The sun rose over the island of Fynn at approximately 5:17 AM every morning.
It was quite a mesmerizing spectacle for those who decided to watch it, although most islanders would be sleeping soundly at such an hour.
I, however, rose at dawn and ascended the ladder to the roof with a pitcher of hot tea in my arms for Sal and I.
Together, we’d watch the sun creep up behind the ocean, casting streaks of red light across the billowing waves,
and have long chats about the absurdities and comical aspects of our life on the island.
I was only ten years old, and Sal must have been in his mid sixties, but he had always been a child at heart; he never really grew up.
Maybe one day he woke up and decided that he didn’t want to, or maybe he was never meant to have a mentality that aligned with his physical age.
Either way, Sal made for a very good companion, and we found amusement in each other’s company.
Our village was small, and our population did not surpass somewhere around fifty people.
Needless to say, we were all very acquainted with each other and everybody knew everybody else’s business.
I lived with my mama and papa, and due to the fact that I was the only ten year old girl in our village, I found myself very lonely at times.
I suppose Sal must have felt the same way – he did not fit in with the other villagers, and this was very obvious to everyone.
Although it pains me to say it, in some ways, Sal was the “village idiot”.
He did not go fishing with the other men, he was unmarried and had no children of his own, and he took pleasure in peculiar habits,
such as weaving baskets out of the tall weeds that grew in the meadows, and making necklaces for all of the little children out of seashells and pretty stones.
He was looked down upon by all of the other adults, but to the children, he was a saint. I took pride in the fact that I was the one that spent the most time with him.
His house was perpendicular to mine, and one morning, when I couldn’t sleep and was wandering the shore line, he called me up to his roof and told me to watch the sun rise.
“Life is very unpredicable, Lila. No matter where the seasons of life take you, you can always be sure of one thing: the sun will never fail you – the sky will never fail you.
” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but I never really was. He often babbled about radical things and strange ideas. I didn’t understand, but I liked the way they sounded.
I often wondered why nobody took Sal seriously. He had a good heart, as silly as he could be sometimes, and there were times when he suddenly appeared wiser than I could comprehend.
Nobody took the time to see the good in him, nobody tried to get in his mind and to understand his thoughts. Nobody but me.
I sometimes would drop in on the conversations amongst the mothers at the market place if their talk interested me.
I used to hear them scoffing at Sal, and they referred to him as a lunatic.
They’d exchange gossip concerning encounters with this potential madman with smug, petty looks on their crinkled faces.
The men would never be as brutal, but they’d make a joking comment here and there at Sal’s expense and it made my insides boil.
It always brought me down a little to hear such things being said about Sal, but when I told him about it, he’d wave it away and said that people will talk.
I was dissatisfied with this response, but accepted it anyway.
Seeing as there was little to do on the island that held any amusement, I usually spent my days exploring the uninhabited parts of the island.
I found little caves and crevises within the mountains and strange fruits and berries in some arbitrary bushes along the coast line.
Sometimes the village would gather together and we’d all have a feast; little cakes and sandwiches that the women would prepare, and juices from various fruits that the men would pitch in.
It was a time that I thoroughly enjoyed, although it didn’t happen very often.
I kept by Sal’s side for the majority of the night, even though he’d be lost in his own little world, staring out into the sea.
I sometimes found myself thinking that Sal was a little eccentric as well. He had this queer habit of sitting on his roof in a lawn chair inspecting the sea level with a telescope.
When I asked him what he was doing, he said that he was determing the level of the sea by where it was in comparison to an extrememly old, tall palm tree on the shore.
He told me that the sea level was usually only a few feet up from the base of the tree, so we had nothing to worry about.
I had no idea what he was talking about, but it felt reassuring to hear all the same.
I never knew how to handle the emotional outbursts that Sal sometimes had.
I remember one afternoon when I made him a pot of tea, he cried for two hours straight because I didn’t have lemons to go with it.
Unnerved, I ran to my mother and she comforted me, telling me that sometimes people react differently to certain things than we expect them to.
She said that sometimes Sal acted that way, and it was perfectly okay. I nodded my head in agreement.
One afternoon, I was taking my daily expedition around the village looking for something to do when I heard a blood curdling scream.
It was coming from the direction of Sal’s hut, and my heart dropped. I immediately came to the conclusion that Sal had slipped off the roof.
However, upon arriving at the scene, I saw that he was sitting up on the roof, telescope in hand, perfectly unharmed. He whirled around and looked at me with a wild look in his eyes.
“The water is by the leaves!” He yelled to me. I wasn’t particularly sure what this meant, but I knew that this was not a good thing, and fear flooded through my veins.
“The water is by the leaves! The water is by the leaves!” Sal was screaming now. He galloped down the latter and out into the streets.
“We have to warn everyone!” He staggered down the street and into the marketplace with my at his heels.
The villagers were startled by his outburst, and their faces were contorted and wore a look of disapproval when they heard his rants about the water being by the leaves.
They shook their heads and waved him away.
“The water is by the leaves! We have to get out of here and head towards the other side of the island. We have to leave now!” He was desperate.
I wished the people would listen to him, because he was never wrong when it came to these sort of things. I decided to help him, and I tried to convince my neighbors.
“Don’t you let that silly man get in your head, Lila. He’s a lunatic. Positively mad.” This was the response I received. Frustrated, I balled my fists and marched towards Sal.
“Let’s go Sal, they won’t listen.” He took my hand, and we ran.
I didn’t know why we were running or where we were running to, but I knew it was crucial for my safety, if Sal said it was.
I wanted to wait for my parents, but they would never have listened to Sal or me. I thought about what might be happening to them, and tears rolled down my face.
I wanted to go back, but Sal was gripping my arm with such intensity and hurrying me along, I knew that going back was no longer possible. So we ran. And we ran, and we ran, and we ran.
We didn’t stop running until we reached a hill, where we kneeled and caught our breath. I wanted to lay down, but Sal yelled at me to get up and told me that we weren’t far enough.
Once we were several miles away from the village and deeper into the island, we were approaching a small mountain.
I was weary and sore, but Sal insisted that we attempted the incline, so I followed him.
After an hour or so, we reached the top and I perched on the rock, with Sal sitting on the ground next to me. I asked him why we were there, and he was silent.
He wouldn’t answer any of questions.
“Why are we waiting here? What are we waiting for?” My pleads were met with silence. We sat for hours and hours. I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach and my head was in a whirl.
The breeze around me picked up and tossed and whipped my hair around my face, and licked at Sal’s flannel shirt.
The sky was melting into a gloomy, grey color and my uneasy feeling turned to pure dread.
From our seat on the mountain, we could see the ocean angrily attacking the shore, as if the water was trying to claw its way up the shore and into the village.
Suddenly, I saw something in the distance. It looked like an enormous grey wall in the middle of the ocean, and it was approaching the shore at a rapid pace.
Sal moaned and beat at his head furiously and I cried out in confusion and fear. What was happening? The wall was coming closer by the second, and soon I realized that it was water.
A furious green wave that was unstoppable. It was not the type of wave that lapped playfully at my feet when I was fishing for crawdads, but a wave that I had never encountered.
It was taller than I could have possibly described, and wider than the island itself, it seemed. Watching cautiously from my distant spot on the rock, I prayed furiously for my family.
The minutes flew by, and soon, the wave was upon the island, consuming everything in it’s path.
And there Sal and I sat, clutching each other’s hands sorrowfully, watching everything we knew to be home be swept away and devoured by the water.