CARMEN`S PRAYERS

***

“Don’t squeeze so hard. You’re choking me,” requested Roy.

Nick let up slightly on the ring of his arms around dad’s neck. His teeth chattered constantly and his keyed-up little heart rapidly knocked.

Roy heard the light chatter of his son’s teeth in his ear; deep in his chest, his own heart echoed the frequent and strong beats of his son’s heart. Their percussion merged. Roy was somehow frightened by this closeness. A simple and clear thought—that this fragile little life depends on him—was difficult to comprehend in just one moment.

“Get out! He’s blue already!” Michelle called from the shore, though her shout can be guessed rather from the waving of her hands.

***

Mom doesn’t understand, and, it seems, will never understand, what pirates are. She lives in a world of constantly changing temperatures, the sharp conversion of cold to hot. And she’s busy with nonsense: she lathers on disgustingly sticky sunscreen, sprays on insect repellent, and then checks her arms and shoulders to see if she has an even tan. At the beach, she drinks water and makes Nicholas drink it, too. She speaks boring words: dehydration, sunstroke, Vitamin C.

But mom is beautiful, and her butt is also pretty—not as fat as that of Thomas’s mom. Nick is proud of this; he sees mom not only in her bathing suit at the beach and in the swimming pool, but at home when she gets out of the shower in a tank top and panties. He was at Moshe’s house not long before, and Moshe’s mom, Mrs. Esther, also took a shower and he and Moshe crept up to the door to peep in the crack of the door until Mr. Jeffrey noticed and shooed them away.

Nick is frozen to the bone, and a warm soft towel is wrapped around him. The cold penetrates throughout his belly, chest, fingers, and teeth. Nick lies on the beach blanket. A little one in a towel, curled up like a snail, lying down, quivering; his pale heels tremble, too.

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