The sky had grown a deep purple above them, and a gust of wind blew through the yard with a fury. Becca picked up a chair to arrange it with some others in a semicircle under the live oak. The tree's limbs spread out like arms stretching across the backyard. A pair of jenny wrens hopped along the branches, squawking intensely at them. "They've been scolding me all day." Just as Becca said the words, the male swooped down and pecked the scarf off her head.
"They're dive-bombing you," Victor said, amused with the bird's antics.
Becca shooed the wren away. "They're building a nest." She peered up at the tree. "We're standing too close. They don't trust us."
Becca said they should head inside when a thunderbolt split the sky and lit up the backyard like a theater. Victor grabbed Becca's hand to run to the porch, but she pulled him in the other direction. "This is closer," she called above the wind and pointed toward the garden house that was just beyond the live oak. They ran around the chairs, through the yard, and burst through the open doors of the small wooden house. Once they were inside, the clouds let loose. Rain crashed down on the tin roof, pelting it with gigantic drops that had been stored in the heavens way too long. The torrents pummeled the miniature house until it shook, teetering on the blocks that held it above ground.
Victor and Becca stood panting just inside the doorway. They wiggled in deeper to shield themselves from the rain, but the garden house was stuffed with lawn mowers, weed eaters, and shelves filled with everything from jarred preserves to odd cushions and rusted paint cans. Victor sucked in his chest to give Becca more room. With her body wedged against his, he breathed in of the scent of her, a heady duo of fresh roses and sweat. Her head was bent just beneath him, but he could feel the beat of her heart in sync with his own. This melding of flesh, of muscle to muscle, bone against bone stirred an impulse, a desire buried deep within him that urged him beyond the restraints of class or race or even time. He raised a hand to Becca's chin and lifted her face to meet his. While he gazed at her and absorbed the warmth of her eyes, the heat of her breath enveloped him. He kissed her.
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Daniel stood up and brushed smooth the creases in his overalls. His arms had grown hard and thin, and his belly had wasted, worn clean away. He was rugged and lean, a slide back to youth, and he imagined this time as an ecumenical passage, a time of shedding past sins. It was so clear now, what was not at all discernible in his life, and if he had to define it, he could, for the sense of what he felt this morning, watering the dead lawn and watching the worms slither up from the earth, was an adage, an apothegm that he could identify in one word: separate. And it was all so simple, the fallen leaves of an oak tree, squirrels rushing acorns to their nests, the lap of waves on Old Tampa Bay, a cardinal's song, the gusting wind, and sun, and heat, ice, flame, red and blue, and separate, and not as he viewed the world when he lived within its rainy arms.
Within minutes the Blew Bayou was gliding south toward the deep channel. They needed to get across the northern shoal of the island without hitting ground. Now the lighthouse beam lit up the port side of the boat markers that would guide them to the water that surrounded the island. Spider sat on the fishing throne keeping watch. As they motored toward the west side, the moon rose to twelve o'clock high and cast its light across Egmont Channel. Victor hiked a knee onto the seat next to the cabin door, so he could face the hull, while Kurt held on to the ladder. He told Evan to punch it.
Daniel settled his body, gone lank this last month from roaming, no sleep, no food, just an odd wakefulness as if between time, juxtaposed between the heavens where the sun's heat was not weighted against the skin but remote and veiled as music playing in a dream. And cool was unimaginable, for nothing was quenched or sated, but drawn out hard and moving endlessly toward an unknown. He settled himself into a metal lawn chair. From where the water hit the seared lawn, no longer a spray but a constant stream, worms floated to the surface. Daniel saw them wiggle in the dead grass, the small, common angleworm that he could easily gather and take to the river's edge to fish. He could take the worms down and show the boy, Quinn, who sat on a plastic bucket with his cane pole baited and his line flung into the Hillsborough River, waiting for a bite.