by Kylie, period 3
It was a nice, warm temperature that warmed my bare skin, slowly tanning it to a light bronze with help from the high SPF sunblock we had all applied before leaving the small apartment that we had rented out for six of us to stay at during our spring break vacation in the US territory known as Puerto Rico. It was a pleasing warmth: a temperature of a low eighty degrees Fahrenheit; not hot enough to cause someone to dehydrate the moment they walk out of an air-conditioned room nor was it cold enough for their light clothing (or lack of) and swimwear to be a hassle.
It was just past a normal lunch time of two in the afternoon when my mother and her boyfriend of a year had decided it would be a good idea to walk around and explore the area on the coast that they had driven to during their first day upon the Carribean island. There were multiple reasons to this decision: the obvious factor of ‘when will we see this again?’ and ‘you’re in a new place; take advantage of it’. However, to everyone’s surprise, the streets were packed with cars leaving work for lunch, from highways to regular streets, each car was hood to bumper, hood to bumper, a pattern that followed them for miles upon miles.
Quickly going to the beach to walk became a unanimous decision upon the group, especially since a deserted shore was right across from where they were, littered with coconut trees and other natural goodies that are scattered around the soft, tan sand of the beach. We all crossed the hot pavement, thankful that all the cars were stopped due to traffic, so safety wasn’t the concern between us.
I walked by the daughter of my mother’s boyfriend, Briana, who was the same age as I was, but a year behind me due to the age system of schools, having a friendly chat with her as we avoided the goofy antics of our brothers who nearly went on their knees, pleading for us to join them on their activity, though neither Briana nor I wanted to participate so soon after eating.
With a sigh of defeat, our brothers had dropped the subject, allowing for us to continue the meaningless conversation we exchanged. They had gone up ahead of everyone else, joking and playing roughly, swinging on each other and acting in a manner that we would consider them half-monkey or something of a similar caliber. Not long after the eldest and youngest of the children had stopped bugging their siblings, they had stumbled upon a plethora of coconut trees that held many ripened fruits that were all raised just about the height of the tallest between us and a half; a surprisingly short stance for a coconut tree.
My mother’s boyfriend, his son, and my brother all flocked towards the tree that bore many coconuts at a decent height and began scrambling to grab some. They had tried everything from smacking the trunk to smacking the coconuts themselves, all the way to trying to climb the trunk of the tree. My mother was behind them, snickering to herself as she watched their failures.
“Why don’t you guys-” She had begun, though they completely and wholly ignored her, to both her and my annoyance. They were acting incredibly stubborn. My mother sighed, shaking her head and crossing her arms. She watched the boys’ failures for a minute more before she smirked, making eye contact with me. “Why don’t we show them we’re smarter and more efficient than them?”
I agreed almost immediately, feeling giddy at the challenge presented. It would be a way to rub it in their faces and a massive ego booster for me, so I was all for it. We ran quickly down the shore line of the beach, finding a nicely sized tree with only a few coconuts; we didn’t need many, just enough to prove a point.
My mother began explaining her master plan to me. “I’m going to squat here and you need to step on my shoulders. I’ll lift you up like that, okay?” She said, getting lower to let me on her shoulders. I was hesitant, unsure if my mother could handle my weight. She insisted that I hurry up and do it, so with the confirmation that she would be fine, I braced myself on the trunk of the tree, placing my sandy feet on my mother’s shoulder, feeling her hands wrap around my ankles for support for both myself and her. “Up we go..” My mother grunted. “Briana!” She called as she lifted herself up, and me along with her. Briana jogged over with a questioning look. “Take the coconuts that Kylie’s going to drop, okay?”
“Sure, not a problem.” Briana replied, looking up at me with an amused smile as she saw the worried look I had. “Don’t take too long Kylie, or I’ll get bored.”
“Whatever Briana,” I huffed, returning my attention to the coconuts just a stretch away. “I just twist and pull them, right?”
“Yup,” My mother said, her hands shaking slightly on my ankles.
I reached up and grabbed the closest coconut, gritting my teeth as my arm stretched uncomfortably. “Almost got it..” I mumbled, taking the coconut and twisting my arm around before letting it go and repeating it, catching the coconut as it fell from it’s light green stem. “Catch!” I said, gently tossing it to Briana who waited for it with open arms.
After doing the same to a second coconut, I asked my mom to put me down, much to her delight. “Alright,” My mother said, wiping her shoulder full of sand, “Let’s show those three the power of teamwork… and actually using your brain.” We giggled to ourselves, walking back with a triumphant grin on our faces as we saw them finally grabbing a single coconut.
My brother was the first to spot us. He raised his eyebrows with surprise, though soon frowned. “How did you guys get those so fast?”
“Well, maybe if the others listened as well, I would tell you.” My mother replied, hands on her hips as she stared at her boyfriend, while I turned away from them to conceal a laughter that would have escaped.
“Fine, let’s hear it.” My mother’s boyfriend said, setting the coconuts that they had collected down while his son sat down on the sand, hands on his knees. With a simple explanation of how they did it and a few bored faces later, my mother’s boyfriend sighed and shrugged. “If you’re so confident, let’s try to get those coconuts with that plan.”
I walked behind my mother, staring at the taller tree, seeing the coconuts that were larger than others. “Do you want me to climb up there?” I asked, looking up at my mom. She was thinking, a finger on her lips as she saw the difference between the tree we had climbed and the one that was before us.
She then shook her head and let her hands fall to her side. “No, get up on his shoulders. He’s taller, so you can reach it easily.” My mother instructed, repeating her directions to her boyfriend.
This time, I had to use a rock that lifted me a few needed inches in order to place my sandy feet on his shoulders, once again using the trunk of the tree of steady myself as I was lifted up. “I can’t reach it yet! It’s super close!” I exclaimed, stretching every limb on my body to try and grab them, though there was no possible way that standing on his shoulders, I could make it. “I’m going to grab the leaves and pull myself up. I can get it like that, probably.” I said, looking down at watchful eyes.
There was no going back now: I didn’t want to seem weak or act like a coward, lest I be teased about it for the rest of the trip and perhaps even longer than that. I gripped the trunk of two palm leaves with my hands, wincing at the uncomfortable pressure it put on my palms as I swung my legs up from his shoulders, using the rough surface to catch my calloused soles before I wrapped my legs around the trunk. Slowly and shakily, I let go of one palm leaf, reaching up and touching the coconut, gripping it with my hand and slowly trying to tear it from the stem.
Time slowed to a near halt, a cracking noise filling everyone’s ears before I was faced with a flurry of blurry colors and the heart stopping sensation of falling: the leaves that I had clung to so tightly had snapped under the pressure and fell down – scraping my right wrist deep enough to leave a scar – with me following at an alarming rate. A chorus of my name bellowed from the other’s lips as they scrambled to catch me before I landed head-first on the rock that I had used previously.
A few seconds that lasted forever before my feet touched the soft sand, having been caught by my mother and her boyfriend simultaneously. The heavy silence was broken by relieved laughter, as everyone took a breath that they didn’t know that they had been lacking.
“Are you okay honey?” My mother asked, seeing the bleeding mark on my wrist.
I shook my head. “It hurts, but I’m not dying. Anyways… what happened..?” I asked, trying to recall the past moments, but to no avail. It was a series of black inside my mind, from the moment the branch snapped to the moment I was embraced in my mother’s arms.
They seemed a bit shocked, though with further thinking, they realized it made a bit of sense, with the fast motions and natural instincts of survival it seemed less strange.
“The branch broke and took you with it. Good news is: you got that coconut.” My brother replied, a goofy smile on his lips. “But you were grabbing onto that leaf like crazy! And you didn’t scream at all; you were super quiet.” He mused, crossing his thin arms under his chest. “Well, I’m glad you’re not too hurt, Ky.”
“Yeah, it could have been worse.”