Despite the constant heat we got a lot of work done during the day. Work was our only escape from boredom.  At night you would curl up next to me and we would remember what life used to be like. Ice cream. Electricity. Other people . We would lie there, exhausted but unable to sleep. Alone in our thoughts, staring up at the dripping roof, marking out all the spots where the palm fronds were too thin.

You still held out hope of rescue. I could tell from the optimistic way you stared out to sea as I took my turn snorkeling for fish, or diving for shellfish. You claimed that you were watching me, scanning the waves for shark fins. But your eyes were focused past me, past the green lagoon of our safe harbor. You watched the far horizons for some distant sail.

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“Nobody’s coming,” I’d say, shivering as I warmed by the fire. “They don’t even miss us.”

“I saw a purple parrot yesterday. It  must have come from somewhere.”

“Probably always been here. A nest on the north shore.”

“No. Not on this island.”

And so the days would rise and set, the subtle seasons marked by varying amounts of rain. We worked constantly on the upkeep of our meagre shelter. Collected firewood and food from the lush, endless bounty all around us. I carved a chess set out of shell and coral, you tried to teach me to weave baskets and mats. Neither of us took to the other’s hobbies.

We made lists in our minds, and scratched into the sand, of all the projects we still had to do. We worked hard at building something together there. We each had some ideal vision of what it was all for, this work, this partnership. Was it naïve to assume our goals were the same? Did we work at cross purposes all along, or did we diverge somewhere recently?

The day you disappeared I awoke to unfamiliar birdsong. I ran down to the cove, but couldn’t see anything in the morning mist.  But I knew, somewhere out in that serene bay, was a white sail, filling itself on the landborn breezes, pointed out into the unknown sea.


Matthew Smart lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where he works as an information technology analyst. His writing has appeared in Vestal Review, Cheap Pop, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Unbroken Journal, Smokelong Quarterly and elsewhere. He serves as Assistant Prose Poetry Editor at Pithead Chapel.



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