And in the bay, low azure waves sweep in rhythmic crescents along the bottom of the wind. Not exactly azure, but something like azure. The sky is different here. It gives off  different light, an incandescent warmth that makes the bay and the jungle appear artificial.

And the birds are different here. There is an odd pattern to their flight as they dive, swooping down on motionless bass in shallow water. Not exactly bass, but something like bass. The fish and the birds are different here, almost innocent in their disregard for human presence.

And the air is different here. There is an odd quality of decay touching the air with a vague sense of sadness. Not exactly sadness, but something like sadness, a realization that something has gone wrong in this tropical paradise.

New York, six months later. Drink up, the bartender said raising his glass, here’s to David! It was early evening, but he was drinking with a customer who had met David Minors on a trip to the island. David’s been dead about a year now, the bartender continued. I haven’t been back to the island myself, but I talk to his wife Viola on occasion now that she’s got a phone. She talks on the phone a lot now. The phone kind of took David’s place. But what can you say to a woman whose husband was murdered? Drink up.

On the island Viola saw it differently. It was fear that killed David, Viola said, fear of what he’d seen on the mountain that caused a recurring dream in which David returned to the road where the spirits of the dead walk at night.

A customs official explained death in the islands. There are three types of people  here, he said, pointing to a sign above the gate. TOURISTS come and go. People who come and stay are called RESIDENTS. The descendants of slaves, people  like David Minors with blood ties to the land, are called BELONGERS.

Of those who die here, the remains of tourists and residents are returned to their original places of ancestry. Belongers are buried along the bay, beneath the coconut palms and the turpentine trees.

Conversation between tourists waiting for the boat to St. Croix.

    Thin woman: I sure hope our luggage gets on the plane.

      Fat woman: I don’t give a damn about the luggage,

                          I just hope the booze gets on.

© Text selections copyright Wayne Miller

© Paintings and photos copyright Wayne Miller

One of the Reasons for the Death of David Minors

West Indies 1980