Trails in the Sand
By P.C. Zick
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 the 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 crumbled 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 and 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.”
“Look,” Gladdy poked her brother who was older by ten months.
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 50 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 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. His newest favorite was written by Archie Carr about the sea turtles in the Caribbean. 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. Now he’d have to pay for that book because 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.”
To be continued. . .