Tavira, Portugal – May 16, 2017
Salt flats bake in the sun as I finish off my last popsicle. I chew on the stick and stare at the shallow pools of water evaporating in the heat. The grocery store where I bought the box shimmers in the distance, still visible. Eleven popsicles bought me just a mile or so of relief.
Four flamingos wade in the nearest pool. Their long legs look like stilts, their curved necks look like caricatures of flamingo lawn ornaments, but they don’t have the bright pink color. They are faded, pink only on the edges, as if the sun has bleached away their shine.
That’s what happened to Frank, the lawn flamingo I found on Lake Superior. He used to be pink. Frank Jr. was pink too, when I found him along the intercoastal near St. Augustine. I strapped them both to my kayak and by the end they’d faded to almost white.
We reach Tavira in the afternoon as the sun cooks the streets. We find a water spigot to refill our bottles in the garden planted in the castle ruins. I drink it down in gulps, replacing the sweat that has left white lines of salt across my shirt as it evaporated in the heat.
I think of leaving town. There’s another six hours of light left. A few more miles would make tomorrow easier. Ice cream at a grocery store and a few more miles. The air bakes as we drop from the castle toward the center of town. There is no wind. Sweat runs down my face. My hat feels hot to the touch. My will feels bleached white.
We don’t make it out of town.