by Chase Burke

Evergreen

Years ago Barry developed an aversion to amphibians and reptiles after hiking the Everglades, where he battled kudzu vines and violent ivy and dodged hidden green animals that snapped disease. He fled the preserve a changed man.

Even mild suburban turtles, Barry knew, were terrifying cesspools. And one morning in July there one was, in his swimming pool. So he drained the pool and left the turtle at the bottom. He brought the neighborhood skatepunks over, told them to have at it. The empty pool, Barry realized later, looked like the hollowed-out shell of a turtle that had died on its back.

In the pool’s deep end, the turtle shelled itself as boards skated by. Barry, sitting in his lifeguard chair, guarding nothing, thought uncomfortably of the turtle in traffic. Plodding on asphalt, stopping. Waiting on someone to carry it across, someone who might move it home. He watched as a kid stopped, kicked up her board, and picked up the turtle. “A little help here?” the kid called out.

Everything about the Everglades sounds eternal. It sounds forever, like a gesture of defiance against swallowing industry. Defiance in name only.

Barry runs a skate park now. He’s in his sixties and melanomaed, but his mouth is full of white teeth. He’s afraid to cross streets or shake hands or even leave his chair. He avoids looking at the ground. He doesn’t trust what could be underfoot.

“Nothing,” he says when a tattooed kid asks him what it takes to run a skate park. Barry doesn’t know how to give the kid a straight answer. He doesn’t know how to encourage anyone, even himself. “I’m green,” he says. “I’m new at this. I could apply that thought to everything.”

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