The boy got up.
The little red alarm clock with its cover of red leather showed 10 minutes past midnight. Tibs opened the door of the hotel room carefully and slowly and tiptoed out, unobserved. The night
porter sat in the backroom behind the reception and apparently watched his favourite tv program.
Tibs, barefoot, covered in blue and white checkered shorts and white T-shirt, took his way down to the bay, where the soft pounding sound of the waves touching the beach blended into the
murmur of the windshaken palm trees.
Tibs walked a few steps, enjoying the sand beneath his feet. It had been a warm morning before the rain, and it felt still warm in a silky, caressing way.
He picked up a twig which he used to plough the black sand ... a pink shell, here, a heart-shaped, greenish stone, shining in the silvery moonlight, as if polished. It felt nice and clean.
The boy sat down on the stump of a chopped off palm tree, admiring his treasures, fondling the smooth stone with his thumb. He recalled last year's holidays. The Baileys celebrated the
occasion of his eleventh birthday in Felixstowe on the beach, then, but it had been totally different, cold, rough, tousled hair due to the wind.
The boy noticed the ground moving. On different spots the sand seemed to break in, like little craters, almost without any noise. It made him jump. First he stood still and didn't dare to
move, but noticing small somewhats moving from there he carefully approached. It could be spiders, couldn't it?
He had always been afraid of spiders, regardless of their size. He couldn't do what Ty and Taz were able to: take them on a piece of paper out of the house into the garden. Once he slew a
spider with contempt of death with a book he unfortunately would never be able to read again ...
No, these were no spiders, definitely. Not enough legs. Like wings, more. Wings used to crawl through the sand.
Courageously, he picked up one of these little, sand-breaded crawlers. A turtle! A tiny, dark turtle, not longer than his index finger. It felt quite soft and fought with its little paddles
to regain its freedom. Its siblings, apparently hundreds of them, struggled already to reach the water as fast as possible.
The air and the moonlight were torn, suddenly, by a long, shrieking noise.
The sound was that of a mean, scornful laughter, accompanied by the threatening flaps of wings. A giant, light-grey seagull pounced on the sand with a bored, almost displeased expression on
her face. Tibs was paralyzed with horror by the suddenness of the attack. He was afraid of her red beak with a downwards curved tip. Her head and feet were black as coal.
With an arrogant headshake the bird looked around, searching for prey, matching her high standards of needs. She wasn't in a hurry, not at all. Doubtless she appeared as the superior
creature, and she was well aware of that.
Tibs remembered the other tourists in the hotel, at the breakfast buffet. They made their choice carefully, picking and placing on their plates the choice they preferred. The gull did the
same, only without the plate. The well-chosen baby turtle struggled in terror, when the red weapon hammered down on its still soft shell, merciless, again and again.
"LET HER GO! LEAVE HER ALONE!"
Tibs shouted these words at the very top of his voice, forgetful of his own fear, running towards the frightening scene. The seagull didn't care first, continuing her work of destruction,
then paused. She looked at Tibs ungraciously and, annoyed, soared up in the dark sky. For some time the moonlight drew menacing motions on the sand, until she was out of sight.
Tibs picked the victim up, poking the turtle, whispering, "don't be afraid, she's gone! She cannot harm you anymore!" Carefully he shook it. "You aren't dead, are you? Please, don't be! I'll
take care of you! Nobody is going to hurt you anymore!"
He enclosed the little animal with both hands, holding it safely in front of his chest. Mommy would know what to do. Mommy always knew. Oh please!
Mrs. Bailey already exspected her son.
It certainly was one of the secret ways of nature, a mystery only mothers knew about.
If her sons were out of the house, she wouldn't sleep. She would stay awake until she heard the key being turned around to open the front door. Then, if one listened closely, there was the
sound of a book being put on the bedside table, and the little double-click announcing that she had switched of the bedside lamp.
Mum could hear every word her sons uttered, even miles away. She could look through walls, and she knew at once if Taz, Ty and Tibs occasionally should stretch the truth in their favour just
by looking straight into her sons' eyes.
She had woken up shortly after Tibs had left the room, and because she didn't want to disturb her husband she got up and took a seat on the cosy read armchair which didn't really matched
Caribbean style. One would exspect a chair like that in the drawing room of a British countryhouse.
As soon as the door opened and Tibs stumbled in, she rose in the dim light of the moon.
"Don't be frightened, Sweethart", she whispered, "where have you been? What's that, Tibs?"
He didn't seem to be dismayed, not even surprised.
"Look, Mum, a baby turtle! It got attacked by a gull, it is wounded! Please, Mommy, can't you help her?"
Carefully she inspected the small animal which moved only weakly yet.
"Clearly the gull tried to crack her shell", Mum diagnosed. "See, it is broken over here!"
"Mum, please! Do something! Don't let her die!"
"Let me see ..."
Mum opened the bathroom door and produced a tiny bottle with her red nail polish.
"Adieu, Coco Chanel!" she sighed. "Well, that's good. It is the fast drying one!"
With the small brush she dabbed the varnish on the fissure. Tibs watched her with reverence and admiration. Mum always knew what to do.
"We need some warm water in the bathtub, Sweetie! Your little turtle was about to take her first bath in the ocean, it is her habitat, she needs it. Would you, please? I will ask the night
porter for some salad and raw fish!"
"Salad and raw fish? Are you starting a new diet tonight, darling?"
Professor Bailey finally had woken up. His eyes, slightly enlarged by his gold-rimmed glasses, blinked when his wife switched of the light. There he stood, in his striped blue-and-grey
pyjamas, yawning and scratching his right shoulder with his left hand.
"And what is that sound I hear? Tibs isn't taking a bath in the middle of the night, isn't he?"
"What on earth makes you think I need a diet, Tim Bailey? I am not 21 anymore, I know, however, considering three births ... don't you like me anymore?"
She put her hands on her waist, narrowing her night gown, and took a deep breath.
"Not too bad for 48, I suppose!"
"You know you're the love of my life, Karen Bailey", he hastened to say. "And you manage to become more beautiful as the years go by!"
"So sweet of you to notice", she answered modestly. "But now I have a task to accomplish. I've got to save a turtles life!"
"Oh yes, I see ... I wasn't aware that I am married to Florence Nightingale. It is impossible to postpone your beneficial deeds, I suppose?"
"No, Tim, I am sorry. It is a baby, you know!"
"And may I inquire about the schedule ...?"
"Don't worry, darling. Tomorrow we will set her free - in case she survives!"
"Oh, it is a she? How do you know?"
"This is so easy, Tim! Can't you see she has nail polish on?"