An Encounter with the King of St. Thomas

Standing water winds along the edge of the road like a shadow. It’s gray and fetid, but the plants don’t seem to mind. Roots of wayward shrubs show their stubby ankles above the glassy film. Insects cause a momentary vibration as they land for a drink.

Up ahead, a bare tree reaches a gnarled hand toward the sky – a plea for rain, perhaps. Or a gesture of reverence for the momentary train of clouds passing by.

A sudden cackling stops me in my tracks. I try to locate the sound.

There, up the green-spotted hillside, his black tail feathers stand erect and sprawled out like a palm frond. He bobs his head, flashing a red crown, and paws the hot dirt menacingly. You are the true king, I say out loud. All hail the rooster of St. Thomas. I feign a bow.

He crows again as I mosey down the road grinning. “Good afternoon,” I say, as is customary, to passersby. They respond in kind except good comes out sounding like guhd. It strikes me as a much prettier word pronounced that way.

The air is thick with salt and steam, as the midday sun bakes everything in her path, including my shoulders. I can’t wait to cool off.

-vignette from a walk to Coki Beach, east-end St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

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