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Home > Turtles All the Way Down(8)

Turtles All the Way Down(8)
Author: John Green

“And that made you think of me?”

“Yeah, I don’t know. I remember you telling me—like, I asked about your name once and you said that your mom named you Aza because she wanted you to have your own name, a sound you could make your own.”

“It was my dad, actually.” I could remember Dad talking to me about my name, telling me, It spans the whole alphabet, because we wanted you to know you can be anything. “Whereas, your dad . . .” I said.

“Right, made me a junior. Resigned me to juniority.”

“Well, you’re not your name,” I said.

“Of course I am. I can’t not be Davis Pickett. Can’t not be my father’s son.”

“I guess,” I said.

“And I can’t not be an orphan.”

“I’m sorry.”

His tired eyes met mine. “A lot of old friends have been in touch the last few days, and I’m not an idiot. I know why. But I don’t know where my dad is.”

“The truth is—” I said, and then stopped as a shadow flashed over us. I turned around. Daisy was standing over me.

“The truth is,” she said, “we were listening to the radio, heard a news report about your father, and then Holmesy here told me she had a crush on you when you were kids.”

“Daisy,” I sputtered.

“And I was, like, let’s go see him, I bet it’s true love. So we arranged for a shipwreck, and then you remembered she likes Dr Pepper, and IT IS TRUE LOVE. It’s just like The Tempest, and okay, I’m going to leave you now so you can live happily ever after.” And her shadow was gone, replaced by the golden light of the sun.

“Is that—really?” Davis asked.

“Well, I don’t think it’s exactly like The Tempest,” I said. But I couldn’t stand to tell him the truth. Anyway, it wasn’t a lie. Not all the way. “I mean, we were just kids.”

After a minute, he said, “You almost don’t even look like the same person.”

“What?”

“Like, you were this scrawny little lightning bolt, and now you’re . . .”

“What?”

“Different. Grown up.” My stomach was kind of churning, but I couldn’t tell why. I never understood my body—was it scared or excited?

Davis was looking past me at the stand of trees along the river’s edge. “I really am sorry about your dad,” I said.

He shrugged. “My dad’s a huge shitbag. He skipped town before getting arrested because he’s a coward.” I didn’t know how to answer that. The way people talked about fathers could almost make you glad not to have one. “I really don’t know where he is, Aza. And if anyone does know, they’re not gonna say anything, because he can pay them a lot more than the reward. I mean, a hundred thousand dollars? A hundred thousand dollars isn’t a lot of money.” I just stared at him. “Sorry,” he said. “That probably sounded dickish.”

“Probably?”

“Right, yeah,” he said. “I just mean . . . he’ll get away with it. He always gets away with it.”

I was starting to respond when I heard Daisy return. She had a guy with her—tall, broad-shouldered, wearing matching khaki shorts and a polo shirt. “We are going to meet a tuatara,” Daisy said excitedly.

Davis got up and said, “Aza, this is Malik Moore, our zoologist.” He said “our zoologist” as if they were normal words to say in the course of everyday conversation, as if most people who reached a certain standing in life acquired a zoologist.

I stood up and shook Malik’s hand. “I take care of the tuatara,” he explained. Everyone seemed to assume I knew what the hell a tuatara was. Malik walked over to the edge of the pool, knelt down, lifted a door hidden in the patio’s tile, and pressed a button. A reticulated chrome walkway emerged from the pool’s edge and arched over the water to reach the island. Daisy grabbed my arm and whispered, “Is this real life?” and then the zoologist waved his hand dramatically, gesturing for us to walk across the bridge.

He followed behind us, across the metal bridge to the geodesic dome. Malik swiped a card near the glass door. I heard a seal break, and then the door opened. I stepped in and was suddenly in a tropical climate at least twenty degrees warmer and considerably more humid than the actual outdoors.

Daisy and I stayed near the entryway while Malik darted around and finally emerged with a large lizard, maybe two feet long and three inches tall. Its dragon-like tail wrapped around Malik’s arm.

“You can pet her,” Malik said, and Daisy did, but I could see scratch marks on Malik’s hand indicating that it didn’t always like being petted, so when he turned it toward me, I said, “I don’t really like lizards.”

He then explained to me in rather excruciating detail that Tua (it had a name) was not a lizard at all, but a genetically distinct creature that dated back to the Mesozoic Era 200 million years ago, and that it was basically a living dinosaur, and that tuatara can live to be at least 150 years old, and that the plural of tuatara is tuatara, and that they are the only extant species from the order Rhynchocephalia, and that they were endangered in their native New Zealand, and that he’d written his PhD thesis on tuatara molecular evolution rates, and on and on until the door opened again, and Lyle said, “Dr Peppers, boss.” I took them and handed one to Davis and one to Daisy.

“You sure you don’t want to pet her?” Malik asked.

“I’m also afraid of dinosaurs,” I explained.

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