BLOOD, MAGIC, VIOLENCE, FLORIDA.
The manatees got what they deserved. Their fat, mossy bodies rose toward the monolithic boat shadows. Didn’t they know about the rusted metal blades? You think they’d have cautionary tales about Aunt Bemini or Cousin Tommy who were shredded to string cheese by the waiting prop engines. Maybe they didn’t.
The snowbird tourists got what they deserved. Drinking Coronas on the beach while their kids threw sand pies in each other’s faces. After three or four beers, they fell asleep and I could actually watch their mountains of white flesh turn pink, orange, red. Like a sunset.
People say the world is unfair, but not really, not that I had seen. Drunk drivers like my dad got killed. People who ignored the Hurricane evacuations got killed. I know a girl with down syndrome, but she seems happy. Happier than the rest of us. Is that unfair? But Martha Holloway being dead. Martha having died. Martha was dead. And that didn’t make any sense. I didn’t even know her. I did, but not well. I don’t know if anyone did. When a girl comes up to you at school while you’re trying to convert a planet diorama into a set of false boobs, and asks what you’re working on and you get hot-faced and decide not to lie or be a smart ass, so you tell her, “I’m converting this planet diorama into a set of false boobs,” and she doesn’t get embarrassed or get grossed out, she just smiles. How can you get to know that person? The next second, you’re watching her flatten her skirt and walk away and you’re trying to remember if you said goodbye or thank you.
Martha was gone. “Gone?” No. They had found a body. “Dead.” In her blue skirt, washed onto the roof of a house. A helicopter found her. What must the pilot have thought, seeing her curled on the roof, perfect, with water all around her? That fucking asshole. He didn’t know anything.
She had an old fashioned name but no one teased her about it. Martha didn’t remember she had been nice to you. There wasn’t a fossil layer of niceness behind her eyes that she used against you the next time. She was just good. And her house was not in a mandatory evacuation area. She wasn’t stupid. She didn’t throw a redneck party and drink out the storm like a lot of other people, who survived. She had left out the back door in her blue skirt and windbreaker to take pictures of the water. And they had found her body on a roof the next day.
I set my backpack down outside the Osgood Cloud funeral home. Why was I so sure this was going to work? When I snuck through the chain link fence at the back of Madame Dubonnet’s swampy back yard and ducked under the colorful glass bottles dangling from her oak tree, I didn’t think it was going to work. I had heard some stupid kid say, “Madam Dubonnet can bring people back to life.” And then there I was, in her velvety, tourist-as-shit shack, handing over a whole summer’s lawn mowing money and filling my backpack with herbs and cards and candles.
I would take her body. Wrap it in a good, soft blanket. Put it in my dad’s jon boat and go back to the flood area, back to place where she died and I would bring her to life again. Her family would not understand. They’d be scared and confused and angry. They would search for her. For us. Martha and I. We’d have a secret together. If I brought Martha back, I’d be a hero. You’ll never be a hero, but you might be something. Something else. Something important. You might keep driving the boat past the flood zone, into the inland waterway; through the maze of sunken mangroves to an island that no one knows about except the fisherman and the drug dealers. You might be the kind of person who has a secret with Martha Holloway.