An Encroachment in the Everglades

She realizes, based on the warmth in the bed, that Robert has been laying next to her for a while.

“What are you studying?” she asks, looking over at him.

“The Economist Magazine,” he says.

It is clearly not The Economist Magazine.  There are pictures of plastic toys and children with monstrous smiles.  The children are all wild with glee, ready to pounce, it seems, on a defeated enemy.

“Do you think it’s uh…”  He stops, pausing for the right words, “sales … thing for children?”

“Yes,” she says.

“Then why did you ask me what it was?

“I thought,” she says, “maybe you would come up with a better term for it than ‘sales thing for children.'”

“Tough,” he says, and then, too annoyed to construct a complete sentence, “Toy catalog.”

She wants to tell him what she saw this morning when she looked up, startled, from the bird feeder that she was filling with seed but she is afraid of what he will say.

What she saw was not a man, exactly, because how can a man walk on his knuckles?

It was man-like, though.  Even through all the grime and hair, its skin was unnaturally white.  It studied the shape of her torso with intense curiosity.

It did not flee immediately when she looked fixedly into its eyes.  It was emboldened, perhaps, by the narrow canal that separated the mangroves from the short grass carpet she stood upon.

Instead, it paused for a moment to arrange a memory of her on the dark pink wrinkles of its brain.  An impression that it might recall later, when circumstances were more favorable.

Then it turned away from her, walking upright for only a moment.  Not a man, exactly, because how can a man live in that deathly jungle?  But maybe like an actor in an ape suit leaving the spotlight of the stage.  

Then it escaped through a little arch of mangroves that made a door into the wilderness.  

And now, late at night, back in the safety of her bed, she lays her arm across the flannel pajamas around Robert’s chest and draws closer to him as she tries to find her own words.  A story he will believe.

That afternoon she had rifled through the recycle bin and pulled out the Metro section from the past four issues of the Miami Herald.  She had arranged them neatly, side by side, on the dining room table.  

As she sipped her coffee, she ran her fingers over each page and shaped the words of each headline with her delicate lips.  

There was no mention of an escaped albino primate.

At one point she looked up, startled again by the sense that it had returned and was now watching her.

But the stage was empty and the mangroves were still.

“Do you think,” she says now to her husband, “that there are still people living in the Everglades?”

“Like the Seminoles?” he asks, “Or the alligator people?”

“No,” she says, “like just really poor people.  Homeless people.”

He snorts.  “Even the homeless live pretty well around here.”

“Yeah,” she says, turning onto her side to face her bed stand.

She closes her eyes and the face comes back to her, glowering like something almost human.