next month if you decide to come back for the family reunion with me.” “I’m sorry. ZICK news of Caroline’s visit with Jodi brightened his day.” When Simon hung up the phone. even to 134 . and I remembered there’s an old solar water heater out in the barn.” Simon heard in Jodi’s voice what Caroline saw the day before. and we both might be able to write a story or two.” Simon said. He called Jodi the day after to check the barometer.

and now she was working with green beans and squash. Caroline kept a substantial herb garden right outside the kitchen door. “But right now I’ve got to get these beans out of the hot water and into the ice bath. “You’re home early. see if we can do something with it. “Remember that old solar water heater out in the barn? I’m going to pull it out this afternoon and see if we can install it for the bathroom. which so far she’d nurtured through an entire year. Caroline made marinara sauce and salsas and canned dozens of jars. The pantry still contained a few jars of salsa from the fall garden. Like her mother. “Sure.” Simon said.” she said. “I keep thinking about our dependence on fossil fuels and wondered how we could change our lives in some ways that might make a small difference.” Caroline said. Then I read that piece you wrote. Simon went to her and gave her a big juicy kiss on the mouth. only replanting when the plants went to seed in late winter.” Caroline said when Simon came in the back door. Caroline taught herself about preserving the bounty from the garden. it made him consider it even more. She stood at the stove stirring a pot.” “I’ve been thinking about something.” Do you think it’s salvageable?” “I’m not sure. but I know this guy on Vilano Beach who works with this type of thing. Maybe Gus wasn’t so far off the mark all those years ago. She’d already pickled relish and dill chips and spears. They gave most of the produce away. Simon loved watching her at work in the kitchen where she looked so happy and peaceful. I thought I’d give him a call. She impressed Simon with all she did. but now she reveled in using the food they grew to create dishes they both savored. “You can come early any day you want if that’s how you greet me. She froze peas that came early in the spring.” “What brought this about?” Caroline asked. Caroline always loved to cook.” “So you do read what I write.TRAILS IN THE SAND Caroline.” 135 . Simon loved growing the produce and actually having it put to good use in his own kitchen. When he read her commentary. “I’m blanching the beans you picked this morning so I can freeze them. Simon never preserved much during his years with Amy. and it inspired him to grow even more.” In the year they’d been married.

” “What? You don’t want to take cold showers and live without air conditioning?” “No. “It never would have lasted.” Simon said. I don’t. “There are some things I’d rather not go without these days.” “Gus never knew about middle ground anything. “I know he was right to let you go.” Caroline said. even if I’d stayed. ZICK “Maybe not. I won’t make you live off the grid totally. C.” 136 . I was always in love with another man.” Caroline turned from her task with the green beans and gave Simon a high-voltage smile. I’m thinking there’s a middle ground somewhere. but don’t worry. It was all or nothing with him.” ‘I never did like that guy. but I wish I’d listened a little more closely to Gus’s rants about our dependence on fossil fuels. but he still might have been right about a few things.P. And you know I’m your biggest fan.

their chances of survival in the grasses off the coast were nil since they’d be living in an oil-encrusted habitat not fit for any living thing.CHAPTER 32 News reports on Deepwater Horizon The first oiled wildlife began appearing by mid-May. what else could it be but oil from Deepwater Horizon?” Anderson Cooper asked the woman to elaborate. too.” said a volunteer at a rehabilitation center in Mississippi in an interview by CNN’s Anderson Cooper. The worst nightmare of Florida environmentalists and wildlife managers began materializing as the oil entered the current that began 137 . “It’s as if they’re drowning in oil. trained personnel brought them into the wildlife rehabilitation centers being improvised in the Gulf region. They began considering some drastic solutions for the sea turtle nests on the Panhandle beaches of Florida and the few nests in Alabama. If those hatchlings made it out of the nest alive.” Biologists and scientists from the U. Never have so many turtles died in one season before. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies. “Even though they’re saying cause of death has not been determined.S.” she said. If they managed to survive being coated in oil and inhaling it under water. “We have never had oiled wildlife before and now sea turtles are dying in the Gulf. began holding meetings about how to save wildlife. “You can’t tell me it’s just a coincidence during one of the biggest oil spills in this country’s history.

government and BP: The leak might not be sealed until August.P. Fear and panic ruled as May turned to June. May 29. The high winds from tropical storms and hurricanes changes the course of water in the ocean and it also washes more water ashore – water this year drenched in oil. Fears rose with the advent of hurricane season on June 1. waters in the Gulf would have a ban on fishing. the top kill failed to stem the spew. If a storm should occur with all that petroleum loose in the Gulf of Mexico. which enabled them to capture some of the oil. ZICK pulling it toward the Gulf beaches of the Panhandle. Volunteers head out to the beaches at the first chance to make sure nests are still marked and intact. C. May 2010 was a time for the ebb and flow of hope. When birds covered in thick layers of petroleum began washing up on beaches in the outer islands off the coast of Louisiana. which meant nineteen percent of U. In any normal year. drenched with oil so dark and thick they looked like bronze statues. dire warnings came from both the U. Nothing shocked the world more than seeing brown pelicans. This year the danger increased exponentially. 138 . BP managed to insert a tube into the leaking well on May 16.S. This spelled disaster for the regions not fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina five years earlier. more than two months away. the nests are easily washed out after a big storm. A top kill maneuver on the well begun on May 26 raised hopes for three days as fluids and heavy materials were stuffed into the well and topped with cement. Sources told NPR the United States was getting ready to double its no-fishing zone in waters affected by the oil. Then on the fortieth day of the disaster. recently removed from the Endangered Species list. By the end of the month.S. the media wasted no time in plastering the shocking photographs across the airwaves. but not nearly enough. it was anybody’s guess where it might end up. These images affected more folks than even the video taken from the bottom of the sea of the gushing well. All eyes turned to the Gulf of Mexico and the horror developing as the oil continued to smear the ocean and spread to land.

I would pick up magazines and newspapers discarded on the floor by Simon the night before and place them in the recycle bin in the laundry room off the kitchen. mainly because I didn’t care about those things. I was more of a “pick up as I went” gal. Simon left most of his laundry piled on the floor of the laundry room. On my way to make a sandwich for lunch. The basket in our closet in the bedroom was close to overflowing. so during a commercial. but I didn’t spend my days scrubbing and polishing. pressed. and Simon didn’t notice. Simon couldn’t be blamed completely. I liked a neat.CHAPTER 33 Caroline I spent the week after my return keeping up with the garden produce and trying to preserve as much as I could. Fortunately. clean house. It took me several days to reestablish my routine. While watching television in the small den off the main living room. too. I might notice dust on the entertainment center. I didn’t even try to compete or substitute her talents in that area. and miraculously replaced when frayed – Amy prided herself on perfection of the outward trappings of a successful life. I’d grab a rag and give it a swipe and 139 . For most of his life. he figured out the intricacies of the dishwasher and a full load of clean dishes greeted me upon my return. I teased Simon that he didn’t know how to work the machines of our modern world. A house impeccably cleaned and clothes washed. Simon lived with a woman who catered to his every personal need. The boxes I’d brought from Calico sat unopened in my office while I sifted through mundane details of life.

acquaintances. ZICK possibly other surfaces nearby. Even though Amy had a few friends in high school. I doubt Amy would have known how to put folks at ease in her home unless Momma ran the show. I put away a couple of boxes of china teacups and candy dishes for Jodi when she set up her household one day. One of the surest ways to make folks feel welcome is to serve them food. those guests came often enough to keep our house passably clean. there was plenty of social activity. “They’re jealous of you. I excelled in other parts of the home. The rest I used. In the kitchen. our skills combined to make life-sustaining meals unmatched in freshness and taste. along with Simon.P. Even when Amy still lived at home. Between the cousins and aunts and their families. but she loved to entertain and throw parties. Thankfully.” Momma said. and that wasn’t going to happen with Amy in charge. I kept my ears and eyes on the television and radio and kept in contact with my sources in 140 . At least the two of them could enjoy family dinners. As I organized and worked on household chores. and she only played at putting a meal on the table. We were both exquisite in our bedroom. which was quite the opposite from any of our combined three previous marriages. including the lace doilies and hand embroidered napkins and tablecloths. we were good at the most important parts of life. C. Amy and Simon never entertained. I saved major cleanings right before the arrival of guests. just as she played with the miniscule portions of food she put on her plate to appease those eating with her. Momma accumulated pretty things to use during these events and now most of them lived in my house. Simon prepared most meals. I learned to be a gracious hostess from her as she welcomed family. As far as I was concerned. and Daddy’s clients from his accounting firm into our home. Amy probably had some left in her home. Momma told her continually there was a reason Amy didn’t have as many friends as her cousins and classmates. too. Amy resented the vegetables Simon laid on the counter. “Just have pity for them that they can’t see beyond your perfect body.” My mother didn’t have too many friends in Calico either. and he told me he taught Jodi how to cook as well. she didn’t maintain them after she married Simon. Someone who doesn’t have a taste for food cannot possibly produce anything of substance for others.

We all held our breath as different methods were attempted to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. June 1983 Momma noticed the change in Simon’s and my relationship after we fell down in the tomato patch. I walked out the back door and entered our sanctuary – the garden. I knew it was only a matter of days before I’d be headed west again. and if I was gone for an extended period. She and I volunteered for sea turtle patrol during the nesting season just beginning on the Atlantic coast. She was my first choice for vegetable caretaker. I needed to tell her I wouldn’t be able to walk for the next couple of weeks. trying to determine my next move. and she loved our vegetables. I watched CNN continuously. Despite the separation. To escape the pictures of the poor helpless wildlife bombarding the television. Remnants of peas and spinach remained but soon the summer heat of Florida would relinquish those to memories and the bags in our freezer. Simon told me a few days ago that he wanted to fly to West Virginia before Memorial Day so he could attend the family reunion held every year on the Sunday of the holiday weekend. When the oiled wildlife began appearing on the Gulf beaches of Louisiana.TRAILS IN THE SAND the environmental groups and state agencies. She talked often about Simon and Amy in front of me. I hated her as much as I hated Amy in those days. I never dreamed of a life with Simon after he married my sister. and before long peppers would be ripe as well. Summer squash and beans were in full swing right now. The tomatoes were just beginning to ripen on the twenty-three staked plants in our garden. It still amazed me when I stood in the garden and remembered back over the years. I made a mental note to call Peggy first. “Isn’t it wonderful that Simon and Amy have finally gotten 141 . There was no point. I thought of a couple of folks I could ask who would be grateful with payment in produce fresh from the vines. We’d need someone to watch over the garden and to pick the ripening vegetables. Neither Simon nor I could stand the thought of food rotting on the vine. I would be unable to preserve the bounty as I’d done last year from our very first garden. we’d managed to create the life I once thought possible when I first fell in love with Simon before he abandoned me for my sister.

” “There could be worse things to do. I’ll see if I can find one of them tonight. Caroline.” “That’s not the way it’s done in the Stokley family. “Sure. not as he loved me.” Momma said. I’d turned eighteen in January. you and Simon are so close. Gladdy.” she told Daddy and me one summer night after Simon had picked Amy up to go to a movie.P.” I said. I told myself Simon was only waiting for me to graduate from high school before he stopped the wedding and told Amy he didn’t love her.” Amy said. it’s like you’re standing up for both your brother and your sister.” “Besides. “I’m going to ride my bike until dark. “Don’t you think it’s about time you started hanging out with the girls from school?” Momma asked. “Sisters always stand up for sisters. he won’t be running off with you to the river. and we can paint our toenails together. He winked at me. He picked up his glass filled with amber liquid and took a sip. Amy will do the same for you one day. I smiled at him and left Momma to give him a stern lecture on humoring me. especially after we start a family. Those girls will marry well and live happily ever after while you’ll be chasing after fireflies in the dark. he’ll have responsibilities. but this summer something has changed. and rode away on my bike fast and furiously to the river.” I told my sister and mother the day they told me I needed to get measured for my dress. I ignored most of it because I was certain Simon would halt the proceedings at any time. Momma sighed loudly as if I’d given her a great pain. ZICK together? I know they went to the prom together back in high school. it’s very nice. “I don’t want to be the maid of honor. Momma. Caroline. I watched them 142 . “Although you know once we’re married.” my father said as he brought the paper down from in front of his face. “Yes.” I said as I stood abruptly. C. and I felt every bit adult as I waited. I knew he didn’t love Amy.” Daddy said as he continued to read the Wall Street Journal. “It should be one of Amy’s close friends or one of the cousins. “I don’t know what’s to become of you. my graduation from high school was overshadowed by the wedding plans swirling around my house. Three years later.” I slammed out the front door.

ignoring Simon’s pleas to get back in the car. I observed my cousin Sally. “Amy will never forgive you. They were always teasing each other and holding hands.” “I told you I had a great opportunity. standing tall at the altar next to his bride in a cream-puff white concoction. I can’t understand why you chose to leave at the last minute like that. “I really wanted to take that creative writing class with Julie – my career means everything to me. I knew that was love. “Sally had to stand in as maid of honor. The wedding of Amy and Simon. I wasn’t sure what Simon and Amy had. I couldn’t stop thinking I was hurting my career chances so when Mrs. I felt as if I’d scream if I didn’t get out of his presence immediately. I never saw them hold hands or even kiss. Momma would be very upset to see me in this state.” my mother said when I returned. After Simon told me he was marrying Amy because she needed him. leaving Amy without a maid of honor. but it wasn’t that. became one of the events of the summer.TRAILS IN THE SAND together – for two people madly in love as Momma always declared. who was engaged to Simon’s brother. they never touched. I ran as the sweat dribbled down my forehead and formed in the crevice between my breasts. I leaped from his car in an attempt to escape the death sentence he’d imparted on us. and you know how Amy feels about Sally. especially since Amy wasn’t asked to be Sally’s maid of honor. Snow checked. Gary put his hand in the small of Sally’s back as if guiding her forward. My English teacher submitted my name for the class. Julie got my spot. They often laughed and looked into each other’s eyes as if no one else was in the room. who wore a light blue tuxedo and ruffled shirt. Gary. except my father who paid in many ways for my trip to New York City with my best friend Julie and her family. I saw it all through photos because I left Calico the day before Amy and Simon’s wedding. I needed to run until I couldn’t hear or see Simon McDermott’s voice or face. much to the dismay of Momma. I ran down the sidewalk away from my home and toward the lake in the center of downtown. It was second only to the wedding of Gary and Sally. I came home just in time to pack for college.” I said. but it couldn’t be helped. Aunt Sugar’s daughter. and my mother without a whipping board. but then because of the wedding. she discovered someone else 143 . When they walked into a room together. My T-shirt was soaked in no time and my hair began to wave and curl around my head.

I’ve told you all this a hundred times. Snow’s recommendation. she was able to send two students. and based on Mrs. You don’t have a career. Maybe it was time to open those boxes to understand how and when Momma’s life turned so ugly and hopeless. Life is going to be one big disappointment for you if you continue to live in this fairy tale you’ve created.” “What career? You’re eighteen years old. ZICK cancelled. you’d better rethink that concept right now. C.P. Momma. If you think you’re going to be a writer.” It hit me as I stood in my vegetable garden twenty-seven years later that I was living Momma’s secret fairy tale. 144 . It’s my career. Please try to understand.

which pleased Simon. Then I’ll ask Peggy to come by next week to pick vegetables. I hate to leave so soon with the garden coming in and everything. “I talked to Susan briefly this afternoon.” “What changed her mind?” “Don Blankenship opened his mouth and inserted both feet at 145 . Simon looked forward to meeting his new little cousin. too. but I called Peggy today. “Audubon asked me to go as soon as possible.” Simon said.” she said.” “I’m thinking about flying to West Virginia next week for the family reunion. “She’s decided definitely to enter into the lawsuit with the other families.” Susan gave birth to a healthy eight-pound boy on May 15. She named him Jason. I assumed you’d be unable to come. and she’s going to be around to help if needed. He called Susan that afternoon. “I’m going to ask Jodi to come.” “I don’t think I’d better make any plans. “They’re sending a photographer. and she seemed confidant and sure about her next steps. too. I’m thinking about leaving Friday – that’s gives me two days to prepare.CHAPTER 34 Simon “When do you think you’re going to leave for Gulfport again?” Simon asked Caroline as they ate dinner on the front porch. A little bit of Jason would live on in his three sons.” Simon told Caroline between mouthfuls of a colorful plate full of fresh garden vegetables.

the CEO of Massey and the end of the line for responsibility for the mine disaster. she’s just not curious about it. Maybe if that settles down. implying they caused their own deaths.” “Did Jason voice his concerns?” “Not to Susan. and even with the risks. “Glad I’m not his press secretary. “This time he suggested the miners had been careless.” “Amy and I told her that her birth mother wanted her to have two parents to love her. I can write about the mine disaster. if it happens. ZICK another press conference.P. she always assumed the mine followed safety regulations. “It would be good for her to realize there’s one sane side of her family. but he did it. “What a nightmare.” “I often wonder why Jodi never asks about her birth family.” “I’m discovering that Massey mostly sold their coal for making 146 . but I guess he talked to her father about it.” Simon said.” Don Blankenship. I told her we’d talk more when I’m up there for the family reunion.” Caroline said. But Jason didn’t ask to die. but you’re right. She and Jason always knew the risks involved in his job. “I wish you could come with me to the reunion.” “Susan said when she heard that she began reevaluating the one thing that’d made her hold back before. “She’s just not curious. “She doesn’t believe he was careless or was responsible for the explosion.” Simon said. I see the connection clearly in my mind.” “We’ll figure it out. C. but translating that to the public via editors is something else.” Simon said. and she supported it. kept fires alive and tempers flaring by continuing to deny his company’s culpability in the disaster.” Simon said. You still haven’t figure out an angle for a mining story?” “I can’t think about it now – I’m too immersed in the oil spill. but I think it’s more important she go with you and visit your side of the family. even if Jason had his doubts. if I can find an environmental angle or something to draw lines between the oil spill and the coal mine explosion.” Caroline said.” “What if she does one day? We’ve never talked about that possibility.” “I’d like Jodi to come with me.

but both of them assumed others would be happy for them.” Simon said.” August 2008 A month after Amy died. “What about Jodi? She’s grown. McDermott. Caroline and I are not blood relatives. They knew there might be some comments made at first. her composure clearly shaken because her normal sugary sweet southern belle charm disappeared into sounds resembling the howler monkeys in the South American rain forests. And what about Jodi?” Aunt Sugar asked.” “That’s disgusting.” Aunt Cookie said. We’ve been in love for more than thirty years. “But that’s really not all that important right now.” Simon said. After all.” Aunt Sugar said after Caroline made the announcement. “I don’t understand why it matters so much to you that Simon and I are marrying. “Why does it matter? How can you even wonder.” “That’s not a bad angle. They summoned the aunts to Gladys’ house first. “Thank goodness your mother is dead because this would surely kill her. A child never gets over the 147 .TRAILS IN THE SAND steel. and then Simon planned to tell Jodi back at the house alone. “She’s only nineteen years old. “I thought you’d be happy we finally found our way to one another. baby. Maybe I should hire you as my assistant. Caroline and Simon decided to announce their plans. We’re willing to have all the modern conveniences in our electric homes and gaspowered vehicles as long as we don’t have to see how we get it or acknowledge how dangerous it is to bring it to our doorsteps.” “You couldn’t afford me. Aunt Sugar stood in the middle of the room. so this is not incestuous. other things mattered more. Except for many folks close to Simon and Caroline. Mr. Simon wasn’t sure which would be harder.” “You’ve already extracted quite a high fee just to be my husband so I guess you’re right. That’s not grown enough ever to recover from this deception. I can assure you. but he wanted to give Caroline support when she faced the contingency of aunts. Miss Caroline Stokley Carlisle? The whole of Calico will be talking about this incestuous marriage.” Caroline said. they loved one another and that’s all that mattered.

“And besides all that. That’s it – it’s why she and Simon had problems in the marriage. This beats anything Scarlett O’Hara did. I can assure you. ZICK break-up of a family. “I would think you all would be happy that Simon and I have one another. Only Aunt Candy looked Caroline straight in the eye.” Caroline said. let’s be honest with one another for once.” Caroline said.” Simon said.” Aunt Sugar pronounced.” “Men and women can’t be friends.” “I needed a friend because Amy and I were having some problems. I’m divorced. “There was that time Simon left for a spell. We thought it best he talk to her alone. “Amy probably died from a broken heart.” Simon worried that she might fling herself out the front window because she was so agitated. Aunt Candy. “Amy is dead. believe you me. “Your Momma implied he’d gone to visit you. and this is the grandest of all time. and she was none too pleased about that. “You’re going to hurt yourself. “We’ve always been best friends.” “Please sit down.” Aunt Sugar said. Don’t blame her eating disorder on Simon or me. C. Momma and Daddy are dead.” Caroline looked to the other aunts.” Aunt Candy said. And she at least had the Civil War to blame. Jodi is our family.” Caroline said.” Simon said.” Aunt Candy said. Sugar.” “Why don’t you wait a little longer to tell her?” Aunt Apple said in 148 . “You have broken up a family. Amy killed herself because she never ate. “When do you plan to tell Jodi?” “Simon is meeting her after this at their house. and it’s why she was constantly hospitalized. You’ve just confirmed what we’ve all known since the very beginning. Simon is widowed. “How are we ever going to face the people in this town again? Daddy was right about Gladys – he always told us she was a bad seed. Aunt Cookie looked away from her inquisitive stare. Which family am I breaking up?” “Don’t you sit there and try and tell me that you and Simon haven’t been carrying on for years behind Amy’s back. She wrung her hands in the best tradition of much-aggrieved women across the world. Aunt Apple walked into the kitchen.” “Don’t you dare bring my mother into this discussion.P.

too. And until you can talk to me with respect. Aunt Apple looked somewhat apologetic. but when the other 149 . what would a couple more months matter?” “That’s precisely why we don’t want to wait any longer. Aunt Cookie.” “I think it’s best you left. Now I can see she wasn’t hard enough. “What do you know of love? You’ve been married two times and failed two times. but you’ll probably take off like you always do and leave us here to face everyone’s harsh words. and your emotions aren’t running so high. You have always done just as you pleased. and you’re hateful to say such spiteful things about your loving and beautiful sister.” Aunt Cookie said.” Simon said when the aunts didn’t make a move to the front door.” “It’s not enough that Gladys already put a black mark on our good name. I think it’s time you all left. but I don’t have to take it from you. “Aunt Sugar.” “Love?” Aunt Sugar spat. You have to be in a relationship for longer than a few years to understand what real love means.” “You’ve always been selfish. “I always told her she was too hard on you. You know nothing of love. Why can’t you just be happy we have one another?” “Your momma always said you’d be the death of her. she had to go and give birth to a daughter who will be the ruin of all of us.” Aunt Sugar glared at Caroline with her hands on her hips. “I took this crap from Momma because she was my mother.” Aunt Sugar said. but he felt sorry for Amy and so he married her instead.” “I didn’t come home to avoid Simon because we loved one another.” Aunt Candy said. “The rest of us have to live here. and love is the most important thing in the world. too.” Caroline said.” “You are going to disgrace this family.” Caroline said. She tossed her head and grabbed her purse from Daddy’s favorite chair. but thought better of saying anything more when she saw Simon stand up from the couch. don’t even consider coming to our wedding.” “I have always known I loved Simon since the first time I saw him at Grandma’s house. “Your daddy grieved so whenever you refused to come home for the holidays.TRAILS IN THE SAND a calmer tone than her sisters as she returned from the kitchen. “We’re not breaking any laws.” Caroline said. “We have always been in love. “We can talk again when you’ve had time to absorb this news. “You’ve waited all these years.” Aunt Sugar said.

I took good care of her for years but she was very sick for a long time. “You can’t be serious?” she said. They found the house in St. and they knew they’d found their home. Augustine almost immediately. You let her get sicker and sicker.” Simon said.P. Jodi didn’t come home for the holidays that year. “And we’re going to use the Irish linen tablecloth at the reception. telling Simon one of her professors offered her a room until the dorms were ready. C. so he rented a small storefront on the edge of the historic area and managed to retain some of his clients from Calico and the surrounding area. “Caroline. ZICK aunts stood up and followed the Stokley family matriarch out the front door and down the porch steps. She and Simon talked on the phone 150 . Augustine and didn’t mind the change in location. When they walked inside. “They’re already hot enough under the collar to burn off those summer dresses.” Jodi took the news worse than the aunts did when Simon told her a little later. they turned to one another.” “What about Momma?” “Your momma is dead. let’s not make it any worse. Keep her away from me.” Caroline yelled to the slamming porch door. “And now – this is so disrespectful.” she said. “I don’t want to ever see Caroline again. Simon was drinking coffee in the kitchen the next morning when she came downstairs. and many of his clients spent vacations in St.” “And you didn’t do anything about it.” She went to her room after that and refused to come out until the next day. It was located on the outskirts of town with plenty of space for a garden and space for an office for Caroline. It was a little too far out of the city proper for Simon’s office. Aunt Apple shrugged her shoulders and followed them. instead opting to go to her roommate’s home in Atlanta. “We’re serious. please. They were only moving an hour away. “She’s worse than Momma ever said.” she said.” She left for the fall term of college a month early. Jodi.” Simon said. Simon and Caroline stayed in Calico long enough to put the Carlisle house on the market and close up Simon’s office in Arthur Stokley’s former doctor’s office. “We love one another.

and Gary.” 151 . They didn’t bother asking anyone else.” Simon told Caroline one night before the wedding. “Today the journey does not end. and Gary stood waiting. she hung up the phone. “Simon and Caroline. making their commitment never to be torn apart again as the song continued to play softly in the background: And He walks with me And He talks with me And He tells me I am His own And the joy we share as we tarry there None other has ever known. but she refused to acknowledge the wedding. As Caroline and Simon walked hand in hand toward the garden where the justice of the peace.” Simon’s favorite hymn. As they took the vows. singing “In the Garden.TRAILS IN THE SAND occasionally. Gary’s wife and Aunt Sugar’s daughter. She came home for the summer term. When Simon told her they were planning a July wedding. I understand that the journey to this moment has been long coming and at times an arduous one. I was not truly living in the garden. but rather changes as the two of you join hands and walk down the path together into the garden of your love. came up from Miami for the wedding. “I’d even pound out the tune on the piano – the only song I ever learned. claiming Aunt Sugar would disown her if she gave sanction to the marriage. There would only be a fall garden their first year as a married couple. It always reminded me of you. refused to attend with him. but the conversations were one-sided with Jodi giving her father one-word replies to his questions. I always heard this song. Caroline’s best friend. and I knew as long as we were apart. they held hands and stared into each other’s eyes. They exchanged vows next to their garden plot in the new home – the place of their new beginning.” the justice of the peace said as she began the ceremony. and I’d never really truly lived. “Through all those years when we were apart. agreed to be his best man.” Simon’s eyes filled with tears as he made his confession to Caroline. Sally. Holly. Holly. Johnny Cash’s voice boomed through the air. and she still refused to see Caroline. Simon had only managed to till the earth before the ceremony so the air vibrated with the smell of damp earth. Simon’s brother.

Can you cover it?” “Sure. I received a call from Dave.” “I’ll do it. As I plotted what to do next. “Yes.” “I’m in it. 152 .” Late the next afternoon.” “All my environmental writers on staff are stretched to the limit.” Dave said. “We picked up two articles you wrote for Audubon so I know you’re already in it.CHAPTER 35 Caroline I spent more than a week regrouping and recharging for my next trip. Augustine tomorrow.” he said. I sat at my desk finishing the story on the release of three brown pelicans at the research reserve at Guana north of St. “Are you interested in doing some freelance work during the oil spill crisis?” he asked. an editor at the Associated Press. “I was planning on heading to one of those rehabilitation places in a couple of days.” “Anything in mind?” “They transported some rehabbed brown pelicans from the barrier islands and plan to release them near St.” I said.” I said. with or without an assignment. “I could really use someone who could be flexible. May 19. on Wednesday. I could probably have a story by early next week. “I hear they’re gearing up for an onslaught. I’m very interested in doing more. just need the particulars.” “I could use you in Panama City at the place there. I can leave in a few days.

My original desire to unveil their contents dissipated as the present occupied my consciousness. I was favorably impressed with the plot’s detail and depth of intrigue considering the age of the authors. The premise of their story involved teenage spies and international interlopers who invade a small beach town one summer. I prodded the nearest box with my toe. The phone rang before I could plan my attack on Momma’s secrets. Perhaps tomorrow I’d see what the boxes revealed. the boxes remained sealed. and no less than Florida’s Gov.S. came out to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve and released the birds back into the wild over the Matanzas River. That day had not yet presented itself since my return. So even though I’d read that story. there was no reason to think that Momma couldn’t have done the same. what’s up?” 153 . I didn’t leave for Panama City for another two days. it gained in superb writing talent in such young authors with no training or experience. I guessed both Momma and George read their share of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books. I wanted a full day ahead of me when I broke the seals of my family’s past. do you have a couple of minutes?” Kate from the FWC asked when I answered. I read the story by Momma and George almost immediately. If George was able to parlay that creativity into a successful writing career. Charlie Crist. “I want to give you a heads up about something. I sat back and my eyes rested upon the boxes I’d brought from Calico still sealed with the gray duct tape. I hit “send” and the article flew electronically to Dave at the Associate Press. Perhaps the time had arrived with the latest story complete and nothing on the immediate horizon.” “Sure. The birds had been rescued by Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research and rehabilitated. The wildlife biologists seemed certain the birds would remain on this side of the state away from the dangers encroaching on the Gulf coast. Perhaps fear of what I might find kept my hands from ripping back the tape.TRAILS IN THE SAND Augustine. I kept telling myself – and Simon when he asked every day if I’d peeked – I needed time before I opened them. Fish and Wildlife Service. I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t delved right into them. “Caroline. but it’s too early to give you many details. It wasn’t a task to begin while taking a break in my day. Kate. A group of big shots from the FWC and the U. What the plot line lacked in originality.

000 to 70. ZICK “Now that oil has definitely started washing up on beaches. right?” “That’s an average – it could be anywhere from seventy-five eggs up to 200. I retreated to my home office.” Kate said. I made a few notes and looked at the calendar. Did she ever write about it? The next morning. After I hung up.” she said. Momma laid newspaper with a piece of notebook paper on top with the single word: “Alex” written on it in black marker. In Florida alone.” I said. I thought about George’s story of watching the hatchlings emerge that night long ago with Momma.” “They lay more than a hundred eggs in each one.P.000 hatchlings. Ten o’clock. George Island. C. I pulled away the paper and found five journals – the stenographer’s notebooks similar to the 154 . but I’m hoping you’ll be able to cover the story when we’re ready to release information.” “I’ll call you when I can give you more specifics. I’m sure my editor would be interested in any rescue efforts. I would be facing all of that soon enough. A very small percentage of them will make it to adulthood. We’ll have plenty of nests right there to worry about.” “Keep me posted. a normal nesting season means 500 nests. Simon was on his way to Jacksonville to conduct interviews for a messy divorce case involving a custody issue. He wouldn’t be home until after five. but we have to make sure enough do so an entire clutch of turtles aren’t wiped out. we’re trying to decide what to do about the sea turtle nests all along that coast. “I’m doing some freelance for the AP right now. “You could follow the story from St. but those are the extremes.” “What are you planning?” “We’re still working that out. I hit the play button on the CD player and the soothing sounds of classical piano filled the room – much better than the horrific news of Deepwater Horizon. I pulled a pocketknife out of a desk drawer and finally turned to the boxes beckoning me to their contents. We could be talking about 50. I glanced at the clock on my desk. I opened the one I had been nudging with my toe the day before. I didn’t think Kate would have anything for me by then. She said the first nests wouldn’t start hatching until midJune. I could be back from Panama City around the time Simon flew back from West Virginia on Memorial Day.

hidden away with Momma’s things.” On the bottom of the box. One of the aunts would say. Aunt Apple said she thought those journals were destroyed in “the fire. The fourth one was labeled “Calico. Each one had a date written on its cover: March 1954. I always thought they’d been destroyed in the fire. if her preliminary research should prove true. She became absorbed in Key lime pie and tapioca pudding dishes.” Aunt Sugar said. George Island house fire. “I have those journals. Summer 1955. This was before she abandoned her search for the long-lost Stokley family tree.” 155 . Underneath them. Archie Carr’s The Windward Road. Summer 1956.” There was one for the West Virginia years and one for medical school. I suddenly remembered that reference to the fire. Summer 1954. “Never. January 1955. the subject came up many times. risking the wrath of Momma for opening my mouth. Even though Daddy denied it. “The Early Years – Cornwall. Underneath the books was another layer of newspaper with another sheet labeled “Arthur Stokley. the fire reference made no impact.TRAILS IN THE SAND two George gave me. but I guess at the time I so intrigued by the journals that Grandpa lost. Over the years. and others I wasn’t familiar with. They were brown leather. “It would help us fill in his background to have them. I discovered a library of books for the environmentalist: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and her series of books on the sea. I found the journals of Arthur Stokley. She would be mortified to think there might be evidence about her father’s birthright in those journals. I opened the one on top and the cover page said. “Remember how angry Daddy was when he couldn’t find his journals?” and then they’d all go off on remembrances of the day he emerged from his office raging about the person who had invaded his personal property.” What fire? Why hadn’t I asked about the fire? She must have been referring to the St. “Did he ever find them?” I asked one time. I knew about these journals because their disappearance years ago fired up the room when any of the aunts mentioned them. but she stood off to the side busying herself with the desserts laid out on the buffet.” Aunt Apple said. but Momma never once spoke up and said. Now here they were.” Now I had them. A couple of wildlife books rounded out the collection. I pulled the books out and set them in a pile on the floor next to the box. and by extension all of our birthrights.

” “I thought so. “I know it’s not even noon yet. Each one had a nameplate on the inside cover. Those journals contained more than a string of loosely tossed words upon a page. Before I became too dramatic about the significance of the stories. and drinking champagne.” “And I should have insisted on a pre-nup so you can’t run away with the millions I’m going to make on the book I’m going to write about us. Gertrude Stein. verbs. and dangling participles lay the grammar of my life. contained only a few pages of writing and then nothing. paragraphs with actions and stories with truth. adjectives. misplaced modifiers. and you need your beauty sleep. I decided to make a lunch out of yesterday’s leftovers. Books by Jane Austin.” “I’m lying back in a bubble bath. I still hadn’t found anything to suggest Momma’s writing passion.” Then on the very bottom of the box. eating bon bons. stating. adverbs. and it will be good-bye. you slacker. I cut through the tape on the second box.P. slanted backwards in precise left-handed script. You’ll find yourself a trophy wife. “Did I wake you up?” Simon asked. Even though it was early.” 156 . and Edith Wharton were on top. These were beautiful editions with gold embossed lettering on the side. Besides you’re all the trophy of a wife I need. I had no idea Momma read such literary books. Caro. Simon called. Somewhere in all the tangle of nouns. I cut the salmon in bite-sized pieces and dropped them into the salad. The one dated April 4.” “No one would believe it. 1957. I pulled out a salad and grilled salmon from the night before. I pulled each one out of the box. George Eliot. I found the evidence I sought: seven journals bound in brown leather all written in Momma’s familiar hand. I opened each one to be sure. more overwhelmed than curious. Each contained a date on the first page. The words formed sentences with thoughts. F. I think you should have warned me about this side of you before the wedding. After tossing in balsamic vinaigrette. ZICK I placed everything back in the box until I could decide what to read first. That appeared to be the last journal she wrote. Scott Fitzgerald. C. I looked at the piles on the floor. I sat at the kitchen table still contemplating the three lives sprawled on my office floor. I went into the kitchen. “This book belongs to Gladys Lorraine Stokley. remembering I’d skipped breakfast.

What will the journals reveal? I’m almost scared to open the journals. I opened the boxes. but asked him to keep it to himself. I would start at that place where all good stories began – at the beginning.” “That’s for sure.” I told him a little bit about Kate’s call.” Simon whistled. my grandfather.” I said.” I said. “Gladdy sure kept a lot of secrets. I also remember sitting on his knee and feeling special because Grandpa had chosen me from all the grandchildren to have that place of honor while he told us stories about our parents when they were younger and running wild all over the streets of 157 . Momma had them all along. He was the type of man who liked to kiss everyone on the lips.” “No chance. His hair turned white during his twenties. was both a cruel and vindictive man and a heroic and brave icon to family and patients alike. often embarrassing me with his grandiose explanations of the lengths I would go to get a story. We could keep at our teasing for the rest of the afternoon if one of us didn’t break away. he turned my head for me. and there they’d be. “And right before you called. “I’m taking a break before the next victim. The family always joked that marriage turned him gray. witness starts. First. I find out she was a writer. “Do you remember the talk of Grandpa’s lost journals?” “The ones that mysteriously disappeared from his office? I always imagined I’d find a loose floor board one day in that office. but I remembered his mustache. Simon liked to boast about my assignments to anyone who would listen. and now I find out she’s a thief. “And?” “And there are journals from Momma and Alex as I expected. What else did she hide?” Suddenly I knew where to start. I remember his white thick mustache scratched my face whenever he lifted me up and gave me a kiss. Just one smackaroo.TRAILS IN THE SAND “How’s your day going?” I asked. But I found something rather startling and peculiar. The time had finally arrived to find out why Dr. quickly applied to the lips. If I didn’t turn my head to him and pucker up. I thought it was a good time to bother my favorite writer. Most of my physical memories of him came from the photos sprinkled around our home and the homes of my aunts. I mean. the gigantic enigma in the room. and it was thick and coarse. Arthur Stokley.

” Aunt Candy said. saved their lives.” By this time. Then as the stories continued. “He was the kindest and sweetest man that ever walked the face of this earth. I would always thank them for sharing the story as Momma taught me to do. By the middle of the week.” “Remember that time he helped the Sutton’s horse give birth to a colt?” Aunt Candy asked.” “He never said no to anyone. the fire would have subsided. Or one of the cousins would appear at our door Monday after school. Daddy would summon Amy and me. that’s for sure. “Run this pie plate over to your Aunt Candy’s place.P. Many a dish was left at one or the other’s house. Then Aunt Sugar started telling stories about how their father saved one life after another in town. The switches were his favorite and used across the backs of legs. Then the aunts and 158 . ZICK Calico. C. “That colt was one of the best race horses to come out of this area. she’d start slamming cupboard doors until she finally said something to start the inevitable fight.” she said. When it happened at our house. “Gladdy. but I always found it difficult to imagine this larger-than-life character as the father who used his razor strap and rosebush switches to whip his daughters and son into shape. The aunts talked often about his methods of corporal punishment. and the sisters acted as if nothing happened.” one of them would say when Momma answered the door. telling us to gather up our dishes because we would be leaving shortly. or did something miraculous and kind to make them what they were at that very moment. while their husbands and children did the preparing to leave. She would begin by tapping her foot. George. too. I grew up hearing from everyone in town that Grandpa birthed them.” Momma would say. “I think all the rest of you had your share of switch marks.” Aunt Apple said at one of the family’s Sunday gatherings. He even delivered babies when we were on vacation at St. “He was a true hero in Calico.” Momma said. the aunts continued arguing with Momma. I do believe your legs stayed bloody most of your childhood. “Momma told me to bring back your platter. Aunt Gladdy. “He left the house at all hours to deliver babies. Momma’s agitation had grown as long as twenty alligator tails. He even came back from the island one time to assist in a difficult birth when the doctor covering for him called.

I thought as I remembered my aunt’s words. 159 . Aunt Cookie started a fundraising drive one year to have a statue erected of Dr. Aunt Sugar dissuaded her from continuing.TRAILS IN THE SAND Momma would prepare for the next Sunday dinner by baking ham and shredding cabbage to go into the next round of battle with those very same dishes filled to overflowing with enough food to feed twenty armies.” I guess despising his daughter was the first step in Arthur Stokley’s restoration plan. “He was a modest man who only wanted to make the world a better place. and instead they donated all the money collected to the library where an oak reading table in the center of the main room contained a brass plate with his name. Arthur Stokley in front of city hall. “Daddy wouldn’t have liked anything as ostentatious as a statute. I hoped his journals would reveal why.” Aunt Sugar explained when I asked about it.

if my mother’s greeting was sincere. The rest of the world burned gray with no distinct lines. Then the only contrasts in my life existed between love and hate. Arthur Stokley Journals Christmas Eve 1919 My world consisted of stark contrasts – between warmth and cold. his red face with its swollen nose.CHAPTER 36 Dr. The blood from his head poured down on my mother who lay lifeless under his big red hands he’d wrapped 160 . “What are you doing here?” “I came to claim what’s rightfully mine. I noticed the wind before I realized a large man loomed in the doorway. much less heard of through the years. The red mittens Mother just gave me for Christmas fell from my lap to the floor. I turned from the heat of the fire burning in the fireplace. Red mittens so lovingly knitted with my mother’s own hands. only blurred images. Father? My grandfather who I’d never met. and eventually the blood pouring from his head after I’d hit him with the poker from the fire. rich and poor – until my eighteenth year. black and white. The snow blew into the house when the door flew open to our warm two-room cottage. Memories of that Christmas Eve burned red in my mind. Is this the bastard?” His voice was raspy most likely from whiskey and cigars like the men I worked with in the mines.” my mother said to the stranger. “Father.

Stokley owned the mine. I only had enough money left for a ticket to Baltimore. However. The statue bid us welcome to her free and happy shores. Madison. I threw a lit rag onto the back of the man who was my grandfather. I watched until the flames caught. Even in my panicked state. Once the fire started. I worked and lived there until the “miracle. I discovered coal mines deep and dangerous where the soul breathed coal dust and foul air. the gateway to coal country. Mr. my mother’s old tin can of saved coins and the cash I found in the intruder’s pockets. When she accused him of his crime. I carried enough money to book passage on a cargo ship to America where I landed in 1920 after nine days of a voyage marked with storms that tested my will and strength. I visited my supervisor in the mines for advice about finding work in this great big country. He suggested I head to West Virginia. he was my father. West Virginia. his red rage strangled her before I could react to save her. I knew I needed to escape. My supervisor worked there for a few years in conditions only slightly improved from Cornwall and only because of the mining safety rules passed after the worst mining disaster in 1907 in Monongah. West Virginia. Before I boarded the ship. The burly officers were gruff and almost barked like dogs. I grabbed the jars of kerosene sitting near the back door of the cottage and doused both lifeless bodies in the fuel. and I had never met him. When I reached my destination. I knew it would be days before anyone discovered the charred bodies in the cottage. I knew I had to destroy this place of death. Between my meager savings. And as I learned from the harsh words of my mother right before her death. It might be days before anyone discovered the remnants of wasted lives. and by then I’d be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. with my first sight of the Statute of Liberty – that noble towering shaft of hope – I forgot the rough waters of my passage across the Atlantic Ocean. I stopped there long enough to do odd jobs for room and board and earn enough money for train tickets to the first mining town on his list. The men who represented Uncle Sam cast a deep shadow on the noble statue that had awakened bright anticipations. It seemed he thought his son 161 .TRAILS IN THE SAND around her neck before I killed him.” I didn’t know the rookie miner was John Stokley’s son. then I walked away carrying all my worldly possessions on my back and in my pockets. bringing sudden disillusionment. I soon discovered the statute was the only welcoming feature on Ellis Island.

I cupped it in my hands and breathed air into its beak. I said the first thing that came to mind.” “I’ve worked hard all my life. “You’re off to a good start. Little did I know this miracle would mean the end of my mining days. I was born to be a 162 .” Mr.” I said. The trip and the meeting with Mr. I felt no pulse. but has since become the standard for first aid practices. We might be able to make your dream come true. What I did was instinct. collapsed on the mine floor his second day down. Quite simple.” He managed to find a spot for me in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine where I went on full scholarship. if you’re willing to work for it.” I said. but I rubbed his heart and then blew air from my lungs into his. I’d already built a reputation as a healer after I brought a canary back to life one day in front of a group of men. he summoned me to his home in New Jersey. calling me a bird lover and other more unsavory names. Soon John was moaning and moving his limbs. dark. really. When word reached John Sr. out into the daylight. about the “Doc” who saved his only heir’s life.” I directed them to help me carry John Jr. he was physically weak and wholly unsuited for the damp. This will be a pleasure. and airless work in the mines. the canary appeared dead on the floor of the mine. When he asked me what I wanted to do more than anything else in the world. before heading to the mines. I picked it up and carried it out into the fresh air with me. it darted around our heads most of the day. “How about we start with medical school? Do you have any education?” “I went to school through the eighth grade in Cornwall. “I’ve taught myself everything I know. they began calling me “Doc. Stokley forever changed my life. He wanted somehow to repay me for saving his son’s life. and the men cheered. “I’d like to be a doctor someday. ZICK soft and wanted him toughened up for his inheritance as head of Stokley Industries one day. But the lad wasn’t soft. Jr. Stokley said. We laid him down at the base of the mine opening.P. the men called for “Doc.” “I’ll write some letters and talk to some of my friends. When it was time to emerge at day’s end. The men teased. and he appeared as dead as that canary had months before. C. We brought the canary into the mine to test the air and once let out of its cage. When that canary spread its wings and flew out of my hands that day. sir.” When John Stokley.

If Alex makes it through the next few years.TRAILS IN THE SAND doctor. particularly with my two youngest children. I fell in love for the first time in my life. it seemed I needed to do something more.” my favorite doctor and teacher told me as I prepared to finish my internship. after I accepted position as the town’s doctor. She taught me about kindness and listening. except my professors and doctors. I spent no time socializing. if you can learn to communicate with your patients. unlike my fellow medical students. With my own family. but Gladys may prove to be the death of me yet. each as the most important person in the world. he’ll amount to something. “When you’re done with your residency.” When I met Lillian Mallard in 1924 in Pittsburgh. Alex and Gladdy. Florida. I can help you set up a practice. I had more difficulty applying the practice to my own children. I excelled despite my lack of formal education because. I did nothing but study medicine for the next eight years. We married in 1925 and soon settled in Calico. the same as my mother had before her unfortunate death. “You’ll make a fine doctor. and I made no friends. Arthur Stokley without doing anything more than always being available for my patients. Our children were born in this southern town. 163 . I was revered as Dr. and I made a mark as the town’s doctor as I learned to treat my patients individually. but you can’t go to a small town and become successful unless you learn kindness with your patients.

died giving birth to the daughter her husband eventually violated and finally killed. but he didn’t leave any trace of his real name in any of the journals. Her tragic life ended before she turned thirty-five. I was mainly interested in finding out more about my mother. Who could blame Arthur for not wanting to take the name of a man so despicable he would violate his daughter and then kill her? In the last journal. Most of the entries detailed his medical practice in Calico. His life lay sprawled before me in the four volumes of ruminations of a man scarred and tortured by his ability to save the lives of everyone but his beloved mother. His own father was a monster. the wife to the rapist. He took the name “Stokley” when he went to school.CHAPTER 37 Caroline I spent a good share of the day reading my grandfather’s journals. What nightmares must have haunted Arthur Stokley as he transformed from miner to doctor to father to hero. My great-grandmother must have been of strong character because she raised her son all alone. For now. His story gave me a glimmer of understanding into the evolution of the broken heap of lost souls of my family. Arthur wrote in his journal that his grandmother. It amazed me to think I was ten years older than she was when she died. Nor could I find any explanation for his animosity toward his fifth daughter. and Arthur was responsible for his death. Arthur wrote about the births 164 . I skimmed through those parts. Arthur lived with the truth about the man who fathered him after raping his own daughter when she was barely fifteen. I could always go back and read it later.

or do you have something on your mind? You usually don’t call in the middle of the day. and Holly’s loving attention would be soothing right now as long as she didn’t try psychotherapy on me. didn’t you?” “I want to be a psychologist. Now is this merely a catch up call.” I said. “You took Psych 101 seriously. “Caroline. I haven’t even told you 165 .” “Maybe she was defying your mother – you know. “It made me crave it even more.” Holly Jacobs was my first real friend besides Simon. and I surmised that any further mention of my mother might have been there.” she said. I glanced at the clock – almost 3 p. but I knew my best friend Holly ended her Thursday appointments by noon. I noticed ragged edges of pages torn out of the last journal. “My mother used to withhold food from my sister and me as punishment. but something happened to Amy. She learned to hate food. because in the darkness of our dorm room after late night study sessions I could confess to her what I had told no other living soul. “I’ve been thinking about taking a few days off and coming up to the backwoods of north Florida. I gave her the briefest of details about my schedule for at least the next week to ten days. “It might be fun to go to the Panhandle.” she said. We talked a couple of times a month. not letting her know it was important so the punishment didn’t have any control over her. we’d keep you in business until retirement. Simon would still be doing his interviews.TRAILS IN THE SAND of all his children. yet we were always fiercely loyal as well.” Holly said. I needed a break from my own darkening thoughts. but you might have to follow me on the road. The journals skip to his final pronouncement on his youngest two children – the only mention of my mother. but I found nothing about my mother. “Want to be my first patient?” “Between my family and me. but she became a close second– perhaps even closer.” “I’d love that.” Holly said when she answered her cell. we were brutally honest with one another. “I’ll look at my schedule and get back to you on that. And that’s just my immediate family.” I told her one night once the lights went out. I was just thinking about you. At times.m. He mentions bringing Alex home after his birth.

Momma probably felt relief to see me go – at least she didn’t face imminent death every time I opened my mouth. my friend.” “Amy’s thinness was the one thing that pleased my mother the most besides marrying Simon. maybe. in my heart and mind I left Calico forever. ZICK about my mother and her brother. I haven’t studied much about it.” When I left for college in 1983. One time. Augustine was less than two hours from Calico. but that’s not the reason I didn’t return. and then your mother received the name ‘Gladys. I managed only brief visits home once or twice a year. I found seminars and internships that took me far away – even to Europe. except for brief visits. I never really ever went back. The thought of seeing Simon and Amy settle down as husband and wife made me nauseous. I often went home with Holly to Miami for extended breaks. Holly diagnosed my mother as a depressed narcissist after a course on personality disorders. Even though St. Momma never asked me questions about my experiences. but Daddy was always interested and wrote and called me often while I was away. the not-yet psychologist said. During summer breaks. I toddled off to the small private Old City College in St.’ That’s enough to fill a whole chapter in a psychology textbook. Augustine 166 . All of the other things both of us did caused my mother a great deal of pain.” I said.” “It’s enough knowing that your aunts are all named after something sweet.” “When do I get to meet the famous Gladys Carlisle?” During the four years of college. C. “I appear strong.” “Do you think Amy’s like Karen Carpenter?” The famous singer died in 1983 and suddenly all anyone could talk about was anorexia nervosa. “The singer? I don’t know.P.” Holly. How did you survive?” “It’s all papier-mâché and mirrors. I know I found relief in not having to cope with Momma’s version of the world. “They believe everything that happens in the world has something to do with them. “It’s the worst possible combination. I thought he lived vicariously through me. but it’s really just held together with flour and water paste. and they’re always down in the dumps about it. My father seemed to understand and was always more than willing to pay for these adventures.

and I took several workshops from professionals who specialized in wildlife photography. the way the sunlight shined upon them varied – throughout the day. The insects and crustaceans alone would have kept me coming back. The color of the grasses changed – or rather. It suited me just fine because the water became my classroom. Shorebirds. another small liberal arts college opened its doors in St. By the end of the day.TRAILS IN THE SAND known more for its partying by the sons and daughters of rich southerners who couldn’t get into other more prestigious schools in the southeast. and began to dream about a future as a writer – a future that didn’t include Simon. but perhaps it was the ever-changing light that enthralled me the most about my new home. Just as I’d promised Momma. I loved the historic nature of St. They had a small creative writing program. jellyfish. along with journalism. and the biology helped. but I preferred writing about them. the sweet 167 . The beaches and its wildlife drew me to them. I majored in marine biology and studied the ocean and estuaries and marshes of the southeast Atlantic Coast. so I minored in writing. The tall grasses growing in the brackish water contained a mysterious world waiting for me to discover. A decade before I came to town. Daddy bought me my first camera. I studied the animals near the shore. I lost myself in this world for four years. and the plants of the dunes captivated me as I learned their life histories. The beach was a bike ride away across the Bridge of Lions or the Vilano Bridge and the nightlife passable. sea turtles. The school used the old buildings all around the downtown area when it outgrew its original site at the Coast Guard Barracks off Matanzas Avenue. mollusks. and I tried to forget Calico. Augustine using the former luxury hotel built by Henry Flagler during the Gilded Age as its base of operations. but the creative writing kept me from writing as a scientist. That made Old City College up its offering since Flagler College specialized in training future educators. many of my classes occurred on the beaches south and north of the downtown. It was enough to bring a college student out of her bed before sunrise just to see the colors change from pink to gold as the sun finally appeared over the horizon. Augustine where everything was called “oldest” something or other. However. My school used the ocean and its byproducts as its proving grounds. The marshes surrounding the many estuaries and waterways of the beach town held extra bounty for me. huge and orange on its best days.

but I didn’t notice.” “Feeling’s mutual. sometimes to write but too many times to find the evening’s party.” I said. I never accepted an offer for a date or an invitation back to their “place. I didn’t cry over Simon. where I danced and drank keg beer. I missed Simon the most. threw back my head and hopped on my bike and rode back to the dorm. My father came to help us move the few blocks away. I’d even dropped the pretense of getting a degree in marine biology by this time. Daddy drove his pickup truck to St. I was a full-fledged journalism student. Holly and I moved into one of the row houses on King Street. I danced with the boys. Holly and I went together and then crawled home to our bunk beds to share our deepest secrets and our silliest moments. “But that gets them even more excited. seaweed and driftwood I collected. “They just don’t interest me. once again turning deep red by the daylight’s end. but Holly was taking extra classes over the summer to prepare for graduate school applications during the coming year. Most of my stuff consisted of boxes of shells and dried sponges. Three years in the old stuffy dorm rooms was enough.” she said. I was leaving for a trip to Italy for a travel writing course. yet at other times when the clouds covered the sun.” I said. “especially when they think about the two of us being roommates. but he wasn’t there. When I stood on the edge of the marsh watching the birds wade in the shallows searching for dinner and listening to the insects begin their night’s calling. At the end of my junior year. But it’s probably good for my social life.” “Just don’t’ tell them I’m a virgin – that would be too much for them to handle. even if it meant waiting tables to pay the rent. Holly and I were close. the fireflies would appear near the marshes. pink predominated. instead I squared my shoulders. but she didn’t share my love of nature. but that was it. and their arrival was almost painful. During the warmest months. I planned to write. but neither do you – not that way. ZICK light of sunset began to change the colors once again – sometimes more blue than anything. Holly told me once that most of them thought I was a lesbian.” It probably made me more popular with them.P. Augustine with the canoe 168 .” “That’s weird. C. I did not intend to go to graduate school. I longed to share all my findings with my one true friend.

“I thought now that you had a house and a place to store it.” he said as he pulled the canoe off the back of the truck. But first. Locals said a ghost lived upstairs and haunted the place when needed.” “Daddy.” I said. He hadn’t been so fortunate with Amy. Of course. “How do you do it. “But maybe I can hitch a ride with my surfer friends. who kept his nose in the paper for most of his life at home. I thought. Thank God for him. Scarlett O’Hara’s was an institution in the old city. knew so much. Thanks for thinking of it. we unloaded my bed and carried it into the house on King Street. “You don’t know everything you probably need to know to 169 . Daddy?” I asked when we settled for a burger on the porch of the old house at the end of Hypolita Street in downtown. Even at the age of twenty. I marveled that Daddy.” “I know.TRAILS IN THE SAND hanging out the back. resting on top of the plastic sheeting that covered my mattress and springs from home. “He wanted to come with me today.” Daddy said as we lifted the mattress off the back end. Augustine’s student ghetto. I knew he had saved me from my mother. “It might be hard to get it to the water on my bike. We picked up some used furniture for the living room at the local Goodwill store. Daddy. I don’t have a boyfriend. would you?” “Quit trying to change the subject. Augustine’s many haunted houses. I thought perhaps he was going to ignore my question. the driver was telling his passengers that we sat on the porch of one of St. I would never have survived. “Do what?” Daddy took a long sip of his draft beer. It’s great to have it. “Simon helped me load this on the truck. but I told him that your boyfriend and I would be able to handle the heavy lifting. How do you stay with Momma when she’s so mean to you?” My father looked out at the tourist train passing by.” It didn’t take us long to load up the boxes and move them into the rundown house in the heart of St. but don’t you think it’s good for Simon to think you do?” My father looked at me and winked. you might want to have this here. you wouldn’t know about that. “Nothing tastes better in this heat and humidity than a cold beer.

Daddy. and that’s all we can ever ask of anyone. My words deflated him as if I’d stuck a pin in his chest. and I was sorry almost immediately. He studiously kept his eyes averted as he lifted his mug and downed the last of the beer. But do the doctors ever talk about Amy having an eating disorder?” He looked at me. “The best thing would be for her to lose the baby now before she has to endure childbirth. who looked rather uncomfortable imparting the news. “Amy’s pregnant.” And with that. I don’t know the answers myself. the waiter dropped two plates filled with burgers and fries and cole-slaw on our small table. my best is never good enough.” Daddy announced at the end of the meal. She’s sick a lot.” “Amy – pregnant?” I stared at my father.P. I’m sorry. Caroline. but with her.” he finally said before lifting his glass again.” I watched him wipe a blob of mustard from the corner of his mouth with his napkin. She does the best she can. smiling as she railed against the injustice of a world created just to make her life a living hell. My father was the last person I wanted to hurt. and I’ve learned over the years not to ask – it’s much easier that way. leaving me even more dissatisfied than before – and even less inclined to go home for even a week before my trip to Italy. Why would it change now?” My father looked defeated. “Then tell me. don’t you think?” “Yes. She can’t keep anything down. “What happened the night Uncle Alex walked into the ocean? Why did Grandpa Stokley and Momma hate one another?” “I’d like to answer your questions. even in the worst of Momma’s firestorms of rage. ZICK understand your mother. It may not always look like it to you. 170 . C. “It’s not going very well so no one is saying much of anything. “I don’t think either she or the baby will survive that. and then answered as if he hadn’t heard. to keep a positive attitude. Last week they hospitalized her for dehydration. but I can’t.” “Amy never eats. The conversation ended. “Daddy.” my father said quietly.” I said. He always managed. and she’s losing weight rather than gaining it. “I wasn’t sure if anyone had told you yet. but she’s been a good wife and mother.

” he finally said.” “That’s a good positive step. not acknowledging that I spoke of something greater than just coming to St. “Last week I stopped by her house and her college roommate was there – nice girl from Atlanta. it sometimes felt as if I only had two true friends. “And Daddy.” 171 .” I said. Now are you coming back to Calico with me tonight. I couldn’t have managed without you. Maybe that made me fortunate. I missed him terribly at times. In the whole world. Haven’t Simon and I been telling you to give it time and to concentrate on the simplest of gestures?” “You are two of the wisest people I know.” I said. “I have faith that all will work out for the best. Augustine to help me with the move.” My father brushed aside my words of appreciation. so I was even more grateful for Holly’s friendship. thanks for everything. “Any progress with Jodi?” Holly asked. After my father died in 2001.TRAILS IN THE SAND “But it’s out of our hands. “We had a good time sitting on the porch – it’s the first time I’ve relaxed with her since we told her. And you both like to remind me of that whenever you can. But I knew he understood. or are you going to stay in your new house?” “I’m going to stay here.

while cleaning out drawers in an upstairs bedroom recently. 172 . The original paint was light yellow – buttercup yellow – with forest green shutters.” Simon said.” Jodi told her dad when he called to see if she’d like to fly to West Virginia for the Memorial Day weekend reunion. that’s all.” “Let me know what time the flight is Wednesday. It gave Jodi the idea to hire painters to recreate the home of the Stokleys as it might have looked in the 1940s.CHAPTER 38 Jodi “I don’t want to go if Caroline’s coming. “I thought you two had a nice visit last week.” Jodi hung up the phone and went outside to check on the painters she’d hired to paint the exterior of the house. What’s changed?” “I’d rather go with just you to visit the McDermott side of the family. “Caroline left for Panama City this morning. Jodi found some notes written by Lillian Stokley about the color of the house. “She’s not coming to West Virginia. and then we can make plans.” “I’ll make the reservations – we’ll fly from Jacksonville on Wednesday. Her mother always talked about having the house painted in its original colors. and you were considering going to the Panhandle with her if you didn’t come with me. If you want. you can come spend the night here Tuesday.” Simon said. The house had always been white during Jodi’s tenure there. However.

Ever hear of Dr. Jodi found it surprising since Amy spent most of her life ignoring food. Her glass stood on the kitchen counter waiting for a refill. Jodi found more than her great-grandmother’s notes on the house while cleaning. “I think I’ve heard my folks mention that name before. In the last entries.” She went back inside. “I gave you a longer estimate on time because I never know what we’re going to find when we start peeling away layers of paint on these old homes. Jodi spent the night of her funeral at GG and her grandfather’s home with Caroline. It was the journal of a woman with a mental illness. “How do you like it so far?” “I think it looks great. It was in the back of a drawer in the master bedroom. She started writing it soon after she and Simon married. the content and tone changed. happy to know they’d be finished before she left for West Virginia. I wonder what Aunt Sugar would say if she dropped over right now? Jodi thought.” Jodi said.” she said. Whoever built it used the best materials available at the time. ‘I’ve been doing some research since I own it now. stopping in the dining room on the way to admire the Irish linen tablecloth covering the oval table in the center of the room. She walked into the kitchen and retrieved the open bottle of white wine from the refrigerator. and they toasted GG’s life. “But this house is in great shape for its age.TRAILS IN THE SAND “We should be done here on Monday. When GG died. She’d also found a journal her mother kept.” “My great-grandfather built it. Most of it Jodi found too painful to read. didn’t eat. Jodi thought. It’s going fast. Arthur Stokley?” Jodi asked. Then Jodi left Caroline 173 . written in the year before she died. She traced the outline of the “S” in the center and smiled. Caroline gave Jodi some champagne. Jodi surmised she probably kept it there to hide it from Simon. It should probably be on the historic register of homes.” he said.” “It’s not quite old enough. The entries were never long but they contained passages about how much food she ate or rather.” the supervisor on the crew said when she came outside to see the day’s work. She walked toward the kitchen. They sat up late talking. She often wrote about her fear of gaining weight.

P. I don’t think they have that much in common.” Jodi said.” Jodi picked up a dishcloth from the counter and lobbed it toward Caroline’s back. Sometimes I wonder why they ever married. C. “You are a little diva you know. “I wish Momma had a friend like your friend Holly. “Maybe things will change with you out of the picture. Mom seems disinterested. The ringing phone woke her the next morning.” “Off to college in just a few months – hard to believe. Mom and I are going shopping today for my graduation dress.” Caroline stood and walked into the kitchen.” Caroline said as she measured the coffee grounds. but Momma doesn’t have any friends at all. ZICK in the living room and went up to sleep in Amy’s childhood bedroom. “He’s going to be here in an hour.” she said when she hung up.” “He probably wants to get things started at lunch today.” “Not this time. Want to join us?” “I can’t. “Look who’s talking. I bet you’ll be gone when I get back from shopping. She and Dad don’t do anything together unless it involves me. He wants to meet me for lunch. At least my dad has his golf league. but I’m a little nervous about leaving Mom.” Jodi said.” “It’s not just her health – she’s built her whole life around me. Besides you’re not that close to my mom.” Caroline said.” Jodi followed her aunt. I probably have to stick around until at least Monday to sign papers and figure everything out. “Miss Jet Setter. “That was your father. “You excited about going to Auburn?” “I guess. are you?” 174 . so I think Daddy’s taken charge as usual. “I’m going to make a pot of coffee to help get us moving. as GG used to call you whenever you missed a holiday or family event.” “Your dad will be there. I imagine at some point your mom and I will have to sit down and make some decisions with a heavy dose of your father’s advice. April 2007 Jodi walked into the living room still in her pajamas and rubbing her eyes as Caroline spoke on the phone.

” “They both say you’re jealous. Jodi knew exactly what they’d discussed at that lunch the day after Gladys Stokley was buried.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Sadly. . There is no way she wanted to spend a long weekend in the company of Caroline who cared about no one but herself.” Jodi said. Maybe it’s because Momma always compared us. “But I think it’s the opposite. The divorce papers to dissolve the marriage of Amy Carlisle McDermott and Simon McDermott had been signed by Simon but not by Amy. While Jodi and her mother went shopping for Jodi’s graduation dress.” Unfortunately.” Jodi and Caroline sat on the porch drinking coffee and talking about college and the classes she might be required to take in the first semester. 2010 After reading Amy’s journal. her breaths didn’t last much past those final words.” Amy wrote in the final entry. she found a large envelope with legal documents inside. “When I tore up his garden last week. no. Her poor father never stood a chance once Caroline made up her mind. I don’t know why Amy and I weren’t ever closer. Under the journal. Simon and Caroline plotted their escape together. and it made Jodi dizzy to think how she’d once trusted Caroline. I think Momma’s envious of your life. And you were five years apart – that’s a lifetime when you’re little. that body was so weakened by the ravages of her disease. 175 . She hoped she’d be able to take at least one writing class. and Simon won’t be going anywhere with her as long as I can draw a breath into this body. Amy wrote about the horror of Simon’s leaving her for another woman – her sister. he decided I meant more to him than that whore who calls herself my sister. and Jodi felt foolish for ever worshipping her aunt. “I won’t be signing those papers.

required extraordinary measures. The first hatchlings could emerge by late June. planned. The loggerhead was a threatened species. including Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). One study done in Australia in 1979 provided the seed of hope needed to attempt to save 50. 176 . and if allowed to go through the process naturally. but there was no time. In the Gulf area impacted by the oil. but a substantial number are green turtles and a few are Kemp’s ridleys. approximately 700 nests are laid on Florida Panhandle beaches and up to 80 on Alabama’s shores. wildlife officials fretted.000 hatchlings that might otherwise swim into a certain death once in the grasses in the coastal areas of Florida and Alabama where the nests are laid. and prepared for worst case scenarios. A plan of this magnitude would normal require years of research and testing to determine outcomes. would not likely survive. they knew extraordinary events. or hatchlings. the small turtles.CHAPTER 39 A Plan to Save the Sea Turtles As May wound down into June with the oil still spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. such as the BP oil spill. but nest numbers were giving the feds enough concern to consider them for the endangered list. Despite the scientists’ reluctance to enter into any plan without testing. An extraordinary plan to save the sea turtle hatchlings on Florida’s Panhandle received plenty of attention from scientists at several agencies. Both of those are endangered species. Most of them are loggerhead nests.

The scientists wanted to give them as much time as possible in those nests. The hatchlings would head for the grasses between the coast and the Gulf currents. so they would wait to excavate the eggs until nests were anywhere from 45-52 days old before unearthing and transporting them to the east coast. precisely where the oil headed after breaking away from the original slick. However. From past studies. The tiny turtles would be swimming toward a fossil fuel landmine. which made it unique in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. At least the scientists had a plan with a fair chance of success. they hoped the marking would occur. In thirty years. The cleanup crews endlessly pacing the beaches in ATVs and larger vehicles would pose a certain risk as well. The eggs would be stored in coolers in a temperaturecontrolled warehouse until they hatched. 177 . scientists feared more what would happen if the hatchlings managed to make it to the water after dodging the gooey globs and giant machines. By allowing the eggs to remain in the original nest for the majority of the incubation period. the females would be able to return to the beaches where they’d been laid.TRAILS IN THE SAND The tarballs could be a problem. scientists were fairly certain that during incubation magnetic markings imprint themselves on the turtles.

” “Sorry. both Holly and Simon told me. and I won’t be there to annoy the two of you. His hair was just as white as was his mustache. I estimated. It makes it harder on me. “I’m glad you two are going to go together. “She said she’d come with me to West Virginia.” he said.” I tried not to let the hurt creep into my voice. You’d better go make those reservations.” I ended the conversation before I said anything more to upset Simon. Did she say anything about coming with me?” “She said she wasn’t ready to spend time with you. I didn’t push her. We’d made a few strides but clearly not enough. I don’t know why you say things like that. He was a tall man.CHAPTER 40 Caroline Simon called me as I traveled my same route down I-10. three inches.” “That’s good. He wore round wire-rim glasses and peered out over them when I walked by. It would take time. His voice bellowed through the 178 . weighing approximately 225 pounds. Then I thought back to the little bit I could remember of him from my childhood. He wore white suits with pastel shirts. six foot. and you know it. I turned my thoughts to my grandfather and his journals. It will be good for both of you. I’ll call when I’m settled in my hotel in Panama City tonight.” “You don’t annoy anyone. “I’m going to make reservations as soon as we hang up.

” Grandpa said. Momma stood. One Christmas. and his present was a bow and arrow set.TRAILS IN THE SAND house. but I remember the room becoming suddenly quiet. She fit in my arms perfectly. but its wood glistened in the glow of the Christmas tree lights. She stood facing Momma. thick black lashes. I loved my new doll instantly. Aunt Sugar and Uncle Whitey’s son. “Caroline. I wanted my hair to look exactly like that. Red was the oldest grandson at nineteen. “You can’t let him have it. that voice bellowed to me.” Momma said.” Even though the thought of opening more Christmas presents after opening them from Santa at home a few hours earlier was tempting. blue eyes.” Aunt Candy said. taking their opened presents with them.” he yelled when I walked into the room. I raced to find my mother. 179 . I trembled when he yelled. that’s his choice. I didn’t know what it was for sure. “Momma. opened his present. “Come on.” “Gladdy. let’s go outside. all wrapped in a white blanket. “Tell your mother we’re ready to open presents. I began crying. The grandchildren all sat in a circle around the ten-foot tall Colorado blue spruce tree. Everything was fine until Red. more to get away from the big man using my full name than from anticipation of what might be under the tree. while the other aunts stood behind her forming a wall of resistance to Momma’s protest. “I want it. How dare you give that away?” “I’m giving it to my grandson – it’s only fitting that it goes to the oldest boy since Alex didn’t have any children. and straight blonde hair with bangs. The cousins all stood. children. if Daddy wants to give it to Red. I remember exactly what I received that year: a beautiful doll that turned her head and closed her eyes when I pushed a button on her belly. my doll. crocheted by my grandma. “That belonged to Alex. The other male cousins gathered close to take a look. give me that doll.” I said. She grabbed it from my arms as I walked by. She had rosy painted cheeks. “Caroline Lillian. Why do you think you have a say in anything Daddy wants to do?” Aunt Sugar said. My cousins were mostly older than I was – closer in age to Amy – so I always opened my present first. Daddy came and picked me up.” Momma said.

except Momma came out of the house soon afterwards.” Daddy said. Finally he pulled away and took out a 180 . ZICK “Gladdy. “You will not talk about our daughter like that. grabbed Momma’s arm.” she said.” My father pulled the car over to the curb and opened the door. C.” Daddy said. I cried and begged for my very special doll. “That’s the worst of it.” “She’s not even five years old. I don’t remember much of what happened after that. He went around to Momma’s side of the car and opened the door. “She hasn’t done a thing. she played with her new Barbie doll as she sat next to me in the back seat. I watched over Daddy’s shoulder through the big picture window on the porch as Momma threw the doll at her father.” “She’s always talking back to me. or I will divorce you and take the girls with me.P. and pulled her outside. keep your hands off that child.” “Why does Amy get to keep her doll?” I asked. It’s awful.” My father carried me out to the front porch where the other children stood waiting to go back in the house. and you always take her side. He kept it from me all these years just to be spiteful.” Momma said as she reached around from the front seat and slapped my legs. “Gladys. “Caroline. my mother was crying and falling toward my father who held her for a very long time. You won’t believe what he told me. Momma reached around and hit me again on the legs. Do you hear me?” “He’s just so hateful. only he forgot to close the door.” Daddy said. “Just because you and your father had a fight is no excuse to abuse Caroline. and we heard. harder this time. and I will not stand for it. Jack. I will not. We’re not taking any gifts from this man if he’s going to give away Alex’s things.” my father said quietly. He reached inside. “You do not want to accept gifts from that man. What’s to become of me by the time she’s grown? She’s horrible. I do remember Amy was allowed to take her gift. please give her back her doll. On the drive home. “No. Amy started crying next to me. stop that sniffling right now. She’ll be the death of me yet.” By this time. “Hush your mouth right now.

TRAILS IN THE SAND cloth handkerchief he always kept in the inside top pocket of his suit coat. She held it in front of my face while I cried. Caroline.” I said. As I drove to Panama City. “She’s just exhausted and needs some rest. but nice just the same. let’s go home now. Don’t ever forget that. too?” I asked.” I wanted to believe my father. as she sat in the backseat of the car happily playing with her Barbie. It’s all over. including Amy and me. Gladdy. not as special as the one Momma gave back. she does. You should be so lucky. Another thought. “OK. even worse.” Amy’s birth in 1960 occurred when my parents had been married 181 .” Daddy said. “I’m sorry it’s not the same doll. but I knew it wasn’t true.” Only it wasn’t over. and the only one I truly missed was my father. The guilt I carried as a five-year-old was slightly diminished when Daddy brought me another doll. “There is nothing wrong with Amy. “Only movie stars are put in the hospital for so-called ‘exhaustion. came to my mind. That Christmas Day was perhaps the day I first began hating my sister.’” “You just wish you could look like Amy. In less than a decade.” Momma said over and over again whenever I broached the subject on our infrequent phone calls over the years. Momma didn’t talk to anyone. I wondered if Momma was afraid to admit it or if she really didn’t see what the rest of the world saw when they looked at her oldest daughter. She thinks you’re the best little girl ever. but it’s close. He wiped my mother’s face and held the cloth while she blew her nose. and I love you very much. Momma. but I don’t think I ever loved my sister. I remembered Momma’s words about something horrible my grandfather told her. Maybe the other journals from Alex or Momma would give me an answer. Maybe it was because of Simon. I sometimes felt guilty that I didn’t mourn my sister’s death. Momma and Amy were allies against the world. I couldn’t even muster a tear at her funeral. I stayed away from her because I suspected Momma’s anger was my fault. I’d lost my nuclear family.” “Does Momma love me. I certainly never liked her much. “You are my very special girl. “Of course. for the next week. Momma would never hear a word of criticism or suggestion of Amy’s illness.” “She isn’t Elizabeth Taylor.

if Amy doesn’t want to wear that dress to the recital. purse – whatever she chose on her own was always wrong. You will be the death of me yet. “Caroline. Sometimes he would attempt to throw us a lifesaver. When Amy accepted Simon McDermott’s request to be his prom date. Daddy was a good prospect working in the town’s one accounting firm. and Momma was almost twenty. and there was always at least that. so he missed some of the worst moments. Daddy kept his nose in the paper and his glass of whiskey nearby. Without that reputation. “Gladys. Jack Carlisle stood quietly on the sidelines in our home. hush your mouth right this minute. is it such a big deal?” my father said in one of his attempts to save my sister. I understood he meant to save me.” “How come everything Amy does will set the course?” I asked. Amy always seemed to choose the wrong dress. shoes. Amy was different from me because she always gave into Momma. hair do. I never learned how to do that. she can’t possibly marry well. It’s bad enough that Amy doesn’t want to wear this dress. but it usually went off course. “Simon will go far – quarterbacks always do. Daddy was twenty-eight. This recital will set the course for the rest of her life. helpless to the whims of his wife. Momma was working as the Montgomery’s maid at the time Daddy asked her to marry him.” Gladys warned. “Stay out of this. Momma praised her for finally doing something correctly and setting the course of her life for good. which he eventually took over when his employer died. I often wondered if Momma married my father to escape the humiliation of that job when her father was the town’s doctor and her sisters all went to college. He would interject himself at times when the screaming matches in our home brought his head out of his beloved newspapers. Jack. ZICK less than a year. “She will wear this dress if she wants to be known as one of the most outstanding young women of Calico – a woman any man would be proud to call wife. and now your father has decided he has an opinion. lipstick. C.” I would not ask another question until I forgot asking questions set her jaw on edge or I felt I would burst if I didn’t find out why Amy was ruining her life by wearing the wrong shade of lipstick on her first date with the quarterback of the football team.” my mother said “Let’s not forget what happened to Christopher Montgomery after high 182 .P.

this would bring you some name recognition. Eventually the ad exec left. higher paying accounts. and eventually met Momma and stayed for the rest of his life.” my mother liked to say. leaning back in his chair with all the gentlemanly charm he could muster. No. In the case of Christopher Montgomery. She failed to tell Daddy about the appointment. Daddy first came to Calico while on school breaks with Chris. while espousing the virtues of engaging Jack Carlisle’s accounting services. “Montgomery’s is the best grocery store in the world. I watched the volley back and forth with my parents and even at the age of eight. His refusal came when Momma contacted an advertising firm in Jacksonville and arranged for one of the ad executives to come to Calico to talk about regional advertising for the office. and Momma asked Amy and me to sit out in the reception area so she could talk to Daddy in private behind the closed door of his office. 183 . I surmised a significant event playing itself out in front of me. success came in the grocery store chain that now reigned over all of Florida and recently spread into Georgia and Alabama. When she brought the ad exec into the office.TRAILS IN THE SAND school. with Amy and me trailing behind. “But I don’t need to advertise – I have all the clients I can handle. Jack Carlisle made his fatal mistake when he refused to expand his small business. My mother never tired of pointing out others who rose above the small town of Calico and made a fortune. my father stood up to my mother. Depending on the Pork and Pig grocery store has ruined far too many holiday meals. It didn’t matter that Daddy ran a successful accounting firm in Calico and kept us fed. My father and Christopher had been college roommates at Stetson in Deland.” My father would look up from the New York Times Book Review section and sigh. Florida. and sheltered. “I’m fine the way things are right now.” my father said when the man’s identity and purpose were revealed. watered.” Daddy said. “I’m sorry you drove all the way here from Jacksonville.” I always hoped she stopped there.” my mother said. “I always find what I need there – it’s not like the Pork and Pig that always runs out of what I need. Jack. and you could pull in bigger. Momma envisioned Daddy sitting at his desk.” “But.

Your father needs his privacy to conduct his business.” That was all she ever said about her attempt to make Daddy a regionally famous accountant. “Girls. 184 . ZICK I don’t remember hearing any loud voices. I knew for sure her silence and withdrawal were because of Daddy and not me. but I knew she never forgave him for the one time he said no. At least this time. I do remember the coldness that rang in my mother’s voice when she opened the office door and marched toward the front door.P. He doesn’t need us here interfering with his work. let’s go home. C. It took her nearly a week to recover.

but Dad told me about it. The skyline of Pittsburgh loomed ahead of them as they watched the Braves and Pirates pound it out.” Simon’s dad said when they were settled in the car. Simon hoped the Pirates’ win boded well for the trip. 185 .” “That’s great. “We’ve got tickets for the game tonight – the Pirates are playing the Braves. Delta. Bob and Pat McDermott met them at the airport in Pittsburgh on Wednesday afternoon. When Caroline and Simon talked that night after the game. “but your father insisted you both would love the surprise. they made it to their seats in time for the first pitch.” Bob said.” Simon said.” Simon’s mom said. you’ve never been to the ballpark. she wanted to know what he and Jodi talked about on the trip and at the game. “I didn’t say I could guarantee a win. “We have a surprise for you.” “I wanted to tell you. Dad. have you?” “No. as did all flights through the southeast when flying on Atlanta’s airline.CHAPTER 41 Simon The flight from Jacksonville to Pittsburgh took Simon and Jodi through Atlanta. Thanks for getting the tickets. I’m sure it’ll be a good game even if the Pirates lose. Grandpa.” Loaded up with popcorn and cold drinks. but I certainly will help you have a good time. “Jodi.

” “Let’s not argue.” Caroline said. you wear me out sometimes with your acceptance and patience. Aren’t you going to take advantage of it?” Caroline asked. They’d been married seven years.” Simon said. Simon.” “What do you mean? What things do you need to think about that can’t be done right here in Calico?” Amy said. and he was tired of everything in his life. Mom and Dad did most of the talking to her at the game. “I’m just saying maybe the way to develop comfortableness around one another is through ordinary things.” “Not always.” “But we haven’t talked about much of anything. “You are always way too reasonable. No one ever faced the real issues and look where that left everyone.” As they hung up.” Simon said when Amy saw him packing an overnight bag. “I’m not happy. “Did you ever think small talk may be the path to forming a relationship with her? You don’t always have to talk about the big stuff.” “Simon. I’ve always believed we make our own happiness so I need to discover why 186 .” “And you always want to push things to the limit. too. I just drank my beer.” “You’re not going to walk away this time. and I think getting away will be a good thing. are you?” “That’s not fair. I’m tired and you wear me out sometimes. He was glad he hadn’t reminded her during the phone call. Amy. You were the one who wasn’t available. C. including his wife. The other stuff will come when it’s time. Caro. “I want to get away for a few days.” Caroline said. I walked away. That’s the way my family always dealt with things.P. January 1990 Simon began driving south the day he decided to leave Amy. Simon thought about the one time he had made himself available to Caroline. I want to think about that because I’ve always been happy even when things around me weren’t that great. “I’ll call you tonight. “You have the perfect opportunity to talk to her now. I need to think about things. ZICK “Nothing much – small talk. I didn’t push for you all those years.

She ended up hospitalized several times per year.” Caroline said. Maybe a glass would help you relax. except his brother Gary. too. Comfortable pillows in deep shades of red and blue added a welcoming touch so different from the coldness of his home where Amy kept everything immaculate and sterile. it was only a matter of time before most of Simon’s family.” Caroline said. but if you need to get away from me to find out.” Caroline said when she stepped out on the front stoop to greet him. They walked toward the small house. and that’s when he knew where he was headed. They never did anything unless it was with the families. “I guess you could say I did. Even though he smiled at her joke and warmed to her humorous welcome. He began driving south on I-95. She stood in the middle of the room looking at him and waiting. “This might require whiskey. She looked horrible and felt even worse most of the time.TRAILS IN THE SAND mine has left me. Simon’s parents wanted to move back to West Virginia now that his dad was retired from the University of Florida. then go. much to his chagrin his eyes started to water.” It amazed Simon that Amy didn’t see anything wrong with their life. “I’m not sure where to begin. “I was about to open a bottle of chardonnay. he missed Caroline. But most of all. “I’m renting it from a friend of Holly’s. When he set out. I hope you find yourself and discover you have it pretty darn good right here.” Simon said as he looked around the small living room furnished in rattan and wicker.” Simon said. would be gone from Calico. “I travel so much it seems silly to buy a place.” “I don’t understand what’s going on. “Nice place. Simon pulled into her driveway in the early evening as darkness began to settle on the Everglades.” Simon sat down in one of the rocking chairs. and Caroline opened the screen door and led them inside.” he said. “Momma sent you to rescue me from the Cubans and bring me back to Calico now that I’m divorced.” 187 . he didn’t have a conscious destination in mind. “Who died?” Caroline asked as she came closer and noticed the tears.

” Simon motioned to her and shook his head. She pushed aside some glasses in one of the lower cabinets and pulled out a shot glass. “Momma.” Caroline hung up the phone. and I’d like to dry off. and poured herself a glass of the chilled white wine before pulling down a bottle of whiskey from the top shelf of the cupboard. You’re here because you love me. She filled the small glass and brought it to him. The phone on the desk behind him began ringing at that precise moment before Caroline could say anything. She sipped her wine. you told me that. Momma.” Simon said when Caroline looked at him expectantly. I know. “Hello. “I just said I was going to go off by myself and think things through. Caroline watched Simon as he sat motionless in the rocking chair opposite the couch.” “Why are you here. “Hello. I thought I could save Amy.” Caroline said as she handed it to him. Caroline brought the bottle from the kitchen and placed it on the glass top of the wicker end table next to him.” “I’m going to tell you why you’re here if you don’t know. “I’ve never run away from home before. I thought I could make it work. and I know she’s lost every single one of them by 188 . “I didn’t tell anyone I was coming here. He tossed it down in one smooth motion. Caroline.” Simon said after the second shot. right?” “Yes. can I call you right back? I just stepped out of the shower. Didn’t I tell you right before you married Amy that you were about to make a whole lot of lives miserable?” “Yes.P. C. ZICK Caroline went into the kitchen end of the living area.” Simon said as he held out the glass for a refill. “I don’t know.” “And what’s different now?” “You know Amy’s been pregnant several times since we married.” Caroline said. I thought it was the right thing to do. “I left Amy. At the time. and you always have. “I’ve never seen you drink anything stronger than wine or beer. Simon?” He dropped his head into his hands.

I’m not attracted to her and no amount of drugs will change that. Momma. She takes every opportunity to belittle me.” “I can’t do it anymore – mentally and physically.” “Hello. It is not respectable to go outside naked.” “Momma. I’m afraid I’ll break her. “Thank goodness you live in the swamp and not here in Calico. we’ll have a child. let alone love her. I certainly don’t respect her. Simon.” “Why would you joke about a gator on your front porch?” 189 . I’ve got you on speakerphone so I can get dressed now. Caroline Stokley Carlisle.” she said. I had to fight an alligator off the front porch.” “How could she ever manage to carry a baby to full term and nourish it. pointing out all of my inadequacies as her husband. I find I’m angry with her all the time. “Sorry I didn’t call you right back. now that we’ve been married all this time. I’m not even sure I like her.” “And?” “I don’t want to be intimate with her. . “I figured that out. I was just joking about the gator.TRAILS IN THE SAND the fifth month.” “We only have sex when she thinks she can conceive.” The phone rang again.” “Stop. “What do I tell her?” “Do you mind giving me a little more time? Pretend I didn’t just show up here on your doorstep?” “OK – but I’m going to put it on speakerphone so you can hear exactly what she says. let alone have a child with her.” Simon said. There’s the way she treats her body and then there’s the way she lets your mother treat her. I don’t want to hear this.” “You were out on your porch naked?” Gladys shouted through the small speaker on the desk phone. Now she wants me to take something because she read an article and decided I’m suffering from erectile dysfunction. without you driving all the way here to tell me. And worse. and if I just take a drug. “You know who that will be. when she’s not nourishing herself? Her body doesn’t even function the way a normal woman’s body is supposed to function. and then I’m so afraid of hurting her . I can’t take it anymore. . Caro.” Caroline said when she answered.

“Seems your bacon or the family jewels – can’t quite figure out 190 . But that’s not why I’m calling.” Then Momma paused and when she spoke again. Told her he needed some time to think things through.” Simon poured another shot and downed it before looking at Caroline. She was a humorless woman. It will work itself out because those two love each other. and I thought maybe you had talked to him and gave him this idea. if you get my drift. Did you know Simon has left Amy?” “What are you talking about?” Caroline asked. Jack would grin when Caroline made one of her cynical or sarcastic jokes.” How could Simon or Caroline ever think Gladys didn’t have a sense of humor? The family jewels? The bacon? Simon might be on the floor rolling with laughter with Caroline if this wasn’t so serious and embarrassing. She didn’t do much laughing. Caroline told Simon he was the only person in the world who really understood her sarcasm. Good night. but he didn’t respond or joke himself. “Maybe he’s going through a phase. Caroline. Simon did not consult me before he ran away from home. whatever that means. Did Amy have another miscarriage?” “Not this time. The real thing – the family jewels. thank goodness.” she said. I guess Simon is unable to bring home the bacon. C. she was whispering. “But I don’t know anything about it. “Early this morning he just up and left. even though the things she said could be construed as quite humorous.” “Simon lost his job?” “No. “I’ve told you over and over again that you just need to move yourself back up here to civilization. “Confidentially. This is not like Simon.” Caroline said. Momma. but I can’t expect you to understand that. How’s Amy handling it?” “She’s a real trooper that one.P.” “I’ll be sure to tell him if he calls. ZICK Simon knew Gladys never understood Caroline’s sense of humor.” “No. If Simon calls you. Why he couldn’t do that right here in Calico is beyond my years of wisdom. Momma. “Our gators stay right where they’re supposed to stay up here.” “What things?” “His unhappiness with life. not that bacon. tell him to march himself right back here where he belongs.

I’d be laughing if I didn’t feel like crying. “We? What do we do now?” Caroline asked. There’s a spare room there and a bathroom off the hallway. you’re tired and probably just a little drunk.” Caroline said. you’ve finally come to your senses?’” “Maybe not quite like that. you can’t just walk out and come to me and expect things to just change because you’ve made a decision. Maybe that’s where I get my gift for writing. Make yourself at home.” “Momma certainly has a way with words. Nothing’s changed for me just because you’ve shown up on my doorstep after leaving my sister. “I’m wondering what you’re doing now.” “I thought you’d be happy to see me.” “And what? Welcome you with open arms and say ‘Simon.” “I’ve made a mess of things.TRAILS IN THE SAND which – aren’t working and you left home to figure it all out.” “Do you remember what else I told you that day before you married Amy? I said I wouldn’t be waiting around for the day when you decided you’d made a mistake. and we’ll talk in the morning. but something similar. “I can’t believe she said that. haven’t I?” “Simon.” “What do we do now?” Simon asked.” 191 . Tonight.

dead wildlife. My talks with Simon during the week were short and uninspired mostly. I filed a story daily on various topics. I wanted to head home. “Susan is doing a fine job. Despite Simon’s speeches to me about enjoying the simple things with Jodi. Those tourists I did interview were mostly from other parts of Florida and wanted to show support to the beleaguered Panhandle coast. he was constantly talking with folks personally impacted by the mine disaster. “It’s a 192 . I left Panama City on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. We both were exhausted from our daily activities. For five days. Besides that. musty – permeated my being during the week I spent in Panama City. I breathed the daily counts of oiled wildlife. The fishing bans and images of oiled wildlife kept folks from other parts of the country away. and tourists on the beaches. “She misses him. and dead wildlife. and wildlife scheduled for release. he was still mourning his cousin. As much as he delighted in meeting the youngest member of the McDermott clan.” “I know what it’s like to miss the man you love. I interviewed volunteers. dying. noxious. Simon and Jodi planned to fly home on Sunday.CHAPTER 42 Caroline The smell of oil – dark. I wrote about the empty seafood restaurants and the cancelled cruises.” Simon told me during one of our talks. but there is such an air of loneliness about her even in the middle of all the family. After seeing hundreds of suffocating. scientists.” I said. I’m sure he felt some tension in his efforts to keep it light.

The steely blue intensity of those eyes still sucker punched me even if I didn’t understand why he was standing there on my porch in the Everglades crying. I bought a small house. I noticed tears hovering on the edges of his usually sparkling eyes. disaster and miracles commingled. Caro. hid behind our newspapers. January 1990 When the white Honda pulled in my driveway. so I quickly looked out the window of my office to see who might be pulling up to my isolated house just before dusk. which gave me just what I needed: comfortable and private accommodations whenever I landed back in south Florida. the writing wasn’t going well. and I was left standing dazed in the middle. His glistening yet unshed tears shocked me almost as much as his pronouncement about Amy’s pregnancy. I had not been too far off after all. Where Simon was concerned. When I greeted him and looked into his eyes.” Simon said. I brought Simon into my small cottage. I could count on my right hand the number of times I cried in my lifetime. After my divorce from Gus. When I came home. I was sifting through my notes and reading my research books. I was working on an article about nature’s fight during the building of the Panama Canal. Most of my family members.TRAILS IN THE SAND horrible thing. Even before I saw him get out of the car. but the lead was eluding me. Whenever my personal life took a nosedive. We ranted. Soon after. Suddenly the uneasiness of my day became clear. I dove into my writing. but we did not cry. The only time I remember my father coming close to crying happened in St. I managed to get a couple of article assignments out of the trip. I needed the time and solitude to write my 193 . However. I lived out from the city but not quite buried in the swamp. raved. didn’t cry. and drank whiskey. including Simon.” “That’s a low blow. Something hung over me – the sense of impending doom or a marvelous miracle – my extra sensory perceptions were not finely tuned. Not many folks visited me. I knew it was Simon. I was on an assignment to Panama and became fascinated with the Panama Canal and its place in the world. Augustine as we sat on the porch of Scarlet’s. I heard its tires crunch on the stones before I saw the car.

“I was just going for a walk. and the ibis scratching for insects in the mud.” “Really? You can’t figure it out? I’ve learned to live without you. I didn’t sleep much at all. I needed to breathe. I could walk for miles without seeing a soul and without getting wet – the trail was well-drained and made for bikers and hikers alike. On the one hand.” “Angry? But. C. Those creatures existed in northern Florida. ZICK articles. Simon. Then you just show up here and expect me to open my arms to you. and we’d drive into town for breakfast. I grabbed my water bottle and put on my rubber boots. This is the best time of day to see the ‘Glades in all its glory. On the other.” I said. I knew he would appreciate the wood storks feeding on the edges of the marsh at dawn and the gators coming out of the grasses to the edge of the canals to sun themselves as the ground warmed in the open spaces. “I couldn’t sleep.” I nodded. I tossed in my big bed almost all night waiting for daylight to edge its way under the blinds so I could get up and go outside.” “You think I came here because I just want a quick roll in the 194 . “Not much chance of that.” Simon said as I came on the front porch. He sat on the porch swing. I wanted his company. I decided to walk the trails behind the house. He would love watching the great blue herons patiently waiting for the perfect fish in the shallows. I’m angry with you. Perhaps he would be awake when I returned.P. Caro. Did I want his company under these circumstances? “I’m not sure. I guess there’ll be time for that later – when everything settles. I always wanted his company. I longed to show Simon what I had discovered about the Everglades during the past few years. but in the Everglades the pure abundance of them under an expanse of water and marshes left me in awe. why? I don’t understand. “I thought you’d sleep in this morning. When I went into my bedroom after Simon and I talked. I can’t do that.” “Want some company?” I wasn’t sure how to answer. you’re the only person who will understand why I live here. trying to be as quiet as possible so I didn’t wake Simon. I’ve accepted it. despite my anger at his arrival. I imagined he was exhausted and would sleep for a while yet.

and you probably thought you’d never hear it from me. I absorbed his words like a tired traveler weary from the road.” Simon finally said when we’d settled down. “I loved what you said. Neither of us said anything.TRAILS IN THE SAND hay?” I wished I’d made a pot of coffee. “I think we’re going to need some coffee.” He grinned for the first time since he’d arrived. I sat down opposite him.” “Like a baby on a tit. “I never thought I’d say this. Only with Simon – Holly and I could get very silly. throwing our heads back and letting it rip through our bellies. “I came here because I can’t get you out of my mind. but I don’t know how to respond. waiting for my response. “Like a Hoover on the carpet. I hadn’t laughed like that in what seemed like forever. “And that wasn’t saying much of anything at all.” Simon said. Because the reality – no matter how natural and right it feels to be here with you – sucks. The water I held in my hands would not do the trick this morning. We both burst out laughing. Part of our laughter came because we were laughing about nothing at all. When I’d done enough bustling around in preparation of the much-needed black crude. “I came here because in my entire life. but I didn’t laugh with my whole being like with Simon.” Simon said.” I said. you are my one true friend who I can say anything to. and it has nothing to do with the reality of the situation.” I countered.” 195 .” I said.” Simon sat at the small kitchen table while I ground the beans and put the coffee on to brew.” “Come on inside. “Anything else I can come up with isn’t very wholesome. “Maybe you’re right – there isn’t much of anything else to say than that. They were the words I’d longed to hear for so long and here he was saying them. I know what I feel. “But do you suppose there are times in our lives when words are simply inadequate to express the deepest of emotions?” “You didn’t like what I said?” he asked. I came here because no other place on earth feels like home.

and we sat at the table drinking and talking about the little things of life.P. you are a child of the South and no self-respecting Southerner ever drinks coffee or tea without white gold. “Still take it with just cream?” I asked. I got up to pour our coffee. She was also tall for a woman – 5’8”. I had never had a conversation with her about anything of substance. and somehow instead of growing up detesting my body.” We fell silent again. “That would be you and me too if I remember correctly. I guess I’m a self-loathing Southerner because I don’t put that sugar cane that’s ripping apart the Everglades on everything I imbibe. he kept busy. eyes. but Caroline.” “Amy never shows any sign of wanting to work? She does have a degree in accounting. C. and most of all.” he said. She had no drive or ambition.” How can you two drink coffee without sugar? I can understand Simon – he’s sort of aYankee. “You probably know all the dirt in Calico. we had absolutely nothing in common. You wouldn’t believe the cases I discourage – those are the most interesting. when I thought of Amy I imagined everything dull: hair. ZICK It set us off again as we discovered the simplest of joy in laughing about nothing. body. but I try to keep a respectable balance while still making a decent living. I used to feel guilty because I wasn’t even sure I 196 . I loved it.” and I had the blue eyes of the Stokley clan. Amy was thin with dark hair. Amy’s eyes were a dull brown. We’ve become a sue-happy nation. For two sisters who grew up in the same home. He told my how his practice was going in Calico. she isn’t well enough to hold down a job. Since he was the only lawyer in town. To look at us. I was more rounded – not fat.’” “That would be my dear. and besides. I had breasts and hips.” I said. personality. No wonder he didn’t even like my sister much. We manage without her working. I was the shortest of our family at 5’4. no one would ever suspect we came from the same parents. I told him about my current project on the Panama Canal and some other ideas I had to get the most out of my recent trip there.” I handed him his mug. dear Momma. “I can just hear your momma now. Maybe I’d be able to pull off another visit soon if I came up with a real winner. “And then some.” “She would never take the exam to be a CPA. but not skinny either. In fact.

The hawks 197 . I knew Joey wore these in addition to a set of small earplugs. “Just give me this. “Put on these ear mufflers – you’ll be glad you did once we get started. and the view on the water from the outside deck one of the best in the ‘Glades. “I don’t need anything else. Nice to meet to you. I need a shower to wipe away those cobwebs.TRAILS IN THE SAND loved my sister.” Simon said. “Sure. indicating the world around the airboat that he had pulled into the marsh grass so I could take a photograph of a gator sunning on the banks. but it didn’t go in the water either which is why the airboat was a perfect conveyance for the Everglades – it could get into the grasses and marshes unlike any other boat. do you think you could take my friend. I had a friend who ran a one-man tour boat business on the docks next to the restaurant. Simon and me out on a ride this morning?” I asked when I found him washing his boat. It was too hard to separate what I felt for Amy from what I felt for Simon. The herons and egrets swooped down in front of us.” Simon said. The fish was fresh. Simon. Caro.” Joey took us on the grand tour – we flew through the water until we came to small paths that took us right through the heart of the Glades. the cook superb. “You all right?” “I’m fine. Thinking of ghosts. We walked over there with our tummies full and our head buzzing with caffeine.” He handed us each a set. The roar of the airboat is deafening. Then he slowed down and allowed us to take in the beauty of the land around us. The powerful propeller on the back of the boat that sent the vehicle flying over the water was not quiet. “Joey. many airboat operators lost their hearing in the first years of the boats’ existence. Joey was born and raised in the ‘Glades and told me once that the world outside of here mattered not at all to him. Caroline. Afterwards I suggested an airboat ride to get the real feel of the area.” After we’d both had showers. “You’re lost in your thoughts. Ever been on an airboat?” “Can’t say that I have. and we dutifully set them on our heads so our ears were covered. I suggested we drive the thirty minutes to Everglades City for the best breakfast he would ever have – panfried grouper fingers with grits.” he said as he raised his arm and swept it around.

He placed a hand on either side of my face.” Simon placed his bottle down on the kitchen table and took the one from my hand. No doubt. ZICK glided overhead and the gators came out to take in the warm February morning sun.” I said. “I hope to do it again real soon. “Thanks. I’ve got something you’ll really enjoy. “It’s nature’s cornucopia. We stared into one another’s eyes and held hands. Our taste buds have always been perfectly matched.” Simon said. “If so.” Joey said. “I’ll just drop you two lovebirds off back on the docks.” “Joey. I very much enjoyed my first airboat ride. Simon and I no longer looked at the scenery around us.” “My tastes haven’t changed all that much in all the years I’ve known you.” he said. as he clinked his bottle against mine. We both smiled. Joey. “Salud. We decided to ignore them and instead I went to the fridge and pulled out two beers.P. even when Joey roared off back to Everglades City after our brief stop to watch the gators and great blues enjoy their day.” Simon said as he shook our driver’s hand once back on land.” “An aphrodisiac worthy of a tomato.” “Amazing how many things we have in common. we kissed one another. She’s like our little sister around these parts. I guess.” I said just before Joey started up the engine to speed off to a tree island protruding from the swamp. Simon’s known me practically my whole life. and kissed me. C. most of them originated in Calico.” “Take care. “I see why you love it here so much. Simon. Simon reached over and took my hand. come on. the answering machine light was flashing telling me I had several calls. leaned down. I was an active participant in the one thing I’d dreamed about and then angrily shoved 198 . Simon leaned over at one point and kissed me on the cheek. Or rather. “Still like stout?” I asked.” I responded. Nice to meet you and be sure to take care of our Caroline. When Simon and I made it back to my house. “Here’s to finding love and happiness in the swamp.” “Cheers.

what’s going on?” I asked when I opened the door. “It’s your sister. He was looking at me like the deer in those old headlights.” I looked over at Simon. Simon. “Amy was pregnant?” “You didn’t know?” Holly said.” I said.” “Oh God.” Simon said. “You’re the only one who knows what you need to do now. “Your Momma called me a few hours ago and asked me to come over here.” I said as I held open the screen door.” 199 . “I’ve been calling you all day. because I sure as hell don’t know what you two are up to. Caroline.” I said. “Come on in and meet Simon. “Here we go. And Holly.” We walked together into my bedroom and shut the door.” Simon said. and she hemorrhaged quite a bit. I turned the volume on the answering machine down as low as it would go. meet my other best friend. someone was knocking on the front door.TRAILS IN THE SAND from my mind for all those years. and our love. Simon. The phone began ringing. One of you better get on the phone and let your mother know what’s going on. The kiss went on for so long that I began to feel faint. Your mother said she had another miscarriage. meet my best friend. She doesn’t know where Simon is though.” The two shook hands before Holly began again. “She’s in the hospital. “Simon? Your Momma’s looking all over for him and trying to get a hold of you too.” Holly said as she came into the kitchen to greet Simon. Where you been and whose car’s out front?” my friend asked. “Holly. There would be time to hear Momma’s messages later. me. “Gladys said she was quite far along this time. For now. We hungrily searched with first our tongues and then our hands. “Simon. “No going back now. unsure if he should keep crossing the road or turn back around and hightail it back where it came from. When we emerged several hours later for food. Holly.” Holly said. “It’s your call.” “What’s the big deal? I already told her I didn’t know where he was. there was only Simon. You better call her. and I went to my bedside table and turned off the ringer. and it’s pretty serious.

” Holly said. Thanks for coming out here. I’ll call when I can. “Do you want me to pack your bags while you call Momma?” I asked. 200 . “There’ll be plenty of time. “I’m sorry I had to meet you under these circumstances. He looked at me.” I walked Holly to the door and started to say something. Call Momma – at least give someone peace of mind today. Call me when you can. “Not tonight. Simon. He grabbed his head and moaned as if a headache tortured him. ZICK “I’m going to leave you two alone. “How did you know?” “That’s easy.P.” Simon and I didn’t see one another again until my father died in 2001. Holly. C. Do you think you’re going back to Calico with Simon?” “I don’t think that’s even a remote possibility. I know you better than you know yourself. I’m sure you’re as wonderful as Caroline says.” I shut the door and turned back to Simon who still stood in the middle of the living room. but she held up her hand to stop me.” she said. I hope it all works out for the best.

CHAPTER 43 Jodi The mountains of West Virginia loomed over the gathering of the McDermott tribe. “True.” Jodi smiled as she thought about her grandmother and her sisters. Jodi spotted her grandparents sitting at a picnic table alone.” “You better not tell Aunt Sugar that. Cousins ten times removed teased. “We’re so happy you came with your dad. “But the food is equal to anything those sweet aunts of yours can conjure up. They fought over trivial things. joked. too. “We miss you. “Never a dull moment with the Stokley women. they were family and always came back together. “Sure is quieter than a gathering with the Stokleys. Simon followed. 201 . so she walked over with a full plate of food and joined them. but in the end.” Jodi said. and played with easy familiarity at Coopers Rock State Forest east of Morgantown. Remember the time GG told Aunt Cookie her pecan pie needed more pecans?” “I never thought we’d get out of there alive.” “I miss you. Jodi enjoyed the laughter and peacefulness of her father’s side of the family.” Jodi’s Grandma McDermott said.” Jodi said to her father as they filled their plates at the buffet table set up in the picnic shelter.” Simon said.” Simon said.

Tommy does too.” “What did you tell them?” Simon asked.” “This week I heard more about the mine and the problems there. “You have us. On Sunday morning. “They had these legal documents and wanted me to sign them saying I’d never sue. and her in-laws followed.” her grandmother said. her sons. “The boys seem happy. Susan.” Jodi said.” 202 . I’m glad you’re pursuing the lawsuit with the others.” Simon said. too. After the reunion. “I’m surmising it was only a matter of time until something happened. thank goodness. Away from all the ghosts of Calico. Simon. We all love you very much. and grandparents drove home.P. “I told them where they could put the check – I don’t think they expected a woman who’d just given birth to be so vocal or graphic. her father. I don’t have much time to think. It’s a wonder he didn’t come out all colicky with all the stress I felt in that last month. Susan?” Simon asked as they walked through the woods behind the house. Jodi felt some of the dark cloud lift from her back. C. “They waited to come after you when you were most vulnerable. even Jodi.” “And if Caroline was here. and they’d hand over a check for $3 million. They all laughed. “Love can conquer anything. and you have the Stokleys. and Jodi took a walk while the older McDermotts cooked and watched the young boys.” “Did I tell you representatives from Massey visited me in the hospital right after Jason was born?” Susan asked.” Grandpa McDermott said as he waved his hand around the park filled with McDermotts. Jodi.” “That’s despicable. Jodi and Simon would leave for the airport. which I suppose is good. They all planned to spend the night instead of driving back to Beckley so late in the day. ZICK “Family is everything. “I’m tired most of the time. “Jason sleeps a lot. “How are you holding up.” Simon said. Susan. After breakfast on Sunday. I’m so busy. dear.” “One day you might see how much Caroline loves you. she’d say you’re sounding like a Hallmark card. but he’s young enough for memories of his father to fade faster. “What did they want?” Simon asked.” Simon said.” she said. Stevie probably misses his father the most.

I assure you.” Susan said. so I can imagine how hard it must have been for you and still is. I know how difficult it is.” “This may not be my place to say anything. When Jodi noticed. “I understand why it’s upsetting. It’s a shock – it was a shock to all of us up here. Love her back. always remember that family is our connection to the past.” Jodi said when Susan paused. “Take it slow if you need to but move forward. I really like her.” “I’m proud of you. 203 . She rested her head on Susan’s shoulder and thought about her words.” Susan said. “I don’t know if I can. “Jodi. she stopped too. just like her mother used to do when she was hurt or sick. Then Simon and Caroline get married. but it felt so good to have someone hold her.” Simon said. Jodi wanted a beer. “Caroline will be. “I know. “You lost your grandmother and your mother within a year of one another. Jodi was silent most of the way. Susan walked toward her and took Jodi in her arms. but I’m going to – if I can stand up to a coal company. but she wants to write some articles about coal mining. I guess I can speak my mind to you.” Susan stopped walking. and our hope for the future. I know from things I’ve heard from your grandparents you aren’t very happy with your father and Caroline marrying.” Jodi wanted to push Susan away. just let it all go.” Susan said. Don’t squander or take for granted anyone in your life who loves you.” “How is Caroline? I wish she could have come on this trip. she loves you. “Just let it all go.” On the plane home.” Jodi stared at her feet as they continued to walk.” “She’s busy with the oil spill.” Susan said. “When we lose someone we love. too. “But as difficult as it is.” Jodi finally managed to whisper.TRAILS IN THE SAND “They won’t bother me again. At a restaurant in the Atlanta airport while they waited for their connecting flight to Jacksonville. we lose a whole library of wisdom and love.” Susan said. my dear child. and she loves Simon. but at least think about it. Caroline is your aunt. “I let them have it. There is no guarantee that person will be here tomorrow. our sustenance in the present.” “I guess. they sat eating a late lunch of nachos.

” “I’m sorry you found out that way.” “The next day. you and Caroline went out to lunch. “I went along with them. but then your grandmother would intervene. except the mother was healthy. “Typical story. Momma didn’t write much. C. ZICK but knew better than to attempt one in the Atlanta airport. “I tried. You were the best thing in her life. I suppose. and the records were sealed. especially in front of her father. right?” “That’s right.” 204 .” Simon said. yes.” Simon said. Caroline said it was to make decisions about GG’s estate. “We gave up on the idea because your mother didn’t take the news very well. You and Caroline had a slumber party. “I remember.P. They didn’t tell us much. but it wasn’t about that.” “Is that when you decided you couldn’t live apart any longer?” “That’s when we decided that living apart wasn’t working for either one of us. but we discussed other things as well. I convinced both Amy and Gladys adopting a baby would be wonderful for us and the baby who needed a home. Everyone thought having a child would help her recover.” “And then you decided to tell Momma?” “How do you know I said anything to your mother?” “I was cleaning out drawers in your former bedroom.” “Do you know anything about my birth parents?” Jodi asked. “Remember when I stayed at GG’s the night of her funeral?” Jodi asked. so I stayed. She got sick the day I was planning to leave. until the doctors said another pregnancy after all the miscarriages would kill her. but she wrote quite a bit about your declaration of love for her sister. It happened quickly. When the doctor intervened after the fourth or fifth miscarriage. was it?” “Partly. He took a sip of his ice tea and wiped his mouth afterwards. and so were you.” “Why didn’t anyone ever get Momma help?” Jodi asked. Hidden in the back of one of the dresser drawers was a journal.” “That’s why you decided to adopt. Simon pushed the plate of nachos away and cleaned the surface of the table with a napkin.

They picked up Simon’s car in the long-term lot and headed to St.” Jodi said. “All right. he was afraid he’d lose her to someone who gave her up for adoption twenty years earlier. “Tarballs coming on shore in Florida. For the first time in a very long time. “Don’t you want to come inside for a minute?” Simon asked when they pulled in the driveway.” If Holly came along on Caroline’s next assignment. She could write a story and have it published.TRAILS IN THE SAND Then why are you fidgeting with the napkin? Jodi thought as she stared at her father. I’ll call Seth and see if he’s interested. “Probably.” “Holly might come along. “She called the other day and wants to get away.” “We’ll see. if I can. “That means the scientists are probably going to have to get involved with the sea turtle nests. “She’s cool.” Caroline said.” “I remember her.” “Are you headed back anytime soon?” Jodi asked. “At least say hello to Caroline. She even asked her about the oiled wildlife. Maybe she could convince her father she didn’t 205 .” Jodi said.” Simon said when he noticed Caroline coming out the back door of the house. You still interested in coming with me if I go back?” “I don’t know. She’d never been very curious about her birth parents until now. but I’m not coming inside. Maybe he and I could meet you wherever you go for the story. Augustine where Jodi left her car. That’s probably why her father was nervous. she felt excited about something.” Caroline said. “I really want to get on the road. maybe she could stand it.” Jodi said. “Doesn’t seem like Holly’s thing. Jodi managed to make small talk with Caroline about the trip.” “She’d want to go with you on this assignment?” Simon asked. All the talk of family made her wonder where she’d come from – not that she had any desire to find them. They’ve been considering a plan. I think her current relationship is about to end. and she wants a distraction. but I’d like to stay home for at least a week. and she could talk Seth into joining them as well. too. The rest of the trip went smoothly as they read or talked about such things as the painting of the Stokley homestead and the tomato crop for the year. but I don’t have the details yet.

Maybe she wouldn’t have to tell him she’d failed all her classes last semester. ZICK need a degree to find a meaningful career. 206 . C.P.

” I said. “We had a good visit. I understood very well that NPR’s headline story. I left messages because I knew they would be working regardless of what day it was. and 207 . “It’s about time you figured that out.” He smiled and drew me into his arms. it’s the small things. They also were dealing with economics at play in the fishing and tourism industries. which put my friends at Florida’s wildlife agency at the forefront of any news of this type.” “I’m always right. I tried to put aside all thoughts of oil spills and wildlife in danger as I turned to my husband after Jodi pulled out of the driveway. The continual replay of the photos of the oiled birds off the coast of Louisiana created a public consciousness and hysteria for saving the wildlife. It would be naïve to assume the waters surrounding Florida had never been dirtied or sullied by industry. Tarballs were not unheard of in the Gulf of Mexico.” Simon said. “That went well. I imagined the two of them scrambling to fend off reporters until they understood what this meant. As a journalist. cargo ships. The quantity and freshness of any tarball spotted now would be paramount to determining its source.CHAPTER 44 Caroline After I heard the tarball story. even though I knew it was the Memorial Day holiday.” could mean one tarball showed up in the marsh grass near Pensacola. “Oil reaches Florida beaches. or oil drilling rigs. “Maybe you’re right. I called both Kate and Gina at the fish and wildlife agency.

” Momma said.” “She did? Susan is an amazing woman. Very few people called my landline anymore – except Momma.” “Momma. I swear that man just wants to read the newspaper. He said to meet him at the hospital.” I said as I pulled him up the stairs to our bedroom. I forgot about everything else. and they have him 208 . As usual. September 2001 I decided on a rainy Monday to take the day off and do what rainy days demand. Whatever they were.” “Right now we have some unfinished business. Our longest separation – eleven years – didn’t end so happily.” “Then let me show you. including all the past and present hurts. He turned me toward him and held my face between his hands. we left our disagreements behind quickly. yesterday Simon came over and mowed. Bowden. ZICK Susan helped us. Finally. They said he has double pneumonia because of a nasty flu virus. why is Daddy in the hospital?” “He told me this morning that he couldn’t breathe very well unless he was sitting up and hunched a little forward. “Daddy’s in the hospital? Why?” I don’t remember a single day of my childhood when my father had been sick. “I thought he had the flu. I thought he wanted to get out of mowing the lawn.” Simon took my hand and pulled me toward the back door of the house. the phone rang on the bed stand next to me.P. “but he just kept getting worse and worse.” Momma said.” he said as we entered the kitchen. I saw Jack Carlisle calling. “It’s time you and I figured out what this thing is between us. Sure enough when I looked at the phone. “How did we ever manage to get here?” “You don’t know by now?” “I’m still trying to figure it out. He always found every excuse to let that grass get as long as possible. I decided to call Dr. “Your father’s in the hospital. As I settled in for a luxurious afternoon. when Simon took my hand and led me upstairs. He’s dehydrated. C. I crawled into bed with a new book. She told Jodi to forgive you. The reunions made up for the separations and for the fights. I’ll have to thank her.

I can’t imagine they’ll keep him very long.” Momma said.” Momma said. I hope I can fly into Gainesville. You’ve never even laid eyes on your niece. “Caroline Carlisle. Ask him specifically if I should come home. Come home right now. I thought he stayed in bed all last week to avoid doing the job. “I already told you. Caroline. “No. your father took one shuddering breath and then that was it.” “He faked not eating and drinking liquids. I don’t think I can get it together and be packed and at the airport tonight. I think I need you here. I’ll get a rental. She called the nurse but by the time she arrived in the room. “Come home. it was not to give me a prognosis on Daddy’s health. Momma?” The wall of numbness I’d encased myself in for the past decade was crumbling. just like you. Amy said his breathing became more and more labored. I began to cry. Dr. you can save your smart mouth for all your smart friends. I came home to get a few things while Amy sits with him. I didn’t mean anything – I’m upset. Momma. I’ll let you know when I’ll be there. Call me after you talk to the doctor when you go back.” “Do you want Simon to pick you up at the airport?” she asked. If he’s sick from anything.” “That’s it? He died? Daddy’s dead? How can that be. and I’ll call when I’m on my way. Bowden will be straight with you. You’re the strong one – Amy’s a mess and has gone home to bed. but I might have to make it Jacksonville. it’s a broken heart you trample on every time you refuse to come home for the holidays or even our anniversary celebration last year.” “Should I come?” “I’ll ask the doctor.” “Sorry. breaking your poor father’s heart. “He died while I was gone.” she said.TRAILS IN THE SAND on oxygen. “You’ve chosen to stay away all these years.” Only when Momma called me back in a few hours. too?” I asked.” “I’ll get the first flight out in the morning. Caroline.” 209 . “He’s dead. She’ll probably be in the hospital herself before the day ends. Your father is never sick.” “Shouldn’t that have been a clue that something was wrong?” “I didn’t really think he was that weak. he always hated mowing and found any excuse to have Simon come over and do it.

He deserved someone who loved him. I tried to imagine if I would need to stay longer than a week. She also wanted children – something I wouldn’t even discuss during our marriage. I hesitated about the return flight. I suddenly realized I’d be facing all these demons without my faithful father. C. I missed planning nice dinners on the occasions when we both made it back to south Florida at the same time. but I wasn’t passionate about him. I liked him just fine. So when he told me it was time for us to divorce because he wanted out of one marriage and into another. Momma said she was waiting for me to get there to make the funeral arrangements. anything to take my mind off the subjects that would surely give me pain: my father’s death and my reunion with Simon after eleven years. marriage was a convenient way for both of us to have a relationship when we needed it. and I hadn’t seen him in eleven years. Those aren’t enough to hold together a relationship. ZICK I went online and booked a flight out of Miami for 11 a. We never even tried to mesh our schedules. all these years later? What about Jodi? Would she like what she saw? Would the years of sporadic depression show? Would the thousand nights of crying when I turned out the light on a lonely day and even lonelier night shine on the lines around my eyes? As all these thoughts filtered through my head. Rich finally found a woman who had no other interests but making him happy. we probably never spent an entire year of nights together under one roof. I never tried to accommodate Rich’s schedule.m. 210 .P. It was too much to think about. and he never bothered with mine. My second husband and I recently divorced – he was a writer for Sports Illustrated and spent as much time as I did on the road because I went wherever my freelance assignments took me. I thought of all the things I needed to do. He only cared about the next big game. What would Simon think when he saw me. I wouldn’t need to leave for the airport until 8:30 or 9:00. Tuesday. I really understood. I missed calling someone when I landed as well. I missed having someone call me when he landed in the next city. September 11 – the only time available to Gainesville. During the course of our five-year marriage. and she was passionate about him. Then there was meeting Jodi for the first time. What did it matter what I looked like or what others thought of me? My father was dead. I walked over to the mirror and examined the woman reflected back at me. Perhaps the years apart would make seeing Simon less painful.

When the coffee finished brewing.TRAILS IN THE SAND After I made the reservations. What would it be like to be with Momma without my buffer? I wondered.m.’ “How in the world are you going to fly here today?” “What do you mean?” “It’s all over the news. isn’t it awful?” Momma said almost before I said ‘hello. My father would not be there to protect and support me. I hoped the newspaper would be there when I finished. It continued to get worse. at 6 a. turn on the TV. and this time I let it ring. I finished packing as best I could. I took a cup into the bathroom as I prepared to take a shower. I listened to reports of another flight missing and then the announcement from the FAA. All flights departing from within the United States were cancelled until further notice. The image looked like a video game with no one at the controls. She hadn’t come into the twenty-first century yet. Perhaps I 211 . “I’ll call you back. I need to listen to this. Finally. I almost let it go since I was preparing to walk out the door.m. Momma. “Caroline.” she said. I continued to watch as the phone rang again. “A plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center. It all played out before me as I sat watching in stunned silence. including my father’s death. I rose and made a pot of coffee. My father was dead. we’re under attack. I could hear Momma coming through the receiver I had placed on the kitchen counter. Was I watching the movie of the week? None of it could be real.. I found it difficult to sleep. I barely heard it because the announcement of Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon held me rapt in front of the TV. my phone rang. Tomorrow I would see Jodi for the first time. Most people knew to call me on my cell phone – except Momma.” I heard the announcer proclaim. and the rest of the world had gone mad.” I hung up the phone and walked over to the couch where I sat down very slowly. I wasn’t sure how to pack for my father’s funeral. I watched as a second plane flew into the south tower. No sense in lying in bed allowing the ghosts free reign over my emotions. Sometime close to 9 a. The past kept creeping up on me. The world as I knew it was disappearing.. I still had a few hours to kill before I needed to leave for the airport. I put down the phone and picked up the remote to turn on the TV.

” Momma said as a young girl stepped forward to shake my hand. I looked at the other women in my family 212 . “Hello.” The mention of Simon’s name brought me out of my shocked coma as I watched the first of the twin towers collapse. What is going on?” “Just come home. this time in Pennsylvania. ZICK was simply having the worst nightmare of my life. I’ll get on the road right now. Just get home. the only place in the world I wanted to be was Calico – the one place I’d run from for more than twenty years. “I’m almost eleven.P. “Caroline.” I went to the bedroom and retrieved my one piece of luggage. Her arms went around me.” “Amy – another plane. “Momma wants to know what you’re going to do now all the airports have closed. C. “Caroline. “Your birthday’s in two weeks. and soon I’d wake up. I should be there in six hours if there’s no traffic. Caroline. Then the porch door opened and out tumbled the greeting party: Momma. Jodi. Suddenly. Then my cell phone on the table next to me began ringing. I’m fine.” I shook the outreached hand and then decided that was much too formal. “No. But in Calico. I would perhaps feel my father’s presence if I could just get to the house. Jodi. “Are you all right?” “I’m fine – I’m with Momma right now. the niece I’d never met. Do you want Simon to drive down there and pick you up? He can leave right now. planes did not fly into buildings and skyscrapers did not collapse on thousands of people. She looked very healthy. meet your niece. She looked just like Simon with her blue eyes and blonde hair. Amy. It was Momma again. “Caroline’s here!” I heard Momma yell when I got out of the car after my drive north.” Amy said when I answered. I put my arms around her shoulders and pulled her close to me for a hug. and I felt myself relax.” I said. She’s ten years old now. And Simon – I wanted nothing more in that moment to see Simon again and to meet Jodi. this is your sister. Maybe when I arrived in the place of my birth. We all need to be together. I would feel something other than the numbness that had enveloped me for more than a decade. and Jodi. wondering briefly if I should pack for a longer stay.” Jodi said. right?” She nodded her head.

It forces us hippies to buy Playtex. “How was the drive. “You haven’t changed a bit. I’m having a heck of a time figuring out the seating chart at the church for the luncheon afterwards. “It’s too bad your husband couldn’t accompany you. I gingerly gave her a hug for fear of breaking something important with anything stronger. “Why do we need to go to the funeral home?” “He is being cremated.” “Gravity changes some things. Since I last saw her.” Jodi said. but the funeral home still handles the arrangements for the urn to be placed in the ground at the cemetery. GG.” Momma said.” I said. but I tried to hide what I felt upon seeing her pale and emaciated body. Caroline. I thought they were closed at first. What I really felt was horror and revulsion. I barely recognized my sister.” my mother said as we walked into the house. our Amy doesn’t have to worry about any of that. Amy came forward to greet me. She’s as svelte and fit as any teenager.” “I thought Daddy wanted to be cremated. still wearing those hippie clothes. “We’re all supposed to go over later this afternoon to finalize everything after we meet with the minister.” Amy said. I stopped for a bite to eat on the highway.” “Eerily quiet for a weekday. “You made it in just about six hours. I lied. Caroline?” Amy asked.TRAILS IN THE SAND standing behind her. “Amy. Amy stood leaning against the kitchen counter biting her fingernails or rather chewing her fingers since the nails seemed to have been bitten off entirely.” 213 . she must have lost twenty pounds on an already small frame. and the place was empty at 1 p. you look wonderful!” I said as I leaned forward for the obligatory hug. “Look at you. right Jodi?” “That’s right.” “I’m surprised they weren’t. Momma. “Who can eat right now with the world collapsing all around us?” “Simon went to the funeral home to make some arrangements. and probably not wearing any underwear.” “Well.” Momma said.m.

” 214 . I guess. C. She doesn’t even try anymore.P. Aunt Caroline? You didn’t pack a very big bag. Daddy doesn’t say much of anything.” “Just give me a minute then. McDonald said to come as soon as we could after you arrived. How bad is it?” “She doesn’t eat a thing.” “I’m sorry. “Momma. Momma should have been a boxer.” I said as I headed back to the car for my luggage. ZICK Momma sat at the kitchen table with a pad of paper in front of her with rectangular drawings of tables and a list of names to the left of the pad. It’s why my mom isn’t well. We’re fortunate he’ll meet with us today. She just says stuff. I would never ask him to come to my father’s funeral. Everything seems to have shut down. Jodi followed me out to the car to get my suitcase. Besides he’s in France right now. “I think I’ll take my bags up to my room now.” “I just don’t understand why you can’t stay married.” Zinger – a left punch to the lower jaw. Jodi. Would you like me to talk to your mom while I’m here?” I asked. I know. I guess I can understand. “It’s just her way.” Momma said. I told you Rich and I divorced. Did you know my mom’s sick?” “Yes. “But if you treat your husbands the way you treat me. Rev. but she’s not mean to her. Impact felt as my head jerked back from the blow. “What time do we have to be at the funeral home?” “Not until after we go to the church and arrange for the service at the cemetery.” I said. are you. “Sure. GG tells her how proud she is of the way she can still fit into a size 0. “Why was GG so mean to you?” she asked as I reached in the back seat.” “She’s hard on my mom. but you’re not staying for long.

“Caroline needs to come home more.CHAPTER 45 Jodi As Jodi drove back to her home in Calico.” “Neither has anyone else in this family. She’s not a mother. We are not going to start going down there to visit. She begged her mother to let her go to the Everglades to visit Caroline after her visit. “Besides. she’s not even a wife. GG was mean to Caroline. Jodi found herself wanting to defend her aunt. she attempted to reconcile her feelings for her Aunt Caroline. which made Jodi feel sorry for her aunt. All she could remember was standing on the periphery listening as the battles raged. mostly with GG at the center. “And I’ve never been to the Everglades.” “She could teach me about writing for magazines. she wouldn’t know what to do with you. Even though Caroline told Amy and GG she’d welcome a visit from Jodi.” Jodi’s mind wandered to the days surrounding her grandfather’s death.” Amy would say after one of Jodi’s more stringent appeals.” Jodi said. “We don’t need to all start following my sister into the jungle. Amy refused.” Amy said. September 2001 The days after Jack Carlisle’s death became one long battle with 215 . She remembered the first time she met her in person when her grandfather died. Whenever Caroline was involved in the fight.

The church was quiet and smelled of lemon furniture oil and old books.” Momma said.” “It’s about time you got here. “Hello. GG fought with the minister about Jack’s funeral.” Caroline said. Caroline. “It would mean a lot to all of us. Gladys found a new hot roll recipe in Southern Living. Gladys. “That’s the way I want it. I think we might be able to find someone to play the guitar. and the Carlisle contingent almost didn’t attend the family dinner. Stone asked. I want to sing your father’s favorite hymn. I was just telling your mother that I thought singing at the graveside service might be difficult without an instrumental accompaniment.P. You’d be late to your own funeral. Momma? Didn’t I hear he plays the guitar?” “That’s right. and he wanted to be cremated.” Caroline snickered and both Amy and GG turned to her with their sternest looks. You’re just in time. My sisters are just going to have to accept they can’t control Jack’s death like they’ve wanted to control every other thing in my life. He could play. “I don’t know why we can’t do it A cappella. “Hello. The Old Rugged Cross. and that’s what she was bringing. Candy wasn’t going to tell her what to make for the dinner. Caroline. Stone with her arms crossed over her chest. The next battle came in GG’s kitchen on the morning of the 216 . Stone. This is what Jack wanted.” “Rev. At the church. Jodi smiled at her aunt. “What about Aunt Candy’s grandkid. One time Aunt Candy suggested GG bring cornbread to Thanksgiving.” Caroline said. “No. C.” Caroline said as she entered the room late for the appointment to plan the funeral. Reverend. ZICK GG leading the charge as the head female warrior. I’ll ask you one more time.” “OK. Are you sure you don’t want a service in the church before we go to the cemetery?” Rev. Momma sat across from Rev. Gladys Stokley Carlisle never let anyone control anything. understanding immediately the humor in the statement. It was cool inside when Jodi arrived with GG and her mother. and that’s the way it’s going to be!” GG said as her voice rose in indignation.” Amy said. “It was our Daddy’s favorite song.

Gladdy.” “I’m beginning to get that.” “Isn’t that sort of ancient history.” Jodi said. “It has something to do with the night their brother died.” “What did she say?” I asked.” “Gladdy. “I want it on the table. with her younger sister. It’ll get ugly from here on out. not war.” Sugar said. but why did you have to have Jack cremated? You know we don’t believe in cremating the remains of the dead after what happened to Momma’s sister. “It’s my favorite. like fifty years ago or something?” “Not quite that long ago. “What’s the big deal about the tablecloth?” Jodi asked when Caroline came into the living room to escape the aunts’ bickering. and it’s none of your business. Daddy was upset about something GG had done and my mom was trying to explain why GG acts the way she does sometimes. “It’s what Jack wanted. “Glad you asked me and not GG. attempting for once to make peace. and GG was screeching by this time. I heard her and Daddy talking one night. “You can’t use that tablecloth!” Aunt Cookie said. “This is my house.” Caroline whispered to Jodi. and you’d better take your hands off that tablecloth right now.” “All right. It’s a touchy subject – I don’t know the whole story myself. but close enough. Why are you all making this so hard on me today of all days? Haven’t I paid enough in this family for not being good enough?” “Here we go. I’ll tell you the history of Stokleys and 217 .” “Best to leave it alone. why don’t you use the gold one instead?” Aunt Sugar said. “Let’s go out on the porch.” “Momma said GG was with him when he died.” Caroline said. Sugar Suzanne.” The voices escalated in the other room. “Something about no one in the family ever being able to forgive Gladdy for Alex’s death.TRAILS IN THE SAND funeral as GG and her sisters were arguing about the tablecloth for the reception after Grandpa’s memorial service. “Is that true?” “Your momma told you that?” “No. Best left alone.” GG said.

Maybe she’ll stop with you here.” Amy and Simon left soon after.” came the distasteful reply. but when she did it. “I hope you don’t mind. “Want to spend the night and protect me? She has a couple of bottles of wine left in the fridge.” 218 . GG won all the battles over Jack’s memorial service.” Grandma Stokley marched into the house and called the crematorium where she had picked up the ashes the day before. “Why was there a tooth among her ashes?” “We don’t always get all the old remains cleaned out before we burn another body.P. C.” “OK. and Uncle Edison picked up the tooth and stared at it in wonder. At one point. when the family gathered to toss Great Aunt Susan’s ashes in the backyard of her beloved Jacksonville home. Susan’s husband. “My sister didn’t have any teeth. Years ago.” the receptionist said. let me ask Momma. “We must have the wrong remains. but I’ve wanted a cigarette all day.” “It’s going to be a long night. “Susan had her teeth removed nearly twenty years ago. great aunt Susan. so no telling where this will go. ZICK cremation. “My daughter Caroline is the one bright shining star in this family.” Caroline whispered to Jodi a few minutes later. GG threw her arms around Caroline in front of the aunts and declared. “That was probably the tooth of one of the other cremations done this week. where Jodi was sitting.” she said. the ashes whitened the bushes and a tooth fell at the foot of Uncle Edison. “My sister’s ashes are mixed up with God knows whose ashes? What if it was a mass murderer or a rapist?” “We don’t do criminals. she became loud. leaving the three generations of women alone. Grandma Stokley screamed.” Caroline told Jodi the Stokleys frowned upon cremation ever since the death of Grandma Stokley’s sister. As soon as the last guest departed. Jodi knew GG didn’t drink often.” “And that’s supposed to make us feel better?” she asked. Caroline grabbed a glass and the bottle of wine and headed to the front porch. but she drank white wine continually through the reception.” Edison said as he examined the offending artifice closer.

but he ignored me. “Alex pulled a crumpled pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and left it with me. “I don’t mind.” she said. and it’s going to be a long night. “We’d been smoking on the beach since the summer began. Jodi knew it was a way to take her away from the porch.” Caroline said as she watched her suck the smoke deep into her lungs. I really do. will you go in the kitchen and make us up a plate of leftovers? The finger food will be fine. “I do tonight.TRAILS IN THE SAND Caroline said as she pulled a pack of smokes out of her pocket. His last words to me were to watch for the eggs to hatch in two months and that the female hatchlings would return to the same beach in a couple of decades to do the same thing.” Jodi said.” Alex told me. lit it.” Caroline said. what happened next?” Caroline asked. “Give me one of those. It was much easier to claim that I didn’t save him from the undertow that night than to recognize that he simply walked into the sea and vanished. “You don’t smoke. “So Alex just stood up and walked into the surf?” Caroline said. Caroline sat staring at her mother as she took another long drag.” GG finally said. I told Alex that Daddy had just had too many margaritas during cocktail hour and didn’t really mean what he said. “Jodi. “Something tells me you’ve done this before.” “So the two of you sat on the beach and smoked. Gladdy.” Caroline handed her mother a cigarette. GG took another drag and a drink from her wine.” “Was it really that awful between Alex and your father?” Caroline 219 . “A loggerhead came out of the sea and laid her eggs fifty yards away.’ as we sat on the beach.” GG said.” GG said from the doorway. and you’re going to listen. and she took it. I feel like talking. “My brother killed himself. and inhaled like a pro. I tried calling for him. “No one has ever wanted to admit it. We’d taken a walk after a dinner where Daddy had berated the both of us in his typical fashion. Alex gave me my first one – not you. but GG might get upset. ‘I hate him. Then Alex followed her back into the Gulf of Mexico. so she went just inside the door and hid from view behind the screen.” Jodi held her breathe and peeked out the door.

“They’re taking Momma to the hospital. Now the drunk wants my ten-year-old granddaughter to drive us to the hospital.” Jodi said.” Jodi said. ZICK asked.P. too. letting the screen door slam behind her.” “I’ll call Aunt Sugar.” Caroline said. “Jodi will have to do the honors. “That’s fine – you go right ahead and give my big sister one more thing to blame on me. and the other daughter is a drunk. “I’ve had far too much to drink. “Me. She rose above me.” I said. Isn’t this a fine mess? One daughter lies in the hospital on the day I bury my husband. “Don’t you have a learner’s permit or something by now?” Jodi shook her head. My life is worthy of a soap opera. “That was Daddy. “It was because of me. C. GG and Jodi came back out to the porch. “She’s not even eleven years old.” 220 . “The rest of the story will have to wait. Caroline. Jodi scrambled to the phone.” Caroline said.” she said as she walked into the house. We’re supposed to meet them there.” she said. “You’ll have to drive. and GG put out her cigarette in a plastic cup left over from the reception. “What do you mean?” The phone began to ring.” GG said. “We’ll be right there. Caroline.

their feathers and in some cases.000 barrels per day. government estimates 19. They believe it is possible 1. were picked up. even their eyes drenched. 221 .020 sea turtles had been impacted by the spill – not a healthy sign for an endangered species. scientists doubled their estimates of the amount of oil gushing from the Macondo well.” The Guardian reported on June 4 that wildlife rescue numbers were increasing rapidly as the oil slick from Deepwater Horizon hit the coast. “The number of animals being treated at the rescue centre in Fort Jackson doubled overnight as a slick of oil reached sandy barrier islands off the coast that are nesting grounds for thousands of brown pelicans and terns. sixty oiled birds. showed some 1.” The article noted that the next victim in the crisis was Florida where tarballs reached the white sand of the Panhandle. On Queen Bess Island alone. Since the U. Photographs taken by Charlie Riedel of Associated Press showed pelicans and other birds immersed in dark brown goo.000 barrels are gushing out daily. BP installed a containment cap by June 2. including forty-one pelicans. 440. Figures released by the Deepwater Response team on Friday. June 4.S.7 million gallons flowed out before June 3. which collects 1. were covered in oil. U. “containment” may be less accurate than “tiny bandage on a gaping wound.CHAPTER 46 News Reports on Deepwater Horizon By June 10.020 turtles were dead and the rest.S. Wildlife officials collected 177 sea turtles during the last week of May. The report also noted that 517 of the 1.

“How could you tell?” “You have a trace of a southern accent. I met my first husband Gus at a party one night soon after I moved to Homestead in 1987. and my two failed marriages were among the ghosts. I stared at the other boxes of Momma’s in my study and wondered if I really wanted to find out more about the family. He wore the uniform of the Everglades: beige fishing shirt and tan cargo pants tucked into knee-high rubber boots. I’m guessing somewhere north of Ocala but not north of Lake City. Maybe we’re not supposed to understand it.” I said. I held up my draft beer. love is a complicated thing that I don’t totally understand. My own past still haunted me.CHAPTER 47 Caroline I attempted to organize my thoughts and my life after I returned from Panama City. “Not much else around to drink. However.” “You’re not from around here?” he asked. and he held his aloft. I hadn’t been there long enough to declare any friends for myself. I guess I loved both Gus and Rich at the time I married them. “But there’s really nothing like an ice cold keg Budweiser on a hot night. “What you drinking. His dark blonde hair appeared just below the cap emblazoned with “ishing Guide” the “F” having fallen off the word “fishing” long ago. pretty lady?” he asked when he approached me out on the patio of one of Holly’s friends.” 222 .

” Momma said as we finished dinner. After our surprise wedding announcement at Easter a few months earlier. not sure how to answer that stupid line. Momma hated Gus – not for the reasons one might think.” Holly said. Gus. “It’s just like you to do something so untraditional. I announced at a family dinner we decided to have a small casual event because I knew my family wouldn’t bother driving all that way for a non-event.” “Anyone have your heart?” I hesitated. and I was right. “She just got here. Gus became my friend and eventually my husband by default.” I said. “We’ll have cake and punch here the next time you come home. Gus was just regaling me with his wit.” Amy said. and you were the first person I thought I’d hook her up with. particularly knowing my only friend was leaving for Texas soon for graduate school. Fortunately. She and Simon sat on the other side of the table facing Gus and me. I agreed to meet him the next night for dinner. “That’s right. The beginning of our end started on the day Gus made an announcement at the Carlisle dinner table a month before our wedding. “How come you been keeping this little beauty from me?” the cliché man said. We lived in a one223 . I see you’ve met my old buddy. you being such a gentleman and all. With my friend’s blessing. for both Momma and me the marriage lasted less than two years.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Calico – right smack in between both of those places. we came back in an effort to ease the tension.” I should have run right then because a guy who could pull off a line like that with a straight face would not be a good match for me. While Holly was away at Texas A & M pursuing her graduate studies. “Good because I’d have to start hating the man who had your heart. Daddy asked about our living arrangements.” “Are you here with anybody?” he asked. “Caroline. I shook my head. Gus was the best option. I needed a friend. “Just my friend Holly who brought me. I’ll claim loneliness. She thought he was dirty.” Holly said as she joined us in the backyard.

just east of the Miccosukee Indian Reservation boundary.” Gus said. “What about resale value?” my father asked. Simon. I thought it romantic to live in the Everglades. I was twenty-four years old. Carlisle.” No. I believed in the things Gus said. C. and I certainly thought I was in love.” Gus said. and it can run anything.” And so the noose was dropped around my neck. you don’t.” “How are you tell me what I can and can’t do. “We plan to live off the grid – that way we can live cheaply while not caving to the lure of power companies ruining our health and stealing our money.” Simon said after the dinner of my sentencing. is it any of your business?” “I can make it my business. “Why are you marrying him?” “I love him and what he stands for.” Simon said. what made me leave Gus was the violence. but it is one thing to believe and quite another to live.” Momma said. ZICK room cabin Gus bought prior to meeting me. besides Gus needs me. Simon McDermott.” Gus said. “So this cabin has no electricity?” Momma asked. “And really. in love with my new husband and ready to forge new territory. Sir. None of it had 224 .” I said. Mrs. “We plan to die there. But that’s not why I left Gus. “That’s a sham. “You have no right.” he said. That sun doesn’t charge per kilowatt hour. How could I be chained to a cabin for the rest of my life? But I went along with Gus because I imagined myself as some type of pioneer woman. “That sun is awfully hot come August.” “How will you keep your food cold?” Momma asked.P.” Gus said. and as we moved toward our wedding in October. “How will you stay cool during those awful months in the Everglades?” “We are investing in solar panels and will live off the sun. “That’s right. so stay out of it. I felt the rope get tighter and tighter. He’d followed me outside where I was putting luggage in the car.” I said. It was off Highway 41. “Will there be a market for a solar electric home when it comes time to sell?” “Sell? This is our home for life. “You can’t marry him. “I just don’t see the two of you together. “I’ve heard that you can sell power back to the power companies.

all slid onto the cabin floor. I even showered outside under a tire inner tube filled with rainwater and heated by the sun. I had been a trooper. and I managed through my first summer in the Everglades without an air-conditioner. I was miserable and lonely for four years until I met Rich. “You are the most demanding woman I have ever known. yet. “Do you think one day we’ll be able to run a dishwasher from the solar panels?” I asked. He picked up the edge of the table slow enough to give me time to scramble out of my chair.” And with that. I realized something. He stared at me. dishes. . although he traveled more extensively for Sports Illustrated during the five years of our marriage. as we sat eating beans and rice I’d cooked over the two-burner gas propane stovetop.TRAILS IN THE SAND turned on me . beans. he stood up and pushed his chair away with his feet. and now I contemplated what our endless future – until death do us part with the Everglades and the hippie lifestyle – would entail. instead settling for the small camper style gas-run cooler. Our work kept us both on the road. I don’t recall ever telling him I loved him. We enjoyed our infrequent times together and enjoyed kayaking the waters of south Florida when our schedules meshed. I didn’t intend to stick around long enough to find out if the overturned dining room table would one day be me. I’d forgone a real refrigerator. are you?” he said suddenly. I didn’t use a blow dryer on my hair. Simon showed up on my doorstep six months later in the Everglades. yet we enjoyed one another’s company. beer. We met in 1994 through mutual friends who imagined two single journalists of the same age might be a good match. I left that night. I don’t think he ever said it to 225 . and I’m proud to say I left without cleaning up after his anger. I did my business in a composting outhouse. The contents of the table. but we weren’t romantic about one another. but instead he’d been building up steam. I thought he wasn’t going to answer me. . glasses. “You’re never satisfied. just fans. rice. When Simon left. and he lifted the wood table above his head – I never knew he was so strong – and threw it on top of the mess. when he reacted poorly to my questioning. We were perfunctory. As I sat in my office contemplating that previous marriage. and we were because neither of us needed much from the other. During the entire marriage to Rich. I wore clothes wrinkled.

I moved quickly to Momma’s journals. the cell phone in my 226 . George doesn’t know Alex is making fun of him most of the time. It was ironic that the aunts and even my mother portrayed him as the writer of the family. One tidbit caught my eye on the second to last page of entries. the next year. but I know he is. I can’t tell him how I feel or how George feels about me. it brought it right into my face that love really was the most important thing. He’s so mean to him every time he comes around. Alex told me I spend too much time with George. I looked at the date again. I moved to “Summer 1956. Alex doesn’t like George. I only gave cursory attention to her early years. I try to imagine if Alex had a girlfriend. It’s all right with me because the pains have begun. Sometimes I don’t know who I am or what will become of me. How would I feel about that? Probably the same way my brother feels about George. Before I could even consider the significance. They prefer I stay out of sight most of the time. Besides that. C. my life has ended. but not for the reasons most people are when a spouse announces he or she is in love with someone else. When he left me I was devastated. I heard the Montgomery family leave as I lay in bed. Momma died on April 21. ZICK me. either. There was nothing about Alex’s death or the fire. No romantic rumblings or teenage angst of love found its way into his scribbles. Marks Sound this morning. and with them. The years between my father’s death and my mother’s death blurred into one lonely package of six years. 2007. 1957. I’d lost or given away everything that really mattered. and I didn’t have it in my life at all. No one came to see if I was interested in going. That was it until the last entry on Easter Sunday.” This journal contained daily routines and mentioned George quite a bit. I missed sunrise service down at St. It’s complicated to have such mixed up feelings. My father’s death several months later only reinforced that feeling. Alex’s writing yielded me no more than descriptions and measurement data on wildlife and habitat. When he came home and said he’d fallen in love with someone else.P. When I’d bored myself enough with the ruminations of my past life. I’d failed at something once again. I decided to see what Uncle Alex thought about his short life as I rifled through his journals still in the box on my office floor. April 21. which contained childhood yearnings and silly inconsequential daily activities – typical of any preteen girl of that time.

” Kate said. Then we’ll release them in the Atlantic. “But first.” 227 . “I’ve been meeting with other sea turtle folks at the other agencies involved in the oil spill response. and we want to be in charge of how it’s handled. “Not as risky as sitting back and watching them swim and die in oil. but we’re not ready yet.” “That’s true. When we break the news. She’ll call you in a few days and give you all the details. “We decided it would be easier for just one press secretary to handle it rather than having one from each agency.” she said. I mentioned to you a couple of weeks ago we were considering some risky measures with the sea turtle nests.TRAILS IN THE SAND pocket began Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony ring tone. if you’re interested. What’s up?” “I wanted to give you a heads up about something.” “OK.” “What exactly are we talking about here?” “I’ve suggested we give you an exclusive for print. The most important thing is saving the turtles.” “If you remember.” I said. “Gina and the other media folks predict a media frenzy with this story. “Caroline.” “Gina’s handling all media responses for the entire sea turtle egg relocation program. and I turned away from the boxes to answer it. What’s the plan?” “We’re going to dig up the older nests on the Panhandle and relocate the eggs to the Atlantic coast where they’ll be held in a warehouse until they hatch. but this definitely is off the record and top secret.” “Sounds risky. Got a second?” “Sure.” Kate said. and we don’t need reporters trampling all over the nests in order to make the evening news.” Kate said. we want you to break it. I hate to say this. and we’re close to approving protocols for a plan involving sea turtle nests. it’s Kate with the FWC. I’m listening.” “OK.

oil spill. which could start coming out of the nests within the next few weeks. helpless hatchlings headed for the treacherous petroleum-filled waters – can’t you just hear the deep organ chords of the soundtrack?” I said. the editor from the Associated Press. “The scientists are calling it ‘unprecedented. which meant thousands of sea turtle hatchlings could be swimming 228 .CHAPTER 48 Caroline “They’re going to move the sea turtle nests from the Panhandle beaches to Cape Canaveral. I called you right away because it takes care of everything – you get the story first if you hire me. “And I’ve been given the exclusive to cover the story from digging up the nests to the release of hatchlings on the Atlantic coast a couple of weeks later. when I’d finally received the call from Gina that the project was moving forward. would not survive after entering into the grasses where oil was beginning to accumulate. I can publish the story first.’ and you know how conservative they are. but then share photographs and the story with others.” “Is it really the type of news that warrants exclusivity?” “Endangered and threatened sea turtles.” I told Dave. Dozens of nests were due to hatch by early July. Both the feds and the state agencies worried the hatchlings.” I explained what I knew so far. “I’m the only print journalist. and then it goes out on the wire.” “You’re the only journalist allowed to cover the story?” Dave asked.

Even the scientists don’t know. I knew this job would require both a photographer and a journalist.” I said.” 229 . I’ll have my hands full observing and taking notes. “Get Sam. “I already told you. unless you want to do it?” Even though I was trained and had plenty of credits as a photo journalist. As I explained what I knew.” “OK. “They plan to dig up all the nests that are viable. And because sea turtles return to the beach where they were laid. The public will eat this up. he was a bottom line kind of guy. OK – you’ve convinced me. It’s going to be several days of following the story through – then it could be weeks before the first eggs hatch and are released over at Cape Canaveral. “OK. there are a million questions on how this will affect them. wondering what any story would mean to readership numbers.” I said. and it comes at a time when the loggerhead nests are fewer than ever in Florida.” Gina said when she called me earlier. Experts on sea turtles devised the plan to move as many nests as possible from the Panhandle beaches and relocate them on Florida’s Atlantic coast.TRAILS IN THE SAND and suffocating in oil-laden habitat if something wasn’t done. I called Simon to give him the latest details. Kate’s handling St. I get it. Dave began to understand the gravity and the human interest aspect of the story. George have flooded a few of them. “Some rough storms at St. I hadn’t heard anything for almost two weeks about the project until Gina called that morning. “It could mean the relocation of nearly 70. My first task was to make sure I had a media outlet for the story before I thought about calling my husband. First and foremost. but the weather has been a bit of a problem. I needed help. George’s nests while the other turtle folks are taking care of the nests further west on the Panhandle. they’ve never done anything on this scale ever before. Dave. We do a series of stories for each of the stages. I’ll see if Sam is available to shoot it for you. How soon can I have the story? Before the weekend?” “I think this is probably more than one article.” After I hung up with Dave.000 sea turtle eggs to the other side of the state. but Kate and the volunteers will dig up the rest.

I called Kate to get all the specifics. “It might stop our operation before we’re really able to do much of anything. so you’re the choice for print media and Anderson Cooper at CNN for video – as long as you both agree to share with other outlets. Will you have a photographer who can provide photos?” After I assured Gina that there would be a photographer with me. The late morning sun scorched the earth and heat radiated up from the ground as I stood next to the garden savoring the moment and the aroma from the tomato plants and peppers and eggplants and zucchini. We can’t have journalists jeopardizing this project by trampling on the beaches. I decided not to express my doubts. Until I lived with Simon. She started working with crews digging up nests before dawn and at dusk two days ago. and she’s anticipating inquiries from media. as my assistant. After I hung up the phone with Simon. although I wasn’t so sure. Want to start in the morning?” I told Kate I’d be there. We have to minimize the heat when we pull them out of the nice cool sand so we do it when the sun’s not out. “Full expenses. C. I assured him I could handle it. “But Gina informed me this morning that the word is out.P.” “Dave agreed to the story. I’ve just been told there’s a storm brewing off the coast of Africa. and she gave me instructions for when and where to meet.” Gina said. Caroline. both local and national. “Why don’t you give her a call? I’m up to my ears in media requests right now.” “When’s the next excavation?” I asked. “Kate would like you over there as soon as you can arrange. “We wanted to dig up a few more before we had an observer.” Kate said.” “That’s great. “Tonight at dusk and then again in the morning before sunrise. too. maybe even international. I never knew plants 230 .” I told Simon when I called him at his office. and I’m trying to keep everyone happy. ZICK “How soon can I start covering the story?” I asked.” Kate said.” “Can you handle if she says no?” Simon asked. I’m also thinking about asking Jodi to come along with me. I went to the backyard and picked a ripe tomato for lunch. When do you leave?” “As soon as you come home and give me a big hug goodbye. “One more thing. I didn’t want to start an argument with Simon.

“It was so long ago. Thankfully.” I said when she answered the phone.” I picked up the phone. It’s me Caroline. Our garden overflowed with produce and memories. just so I 231 . “What’s up?” “Want to be my assistant on the sea turtle project?” I asked. Sam and I worked on other stories together over the years. born out of eavesdropping on endless family fights. according to George. As I prepared to leave for my third visit in two months to St. I thought about Momma and her journals and the stories George told me. Jodi. He was waiting on my call for times and directions. drove me there as soon as I was old enough to travel by myself. the state managed to keep one-third of the two-mile wide island’s east end preserved as much as the tropical storms and hurricanes of the Gulf of Mexico allowed. Dave called me back to let me know that Sam would meet me at St. and then we started going over to the east coast for vacations after Daddy bought that place near Flagler Beach. “Hi. “I can’t really remember. I trusted his instincts. George Island whenever I needed him. when I was in college. My new friend George is the only reason I discovered the place where my uncle walked into the sea. George Island. As I was making sandwiches. I explained the series of articles I planned to write. The garden sustained us throughout the year and each time I went near it. My natural curiosity. The island may have held a mystique in the lore of my mother’s family. I was reminded of the long journey it took to bring Simon and me together in this coastal city only a couple of hours from where we grew up. Momma wouldn’t recognize it today. My mother never returned to the island after the summer of 1956. risking rejection from my niece. Perhaps George would be able to answer a few questions. Homes covered the dunes from the west end to the entrance of the state park. I tried asking my aunts questions about the house after I’d visited the island the first time when I was in college – the subject was off limits with Momma – but I only received vague responses.TRAILS IN THE SAND other than herbs could smell so sweet. I told her it would help to have someone videotaping and taking a few photos. Caroline.” Aunt Sugar said. and he listened to me – a great combination when trying to tell a story in both words and images. but we never visited there during my childhood.

Act natural.” I said. “Did she say anything about Seth?” “He can’t leave on such short notice. Families take trips together all the time. too. I had an oversized briefcase bag that held my laptop. too. “Let me talk to Seth. only taking a break to eat a tomato sandwich with Simon. I told myself as I backed out of the driveway. Jodi. we’d go over to Cape Canaveral to watch them release the hatchlings back to the sea. 232 . but it’s something. Maybe this will be good for the two of you.P. “That’s great. pens. You’re welcome to ask Seth if he’d like to come along. C.” “OK. As I carried my bags out to the car. but I’d like to go with them in the morning – it’s a pretty early start but it’s always great to watch the sun rise over the Gulf. my stomach turned somersaults as my lunch gurgled inside me. and reading material.” I heard him say.” “I’ll call you back before you leave. the phone rang and Simon reached over to pick it up. Then when the first clutch gets ready to hatch. Jodi.” “Let me think about it. I’m not going to try and go out with them this evening. “Do you need to speak to Caroline?” He hung up the phone and looked at me with tears in his eyes. I’ll probably leave here sometime around two o’clock. “You’d have your own room in Apalachicola for a few days.” Jodi said.” I said. I went to finish packing my office on wheels. note pads.” I spent the next few hours packing. “I hope you’ll decide to come. OK? When are you leaving?” “I’m headed out in a few hours – I could drive by Calico and pick you up say around four o’clock. I’ve been given an exclusive.” After lunch. “I’m not expecting a miracle.” he said. But he’d have to come as my assistant. ZICK had some point of reference when writing the pieces. “She wants you to pick her up. but he might meet you there. pencils. I couldn’t let Jodi know how nervous I was about our trip together. While we were finishing. I concentrated on calming myself.

It’s shorter mile-wise and much more interesting. broken occasionally by the shade of the live oak limbs hanging over the road. and then went back inside to finishing closing up the house. locking it behind her. “Help yourself.” Jodi said.” They drove for miles with the air conditioning running full blast as the summer sun bore down.” Caroline said. “When I was here last time. When did they finish?” “Right before Memorial Day. The relentless heat of a Florida summer meant no flowers bloomed alongside the highway as they did in the spring 233 . There’s a cooler in the back seat with water and some watermelon chunks. if that’s all right. “They said the house was in good shape. “That’s fine. “I’m going to take the back roads to 98. they hadn’t started yet. so they didn’t have to make any carpentry repairs. Before she could shut off the car.CHAPTER 49 Jodi Jodi watched as Caroline pulled into the driveway.” Caroline said. Jodi brought her overnight bag out to the front steps. Jodi came out the front door. “The new paint job looks good. Her aunt walked to the back of her RAV-4 and opened the door. They drove out of town in silence.” “He probably did.” Caroline said. I guess Grandpa Stokley used the highest quality materials. She picked up her bag and ran down the steps. Jodi shoved her bag next to the one already there.” “Maybe just a bottle of water for the ride.” she said.

” Caroline glanced at Jodi who stared down the straight and empty road.” Caroline said.” Jodi said. didn’t they?” Jodi finally asked.” “I know GG was hard on you. She wasn’t going to get into any discussions with 234 .P. “I know Daddy loved her.” “The tablecloth plays a role in the story and so do the sea turtles. but she bragged about you when you weren’t around. Your mom probably had a harder time than me. particularly if you were her daughter.” “I find that hard to believe. and he told me even more. “Your grandmother was not an easy woman. “I just remember him as quiet but nice. the more curious I become. But I can’t judge anyone else and how love works for them.” Caroline said. Remember I told you about the man who knew GG? I saw him again. “That’s right. Amy did everything she could to please her. Almost apologetic for the way GG was. “Daddy tried his best. C. The actual house is gone.” Caroline said.” “Did GG love Grandpa Jack?” Jodi asked. “The Stokleys used to have a house on St. ZICK and fall. just like with the linen tablecloth. and GG used it at the reception after the funeral? I thought the aunts were going to pull it off the table. so Momma just looked at me and sighed or told me to hush my mouth. I always thought she was simple.” “I probably knew as much as you until I met George.” “What about Grandpa Jack?” Jodi asked.” “I wonder what really happened there the night Alex died. They stopped going there long before either your mother or I was born – way before. “Momma laid some heavy expectations upon Amy’s shoulders by the time I made my way into the world. but I found the site of its former location when I visited the island last month. Everyone gets so weird whenever it’s mentioned. George Island.” “That sounds about right. But the more I learn. Isn’t it ironic that it’s the sea turtles that brought us both back here?” “Tell me what you found out about GG. Remember the fuss when Grandpa died. “I honestly don’t know. I’m finding out she was a very complex and complicated woman.” “It all seems so mysterious. and even the wildlife stayed hidden in the shade waiting for evening to descend. although I never could figure out why or how he managed to love her after all the mean things she said to him.

” “She hated her own father? I don’t understand that – I mean I’ve been upset with my father over the past two years. At least that’s what Daddy told me.” “He’ll be glad to hear that. I’ve recently discovered.TRAILS IN THE SAND her aunt about love.” “I can’t talk about it. “Momma must have loved him in her way. and a puzzling journal entry from Momma. “So Stokley isn’t the family’s real name? Weird again. I wish I could say I missed my mother. he’s wondered. Remember I told you that George said Momma wanted to be a writer. and she wrote about her life being over. She finally gave up.” “That is weird.” “What happened to GG to make her that way? Was she born that way?” “To understand why your grandmother was the way she was. The weird thing is.” Jodi said. but I don’t. “I feel guilty even talking to you. Arthur Stokley. I finally opened those boxes I picked up when I stopped by a few weeks ago. Her last entry was in 1957. Every time they put me in the back seat of the car. and Momma inside. my grandfather. “Aunt Apple is my favorite aunt. you know. 235 . I don’t understand it.” Caroline told her about Arthur Stokley’s entries and the adoption of the Stokley name after medical school.” “Then let’s stop talking about it.” “What’s in the journals?” Jodi asked. but I don’t hate him. I have a few memories of him – not very pleasant ones. I’m afraid.” Jodi said. Dr. she wrote that entry exactly fifty years before she died. I fell sound asleep.” Jodi feigned sleep for a few minutes. I miss my Daddy the most. “Some history of Grandpa. And Momma hated him – maybe for good reasons. but thoughts of her family writing down snippets of family history without providing answers haunted her. we have to look at my grandfather. “Do you mind if I shut my eyes for a few minutes? I’m feeling kind of sleepy. I found journals from Alex. including herself.” “That used to happen to me when I was little. scientific data from Uncle Alex. I hope I can talk to the aunts one of these days about it.” Jodi said. I’ve wondered over the years if she was capable of loving anyone.

” Jodi said. ‘I wish you’d written about Frank Sinatra and his casino at Lake Tahoe. “I liked Aunt Apple because she always talked to me as if I was a person who mattered. “Aunt Apple smiled at me and gave me a little nudge with her elbow. She bought a house on the outskirts of town with a friend she met in college. but I could tell by the way they frowned whenever Viola was discussed they didn’t approve of the situation. literally. too.” “Momma’s silence expressed her disapproval louder than the buzzer at the end of the first half of a basketball game.” 236 .’” Jodi laughed at the way Caroline imitated Aunt Sugar.” “She was that way with me. Viola built a sculpture studio complete with a brick kiln on the backside of the barn. That man sure could sing and turn any woman from lime rock to corn mush. too. three years older than Gladdy. She said. She created realistic busts.’ she whispered. ZICK “She’s my favorite.” “That’s nice. “When I was a kid. and Viola didn’t decorate the home with her naked chests. I was very impressed with her knowledge. She was an artist.” Jodi said. Viola and Apple converted an old barn into a studio for both of them. never married. C. “Momma and GG didn’t say much about it. ‘You really captured the contrast between it and Lake Tahoe.” Aunt Apple. They replaced the barn doors with glass walls to capture the exposure so perfect for Aunt Apple’s impressionistic landscapes in oil. we were never allowed in the studio.” “At my father’s funeral she told me she liked an article I wrote about Pyramid Lake in Nevada that appeared in the Smithsonian magazine.” Jodi said.” Caroline said. “What did Aunt Apple say to that?” Jodi asked.’ she said. ‘Some folks will never understand. She always found something nice to say about my writing. “Then Aunt Sugar overheard the comment and added her two cents. I didn’t understand much about it until I went away to college. You wrote very clever descriptions of the landscape as a metaphor for the socioeconomic divisions within the region.” Caroline said.P. Her boob replicas were famous in certain communities. “I wonder if that’s changed?” “I never was allowed in the studio either. “The other aunts always acted like I was in the way.

TRAILS IN THE SAND “Aunt Apple always seems so comfortable with her sisters even though they must all know she’s a lesbian. Momma never got over it – both the job as a maid.” “Momma and GG said you never came home because you thought you were too good for Calico. as is everything. and the not going to college. Amy and I were never close as you might have surmised. “You know how this family is about anyone who’s different. but some of it involves your father and the evolution of our friendship. She probably even married Daddy as an attempt to gain that acceptance. I don’t remember many touching sister moments from our childhood. Aunt Sugar and Uncle Whitey won’t even acknowledge their gay grandson Maybe it’s because Aunt Apple accepts herself intrinsically. She always sided with Momma. It’s almost as if she was being punished or something. and it changed everything for her. “I wasn’t sure what she meant. Are you ready to hear about that?” 237 .” “What did she tell you?” “She said to be sure and finish high school because it would set the course for the rest of my life. My shade of gray is going to be much different from yours.” Jodi said. only shades of gray.” “That’s true. I’ve realized over the years that there is no black and white.” “Did you know GG never graduated from high school either?” I looked over at Jodi. and Momma was always seeking it from outside herself. “What do you mean?” “GG told me when I started high school.” Caroline said.” “Is that why you stayed away?” “It’s pretty complicated. I can try to explain some of it.” “I’m beginning to think I didn’t know my mother at all. I found it easier not to argue with either of them. “She had this whole other life.” “They would be wrong about that. all of her older sisters went to college.” Jodi said. but everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. “She was the doctor’s daughter.” “Do you think Grandpa felt sorry for her?” Jodi asked. and all she would say is she hadn’t been able to graduate. and she was working as a maid for another prominent family in town. Isn’t that strange?” “I guess so.

P. Tell me about the fire and what George told you. Pete up around the armpit of Florida’s Panhandle. “Not really.” she finally said. C. They’d made it to Highway 98 that traversed the Gulf Coast of Florida from St. ZICK Jodi looked out the window. George Island Bridge. The land flattened here and gave way to sand and scrub pine trees and palmetto bushes. The road would take them directly to the St. 238 .

” Jodi said. I looked over at Jodi and attempted to put myself in her position.” “They probably know a whole lot more than they’ve ever let you know. it is. and he sounds interesting. but it’s getting a little late for him. and her father married me. my grandfather even delivered him. Or we can take the other bridge to Apalachicola and check into our room and find a place to eat down on the waterfront. If you’d like. I’ve read a couple of his books. “It’s hard to imagine Momma being the object of a teenager’s devotion or being the love interest of anyone.” I said. Her mother was dead.CHAPTER 50 Caroline “George Compton is a native to the island. Compton while we’re here. “Yes.” “That can be arranged. “We’re almost to the cut off for the bridge to the island.” “Let’s go to Apalachicola.” “It’s difficult to discover your parents could have another life from the one you knew.” Jodi said. isn’t it?” Jodi asked.” I shook my head. “What time do we need to be 239 . He was in love with Momma the summer Alex died. we could go over there now to see if he’s still there.” I said. He’s at Harry A’s every afternoon at five o’clock with a reserved seat at the bar. She probably felt abandoned. “I’d like to meet Mr. “I wonder if the aunts are ready to talk to me. “What’s the matter? Didn’t you believe him?” Jodi asked.

m. ZICK on the island in the morning?” “Kate wants us at the city park on the island at 5 a.” “We’ll try to see George tomorrow. who had the home built in 1905 to suit his lifestyle and status as one of Florida’s richest men and friend to President Teddy Roosevelt. We pulled up to the yellow Victorian house and parked near the front porch. right? I’m Joanne.” Apalachicola was an old fishing village still in operation. George Bridge and the bridge leading to the tiny town.” Jodi said. The brick fireplace only lacked a fire. That means we need to be leaving our hotel around 4:30 to 4:45. Oyster boats dotted the water’s landscape off both the St. No lovely breakfast at the Coombs House Inn.” The lobby or reception room was even more impressive with its deep red velvet Victorian chairs and settees. I’ll need to set the alarm on my cell phone. There weren’t many cars in the parking spaces on both the side and front. I’m Caroline. C. “Your grandmother would have killed for this porch alone. The three-story restored mansion represented its past well as the home to lumber tycoon James Coombs.” a woman said as she rose from the antique desk in the corner and came to greet us.P.” I said.” “That’s early. Caroline and Jodi. As we came down the other side of the bridge. we were dumped right in the middle of a town marked and identified with the waters surrounding it. Joanne. The oysters pulled from Apalachicola Bay were the mainstay of the community. “Welcome to Coombs House Inn. “It kind of reminds me of their house in Calico. If we go out on the dig tomorrow night. He doesn’t have a cell phone or email so just going there is the best bet. I pointed out the island’s bridge across the bay as we rose in the air and crossed where the river and bay joined. “That’s precisely what I mean. “How can I help you this evening?” “We have reservations for two rooms – Carlisle?” “Yes. 240 .” I said.” “Hi. but the vase with roses on the hearth was equally welcoming. only bigger. Momma would have felt hers so inadequate in comparison. I’m afraid. We climbed the steps up to the porch overflowing with rocking chairs with floral print cushions. I’ll leave a message at Harry A’s for him to call me. and this is Jodi.

I called Simon. I went back to my room and sat on the bed trying to figure out what just happened. “She’s my aunt. I figured you didn’t want to be too far away from your daughter. Jodi was asking about the family – the ancient history stuff. leaving me standing all alone. “I’m not really hungry. until the hostess called Jodi my daughter. “I hope so because our breakfast chef really puts on a spread.” I said. Please come down to the front parlor when you’re ready and enjoy a glass of wine.” Joanne said.” I said. “Me. Jodi shut herself away in her room and said she’d see me in the morning. but maybe day after next. you made it there. I’d have my two favorite girls all to myself – what a treat that would be.” After Joanne walked downstairs. When we got here.TRAILS IN THE SAND “I’ve got you on the same floor. too. “Unfortunately we have to be out of here by 4:30. “My name’s Jodi McDermott. I turned to Jodi but she was already heading to her room.” “I know you’re tired of hearing this. “Baby. “I can give you the name of a couple of places. Is everything all right?” Simon asked.” “Maybe not so much. I would be if I didn’t have to go to court tomorrow.” Joanne led us up the winding staircase to the second floor and showed us Jodi’s room first and then took me around the corner to my room with its claw foot tub and brass bed.” Jodi replied before I could even think of how to respond.” With that. “I’ll meet you downstairs in the morning at 4:30.” she said. It’s really quite beautiful – I wish you were here though.” the kindly but unknowing host said. “Yes. “Breakfast is served at 7 and then again at 8. we’ll be able to enjoy your hospitality. the hostess at the inn referred to Jodi as my daughter. she turned and went into her room and shut the door.” 241 . What happened on the way over?” “She wanted to know things about the past. but give it time.” Joanne said as we all stood in the hallway. I thought we had been getting along just fine. “Is there a good place to eat within walking distance?” I asked. we’re at the inn in Apalachicola. depending on your tastes. Caro. Things were going moderately well on the way here.

I couldn’t fathom how she could go so far without wiping the poop off her shoes. brought me a glass of chilled Chardonnay and then went off to the kitchen to check on a tray of hors d’oeuvres.” How could my intelligent. Didn’t men realize how clichéd those stories were? I guess not. but she wasn’t interested. One was from Sam the photographer. however. I sent her a message back telling her I’d call her tomorrow. The stress of spending so much time with Jodi in the car may have affected me more than I realized. C. I settled into one of the floral-print loveseats. Usually she lay right down in it. The other came from Holly.” After I said good-bye to Simon. As I shut my eyes to rest for a 242 . The last thing I wanted to do was go downstairs. depressed me. she’d have to see me in Apalachicola. but the thought of spending the rest of the evening locked in the small room. ZICK “You didn’t tell her about falling in the tomato patch. I watched a couple wind their way down the staircase at Coombs House. when I saw her step into the crap piles made by the men she chose. “But as dear Scarlett always said.” I said. did you?” “I offered to tell her how we became friends. ‘Tomorrow is another day. “Had dinner?” the message asked. If she wanted to come up for a visit. attractive friend be so stupid when it came to her own relationships? Her advice and support to me was always solid and wise. The reception area was empty when I came down the winding stairs with the oak handrail. I noticed I had two text messages. Joanne. I grabbed my purse and headed downstairs for my complimentary glass of wine. I suddenly felt too tired to call Holly and hear her laments. He was a train wreck from the beginning with his stories of a pitiful marriage and a wife who didn’t understand him. I washed my face. brushed my hair. telling me he had checked into the Best Western on the edge of town. the hostess. if women like Holly still believed them. it is. and applied lipstick. I can’t say I was sorry that the relationship with Carl was headed in the same direction.’” “Yes. as pretty as it was.P. I felt sleepy as I set the nearly full glass of wine on the coaster sitting on the round end table next to me. There were dark circles under my eyes but otherwise I looked normal. “When am I ever going to learn? Another one bites the dust.

Aim. I should have texted you back. I tried taking another sip of the wine. He took a long sip of the draft and began a tale of his last photo shoot down in Miami at a boat show where the owner of a 36’ yacht had run amok of the law and attempted to race a Fish and Wildlife officer out of a marina and through posted manatee speed zones. With a bucket of peel ‘n eat shrimp ordered. I wondered if Jodi would ever be ready to hear about her father and me. if I didn’t have to be out in this furnace blast called fresh air. I talked with several other guests at the Coombs House. we proceeded to catch up on one another’s lives. I wouldn’t either. We settled at the waterfront restaurant with cold beers poured from a pitcher with a plastic glass of ice sitting in the center to keep it cold.TRAILS IN THE SAND moment. The waves started coming up over the sides and then women in their evening gowns 243 .” “I don’t blame those poor mollusks. what are you doing all alone?” I hadn’t noticed the white van pull into the parking lot in front of the house.” Sam wore an old T-shirt boasting “Ready. “Hey there beautiful. “Only months that have an ‘r’ in their names are good oyster-eating months.” We decided to walk toward the waterfront and seek out one of the restaurants recommended by Joanne. Shoot” and a drawing of a camera on a tripod. We sat on the screened porch overlooking the estuary. When I didn’t hear back from you. “Sam. but it just didn’t sit well on my stomach.” I said. before I ventured out to the front porch as the sun began its slow descent. I was appreciative of Sam’s company while Jodi sat locked in her room alone. July and August suck. “I’m looking for some place to eat right now. Did you get dinner?” I asked. His faded denim shorts and brown leather loafers looked worn and comfortable. I thought it might be the heat making me feel slightly nauseous. “This is no month for oysters. That means June. A tall skinny man with long gray hair tied back in a ponytail and wearing cut off jeans and a white T-shirt approached. “I was just doing a few shots of the rich and famous when all of sudden I hear screaming and see folks running down the docks. I decided to start searching the streets for my favorite journalist first.

you’re right. He was a harmless flirt but a self-inflicted bachelor. The fact that the Associated Press gave him the Florida assignment kept him perpetually in the middle of the weird on a daily basis.” “Feel like some company?” “Jodi’s here.” Holly said.” “You have to admit this isn’t a bad assignment. ZICK and high heels began slipping and sliding and attempting to hold onto bow lines and cleats just to keep from going in the water.” I said. and I get to work with you. I’ve got an exclusive to cover a very cool story about sea turtles. C. We’re at a beautiful old inn in the downtown area. “I better take this.” My phone rang just then.P. “Holly. I could use the time away. I’ll be 244 . “No. “Can you reserve me a room? I’m leaving tonight and driving as far as I can. Anything could happen and usually did in the Sunshine State.” I said. he wouldn’t be doing anything else. “Saved by the bell.” I walked outside the screened deck onto the dock to take Holly’s call. Sam. but she didn’t feel like coming out tonight. “Sounds complicated. and I’ll be working quite a bit. You’re on assignment?” “Yes. As much as he complained about the life of a photographer following the story. and she’s in distress mode. Sam couldn’t help himself.” Sam said as he grinned at me. but it’s really not your kind of town – not a mall in sight. which tasted as bad to me as the wine. I want to know why you ran off and married that Simon fellow before we had a chance to see what magic is. but you can always come.” “Get anything good?” “Nothing I can use except in my debut photography exhibit that will release me from this hell hole we call the news.” “I don’t care. Holly was calling.” I laughed and sipped at my beer. It’s my best friend.” “I caused a family scandal when I married Simon – not complicated at all. “My stepdaughter-slash-niece accompanied me on this trip. This one doesn’t suck too much. what’s up?” “I got your text.

is going to join us tomorrow. The last time we talked. but I’m sure the theme was one with which I was familiar. but then again corn nuggets are aspirin for the soul.” I assured my broken-hearted friend I would make sure she had a place to stay. she assured me. and then they give it a fiftyday window – most eggs hatch at sixty to seventy days. Holly’s latest love interest. They’re making the best guesstimate on when the nest was laid based on volunteer data. And she has a broken heart. “We better get some sleep.” I told Sam when I returned to our table. The shrimp arrived. but she insisted I was simply being pessimistic again. but why extra so?” “Holly. Holly was batting zero with her relationships with men. but that was one that had already hatched. I didn’t know Carl. “I’m always charming. Any directions for tomorrow?” Sam asked. I warned Holly about the signals Carl was giving. so be gentle – she’s a sensitive soul.” “Quite a mission. I didn’t think I’d be able to eat either. “I’m going to need you to be extra charming this week.” “I never knew you were a poet as well as a journalist. I’ve only seen a nest dug up once. These eggs are about two weeks away from hatching.” “I’m just not in the mood. my girlfriend.TRAILS IN THE SAND there tomorrow afternoon. and he was busy peeling and eating. Why aren’t they waiting until they’re closer?” “It’s not a precise science. After one short marriage that ended in no children and a bitter divorce a decade ago.” “But not thirsty? You didn’t touch your beer. I guess. “Just photograph everything and stay out of the way. I still wasn’t sure what happened with Carl.” “Is she as beautiful as you?” “I’m not even in her league.” I said when Sam and I polished off two pounds of shrimp with corn nuggets and cole slaw.” Holly was petite and dainty with long platinum hair that the women of Miami spend thousands of dollars to achieve. “I can’t believe how hungry I was. They don’t want to take a chance the eggs will hatch in transit – they want them safe at Cape Canaveral in a controlled environment when they do that.” “Then what?” 245 .

right? The turtles will be released at night. ZICK “We’ll be there to capture the first batch taking the walk to sea.” 246 . Some people call me a pro.P. Maybe we’ll both get a Pulitzer. and there can’t be any light to distract them.” “Got ‘em. You got infrared cameras. C.” “That would be me. don’t you worry.

There’s something weird about the whole thing – I feel connected to both my dad’s side and my mom’s. None of it makes much sense.” “Maybe you’ll write it one day. but I think it’d make a great novel. “I think you’d make a great novelist. She found the bottle of wine she’d stashed in there just before Caroline pulled in the driveway. but then he had a pretty complicated past.CHAPTER 51 Jodi She slammed the door behind her. As she sat sipping the warm white Australian wine. I guess her father was abusive to her. too. wanted to be a writer. but something happened to her that kept her from pursuing it.” Seth said. “How was the trip?” her boyfriend asked when she reached him.” “I’m not sure I can make it over there for the nest thing. She unscrewed the cap and found a glass in the bathroom.” “Does it make you happy you were adopted?” “Not really. I’m only mildly curious about the people who provided my genes. Jodi knew her aunt thought she was angry that the woman mistook her for Caroline’s daughter. I heard some weird stories about my family. leaving Caroline standing alone in the landing area of the second floor of the inn. she began to relax and decided to call Seth. GG. “All right.” “My grandmother. but all she felt was an overwhelming sense of sadness. but you 247 . of not belonging anywhere. Jodi placed her bag on the bed and unzipped it.

I still wonder why my parents ever got married.” “Oops.m.” “I was a little perturbed. GG and Grandpa Jack didn’t have that type of marriage either. I knew my parents were distant planets with nothing much in common. Jodi. My mother must have suffered when my father told her he wanted to leave to be with Caroline. If Caroline and my father 248 . too. They probably aren’t very relaxed around me either. I don’t observe the little things that make it clear people are in love. We certainly look enough alike to pass as relatives. Talking to you always helps and so does this wine I’m drinking. but we’re not sure when that will be. What hope is there for me to marry well? Do Caroline and my father have that type of marriage? They must because they married despite everyone’s strong objections.” “OK. so maybe I’ll do it when you’re there. Keep me posted and don’t drink alone in your room all night.” “I love you. ZICK said you’d be going to Cape Canaveral when they release the hatchlings. Caroline and Dad love to do the same things and enjoy a passion for gardening that Momma always found so abhorrent. But even before. I wonder what it would have been like to have been raised in a family with a mother and father who loved one another.” “I need to visit my folks sometime this summer. She poured another glass of wine and pulled her journal out of the suitcase. but I’m fine now. right?” “Right. I can’t look at either in the eye. Mostly. She propped herself up on the bed and opened the book and began to write. Maybe a few weeks. It was bad enough that Momma already hated her only sibling.” Jodi put her cell phone on the stand next to the bed after setting her alarm for 4 a. The woman at this inn where we’re staying referred to me as Caroline’s daughter. C.P. Most folks never suspect I’m adopted because I resemble both the Stokley side of the family and the McDermott side. when I still lived at home. now her husband had chosen that very sibling over her. I notice Caroline babbles – she never did that before she married my father. such as the hand in the small of the back when they walk toward a door side-byside. “I wonder what it would be like to be Caroline’s daughter. I know – perhaps I’ve always known – that my mother and father didn’t have the kind of marriage I saw in other marriages. When I’m with the two of them together. Seth and I have common ground. And I miss you. I bet you let her know what you thought about that.

Tomorrow I visit St. supposedly brought from England by Arthur all those years ago. then why does the infamous tablecloth. I know they made the decision to be together after GG died. Even more curious was the tag I discovered on the back of the piece. If that’s true. George Island for the first time. 249 . This place remains mysterious and a little dark in my mind because of all the stories I’ve heard over the years.TRAILS IN THE SAND always loved one another. but I don’t want to hear it. what kept them apart? I could ask Caroline. “Made in China” doesn’t sound like a fine piece of Irish linen laden with the burden of the Stokley’s only family heirloom. and she would attempt to tell me. Caroline told me the Stokley name was adopted by Arthur Stokley after medical school. have the “S” embroidered on it? I always heard from GG and Momma that Arthur’s mother put it there and that’s why it was so special. but I don’t know why that event made them do something they should have done twenty years earlier.

who was a thirty-year veteran in the mines. So far. On July 1. testified before the Senate that recent surprise inspections of Massey mines “found illegal conditions that are unbelievable in the twenty-first century. 250 . in 2010. a mine shuttle car struck and killed a miner. MSHA chief. Another miner died at a mine in late May after being pinned against a wall by heavy equipment.” Massey’s CEO Don Blankenship insisted his company always put safety first. Joseph Main. thirty-one miners died in coal mines owned by Massey Energy in West Virginia. Several teams of experts hope to gather evidence necessary to pinpoint the cause of the April 5 blast that killed twenty-nine men. “The physical examination of the mine hopefully will provide answers to the cause of a tragic explosion that has affected so many lives.CHAPTER 52 News Reports on Upper Big Branch mine and Massey Energy By the end of June – nearly three months after the mine explosion – investigators entered the Upper Big Branch mine. chief of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.” said Joseph Main.

oiled wildlife were doubling in numbers on the coasts. the news from West Virginia became more and more disturbing. Simon saw positive signs in everything that had happened so far this summer. Even though they hadn’t argued this time.CHAPTER 53 Simon Simon went to work in the garden after talking to Caroline. He picked several bagfuls of tomatoes to take to the office tomorrow to give away to his secretary and clients. As close as Caroline and Simon were on most parts of their life. As usual. Caroline seemed to see danger lurking in all the dark shadows. When he came back inside. which quickly disturbed the peace he’d found in the garden. as he advised Caroline to do earlier. There was no doubt in Simon’s mind that his cousin’s life might have been spared if Massey Energy had followed the safety regulations. this was an area where they differed. a mixture of mown grass and spicy herbs. Simon knew growing up as she had with Gladys Carlisle always pointing out the negatives of life made her suspect just about everything. and if the feds hadn’t been so easily persuaded to turn 251 . he knew Caroline didn’t see things the way he did when it came to Jodi. He quieted the noise and concentrated on the deeply aromatic scent of the patch. and if that wasn’t enough. However. he attempted to listen to the nightly news. The oil was still spewing into the ocean. he now attempted to put himself in her shoes. the patch would be burned up for the summer. Within a few weeks. standing on the soil in the middle of his tomatoes brought him peace.

” “But why did you marry Momma?” “She needed me. “Can you tell me why you married Momma in the first place if you always loved Caroline?” Her question came as a surprise. “Think about someone five years younger than yourself and imagine developing a relationship with them.” “That’s what you and Caroline say about everything. “I need to go to sleep.” “Why did you love Caroline so much?” How to answer that question.P. “Caroline was so much younger – five years is a lifetime when you’re that age. I hoped we’d be able to make it better.” Despite the five years separating them.” “No. were very different from Simon and Caroline. Simon’s younger brother. My alarm’s set for 4 a.” “I love you. Jodi never wanted to discuss Simon’s marriages to either of the Carlisle sisters. Simon wondered.m. I’ve been doing some thinking tonight.” Calico. His phone rang as he prepared to turn off the depressing news. Now she was asking the million-dollar question. she was the younger one Simon didn’t have. “Dad.” Simon said. C. “It’s complicated. and I did love the way she nurtured and cared for you. ZICK the other way when violations occurred.” “It didn’t work out that way. it didn’t. I loved Amy in a way. Amy and Gary.” Jodi said when I answered. Have a good time tomorrow.” Jodi said. Simon was the older sibling Caroline didn’t have. he and Caroline saw each other more than the Sundays her family came to the Stokley’s house for the family brawls they called “dinners. but not the right way. Circa 1975 After Simon moved to Calico. they were kindred spirits who enjoyed the company of one another. Jodi. They went to the river every chance 252 . They both loved the outdoors. After you came to us. I thought I could make it work and that I would learn to love your mother as much as I loved Caroline. Gladdy wanted it. I don’t know if I can explain. and you know your grandmother was a formidable woman.

They’d volley back and forth with the silliest of comments that would leave them in stitches.” Simon said. the three of them sat on a bench at the edge of the river near the boat ramp just north of town. they usually walked away when Simon and Caroline entered into one of their verbal games. and your farts were propelling you out of the water. She was as uncomfortable outdoors as Caroline was in a dress. When Amy did come with them. One time they went into a whole routine about what the turtles might be thinking as they sunned themselves on the river rocks on a hot summer afternoon. They’d fall over onto their backs and laugh and laugh to think of mullet gas sending them skyward. If anyone else was present.” Caroline declared one day as they stood on the banks of the river trying to skip stones.” Caroline said. she usually spent her time swatting at imaginary insects and hopping from one foot to another to avoid ants scurrying on the ground. “Mullet have to be the dumbest fish in the world.” Simon said. Miss Scientist.” “Oh I thought you had a major case of the gas. “It’s really quite simple. which was highly unusual. and yet they do it time after time. For some reason. Amy came with them. It must hurt something awful. and your question tells me you have not earned your masters of science degree yet. They learned to keep those moments to themselves. Myself and my fellow mullets all have an itch. and we’re scratching it. “How would they find out? Mr. “They’re masochists. As Caroline concocted the turtle conversation. Gladdy probably arranged it since she never liked Caroline and Simon going off by themselves so often. “Or just plain stupid. It looked as if it hurt as much as a belly flop off a diving board. could you please tell us why you slam yourself hard against the water? We’re doing a survey. They shared a sense of humor that no one else around them seemed to get. 253 .TRAILS IN THE SAND they could until Simon left Calico for college. Mullet.” Caroline held an imaginary microphone up to Simon’s mouth. Just then. another of the saltwater fish that swam upstream rivers to feed jumped two feet out of the water and slapped itself down on the surface.” “I read somewhere that even the scientists aren’t sure why they do it. since I don’t know what mass-o-kiss means.

except when he came home on breaks. too. they’d watch the turtles and alligators sunning on the banks. When Simon went to college. During those leisurely trips. C. They paddled as quietly as possible so as not to disturb either. Simon’s love of nature came in second only to his love for Caroline. they’d stop and swim in the springs along the way. Simon called Caroline to see if she’d come back from dinner yet.” “What did you say?” “I told her it was complicated. How could they ever explain why they found farting mullet and itchy cooters so amusing? Caroline’s family had an old aluminum canoe that her father would throw in the back of his pickup truck and cart down to the boat ramp north of town.P. although he didn’t understand it at the time.” 254 . and Jack Carlisle would be there waiting to take them home. ZICK “What are you two talking about?” Amy asked after Caroline created a scenario where one turtle was asking the other to scratch its back. “Turtles can’t talk. Amy got up from the bench and went back to the car where she waited in the back seat for Simon to drive them home. The only interruptions in their ritual came during football season when Simon practiced every afternoon and then watched college games on Saturday. “She wanted to know why I married Amy. Caroline traversed their beloved river alone. Caroline and Simon would paddle downriver for four miles to the next boat ramp. 2010 After talking to Jodi. “I had an interesting call from Jodi. and they burst out laughing. She’s getting tired of that response. but I guess it’s all we have.” “I am.” Caroline looked at Simon.” he said when she answered. They kept their humor to themselves after that.

I quickly packed the small backpack I’d brought with my notepads and pens.” I said. I wondered if I’d be able to sleep. but the next thing I heard was the buzzer going off on my cell phone alarm. “They’re from yesterday. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. a small camera and tape recorder. I threw in the sunscreen. I was even more tired than when I laid down the night before. but I thought you might want something 255 . Think we can find some coffee?” The cook was already up and working away in the kitchen. I put on sunscreen even though it would be awhile before I needed it.CHAPTER 54 Caroline After I hung up from talking to Simon. We gave each other a wave and walked downstairs quietly so we didn’t disturb the other guests. letting the hat fall down my back. I rooted around in my bag for my water sandals. Joanne must have told her about our early departure because she’d just come into the dining room with a thermos of hot coffee and a plate of Danishes. I forced myself out of bed and jumped into the shower. I walked out the door at exactly 4:30 and met Jodi in the hallway. “Sam’s going to meet us over there. As I lay down. I never took any chances because I burned so easily even after living in Florida my entire life. I found my straw hat and put the strap around my neck. Even though I slept soundly. “Did you sleep well?” “It was OK. I pulled on my bathing suit and covered it with shorts and a t-shirt. I felt as if I’d not slept at all.

and Jodi looked out over the expanse of bay and the Gulf of Mexico beyond. With Styrofoam cups and pastries wrapped in napkins. But it didn’t last. I suppose. “You were married two times before. ZICK to hold you over. “She called me her ‘miracle child. we headed out to the car. The focal point of the park was a restored lighthouse that had almost been 256 . “Just never worked out that way and considering those marriages ended. “Did you love the men you married?” Jodi asked.” I said.” “That would be just like Momma. “Everyone was so happy when you came along.” I said. but I think you’ve heard that too many times. but I’ll give it a shot.’” “You were a miracle.” “Were you happy? You never even met me until I was almost eleven.” “GG always said she wasn’t invited. You can ask me anything you want.” “Dad must have told you about our conversation last night. We both were silent as the winds buffeted the car. Of course.” “Momma couldn’t have children because of her illness. C.” she said as she set them down on the sideboard. right?” Her voice startled me but not as much as the actual substance of the questions.” Jodi and I pulled into the city park in the center of the island. I might not always have answers.” “Yes. “Timing’s everything. she was always invited. but then she’d always do or say something that ended up with us arguing right about the time of my weddings.” We drove onto the bridge leading to the island. It was still dark.P. but the smell of the sea let us know we weren’t far from the ocean. I managed to get married twice even though no one in the family thought to come to the weddings.” “I was traveling so much during those years. and it’s all right. perhaps it’s not such a bad thing. I’d say it was complicated. “I suppose I must have or I wouldn’t have married them.” Jodi said. “Why didn’t you ever have children?” Jodi asked before we even reached the Apalachicola Bridge.

George Island finally gave way to a century and a half of relentless waves and beach erosion. “You all remember the protocols for egg removal that I gave you. “I guess we’ll take six.” Kate said. but not so much that the heat baked the exposed eggs while the nest was dug. she looked up and saw Jodi. “You can get approximately 50 eggs in each cooler. It was brought piece by piece to the park and lovingly restored by the historical society. Sam pulled in beside us just as we were joining the group standing around Kate. the first thing I noticed was the mugginess of the early morning. which was a few miles away from the main island and only accessible by boat. Each vehicle will have clipboards with log sheets to document the nest numbers and the coolers with the number of eggs. the Cape St.TRAILS IN THE SAND destroyed by erosion on Little St. She nodded to us as she continued talking. Please check your instructions if you’re unsure.” one of the volunteers said. I pulled up next to the white pick-up truck with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission logo on its side. George Island. A dozen other folks stood milling around the location with coffee mugs in hand. Most of you will probably only need two. Anyone need instructions? I have a few copies here. “So even if the third cooler from the first nest has only 10 eggs in it. I saw Kate at the tail gate of the truck pulling out Styrofoam coolers. They waited for just enough light to see what they were doing. The entire structure simply collapsed. and three coolers should be enough for one nest. “Every vehicle should take at least three coolers with them. Remember to move slowly and place each egg in the same direction as it came from the nest. George community banded together to move the fallen pieces from its original location to recreate the original lighthouse in the center of St. the St.” After Kate passed out the clipboards with the pink spreadsheets attached. and me standing on the periphery of the group.” Kate was saying as we walked up. It would be a scorcher once the sun came up – it was one reason for the early morning and evening retrievals.” 257 . We’re doing ten nests today.” “Don’t mix up the eggs from different nests. When we stepped outside. George Island. In 2005. As a result. and all of them are loggerheads.” “We’re going to dig up two that are close together. start a new cooler for the next nest. George Lighthouse on Little St. Now it stood as sentinel and host to all those who visited. Sam.

young lady. but that should do it until you start transporting. this is my niece.” “Anderson Cooper? CNN? He’s going to cover this story.” Kate said. “This isn’t my normal way of doing things. a 258 . with a whisper and a prayer. Kate.” I said. ZICK Two volunteers raised their hands.” “Don’t worry about us. Hey.” I said. “Where’s CNN?” “They won’t be here until the day after tomorrow. we’ll come again tomorrow morning. Kate is one of the most respected sea turtle experts in the United States. Caroline. That’s one reason I asked Jodi. That work for you?” “That’s fine with us.” “Science on the wing. she’s really one of us in disguise – she even studied marine biology in college so don’t let her seemingly dumb questions fool you. we’ll see where we are at that point. “Don’t let her fool you.” “It’s unprecedented. Jodi. And Sam is our photographer with the AP. “But don’t worry. “I’m going to be handling the media. and I’m not sure I can handle both you and Anderson Cooper and still do my job. “We’ll help where we can. so we could have an extra set of hands. here’s our lone reporter. and she wouldn’t do anything unless she was absolutely sure it was going to save the turtles.” Kate said.” I said as I shook hands with the others. too?” Jodi asked.” I said.” “The first truck rolls day after tomorrow after our morning dig. “If I had my way.” one of the older volunteers said. everybody. “This must really be a big deal.” Kate announced to the group. We’ll concentrate on getting our story this morning and tonight. “Good morning. Kate directed Jodi and me to ride with her after she’d finished distributing the coolers and maps of nests to the others. “It’s science in the making. If we need to. maybe the world.” “I don’t remember a thing. and Kate handed them the sheets with the specific protocols for removing the eggs from the nest.” I said. “They’re predicting a storm today so we probably won’t do anything tonight. Jodi. Sam would follow in his vehicle because of his equipment. “Kate. But BP isn’t giving us a break on this one.” Kate said.” Kate said.P. C. She’s going to be my assistant. We headed to the Plantation. we’d do controlled groups of one or two nests and let them hatch successfully before we attempted this mass movement of eggs across the state.

” “Thank goodness the state park is at the other end to preserve some of this island. “I visited the location a few weeks ago when I was here.” I said. “I guess you’d be an expert on that. Thankfully.” “If you call the Everglades ‘pristine.’ then I really do have some land to sell you down there.” I told Jodi. 259 .” Kate said.” “Is the house still there? I’d bet it got eaten up by the Plantation. There were times when I wondered if Simon and I had any chance of having a real family with Jodi. that’s for sure. Jodi’s never been here before. Kate. I thought we’d go out there after this.” Jodi said. “My grandparents had a cottage back in the 1950s where the Plantation is.” “You’ll love it – it’s as pristine as you’re going to get in Florida. “Sorry.” “Except for the Everglades. Have you been out there yet?” Kate asked “No.” I said. I’m sure she felt we’d destroyed everything she believed about family.” “Haven’t they recovered?” Jodi asked.” Kate said.’ Too much tampering with the water down there means pristine left with the digging of the first canal to divert the water.” “Nothing permanently destroyed can ever be ‘recovered’ according to the scientists.TRAILS IN THE SAND gated community on the island. “I miss the ‘Glades even in summer. “That’s just as bad as saying the Florida black bear has ‘recovered’ since we banned hunting in 1994. “The house burned down in 1956 many years before they started building the monstrosities they call beach cottages. we haven’t. I meant to say ‘isolated.” I said. we pulled into the parking right then so my words about destruction and recovering wouldn’t hang in the air. “All I hear about in Calico is how those pesky bears are taking over our communities.

Fortunately.” Kate said.” “I can do whatever you need. We’re not counting on going out later today so I wanted to get as many nests now as possible. but some things still got to her. When Caroline talked about restoration and recovery.” Jodi said. if that’s all right. Jodi felt it go right to the heart of her hurt. and several cameras. “There’s no guarantee we’ll be able remove eggs in the morning either. we might get a pretty bad one tonight. “Did I hear you mention a storm earlier?” Caroline asked as they prepared to carry the coolers down to the beach. Kate slowed down the vehicle before anything more could be said. “We have to park here – it’s the only access.” Sam said as he loaded himself up with camera bags. “I wasn’t thinking about that. A path led between the houses to the beach. a tripod. It may even affect tomorrow.CHAPTER 55 Jodi Jodi didn’t mean to say the things she did to Caroline.” Kate said. “I better get some great shots this morning is what you’re telling me. but it’s probably a good idea. I didn’t have enough volunteers for the number of nests that need to be dug up this morning.” 260 . “Yes. “I’m probably going to have to ask you two to help me count eggs and carry coolers.” Kate said as she pulled into a small public parking lot behind three-story beach houses.

“Could be 100 – give or take a dozen or so. “Jodi. “We had some washed over by storms earlier this summer.TRAILS IN THE SAND Kate explained the schedule for calculating the nest removal.” Jodi announced 261 .” Jodi said as she knelt in the sand and pulled on the gloves. she removed the sand. Then she slowly picked up each egg and carefully placed it on the layer of sand in the cooler while Jodi recorded each one on the handheld counter. OK?” “Sure. she directed Jodi and Caroline to carefully and slowly to pull the posts out of the sand. “They look good.” “How many eggs will there be?” Jodi asked. Jodi rolled them all together with the tape and set them aside. “So the first cooler contains forty-eight eggs. When the first layer was complete with approximately fourteen eggs. Once there. but these look like they escaped damage. With her gloved hands. She placed a black mark with a Sharpie on each egg before removing it so it was clear which side was up when removed from the nest. if you don’t mind I’m going to ask you to be my assistant. She handed Jodi a pair of plastic gloves. “We want to minimize our contact with the eggs as much as possible.” Kate took some of the displaced sand she’d already removed to reveal the eggs and placed it in the bottom on the cooler.” They walked along the beach as the sun began lighting the sky enough to see. Kate began gently pulling back sand until she found the first layer of eggs. Here. so Caroline and Sam can get the story. Kate pointed 100 yards ahead to an area marked by posts and orange tape. really. but we’re using the best available scientific data to make educated guesses at this point. “We’re not sure of anything. The giant orange orb had yet to make an appearance.” Kate said. take this counter and hit the button each time I pull one out of the nest and put it in the cooler. Jodi.” she said. Kate placed one of the coolers next to her and knelt in front of the center of the marked area. Then she turned back to the nest and continued uncovering eggs. “We don’t have the luxury of time as that oil moves into sea turtle habitat. The nests would only be moved after they’d been in the ground long enough to hopefully receive the magnet markings that would determine their biological cycles.” Kate said as she pulled on the gloves. Kate covered it with more sand she’d displaced from the nest.

This nest was recorded as a loggerhead.P.” “They’re the most common in Florida. Caroline. “And you wildlife biologists are giving them a fighting chance against man.” Kate said.” “How do you know?” Jodi asked. They far outnumber all the other sea turtles.” Caroline said as she wrote notes on her pad. “The loggerhead moves diagonal limbs simultaneously and the green hauls itself forward by moving the opposite limbs together. “Ninety-three eggs total. and then even less make it all the way to adulthood. ZICK when Kate said she’d put as many as she could in there. All of them we’re digging up today are loggerheads.” “That’s right. “Now.” “Are any of the eggs hatching yet over at Cape Canaveral?” Sam asked. I’ve only found loggerhead tracks. “We expect the first nests we dug to start emerging within a week. “Is that a good amount?” “It’s about average.” “So Mother Nature is giving them a fighting chance.” Jodi announced when Kate reached the bottom of the cavity. and they give us a cheat sheet showing the different patterns so we can give our best guess which kind of turtle it is.” “That’s a lot of eggs.” Kate said. “They need to lay a lot of eggs because they have a pretty dismal survival rate – maybe as low as fifty percent survive the walk to the ocean. do you want to stay here with this cooler while Jodi and I move the first one to the car?” Kate asked. but there are quite a few green turtles that nest in this area.” Kate said.” Caroline said. C. “Those are green turtles though.” Kate said.” Jodi said. I did one the other day that had 120 and then yesterday one that had eighty-two. snapping shots as Kate wrote down as much data as she could about Nest #78 and its clutch of ninety-three eggs. “I’m a sea turtle volunteer in St. Sam continued to move around the periphery of the group. They make pretty distinctive marks in the sand and the volunteers are trained to note the pattern. Augustine. “Maybe one or two of these guys will mature. “I imagine Sam will 262 . The same sea turtle will most likely lay two to three nests in a season. “The pattern in the sand made by their flippers.

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want to snap some shots of us moving the coolers.” Kate grabbed one handle and directed Jodi to grab the red strap on the other side. “1, 2, 3, lift,” Kate said and the two women raised the cooler at the same time to keep it as level as possible. They walked slowly as a unit toward the small boardwalk that led back to the parking lot. While the eggs were being removed from the nest, the sun had risen and was already beating down on the beach. Sam followed the cooler carriers while Caroline stood in front of the other cooler trying to provide shade for the eggs inside. By the time they drove the coolers to the waiting trailer where they would be in a temperature-controlled environment until the FedEx cabs rolled in, the sun was at its full force. The impending storm had not yet made an appearance, but that wasn’t unusual in Florida. Storms blew in quickly, sometimes with little warning. Sam, Jodi, and Caroline decided to drive into the state park and go for a swim before heading back to Apalachicola. Since they’d all worn swimsuits under their clothes, they went directly to the long boardwalks leading to the sea. The park staff continually maintained the boardwalks so the public had access to the Gulf without going through the dunes and trampling on the fragile sea oats that held a tenuous grasp on the sand. At some points in the state park, the island narrowed down to less than a mile across, with Apalachicola Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Crystal blue water glimmered in the sun in all directions. The water was slightly cooler than the air so it was easy to jump into the ocean. Jodi dove under as soon as she walked out far enough. Caroline was more cautious, waiting until the water came up around her waist. Sam just ran with abandon into the surf, and then dove in past the first line of breaking waves. “That was wonderful,” Caroline said after playing in the surf for a few minutes. “But I really need to get back to the Inn and start working.” “I shouldn’t leave those cameras in the truck much longer either,” Sam said. “I guess we’ll figure out about tonight as the day progresses, right?” “I guess so. If we don’t go out to dig up more nests, plan to eat with us. Jodi and I would like to go to Harry A’s at five o’clock so I can introduce her to my friend George. You’d probably get a kick out of
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meeting him, too.” When they got back to the car, Caroline announced that her friend Holly would be arriving that afternoon. “Since it’s only 10 o’clock, I’ll have a few hours to organize my notes before she gets here,” Caroline said as they drove back to the parking lot at the city park where they’d left Sam’s van. “Jodi, if you want, I can ride back to Apalachicola with Sam, and you can keep my car. You can go back to the state park if you’d like. The sticker is good all day long.” “OK,” Jodi said. “If you two are working, there’s not much else for me to do.” “There’s a cooler, chairs and towels in the back,” Caroline said. “You could even go to one of the stores downtown and pick up something to eat.”

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Caroline Once back at the Coombs House, I showered and set up my laptop, notes, pads, and pencils on the bed. I sat cross-legged and began deciphering my notes. Simon called around lunchtime. “How’s it going, baby?” he asked. “Great. I’m back at the Inn working, and Jodi is swimming at the state park. We dug up a nest this morning with ninety-three eggs. We’re not sure about tonight because of the storm moving in. What’s the radar say?” “Looks like you’re going to get hit,” Simon said. He was the weatherman of the family – he even had a special program on his computer that gave him instant satellite readings. I never watched the weather on television – I just asked Simon. “Holly is going to be here in a few hours,” I said. “She dumped Carl after she found some rather questionable text messages on his phone as best I can tell.” “What about you and Jodi?” Simon asked. “Everything seemed fine this morning, but she’s asking a lot of questions about love. She asked me if I’d loved my previous two husbands.” “That must have been interesting. How did you respond?” “I used our new favorite line – ‘it’s complicated.’ Seriously, I tried to answer as best I could. It is a complicated question.” “How about No. 3? Is he complicated?” Simon asked.
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“You wouldn’t believe the complications with that man.” I went down to the verandah of Coombs House after I’d organized and written the first paragraph of my story – always the hardest to write, but once it’s done, the rest of the article comes easily for me, even if I change the introduction later. It’s the idea of starting with a blank page that intimidates most writers. I read somewhere that Somerset Maugham always ended his writing day in the middle of a sentence, so when he started the next day, he had somewhere to go. I don’t go quite that far, but having a place to continue always helps. The sky was still blue, although the humidity probably hovered around 100 percent. I found a couple of chairs and a love seat grouped together under a ceiling fan and out of the sun where I could sit and wait for Holly’s arrival. I brought a small notepad to jot down any thoughts that might come my way. I found from my earliest days as a writer to record all my random thoughts just in case. Even if I never looked at the notes again, the very act of repeating it in writing somehow gave it more credence in my memory banks. The front door opened and Jodi pushed open the screen door. “I didn’t know you were back from the beach,” I said. “I came back about an hour ago and took a shower. It was scorching out there even when I tried to read at one of the shelters,” she said. “I’m waiting for Holly. She should be here any minute. Did you enjoy working with Kate this morning?” “It was amazing. I can’t wait to see the hatchlings.” “I’m glad you came. I hope we can go out again tonight, but I talked to your dad, and he said that storm is still barreling down on us.” “He called me, too,” Jodi said. “Always the weatherman, he wanted to make sure I was aware that it could get rough being on the Gulf and all.” “Thank goodness it’s not a tropical storm yet,” I said. “He’d be calling the Coast Guard to escort us home.” Jodi smiled. She sat down in the other chair across from me. “Isn’t Holly a psychologist or psychiatrist?” “Psychologist, Ph.D. She’s always been interested in the psyche. And here she is.” Holly pulled into the parking spot next to my car in her PT Cruiser convertible.
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She jumped out of the car and ran up the front steps as we slowly stood. She grabbed me before I could even take one step toward the stairs. “It’s so good to see you, Caroline,” she said. “You have no idea how much I’ve missed you.” Holly spotted Jodi over my shoulder. “Jodi, it’s good to see you again,” Holly said as she moved toward her for another bear hug. Jodi held her at arm’s length. Some people love to hug; others would rather say hi or just shake hands. Jodi seemed to fall into the latter category while my enthusiastic Holly hugged everyone she met. “You two remember one another, don’t you?” I asked. “Sure, I remember Jodi.” “Hi, Holly. How was the trip?” Jodi asked. “Fine, beat the storm. It’s in the Tampa area right now. Jodi, I was very sorry to hear about your mother,” Holly said. “Thanks,” Jodi said. We stood there for a few minutes making small talk. “How’s Simon?” Holly asked. “Is he coming over?” “He’s fine, monitoring the weather for us. He has a case in court right now so he’s not going to get away. Plus, he’s involved with that mining disaster in West Virginia. One of his cousins died in the explosion.” “You two are just following all the fossil fuel disasters of 2010, aren’t you? I remember the first time I met Simon. He had to navigate a storm in the Everglades to get back home, remember?” I stood there trying to figure out how to respond. Jodi didn’t know anyone in the family ever visited me in the Everglades. “My father was in the Everglades the first time you met him?” Jodi asked Holly. Holly looked horrified when she realized her mistake. Neither one of us spoke. “Caroline, my father visited you in the Everglades?” Jodi now turned her scrutiny on me. “Yes, one time a long time ago.” “I remember you telling GG and Momma that no one in the family had ever visited you in the Everglades. I always thought that was so sad. You said it again yesterday. When did my father visit you?” “I don’t remember exactly. Years ago. He needed a break from everything, and he came to visit. He was the only one of the family to ever
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come and see me down there.” “When was it?” Jodi persisted. “In 1990,” I finally said. “He went back to Calico when your mother had a miscarriage and almost died. He didn’t know she was pregnant when he left, or he wouldn’t have gone.” “He was down there with you while Momma was having a miscarriage?” “It wasn’t like that,” I said. “Just exactly how was it then?” “I’m not sure you really want to know,” I said. “I don’t know how you expect me to believe anything you say.” “There’s much more to it, and the day you’re ready to listen, really listen, I’ll explain everything.” Jodi shook her head. She got up from her chair on the porch and walked down the steps of the old inn. She turned around when she was on the sidewalk. “How can either of you expect me to believe in anything ever again?” “Sorry,” Holly said after Jodi was out of hearing range. They could see her retreating form headed for downtown. “That’s OK. It was bound to come out sometime. She’s already angry about so many things, one more won’t matter all that much. She’s also been asking lots of questions about love the past few days, so maybe she’ll work it all out on her own.” “I’ve been so absorbed in my life, I haven’t asked how you two ended up here together. How’s it been going?” “It’s been OK as long we stay on safe subjects. She’s asked questions about her grandmother and the Stokleys. St. George Island is where my Uncle Alex walked into the sea never to be seen again.” “I thought this was the place, but I wasn’t sure. I’ve never forgotten that story or what you knew of it.” “I haven’t had a chance to tell you, but I met someone who knew Momma and Alex back then. We might see him tonight.” “You never talk about it, you know.” “About Uncle Alex and Momma? I thought I told you all I knew except what George told me,” I said. “I don’t mean about that. I mean about the other stuff. I was there,
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Caroline.” “What’s the point? I’d rather forget.” “But you can’t.” “I did a pretty good job for seventeen years, except for that one time when I went home for Daddy’s funeral,” I said. “Everything’s worked out for the best.” My phone started ringing, and I saw that it was Kate calling. “Caroline, we’re officially cancelling tonight’s dig,” she said when I answered. “It looks like the storm will move out by morning, so as soon as it’s light we’re going out for an assessment of the existing nests to see if any made it through the storm.” “There’s nothing to do to protect them now?” I asked. “No, there’s not much we can do but wait it out,” Kate said. “Want to go along in the morning to see how they survived?” “Sure, although it still doesn’t look like much of anything is happening right now, except the air is so heavy with humidity I can barely breathe.” “It’s coming, believe me. It will be here soon.” After I hung up, I told Holly I needed to get inside for some air conditioning. She also needed to check in. “Let me take a nap and then we can sit and chat before heading over to Harry A’s. George, the man I was telling you about, goes there every afternoon at five o’clock,” I said as we went inside. “Hopefully Jodi will want to join us. Sam, the photographer with me on this trip, will probably come too.” I sent Jodi a text letting her know about the plans, asking her to meet Holly and me in the lobby by 4:30 p.m. if she wanted to meet George. I called Sam and gave him the same message. Then I left Holly in the lobby to check in, and I climbed the stairs to my room, suddenly overcome with all the events of the day, which had begun almost twelve hours earlier. When I closed my eyes, I could still see Simon’s car as it drove away from my house in the ‘Glades that afternoon twenty years ago. The wind was blowing hard as a winter storm began moving from the Gulf across the Everglades, just as it was beginning to pick up outside the window of my room as I watched the branches swaying outside the window. I knew on that day that Simon would be fine driving north if he could get on the northern edge of it as it blew east to the Atlantic.
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The worst part after he left was going into the bedroom and seeing the rumpled sheets, and my clothes strewn across the floor where we’d carelessly tossed them just a few hours before. I lay down and buried my nose in the pillow where Simon had laid his head, and I tried to breath in the essence of him. I willed myself to remain tearless and it worked – that day at least. The other times the tears came on me before I had a chance to steel myself against them. I didn’t know the worst was yet to come. The ringing of my cell phone woke me from a deep sleep. I sat up quickly to answer it, but became very dizzy and nauseous. I ran to the bathroom instead of taking the call. When I could manage, I called Simon back. “Sorry I missed your call,” I said. “I was in the bathroom.” “Is it storming there yet?” Simon asked. I hadn’t bothered to notice before, but from the one window in my room above the bed, I could see that the sky had darkened. Tree limbs swayed outside, but I didn’t see rain yet. “Almost – it doesn’t look like there’s any rain yet, just wind.” I told Simon about the talk with Jodi and Holly. “I hope she’s come back to the inn,” he said. “Or is safe in a restaurant or coffee shop.” “She’s a smart girl; she’s fine. I’m going downstairs to meet Holly for the complimentary glass of wine; I left Jodi a message to join us.” I managed to brush my hair and put on some lipstick, but I still felt queasy. When I looked in the mirror, my face was pale despite my morning on the beach.

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“Ready for your glass of wine?” “I think I’ll pass. Jodi?” “Just in time. now that you mention it. He was worried you wouldn’t know enough to come in out of the rain.” Holly said. Sam.” Caroline said as she bit into the cracker. “Did you get back before the storm hit. dripping wet and bringing the sound of the wind in with him. “You look a little peaked. I think I’ll have Caroline’s glass of wine. finally.” “I haven’t eaten a thing today. but you were already upstairs. “When it started getting dark. appeared in the doorway.” she said.” Jodi said as she removed a glass of wine off the side table next to Holly. She reached for a cracker on the tray in front of her.” “You might want to call your dad. The rain poured down outside while the trees swayed and hit the roof of the old house. I’m feeling a little puny after my nap.” Caroline said. “Maybe it’s what you had for lunch. He stood smiling at the three women through the 271 . I turned around and came back.CHAPTER 57 Jodi Holly and Jodi sat in chairs side-by-side in the reception area as Caroline made her way down the stairs. “Here she comes.” Caroline said. “I’ll call him later.” Holly said.

“Who cares that I may need to build an ark later?” “This must be the famous photographer.” Caroline said.” Jodi said.P. but this seemed to be a little more powerful. I think I need to eat.” Caroline said. Jodi could hear the faucet turn on.” “Someone is getting old.” Holly said. “I’d better handle that.” She walked quickly to the bathroom in the hallway and closed the door. Carlisle. It could rain all night if the system stalled off the coast. but there are perks.” “I think it’s the start of menopause.” “Lots of women hit it early.” 272 .” Sam said. “I’m the only one who hasn’t had a drink. “It’s depressing. then off.” Caroline said.” “Great – we can get totally wasted tonight. just waiting for me.” “And a gentleman to boot. at your service. “Aren’t you a little young for that?” Jodi asked. Will you lay down your coat for me?” Holly asked. too.” Caroline said as Sam covered his ears with his hands. her bangs damp and her face pale except for the splotches of red on her cheeks. Who’s game to make a run for the car?” “I’ll drive if you’d like. “They’re going to wait until tomorrow night.” “So they won’t be digging any of them up?” Sam asked. Most Florida afternoon showers didn’t linger. “You can’t do that to me. “Fine. “Three beautiful women. “That would be me. “You OK?” Holly asked when she came back out. Caroline opened the door. “Kate’s worried about the nests and what this storm will do to them. C. “Excuse me for a minute. “I read somewhere women do that in their fifties. ZICK fogged lenses of his glasses. They decided to wait a few minutes to see if the storm would move along. “She asked if we wanted to go out with her in the morning to do a check for damage.” Caroline said. just getting old is all. I agreed. “We got ourselves a designated driver. I’m not sure what else would be making me feel fine one minute and then light-headed and hot the next.” Holly said.” he said. m’am.

It would be too ironic if it did head here. “He drowned.” Caroline said. “I can’t see two feet in front of me.TRAILS IN THE SAND Caroline leaned over to Jodi to whisper. and he was following a sea turtle. She sat next to Caroline in the front.” Holly said. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea to go over to the island. this is a discussion for when you’re alone. “My mother’s uncle Alex walked into the surf on St. the life force of their bodies?” Holly asked. ladies. but the rain continued.” “The wind isn’t helping either. “It means the oil could go anywhere now. “We’re scared by all the power you women possess – that’s why.” Jodi said. “Why is it men become so squeamish when women start talking about the natural phenomena. they’ll have to stop the work on containing the spill and stopping the leak. “I need cool air. and they think it’s headed to Texas.” 273 . while Sam and Jodi sat in the back.” “This is pretty bad.” “That would be an ironic twist of fate if the storm changed course.” Sam said.” Sam said. “That’s a definite plus. you are making me mad.” Sam said.” Holly said.” Caroline said as she maneuvered the car over the Apalachicola Bridge.” Caroline said. “Alex is still thousands of miles away. The wind died down some by the time they made it to the bridge for St. George. “He said it’s just a summer storm. George Island a long time ago.” “Caroline. George’s most famous bar.” “Please. “You can’t be going into menopause.” Sam said.” “How so?” Sam asked. “Let’s talk about what we’re going to eat and drink at St.” Jodi said.” Jodi smiled. “No periods. “It’s going to still mess things up in the Gulf.” Caroline said.” “It’ll be fine.” “Leak is a bit of an understatement for what’s going on.” Sam said. What’s a little Florida storm?” “I forgot to ask Simon if this was the beginning of Tropical Storm Alex everyone’s so worried about. despite the rain that splashed inside the car. “I feel like I’m having a hot flash. Caroline rolled down her window slightly. “It’s not that far – only across a few bridges crossing open water.

No one said a word. “They didn’t approve of Caroline marrying Simon so soon after his wife died. ‘I just can’t believe Gladdy is using that tablecloth today of all days.” “And I noticed the other day that fine Irish linen tablecloth has a label that says.” “Good thing I didn’t come home very often. ZICK “I’m going to order a hamburger. Caroline. “Since I haven’t eaten all day and feel like I need some protein.” “Good luck with that. ‘Made in China. “And onion rings.” “Really? That’s very strange. “You might have noticed they aren’t really anxious to talk to you.” Jodi said.” “Speaking of your mother.” “GG used to make such a big deal because you wouldn’t eat beef when you came home after Grandpa died. Caroline looked at Holly and nodded her head. but I’m still not clear on all the details.” “Why don’t your aunts want to talk to you?” Sam asked. well done.” Jodi said. “His first wife was Caroline’s sister and Jodi’s mom. “I hadn’t thought of that. “‘What can I possibly make for dinner?’ she’d say and then she’d go buy a huge turkey and roast it.’” Jodi said.” “You could have a Lifetime movie made of your life.P.” “Maybe the real family name also started with an ‘S.” Holly said. Caroline pulled into a spot right in front of Harry A’s.” “George told me Momma was draped it in on the beach after Alex died. Holly snorted in the front seat.” Caroline said.” Sam said. have either of you ever figured out what the big deal was with the linen tablecloth at your dad’s funeral?” Holly asked.” Caroline said.” Caroline said. Jodi jumped 274 . I’d ask them why it was a big deal. “Now that’s something. and they’d just click their tongues and walk away. C. “I’ll have to ask the aunts. “That reminds me.” Caroline said.” Jodi said.’ they’d say. how could his mother have embroidered the “S” on the tablecloth? She was dead by the time he changed his name. “If Stokley was an adopted name when Arthur went to medical school. “Every time I was cornered by one of your aunts the subject came up.” “Since when do you eat beef?” Holly asked.

Caroline began the introductions and motioned for Jodi to join them.TRAILS IN THE SAND out of the car as soon as Caroline put it in park.” he said. Jodi went directly to the bar across from where George sat nursing his drink.” George said as they settled on bar stools around the horseshoe-shaped bar. “So you all are just as nuts as me coming out in this weather.” “They’re trying to limit media attention. but I told her that’s why I pay her so handsomely so she better go out to the garage and bring the car around to the front porch.” Caroline sat on the stool next to George. “This storm could do some damage to those nests if the waves come up high enough. Sam’s a photographer for the Associated Press – they’re the folks funding this trip. “Is that really my beautiful Caroline?” George yelled across the bar when he saw Caroline enter. “I’d like to think it’s my charming personality. “You come right over here and give me a big hug. And Jodi has come along as my assistant. you two look so much alike.” Jodi watched as her aunt walked over to the older man and gave him a hug. George grabbed Jodi’s hands and pulled her closer to him. “You look just like your grandmother did when she was sixteen.” “I heard about the nest relocation the other day although I was sworn to secrecy.” George said. She pulled away from his touch abruptly. She slammed the back door as she ran for the bar. but you’ve brought an entourage this time so that’s highly unlikely. leaving Sam next to Caroline. Jodi chose a stool on the other side of Holly.” Jodi said. “I would know you anywhere. They’ll all have to use some version of my story and Sam’s photos if they want to cover it.” “I’m covering a story about the turtle nests. And you could be your aunt’s sister. but I’m here. Nearly got stuck in the yard. but I was chosen to cover it for print. “What brings you back to our island?” George asked. “My assistant was mighty put out that I made her drive me here.” “I was adopted. Holly’s my best friend from too far ago to even mention in this company – she’s running away from home. it has all the elements of a tender yet dangerous mission to save the endangered sea 275 . And they’ll want to cover it.

I understand that never worked for your mother. “Someone must like you.” Jodi finally said.” “I know. 276 . she saw a beautiful daughter who was perfect. “Even the government folks like her. It’s a difficult disease to treat.” “My mom had that problem.” Jodi said. C.” “Caroline is our ace environmental reporter.” “That’s quite a coup to get an exclusive on this story. She turned to Holly and decided to ask her a few questions.” “Why didn’t anyone get my mother help?” “No one can force someone to get help.” Sam said. When she looked at Caroline all she could see were flaws.” Holly said. “Caroline said you’ve worked with a few women with eating disorders. “It probably made Caroline seek love in all the wrong places. the scientists are worried about them. “We’re going out with them to check the nests in the morning. When she looked at Amy. Mostly teenagers.” Jodi didn’t want to hear anymore about her aunt’s great career as a journalist. But that’s what they see. unless the patient is willing to go into intensive therapy.” Holly tried to explain how the disease manifested in its victims.” Caroline said.P. ZICK turtles. “How would you feel knowing your mother felt that way?” Jodi sipped her beer as she tried to imagine how that might feel.” Jodi said. your grandmother was a major stumbling block. “It’s usually the result of attempting to control something in their life.” “Sometimes I think GG hated Caroline.” George said. “Can you imagine how that made Caroline feel?” Holly asked. I still am amazed when a ninety pound girl looks in the mirror and calls herself fat. Then it becomes an obsession with self-image. “From what I observed. “As many times as I’ve seen it play out. “I have.” Holly said.

“You really captured the zaniness of those years.” “I’ve read all your novels. “Reporting on the city beat in the Tampa Bay area gave me plenty of stories about Florida. my wife and I decided it was time to get back to a simpler way. George.” Sam said. I bet your fiction is bordering on nonfiction in many cases. I think it was good considering 277 . contractors. “When my parents left me the house on St. and criminals ruining Florida south of Ocala. did you get a chance to read your mother’s story I gave you?” “I did. She taught and I wrote. George Island. and here I am sitting at this bar trading war stories. but dropped out when he found city life in Tampa stifling and a yearning for telling a story his way overcame him. I don’t get as crazy as old Carl Hiaasen.CHAPTER 58 Caroline Holly and Jodi were deep in conversation at the other end of the bar as Sam.” I said. but then he’s from a different era and from Miami – that’s a different world.” “I met Carl once. particularly during the outrageous years in the 1960s and ‘70s when the boom was in full force in Florida and very few regulations stood in the way of developers. You two made quite a team.” “That it is. “He told me that he didn’t have to go very far either for his stories. and I traded stories about journalism.” George said. George started his career as a reporter.” “Speaking of stories.

Then he was on a ship to the United States. and stories grow up around someone like that. driven by the divine. It was rumored he fled his native England after a tussle with the law and came here penniless and uneducated. C. On Christmas Eve. They were missing for many years.” “I found some journals of my grandfather’s after I was here the last time. That’s about all I can remember right now.” I said. “And?” Sam asked. I always thought most of it was what they might call an ‘urban legend’ these days. He didn’t say anything for awhile. George sipped his drink. “They said he was a miracle worker.” “What do you remember hearing?” I asked.P. He was leaning toward me. “The journals talk about his last Christmas in England. I couldn’t tell if he was just thinking or if he was trying to figure out how to tell me something.” he said.” Holly and Jodi stopped talking and began listening to me. Momma could have been a contender. The man strangled his mother and then my grandfather killed the man with a fireplace poker. “What did the journals say?” George asked “He wrote a fantastical story that might be fiction for all I know. “There was some story about him working in the mines in West Virginia and saving the life of a mine operator’s son.” I said.” “That’s about all I’d ever heard except the part about escaping the law in England.” he said. ZICK your ages. “There were all kinds of speculation about your grandfather.” “Really? Anything interesting?” George asked. I thought we’d run into each other at a writer’s conference one day or I’d pick up the New York Times bestseller list and there’d she be. Did you ever hear any stories about my grandfather’s life before he became a doctor?” I asked. and I found them in the basement of my parents’ house. “He was a hero to many people. too. “Something very disturbing in the first few pages. I always did. After he saved that young man. All he knew were the mines. a man came into the cottage he shared with his mother. especially after Alex’s death and the fire. the mine owner sent him to medical school. 278 .” “I think so.

Jodi’s face was flushed.” I flushed the toilet and straightened my hair before emerging. finished the beer. “Caroline.” Sam said. I heard the door open beyond the stall. I’m sorry.” “That’s not fair. she wants to know why no one ever tried to save her.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Did he say who the man was?” Holly asked. The two headed into the front room where a pool table took up the end of the room.” A wave of nausea washed over me as I stared at my best friend turned enemy.” “What’s the big deal?” Sam asked.” “She’s got a lot of questions about her mother. about Amy. want to play a game of pool?” Jodi asked.” I said. “How’d you get that beer?” I asked. “Works like a charm every time I’m with folks older than me. and I don’t like it. “Sure thing. too.” “What did you say to her?” 279 . that’s all. “What’s the story with that one?” George asked as he nodded his head to the emptied mug and bar stool.” she said. and a beer sat in front of her.” Holly said through the crack of the closed bathroom door. “Not happy with your marriage to her father?” “We’re working on the relationship. I’m not her mother. but my guess is she blames her father. “It’s illegal.” “Sam. I mumbled my excuses as I pushed back the bar stool and made my way to the hallway leading to the bathrooms in the back. She tipped up the mug. It’s not easy. “Jodi is very confused right now. “It’s OK.” “What kind of questions?” “Mainly. I just made it to the stall before spitting up the water I’d just sipped at the bar. and shoved the glass to the edge of the bar in the universal signal to the bartender to “fill it up.” “When did you become my mother?” Jodi asked. “I know you’re having a tough time. Jodi still believes the world is black and white and simple. She didn’t say it. “It was either his grandfather or the man who sired him or both. “She’s only twenty. “Just asked for it.” “How come you never told me that part of the story?” Jodi asked.” Holly said as she moved into the stool next to me.

and then she rubs it on her hips.” Amy came into the living room from the dining room where she 280 . she moved it around or cut it up into such tiny pieces that it was impossible to tell how much of it she had eaten. She was obsessed with food.” “You sound like Simon. “That woman puts gravy on everything.” I said. she found more and more ways to avoid dinnertime. Langley’s gravy!” Momma would yell to the slamming screen door. “I just don’t know what we’re going to do about her nails. I’m a good therapist even though my own life sucks. Just give it time. “We finally found a size two dress.” I stopped speaking because my throat suddenly seized shut and tears fought their way to the surface. or rather she was obsessed with preventing it from making its way into her mouth. please. I didn’t do anything but ask her a few leading questions. “Amy. at Daddy’s insistence. And then as she grew older.” she’d yell on her way out the door. I saw a pale young woman with stringy brown lackluster hair and whose ribs could be counted from ten paces. “I’m eating over at May Sue’s house. “Thank goodness Amy doesn’t take after your family like Caroline. Her sympathy would only make it worse. She’s a real beauty without an ounce of wasted flesh on her.” The day Amy and Momma found the perfect prom dress rivaled the day a normal teenager received an acceptance letter to the college of her choice.P.” Momma said the week before the prom.” Holly said. When she did put food on the plate. “But she’ll come around with you.” Momma boasted to Daddy when they came home that night. I swear. She never ate much more than a tablespoonful of food anytime she sat down at the table – if she came to the table. C. Let’s go back out there and flirt with George.” I looked at Amy and tried to see what Momma saw. and they still have to put some tucks in the waist. She loved Amy very much. “That’s only natural. “Don’t eat Mrs. She certainly isn’t going to confide in me. ZICK “Don’t worry.” “She probably needs that. I turned away from Holly’s embrace. “Did you know that he was once in love with my mother?” I don’t remember a time from my childhood when Amy treated eating as a normal activity. She said it makes her feel guilty even talking to me. come on in here.

I couldn’t. “I’d rather be chasing fireflies. Mrs.” 281 .” Momma said as she examined each fingertip carefully. you always look perfect. “Is that gook I put on them working? I think they look a little better.” “I know. Caro. “I’ll catch one for you tonight and keep it in the jar.” I said as I ripped open the Baby Ruth and bit into its nut-clustered sweetness.” “Probably cuts down on your appetite too. Amy probably looked fine on prom night.” my mother yelled from the porch one summer night as Simon and I prepared for another ritual. to match Amy’s pale yellow dress. McDermott. “He’s got better things to do than chase those fireflies with you. but I really didn’t pay much attention. dear.” Momma said. “It’ll be all right.” Momma patted Amy’s flat stomach and looked disapprovingly at her daughter. leave that poor boy alone.” Amy said. “Caroline. “We can go tomorrow night. “I got a thing for fireflies. “It tastes awful. “I got one.” Amy said. picked out by Momma and Mrs. “But I’m not chewing on my nails. and Amy ran back inside to put one more coat of lipstick on her dry and chapped lips.” Simon yelled back. Simon!” He came over to examine the jar.” Simon whispered to me when the photos were completed. And she made sure I knew it.” I screamed as I held my hand over the mouth of the jar. “I really got one. “That’s good because I see a little bit of a belly there. “Don’t worry – my nails and my stomach will be perfect by next Saturday night. All I could see was Simon dressed in his first tuxedo.” Momma said.” We would take glass canning jars from my basement and run through the yards chasing the bugs as they flashed their lights on and off. Momma asked to see her hands.” “That’s all right. “Great job. He brought the customary corsage with white and yellow roses. Momma. Then he tossed me a candy bar before posing with Amy for the obligatory photos next to the hydrangea bush in full bloom in the front yard.” Momma never approved of the time I spent with Simon. nails. and Amy dutifully presented them. and all.TRAILS IN THE SAND sat doing her homework. Carlisle.

If you spent less time drinking your whiskey and reading your paper. Simon and Caroline both enjoy canoeing and being outside. Amy hates going outside. They’re just kids. I have to take care of everything. Besides neither Gary nor Amy enjoy the same sort of activities. but it’s not healthy for Caroline to follow him around like that.” “You would never understand.” she said. What could he possibly see in Caroline?” Momma said.P. ZICK Simon may have escorted Amy to the senior prom after both mothers conspired to make it happen. I’ve resigned myself to Caroline being an old maid like Apple. I’m sure he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings.” I heard my father say. “What’s not natural?” my father asked.” “Simon is almost seventeen. Amy won’t have that problem. His voice carried the tiredness of resignation.” my father said. She pesters that poor boy. “I’m sure he’d never take advantage. Besides. As it is. C. what’s wrong with Caroline having someone like Simon to do things with? I think it’s the most natural thing in the world. “He sees a cute kid who likes to get dirty and catch frogs to examine. but even a saint would be hard pressed not to be flattered and perhaps get carried away. Look how beautiful and thin Amy is. She’d rather devour the catalogs with you than sit on the banks of the river skipping stones. She hadn’t heard or seen me come down from my bedroom.” “Gladys. It’s not natural. but he spent all his spare time with me. don’t you? I know perfectly well the difference. Caroline looks up to Simon as she would a big brother. You just love reminding me. Gladdy. Jack Carlisle. No man wants to be married to a fat tomboy.” “Amy is too thin. “Caroline spending so much time with Simon. “You’re just like my sisters. Don’t turn this into something it’s not. there’s nothing wrong with it. if you ask me. he should be interested in Amy and drinking lemonade with her on the porch swing and not out chasing those stupid lightning bugs.” my mother told Daddy one night as I came down the stairs to get a glass of milk and a handful of cookies from the kitchen. “And Caroline 282 . and would never even stare at a frog let alone touch one.” “Don’t let your past creep into the present. you’d notice things around here.” Momma said. “It’s just not natural and nothing good can come of it. “It’s not natural.

There were other ways Amy wasn’t developing as quickly as I was. forgetting for once to eat my cookies and milk before bed. to meet Kate on the island.m. “It never entered my mind. although it seemed likely. but I was developing breasts. Some nights I was sure he slept right in the living room in his chair. not to look bigger. I wasn’t sure – and still not to this day – if I felt sorrier for myself or for my father.TRAILS IN THE SAND looks healthy. Sam and I have lots in common. I started my period at age twelve.” I said. “It should have. I crept back up the stairs. Momma would shrug and tell Amy to be grateful. She wore padded bras she stuffed with Kleenex. she enjoys life and that’s more than you can say about Amy.” “And you’re a drunk who’s never amounted to anything. I looked in the rear view mirror at Jodi slumped in the back corner behind me. she drank a few more beers and didn’t eat any supper before we left. Are you all right?” Holly asked. “Is it all right if I tag along tomorrow morning?” “Sure. When I’d come down in the morning for breakfast. “Let’s go to that bar on the docks and have a nightcap. “Caroline. he’d be there with an empty glass at his side. even though she was five years older. but now that it was dark. I knew I wasn’t as thin as Amy.” Sam said as we came into Apalachicola. but to look her age. I knew my father drank steadily from the time he came home from work until he went to bed. Amy still hadn’t started the monthly hassle. what is wrong with you? You’re usually up for anything. Both of us received a sharp blow from the axwielding Gladys Carlisle. I suddenly realized my father survived or tolerated my mother because he was usually drunk when at home. We’ll be leaving the inn around 8 a. But at seventeen. but I kept my mouth shut. “That would normally sound like fun. The rain had stopped. Whenever Amy asked Momma about it. At the bar. but I sure feel as if I’ve been run 283 . As we drove back over the bridge that night after dinner. I don’t feel sick. “I’m not sure. “How come you’ve never introduced me to Holly before this?” Sam asked.” Momma said.” Holly said. but I’m exhausted. it was impossible to tell if the storm passed.” I said.” I said. Amy in her thinness had nothing on me there.

Jodi.” “Not in front of my parents. That doesn’t make her like your father. My cell phone rang in my pocket. but I don’t know if I’m ever going to get over it. You know that I think my father might have been an alcoholic. I’m in the middle of a good novel. and I followed her. Jodi and I went inside the Coombs House.” Jodi said.” I told him about the beer and the rudeness.” She headed for the stairs. Or my aunts. C. and I pulled it out.” “Wait a second.” Sam said. I motioned to the chairs behind us. “You’re welcome to come too. “Don’t tell me you never had a drink before you turned twenty-one. “She’s a college student.P.” Jodi said.” 284 . Instead. and I’m not really used to these early morning hours. I don’t think there’s a problem.” Simon said when I answered. She ignored my question and slammed the door in my face. I shut my eyes and tried to breathe deeply to calm the anger rising within me.” “I think we should talk to her about it. but you shouldn’t. “I try to understand. That’s a normal reaction. I swallowed hard and fought the urge to open that door and barge in to do something – what I wasn’t sure.” “That’s all right. “Hello. and if Holly’s up to it. what can I do to help you?” I asked as she headed to her room. I didn’t. ZICK over by a semi. I went to my room and lay down.” “She’s just testing you. Jodi had a couple of beers at a bar. and Jodi spoke directly to me for the first time since we were at Harry A’s. we’ll walk down to the docks from there.” “Just drive back to the inn.” he said. “That probably made you feel guilty to think that. “Did you know that I used to pray my mother wouldn’t die at home while I was alone with her?” Jodi asked as her eyes filled with tears as we continued to stand in the foyer.” “I’m not sure I should have come on this trip.” “What’s wrong?” “Jodi. and she wasn’t the one driving. baby. Caro. “Jodi. and we both took a seat. “Are you back from dinner?” “Yes.

” Then I did the thing that made Simon the angriest. I want to go to bed. I felt utterly alone in the world. I hung up without giving him a chance to respond. then yes. but at that moment in time.” “I’m tired.” I said. “If you want to take it there. I didn’t really care. and I wanted to pull the covers up over my head and shut it all out. Simon. I knew I was being unfair. I’m not. I was bone tired.” “And that’s the final decision because you’re her father.TRAILS IN THE SAND “So you’re not going to talk to her about it?” “No. And I’m going to try real hard to sleep and not think about what you just said. 285 . that’s my decision because I’m her father.

” he said. my periods had been sporadic and unpredictable. my stomach was still playing somersaults on me. opened a bottle of water.CHAPTER 59 Caroline When I woke the next morning at the Coombs house. and my gynecologist agreed. This whole month has been a little strange. I could only remember one time in my life ever feeling this way and when that thought entered my head. too. ate a few. I wasn’t sure how I felt about menopause – I had resigned myself to not having children long ago. I will promise you from now on I’ll start paying more attention. I want to apologize for not being more understanding last night. but I was upset when she slammed the door in my face. For the past two years. I keep running into my past as the present continues moving into the future.” “That doesn’t sound like Jodi.” “I’m sorry I hung up. “I know this is tough on you.” “Fair enough. but still the final curtain on the possibility gave me pause. Augustine because I was certain menopause was on my doorstep. “Caroline. I found some crackers in one of my bags. and took a long drink.” 286 . but I don’t want to make a big deal out of her drinking beer last night. I sat down on the bed. I pushed it aside and made a mental note to set up an appointment with my gynecologist when I got back to St. Simon called me as I prepared to head downstairs. I gave up taking the pill more than a year ago – didn’t seem any point.

It wasn’t quite as humid as the sun rose over the eastern end of the island.” Kate said. down at the end of the island where only state vehicles and specially permitted fishermen were allowed to go. Coffee didn’t sound appealing on my churning stomach. Tall sea oats waved in the breeze next to us as we wended our way to the beach. By the time we made it over to St. but a place to lie down would have been nice. I grabbed a Danish and a cup of tea.” Everyone met in the lobby at the designated time. soda cans.” Simon said. orange tape used to mark the nests sprawled in the sand was still stapled to the posts knocked over by the surf that had pushed up to the dune line overnight as a result of the storm. “These are gone. but she gave both Holly and Sam one-armed hugs. which is where Kate suggested we start looking at the nests. most likely blown from ships. I felt better. it would be near to impossible to determine where the nests were. George Island. “Doesn’t look very good for these nests.TRAILS IN THE SAND “You could write song lyrics.” We walked on the narrow paths on the dunes. “I imagine all of them are in this whole area.” she said. With the nest markers destroyed. never given a 287 . Lots of them were in the park. When we came out on the sand. Kate carried a map penciled on lined notebook paper with rough sketches of the approximate location of the nests. Jodi barely acknowledged me when she came down. “Just remember all the love songs are about us. “There’s a total of fourteen in this one area. I was determined to not let it bother me. Styrofoam. but I thought this end of the island would get hit the worst since the storm was blowing to the east. as we approached one area with the orange plastic tape and wooden markers we saw the power of the surf had exposed one of the nests and some of the eggs were smashed from the force.” I suddenly felt so sad thinking about the life relinquished in the violence of the storm the night before.” Kate said as we walked carefully. Or at least I didn’t feel like throwing up. Gone in an instant. The whole beach area was strewn with seaweed and debris. However. and wrappers from candy bars mingled with the natural flotsam of the sea. “We dubbed this area ‘Ladies Night Out’ because the nests all cropped up here within a 48-hour period.

let’s go back and see what’s happening with the rest of the nests. It’s a mystery how friendships develop. Get a grip.” Kate said. I stood in the surf not caring if my sandals got wet or not.” “Maybe we’ll find a few hours this afternoon. The remnants of the nest will provide sustenance for some other animal.P. ZICK chance to survive. It just made me so sad to think of all those babies dying before they even had a chance. C. I preferred my own company to people in love with the sound of their own voice. “Should we bury them in the ocean?” I asked. She always asked others and me what she should do in any given situation.” I said. only one or two from each nest would survive to adulthood.” “If you think you can take it. Holly was gregarious and social. He’s fun. I turned and saw my friend standing next to me in the surf. particularly those that are made up of two opposite and distinct personalities. I began to cry. “Besides Kate told us even if most of the hatchlings made it to the sea.” “Did you and Sam have a good time last night?” I asked as I wiped the tears away. I’d hate to see your tears wipe out any of the nests that survived. But I knew when it came to 288 . With that pronouncement. I never cried. Holly was gullible and easily swayed despite her more intelligent gut. I turned away and began walking down to the surf so no one would notice. we need to leave them right here. and we’ll probably get together once we’re both back in South Florida. “I like him. “But I’m still reeling from that sonof-a-bitch Carl.” I punched Holly lightly on the shoulder. what’s up with you?” I heard Holly ask very quietly behind me. Sometimes it was difficult to remember Holly made her living as a psychologist. I haven’t told you what I found out about him yet. these hatchlings would never go back to their roots.” “You really need a vacation or something.” Holly said. “Hey. “Right now. dispensing advice to others at least five times a day five days a week. “I’m not sure. back to the sea. I was so embarrassed.” she said. “Take them back to where they belong?” “No. not even in the worst situations. but here I was weeping over dead sea turtles that had yet to be born.

but I weighed ten pounds more. “She said there’s room for two of us to ride in the truck. What about Holly?” “Sam said I could ride along with him. “Kate said the Fed Ex truck was leaving tomorrow afternoon around one o’clock. she was always full of surprises when a man was involved. I was mildly surprised but happy to have her company. Sam and I decided if we did shots that night. even before Simon and his family moved to Calico. How could we be such good friends when we were as opposite as Amy and I had always been? Why had my differences with Amy served as a wedge rather than a bond to draw us together as it had with Holly and me? It had always been that way.” I said before I headed up to my room. She outlined her brown eyes with dark eyeliner making her already round eyes rounder. But then again. I was four inches shorter than Holly’s 5’8” stature. she was superb at what she did. “When do you 289 . even if some had only been in the ground forty days.” Holly said. Her face was long and narrow in contrast to my rounder. I loved being outdoors. My light blue eyes needed a little contrast. I sighed and gave her a hug as we walked back to the others. we would have enough photos and notes to do the piece for the next day. do you want to ride in the truck with me?” “Sure. We found compromise by sitting on porches with ceiling fans. When Holly came to Apalachicola and even ventured down to the beach with us to inspect the sea turtle nests after the storm. The others decided to head out to lunch. They decided not to take any chances. No one knew where the oil might go. fuller cheeks. and sharing our different trials and tribulations and the occasional jubilation. especially with the waters so churned up from the storm. drinking iced tea or wine.TRAILS IN THE SAND others. I kept my eyebrows natural and only gave my long light eyelashes a quick color of brown/black Maybelline each morning. The others would be dug up that night. Jodi. if I was going to have the article written by the time we checked out of the inn the next day. That made her behaviors even more puzzling. forty-two of them were destroyed by the storm. Of the fifty nests we came to inspect. but I needed to spend time writing. and Holly enjoyed air conditioning. We made it back to the Coombs House by noon.

“Last week I discovered that Carl never left his wife – not really.” When we hung up. “I can bring everyone back here after we drop off the eggs.” I felt embarrassed to tell my husband I had been napping in the middle of the day.” I said. “What happened to the nests?” he asked. “When do we go back to Cape Canaveral for the first hatchlings?” Jodi asked.” “How will we get back here for your car?” Jodi asked.” she said. until my ringing cell phone jolted me out of my deep slumber. I lay down on the bed and promptly fell asleep.” After heading up to my room with another Danish leftover in the breakfast room. “After they hatch. Later I met Holly on the front porch. I pulled out my laptop and notebook. “They’re not sure – we might only have a few hours notice on that. One of them left her husband for him and is telling him she’s moving from New York to Miami to be closer to him.” “When’s my baby going to be home?” “Maybe tomorrow night or the next day. Augustine?” Holly asked. C. but I only wanted water. They usually emerge from the nests at night under normal circumstances. “And he’s been virtual dating a few women over the Internet. They’re going to dig up about eight tonight. He’d surely suspect something wrong and worry. “Probably the day after tomorrow. They don’t want to put the hatchlings out during the heat of the day. Then I turned off the discord of my life running as constant background music in my mind. “Hi Simon. “So when are you going to tell me about the latest love disaster called Carl?” I asked once we settled on the porch of the Coombs House.P. they’ll wait until the following night to release. She offered to bring me an iced tea. “I was just getting ready to start writing.” Sam said. and began to do the thing that always saved me. I wrote my story about saving the sea turtles from the oil swirling in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.” I said. “Not good – most of them destroyed by the wind and water surge. but the first of the eggs transported last week could hatch at any time. ZICK think you’ll be back in St. We’re planning on going out with Kate for that.” 290 .

I did eat some of the corn fritters Sam ordered for everyone.” “Did you confront him?” I asked.” she said.” “I’d like to be at the truck an hour or so before you take off. “He asked me to marry him.” I said. “You bet. “I loved him.TRAILS IN THE SAND “How’d you find out?” “I got suspicious after a few phone calls at odd hours over the past few weeks. I ordered a salad and water while everyone else indulged in fried oysters and shrimp. the phone numbers. He’d always go into the other room to take them and always had some good excuse. How she managed to see through all the layers of her patients was a mystery to me because in her personal life. you two.” I groaned. I want to coordinate with the drivers. and she started crying. I reached over and held her hand. “Once I add some finishing touches from tonight’s dig. Instead.” I said. It was well after seven so George had been picked up by his assistant. “I’m going to send the photos in the morning. she believed whatever line of bull was handed to her. I might be able to get some shots from the road if I can talk her into driving the SUV.” Sam turned and winked at Holly. “So one night last week I swiped his blackberry while he was taking a shower and saw the e-mails. With Holly riding along. I cried. I knew the answer. “Depends on how well you behave tonight. the text messages. that’s enough. I’ll be able to easily finish by noon tomorrow. I made a mental note to call him before I left tomorrow since I missed him tonight. I screamed. Holly took everyone at face value and believed whatever anyone told her.” “Holly.” he said. Even though I still did not have much of an appetite. “I want some shots of the coolers and the drivers. Right before sundown. Also.” my friend said. Do you want to look at what I send?” “I trust you. “How’s the article coming?” Sam asked. if you want to take my car and go to the 291 . He told me a friend of his had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer and needed his support. I decided I didn’t need to go into my usual lecture with her. “Jodi. Don’t make me feel guilty for introducing you. how could you have gone this far into the relationship before you found out?” I don’t know why I asked. I ranted. I went with the others to Harry A’s. “OK. we assisted in digging up two nests before calling it a night.

I didn’t want to offend you by not reading it. or I might just sleep in and get my beauty rest. C.” “Like you need that. At least that’s the way I like to do it when I know someone else is covering the exact same story. We’ll both pull different things from it and yours should be totally yours. feel free.” “I’ve been writing in my journal a lot about the experience. but Jodi might sleep longer.” she said. if I concentrated on the little things. I assured Joanne I would love whatever was on the buffet. You know ‘what I did on my summer vacation’ kind of piece. only much more sophisticated. I was glad I came even though I was bone weary by the time I made it back to the inn.” “No.” “Sounds good. Take the keys tonight.P. I hear she’s making blueberry crepes in the morning. my pretty one. Write yours before you read mine though. just a brief squeeze. Maybe Simon was right after all. that’s just good self-preservation. 292 . including Jodi. “Maybe I can get something published at Auburn in either the newspaper or the literary magazine. “I’ll probably be on the early shift because I have a deadline to make with the article. Holly and Sam remained on the rockers on the front porch. “Breakfast in the morning?” Joanne asked as Jodi and I prepared to climb the stairs. “Sure thing.” Sam said with his best Wicked Witch of the West imitation.” My stomach turned even though I loved both blueberries and crepes when in the hands of a capable chef.” “Sounds like a good plan. Time could do wonders.” I said. Good night. Jodi let me hug her before we went into our separate rooms – not a major hug. but didn’t want to say anything.” “That’s fine. Aunt Caroline. Now after you’ve written yours I expect you to devour my piece and tell me it’s the best thing you’ve ever read – I’ll do the same for you. “Thanks for your help tonight – the photos that you took will help inspire me as I try to recreate exactly what happened out there.” I said. ZICK beach while I’m working in the morning. “I don’t want to be influenced by someone else’s take on what I witnessed.” “I actually thought of that today.” “OK.” I went to bed that night feeling better about everything. Come down whenever you’re ready.

but there weren’t any major highways to take. far away from the oil slick in the Gulf. assured the folks they were ensuring the safe delivery of thousands of sea turtles to oil-free waters. and it was decided the longer ride but with less starts and stops would be better all around for the eggs.CHAPTER 60 News Report on Sea Turtle Nest Relocation Federal Express donated transport trucks for the sea turtle nest relocation project. Two Fed Ex employees drove and escorted the fragile cargo down I-10 toward Jacksonville and then south to I-95.” so whenever the truck stopped at a rest area along the way. curious onlookers approached the drivers to ask questions. FedEx outfitted a semi-truck with cushions to absorb the vibrations of travel. Styrofoam coolers filled with sand and sea turtle eggs were placed on shelves in the truck where they were secured in place with straps. leaving the Panhandle and driving across the state to Cape Canaveral on the east coast. 293 . The outside of the truck was festooned with a banner proclaiming it the “Turtle Express. The first trucks rolled out by the end of June. armed with talking points provided by the wildlife officials. The insulation in the trailer of the truck kept the temperature at a constant seventy-two degrees. It was a little longer to go this way instead of heading diagonally across the state. The Fed Ex drivers.

” he said as he approached. Simon wondered how a society with tons of powerful communication gadgets could end up with less knowledge on how to communicate effectively. much to Simon’s surprise. Talking on the phone was difficult. Caroline already sounded tired even when they spoke in the middle of the day. but he didn’t know what else to say. Simon knew she’d be exhausted from both the travel and from the emotional tension of the trip with Jodi. Communication decreased as the means to achieve it increased. For too long now.CHAPTER 61 Simon Simon missed Caroline. At least Jodi was asking questions. Simon’s brother Gary stepped out of the driver’s side. even though they were difficult ones to answer. The day before Caroline planned to return home. and they often misunderstood one another. Simon picked the ripest tomatoes from the garden and planned to make a sauce for pasta for his dinner. Simon knew Caroline grew weary of his repeated admonishment to give it time. a car pulled into the driveway. she’d not communicated with him at all. He’d seen too many cases in his practice where tensions and disputes escalated over an errant email sent in the heat of anger. He wanted to make enough sauce so they could have some the next evening without having to worry about planning a meal on her return. As Simon walked toward the house from the garden with his arms filled with half a dozen tomatoes. “Hello. Simon. “I hope I didn’t catch 294 .

“He wants to meet the family.” Simon said.” “Sugar believes he’s telling the truth?” “Yes.” As shocking as the news was. only slightly annoyed as only my mother-in-law can. This will probably go down better if you tell her. “What does he want?” Simon asked. “They won’t say if they do know. Sugar isn’t keen on him coming to Calico. She didn’t seem surprised.” Gary said. Then she asked me if I’d come here and tell Caroline. which he accepted without hesitation. and the baby was put up for adoption. Is Caroline here?” “She’s on assignment.” Simon decided to call Caroline while Gary was still there. Simon stared at his brother.” “Now you’ve got my attention. They walked into the house.” “This is a nice surprise. Simon began to understand a few more things about Gladys. Simon sensed he seemed grateful for it. What’s going on?” “Sugar received a call yesterday from a man who believes Gladys is his mother. Her father sent her away to give birth. They sat at the kitchen table.TRAILS IN THE SAND you at a bad time. but Gary brought some answers. “I’m the family emissary. Caroline discovered even more mysteries in Gladdy’s journals. “Evidently. You know how Sugar can be. “Does anyone know who the father is?” Simon asked before going into the other room to find his cell phone. I’m relieved Caroline isn’t here. He offered Gary a beer.” “What do you know? How old is he?” “He’s older than both Amy and Caroline. “Where’s Sally?” “I was sent by the aunts as a messenger. She evidently became pregnant the summer Alex died.” “And the aunts all knew this?” Simon asked. and Simon put the tomatoes on the counter.” Simon said. but she told him she’d contact Caroline and leave it up to her. “Sugar told him about Caroline and Gladdy. Everything Gladys confided in him and the things she left out suddenly became clear. She might have questions that he wouldn’t be able to answer. but she’ll be home tomorrow. 295 . but they kept it a secret all these years. trying to understand what he’d just said.

but I think I’ll wait. coal dust smeared on his face and hands.” “The accent becomes deeper. Simon called Caroline. He left a message and reached for another beer for the two of them. to give this news to Caroline. her husband. “What do you hear from West Virginia?” Gary asked. her struggles would be over. “I still don’t understand why she didn’t take the three million Massey offered. it’s all over and Massey walks away quietly and goes back to their old ways.” Simon said. but Sally didn’t believe her. Her struggle with that will always be with her with or without the blood money from a company who values profit above human life. Gary didn’t understand that no amount of money would do the one thing Susan wanted above all else. the subjects change to the bees and the pollen – I know. Jason would never walk through the kitchen door again. her own daughter. I was going to call Mom and Dad tonight. and I think that’s given her some level of comfort. ZICK Even Sally. Susan is struggling but managing.” “She wants Massey to take responsibility. “Not too much these days. but it went directly to her voice mail. No matter what happened. I should at least have all the information.” Simon said. can’t get it out of her. The Stokley women are masters. Really these southern women are easy to read once you know all the signs. the answers shorter. If she takes the money and signs their little piece of paper. “This nation is in serious trouble if we continue to allow the 296 . She went ahead and joined the other families in the lawsuit. C.” Gary shook his head.” “I don’t think anything she does or doesn’t do will make any difference.” “What did Sugar say about that?” “She said she really didn’t know anything more.” Simon drank his beer and looked at his brother. his clothes sweaty and black. they are a family who knows how to keep a secret.” “Obviously. but his heart full of love for his wife and their three children. He looked at the clock and decided she must be on the road somewhere with no cell coverage. “Jason is dead. With that amount of money.” “Sally told her mother that if she was sending me.P.

” There was no talking to Gary.TRAILS IN THE SAND government to rule how we do business.” “Take some of these tomatoes home to Sally. “There’s plenty more where these came from. The Environmental Protection Agency is out to sabotage our very way of life. They were on opposite sides of the spectrum when it came to their views of the world. “I guess I better head back to Calico. “Tell Caroline to call Sally if she has any questions. Simon loved him and avoided conversations such as this one. Simon tried Caroline’s phone one more time before Gary left and left another message. She could be back in a coverage area at any time. Still. Look how long Jason waited to get that job. Those men knew the risks involved every time they went into the mine.” Gary said. The unions made sure they made so much money off the backs of the mining companies that they’d go to any lengths to get those jobs.” Simon said as they walked through the kitchen. he was Simon’s brother and a part of his shared history.” 297 . No wonder the two brothers had never been close.

” he said. “Gary just left. I was surprised at the urgency in his voice. Sugar appointed him the Stokley family emissary to us. “Not sure. When we came within range of Jacksonville.” “Baby.” “Just tell me. but brace yourself. but now he’s trying to connect with his birth family. but he said it was extremely important that he talk to me as soon as possible. I’m so glad you called.” I said.” “Gary was at our house? Why?” “I think we might have stumbled upon the missing pieces of the Gladdy puzzle. I noticed I didn’t have cell coverage. He was a lawyer and usually went right to the bottom line.” Simon said. As I listened to them.CHAPTER 62 Caroline Driving through rural areas as we traveled east on I-10. She gave him up for adoption.” “What’s going on?” Jodi asked. “Your dad sounds a little agitated. my cell phone started buzzing to tell me I had several messages. It wasn’t like Simon to hint at things. both of them from Simon. His name is Paul Montgomery – he was adopted by a cousin of 298 . he knew I was traveling in the forgotten part of Florida. “Your mother may have given birth to a son sometime in the late ‘50s. “Gary’s not sure of all the details.” I told Jodi after I listened to both messages asking me to call him as soon as I could. After all. “I guess I better call him right away.

but then as I’ve said before.” “I can’t believe that GG would have done that with her brother.” Jodi said. “There’s a possibility we won’t finish in time tonight to drive all the way back to St. It also explained the animosity between my grandfather and my mother.” “If she’ll talk to me. George said Momma worshipped Alex. The final pieces of my mother’s puzzling life lay on the table waiting for me to put them all in place.” “I know it’s shocking. This son contacted Aunt Sugar trying to find Momma. “I think I’m glad I was adopted into this family the more I learn.” She turned her head away from me and rested it against the window of the 299 . At least that’s the message Gary delivered to your father.” I said. George Island to pick up my car.TRAILS IN THE SAND the Montgomerys of Calico. “I have a half brother who’s trying to find me. I turned to Jodi who was looking at me with question marks written in the raise of her eyebrows.” “When do you think you’ll be home?” Simon asked. are you still there?” Simon finally asked when I still didn’t say anything. No one wanted to call me directly. “Half brother?” “Evidently. it also made perfect sense. I realized it explained a myriad of things. “That sounded like an ominous phone call.” He was right. As stunning as this news was.” I finally mustered. Maybe she’ll tell you. “Did Gary say who the father might be?” I asked. “Caroline. “I’ll keep you posted. Compton could be the father?” “George? I didn’t get the impression they had that type of relationship. but both Sally and he believe Sugar knows.” I tried to open my mouth to respond. “I don’t know what to say.” After I hung up. I guess. I was throwing her out of Momma’s house.” she said. but doesn’t it make sense? Once I thought about it. Momma was pregnant the summer Alex died. “Did you hear what I said?” “I heard you. And it might explain the final journal entry. “No. love is a complicated business. The last time we talked. She gave birth to a son and gave him up for adoption.” I said. but no words came out as I absorbed another outrageous detail from my mother’s life.” “Do you think Mr.

and Jodi and I were put across from one another in the middle of the relay line. We were transporting twenty coolers from ten different nests on St. I knew Sam would be fine with staying. a crowd gathered around the truck. Fed Ex is only partially responsible for saving the turtles from the oil spill. Julie Kopler. She was outraged.” I walked over to Holly and told her about the call from Simon.P. I was getting very tired of this trip already. and I volunteered to help. When I came back out. I looked over at Jodi with her head against the window and wondered if she would mind spending the night near the space center instead of driving all the way back for my car that night.” I said as I came up alongside Sam.” she instructed. Holly. “Let’s not make this a Fed Ex advertisement. Dr. ZICK truck. I was beginning to wonder the same thing myself. Kopler instructed us on how to handle the coolers so they were always kept level and disturbed as little as possible. “Count to three each time before transferring to another set of 300 . We stood on the dock and received each cooler from two people just inside the end of the truck. greeted us at the loading dock. Once we made it to I-95 south. and Gina kept trying to run interference. “We’ll set up a line to carry the coolers to their resting place inside the warehouse. not do PR for them. Holly was near the doorway of the storage room with another volunteer. George Island. When we arrived at the warehouse on the Cape Canaveral property. the head of the hatchling program. “Kate made it clear that her job was to save the turtles. but I couldn’t go another mile without visiting the facilities. we stopped at a rest area. I climbed back into the truck and the drivers followed suit. and Sam was snapping photos as the drivers spoke to the spectators. Several volunteers waited with her. “Their media person tried to get Kate to wear a Fed Ex t-shirt while we were covering the story.” he said. “When does it ever end with your family?” she said. The drivers followed protocol and stayed with the vehicle at all times. taking turns to go to the bathroom. C. “The drivers are being fair. Jodi stayed in the truck. and I imagined Holly wouldn’t care one way or another. Holly stood to one side watching the show. and we still had three hours to go.” I said. “Back the truck up to the docks.” Jodi. Dr.

” It took five minutes for each cooler to go from the racks in the truck to the shelves within the warehouse. Caroline. but not quite that stupid. “We’re going to take the covers off the coolers once we shut the doors and put a screen on top of them. I know you wanted to follow her. He said he’d meet us for dinner. I didn’t know what to say to her.” I was too tired to protest and risk the possibility of causing a scene. being careful not to take a photo of me. but knew it would accomplish nothing. Jodi went toward the bar. and Sam and Holly both agreed it was probably a good idea.” “You’re the worst. “He’s fooling with his cameras in the van. Kopler said. It even had a restaurant off the lobby. “That way it wouldn’t be that far tomorrow morning. “Let’s just stay here. “We could get something to eat and then drive a few hours. it must be a nightmare for her because I’m such a horrible person. Sam snapped pictures the whole time. George Island first thing in the morning.” Jodi said. We’re just flirting. I think it’s been very difficult spending this much time with you. “Now we wait. That way we can monitor their progress without bothering them. they won’t be able to crawl out. I rode the elevator to my floor with Holly. “No. and when they do hatch. Augustine?” I suggested. why don’t we go to my house in St. Jodi shrugged her shoulders. “Where’s Sam?” I asked.” “Yes. I don’t want to do that.TRAILS IN THE SAND hands. it was after six o’clock.” By the time we finished.” Dr. but she has to work this thing out on her own. “Just let her go. I wanted to go after her. but I love you anyway. We found a hotel off I-95 north. I suggested we get a hotel room for the night and head back to St.” “You two get a room together?” “Are you kidding? I’m sometimes stupid.” 301 .” she said. “We don’t want to lose these babies now that we’ve brought them here.” Holly pulled at my arm. After we made plans to meet for dinner in an hour. not making it.” Sam said.” “If that’s the case. I was covering the news. I headed to my room on the second floor.

I drifted into sleep imagining him at our dinner table. you told me to stay out of it.” I said. If I show up alone. “That’s all right. but thanks for the offer. I like Sam a whole lot. I threw my bag and briefcase on one side of the bed and lay down on the other side. and startling blue eyes.” I said. and I’ll pick up the car and drive to Calico. I pulled the cell phone out of my shorts. I fell asleep and forgot to call and let you know we decided to stay here for the night and leave for St. C. I’ll draw up the divorce papers tomorrow on the grounds that you portrayed yourself as young and vital. If he was Alex’s son as well. 302 . “Hey there. he would certainly look like the Stokley’s with blonde hair. I’m done with serious. ZICK “For now. I did not know where I was. George first thing in the morning.” The elevator door opened before I could point out the number of times Holly had said that very thing to me after a heart break or twenty. probably white by now. but he’s not the marrying kind as they say in the movies. George.” “Neither am I. As soon as I got into my room. I shut my eyes wondering what a son of Momma’s might look like. Holly and I came upstairs. So I am. What are your plans tomorrow?” “Sam will drive us back to St. but the light was fading so I thought it was morning. and she headed to the bar. You’ve married a worn out woman – I think I’m starting menopause. I’m going to pay Aunt Sugar a little surprise visit before I head home. and I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you. It was Simon. “It’s the heat.” “Good thing I’m a lawyer.” he said. How’s Jodi?” “Last I knew Jodi was in the hotel bar.” “Are you feeling all right? It’s not like you to take a nap. OK. It was still light outside.” “Want company?” “No.” “And you didn’t try to stop her?” “Simon.” Simon said. it’ll be easier for her to pretend that Caroline and Simon do not exist as a couple.P. “I’m sorry. you never called me after you arrived. The phone woke me and for a moment.” “I’ll show you young and vital tomorrow night.” “OK.

She was constantly amazed at how easy it was to get a drink without being asked for identification.” “More like that romance writer Nora Roberts who puts out a new book every two days. We’re not putting out any papers the week of the Fourth of July so I’ll be free in a few days. “Do they know when they’ll have hatchlings to release?” he asked. particularly in Florida. “They’re not sure.CHAPTER 63 Jodi Jodi sat at the bar drinking a glass of wine delivered to her by a bartender not much older than she was. but it could be within the week.” Jodi said. and I guess he’s looking for her now. We just found out that my grandmother gave a child up for adoption when she was a teenager. but frequently she wasn’t asked. Jodi could tell by looking at a bartender whether she’d be asked her age. How’s it going with your aunt?” “It’s all right. He’d be Aunt Caroline’s half brother.” “Your family has enough stories in it for you to be the next Anita Shreve. Hotels on major highways were notorious for not checking ID. It didn’t matter if they asked because she’d managed to pay for a fake driver’s license at Auburn. She called Seth after her wine arrived to tell him about the trip so far and the delivery of the coolers to the warehouse. 303 . I guess. Are you still going to be able to get away?” “Timing could be perfect.

They would have been hurt and worried even though I always thought of them as my real parents.” Jodi said.P.” Jodi said.” Caroline entered the bar just then.” “How did that make you feel?” Holly asked. “I found my birth father a few years back. I was mainly curious about health things. My father and his family welcomed me.” “I always felt that way about my parents. “I’d like a bottle of wine to take up to my room.” “What about your birth mother?” Jodi asked.” Jodi said.” “I was adopted. The reason they gave me up in the first place was because my birth mother’s family were snobs who were ashamed their daughter got knocked up by someone like my birth father.” Sam said. “I think it’s a good thing I was adopted. ZICK Sam and Holly entered the bar as she finished her conversation with Seth. but I waited until my adoptive parents died. “She refused to talk to me when I called. “But really. “I guess no one believes in asking for IDs these days. Caroline. But I didn’t take bottles of 304 . “That’s the way I figured it. too.” Jodi said. and Caroline said. “I was OK with it. sounds like a good investigative piece. “I think I’m going to go up to my room. “What do you think of the news about your grandmother?” Holly asked. “But I need to keep notes because my boyfriend thinks I could write a novel about this family. C. and it was a little strange.” Caroline said.” Sam said. She said it would complicate her life too much. Didn’t you drink in college?” Holly snorted. “Too bad you’re an environmental writer. “I did. “Sure. “But lately I’ve been a little more curious. I don’t know why it’s such a big deal. Suddenly Jodi didn’t feel like having dinner.” Jodi told the bartender when she motioned for her bill. stopping all talk about adoptions and birth parents.” “Sounds like you’re better off not knowing her. “Mind if we join you?” Holly asked. They came over and took two bar stools next to her.” Jodi said when the others began talking about moving to a table.

” Holly said. “Are you all ready. and a corkscrew in the top of her overnight bag.” “How do you know they’d be messed up?” “They gave me up for adoption. “All families are messed up. “We talked about a lot of things. Sam came into the dining room just then with his overnight bag slung over his shoulder. “You look pretty good for someone who stayed up late at the bar. What about you ladies?” Sam asked. a wine glass. Jodi found them sitting on bar stools listening to a live band when she sauntered in after finishing the bottle of wine in her room.TRAILS IN THE SAND wine up to my room to drink alone. and I don’t need any more people with problems in my life.” Jodi said as she placed the bottle. The next morning when Jodi came down to the lobby to grab some of the continental breakfast fare. “I’ve been thinking about what we talked about last night.” Holly said. “I haven’t seen her this morning. Jodi?” “Sure. “How are you?” Holly asked.” Sam and Holly had gone back into the bar after Caroline excused herself after dinner. Jodi was grateful Caroline wasn’t there and even more grateful that Holly and Sam didn’t say anything when she ordered another drink.” Jodi said as she walked over to the side bar and grabbed a carton of milk. “I’m ready.” Jodi said. I’ll give her a call.” 305 . She walked into the lobby. I don’t think I need to know anything about them. “Where’s Caroline?” Sam asked. she met Holly in the small dining room fixing a cup of coffee. “Let me grab some juice and a bagel. Which topic?” “The one about finding my birth parents.” Jodi said as she and Sam stood in front of the waffle maker. and then I’ll go get my bag.” “We can’t all be as perfect as you. didn’t they? There must have been some problem for them to do that.

Some had shutters painted red. and some attempted the colonial look on front stoops that looked as if they’d been added as an afterthought. I drove to the end of the first street and parked on the cul-de-sac in front of their home. She always drove a Caddy in some shade of pastel. Aunt Sugar’s creamcolored Cadillac sat in the driveway. Aunt Sugar and Uncle Whitey were some of the first homeowners out here when Lakeshore Homes was built in the early 1980s. George. On closer inspection. The streets in Calico’s new development were lined with identical looking ranch houses. I told her I would stop by after I talked with the aunts. they weren’t exactly alike.CHAPTER 64 Caroline I pulled into Aunt Sugar’s subdivision on the outskirts of Calico late in the afternoon after dropping Jodi off at her house. I thought for a minute that she wasn’t going to say anything. She called it her signature despite Mary Kay having cornered that market some years before with the pink cars assigned to the company’s top sales women. others had a second story. I rang the doorbell a couple of times before the door opened and there stood Aunt Sugar. Why it was named Lakeshore I have no idea since the only lake sat three miles away in downtown Calico. She nodded and managed to say “good bye” as she pulled her bag from the back seat. Even though she was mostly uncommunicative during both drives – first with Sam and Holly and then our trip alone from St. let alone invite me inside. 306 .

” “Yes. She opened the door wider. Thank you. they were all available on such short notice. I try to keep myself up. No wonder – it was an uncomfortable room with a stiff couch and straight back chairs. No putting the feet up on the coffee table in this room. Caroline?” “Fine. Only the lines on her face belied her age and suggested that perhaps she was older than she appeared. She was dressed in a summer dress. I guess that’s why she never married. I already know how you feel about the other. fine. I guess Simon told you the news. he did. “Come inside before we let in all the squeeters in the neighborhood. Unlike your Aunt Apple.” And she didn’t. too?” “If that’s what you want. fine. “Thank you. this is a surprise. It’s a little bit of a shock to say the least. It was no mistake that Aunt Sugar directed me to sit in here while we waited. This room was reserved for visits from the minister and other unwanted guests. I need to ask you a few questions.” I waited in the formal living room that no one ever used when coming over for a visit.” “Do you want anything to drink while we wait?” Finally. my gracious aunt Sugar appeared. maybe not cut as low as she used to wear but still showed off nice breasts and a thin waist. Aunt Sugar. I can finally get some answers. She colored her hair red still so there was no gray.” “You certainly don’t look old. “I wasn’t sure since it’s a Friday and all. “Thankfully. Maybe between the four of you. “Water.” “Shall I call the others to come over.” she finally said.” she said when she came back into the room. if you don’t mind.” “Aunt Sugar. And you?” “I’ve got some aches and pains but not bad for an old woman like myself.” “You should be used to that by now after the shock you gave all of us by marrying Simon.” I wondered if anyone in the family was going to acknowledge the fact that Aunt Apple never married because she liked women more than she liked men.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Caroline. let’s talk about Momma. Now how have you been. 307 .

“I knew right away something must have happened to Alex when I saw your momma come walking into the kitchen with that tablecloth wrapped around her shoulders and her crying something awful. “Let’s start with the thing that has been the elephant in any room it appeared in over the years. She had a rounded belly that protruded as if she was six months pregnant.” Aunt Candy said. The aunts all came to me and air kissed my cheeks. but it seems to me that perhaps we should start before that. we sat down in the uncomfortable room to discuss some uncomfortable business. ZICK I heard car doors slam outside and soon the front door opened. I didn’t need to know they had fried oysters and hush puppies for supper that night. “Those two were always together – couldn’t ever pull them apart. which sent their father into a further rage.P. spilling the other aunts into the room. it didn’t matter that Aunt Candy had just gotten up to get her newest baby a bottle when Momma came dragging herself back from the beach without Alex at her side. “I hardly know where to start. . “All right. “Who wants to tell me about the Irish linen tablecloth?” “Candy. I guess that’s as good a place as any to start. Someone – Aunt Candy thought it was Alex –spilled milk on it during dinner.” she said. He’d already thrown away Alex’s book he was 308 . She wore polyester pants and a white shirt that she didn’t even bother to tuck in. C. you were there that night.” Aunt Sugar left the question dangle. The story itself came out in spurts with the little explanations and with more information than I really needed. but Aunt Apple looked worn out. Do you want to . “Gary told Simon I have a half brother so that would be a logical place to start. I’d never seen the aunts at such a loss for words. After white wine filled all the aunts’ glasses. Everyone was being so civilized. Aunt Sugar was right – Aunt Candy and Aunt Cookie looked as fit as Aunt Sugar.” Aunt Candy said when Alex and Gladdy went down to the beach that night after dinner. clearing of throats.” I said. one of them grabbed the tablecloth off the back porch where it had been placed in the laundry tub. sips of wine – they really didn’t know how to start. .” I said when they all looked at me expectantly.” Nods of heads..

TRAILS IN THE SAND reading at the table. “We kept begging Daddy to let us unstrap her.” Grandpa Stokley took in the whole scene and heard enough to know that Alex had probably drowned while Gladys sat on the beach and watched. She shook her head unable to continue.” Aunt Apple said. “I went to wake Daddy when Gladdy told me Alex walked into the ocean. too?” I asked. So his yelling wasn’t really about the milk. I actually ached for 309 . let alone by her father about her sister.” “What was my mother doing all this time?” It was difficult to get the words out as I felt something new for my mother. but he said we could only do it if she asked to go to the bathroom – didn’t want the rug in the bedroom soiled. he did something so horrible. along with Gladdy. “I don’t want to look at your face. “After he ordered Mother to call the police. you whore.” “He brought Gladdy into it.” Aunt Candy said. “Daddy came out to the kitchen where Gladys sat on one of the stools clutching the tablecloth to her and sobbing. “He actually said that.” One of them grabbed the tablecloth out of the tub and used it as a blanket down at the beach. he strapped your mother.” Aunt Candy stared off into space remembering. Candy said. still wrapped in that precious tablecloth. I always felt he caught Alex and Gladdy doing something they shouldn’t have been doing.” Aunt Sugar finished. “Told him he was the greatest disappointment of his life. it was about this other thing. “He ripped the tablecloth off your mother and put it over her head leaving just a small hole for her to breath.” he said.” Aunt Candy said she was shocked because she’d never heard those words spoken before. “You’re a disgrace. “He did. to the chair. “He called Alex all sorts of names and said he’d never amount to anything. That’s what Momma told them later when asked why she had that thing draped over her that way.” Candy continued. you see. “I found her the next morning when Whitey and I arrived. Something happened the night before that infuriated Daddy. “He walked her to her bedroom and sat her down on the chair in there and using his belt.” Aunt Sugar said.

but Daddy died believing it was your mother. ZICK the young Gladdy who’d just lost her brother and probably the love of her life. C.” “How long. “He was right about the journals though. . He never forgave her. “Nothing – she didn’t cry. “Daddy said he never wanted to look at his daughter again. She stayed there for two months until she took her aunt’s car and drove back to the island. . “Did your mother tell you?” “No. “George told you about the fire. what happened?” “You know about the fire?” Aunt Apple asked. He said Momma didn’t start it because he was with her that night on the beach. Who started the fire?” “They never found out.” “Yes. are you sure you don’t want a glass?” “I want to know the truth. I have them. George Island who was there that night. Caroline. The aunts stopped talking as all four reached for their wine glasses. she couldn’t attend the funeral. “We need more wine.” “Two days. Recently I met a man on St.P. which wasn’t much.” 310 . watching the hatchlings emerge from their nest.” I said. One of us took turns sitting in there with her and made sure she got what she needed.” Aunt Candy said. she made the statement as if there would be no other choice. I let them take their medicine before proceeding. She refused food and water. I’m going to open another bottle.” Momma was sent to Tallahassee to live with Grandma Stokley’s sister. “Finally Momma intervened and said she was going to leave Daddy and take us girls with her if he didn’t allow Gladys to be untied. The wine glasses quickly went back to their coasters.” “George Compton. “What happened after the fire?” I asked.” “But he said if he untied her. “After her father took her from the jail that night.” “Anyone need more wine?” Aunt Sugar asked.” Aunt Sugar said. “Just like he believed she was the one who stole his journals.” Aunt Cookie said. but she did let us walk her to the bathroom.” Aunt Cookie didn’t ask.” “And she never forgave him.

“She lived with Whitey and me because Daddy was still being as stubborn as a hog in winter. She stole them from Daddy’s study. and I inherited those. Momma must have hated her father even more for keeping the truth from her.” Aunt Apple said. “You have what?” “Grandpa Stokley’s journals. but they were left with her belongings. “Enough to know that we all share a complicated lineage. Can I assume that Alex was the father?” “We were all so ashamed that our brother and sister had done this thing. “They adopted him and brought him home and then Momma discovered she was pregnant with your mother.” “Wait a second. Your mother never had any right to them. “Daddy told the four of us right after we discovered she was pregnant. neither of them knew. I couldn’t imagine the guilt Momma must have carried for the majority of her life. so the journals belong to me.” I said. Momma hid them away in the basement.” Aunt Cookie said. but he swore the rest of us to secrecy – he wanted your mother to pay for her sins. Caroline. What happened after your father took Momma from jail that night?” “We brought her home with us.TRAILS IN THE SAND Aunt Sugar came into the room carrying a large bottle of white wine.” “I disagree. what are you going to do with those journals?” “Did you know Momma was a writer? She left journals. but that’s not why I’m here. Momma was pregnant. Your mother never knew until that Christmas when he gave Red Alex’s bow and arrow. Sure. Of course.” “Have you read them?” Aunt Sugar asked. My father was right all those years ago – I didn’t know all the reasons why Momma acted the way she did. I told Paul Montgomery we didn’t know who the father was.” Aunt Sugar said.” “Those belong to me now. But let’s get to the reason I’m here. So did Alex. she probably did steal them. 311 .” That explained the mystery of the thing her father told her the Christmas my doll was taken from me. “Please keep this part to yourself. “Alex wasn’t your brother by blood? Did Momma know this? Did Alex know?” “No.” Aunt Sugar said.” “That’s why it was such a relief when Daddy told us he and Momma adopted Alex when he was an infant. too. I discovered after she’d been with us a few months she was pregnant. back to Calico.

” “I never saw a man love a woman like your Daddy loved your Momma. Probably the heat. he pursued her until your Momma gave in. And sometimes I wonder if I really survived at all. When she got married.” Aunt Apple said. “Do you know how it was growing up with Gladdy as a mother? I survived. Then Momma became pregnant with Gladdy almost immediately after the adoption. I washed my face and brushed back my hair. My eyes were bloodshot and my nose red from blowing it. The Montgomerys – an uncle to Christopher Montgomery – adopted the little boy. ZICK “So your mother was sent away – to Tallahassee again – to have the baby. Daddy didn’t have any choice but to accept her back into the fold. and he may have resented your mother’s presence for that disruption.” I said when I emerged. “She loved throwing it in Daddy’s face. and. Worst of all. He was mean and cruel. “You’re kidding? I can think of a hundred reasons. he killed Alex. And that’s the last any of us heard of him until he called.” Aunt Apple said. I looked in the mirror and thought I was glad Simon couldn’t see me. Aunt Sugar knocked on the door and asked if I was all right. “Did any of you hate your father for what he did?” The aunts became busy with their wine once again. I was pale and my hair was dull and uncombed.’ ‘Poor Momma. Suddenly I felt tired and nauseous.” 312 . It didn’t fit with his plan.” Aunt Sugar said. but Amy didn’t. Take it back what you’ve said about our dearly beloved father. you are a disgrace to this family.” I said. I excused myself for the hall bathroom and promptly threw up all the water I’d been sipping during the storytelling. and he hated his own daughter so much he turned her into a hateful person.” I said. “Why would we ever hate Daddy?” Aunt Sugar asked.” “I’m surprised Momma wanted to stay in Calico. Your Momma came back to Calico but only to live with the other Montgomery family as their maid until your Daddy came to her rescue. “I don’t know if he hated her. “Sorry about that.P. “I’ve been feeling a little under the weather these last few days. “He always said he felt his family was complete with the addition of a son.” I said.” “Why did he hate my mother so much?” I asked. “He was a college roommate of Chris Montgomery’s. You’d think I was drunk or hung over or both. C.” “Caroline Stokley Carlisle.

I think you’d better leave right now.” Aunt Cookie said as I prepared to leave. It was always the heat. Aunt Sugar?” “Caroline.” Aunt Sugar said.TRAILS IN THE SAND The aunts nodded. although I felt like pressing the pedal to the floor to leave the unreality of the aunts as quickly as possible. I parked in front of my grandfather’s former home. “That man could have walked on water like Jesus if he’d taken a notion. You ask Simon. and he’ll know. I drove to downtown Calico and took a right on Center Avenue.” Aunt Sugar said as she escorted me to the door. 313 . they agreed. I wanted a drink and a cigarette. now the home of his great-granddaughter.” “One more thing before I leave.” “I doubt it. I don’t know what his father’s last name was or should I say grandfather? Which is it.” “He was more than that. “We could never hate our father.” I said.” Aunt Sugar said. “Made in China?” “I don’t know what you mean. Your father changed his name to Stokley after he came here. “Our Grandmother Stokley stitched that “S” in the center in her last days and then our father brought it over on the ship with him. “That tablecloth is the finest Irish linen there ever was.” I drove out of the subdivision slowly. Instead. even though I’d stopped smoking years ago and drinking made me sick these days. “Do any of you know why that tablecloth has a label that reads. and I should have that along with those journals. I know this heat has surely gone to your head. he’s a lawyer. “He was our hero and the town’s hero.

“Are you all right?” Jodi asked. 314 . Then she told Jodi about her conversation with the four elder Stokleys. “Hi Jodi. “I need to read the journals – all of them.” Jodi went inside and soon brought back a bottle of water. “You alone?” “Just me and the ghosts of relatives past.” Caroline said as she pulled open the screen door. Caroline drank half the bottle. The ceiling fan whirred as she walked up the sidewalk leading to the steps. “So Alex was adopted?” Jodi said when she’d heard everything Caroline could remember. Maybe I’ll find out more.” I said.” “I just need some water. “What’s up?” She held a glass aloft with one hand and pointed to a box of wine on the table next to her. “What kind of monster would have kept that a secret? GG had a right to know and so did Alex.” Caroline said. At least my parents always told me the truth about that.” Caroline began pacing and looked as if she was fighting to catch her breath. please. “Your face is awfully red. “Want a glass?” “No thanks.CHAPTER 65 Jodi Jodi sat on the glider on the front porch when Caroline pulled into the driveway. What happened with Aunt Sugar?” “Quite a bit.

but maybe it is possible to make things better for the future. wouldn’t it be nice if we could just read something and then have everything change so all the lies we’ve been told could be gone. so I think I’ll head home. “Yes.” “I didn’t mean that. She doesn’t deserve to know. but decided Caroline didn’t need to know. She thought for a moment about telling her about the rest of Amy’s journals she’d found. if I ever believed in them.TRAILS IN THE SAND Maybe I’ll be able to forgive my mother and my grandfather. Maybe we can restore peace where there was none before.” Caroline said returning her gaze. I’ll call you when I hear about the hatchlings.” Jodi watched Caroline walk back to her car. just like that. 315 . “I’m awfully tired.” Jodi stared at Caroline before speaking. I stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago. Jodi thought as she drank the remnants of the wine left in her glass.

” As I drove.” I said. “It’s a wonder she survived as well as she did. I called my doctor and made an appointment for the next morning.” Simon said. We needed to be facing each other. and I needed to feel as if my head wasn’t about to explode with anger. I decided not to tell him about Jodi this time. except your mother never let you know that. 316 . Jodi didn’t even make the effort to say good-bye.” “Your writing for one thing. I walked off the porch and down the sidewalk where Simon stood the first day I laid my eyes on him.” “That’s what I’ve been thinking. We had a lot in common.CHAPTER 66 Caroline I fought the urge to say something to Jodi about her drinking. Mostly I just wanted to hurl that box of wine into the street so its contents spilled down into the sewer. and there would be time to talk. When I stopped to go to the bathroom. I continued to feel tired and nauseous. I called Simon before leaving town to let him know I’d be home soon. Soon enough I would be in Simon’s arms. “How terrible for your mother.” Simon said when I finished telling him a shortened version of the visit with the aunts as I drove east toward our home. I suppose she did the best she could. “I understand her more than ever. “What else?” “We both had a parent who we suspected hated us. and my body wasn’t about to drop from exhaustion. Instead.

but I don’t think it’s a problem. Wilson said when he came back into the examining room the next day. He would be preparing the soil soon for the fall garden.” I stared at him.” “From what I know about you two. I have a feeling Simon is going to be crowing about this. Shirtless and wearing white swim trunks with a navy strip down the sides. Simon looked fit with only the tiniest of paunches. and Simon just turned fifty. And I’m not sure how to tell Simon. “It’s not menopause after all.TRAILS IN THE SAND “You’re pregnant. He’d wanted to come with me earlier. and I’ll tell you all about it. I stopped taking birth control when my periods were so sporadic. It’s just a shock. I pulled into the driveway of our farmhouse with its sagging front porch and summer-worn flowers. I remembered the last time a doctor said identical words to me. Is it a problem?” “It’s a shock. It only takes one. “Pregnant? I don’t understand. Did we have enough energy and life left to raise a child? How would Jodi take the news? I sat in the doctor’s parking lot for a long time before I felt steady enough to drive home. But I was forty-five. His blonde hair was turning white on both his head and chest.” As we walked into the house. Now I wondered about the wisdom in that. Now get out of here and go tell that husband of yours he’s about to be a father. what did the doctor have to say?” he asked. but I’d insisted that I was fine to go alone. He was walking toward the car as I prepared to step out. “He had a few things to say. but let’s go inside where it’s cooler.” Dr. You agreed with my decision. I thought as I drove away. You can still be producing eggs – not as many but enough. making him look even more like the distinguished lawyer. He looked up when I pulled in next to the red barn. March 1990 317 . I prayed my news would keep that smile on his face.” Simon and I were going to have a baby.” “Things happen. I saw Simon in the garden pulling tomato plants up out of the ground as they wilted from the heat of summer. and most likely Simon’s still producing plenty of sperm. “Hi baby.

There hadn’t been anyone since Gus and I broke up.” “I’m here if you need to talk about options.” Holly said.” I said. and then I was coming out there and giving you a good swift kick out the door into the swamps with the gators. Did you notice anything before this?” “I didn’t think much about it. I sank down at the round oak table in the kitchen alcove that looked out of the bay windows of the old house. 2010 We went in the door through the back porch we used as a gardening shed and mud room. “I’d estimate that you’re about ten weeks along.” I drove home in a fog. ZICK “You’re pregnant. but I didn’t have an answer yet. I’ve been upset by a few things lately. It was kind of her to ask. “I could really use my best friend tonight. Why hadn’t either one of us considered protection that one time? We weren’t doing much thinking – there was only the moment and the absolute pure concentration on one another.P. It’s certainly unexpected.” I said.” “You may still feel like doing that. I called Holly. The table had been in Simon’s family for years and matched both our cabinets and our tastes. As soon as I got home from the doctor’s office. and I guess I’ve been distracted. “Do you think you can drive out here when you finish work today?” I asked when she answered the phone.” my doctor in Everglades City said. “I’m not sure.” “It’s about time you surfaced. I must have caught her between patients. “I need some time. Did I still harbor resentment toward him for what happened all those years ago? Perhaps I needed to forgive him for not 318 . into our large and comfortable country kitchen. except for Simon. C. I’m single.” “Is this good news?” the doctor asked. I stared at Simon while I thought about the best way to tell him. “I was giving you another week to get over the man from Calico. It wasn’t until last week that I started noticing something was different. She was a young woman. Why hadn’t I considered pregnancy? I went off birth control when my first marriage ended because I didn’t like artificially changing my body chemistry if I didn’t need to prevent a pregnancy. As we sat in our kitchen.

baby? You look worn out and pale and it’s only eleven o’clock. I didn’t feel anything but love for this man who sat waiting to hear what the doctor said.” 319 . Simon. “Give me a minute. “No. We’re multiplying not subtracting.” “Are you dying?” He looked scared now as he grabbed my hand.” Simon said as I sipped the water he brought me. However.TRAILS IN THE SAND moving earth to be with me when he said he loved me so much back then. Maybe I needed to forgive him for showing up in the Everglades in the first place if he wasn’t going to stay. “So? What’s wrong with you. as I continued to look at him and contemplate where my emotions lay regarding the past. Quite the opposite.

CHAPTER 67 Simon “Multiplying? What does that mean. “I know I need to talk to her. but let’s take time for us first. “You still need to talk to her about the other thing. I don’t know why you keep bringing it up. Maybe it’s yourself you need to forgive. “It makes up for everything. and I know we need to tell her this news. My head is swimming right now. Despite the absolute cold fear that rests right here on my heart.” Caroline said. I hope you were serious when you vowed to love me through everything. Simon. Maybe you’ll forgive me now for before.” “I think we’re beyond that.” Simon said as he leaned over to kiss his wife. I’m getting used to the idea. raised it to his lips. and kissed it. 320 . Caro?” Simon asked.” When Caroline came home after finding Jodi on the front porch with a box of wine. “It means we’re going to have a baby – I’m suffering from the symptoms of the first trimester of pregnancy. this is the best news you could ever give me. Simon. It’s just guilt. It’s not anything you say or do that makes me say it.” “Pregnant? You and me? Pregnant?” “Please be happy.” Simon took Caroline’s hand.” “Baby. Simon knew it was time to talk to his daughter. and I think I’m thrilled.” Caroline said.” “We’re going to need to tell Jodi. “Maybe you’re right.

I’ll go into the office this morning and make sure everything’s caught up. but they had to stop for a few days.” Caroline said.” “If she decides to come.” Caroline said. but there’s been a lot of churning in the Gulf waters. “Yes. Hurricane Alex stirred up the Gulf water the day before. Simon and Caroline spent the next few days getting used to the idea. Simon still held Caroline’s hand. He was fifty years old. they would stop the relocation of the nests. “Do they think the worst of Alex is over?” Simon asked. and he was pleased about this news despite the fear at the back of his mind.” Simon said.” “I hope you won’t be bored or disappointed. I’d like to go. “They want to do it tonight before the holiday weekend starts. “I need to be there for the release tonight. The world would wait for a few hours while they celebrated the new life they’d created. Kate called Caroline on Thursday morning before the Fourth of July weekend to tell her the first hatchlings were ready to be released.” “How could I be disappointed? I get to see my baby in action. “But she said the hatchlings look healthy. it looked as if they’d be moving nests for a good part of the summer. Kate said they’re testing the grasses off the Panhandle daily.” Caroline said. so he pulled her to her feet. “Do you want to call her?” 321 . It’s not always very exciting. They walked holding hands up the stairs to their bedroom and shut the door. “Do you think I’m too old to be a new father?” Simon asked. “Jason didn’t think he was.” “Sure. That’s true. Do you want to come? I need to see if Sam’s available this afternoon. “I happen to have a clear calendar for tomorrow. he’d have been the same age when his son was born. Everybody’s left early for the holiday.” Simon said. but the world forced them back to reality soon enough. If his cousin had lived.” Kate told Caroline as soon as the grasses tested free of oil. With the well still spewing oil and the storm churning up the water.” Caroline said after she hung up the phone. “Besides it might be a good time for us to be with Jodi. but Simon heard on the news it had been downgraded to a tropical storm.TRAILS IN THE SAND Simon loved his wife.

too.” Caroline said as she lightly punched his shoulder.” “Jodi.” “OK. when?” “They’re releasing the first ones tonight.” “I think we can do better than that. She just walked in the back door and found them knee-deep in buttercup yellow paint.” Jodi had only been to their house twice since they bought the house. I need to call Seth because he was going to try and come down for this. and she didn’t come inside. No one ever used the front porch on this house because the driveway ended at the back of the house. Do you want to drive over here and ride with us?” “I guess so.” Caroline said. Augustine and thought she might as well stop by and see the house. “You think it’s a good time to tell her? Before we head to the release?” Simon asked Caroline after he’d closed up the office for the long weekend and came home just before noon. She said she was visiting a friend in Flagler Beach just south of St. and she left soon after. I’ll call her right now. C. The first time Simon and Caroline were in the middle of renovations in the kitchen.” “Can you be here by noon? Caroline said she’d make lunch. How about: Those sea turtles aren’t the only things popping out around here. and she surprised them as they were painting the walls before the cabinets. Caroline said we need to be over there no later than six. ZICK “Sure. “Caroline just got a call and I thought I’d go with her. and I don’t think we should tell anyone else until Jodi knows. “No time is going to be the best time.” Simon said as he opened the back porch door. appliances. Jodi arrived at noon on the dot.” “Sure. We’ll see how to work it into the conversation. Caroline served a vegetable pasta dish with sliced tomatoes – the last of the season but still just as sweet and juicy as ever. too. “But I want to tell Holly. and countertops were installed. “Come on in. are you ready to go to Cape Canaveral?” Simon asked when he reached her.” 322 . They were about the only thing that smelled good to her these days. The second time was when they returned from West Virginia. They gave her a tour.P. “I think you’ll see a difference in the house this time. I think he’s driving to his parents in Daytona today.

” Simon said. Caroline explained how tonight’s shoot would go.” Caroline said. Simon sipped his tea.” Simon said. too?” “I think that will be fine.” “I’ve been giving Caroline a hard time about playing matchmaker with Sam and Holly. “But she and Sam hit it off.” “Is Holly going to be his assistant?” Jodi asked. 323 .” They became a quiet trio at that pronouncement. Caroline smiled. “I know you think I set this up. Sam was going to ask her and then the two of them might come back here for the weekend.” Simon said. Holly’s still on the rebound. I just need to make sure there’s a pass for him at the gate. which would be mainly silence and distance. “I’m not pushing anything. “That would be him.” “Starved. “I’ll probably ride home with Seth. I’d like to get back. although he might enlist Jodi to help as well. You’re welcome to join us.” Caroline said. “Security guards from Kennedy will be there to ensure no tourists wander into that area of restricted beach.TRAILS IN THE SAND She stepped into the kitchen and whistled low. “That’s all right.” Jodi said. Simon poured iced raspberry tea in their glasses. and that’s a good thing.” I said. but I didn’t.” They pulled up chairs around the kitchen table after Caroline placed a large bowl of pasta and a platter of tomatoes on the table. I can’t explain how love works. “What about you. “I made pasta salad and of course the famous McDermott tomatoes.” “Isn’t Sam the one you always described as the ‘perpetual bachelor?’” Simon asked. He was a first class creep. She doesn’t even want to talk about Carl anymore. and Jodi looked at her empty plate. which is highly unlikely thanks to the fences that marked it off. “Wow – now this is a real kitchen. giving directions on what would be expected of them. Jodi?” “I could eat. As they ate. I’ll call Kate on the way there. right out of HGTV. if you don’t have any plans.” “We spend a lot of time here. “I’m not sure. “Are you hungry?” Caroline asked. “Sam will be shooting with infrared lights and most likely bringing an assistant to help him with equipment.” Caroline said. Is it all right if he comes tonight.

Jodi.” Simon said.” Simon said.P. I still think that.” “That’s why you’ve been so sick?” Jodi asked Caroline.” Simon said.” Caroline said and her eyes filled with tears. we have something we’d like to tell you – you’re the first one to know this. Jodi will want to be a part of our family eventually. “That’s why I’ve got to be excused right now. “She’s sitting in her car.” Then she walked out the back door.” “She came to lunch today. “Don’t think about that now. “Where’s Jodi?” Caroline asked when she returned from the bathroom. He watched from the kitchen window as she got in her car. “I love you. “We – Caroline and I – just found out yesterday that we are expecting a baby.” Simon said as he wiped his hands on a dishtowel. but maybe not today. ZICK “You’re right. didn’t she? That’s a start.” “She’s going through a tough patch right now. C. Caro. I thought she was the most beautiful child I’d ever seen. but seeing her made everything all right. “Look what the past nine years have done for you. No one can explain it. “The doctor said she’ll feel better as soon as she’s through the first trimester. although I always understood 324 .” Simon said. I was so sad that day when I finally made it to Calico.” Caroline said as she pushed aside the chair and ran for the half bath in the hall under the stairs. “There are other things that defy explanation as well. “What?” she asked. Caroline is pregnant.” “When I came home for Daddy’s funeral – that’s when I saw her all grown up – almost grown up. Caro. baby. “You’re both disgusting. He walked toward Caroline and took her in his arms. Look how far we’ve come.” Jodi raised her head and looked from Caroline and then to Simon. You were pretty bitter when you came home for your father’s funeral. Jodi stood up.” “I remember the first time I saw her.” “What do you mean? You’re adopting?” “No. She sat there without starting it. I guess. Caroline looked extremely uncomfortable and pale. “Too much of a shock.

” Once they hit the highway headed south.” “All right. “Ready to go?” When they walked outside. “I don’t think I can handle riding with you.” Caroline said. Simon went to Jodi’s car. Simon hoped the doctor was right about all this passing once she hit the second trimester in a few weeks. Drive carefully.” she said. and she already looked exhausted. Caroline put the pillow she’d brought up to the window and leaned her head on it. We’re going to take I-95. “I’ll follow you. It was barely afternoon. She reached up and gave me a kiss on the cheek.TRAILS IN THE SAND even when you treated me like dirt. 325 .” “Good thing we both love dirt then.

“Is this Caroline Carlisle?” the male voice asked after I answered the phone.” “My name is Paul Montgomery.” I said. and after being hounded by the doctors about my family medical history one too many 326 . “I hope it’s all right I called. I assumed it had something to do with the release that night. It took me a minute to remember we were traveling down the highway to Cape Canaveral. I’ve known about you and your family for some time. Momma must have been overseeing my day or at the very least enjoying the unrelenting pressure I felt building in my head and in my abdomen.” “Aunt Sugar told me you might call. but I didn’t recognize the phone number. “It is. but recently I’ve had some health issues come up.” “I’m sure you are. I sat up abruptly and the pillow that supported my head fell at my feet. I pulled the phone out of my shorts’ pocket.CHAPTER 68 Caroline When my cell phone began ringing. and she said it would be all right to make contact with you. I spoke with your aunt last week. The area code was for somewhere around Daytona Beach.” The day could not have taken a stranger turn than when I heard the voice of the child my mother gave birth to when she wasn’t much older than a child herself. “I’m still trying to accept the news that Momma had a baby before she married my father.

“I know. I hadn’t decided yet if I wanted to meet this new member of the family.” “Call me when you know more then. I’m headed to Cape Canaveral to cover a story.” “She did say something about you writing articles for magazines. he was certain to ask about his birth mother.” I turned to Simon after I ended the call.” “Right now. 327 . I suddenly felt able to carry on. and she told me some things. I guess I better make a few calls. He also said a storm is off the coast.TRAILS IN THE SAND times. Caroline.” “You could have found that out from Aunt Sugar. but I guess I just wondered what it might be like to meet someone who shared some of the same blood line. “I’m not sure I can take any more surprises or revelations today.” I said. “There’s a storm brewing off the coast this afternoon. Any explanations of why Momma was the way she was would lead to more family revelations about our grandfather.” Simon said. He thought it doubtful we’d be able to do the release tonight. I told him about the story of the sea turtle eggs as briefly as possible and suggested as kindly as I could that perhaps now wasn’t the best time for me without giving away anything more about my situation. If I agreed to meet Paul Montgomery.” “I forgot to check the weather before we left home. He seems anxious to meet me. and I wondered how I could ever explain Gladys Stokley Carlisle to him without making her seem crazy or monstrous. I live about an hour from Kennedy. “Are you sure they’ll release them tonight?” “That could be a problem. With Simon here with me. I’d really like to meet you.” he said. He lives about an hour from where we’re headed. Would it be possible to meet while you’re here?” He was persistent.” “Welcome to my world and our world for the next two decades. “That’s right. Paul Montgomery.” Simon said. I decided the time was right to find out about my birth parents. Curiosity brought me to this point.” “So that must have been your half brother.” I smiled and touched his hand. “Sorry about that but I was slightly distracted. Maybe Aunt Sugar told you I’m a freelance writer.

C. I was almost sorry I’d mentioned anything at all to Holly. but she said they were only postponing for twenty-four hours.” Simon said. You ready for this. I called Sam. and he put Holly on the phone. “I’m not sure. “We’re already here. Holly was in the lobby getting a cup of coffee when we pulled in.” It was true that the Gulf of Mexico waters came in smoother and slower than those on the long Atlantic coast.P. “That’s what this feels like – almost as if none of us will ever be the same again. She’d be at my door as soon as we arrived to find out about those surprises I’d mentioned.” she said. and I don’t plan on making this the exception.” Simon and I agreed we should continue driving since we already had a hotel room booked for the night. it will be all right. I told Holly we had some surprises in store for her when we arrived.” “First thing – I’m fine and maybe I’m glowing with that thing they 328 .” Simon said. “I’ve been through it all with you. You look wonderful by the way. but maybe if I can rest before we venture out for dinner.” Holly said. “I’m not sure. As we finished the drive. I was worried about you in Apalachicola. I think. And then there was Holly.” I said. “What gives? You can’t just tell me you have surprises and then expect me not to be dying to know. he sounded very pleased.” When I called Paul back and suggested we meet for dinner near our hotel. You’d think she was the journalist rather than me. “Maybe he can meet us for dinner. ZICK A quick call to Kate confirmed Paul’s predictions. Caro?” Simon asked. I know I’m feeling that way. which would give us time to check in at the hotel and give me time to lie down for a few minutes before facing the next big event of the day. “That’s one of the surprises – a good one. “Are you feeling better?” she asked. except when a storm stirred up the more constrained and contained waters of the Gulf. She pulled me down a hallway while Simon and Jodi went to the front desk.” “I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be except in the garden picking tomatoes with you. “Is it a full moon?” “New moon – time for new beginnings. especially if you’re there by my side. We arranged to meet at eight o’clock. “We decided to spend the day at an Atlantic beach – to get some real surf – after our time on the Gulf.

” “I think the more the merrier and easier. but if Seth comes and you both want to join us. if you think it would be all right.” Simon was watching the local news. It was the first time I ever remember leaving Holly speechless. He just arrived at his parents so he might not want to drive down here. “I need to call Seth and let him know about tonight.” I said. Holly?” I asked as she continued to stare at me with her mouth open.” Holly’s mouth dropped open. “Everyone knows?” she finally asked as she nodded her head in the direction Simon and Jodi.” Then I told Holly about our dinner plans. “Yep. Simon left Holly and me to finish our talk in the lobby after he’d checked us into our rooms. “You OK. On second thought. meet us here at 7:45.TRAILS IN THE SAND always talk about when a woman is pregnant.” “How did everyone take the news?” I asked when I came back to the room almost an hour later. “So you want to join us for dinner?” I finally asked. 329 . and all I had to do was get pregnant at the age of forty-five. He and Jodi headed for the elevators. that’s fine. too. There could be some awkwardness. except for that new brother of mine that I’m going to meet in two hours. Amazing. I suppose I knew Amy would react as Momma might have reacted – she’d ignore it unless it was put in her face and then she’d say or do something outrageous to alienate both Paul and me. “Do you want to join us for dinner?” I asked Jodi before the doors opened.” “If you want to go. “I can understand why you might want to sit this one out.” Holly was more like a sister to me than my own flesh and blood had ever been. “Wouldn’t miss this for the world. and she just stared at me.” I said. but muted the sound when I came in the room and sat on the bed next to where he lay stretched out. I couldn’t even imagine how Amy would react to Paul Montgomery. so don’t say anything. “Jodi’s not as thrilled as we are. everyone that’s most important in my life. Holly wanted every single detail on all of my “news.

I hung in there for the rest of the conversation.” Here we go again. What about Gary and Sally?” “Gary was stunned. and I said no. I must say I’m still sitting down from the shock. If he’s amenable.” “We shall see. You’ve made your bed. I’m just glad your mother isn’t here to see it.” I said.” “I suppose you’re right. but to keep the family peace that we had so recently negotiated over Momma’s long lost given away son.” “It’s quite a shock for Simon and me as well. she did. “Who would have thought at my age?” “Yes. I wanted to hang up the phone.” “I think it’s better this way. Shocked. Your other aunts can be a little much at times. “You’re going to meet him?” Aunt Sugar asked when I answered.” Simon was right.” “Which means?” “Mom and Dad are excited to be grandparents again and want to come down for a visit as soon as the weather cools. “Jodi will come around. After all. I hope. but I didn’t think it was a secret. but I held out little hope it would go any better. I’d be there myself. If it wasn’t so far. Asked if the aunts knew. I want to hear all about it. He and his wife are meeting all of us in an hour. is that all right?” “Of course. and it’ll be easier to get to know us all – if that’s what he wants – a little bit at a time. Caroline. “Do you think that’s wise in your condition?” Aunt Sugar never failed to surprise me.” “I hope you’ll call me afterwards. let him know that we would love to host a family 330 . I told them their room is always ready for them. Thrilled. C. who would have thought? We’ll all have to adjust. “Did Sally tell you our news?” I asked. she’d brought up both subjects. “Yes. ZICK “Shocked. I had just come out of the bathroom when my phone started ringing. Aunt Sugar will probably be calling you very soon because I also told him about Paul’s call. especially Jodi. he’s my half brother.P. Before I could even say a word.” she said. You’re meeting him for dinner?” “Yes. I love your parents. “Back to Paul Montgomery.

At least the nausea had fled for the moment. “Almost. The cousins used to tease me all the time when I was a child about being adopted. Simon?” I asked after I’d brushed my hair and put on a little lipstick and blush to cover the paleness that seemed to be a permanent part of my existence now. Sometimes I wished I was adopted. I hung up the phone feeling weary and weak.” “Even though the tablecloth is probably a fake?” “You don’t know that for sure. “And Caroline. After all. I’d sorely wish I belonged anywhere in the world but with this family. Perhaps having this baby and raising it would make things easier with Jodi.” “Aunt Sugar. I felt pale.” Aunt Sugar said. and I probably exuded pale to the rest of the world. but at the very least keep their contents to yourself. I hope you’ll consider turning them over to me. I couldn’t allow myself to go any further than hoping that tensions would ease. I hope you won’t mention the journals. and I’m tired of more than that. I didn’t imagine that would make a very good impression on my newfound sibling. he was Alex’s son too. I hoped part of what Aunt Sugar said would come true. I still felt it sometimes although since Simon and I married. “I wanted 331 . I’d like to see for myself. Maybe I’d be able to get through the entire meal without running to the bathroom. “Are you ready.” “Just think about it. I thought.” Simon said as he came out of the bathroom. Now that you’re about to be a mother for the first time maybe you’ll grow a little more compassionate about the feelings of others. If it isn’t the real thing. I looked pale. and there were times. I pushed aside hopeful thoughts that one day I might have a complete family. really. can we just call a truce? I’m tired from the drive. “Those really should come to me as the oldest child of Arthur Stokley. then that means your mother destroyed the only family heirloom we have from our father’s family. and we loved both your mother and him to pieces even if Alex wasn’t one of us. I’d really like both the journals and the tablecloth. just to keep the peace.” I said I would think about it. especially after one of Momma’s and the aunts’ tirades.TRAILS IN THE SAND gathering in his honor so everyone could meet him. but didn’t say aloud to my aunt.” Lucky Alex. I was beginning to feel I had my own family. Caroline.

” I said.” he said. “We’re going to have a baby that we can share together.” He held out a small rectangular box with a bow on top. 332 . C.” “Yes. I lifted the lid to find a necklace with a charm – a white gold tomato.” “That would be a miracle. “It’s hard to believe we’ve been married a year. ZICK to wait and give this to you on our anniversary next week.” I read aloud. “Now we’re growing more than tomatoes.” my husband said as we walked out the door together. “Turn it over.” He put it around my neck and fastened it. it’s perfect. “Simon. This is the most wonderful gift that we could ever receive. “I am forever grateful for your presence in my life.P. we’ll have a real celebration where everyone can be as happy for us as we are for ourselves. “I’m always in the garden with you. “One day. but I think this is better timing. Then he turned me around and gave me a full blown kiss on the lips.” my husband said. the size of a quarter.” I said as I put my arms around his neck. it seems our prayers have been answered in some ways. isn’t it?” I asked as we made our way down to the lobby to meet Sam and Holly and hopefully Jodi. Caro.” “I’m certain the rest will come to us if we just keep ourselves following that garden path.

and she remained undecided about going to dinner.” “Wait till you tell him about your sister. I don’t think he was keen on getting into our family drama first time he meets my dad. Jodi knew immediately that the man waiting with a woman had to be GG’s son. When the elevator opened onto the lobby of the hotel.” Simon said. “We weren’t sure you were coming. was as white as snow. Let’s go. Seth decided to wait until the next day to join her. He was the spitting image of the photos of Arthur Stokley.” Jodi said.” Simon said. Jodi.” Jodi said. However. How could she be pregnant? Jodi wondered. His 333 . His hair. “This could be awkward and having you all here with me will help. “I’m glad you decided to come. her curiosity about GG’s son won out over her disgust about Caroline’s condition. Jodi noted. They sat on one of the banquettes in the lobby. “He decided to have dinner with his dad and come down here tomorrow. Holly. When they entered the restaurant. thick and full. “That’s really going to make things less awkward.” “That’s enough. Simon.CHAPTER 69 Jodi Jodi waited until the last possible moment to meet her father and Caroline.” Caroline said. “I’m here. “What about Seth?” Caroline asked.” Jodi said. and Caroline stood waiting. Sam.

“I thought it would be only family here tonight. He wore a floral print shirt.” Caroline said.P. The tone of his voice didn’t quite match his words. but neatly trimmed. ZICK mustache was also thick. Janet pursed her lips. Jodi thought he was probably as disgusted as she was by the pregnancy. “Did Miss Sugar say you married your sister’s husband?” Janet asked in the best tradition of Aunt Sugar’s southern belle.” Paul said.” Paul said. “Holly has been like a sister to me since college. We’re going to leave you to get acquainted.” Holly said. C. “Caroline. the kind surfers wore.” Janet said. Janet. Isn’t that wonderful. and Dockers pants along with leather loafers and no socks. “You look just like my grandfather. Paul?” Janet nudged her husband.” Jodi noted the sharpness of Caroline’s response.” 334 . “Now isn’t that wonderful.” Caroline said. “It’ll be better this way. “I knew they wouldn’t mind if I asked you both to join us.” Holly whispered to Jodi as she passed her on the way to the door. Sam and I aren’t that hungry after all. “I already had plans with Holly and Sam because we’re working together. He stood. “This is my wife. and Sam as they waited for the hostess to seat them. Congratulations.” “And you must be Caroline.” Caroline said. “I’ll call you later.” Caroline said. “That’s just great. yes. Holly.” “You don’t need to do that on our account.” Caroline introduced Jodi. “Good luck. “How are Holly and Sam related to you?” Janet asked. Simon and I married. but make sure you remember every detail. Simon. And we found out a few days ago that we’re going to have a baby in about seven months.” Holly said to Caroline as she squeezed her arm. “After Amy died. “We had a late lunch.” he said as he shook her hand. and Sam is her date and the photographer on the story with me. “You must be Paul. She’d only heard her aunt use that tone with GG. “Is there something wrong?” Caroline asked. and Paul looked away.

Janet’s hand flew to her mouth more times than Jodi could count.TRAILS IN THE SAND Once seated and drinks ordered.” Simon said. A few years ago.” Caroline said. until they discovered that Gladys Carlisle had passed away.” Paul said he’d always known his parents adopted him.” he said.” Caroline said before Paul or Janet could say anything more. “The older I got.” As Caroline told Paul about GG. “Your Aunt Sugar didn’t help much.” Caroline said. and I’m sure Dad would tell me if there was something I needed to know.” “Caroline. “Blue eyes and blonde hair and a dimple in her chin just like yours. I find out I have a half brother.” “Simon and Amy adopted Jodi. have you ever wondered about your birth parents?” Janet asked.” His parents were reluctant to discuss it.” “I’m discovering new things myself every day. the more the doctors wanted to know my family’s medical history. Jodi wondered who would be the first to start talking. They were still alive and living in Tallahassee.” “Our daughter Beth looks a little bit like you and Jodi. She was here to observe.” Paul began. and I think Paul is just ready to have someone tell him the truth without worrying that it might upset him. “I don’t have any curiosity.” Janet said. That’s why she’s such a good friend.” “Jodi. “She kept skirting the questions. and it seemed like the time had come to find out. Jodi kept waiting for her to fling her 335 .” Janet said. why don’t you share what you know about Paul’s birth mother.” “I hope she won’t be upset with you. “We didn’t mean to run off your friends. “Then I had a mild heart attack three years ago. “It’s just a coincidence she has the hair and eye color of the Stokley clan. For a few years I’ve been feeling like an orphan. and I’m going to have a baby. Now. Then they told him what they knew. which was sketchy at best. “That’s why we’re here after all. “Holly has a thick skin.” “No need to explain. “I never knew about you until yesterday. and it just threw me to have others here. he became curious about his birth parents where it hadn’t mattered before. the five of them sat looking at one another. “But I’ve been jittery about meeting you. She knew it wouldn’t be her.” Paul said. “Not at all.

” “We don’t have to tell anyone. “You know I was born on Easter Sunday – April 21.” Simon said. Now Aunt Sugar and the rest of the aunts fit their names perfectly.” Paul said. but we all knew that was the reason. “I would never call my mother – or I should say our mother – happy. “This Grandpa Stokley character sounds like something out of a Charles Dickens’ novel. She would shut down and stay in her room a lot. I moved away and never really came back after high school. and the two youngsters who conceived me are from a Greek tragedy.” Janet said as she put her hand over her husband’s. that’s not a word I would ever use to describe Momma. C. It wasn’t as bad as April because it didn’t last as long. Arthur Stokley died of a heart attack. “That’s what I remember.” Jodi said. “So they weren’t brother and sister at all?” Paul asked.” “I have to say. around the time Alex died. No one talked about it much.” “By the way.” “Was she a good mother?” Paul asked. “She was a good grandmother. Caroline sighed. right before Grandpa died. dear. “Yes.P. After he died. Paul. but it might be the reason Alex walked into the sea that night – his guilt and Grandpa’s indictment of them made it unbearable. “I’m not sure if it continued for the rest of her life or not. “Did they know that when I was conceived?” “No.” Caroline said.” Caroline said. too?” Simon interjected. Grandpa told everyone else in the family.” Paul said ignoring his wife and her insensitive remark.” Simon said. “Momma would go into a severe depression – Simon called it ‘Gladdy’s dark days’ every April just when the wisteria bloomed and the phlox popped out on the roadside.” Caroline said.” Caroline said. “Was she happy at other times?” Paul asked. No. ZICK fried flounder out her mouth from the many times she dropped her jaw.” “Didn’t it always happen in July. “That’s why her nickname of Gladdy was so ironic. I’m completely taken aback. “So there is a family history – he was seventy years old. except Momma.” 336 . “She didn’t find out until years later.” “It did. “That explains one thing from my childhood.

and he was mine as well.” Caroline said.” “I was home for Easter that year. you will be the death of me yet. “She wasn’t picking at me to finally find a husband. and I don’t think she said once ‘Caroline. “She died on your birthday in 2007. not sure how to ask the question Caroline left open for answering. My father was her savior. “We weren’t sure.” Caroline said. “What happened?” Paul asked. Yet.” Caroline said. “When did Gladys die?” Paul asked. “I’m sure it must have been difficult for all of you to see.” Caroline said.” Janet said.” Jodi stared at her father. “My first wife.” Simon said. Our daughter had it for a few years during her teens but with excellent therapy and treatment. and Momma was quiet but not angry. “She suffered for decades before her body finally wore itself out. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Gladys was driving toward I-10 on this particular day when her car collided with a limerock truck. which surprised everyone who knew her.” she said. “So so sad. “The driver of the truck wasn’t hurt. had anorexia and died from it.TRAILS IN THE SAND “She did the best she could. He’d never said the name of Amy’s affliction aloud. I survived. They didn’t charge him. “He was puzzled. she was able to pull out of it before it did any damage. “She was driving to Jacksonville to visit a friend or go shopping.” Jodi’s eyes filled with tears. “No one helped my mother.” Paul and Janet looked between Simon and Caroline. but I remember thinking at the time that he had been negligent. because he wasn’t sure what happened. She wasn’t as depressed as she’d been other Aprils. My sister Amy suffered more. that day she hadn’t been wearing one. “That’s the best way to describe Momma. and she was thrown fifty feet through the front windshield.’ Easter was a few weeks before the accident that year. but she was quiet.” Simon said. I remember. Just quiet – even her sisters couldn’t get her riled at Easter dinner. Amy. She was crazy about telling everyone to fasten up because you never knew “when a vulture might swoop down out of the sky and hit the windshield” or when an alligator might slither out from the side of the road and cross right in front of the car.” 337 .” It was a typical rural North Florida two-lane road with no shoulder.

She wrote that her life was about to end. petite and dark-haired stood next to him. And Dr. She looked at the others and suspected they were all thinking the same thing. “The last entry was on April 21.” Jodi was astounded at Janet’s rudeness. They each held a child with white blonde hair. the aunts would like to have a dinner so you can meet the rest of the Stokleys. “I’ve very much enjoyed talking to you. I can’t imagine what his other children are like.” Caroline said. “Good. They both looked about two-years old and identical. but it was more than coincidental that she died in a mysterious accident on the anniversary of the day she gave birth to Paul Montgomery.” “Twins run in my family. Jodi wondered if the accident had been intentional. ZICK “Could she have caused the accident?” Janet asked the question Jodi wanted to ask. His wife.” “That gives me chills. Paul and Janet.” Janet said. “I need to absorb all of this. grinned back at Jodi.” Janet said. Best not to voice those suspicions. but it’s true she was most likely distracted that day because she wasn’t wearing her seat belt. but I don’t know very much about you two and your life.” A handsome man who had the Stokley smile all over his face. We talked and talked about our family. C. What about your children?” “We have a son and a daughter and two beautiful grandchildren.” Caroline said. but I can’t believe she would intentionally do something that could potentially hurt someone else. “I think that’s the first set of twins I’ve heard about in our family.P. Stokley sounds atrocious. “Our son and the grandchildren live in Atlanta. This woman had no right 338 . 1957. and I hope we can do it again soon.” “I’m not sure if I’m ready for that. but we see them several times a year. “No use speculating. “I’m exhausted.” Simon said.” Paul said.” “I agree. “We’ll never know.” “I found journals she wrote as a teenager.” Janet said. “A brother and sister having a child – even if they weren’t really related.” Janet said reaching for her purse and the photo album inside. “I don’t think I could handle two babies. Paul. “Twins?” Caroline asked.” Caroline said.

” “Caro. It starts somewhere on your chest and then slowly moves up your neck all the way to your forehead. it’s all so shocking. “it’s just not the way we do things in our world. but this family has lived with secrets for too long. Jodi.” Caroline sputtered between gasps of air. please. let’s not leave it like this.TRAILS IN THE SAND to sit there and criticize the Stokleys as if they were monsters.” Paul said as Jodi. let me help you with your chair. which way it was going. “You asked. Simon McDermott. “We’re leaving.” Jodi said. .” “What red blush?” Caroline asked. You were going to explode in some fashion. I beg you. You’re my hero. and Caroline made a grand exit. Maybe it had been a good dinner after all.” Simon said as Caroline stood to leave. Excuse us. who was very carefully folding her napkin before she placed it back on the table. As they drove back to the hotel. “The one you get whenever you’re really passionate about something. and Simon stood to leave. unable to continue her threat.” “Caroline. and the three of them departed with heads held high. “I know how 339 . and I tried to answer as honestly as I could. “Then you married your sister’s husband a year after she dies such a tragic death.” Paul said. Simon dropped a hundred dollar bill down on the hostess stand with the check. “We’ll take care of the bill. I’m sorry if that’s too much for you. “I would have been right behind you.” With that Simon. we wouldn’t want you to worry about that what with all the other troubles we’ve heaped on your head tonight. Jodi looked at Caroline.” Caroline sputtered. Simon and Caroline.” Janet said.” “Please.” “I thought I was going to jump across the table and grab that woman’s scrawny little neck in my hands and. “Can you imagine anyone saying that for real? Then you go and repeat it. “It’s just not the way we do things in our world. and I knew tonight at the table. all three began laughing in relief. Caroline.” Caroline said.” “I needed to do something because I could see that red blush starting. “I’m sorry if the truth has upset you in any way. my wife is exhausted after explaining a very difficult situation to you and then you go and insult us and our family – it’s just not the way we do things in our world. .

” “She was thoughtless and stupid.” Simon said. and we don’t ever have to see them again. but an outsider has no right to insult us and the rest of the clsn. C.P. 340 . ZICK weird this family is. That’s our job.

when my phone started buzzing. I’m heading back to Miami. “Holly. I heard in her voice the distress that often was associated with yet another broken heart.” I said. I was always amazed when I thought about the amount of abuse we heap upon our feet and never give them the amount of attention they deserve.CHAPTER 70 Caroline We said good night to Jodi in the lobby. Simon kissed her on the cheek. but didn’t say anything. I freaked out and ran out of the hotel room. “Where are you? Are you with Sam?” “No.” Holly said. “I had a little bit too much to drink and no dinner and then when he started kissing me. “Caroline. He began rubbing my feet – the one true luxury of my life. I was nearly in a coma from the ecstasy of the sensation of Simon’s large hands kneading the balls of my feet and pulling on my toes to stretch them out. but be glad you left when you did. I was suspicious.” she said. She said she was going to find a magazine before heading up because she’d forgotten to bring a book. Simon pulled off my sandals and gently pushed me back on the bed. When we got back to our room. I’m sorry it got so weird at the restaurant. I reached over to the nightstand to check to see who it was.” 341 .” “Tonight? But why in the world?” “It’s a long story. I’m glad I caught you. The night didn’t improve. and I simply nodded.

I get a little weepy thinking about it. baby. and I hung up the phone feeling as if I’d done something horribly mean and spiteful. please. The dinner was difficult. and Simon would be retired. Thing. Now she was calling Carl.” 342 .” “Just think what your body is doing right this very minute. but remember age doesn’t mean what it used to. He wants to talk. I fought the feeling that I let down my friend and concentrated on what mattered now – the child in my womb dependent on me for at least eighteen years. she was going to have to figure out how to do it. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. It’s creating a human being. but there were times when her neediness was more than I could handle. I drank some coffee. “You mean the thing they have in all the movies when the old guys end up finding out their wife is going to have a baby?” I loved this man who always knew what I was asking. I’m exhausted. C. Eighteen years – I would be nearly retirement age when he or she graduated from high school. It’s more as if fifty is the new seventy. That dark feeling from childhood swam into my head. I loved Holly very much. Can I call you after I talk to him?” “No.” “Holly. ZICK “Why are you driving if you’ve had too much to drink?” “I’m OK now. and if Holly couldn’t deal with the difficulties of her love life without my intervention.” I could tell Holly felt as if I was letting her down. but we were forty-five-year-old women. “Yep. I knew she called me so I could talk her out of it. It’s a little intimidating.” “Right – what do they say these days? Fifty is the new forty? Not sure I feel that way right now. and I’m wide-awake and feeling lousy about everything. I’m exhausted. Mr. and I probably wasn’t being a very good friend. but I’m too tired to explain. “Simon.” “I’d be lying if I said no. This time was one of the few in our long relationship where I had not dropped everything to tend to her wounds. have you done the numbers thing in your head?” I asked after I finished the conversation with Holly. It’s quite amazing even though it happens all the time. Carl?” “I know you won’t understand.P. that would be the thing. Carl called and left me a message. but I’m going to call him back.

I decided that’s all I needed to say. your friend Holly is a real piece of work. I checked my phone and saw Holly left me a text asking me to call her whenever I felt like talking. “I think we deserve it this morning. Caroline. I didn’t know what to say.’ don’t you think?” “She deserved it. she said the conditions looked good for a release that night so we once again we planned to meet at the entrance booth to Cape Canaveral.” Simon and I decided to take a long walk on the beach. “How about room service breakfast?” Simon asked as he headed for the bathroom.” “It’s too much for anyone to handle in one day. She was going to have to wait until I had my shower and some food. When I called Kate back. You’ve probably already heard she won’t be joining us tonight. “Come here. I also saw Kate and Sam both called and left messages. “Sam.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Having those sympathy hormonal surges?” “You bet. Every bit of it and more. We slept until the sun streamed from behind the edges of the curtains pulled over the balcony window. I hadn’t gotten much exercise lately and felt stiff and bloated.” I sighed after I heard the message. we’re on for tonight. I ordered two full course breakfasts – I was suddenly famished and not nauseous for the first time in weeks. We ate on the bed with wet hair and the terry robes from the closet. but I could tell he wasn’t his usual chipper self. “Call me. And turn out the light on your way. I wasn’t going to bring up the other. and I didn’t want to be in the middle trying to referee. I even got a little hormonal with ‘Miss We-Don’t-DoThat-in-Our-World. Those also could wait until I was clean and refreshed. “Give me a call to make arrangements. they both were my friends. Despite the heat of the day beginning to edge its way onto the beach as the sun rose in the sky.” I said when I called him back and got his voice mail. we frolicked in the surf and stayed cool with the salt water spraying us as we 343 . By the way. And second.” I fell asleep in Simon’s arms almost as soon as we settled on the bed. First of all. you.” Simon said.” While Simon showered. Let me know what’s up for tonight. I didn’t want to talk to Sam about Holly. Sam’s message was brief.

What will you do if he calls?” “I’ll tell him he has to talk to the Terminator in the family. I was beginning to feel old for the first time in my life. “And old – I’m old. I never thought about age much because it had no impact on my life.” “Yes. but I didn’t dwell on that fact. and my mother died in an accident. Although I hated doing it. There’s always a chance for people to change. that’s true.” I said. I don’t think I’m capable of tackling the aunts. again. You’re always telling me that. My father’s death remained a mystery.” I said to Simon who sat on the bed watching CNN. She does it in a little gentler. although Aunt Sugar is a good guess. You haven’t quite mastered that yet. It would be a miracle to have something that resembled a real family. “I’m going to be tired for the rest of my life. I began searching the Internet for information on pregnancy and discovered all my symptoms were perfectly normal at this stage as the fetus grew into an identifiable baby.P. My sister’s condition was the cause of her self-induced illness. I even googled “older woman pregnancies” and confirmed my suspicions that all the symptoms would be even greater at my advanced age. ZICK walked and kicked in the waves as they wrapped around our ankles. At least Momma’s part of it.” “You’re going to turn him over to Aunt Sugar?” “I meant you. too.” Simon said. I don’t think he’s as bad as the wife is. Look at you for example. “He might. Maybe this will be my chance to restore peace to the Stokley family.” “Something told me I wasn’t a southern belle. “Honestly. kinder way with honey dripping off her lips. and I’ll inject you with my youthful 344 . You decided to give me a second chance. but I suspected his drinking might have been indicative of a larger problem. My parents both died at relatively young ages as had my sister.” “Maybe the two of them will talk and come to the same conclusion. Simon. I’d like to have some type of relationship with him. I would never get any work done if I continued at this rate. When I woke. “I’m not up to the task. and I fell asleep. we came back to the room. C.” “You’re the love of my life. “I wonder if Paul will try to see me again?” I asked as we continued our walk.” After our walk. Maybe both of them just didn’t know how to respond.

” “He better love tomatoes. and I’ll bet you’ll feel great.” I ordered a hamburger with everything when we settled on the stools at the beachfront diner not far from the hotel. “We just have to let time do its magic. I felt my stomach churn when I smelled the meat grilling.” Simon said when I hung up the phone. You’ll see us out on the deck. My phone began ringing. and all will be right with the world. “He?” “Yes. “Caroline.” When Jodi and Seth arrived. I’m the one gobbling down a hamburger. and I’m going to turn into a cow. I felt the same thing from the time the doctor gave me the diagnosis.” I said.” I said. We talked about the dinner the 345 .” I said when I looked at my cell phone.” I said. “We’re going to have one fat baby. He began rubbing my neck and back. “Where are you?” “I’m walking on the beach with Seth. “Eating meat now. “It said on the Internet that if I craved protein to give into it because I needed extra now to put weight on the baby. Mind if we join you?” “Not at all.” she said. the nausea disappeared. The storm kept us from doing it last night. “You’ll be tired. and I relaxed into his touch. but as soon as the burger was set in front of me.” “You’re quite the philosopher. I have a feeling we’re going to have a son. “It’s Jodi. too.” “I can see it from where I am. You’re just feeling those old hormones of yours right now.” “Told you so. huh?” Simon said as he put salt and pepper on his salmon salad. what’s going on with the hatchlings?” Jodi asked.” I smiled.” he said as he came over to the desk where I sat.” Simon said. “How can we do this?” “We’ll do it together.TRAILS IN THE SAND exuberance so you can keep up with me. introductions were made and the two of them decided to split a fish dinner. “Your dad and I are having a late lunch down on the beach right now at Beachcombers. “We’re going out tonight. and I bit hungrily into the sandwich. but we still need a whole lot of magic. Let’s get some lunch down at the beach.

“Caroline and I are going to have a baby in about seven months. Jodi. Jodi turned away and looked out at the ocean. I’d gone too far.” “Baby?” Seth asked. but my dad put her in her place. “Caroline. “Seth and I are going to head back to Daytona tonight. I realized immediately. “Seth. my phone rang. “I’m feeling a little tired again especially with a full tummy.” “Families are a real kick. C.” Seth said.” I said.” “I’m going to walk down the beach.” Seth and I walked out of the restaurant toward the beach together.” “Then can we talk now? I want to talk to you. “I feel as if I haven’t been able to spend any time with you at all this summer. She was so rude. “I like the idea of having a brother.” I said. Seth.” I said. ZICK previous night and filled Seth in on the most pertinent details. but I’d like a nice one.” Simon said. I’ll come back in a little bit. “I miss the ocean – Auburn’s just a little too far from salt water. you haven’t called me back today.” Holly said when I answered. “We should probably leave the hotel around five o’clock.” Seth said. 346 . but I’ve been with Simon and either eating or sleeping. “I’ve got a feeling he might be right.” I wondered if our baby could heal our family and bring us all together.” I said. Of course. would you mind if I talked to my daughter for a few minutes alone?” “I think I’ll go back to the room. “You should have heard that woman last night. will you come back to our house for the holiday weekend?” Simon asked. Almost immediately. “Are you all right?” “I’m fine. “Simon has already decided that the baby is a boy. “What time do we need to go to Cape Canaveral?” Jodi asked before Seth could reply. I turned back to the hotel and Seth headed in the opposite direction. “Jodi.” she said.” Simon said. Jodi hadn’t told Seth our news.” “I’ve got plans. “Do you think you’ll see them again?” “I’m not sure.P.

Are we about ready to leave?” “We’re just making the final preparations. Kate waited for us at the loading dock for the first building on the right.” “No. A pick up truck with the FWC logo was parked next to the ramp. What’s your point?” “I wish you’d tell me what to do now.” “It’s not so bad. are you feeling all right?” Kate asked.TRAILS IN THE SAND What’s up with you?” “I didn’t go all the way home last night. I could feel sweat forming around my hairline. Do you remember when I thought you shouldn’t marry Rich?” “Yes. You didn’t race back to Carl. I came back to the hotel where you are and have been sitting on my balcony all day thinking about things.” Kate said. When I opened the car door. But I didn’t listen. and I’ll listen.” As I walked toward Kate.” “I have a feeling I’m going to be feeling a whole lot more as this pregnancy goes on. I was beginning to feel chilled.” “That’s good. Simon pulled into a parking spot right next to the building. the same building where we’d unloaded the coolers two weeks earlier.” We pulled up to the visitors’ booth and received our passes and directions back to the buildings housing all the eggs by six o’clock. I would go to bed. “I think I’d rather stay in the car. I take it. The compound consisted of six one-story buildings on each side of the road. “This heat is suffocating. In fact. I didn’t. but I haven’t been taking his calls. “You’re probably feeling it more than ever right now. in the air conditioning. that’s all. “Caroline. and you were right.” I said as I stood up and tried to fight the dizziness coming over me. By the time I said hello. I promised myself as soon as we got what we needed tonight.” “I’m fine. She stood above me on the loading dock. 347 . At each end facing the road were double doors opening onto the concrete dock with a ramp. I gave him a call. just hot. the heat from the asphalt assaulted me. “Where’s Sam?” I looked at my cell phone but there weren’t any messages or missed calls.” Simon said. “Your face is a little red. He’s been calling all day.

but let’s hope we’re not interfering with their long-term duty of 348 . and Simon climbed into Sam’s van when he pulled into the parking lot. there are still some signs of oil there so we’re going to continue. I’m not going to be coming over here for the releases after this one – Dr.” she had said back on St. and I’m always tired. Two coolers with the hatchlings sat in the back seat of our pickup. They’re going out every day and taking samples from the seagrass to test the habitat over in the Gulf.” Kate threw her head back and hooted. and it’s been picked up by quite a few folks. “These are the ancient creatures of the sea that for some incredible reason will remember where they were placed while still in the eggs. and I went with Kate. “You don’t look so good right now. but at least I know what it is now. “Are you feeling better than you were a few days ago?” Kate asked as we drove. Seth. But the fish and wildlife folks were generally the easiest to get the interview and to give me the unforgettable quote that allowed the story to write itself. “We’re all tired. but my boss told me it was good. ZICK “Sam. So far.” “The heat’s bothering me.” Jodi. I’m going to oversee the nests. I’m pregnant. how’s everything going?” I asked. are you almost here?” I asked when he answered the phone. “Just pulling up to the booth behind a U. particularly with the government types. Fish and Wildlife vehicle.” he said. “Speaking of the turtles.P.” “I haven’t had a chance. She decided not to come with us.” she said. He finds fault with everything you folks in the media do so consider it a high compliment if he said that.” I fought that attitude quite a bit. “Is Holly there?” “No. “So I guess those turtles aren’t the only things popping out around here. “We may be saving their young lives in the short term. Kate made my job on the nests easy as she explained each step along the way. C.S.” “Did you see the article this morning? AP sent it out. Kopler is going to handle that. George Island as she held up an egg for us to see when we dug up the nest. I could hear the whish of wind in the background indicating he was still on the road. I’m only coming this time to see the first of them go safely to sea and to make sure things go smoothly for you.

“Put a little sand in the bottom of the tub. Simon began using the video on his digital camera. Holes were cut in the lid to provide air for the hatchlings. Caroline. and then take it down to the water and get the sand a little wet. I carried a plastic rectangular tub. After I’d done as instructed. “Most of them will. the woman who would be in charge of the release process at Cape Canaveral. Then as if giving one another a signal they began a forward march in not very straight lines. and Sam moved all around them. Julie and Kate instructed us to act as turtle “herders” by providing a straight path to the water for the hatchlings. I thought. “There are forty hatchlings in here so we’re going to do ten at a time. Julie Kopler. some of them we might have to assist by carrying them out past where the tide breaks. they again counted and then lowered the cooler to the sand as one unit.” Julie said. Julie and Kate began gently lifting the hatchlings out of their birth home and placing them in the makeshift beach I created.” Sam was snapping pictures of the hatchlings in the tub from all angles and so was Jodi. “One. When they were twenty feet from the water line. Jodi. then we’ll let them find their way to the sea. “We’ll give them a few minutes to acclimate before we release them.” “Will they go right into the water?” Jodi asked. They loosened the straps holding the Styrofoam cooler in place. no more than two inches in length. Kate and Julie took the other side. two. Seth.” Kate said.” Julie said. opened the back of the pickup truck after we’d driven to the edge of the sand – as far as the road would take us.” Julie said and on “three” the two lifted in unison and then began walking toward the surf. I pulled the bottle of water from the large purse I had slung over my shoulder to carry all my extra stuff. At first it didn’t seem as if they’d move at all – they just stayed close together raising their small heads the size of the tip of an index finger. three. Simon. “We’ve got one more cooler with about the same number that we’ll do tonight. moving it from side to side. We had it all covered.” Kate and Dr. while I took notes. And just as quickly came the feeling of nausea once again accompanied by some dizziness. but within the boundaries 349 .TRAILS IN THE SAND perpetuating the species. and I walked sideways on one side of the ten babies.

Bright lights shined in my face as I sensed myself being lifted into the air. cutting the straightest line of all. I shut my eyes to block out the light. baby. On the next one. I stood up quickly to head back to the rest of the hatchlings in the cooler.P. but I was unable to move. 350 . and I kept my focus on him.” While we waited for the surf to take out the turtles. Just hang tight. when the dizziness returned. We cheered when the last of the first batch disappeared. we’re going to get you help. “Caro. two hatchlings actually floated away and soon all of them were caught in the surf and returned to the sea. but continued to move forward for the next wave to crash on shore. but now we’ve given them a chance away from the oil. and then I slept.” I heard Simon say as if he was underwater rather than right next to me. Then the next thing I remember is Simon kneeling in the sand next to me as I lay on the ground.” Kate said. I knew folks were in motion around me. Simon continued to stay near my head. “Only a few of them will make it to adulthood. ZICK of our border.” Simon kept saying. C. I wondered if I was losing the baby or if I was already dead. Everything’s going to be all right. Can you hear me?” I tried to nod but my whole body ached. baby. I could see legs move while Simon held my hand and kept my head in his lap. “Caro. “Say something. and I could feel his hand in mine. the surf washed over them and when it receded. but they felt so dry and chapped I couldn’t take in anything. the hatchlings were left on the wet sand. I concentrated on his words to keep my mind from imagining the very worst that might be happening to me. “We at least got them this far. He was giving others instructions. I felt my underside getting wet. When they reached the water. I couldn’t talk – someone must have stuffed my mouth with cotton balls. Someone kept trying to put a bottle of something to my lips. I sat down on the beach to observe and take notes. I felt liquid run down the side of my face onto my throat. One of them – the largest – led the way. baby.

CHAPTER 71
Jodi When Caroline went down on the sand, Jodi stood by helplessly. Simon knelt by her head, but Jodi was paralyzed. “Somebody call 911,” Jodi’s dad yelled. Jodi remained motionless. “I got it, Mr. McDermott,” Seth said. Jodi watched as he dialed and spoke into the phone. “Where are we?” Seth yelled, and Kate gave him directions. To Jodi, the scene was a familiar one. Except it wasn’t her momma lying on the ground. Jodi moved in automation as Seth and she followed her father and the stretcher. She felt as helpless as when it had been her mother. “I’ll bring Jodi and Seth with me, and we’ll follow you,” Sam said as Simon climbed inside the back of the ambulance near the motionless body of Caroline. “What’s wrong with her?” Jodi asked as she jumped into the front of the van. “What happened?” “I don’t know, but she’s in good hands. Don’t worry,” Sam said. Seth climbed in the back, and they followed the sirens and lights of the rescue truck out the gates of Cape Canaveral to the hospital. Jodi sat next to her father in the waiting room while Caroline was taken to the back. The doctor appeared in a few minutes to tell them they could see her. “She’s weak, but she’s awake,” he said. “We’ve given her an IV to
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replenish some fluids. Everything seems fine.” “What happened?” Caroline said when Jodi and Simon entered her small cubicle. “My tongue feels like it’s coated with sandpaper.” “You’re in the hospital,” Simon said. “You passed out on the beach, remember? We’re going to have to take better care of you, Caro.” “The baby?” Caroline asked. “The baby’s fine, and you’ll be fine as soon as they get you hydrated. You’re also anemic, and your blood sugar is low. All those things are solvable with the proper food and liquids. And we need to keep you out of the heat,” Simon said. “The doctor wants you to stay in bed for the next few weeks to be sure. I’m going to stay home and take care of you.” “What about the story? I’ve got to write the story on the sea turtles.” “You’re going to have to get an extension,” Simon said. “It’s either the story or the baby. I choose the baby.” “I could write the story,” Jodi said. The words were out of her mouth before she could take them back. Jodi stood near the door. Caroline lifted her head to see her. She was sorry almost immediately. She knew it was foolish to even suggest. “Jodi?” Caroline questioned. “Caro? What about that? Could Jodi write it?” Simon asked. Caroline attempted to sit up, but she was hooked up to so many wires she couldn’t do much. “Why do I have all these things on me if I’m all right?” Caroline asked. “They’re giving you liquids through an IV, and they just ran an EKG to make sure your heart is strong. It is, by the way. So do you think Jodi could write the story?” “I don’t know. I suppose if I was able to help with editing. It’s a story that can’t really wait since they ran the first part two days ago.” “I could write it from what I observed and use your notes, but I’d need help. I grabbed your notebook when you fell, and I can’t make sense of much of what you wrote so far.” “Journalist shorthand. You’ll learn,” Caroline said. “Then when I have the story pulled together you could go through it with me and help me edit. Couldn’t she do that much, Dad?” “I suppose so, but she can’t get up for a few days, and you’d have
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to give her time to rest,” Simon said. “Are you saying you’ll come back to the house with us?” “Yes.” “OK. Get me out of here,” Caroline said. “I want to go home now.” “They said you could go as soon as the nurse came back and unhitched you from all these contraptions. I’ve got instructions and then we have to make an appointment with your doctor tomorrow.” When they finally released them, Simon put Caroline in the backseat of the car. He handed her the pillow she brought from home the day before. “I’ll follow you in my car,” Jodi said. Jodi and Seth hugged before she got into the car. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” Jodi said. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen.” “Everything’s going to be fine,” Seth said. “And you get to help on a story for the AP. You’ll never want to come back to Auburn after this.” She was grateful for Seth’s words, but it only reminded her that her father still didn’t know she wouldn’t be going to school in the fall. Maybe this would be the opportunity to prove she didn’t need to finish college, but she doubted it. The next morning, Simon and Jodi sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee. Caroline was still sleeping. “I’m going to the store for a few things,” Simon said. “You need anything?” After Simon left, Jodi cleared the kitchen table. As she loaded the dishwasher, she heard a piercing scream from the upstairs bathroom. “Simon!” Caroline screamed. Jodi raced up the stairs. “Caroline,” Jodi said. “Are you all right? Dad went to the store.” “I’m bleeding. Not much, but enough. I’m afraid to move.” Jodi heard a sob from the other side of the door. “I’m scared I’m losing the baby.” “I’ll call Dad right now. Just stay right there and don’t worry. I think the doctor mentioned this might happen. I don’t think it means you’re losing the baby. Please don’t cry, Aunt Caroline.” After she reached Simon and told him, she called the doctor. Then she returned to the bathroom door with the phone.
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“Caroline, the doctor wants to know how much blood,” Jodi said. “Is it a teaspoon, a cup, a quart, what?” “It’s like a teaspoonful.” “Are you still bleeding? And do you feel any pain?” “I’m not in pain – just scared. And there doesn’t seem to be any more blood.” Jodi relayed the information and felt relief when the doctor said, “That’s good, very good.” “Caroline, the doctor said everything’s probably fine, but he wants to see you as soon as possible. Do you need me to bring you some clean clothes?” “Can I move around?” “Yes, the doctor said to just be a little cautious, but he wants you to come into the office.” “But it’s Saturday of a holiday weekend,” Caroline said. “He’s going to meet us there,” Jodi said. “Don’t worry; everything will be fine.” Caroline appeared in the kitchen dressed in a T-shirt and shorts as Jodi pulled the boiling teapot off the stove. “I was going to bring you up some tea and toast and then help you down those stairs,” Jodi said. “I moved very slowly. I just want to go to the doctor’s and then come home and crawl back to bed,” Caroline said. “We need to get started on that story, and I need to call my editor at AP, but I can do all that from bed.” “I started working on your notes, but I’m going to need your help,” Jodi said. “Dad and I think we should make up a bed for you downstairs so you’re not going up and down. Maybe just for a few days.” “I’d be fine on the couch in the den with some sheets on it. It’s big and cozy.” Caroline was drinking her tea when Simon burst through the kitchen door. “Are you still bleeding?” he asked without even giving either of them a proper greeting. “Hello, Simon. I think I’m all right, no cramping. I’m just sore all over like you used me as your punching bag last night.” “I guess my secret’s out,” he said, finally relaxing his face into his
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signature smile that spread across his face. “Let’s get you to the doctor’s office to see if we can figure out what’s going on with you and this baby that’s already making its presence known in this household.” Jodi stayed at the house while the two of them drove to the doctor’s office. She continued to work on the story, writing it from her perspective. Even some of the notes were starting to make sense as she recognized certain abbreviations. By the time Caroline and Simon returned, Jodi had written almost 500 words on her own. “What did the doctor say?” Jodi asked. “Caroline’s body is adjusting to a very significant occurrence made a little more difficult by her age,” her dad said. “He wants her to stay quiet for the next two weeks. That means no going up and down stairs. She needs to drink lots of water, eat healthy foods, and take an iron supplement. He said there’s no reason why she won’t have a normal pregnancy.” “This means I get to boss your dad around for the next two weeks while I lay on the couch eating grapes and crackers,” Caroline said as she settled on the couch in the den. “So everything’s fine? The baby’s all right?” Jodi asked. Until that moment, she hadn’t thought much about the baby as a real live entity. Suddenly, she wanted it to survive. “Everything’s fine except she’s in the older range for having a child, but she’s in excellent health,” Simon said. “She just needs to baby herself a little more than she was doing. The doctor thinks once we get her through this first trimester everything will settle down. They’re going to schedule amniocenteses in two weeks.” “What’s that?” Jodi asked. “It’s normal procedure for someone my age,” Caroline said. “My risk for carrying a child with a defect is increased so they’ll extract fluid from the womb to determine if there are any challenges for the baby.” “You mean like Down’s syndrome,” Jodi said. Jodi made up the couch in the den for Caroline. She also created a desk of sorts using the large coffee table in the center of the room. She pulled it to the head of Caroline’s new bed and on it, she’d placed Caroline’s laptop, reading glasses and some magazines along with the morning’s newspaper and the remote for the TV. “This is great,” Caroline said. “I’m going to be the laziest person
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on earth for the next two weeks.” “You’re going to be insufferable, aren’t you?” Simon said. “Only with you, when I order you up and down those stairs, starting now. Would you mind going up and getting me one of those nightgowns that come down below my knees?” “Sure, baby. Anything else?” “Sometime later you could make up a toiletry bag and bring it to the downstairs bathroom. I’ll probably take a shower later after a nice long nap.” “When do you want to go over the story?” Jodi asked. “Are you ready for me to read what you’ve written?” “I think so.” “Then print me out a copy. Your dad can help you with that while I change. Then I’ll read it and make any necessary changes, and we’ll go from there.” “Will you help me understand the changes? I want to know how to make it better.” “Sure. Some are newspaper things dealing with style. It’s just something you memorize. Other things are just standard for news reporting as opposed to writing a short story of fiction.” “I’ve taken a few journalism classes so I know that stuff, and I used the AP Stylebook – my first professor told me it was to be our Bible when filing stories.” “Good, then I’m sure you’ve done a fine job.” Jodi tried to stay calm while Caroline read. She walked around the backyard and looked at the garden. Finally, her father called her back inside where Caroline lay on the couch with the pages on her lap. “I’m impressed, Jodi, really impressed,” she said. “There are just a few minor things. And I need you to make a few calls and use more quotes from experts, but your lead is good – I just shortened it. The curse of the beginning writer is to use too many words. Brevity leads to clarity. Less is more in the creative nonfiction genre.” “You sound like my professor,” Jodi said. “I keep hearing horror stories about the kids coming out of college with journalism degrees who can’t write their way into a paper bag much less out of it. But that’s not going to be you. You are a first class writer already.”
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“Thank you. I tried to imitate your style. It would have been awful if you hated it.” “I have just a few comments and want you to call Kate and Dr. Kopler at NASA for more in-depth quotes. Kate won’t ask, but remember if Dr. Kopler asks to see the article before it’s printed politely refuse. Those government types tend to ask, and it’s just not done.” “Do you think I can reach them on a holiday weekend?” “Probably. I think they’re both working round the clock right now.” Caroline slept while Jodi worked on the article and made her calls. She inserted the quotes, printed out the revised copy, and set it on the table next to Caroline so she saw it when she woke. She felt like a real journalist for the first time. Jodi puttered around the kitchen trying to figure out something she could make for dinner when she heard Caroline call for her. “I see you worked on the lead some. That’s good. The quotes are perfect,” Caroline said. “I think after you make a few tiny adjustments, we’ll be ready to send it to my editor. We’ve got about an hour before deadline. Have you talked to Sam about the photographs?” “He’s sent them in already. They’re just waiting on you. Your editor called while you were napping, and I told him you were putting on the finishing touches.” “You didn’t tell him you were writing the story?” “I wouldn’t do that,” she said. “Go finish it, and bring me my cell phone. I’ll give him a call.” Jodi finished making the adjustments and emailed the article to Caroline from her laptop. “I just sent it to you,” Jodi said when she came back to the den. “What did your editor say?” “He’s fine with it, but I still have to put my name in the byline,” she said. “But he said I could add, ‘with Jodi McDermott.’ I hope that’s OK.” Jodi looked over her aunt’s shoulder as Caroline made the addition. Jodi’s eyes filled with tears as she stood there looking at the screen. “Thank you, Aunt Caroline. Thank you very much,” she said. She sat down on the chair next to the couch. “It’s amazing.” “It’s a great way to go back to school for next semester. I bet you’ll
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be the only journalism student with an Associated Press clip in her portfolio.” “Did you ever think about changing your name to McDermott?” Jodi asked. “When you married Dad and all.” “Sure, we talked about it, but I never changed it before, and it’s how I’m known. I didn’t really want to carry three names – Caroline Carlisle McDermott seemed too much. With the exception of your father, I can’t think of any other man’s name I’d like to carry than my own father’s.” “I’m glad you kept Carlisle – especially since there weren’t any males born in your generation to carry on the name. What about the baby?” “Good question. I guess Simon and I will need to discuss that.” “I’m sorry I’ve been a real shit lately,” Jodi said. “It’s hard. I think I’m handling everything all right and then something’s said, and I get all confused thinking about my mother.” “It’s all right, Jodi. You don’t need to apologize. Your dad and I are both trying our best not to upset you, but sometimes we both say things without thinking. I imagine we’ll keep on doing it, too.” She smiled. “Probably. And I’ll probably still act like a shit sometimes.” Caroline read the article one more time with Jodi looking over her shoulder. “It’s time to send it,” Caroline said. “Sometimes you just have to let go.” She attached it to an email and hit send. A few minutes later, Caroline’s cell phone rang. After Caroline finished talking, she turned to Jodi. “He likes it,” Caroline said. “He said you could be my assistant anytime you wanted. I agree.”

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Then she told me she’d decided to give him another try. “She practically wrote the article and now she’s making dinner. too. “I think your family’s coat of arms should be of a loggerhead.” 359 . I decided to return Holly’s calls. You’re the smartest and kindest woman I know and then in your own life. “But that’s why I get paid the big bucks for telling other folks what to do.” “What would you tell a patient who said the same thing?” “I’d tell her to dump the bastard.CHAPTER 72 Caroline While Jodi fixed dinner.” Holly said. and he’s being so sweet that I just decided I was a big girl.you decided to take Carl back even though he keeps doing these things that break your heart?” I asked.” “Carl is very sorry.” “What about you? Have you talked to Carl?” Holly didn’t say anything for a minute.” I said. and I could forgive him this one time. you keep doing these things that set you up for pain.” Holly said and then laughed. She’d returned to Miami after all.” “Want me to tell you? Dump the bastard. He’s contrite right now. but I give it two weeks. “It’s going well with Jodi. “So let me get this straight . “I don’t understand you sometimes. I assured her I was fine and enjoying a rest under doctor’s orders.” “All because of a few sea turtles.

and I knew I couldn’t judge my friend for wanting to have what I had.” Jodi looked at Simon who came over to her and hugged her. and I could hear them talking quietly before the door shut. “He seems like a good guy. ZICK My declaration was met with more silence from the other end.” “Thanks for helping with the story.” I said. Dad can grill them. “I’m glad Seth will be with you.P.” “Now? I thought you’d spend the night.” Jodi nodded her head. I’ve never had that. “I made a salad and there’s some tuna steaks marinating in the refrigerator. and I could hear Simon come in the back door. but I keep hoping. You always knew you loved him – it’s the reason your first two marriages failed. “It is very hot out there today. the hole remained. You did a very good job. “That’s easy for you to say. “This is the Fourth of July weekend. and only want what’s best for you. “You hungry?” Jodi asked.” she said.” “What are you volunteering me for now?” Simon asked as he came into the den wiping his hands on a towel.” Simon walked her to the door. “I thought Seth was going to come here?” “He’s going to meet me in Calico instead.” I said. Suddenly 360 . Caroline. However. “I love you. “Thanks.” I said. “Don’t give up hope.” I said.” Holly promised she’d call the next day. and Simon came back into the room. Jodi came into the den.” “You know you shouldn’t be out there this time of day. Dad.” “And I’m going to head back to Calico. Despite efforts by both of them and by me. I was with Simon now.” Simon said. Jodi.” Holly knew better than anyone that the years apart from Simon were some of the worst of my life. I married both Gus and Rich as a way to fill the hole created by Simon’s departure.” Jodi said. I’m done in the garden. “That’s the other thing I wanted to tell you. C. “That’s a good reason to stick around. It should be in the papers tomorrow. “Jodi said you can grill some tuna she’s marinating. You’ve always had Simon even when the two of you were apart.

I used to worry when we were apart that you didn’t feel anything at all.” I said.TRAILS IN THE SAND I remember the significance of the holiday to Jodi. The only reason I feel any guilt about that is because I know that she meant something to you and most of all to Jodi. So you forgot a tragic date. You’ve been through a lot. “What’s wrong with me?” “What’s right with you? I’d say just about everything. “I don’t know how I could have forgotten that it was the anniversary of my sister’s death.” “I feel empty when I think of Amy.” 361 . “At least you feel something.” Simon sat on the end of the couch near my feet and began massaging them.

Julie Kopler. hired by BP to supervise the release program at Cape Canaveral.” Scientists predict that upwards of 50. a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.” The eggs are being moved from the Panhandle beaches within a week or two of hatching to a facility on Cape Canaveral. Geiger heads up the entire nest relocation program.000 eggs will be transported across the state. BP is dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcome in a bad situation.CHAPTER 73 Associated Press . “We made the decision to move the nests after careful consideration by leading sea turtle biologists. “We couldn’t risk leaving all those eggs to hatch on beaches near the growing oil slick. In Florida.Sea turtles escorted to an oil-free ocean By Caroline Carlisle with Jodi McDermott The march of dozens of sea turtle hatchlings received an escort worthy of royalty on Friday evening. “Everyone involved is working toward one goal.” said Kate Geiger. and that is to help these sea turtles survive this disaster.” said Dr. “This gives them a fighting chance of survival. Weeks before the eggs were excavated from their original nests on the eastern portion of the Florida Panhandle and transported via FedEx trucks to the Atlantic coast. these threatened loggerhead turtles earned the unprecedented escort after emerging from their eggs in coolers stored in a facility at Cape Canaveral several days ago. Once the eggs are 362 .

” Geiger said. transported across the state.” 363 .TRAILS IN THE SAND removed from the nest. they are placed carefully in coolers with dampened sand from the nest. Scientists are concerned about disrupting the poorly understood mechanisms that guide a female sea turtle back to the beach where she hatched. At least now we’ve given them the chance to come back. It is possible these hatchlings would eventually return to Northwest Florida to nest. “This type of action is a last resort. it is also possible that releasing the hatchlings on the east coast of Florida will result in those turtles returning to the east coast or going to some other area to nest.” Geiger said. However. “We can only hope for the best no matter where these turtles come back to nest in approximately thirty years. “This is our best shot. and held under carefully monitored conditions until the hatchlings emerge from the eggs.

He cited a report released by a mining engineer who had been hired by Massey to investigate the accident. Massey Energy went first on July 23.” Blankenship said.” BP also funded an investigation and reported on July 24 that it had cleared their company of gross negligence in the Deepwater Horizon explosion. This Massey-authorized report blamed the natural release of methane gas in the mine prior to the explosion as the culprit. In both cases. “The main thing is that the laws of physics pay no attention to the laws of politicians. the oil continued to gush from the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. Their versions of the truth pointed fingers away from their own culpability in the fatal explosions. BP and Massey countered with their own versions of the truth in each of the April disasters. Reports out of West Virginia placed blame on Massey supervisors for disregarding safety measures prior to the Upper Big Branch mine explosion. Blankenship told the gathering of reporters that no preparation or federal regulation would have prevented the explosion.C. “We didn’t expect a large inundation of gas that it appears that we had. The Guardian reported. D.CHAPTER 74 News Report on Deepwater Horizon and Upper Big Branch mine – July 2010 As July progressed. “The company believes evidence will emerge of the role that other oil companies and contractors on the project 364 . when CEO Don Blankenship addressed the National Press Club in Washington.

S. 365 .” BP said they were determined to fight claims of gross negligence.TRAILS IN THE SAND had in causing the worst environmental disaster in U. None of the investigations mentioned the forty men whose lives were lost during these so-called blameless events. They also failed to mention the families left behind still struggling with their loss and the wildlife fighting for their lives in oil-filled waters. history.

because its words and the truth lying between those pages startled me. as George instructed. I read a few pages at a time. I knew it was time for me to wear the hat. My disgust grew each day by all the reports. March 1990 “What do you really want to do?” Holly asked me after she came to my house in the Everglades twenty years before. which continued on the Panhandle as the scientists monitored the waters to determine when it would be safe for the sea turtles to hatch right where they’d been laid. One day in late July. and I gave her the news from the doctor. I listened to the news and read the papers. I was weary with the responsibility heaped on the floor in front of me as I stared at the journal. “What do I really want to do? I want to drive to Calico and kidnap 366 . I closed the journal. I returned to the boxes of journals and discovered one journal hidden under Alex’s books. I stayed close to my couch. Momma and Amy were gone. but I was still here and so was Jodi. Kate and I spoke occasionally so I could keep track of the nest relocation project.CHAPTER 75 Caroline For most of July. My mother began writing it a few weeks before Alex died. The events that unfolded over the next year acted as a muzzle to her muse. It startled me to realize Momma and I had lived parallel lives of a sort. I found it hard to believe my mother could write something so raw and honest.

I know.” “I want to have this baby.TRAILS IN THE SAND Simon and haul him back here.” “Who? Don’t look at me. and then we’d have to figure out how to explain the baby without giving away our secret. He’d told Holly he was going out for a bottle of champagne to celebrate their one-month anniversary. everything stripped from it. The car was found abandoned outside a cheap motel in the desert. “I think I need a life-support system for my personal life.” “You can’t be serious. “Maybe I should give the baby to Simon and Amy. but come on.” “Yet you think it might solve the problem. She’d even given him her credit card to buy it. and Simon would have someone to love. He’s good looking and all that. Besides Simon would have to agree.” Holly said. I want someone else to raise it.” It’s true.” “That woman happens to be my sister. “I’m a failure at everything but my work. her latest boyfriend – and the reason she’d moved back to Florida from Texas – stole her car to run away with a stripper. It’s crazy to think about. You don’t even bond together against your mother like normal sisters would under the circumstances. but let’s save that for Plan Z. By the time she figured he wasn’t coming back. “That way Amy would stop torturing herself.” “I sure wish I knew what it is about Simon.” I said. I can’t even maintain a relationship long enough to get married.” “Coincidences of birth – you and Amy never had a relationship.” 367 . he’d charged $500 worth of food and gasoline.” Now I was reaching out to her for a lifeline to rescue me. but no champagne. don’t you?” Holly said. He left you here to go back to a woman he doesn’t love.” “Just something that keeps coming into my head. At that time. Do you want to have this baby?” “I can’t destroy something created by Simon and me. and I could tell from just those few short minutes there’s something between you two.” “OK. “It’s one option – not yet Plan A or even B. “That sounds like a sure recipe for your destruction. that’s one option.” she said when she decided to come home.

I’ll be down there tonight. and I knew my mother was anything but stupid. I knew because I felt a secret exhilaration myself to think about what was growing inside me. I’ll tell Amy it’s over.” “Good. are you?” Holly asked. It’s too soon to tell. A month after Holly and I talked about my choices for the 368 . I already had a feeling this thing growing inside of me was a female. “Got to get back on that horse and drive the train. I’ve only known about this for a few hours.P. “Caro. now it just annoyed the hell out of me. “Of course not. I was certain Simon would be the insurance for a normal life for our child – even more than me. A part of him would be ecstatic. I don’t go back all that often now. even with Amy and Momma as the main female role models. especially when you’re harboring the most dreadful of happy thoughts. Would you be able to pull that off?” “I don’t know.” “You’ll never be able to claim your place in the baby’s life except as a loving and doting aunt. How did I just pick up the phone and tell Simon he was about to be a Daddy. would say. However. I don’t have to ever go back there. Sometimes having a best friend was a distinct disadvantage. Maybe it was a chance for a normal woman in our family. ZICK “He could say he donated to a sperm bank just in case Amy agreed to a surrogate mother?” “In a way that’s the truth.” Holly said. C. It made her sound so stupid. there was another secret part of me that hoped Simon. He donated sperm to create our baby. We’ll figure this out together. It used to make me laugh. It made me feel like drawing hearts and sewing frilly baby dresses. not by his wife but by me.” I lied. I questioned whether Amy would be able to raise a child.” “You’re not thinking this might make him leave her. “That would be a disaster. upon hearing the news. glad to hear it. Momma called me soon afterwards with reports on Amy’s recovery as they tried to get pregnant again. I don’t want him coming back because I’m pregnant. “That’s the only cure for a miscarriage.” I never bothered to correct Momma’s mixed metaphors anymore.” “When do you tell Simon?” I didn’t have the answer to that question.” Momma said. but I could tell by the way she continued to eye me that she didn’t believe me for a minute.

“Amy was hospitalized with complications from the last miscarriage. I closed my eyes and wondered where to begin with healing the past and restoring the future. “I suppose. I dialed the number for Simon’s office and waited for his secretary to summon him to the phone. After I hung up.TRAILS IN THE SAND pregnancy. “Hello. It’s all so sad. As I would do with any story I was covering. I’m never going to be a grandmother. Too many secrets. They have been so happy since Simon returned. Caroline. but I could do something about my family.” “Do you think they’d consider adopting?” I asked. this is Caroline Carlisle. I still hadn’t made a decision one way or another. “The doctor said she can’t have children. lies. but I let Momma have her fantasies. When I finished reading. Right now. Amy is devastated with the news and so is Simon.” she said. Is George available?” 369 . I picked up the phone. I couldn’t do much about the oil still blasting into the Gulf waters and oiling everything in its path.” I didn’t believe that. I called the source closest to the answers. and hurt needed to be resolved before we could ever hope for healing. I picked up the last journal of Momma’s life from the floor and turned it over in my hands. Momma called again.

And then. Then abruptly he was gone. The moon was rising behind him providing plenty of light for him to see my naked body. he leaned down and starting kissing me so hard and pressing me to him. I opened my eyes and my father stood over me. He grabbed my arms.CHAPTER 76 Journal of Gladys Stokley. I know he’s just as defective as I am. too. trying to tell everyone that tablecloth came from England. and I thought for a moment that he was going to hit me. Alex was in the corner of the gazebo crying. I wanted him to stop. Then he knelt down next to me still shaking with anger. Alex was staring at me. Our name isn’t even Stokley. What does it matter what he does now? He hates me. “You’re a whore. Luckily. Then it turned ugly and dirty. George escaped before it came to that. You have an evil gene and look what you’ve done to our family now. .1956 I hate him. just like everything in my life. and I began kissing him back. I still sat on the floor trying to cover my breasts. I always knew you were a whore. and I hate him. and there was a horrible growling noise. He said such awful things. I know the truth. so how could his mother have stitched an “S” in the center after she died? He bought it at Woolworth’s before he left Pittsburgh to give him some type of legitimacy. It was so sweet and tender with George last night. Now that I’ve read his journals. I’d never seen him so angry. . Alex was so angry when he found George and me on the floor of the gazebo that way. He’s also a phony.” 370 . You’re no better than the man who sired me. I hated it and then. But then. I’m going to make sure he knows I know everything. I thought he was going to kill George. He began slapping my face repeatedly. After George left. He took one hand and began caressing my naked breast. I didn’t hate it.

TRAILS IN THE SAND He helped Alex to his feet and the two of them walked back to the house. leaving me on the floor naked to the world. It’s nothing more than what I deserved. I tasted blood on my lips and sucked on it gratefully. 371 .

I couldn’t wait to call.” Simon said.” Susan said when she called Simon. Simon. Can’t help it. “It’s been up and down.” Simon didn’t say anything. but it’s been a busy summer with the boys home from school. “Both Caroline and I have.CHAPTER 77 Simon “Congratulations.” “How’s Jodi taking the news?” she asked. Even Simon’s parents didn’t know. “I remember thinking Jason was very brave to be a father again at the age of fifty. Jason was the only person he’d ever confided in about what happened twenty years ago and how Jodi came into their lives.” “You been doing the numbers thing?” she asked. “Simon? Are you still there? I’d never say a word to anyone. “I know about Jodi.” “How’s Caroline?” “She’s having a rough time. She’s been lying on the couch reading and writing and generally driving me crazy.” “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this.” “Thanks. but nothing serious. but I thought it might help if you knew you had someone to talk to about it. but Jason told me everything. “I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch.” Susan said. We’ve had a few weeks of truce. When I heard about the baby. Guess I shouldn’t have teased him quite so much.” 372 . Her doctor ordered her to take it easy for the rest of July. I think working with Caroline on the story about the sea turtles helped.

I’ve never talked to anyone except Jason or Caroline about it. “I’m stronger every day. “Momma’s journals brought me to this epiphany.TRAILS IN THE SAND “Sorry.” Simon said. “I speak my mind more often than not.” Caroline said. “You’re always welcome to come. The only time she let it out was when she slung her arrows and bullets at me. We all do the same thing. Simon. I know the boys would enjoy it. I need to get up 373 . “You think we’re hiding.” Susan said. Then Simon asked her to visit them in Florida. and I’m tired of lying on the couch. I’d never make a good potato.” He assured her he would think about what she said.” she said. “Today I read the final journal of Momma’s.” “Did you find anything interesting?” Simon asked. then maybe I can think about a vacation. He thought a vacation away from West Virginia might be good for both her and the boys. I certainly did it with Momma so I couldn’t be hurt whenever her hatred toward me surfaced. Amy and her anorexia. Gladys and her secrets. These days I’m not so sure of anything.” “Jodi might surprise you. I’ve changed my perspective on things. “I found out that Momma kept an awful lot of hurt hidden behind a steel shield.” Susan said.” When Simon came home from work that night. too?” Simon asked. Don’t squander any of it. Jodi in her denial about her drinking and her feelings. and I realize how important and precious life is.” “Ever thought about telling Jodi?” “Of course. “She made certain nothing came back to penetrate her self-imposed shield.” she said. “How are you feeling today?” he asked when he came from behind to give her a kiss on the neck. “We’ve kept it secret for so long. he found Caroline in the kitchen making dinner. but then I decide it’s better she doesn’t know. “Ever since Jason died. “It might be good to get away for a little while. They’d all been hiding: Caroline and Simon with the past. “I’ll be glad to get that over. We’ve got plenty of room.” she said.” “I give my deposition next week in the lawsuit.” Simon thought about what Susan said.

” Caroline said.” Caroline said. but she wouldn’t say anything more about it. and I asked him to meet us on the island. I believe she only responded to Alex because she was so desperate to be loved.” Caroline said. “Did she mention any of this to you when she started confiding in you?” Caroline asked. “I didn’t suggest he leave Janet home. ZICK off the couch and fight for my family – past. “I know something happened between her and Alex that she was deeply ashamed of. “He said I didn’t know all the reasons why she acted that way. we don’t need to tell everything we know.” “It’s what my father told me about Momma. I’d understand better.” “That’s good. present. but if I did. C.” “What did he say?” Paul told Caroline that he’d wanted to call her several times to apologize. Then she told Simon what she’d discovered between the pages of the old journal. even though I hoped he would. “I’ve asked Paul to come as well.” Caroline said. but Janet decided to stay home.” Simon said. but he wasn’t sure if she would speak to him. “We all have our reasons – known and unknown to ourselves and the world – that cause us to act and react to life’s surprises.” Simon said.” “What did you tell Paul about the journals?” “I told him I might have discovered something about his birth parents.” He started to tell Caroline about the conversation with Susan. “What do you plan to do now?” “I want to talk to George in person so that requires a trip back to St. Momma was so ashamed of herself that it permeated everything she did after that point. “He just called me back and agreed to meet us there. “I didn’t start to understand until now. “He said he was ashamed he didn’t tell Janet to shut up. but he was numb with everything we discussed that night. “Some things are best kept quiet. “I don’t think anyone needs to know everything about what’s in those journals.” “Isn’t that really true of everyone?” Simon asked.” “I agree. but she had more surprises for him first.” Caroline said. George Island.P.” she said. 374 .” Caroline said. future.

or the environment. and Caroline was butting in where she didn’t belong. When she stayed with them to write the story. “Thanks for checking up on her. “I want to make things better for our baby.” “She’s not always alone.” Gary said the last time he called me. Simon.” she said. Simon’s conversations with Gary threatened to veer into places he’d rather not go.” Gary said. “I’ve been wondering the same thing. It’s time. It was a frustrating conversation because she told Simon he was imagining things. “That boyfriend Seth is there sometimes. but he decided to try. “Should we invite her to St.TRAILS IN THE SAND “I’m starting to think we should talk to Jodi about everything.” “There could be worse ways for her to spend her time. they had lots in common. He doesn’t need to inherit our past.” As always.” “I like Seth. just as he tried talking to her about her drinking at Cape Canaveral several weeks before. religion.” Simon said. “She’s worried about the paint fumes and the environment. A couple of times she’d called to ask her father’s advice about some routine maintenance. Caroline and I worry about her living there all alone. Gary kept him posted on what she was doing. she said. He’s a good kid. Next thing I know she’ll be writing those climate change articles even though last winter was the coldest one we’ve had in fifty years. George as well and make it one big truth telling mission?” “Call her and ask. He seems all right except for that hybrid gas-hating car he drives. Simon dropped the subject but decided he would keep a close watch on things. Simon didn’t see any evidence of drinking so he hoped Caroline overreacted because of her changing hormones. If they stayed on the family stuff and didn’t talk about politics. She was working on the house.” Simon said.” Simon wasn’t certain Jodi would agree to come with them. He called her every other day. He tried to stop by a couple of times a week. 375 . “You and Amy raised a damn tree hugger.” Caroline said.

We should be able to find some time alone on the island.” Jodi decided to drive on her own so she could leave on her own if she needed to. and Paul Montgomery is going to join us as well. If you don’t want to ride with us.” Jodi said.” Jodi’s dad said when he called. Caroline and I would like you to go to St.” Jodi said. George Compton is going to put us up at his house. But I want to tell you when we’re face-to-face and alone. “How can I refuse? I want to talk to you. We thought the weekend with everyone on the island might provide the answers. too. George Island with us this weekend. and it opened up a lot of questions. “It’s very important to all of us. Jodi drove across the bridge connecting the mainland to the island.” “Fair enough. “Things have changed. As painful as it was for Jodi to read her mother’s most secret thoughts. please consider driving over there on your own.CHAPTER 78 Jodi “Jodi.” “Sounds mysterious. She planned to tell Simon about Auburn. “Caroline found another journal of your grandmother’s.” “Paul? I thought Caroline never wanted to see him again. She also decided it was time to show them the journal Amy wrote and hid in her underwear drawer. she also knew Caroline wasn’t to blame for everything that happened in the family. 376 . And he’s coming alone.” Simon said.

just outside the gates of the Plantation. His family must have resisted the enticements of lucrative cash offered by developers when the concept of a gated community marched across the newly constructed bridge in the late ‘60s. she noticed a car that looked like Holly’s in the parking lot. 377 . When Jodi went by Harry A’s. It greeted Jodi as she pulled into the driveway behind her dad’s car. she thought as she drove by. The laughing gulls gathered on the stones near the road and flapped their wings in indignation as she drove past.TRAILS IN THE SAND carefully following the speed limits and cautions about the birds. Probably a coincidence. the only subdivision on the island. His two-story Cracker-style home on seven-foot posts settled on the dunes with wide porches and a widow’s walk at the top. Caroline emailed her directions to George’s home that sat on the west end of the island.

“Is Holly here yet?” Simon asked. “What?” I asked. I took all his presents and stuff out to the curb. “I deserve to be loved starting with me.” I nodded.” she said when she called to tell me she would come to St. I trashed all his texts and e-mails and blocked him from contacting me. Being with Carl does nothing but make me hate myself for letting him treat me so poorly.” “That’s good. “I erased his name from speed dial and my list of contacts. my friend finally came to her own realizations after she heard my story and my plans for restoration and healing of the family. just as my father treated me. The previous week. We’re going to need her today. I was ready. Holly always left a way for them to 378 . George Island. “I woke up this morning and realized something about myself – something you’ve been trying to tell me for almost thirty years. attempting to find the strength to go forward with the decisions we made. I looked at my phone just as Holly sent me a text. We held hands and looked at one another. I’m finished with it. “She says she and Sam are at Harry A’s waiting for us to call. I deserve to love myself and to be loved by others.” I was amazed at what I heard.” she said. but I was glad Holly was nearby.CHAPTER 79 Caroline Simon and I sat in the car in George’s driveway for a few minutes. “So I’m done with it.

I come down here.” his assistant asked.” George said.” I said as we settled on the couches. I could see the kitchen on the other side of the open first floor. “That’s why I have all windows here so we can sit and enjoy the view. and he didn’t deserve how I treated him. my assistant.TRAILS IN THE SAND return. Stairs at the back led up to the second story. “He’s a good person. “And I’m going to call Sam tonight and apologize for my behavior. George. Once she gets us settled. When I need a break. and I saw George on the landing at the top. “It’s too hot to sit outside on the porch. “Where do you write?” “Upstairs.” I said as I reached for Simon’s hand.” He gestured around the room with both hands. “George.” I said as I hugged my friend when we made it to the top.” We walked up the stairs. “Are you getting all sentimental on me.” Worn hardwood floors with braided throw rugs in reds and blues welcomed us to the beach home. “Simon. “Very comfortable place. “I hope Holly and Sam and everyone else in the world know what it’s like to have someone like you in their life. this is my husband Simon. I hadn’t seen her in the kitchen when we came in but now she walked from that area.” George said. She never ended relationships.” she said. this is George Compton. Holly called the next day and said Sam was driving with her to St. “This is Maggie. 379 . and George led us inside. He might not understand the significance of Holly’s gesture. George Island. “Would you like something to drink. A ceiling fan whirred overhead in the open area above the living room. “I’ve heard hormones can turn the biggest of cynics into a romantic. she’s going back to work. baby?” Simon asked. Comfortable couches formed a semi circle in front of the wall of windows. She has an office upstairs. I’m distracted by the beach so I’m at the back of the house and keep the curtains pulled most of the time while I’m writing. It was not an idle apology – Holly had difficulty facing her own shortcomings.” I hoped Sam would listen and accept the apology.” The two men shook hands.

He sighed deeply as Simon escorted Jodi into the house.” Maggie said after she’d delivered our water bottles. I decided to give an overview. “Just call on the intercom if you need anything else. It’s not easy after all these years. ZICK Simon and I both asked for water.” George began hanging around the Stokley home. just like I told you the other day on the phone.” George said. and George became a trio most of the time.” George looked out at the water.” “It’s not easy to begin. A car door slammed below the house. “Why don’t you start at the beginning of that summer before Alex drowned. 380 .” “Good. “The Stokleys arrived as usual by early June as soon as school let out. Nice meeting you both. He wiped his hands across his face. “I’ll go show her the way. You know who started the fire. I just want the truth.” I said. “But what have I got to lose?” “I’ve read Momma’s journals. “Is Jodi going to join us?” “We hope so. Caroline. finally. George. But I’d like to start by asking you a few things first. and I grabbed Simon’s hand. I’ll have to use that sometime. good.” George said. “Shall I start like all good novels start?” I asked. but I’ve asked George to tell us what he knows. George continued to stare out at the ocean pushing its way onshore. Your mother left the previous September a girl and came back very much changed into a beautiful woman. Gladdy.” “I’m not here to condemn you.” George said. “I’ve never told a soul.” I said. “OK.P. He was with my mother the night the house burned down. and then he took a deep breath. Momma’s journal shed some light on the mystery of that night. George. C. not even my wife.” “I’ll try. sounds ominous.” I said. “Jodi. She turned and walked up the stairs. “Jodi. Alex. “You’re probably wondering why I asked you all here today. don’t you?” George looked out at the water. I think I told you George knew the Stokley family.” Simon said.

” George didn’t say it. George? How did she get over to the island?” I asked. but when he saw the naked lovers he screamed Gladdy’s name and pulled George up from the floor. As the waves beat on the beach below. “I told you the story I told everyone over the years whenever I was asked about the fire. Momma felt the same way. Gladdy didn’t either. Stokley just wanted to assume the worst thing possible. we were. “Gladys told me her father walked up and found Gladys on the floor crying and naked and took in the scene. George was having difficulty telling us the details. He assumed Alex and Gladdy had done something and no amount of denying it by either of them convinced him otherwise. but I could tell from his expression. George took the family boat to the mainland and drove to pick up 381 . From what I read in the journals. “I guess Dr. I held her as we contemplated what we would write next. they began to kiss. “Your mother called me from Tallahassee where she’d been sent after Alex died. so I helped him through it. Alex walked into the sea. hitting him in the mouth. They began to devise ways to sneak away to be alone without Alex. correct?” “Yes. and Arthur came out to inspect.” he said. The commotion stirred the house of Stokley. and we were very much in love. Alex pushed George down the steps of the gazebo. we lay on the floor of the gazebo. but Alex was becoming suspicious and usually found them whenever they’d managed to sneak off.” “What happened when Momma came back.TRAILS IN THE SAND “But Alex would go off exploring. And then two days later. still naked.” Neither one of them heard Alex approaching. “You and Momma were intimate. he fell in love with my mother while they wrote. One night Gladdy snuck out of the house and met George at the gazebo. George reached through the railing and grabbed his shorts and ran down the beach.” “So the story you told me a few months ago about finding Momma on the beach was a fabrication. Afterwards. Even as mad as Alex was at me. he wasn’t about to hand me over to his father. and Gladdy and I would stay on the beach or in the family’s gazebo writing our story.” I said.

George Island where they sat on the beach every night waiting for the hatchlings. but she’d run out before he saw her. Then she’d send me her address so I could mail them to her. George. “I always thought so. Because he was so revered here.” “That’s preposterous. “She mentioned sneaking them out of the house.” “That’s all right.” “She told me while we waited at the police station that she’d taken something very important from the house. “Gladdy was so overcome with guilt and grief at Alex’s death. and she said her father had come there just before dinner. until now. and he believed Momma and Alex 382 . we never did anything again. “I found this out after I was here the last time. but I didn’t know about you and Momma. I saw someone up at the house. Alex was her brother.” “What about the fire?” “They must have been looking for Gladdy once she ran away.” George said. We were in love. and no one came. and it was going to make her father furious if he ever found out.” “What about Paul?” Jodi asked. I’m sorry. but he was possessive. They came back to St. I read them before I sent them to her in Tallahassee. ZICK Gladdy. I guess they decided not to smell what I smelled on his clothes. “They were close. “There’s something we need to tell you.” “Do you know about Dr. no one ever questioned him.” “Alex was adopted. It was buried just like my secret.P. Her father knew of course. I asked Gladdy about it. As we sat on the beach that night. but Momma didn’t know that until she was much older. Caroline. and soon the flames from the fire lit up the beach. But the tragedy and our previous feelings for one another allowed us to be solid friends for one another during that time. “Arthur started the fire?” Simon asked. He reeked of gasoline when he came into the police station. C. but we were there almost a week.” Then the hatchlings came out of the nest. Stokley’s journals?” I asked. but I never told anyone. Everyone always thought Alex and Momma did something inappropriate for a brother and a sister. George. I’d have done the same thing. She pulled four journals out of a bag and asked me to hold them for her until she knew where she was being sent. but anyone who really knew your mother would know she would never do anything like that.” I said.

“Would you like a drink?” George shook his head and continued to stare at Caroline. it was a little difficult for everyone to accept that Alex and Gladdy might have entered into an incestuous relationship. “My son?” George asked. “I hope so. “I’m a little overcome.” “Gladdy had a baby? When?” “April 21. “We believe Paul Montgomery is probably your son based on what you just told us.” George said. “It just confirms everything I’ve ever thought about him. I worried how the news would affect George. “I can’t believe it. What’s Paul like?” “He’s a good man. and I met him a few weeks ago. Are you ready to wear the hat of father?” 383 . “His name is Paul. “Where is he?” “He’s on his way.” “There’s more. nine months after you were with her. I looked over at Simon. I haven’t told him about you. I assumed Alex was the father.” George said. unsure what to say next to George who seemed confused by the facts I’d laid out for him. but I asked him to come because I was pretty sure you and Momma conceived a child that summer based on the things Momma wrote. Even though they weren’t related by blood. and he didn’t tell her.” Simon said.” George said. Simon nodded his head toward George.” George said. I think he’ll be relieved to know you’re his father and not Alex. “Gladdy had a baby?” “That’s right.TRAILS IN THE SAND slept together.” “I hope a good surprise. and I looked at Simon once again. but until I read Momma’s last journal. “It’s all such a surprise.” Tears began streaming down George’s face. too.” I said.” I said as gently as I could. “How about a drink?” Simon asked. and he covered his face with his hands. Momma gave birth to a son in 1957.” I decided to keep silent about the kiss Alex and Momma exchanged after George ran off.” I said. George.” I said. and I moved over to the couch to sit next to the crying man. I found out after I left here the last time. 1957. He began sobbing. “What a first-class bastard. and he dropped his head to my shoulder. “I don’t understand. I put my arm around his back.

“We’ll find a shady spot. waiting for someone to continue the story. there’s another reason we invited you to join us today. C.” I said.” Jodi didn’t bolt as I thought she might. “I was adopted. The four of us sat in the living room lost in our own thoughts for a few minutes. She looked from Holly to Simon. but I knew as soon as the doctor told me that I 384 .” Simon cleared his throat. “Caroline sent me on my way. “Maybe we’ll go out on the porch. I looked at Simon.” Simon said. When he got to the part about Holly showing up to announce Amy’s miscarriage. “So I won’t be related at all. we could hear Holly climbing the stairs to the porch. “Simon and I are expecting a baby. I discovered I was pregnant.” That made George smile for the first time. “But first I’m going to call Holly. “You’re just in time.” “I don’t know why I need to hear this.” Simon said as I summoned Holly to the house. if you’ll listen. “And you’ll have a sibling. ZICK George didn’t answer me.” he said. “Caroline and I would like to talk to you about your adoption. “Holly was the first person I told. remember?” she said.” Simon said. I wondered how to proceed. “The point is we’ve kept something very important from you all these years.” he said to Jodi. She went with us to the porch as Simon began telling the story of his visit to the Everglades all those years ago. “We were telling Jodi about the first time you and I met in the Everglades. “I came back to Calico. and he seemed equally unsure. I’d like her to join us over here.” I finally said. and we all looked at him. “Do you want to be alone?” George asked. “Now that’s good news.” I said. “Jodi. “I have more news.” “And ten weeks later.” “So that was Holly’s car I saw at Harry A’s?” Jodi asked. Caroline nodded as she reached for her cell phone. Now that this part was over.” Simon said.” Jodi said as she sat with her hands underneath her thighs as if she was willing herself to stay seated.P.” “What’s the point?” Jodi asked.

“And then Momma called.” “Jodi. Her eyes remained shut as she absorbed the news. Simon and Amy were thinking about adopting a baby. Two days after I gave birth. I’ve known Caroline for many years. I sat back in my chair and finally breathed. “I heard Momma tell GG once that you were no more than a common whore. willing her to accept the news. it was the hardest thing I ever had to do. “But I don’t get how a mother could just turn over her baby like that. especially to someone you hated. but then I defy anyone 385 .” I said.” Jodi stared at the floor. I told her about the plan that kept formulating in my mind about turning the child over to Simon and Amy.” Jodi said. I certainly hope you’ll find time in your very busy schedule to come home and meet your new niece.” The plan became a real thing. I’m not sure if that was the wisest thing or not because I fell in love with you. Daddy drove the new baby back to Calico.” I said. “She told me the doctor told Amy another pregnancy would probably kill her.” I said. Holly drove the baby girl to Orlando where she met my father at a rest stop on the turnpike. “She said she couldn’t believe you both shared the same genes. “If you’re waiting for me to make some big emotional scene. “Your father and Simon managed all the details. “It was a private adoption.” “It wasn’t easy. but it doesn’t make me a monster either. You also knew how sick my real mother was. as she continued sitting on her hands. “She’s suffered over this whole thing. and I took that as a sign that my idea might work. I also knew I would be a rotten single mother. The next day I called your father and gave him the news. refusing to look at me.” Jodi said.” When I finished talking. don’t worry. “In fact. I stared at Jodi. Only Holly.” “So that makes you a hero?” Jodi asked finally lifting her eyes to look at me. and this afternoon Jodi McDermott joined our family. She’s not perfect.” Momma told me. “No. keeping to the briefest of details. Simon.TRAILS IN THE SAND couldn’t destroy the baby growing inside of me. I kept you for two days after the birth.” Holly said. She crossed her arms over her chest and raised her face to the ceiling. and my father knew.

but we want nothing more in the world than for you to be a part of our family.” “We know it’s all going to take time. she seemed to understand. that will never change. “We love you very much and no matter what you do now.” Jodi said.” “GG never knew?” “Not until right before she died. Can I help?” George asked. Did she tell you she gave birth to me down in the Everglades? What a joke.” Simon said. “Jodi. C. “She and I talked about it. Jodi?” “That’s right. Aunt Caroline. 386 .” Simon said.P.” Holly said.” “Caroline?” George looked at me.” I said. and I heard two car doors shut before the engine started and Jodi’s car pulled out of the driveway.” “GG went through the same thing. It took her a long time to do that and believe me there was pressure on her to come back and be a part of the family. “I’m sorry to interrupt. I really don’t think I can take anymore truth telling today.” Jodi said. “We were able to keep you in the family. nothing has really changed. except she never knew where her baby went. but she never told Amy. After her initial reaction.” I said.” “How about flunking out of college?” Jodi said. Can you say that you’re sorry they made that decision? Have you really had such a horrible life?” “It was the best solution at the time. or should I say Mommy Dearest?” George appeared on the porch. “Once I met you it was easier because I knew I’d made the right decision. Holly followed her down the stairs. “Will that change your mind about me? How’s that for taking care of everything.” “I never came home until Daddy died. It was hardest on Caroline although she knew she was always welcome to come back here to see you anytime she wished – as your aunt. but you all looked so serious. It’s all Caroline’s fault. “Did I hear you say you flunked out of college. “Simon and Caroline are married and now you know the new baby is your full sibling.” Simon said. We all make choices – Caroline and Simon made one they thought was the best at the time. ZICK sitting here on this porch or anywhere on this island to make the claim they are. “I’m leaving. I came out. “Holly will make sure she’s all right.

I’m at Harry A’s with Jodi.” I said. “Just point me in the direction. I’m getting used to the idea of having a son. “I’m not exactly sure what my hat will be. She agreed to sit with me out on the patio and talk. They have CNN on in the bar. They’re not sure there are any survivors. “We must all wear the hat now. She had to grow up very quickly. Why did love have to be so complicated? If it was truly the only thing that mattered. Paul’s here. are you ready to meet Paul?” “Paul Montgomery?” George asked.” “At least they’re close to shutting off the oil in the Gulf. I wondered why it didn’t just flow easily. You must not be afraid. “This year has turned out to be quite a year so far.” When we arrived at Harry A’s. As we were finishing up. All three of us were about to enter into unknown territory.” Simon said when I told him about the miners. with Sam. “That would be him. “She was always the perfect child. too.” I said.” “Let her find her own hat. “Do you want me to send him over there? “Let me ask. “Are you ready to meet him?” “I’ve been ready my whole life.” I said. “Caroline. “I can’t believe she flunked out of school. and tell Paul and Sam to make way at the bar.” George said. “George. “That’s right.” George said as we continued to sit there watching the sunlight play on the water of the bay.” Simon said. Just love her and let her find her way.” George said as he walked inside and grabbed a black fedora from a hook next to the door. You two must now be parents – real parents. you mean?” I asked. you know.” “And so it continues. I’m all set. He placed it on his head and came back outside.TRAILS IN THE SAND Simon and I told George our story as briefly as possible. She will. and we still have four months to go. but I’m ready to own up to whatever I need to.” Holly said.” I told Holly when I went back to my phone. and they’re announcing that thirty-three miners are trapped in a mine in Chile. “I heard this morning that the latest tests are showing positive results. Is it a full moon or something?” “Must be. Holly called. we sat in the car for a few minutes.” “We’re coming down there.” 387 . “You two stay on the patio.

but I must say something. Who said a college degree is her only option? Or maybe it’s just not her option right now. Give it time.” Simon and I turned toward one another in the front seat. “No one is perfect except in the way they are at any given moment. 388 .P. I’ve just met you.” George said. ZICK “Simon. and we both smiled. She may need to grow accustomed to all the changes first. “Where have I heard that before?” I asked. C.

I need to make a call. “We could go into Harry A’s first.CHAPTER 80 Holly Jodi and Holly drove in silence after leaving George’s house.” Holly said.” “Where are Caroline and Simon?” Paul asked. “You boys enjoy your game. “Jodi and I are going to sit outside for a little bit. Sam and Paul were playing pool when they came through the door. Care to join us?” Sam asked as Paul came over to say hello. “Maybe we could talk about everything that just happened. “Are you going all the way back to Calico with me?” Jodi asked as we approached the downtown area. especially since they both knew Caroline was her best friend.” Holly said. “The author?” Paul asked. and she knew waiting for Jodi to speak would yield the best results.” Jodi pulled in front of the bar and got out of the car. I’ll join you in a minute. “They’ll be here in a few minutes with George Compton. “Hello. I’m a good listener. 389 . ladies. “We’re going out back. “Jodi.” Holly said.” Holly told the men after she called Caroline.” Jodi headed for the back door that led to a patio. Holly knew it wouldn’t be easy. Holly was used to that in her business.

she hardly seemed suicidal. “Who knows what anyone’s motives are?” Holly asked. He’s lived here all his life and evidently knew Gladys and all the Stokleys.” “I don’t know what you want from me. “I’ve learned one thing during my life. “He’s a great guy.” Sam said.” “Do you think GG killed herself?” Jodi asked. too. “You’ll like him. “We’ll never know. Holly thought about it. I won’t even go into the right and wrong of a mother saying something like that about a daughter.” Jodi said.” Holly finally said. I can’t say Amy is wrong for saying that about her sister.” Holly said.” “I’m having a hard time believing that’s true. C. You didn’t want to leave Caroline. I haven’t been any one of you.” “I don’t want anything from you. and she didn’t want to turn you over.P. “Maybe she just wanted to stop thinking about it. I think she was more interested in her career than anything else. She was sending a text message but stopped when Holly appeared. “There’s nothing to say. “Go ahead and finish. We are unable to judge other people unless we’ve walked their very same path. I’m here as a friend. I know I’m Caroline’s friend. but I care about you. I was there when you were born.” Holly said. ZICK “That would be him. At least she was talking to her. She knew nothing was further from the truth. And I can’t judge you now for your reaction.” Holly made her way to the patio where she found Jodi sitting at a table under a palm tree.” 390 . but any defense of Caroline right now would probably turn Jodi away. “I can wait. the more I understand why she treated Caroline the way she did. But she was convinced it was the right thing to do at the time. Then there was all the crying you did on the drive to meet your grandfather.” Holly thought about a response. But did she want to stop the pain she felt every time she thought about the child she gave away? Probably.” “I cried?” “You sure did. From what she knew of Gladys Carlisle. but the more I learn about Gladys. Just like Momma and GG used to say.

Holly ordered a lemonade and Jodi followed suit. “But I don’t want to go against my mother. again giving Jodi the time she needed to think about what she’d said. and I’ll call Caroline to let her know everything’s all right. I really do. “I’m going to be a big sister. that’s not making you happy. Your mother Amy only wants your happiness.” “Why don’t you call him. I haven’t told him about Caroline yet.” Jodi fingered the sweat forming on the glass of lemonade the waitress placed on the table.” Jodi said. Is he supportive?” “He’s great. She traced a drop of water from the rim of the glass down to the bottom. “You have an opportunity facing you right now. “What do you mean?” “Your family has been so tied up in knots back to Arthur Stokley’s mother.” 391 .” Holly said. so there’s no sense in worrying about it now. But I’m not sure how to change or get over some of my feelings. Maybe you and Caroline could change the course of this family’s future history through forgiveness and love. “I want to do that. but now everything’s out in the open. We’ll never know for sure. His family life sucks some too with a divorce and remarriages. Maybe I can do a better job than my mother did. “And then we’ll move into the next drama of the day.” Jodi said. so he’s accustomed to the drama.” “You’ll be a little older than she was when Caroline was born so I think it will be different.” “I want it to be different.” “I believe that when we die we go to a place where we understand everything. Holly watched and waited.” Holly said. my adoptive mother. I hear you have a boyfriend.” Jodi’s eyes filled with tears. “That’s a big responsibility.” “I can help.TRAILS IN THE SAND “I can’t believe she’d do it intentionally. “She could have killed that truck driver. And if you’re harboring resentment and ill will toward your father and Caroline.” A waitress appeared right then to take their order. So can your friends.” Jodi said.” “I don’t think she would either.

What’s the next one? I forget. She’s so hateful toward Caroline.” “George and Paul meeting. too. ZICK “I don’t think I can take much more. It was pink and had a lock on the cover.” Jodi said.P. It’s going to be all right.” “Right.” Holly said. It’s all about love. Gladys probably helped create that animosity between the two.” Holly said.” “Don’t blame your mother.” “Did you read it?” “Yes.” She pulled an old diary out of her purse. Where’d you get it?” “It was Amy’s journal.” Jodi said.” “Even she couldn’t stop the course of that relationship. there’s something else. but I’m trying to see what it might accomplish to show her except make her feel worse about her family. “Something I was going to share with my dad and Caroline before they dropped the bomb.” “Should I show Caroline?” Jodi asked. C.” “Maybe you’re right. “But let’s remember she probably has her own reasons for acting the way she did. Can you imagine what she’d have to say about all this?” Holly rolled her eyes. Paul’s wife stayed home. It’s hard to believe the woman who raised me wrote this stuff. and it’s pretty sad and awful. “I’m going to go outside and call Caroline. She wrote it when she was seventeen. “I didn’t think they made them anymore. I don’t believe a child is born hateful. but she plotted to get him to notice her so he wouldn’t spend so much time with Caroline. Don’t you see? Simon and Caroline beat all the odds against them to be together. She didn’t even like my dad very much. “What if you use what you learned to help you forgive Caroline and realize she’s had to overcome a lot during her life to get to this point?” “She even wrote that the only reason she pursued my dad was because she knew Caroline had such a big crush on him. Thank goodness. That’s a learned response. “I had one like that when I was thirteen. She hated Caroline and did everything she could to see that GG hated her. 392 . “I think that diary needs to be burned. “I’m all for being open and honest. We don’t need any more hatred in this world.” “Holly.” Holly said.

” 393 . and George sitting in a car next to the entrance.” Holly stood up and went to Jodi’s side of the table. whatever you decide.TRAILS IN THE SAND Jodi. “Where’s Jodi?” “She’s calling Seth. When she walked out through the bar to the front of the building to make her call. Everything. I think it’s going to be all right. Caroline. she saw Simon. She leaned down and gave her a hug. “We’re just getting up some courage here.” Caroline said. even college. She walked over to them and Caroline rolled down the window.

He opened the door and Simon handed him his cane. Compton. Compton. “Let’s find something else for you to call me besides ‘Mr.” Paul held out his hand and George took it. We might want to skip through all those polite formalities. I told you I read another journal written by Gladys in 1956. She motioned to a tall circular table off to the side by the front door. Mr. George knew without a doubt the tall man with graying hair holding the cue stick and staring at him was the child he and Gladdy conceived all those years ago.” 394 . George thought about his life.’” George said.” Caroline said. “Today I walk in here on my own.” George said.” George said. “Why don’t we all sit down. “Time to go in and do what I came here to do. “Paul.CHAPTER 81 George As he sat in the car with Simon and Caroline waiting to enter Harry A’s.” “What do you mean?” Paul asked. He looked just like Arthur Stokley. Simon and Sam decided to play a game while the three of them talked. I’m Paul Montgomery. When they entered the bar. Now he felt for the first time he knew the reason he hadn’t died on that table so long ago. “It’s an honor to meet you. He refused to take it. “And as for shaking your hand. He adjusted the hat on his head and prepared to meet his son. I’d be honored if you’d hug me instead.

George wondered for a minute if he’d gone too far as Paul sat staring at him. George was very grateful for the rescue. George. and she was in love with me that summer.” George said. “I was in love with Gladys. Paul leaned over and embraced him. and George felt as if he was looking into a mirror. “But here we are somewhat of a big extended family. .” Paul and Sam offered to go out and check for the seafood man on the corner. I mostly ramble around that big old thing anyway. Then Paul grinned. “What did you do with Sam?” Holly asked. and George extended an invitation for Sam and Holly to stay at his house as well. while the rest waited for Holly and Jodi to emerge from the back. I was hoping we could find some fresh seafood and talk George into letting us cook up a feast for him tonight. “He’s run off with the bartender. which they did almost as soon as the door shut behind the two men. “That sounds like a fine plan.” Caroline said. She became pregnant with you as a result. standing behind Holly.” Caroline said. She and I. but we’re already at the good old Buccaneer.” “George and our mother were very close that summer. I discovered who your father was. I didn’t make any plans yet. “Chase him away already?” “He said he couldn’t wait any longer.TRAILS IN THE SAND Caroline said. I have plenty of room.” George said. they would never have done anything like that.” When Sam and Simon finished their game they came over to the table. “Thanks.” “I thought it was Alex. I’d be honored if you’d stay at the house tonight with Caroline and Simon and maybe the rest of this crew.” Caroline said. “I didn’t tell you that when I read it. “No. You can get a whole load of fresh fish from him. “Paul. “I think the shrimp truck is still out at the park.” “None of us did. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen here.” George said. . 395 .” George noticed that Jodi hung back. Paul.” Sam said. “So it looks as if I’m your birth father. This man had his smile.” he said. “That’s great.” George said.

” Caroline said. Janet will be too. ZICK “Jodi. but not all. but you 396 . and she didn’t pull away.” Jodi said.” Jodi said. “I’m so ashamed of failing my classes. Jodi.P. Maybe you would have done it differently.” George said. “It’s all right.” Simon said. “Is there anyone here who’s never made a mistake? Is there anyone here who’s never hoped someone would forgive them?” The answer was silence.” Jodi looked at Caroline who turned slightly so they faced one another.” Humor usually got him out of most situations. “I don’t know if I can forgive you.” “I know you are. Simon went to Jodi’s side and put his arms around her shoulders. why not?” Jodi said. I really am. C. I’m sure. I hope you’ll stay at the house with Simon and Caroline tonight. “Sure. “Because it’s a bitter life filled with unforgiving souls.” George said. You need to take some time right now to adjust. “I don’t know how I feel about you. if that’s all right. “How did Paul take the news?” “I think he’s relieved. I’d like to ask everyone here a question. They all laughed. if not the wisest member. Jodi looked up at him with tears in her eyes.” “I don’t know if I can forgive myself. and it’s all right. Holly nodded her head in a way that emboldened George to continue. “Because we just don’t do things like that in this family. “Caroline and I love you no matter what. He was simply happy to be included in this family. I suggest you have no idea how you would have acted in the same circumstances. You never did after your mother died and now all this.” Caroline said. until you’ve worn Caroline’s hat. “I want both of you to contemplate that. George decided it was time to plunge forward since he was the oldest. of this disjointed family.” “Shoot. everything’s going to be all right. “You both better figure out how you’re going to do that. Jodi. It would be a good chance for us all to get to know one another.” Simon said.” Simon swept his arm around the table. “I need to find out if any of you have six toes or anything grotesque like that now that we’re nearly related. although George didn’t understand the joke.

And Caroline.” Jodi said. “Here’s to the garden. you’ll realize that there is absolutely nothing to forgive. Quit assuming people did things to hurt others on purpose. After everyone had a drink in front of them.” Jodi said. Then once you’ve done that. And I married Simon because I love him. If you consider things happened out of love. then maybe there will be less for you to forgive. Jodi. “Make that two. “Here’s to love. “I’ll have a cranberry juice. “How can two of us be so wrong?” The bartender came over to take drink orders as Sam and Paul came back into the bar. “I’d like to make a toast.” “And it really is as simple as that. and Caroline brought theirs together. “May it always be overflowing with love and tomatoes. “And Jodi. and I loved her father.” George said as he took his fedora off his head and put it on Caroline’s head.” George smiled at the small group gathered on this island filled with so many memories – some of the worst and best of his life. and Paul and George theirs.” George said as he winked at Holly.” he said.TRAILS IN THE SAND don’t know that. Own it all.” Holly and Sam clinked their glasses together.” “You’re the second person to say the same thing to me in less than an hour. 397 .” Caroline said.” Caroline said. George lifted his glass. all you need is to change your perception on the past. it’s all yours. Caroline. and Simon. “Then we both must be right. “Go ahead. why did you do the things you did?” “I gave up Jodi because I loved her.

and she stood at the foot of the bed watching me hold Alex on my chest. “Can I come in or is this a private party?” Holly said as she poked her head in the door. Only one of us was crying because he was angry about the abrupt change in his environment. and he came out screaming. “Do you have more 398 . “Get in here and see your nephew. Jodi came in the room minutes after his appearance. Still I managed a natural labor. “Nephew?” Jodi asked looking at Holly.” I said. but my body wasn’t the same either. but I managed to nod my head toward the baby.” Simon said. never once imagining I would have the opportunity to use it again. “Maybe we’d been better off if we’d cried more through the years.” I said. 2011. April 5. “For a family that doesn’t cry. I’d saved that blanket all these years. letting us all know he had arrived. The birth wasn’t as easy as Jodi’s all those years before. Jodi came around to my side.EPILOGUE Caroline – 2011 Alex Carlisle McDermott entered the world on Momma’s birthday. Simon stood beside her and all four of us cried in unison. wrapped in the same flannel blanket I’d used for her twenty-one years ago. and I held up her brother for her to take from my arms. we’re sure turning on the spigot. I was very tired.

” Holly said. most all of the victims’ families had filed a lawsuit against Massey or settled with the company.” Jodi said. “Both Massey and BP were cutting corners to make a profit. and I said ‘yes’ immediately. We walked slowly discussing the past year. All of us walked the beach one night after supper.” Simon said.’” I said. Susan said her older boys would love to pitch a tent if there was space. She held up her hand to show off a shiny diamond on her left ring finger. with Paul and me on either side of George to offer him the occasional support when he needed it. He almost didn’t get it out of the box.” Holly said. “He asked me last night. the dire predictions of what the oil would do to the environment were not coming true as the oil had dispersed and evaporated. sea turtles. I can’t imagine Alex calling her anything but ‘Aunt Holly. we told her to come on down. and fish were no longer washing ashore covered in oil and life in the Gulf was returning 399 .” Within weeks of one another in the fall of 2010.” Simon said. By early 2011. When Susan called to ask if we’d like visitors over the holiday weekend. You might want to get used to calling Sam uncle. Fortunately. Birds. All of them agreed safety had taken a backseat to profit. “Is that all right with you?” “If I get to call her that. but Holly has been so much like a sister to me over the years. “Wow – I’m an aunt twice over in one day. We decided to take George up on his offer to spend the Fourth of July weekend with him on the island. George was thrilled to have so many folks come for a visit. “It’s as I always suspected. Reports on both disasters were released in the first half of 201l. He’d also invited Paul and Janet who accepted the invitation as well. Now both are paying the price for that. and Holly went back into the hall and motioned for Sam to join us.TRAILS IN THE SAND surprises to tell me?” “We’re done with surprises. BP was paying for the massive efforts to clean up after the oil spill. although we’d be camping out on the floor and in the living room during the weekend. Tony Hayward of BP and Don Blankenship of Massey Energy had stepped away from their CEO positions. “Get that man in here. too.

Holly was the happiest I’d ever seen her. She mentioned she’d joined a few volunteer groups in the area and was working on safety issues as well as fighting strip mining in West Virginia. As Simon always said. “Move slowly and don’t make any quick movements or any sound. but she still wanted more to happen. Since I nursed the little fellow.P. one slow step at a time. stopping occasionally to watch the waves and hug. Suddenly. It was almost dark and the moon had yet to appear. ZICK to its pre-Deepwater Horizon tourist gold mine. “It was about here where Alex walked into the ocean. She’d have to learn on her own. 400 . Susan. I motioned for the others to stop. and Jodi stopped walking in front of us. I thought as we continued our walk. Simon carried Alex in a baby carrier on his chest. toddled between her and Jodi as they held his hands. Next month Simon and I would travel with the baby back to the Everglades where we would be witnesses to their wedding.” I whispered. We moved as one unit. Her older boys were tossing a Frisbee as we walked down the beach. Simon. I couldn’t do anything to help her. Life had truly come full circle. Jodi and Susan walked next to Simon. Susan seemed content as the breeze blew through her hair. and she told me she was greatly relieved to have all that behind her. “The house was up there. Never has a baby been coddled and loved as much as this one. At least he did that when Jodi wasn’t trying to hold him. “What’s that down there?” Simon asked as he pointed down the beach to a spec moving along the sand.” I was looking up where I imagined the gazebo sat all those years ago and tried to imagine my mother as a lover and then as the sister who watched her brother drown. and Sam’s bachelorhood seemed to have evaporated with the oil. Simon liked to walk around with Alex attached to his body so he could bond with him as well. while Jason. They settled the lawsuit the month before.” I turned around to Sam and Holly and put my fingers to my lips.” George said. Jason married a good one. “It’s a loggerhead.” I said as we walked cautiously forward. “I don’t believe it. I think it’s a turtle. When we were fifty yards away. Sam and Holly walked behind us. Jr. C. Only Janet seemed distant from our group as she walked alone near the surf line kicking at the waves. just like the rest of us walking on this beach that played such an important role in our family.

as Janet walked slowly toward her husband. leaving behind only her trail in the sand.” I said as I looked up at the sky. “We’ve come full circle. one slow push at a time. Then I put my arm through Jodi’s. “I promise we’ll make it right this time around.TRAILS IN THE SAND I stood next to Simon.” The sea turtle finished digging her hole and began piling eggs into the cavity. and I intended to watch the whole thing with the people closest to me. Even Jason cooperated and didn’t protest being held. She disappeared into the waves. Momma. THE END 401 . I motioned for everyone to sit down – it would be awhile before she finished her job. we all stood and began walking closer on a line toward the water’s edge. As she began her laborious walk to the sea. Susan corralled her boys together and put her fingers to her lips as she pointed down the beach. Paul and George stood next to us. Paul and I helped George sit on the sand. I kissed the downy softness of Alex’s head.

but at night and on vacations. 402 . and Live from the Road. she began writing novels and working as a freelance journalist. By day. Her blog and her novels contain the elements most dear to her heart. and passion. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love. she left teaching and began pursuing a fulltime gig as a writer.ABOUT THE AUTHOR P. By 2001.C. laughter. Tortoise Stew. She resides in Pennsylvania with her husband. she writes two blogs and writes fiction. she was a high school English teacher. A Lethal Legacy. She describes herself as a "storyteller" no matter the genre. Robert. Zick’s career as a writer began in 1998 with the publication of her first column in a local paper. ranging from love to the environment. She is also the author of A Victorian Justice. Currently. Trails in the Sand is her fifth published novel.

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