For the Turtles

09/12/23

Nobody thinks about what happens to cocaine after it gets wet. They think about how to keep it from getting wet, and the answer is using enough plastic wrap and duct tape to last a suburban mom and dad the rest of their entire boring lives. Once water gets in, like if a brick washes up on a beach and gets pecked at by gulls, let me tell you it’s a real pain in the ass.

Coke doesn’t dissolve, you see. It spreads out through the water, like sand kicked up from a boat motor. It still exists but there’s no easy way to get it or get it to someone who’s expecting it. That was a problem that I had to solve and my only reward would be staying alive another day to solve another one. And that’s not even dealing with a seagull trying to get another bump.

That’s how I found myself knee-deep in a sandy beach with the sound of the ocean in my ears and the sunrise peeking over a dune in front of me. I bet it was beautiful if you’re into that kind of shit. I’d left a Costco-sized box of coffee filters on the driest patch of sand I could find. Gripping a filter between my fingers, I scooped up wet sand and rocked it back and forth in a circular motion. The dark pieces went through and dripped in the ocean, leaving small traces of white that gathered in the bottom of the filter like a paste. Once I had enough I would dry it out and no one would be the wiser.

I ignored the first couple of joggers that went past, and they didn’t turn their heads to look at me to watch me sift enough sand to rebury the sphinx. Soon though, a couple who were up too early to have had any sort of fun the night before started to loiter near me. I wanted to chase them away but they’d rat me out to some beach cop and I’d be out of here with only a half brick. I took a breath and remembered how it feels to have the warm edges of a metal barrel pressed against your forehead.

I waited until they were getting jittery, debating who would make the approach for the question. Finishing up the latest transfer, I made eye contact with the one wearing the brighter mesh shirt.

“I’m getting rid of microplastics,” I said, pulling a fresh coffee filter from the pack. “For the turtles.”

Bright shirt nodded at my little show, and leaned in to whisper to his girlfriend who was nice to pretend anything I had said needed clarification. She smiled at the made-up thought and got even closer.

“Can we help?” she asked.

The pair of them worked reasonably well, and were limber enough so that all the squatting and bending didn’t affect them too much. All those sun salutations turned out to be good for something. It would have gone faster if they didn’t stop every time someone walked by to tell them about helping the turtles. Before I knew it, I was passing coffee filters down the line of a half dozen people spread across the beach. When they had enough in their filters, they’d come over to me and pour it into my bag, beaming with pride.

It wasn’t even that hot out by the time the powder reached the top. I dropped it in another bag and double sealed it to be sure that not one drop was going to get back in.

Everyone was so happy at the sight of the filled bag. When I held it up for them all to see they actually gave themselves a round of applause. I couldn’t believe it. I said they all did great and that the turtles would be all safe forever now. They left feeling good about themselves and ready to do whatever boring shit was going to fill up the rest of their day.

No complaints, no fights, no bullshit. Honestly, I wish I could hire them for the next job. Heck of a crew.

~ fin ~

Matt Dodge Profile

Matt Dodge is a Canadian writer of short stories, comics and a novel. His work has been featured in JMWW, Grim & Gilded, Underwood Press, Cold Creek Review and the “Tales From The Cloakroom” anthology from Cloakroom Comics. You can find him online at @Matt_Dodge on instagram and twitter.