TIE Story of the Month: ‘The Island’, by Dina Lee

By the time the ferry docked and they climbed into the taxi, the sun was already at high noon.  Mara knew this island intimately despite having never set foot on it until today.  She knew how high the coconut trees grew, how green the sugarcanes were, how white the wispy haze on the horizon became before a cloudburst.  She knew that women called on neighborhood boys to climb coconut trees in their backyards to harvest the fruit before the nuts dropped on children’s heads.  Do what you like with them, these women told these boys.  Gangs of teenagers stood on the side of roads pointing to green coconuts piled high on the beds of borrowed pickup trucks

Do you remember now, Mara asked her grandmother.  The taxi stopped at the side of the road and Mara handed the driver a five-dollar bill.  He left the car to talk to a teen with a machete tied to his belt.  The driver  came back with two open coconuts with straws sticking out.  Mara handed one to her grandmother.

I don’t, her grandmother said.  It was the first time today the woman spoke.  She’d been mute during the ferry ride.  Her eyes held a hint of panic.

Try, Mara replied.

The taxi soon deposited the women and their suitcases in front of a cafe.

Listen! Do you remember the people, Mara asked.  The talk around them buzzed of the coming heat, recent births and deaths, weddings and divorces.

No, her grandmother replied.

Do you remember your daughter?  I was named after her, Mara said.

No.

She’s to lunch with us before taking us to her home.  What used to be your home.

I never lived here.

Mara guided her grandmother to a seat in the cafe.

You told me stories of rising before dawn to fish with your father.  You’d catch flying fish.

I was never a fisherman, her grandmother muttered.

You’d help your mother grill them for dinner and use homemade hot sauce.  You taught me your recipe – vinegar with bonnie peppers.  You’d make rice with coconut milk.

I wasn’t a cook.

And sometimes, Mara continued, when aunts, uncles, and cousins came over, you’d make coconut ginger bread with your sister.  You said it was the best thing in the world.

Never.

Oh, the stories you’d tell.

A curl of scent drifted towards the two.  It was slight, barely distinguished from the salty sea air or the diesel smoke from the highway.  But it was there: a sugary nutmeg, ginger, and coconut essence.  Without ever having tasted it or seen it, Mara knew.  Someone, somewhere, was baking coconut ginger bread.

Oh, her grandmother said, oh.

Mara watched her grandmother close her eyes.  The scent would soon vanish and with it, the memory.  It did not matter.  Mara finally saw what she had been waiting for.


Profile Dina Lee Dina Lee is a second year MFA Creative Writing student in Fiction. She came to The New School with a background in screenwriting and advertising, and is currently working on her first novel.

featured image via Never Done It That Way Before.

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