At ten o’clock Kak guided her bike into the KWEST Liquors parking lot and carried the box inside with her. Screw them if they couldn’t take a joke. She picked up a bottle of water and found a fifth of Bacardi Rhum Blanc Superieur. Outside she slipped the rum into her backpack and opened the water. She took a doxepin, telling herself, that’s three. Then she swung a leg over the bike seat and pedaled down to Olivia, half eager at the idea of moving another step backward in grief, half hoping Liliana wouldn’t be there.
She was. Liliana waited on the sidewalk as Kak coasted to a stop. Kak almost blurted that she was having second thoughts. That the little bird’s death couldn’t possibly be connected to her own well-being. Instead of greeting her, Liliana crossed the narrow street and walked east. Kak followed.
In half a block, where Grinnell Street terminated at Olivia, they came to a spot where the vegetation inside the cemetery grew through and over the fence, obscuring it. Liliana stopped within a foot of the overgrowth. For a split second Kak thought she intended to scale it.
“Lock your bike to the fence,” Liliana said.
Kak located a fence bar in the dark and ran the rubber-coated steel cable around it and back through the bike frame before securing the padlock.
“The original cemetery was destroyed by a hurricane in 1846,” Liliana said. “The storm surge scooped out the sandy graves so that when the water receded the dead were in the streets. On doorsteps. Lodged in trees.”
It was hard to imagine.
“When they rebuilt,” Liliana went on, “they relocated the cemetery here, on the higher ground of Solares Hill.”
“This is a hill?” Kak said. To all appearances they were on a flat plane.
“As much as you’ll see around here,” Liliana said. “Bring the box.” With this, she stepped into the overgrowth and disappeared. Kak hesitated, unsure.
“You coming or not?” Liliana said, from somewhere within the dark mass of vegetation.
Kak reached into the growth until she was up to her shoulder. Her knuckles bumped the fence. Where the hell had Liliana gone? A hand clamped onto her wrist. She jumped, pulling back in an involuntary reaction.
“This way,” Liliana said impatiently, pulling Kak into the dark. “There’s a bar missing.”
Kak moved forward, simultaneously pulling back against Liliana’s pulling at her. She banged her shin on something solid.
“You have to step over the crossbar,” Liliana’s voice scolded.
“Now you tell me.”
Kak took a high step as Liliana pulled again. She felt the heavy brush of a vertical bar against each shoulder as she plunged into the darkness. In the pitch black, leaves tickled her ears and tugged at her hips. She stumbled once before emerging on the other side into the relative light of night, still digging in against Liliana’s insistence.
“So stubborn,” Liliana said, releasing her wrist.
“How did we get through the bars?”
“I told you,” Liliana said, already walking. “There’s one missing. You can’t see because of the overgrowth.”
Not wanting to be left behind, Kak hurried to catch up. “Why did we have to go through the fence?” she asked.
“Because the gates are locked.”
“We’re not supposed to be in here?”
Liliana didn’t answer.
“Does your grandfather know you’re pregnant?” Kak asked.
Liliana wheeled on her. “Don’t you dare say a word about that!”
“Sounds like no. Fine. You don’t tell Rudy about Sanibel and I don’t tell your grandfather about the bun in your oven. Deal?”
Kak could feel Liliana’s contempt for her.
“I won’t tell Rudy,” Liliana said. “Because you will.”
The two resumed their path into the cemetery. Kak lagged ever so slightly behind to view Liliana’s silhouette without being obvious.
“Can I ask you something?” Kak said. “How are you so smart and then so stupid when it comes to Carter?”
“I didn’t say you could ask me anything.”
They walked half a minute before Kak spoke again. “Can I ask you something?”
“You’re pressing your luck. Go ahead.”
“How are you so smart and then so stupid when it comes to Carter?”
Liliana didn’t break stride. “You know how you see your doctor? And he tells you to eat better and lose a couple of pounds and take care of yourself, and all that, but when you leave you see him sneaking a smoke in the parking lot? It’s like that.”
“Maybe it’s time to quit smoking.”
“Quiet.” Liliana pointed to the next stone. “There’s no talking from this point until we reach Baba Nono.”
They walked north through more recent plots and granite markers into increasingly older sections of limestone. It was like wandering through the scattered bones of creature long gone. Grave markers protruded from the ground like ancient teeth. Sun-bleached and broken. Half buried. Inscriptions melted until illegible. The parched and crumbling remains of the forgotten.
Not of the forgotten, Kak corrected herself. Someone remembered them, even if they were no longer capable of remembering themselves. Stammer would remember her. She’d live with the remorse. It was a satisfying notion.
Rustlings in the dark brought her out of her mind and into the shadows. Half a dozen tan and green lizards, their banded tails whipping in the low light, scrambled up to perch on slabs and headstones on either side of Kak and Liliana as the women walked through the rows of graves. Iguanas. Three and four feet long. A dozen now, with more racing ahead to scale and crown the markers on both sides of them until at least three times that many observed their trek. They stretched ahead into the darkness, heads silhouetted high above the stones, making an aisle for the women. Liliana led on and Kak followed, flanked by the eerie reptilian honor guard. Kak felt goosebumps raise in the warm air.
Fifty yards ahead, in the center of the cemetery, a light flickered. In its glow a figure waited. Baba Nono. Kak couldn’t help thinking of him as an arrow, tall and straight, fired into the bullseye of this principality of silence. The iguanas stirred and she hurried to catch up and walk at Liliana’s side.
They stepped into the trembling dome of light thrown by a single candle on a slab that stretched out before Baba Nono. More iguanas gathered here, posted around the perimeter. Their jaws flexed and stretched in the dim glow. They paid no attention to Liliana or Kak. The iguanas stared at the Nono, transfixed, as if waiting for something to happen.
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The Gods of Sanibel – Kindle edition by Cook, Brian. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
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