Merman

When I first saw him slide into a laid-back Jamaican wave, with no crash, slick as a sharptail eel, Merman was the name I gave him. He was a lover of all things wet. When you spot a pod of dolphins, you know it’s safe to swim, he would say. His soul was alkaline, my skin hot as the Caribbean sand.

When they made us part to our separate corners of the world and deliberate on our visas, I melted over pictures of him. At reggae beach he stood, knee-deep in cerulean waters, releasing sea turtle hatchlings into the ocean, his body strong like their shells.  

When they told me I could have him, he drove us through the Australian outback’s endless dry, buried in red dust. Parked on the edge of the Gregory river we camped in his van, hatch wide open—we peeked through gossamer fabric at the twilight.

When clouds crept over the sky and wetlands flooded from rain, we pressed like palms and watched the river rise around us. Cicadas songs spiked in falsettos brown snakes slipped downstream. We searched through the darkness with our torches, freshwater crocs lurked on the bank—their yellow eyes like bullion coins glinting in moonlight. 

Khalilah Okeke was raised in the Pacific Northwest and now resides in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two children. Her short stories and poetry have been published in Crack the Spine, CafeLit, The Drabble, The Plum Tree Tavern, Down in the Dirt magazine, The Red Eft Review, The Orissa Society of the Americas Journal, 50 – Word Stories, Scarlet Leaf Review, and Meow Meow Pow Pow. She has work forthcoming in Palooka magazine and Djed Press.

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