Back to the River, by Kristine Simelda Coming soon on Amazon.com

Hi Everyone,

Here  is a sneak preview of Back to the River,  the third entry in my “River” series. The novella, which is geared toward young adults, is a heady mix of ghosts, creole folklore, and time travel sure to keep readers of all ages mystified and entertained.

1: CROSSROADS

The dilapidated aircraft had been up and down at least a half a dozen times since it rumbled into the hot, blue sky above Puerto Rico. But from what Isaiah had seen so far, none of the islands even slightly resembled his home—lush, green Emerelda. No. This was definitely not the Caribbean he remembered from his childhood. Where were the puffy white clouds? A metallic grey haze floated under the shadow of the wing. What happened to the towering green mountains? A monotonous parade of shrunken atolls dotted with a few scraggly coconut palms loomed below. When had the sparkling turquoise water turned brown? Isaiah suspected that climate change was the culprit. The coral reefs were bleached bone white, and the pristine beaches were submerged in primordial muck that resembled lentil soup.

There was no problem getting from California where Isaiah had lived for the past ten years to San Juan. He could have taken his pick from dozens of flights. But there were only a few small planes still traveling among the Lesser Antilles, and it had been difficult for him to book the last leg of his journey, the loop that threaded its way south toward Trinidad and back north.

“Leeward to Windwards, Windwards to Leewards,” the steward complained in a sing-song voice. “Boring, boring, boring.”

Although he hated to admit it, eighteen-year-old Isaiah couldn’t have agreed more. As he stared out at the bland scenery in disenchantment, it was as if the vibrant landscape of his youth had disappeared. No wonder island hopping, once the favorite pastime of the semi-rich and almost famous, was no longer in fashion. Besides the pilot and the steward, the only other passenger was a snoring security guard shrouded in camouflage who was seated in the front row.

At the beginning of his journey down the island chain, Isaiah got excited each time the plane was about to make another landing. But after so many disappointments, he had eventually given up. Lulled into a kind of uneasy geographic trance, he had been daydreaming about his mother, how she died so soon after his family left the island, when the turbo-prop made an abrupt U-turn.

Although his seatbelt was fastened, Isaiah’s body was whipped around like a puppet cut loose from its strings. The present moment came to a screeching halt as his head smashed into the window with a resounding thwapp!  A set of high-pitched bells rang in his ears, and he saw constellations of bright, twinkling stars before his eyes. The security guard vanished in a puff of smoke, and a white-robed Mystic with long, flowing hair was suddenly sitting next to him.

Isaiah wondered if he was dreaming, or if he might even be dead. Sensing his unease, the Mystic said, “Don’t be frightened, Isaiah. I’m here to help you find your way home.”

Wait a minute. Was this guy for real, or was he some kind of illusion caused by the blow to his head? How did he know Isaiah’s name, for example? Should he trust him, or was he about to be tricked into stepping off the edge of a cliff into oblivion? On the other hand, if that was what it took to reach his destination, so be it.

Although a reasonable amount of time had passed, his native island was still nowhere in sight. “Right. So, where’s Emerelda?” Isaiah asked.

“Have patience,” the Mystic said. “The place you seek can never be found by seeking, yet only seekers find it.”

What kind of answer was that? The last thing Isaiah needed was double talk at this stage of the game. “I’m seeking. I mean I’m not seeking,” Isaiah snapped. He squinted out the window, intent on making his destination appear by his own sheer will. But naturally he failed. “Okay, Mystic. Keep your promise. Help me find my way home. The sooner the better.”

“No problem,” the Mystic said. He spread a map across their laps and offered Isaiah a choice of four directions to travel on a set of crossroads. “Go ahead and take your pick.”

Isaiah wasn’t prepared for such a crucial decision so early in his quest. Yet wasn’t that the point of his journey—to man up and make a positive choice for a change? But which direction should he choose?

The Mystic smiled reassuringly. “Just remember, Isaiah, home is more than a dot on the map. It’s a feeling that’s deep inside of you.”

With that, the crossroads on the chart began spin like the swirling arms of a windmill—slowly at first, and then faster and faster. When Isaiah tried to follow the hypnotic motion with his eyes, the Mystic chuckled. “That will never work. You have to follow the crossroads with your heart, not your head.”

As soon as Isaiah put his whole heart into finding his way home, the situation changed dramatically. Tropical scenery spun like a top as the plane flipped wing over wing and hurtled toward earth. Slices of mountaintops, snatches of river valleys, and copious coconut trees were sucked down with it like they were caught in a whirlpool.

“Whoa!” cried the Mystic.

“Whee!” the steward whistled.

“Yikes!” Isaiah squealed. It was like being on a ride at an amusement park, terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

At the last possible instant, the aircraft leveled out and floated onto a potholed landing field. Isaiah held his breath as it swerved and bounced several times. Cargo shifted from back to front, and a substantial portion of rubber was burned off the tires before it stopped just short of the sea.

The Mystic applauded enthusiastically. “Welcome home.”

Stay tuned for Amazon.com availability. It seems those mega-people are asleep at the wheel, unlike the  wide-eyed children who were so enthusiastic  when I recently launched the book in Dominica.

In the meantime, happy summer reading,

All best,

Kristine.

The Century Palm

Hi everyone,

“The Century Palm,” which is one of my favorite short stories, has finally found a home in issue 28 of Anomaly Magazine. Click on the link, scroll down to Caribbean Writers, and click on my name. I hope you enjoy reading as much as did writing.

Issue #28 is now live! http://anmly.org/ap28/

Anomaly #28

More impressive than the quality of the work presented in the Caribbean Folio, is the heartfelt letter we contributors received from the editor:

‘Thank you all so much for believing in Anomaly and allowing us to share your work. I am innervated by and grateful for the words you have trusted us with, and I can’t thank you enough. We wouldn’t exist without you and your dedication to craft. It’s been a tremendous honor and pleasure to work with you on this issue.”

Thank you, and all the best,
Sarah on behalf of the Editors at Anomaly

You’re very welcome. Kristine

 

The Mighty Kwapo

Hi everybody,

When I first moved to Dominica 25 years ago, there were so many Kwapo in the mountains, and they made so much noise that I had to wear earplugs to bed!

Now, sadly, the Mountain Chicken, former national dish of Dominica, is virtually extinct due to a virus and perhaps overhunting. My story,  “The Mighty Kwapo,” as published by Akashic on Duppy Thursday, is an environmental fairytale that pays tribute to this unlucky frog. Click the link below to go straight to the source.

http://www.akashicbooks.com/the-mighty-kwapo-by-kristine-simelda/

All best,

Kristine

New Novel from Kristine Simelda!

NEW FROM RIVER RIDGE PRESS DOMINICA

Nobody Owns The Rainbow

A Novel by Kristine Simelda

An exciting Caribbean adventure/romance with a biotech twist that pits human arrogance against the power of Nature in a tale of love, greed, family, and ultimate redemption.

Johnny Baptiste, a big-hearted young Rasta, has grown up on an unspoiled Caribbean mountain called Morne Plaisance. Yet when the glamour associated with the “real” world tempts him, he develops a serious drug problem. His cousin Stanford promises to make him rich by buying the family’s land after his father dies. Although Johnny reluctantly agrees, he has second thoughts when Stanford leases the land to a foreign biotech company that tears up the mountain under the guise of constructing a national abattoir but is secretly committed to resurrecting a strain of genetically modified swine classified as “Enviropigs.”

Frank Stein, a Canadian genetic scientist, along with his Chinese girlfriend, Won Ling, arrive on the island to supervise the mischief. When the government calls in Irene Rahming, an environmental expert from Trinidad, to assess the feasibility of the project, the cast of multinational characters is complete.

Johnny falls in love with Irene, not only because of her beauty, but also because of her feisty, compassionate spirit. Together with Johnny’s mother, Alma, the indigenous Kalinago warriors, and local Rasta brethren, they fight to save Morne Plaisance from wanton destruction.

Will Johnny and Irene succeed in stopping New Dawn? Or will “Paradise” be lost forever?

PAPERBACK AVAILABLE LOCALLY AT:

Le Petit Paris Bakery, Bayfront, Roseau

Kai K Boutique, Bayfront, Roseau

Jays Bookstore, Independence St., Roseau

Departure lounge at the Douglas-Charles Airport, Melville Hall

AVAILABLE ONLINE AT:

Amazon.com as eBook and paperback

Check out my debut novel, A Face in the River, and its sequel, River of Fire, that are also on Amazon.com. 

 

SEASONS GREETINGS!

WISHING YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The week before Christmas found the workers on the farm entrenched in last minute holiday preparations. Samsung had already soaked the dried fruits and baked the gateau noel, a dark fruitcake soaked in lots of rum.  But the traditional red sorrel drink made from the fleshy sepals of a member of the hibiscus family remained to be brewed, and there were still several more pounds of roots to grate for the ginger beer. All the while the delicious smell of roasting pork, slathered with pepper and herbs, wafted from Daddy Dupuis’s smokehouse where he concocted his famous zandouge, Christmas sausage. Rosay was busy giving the entire house a thorough cleaning. Gregoire had coaxed the poinsettias into extraordinary bloom; red, pink, and off-white blossoms cascaded over the edges of the railing and onto the veranda. Krystal had trimmed a local pine tree with funky homemade ornaments.  Continue reading

FALL ROUNDUP

Onward!

Sorry for the long delay in getting back to my blog, but I’ve been kinda busy! The three weeks spent visiting friends and family in the States in September were enjoyable but sufficient, thank you very much. The luxury of lounging in a king-sized bed watching big screen TV and surfing channels soon wore off. Endless advertising for cars, miracle drugs to cure the ills of the nation (Why is everybody sick?), and hateful personal political attacks ruled the airwaves. The congressional inquiry into Judge Kavanagh’s misogynist teenage behavior was the icing on the cake.

I have to admit that traveling from destination to destination in a clean, smooth riding vehicle over paved, pothole free roads was a treat, as was dining out at various themed restaurants that served food that somebody else cooked. Attending football games that featured my grandsons as players, my granddaughter as cheerleader, and my son Zach as assistant coach was drawn out but fun. The drive to Serpent Mound, the world’s largest surviving example of an ancient animal effigy, was like a trip back in time. When I was younger, I often headed to the Arc of Appalacia in southern Ohio to check out the fall foliage and soak up ancient spiritual Indian vibes.

The entire family, including my younger son Josh, visited to the Ohio History Connection in Columbus where the exhibit “1950s: Building the American Dream” was on display. Definitely déjà vu, it featured a Lustron all steel prefab home like the one I grew up in, which cost $4,190 when constructed on your own lot!

On Josh’s 50th birthday, the boys and I dropped by the shady old cemetery where my mother’s side of the family, including the illustrious Grandpa Charlie, are buried. Afterwards, we spent some time going through old photographs to explain to the grandkids who was who. It’s amazing to me that the folks who played such a huge part in my reaching adulthood are all dead now, when I myself still feel so young. (Most days.)  

I popped in my old craft store in Dayton and was proud of what the subsequent owner had done with it. I spent another day on the farm of an old friend—lawyer, polo player, gourmet cook, and excellent woodworker. His health has failed dramatically in the past few years, but at least he’s still alive, unlike many of my peers.

I came back home in October to find a railing around the veranda of the main house. Other than that, not much had changed…still no lights, no phone, and no internet. On my 71st birthday, I went snorkelling at my old stomping grounds, the Soufriere Scott’s Head Marine Reserve. ELAS! I hardly recognized the place since Maria. Shanties that once graced the seaside were missing and many homes on higher ground were still roofless. Underwater was like a coral graveyard. Few reef fish remained thanks to the hurricane and the invasion of lionfish that savvy fishermen were cleaning by the coolers full to sell to restaurants in town

October a time of Independence in Dominica, and as usual, folks can’t wait to celebrate. A series of cultural events leads up to the World Creole Music Festival at the end of the month. For kicks, I rented a space in the botanic gardens for four days under the auspices of Waitukubuli Writers at a music, food, and craft event called Creole Rendezvous. Hurray!  I actually sold some books.  I’m still recuperating, but I enjoyed being out and about. I then rushed to complete my entry to the Commonwealth short story prize, which was due Nov. 1st, and sent it in a day early. It was a good thing I did, because the mobile data on my tablet was down for the next three days. After another long weekend, it will be back to the lonely job of staining the plywood to seal the ceiling of the main house. Meanwhile, I plan to enjoy the fact that I’m living the life I chose to lead, in the place I want to be, healthy, free, and simple. Despite all its problems, this magical island still suits me.   

Maria, Maria: Diary of a Category 5 Hurricane, Third Quarter

JULY: Stand By

I don’t know what Roseau has got, but every time I venture into town I come home exhausted. Even if I only have a few errands, the drive alone over these devastated roads if enough to wear me out. Whether it be grocery store, doctor’s office, pharmacy, or the never-ending search for Wi-Fi, town is always a struggle. The traffic is horrendous, and because there’s absolutely NO place to park, it’s necessary to walk from task to impossible task once you find a spot. Not that I mind the exercise, but I can never get what I want on the first try. I end up searching shops in the debilitating heat, tripping along the sidewalks that are broken and dangerous, and circumventing the trash that is piled up everywhere. Even if there was a nice place to quench your thirst or have lunch, I can’t imagine eating or drinking in town. The idea is to get in and get out as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, more than once I’ve come back to find a traffic ticket attached to my windscreen after squeezing into a dubious parking slot. Then it’s off to pay the magistrate’s court before I forget and have to go to court. What a racket.

Even though I feel better than last month, I decide to get another blood test just in case the Iron tablets (400 mg twice a day) the doctor gave me last month aren’t working. The good news is that they are, and my blood hemoglobin is up to 9.5! I only wish John could be cured so easily. He has another doctor’s appointment in Martinique on July 6. I sure hope they can do something for him this time.

Unfortunately, John comes home a day early saying they cannot treat him in Martinique, which is exactly what they told me a year ago, but he wouldn’t listen.  He must be thoroughly discouraged—I know I am. The night he returns, I’m supposed to meet the ferry at 7:30. Hurricane Beryl is in the forecast, and I’m anxious about driving. I wait over an hour and then attempt to drive home in the pouring rain. My night vision is impaired under normal circumstances, but that night I am especially blind. We pass long lines at the grocery and gas station, but I’m too nervous to stop. We reach home at 10 o’clock. I have a glass of wine and go straight to bed.  

When I check the internet the next morning, it looks like Beryl, with winds of about 100 mph, is pointed toward Dominica like a loaded gun. Considering what happened with Maria, I panic, and so does everybody else. We rush to the gas station and fill up, get money from the ATM at the airport, buy 100 lbs. of dogfood at the feed store, stand in a long line at the grocery, and then buy fresh fish, batteries, and roofing nails before heading back home. Phew. Mission accomplished. After the groceries are unpacked and put away, we start securing the guesthouse. Thanks to Maria, there’s only two windows left to cover with plywood. I carefully put away the few belongings that remain intact, while John cleans out the garage so the transport can go inside. Now there’s nothing to do but wait.

By evening, the data on my tablet stops working, so there’s no way to check the storm’s position. They used to include a hurricane-tracking map with the phone book, but I guess that’s too old fashioned. These days, if you can’t Google it, it doesn’t exist. The radio is playing gospel hymns interspersed with clergymen praying, which only adds to the portent of disaster already hanging in the air. I hum along while drinking an entire bottle of wine. What else can I do?

On Sunday morning, people begin to flood into the shelters. The hotel here in Layou Park, which has been hanging on the side of a cliff since TS Erika, is where we’re instructed to go. Yikes! According to PM Skerrit, neighbors are supposed to check on the elderly (me) and disabled (John) who don’t comply, but we don’t see another soul all day. My son Josh phones to say Beryl has hit wind sheer and is slowing down. Hallelujah! At dusk, I put the dogs in the cast concrete kennel just in case, while John elects to sleep in the transport in the garage. Déjà vu all over again. In the end, we get a little thunder and lightning, some rain, and absolutely no wind. John comes to bed around midnight and we sleep peacefully until daybreak, when, like robots, we start undoing what we did to prepare, only this time in reverse.  

Life goes on, one day at a time, for the remainder of July. The ferrous sulfate pills seem to be doing the trick as far as my hemoglobin is concerned. I look and feel much better. Now that I’ve figured out how to transfer documents and pictures from my laptop to my tablet where I can send them out as via email, I’m back to submitting short stories to literary magazines. It’s always a gamble, but at least I can still call myself a writer. The problem is sometimes you have to wait so long to get a reply, and the story is tied up in the meantime. I’ve also sent my 4th novel, Rise Up Sister, to my editor. I’ve worked on it for over two years now, so I hope she’s gentle with me. I’m not sure it or I could survive another complete rewrite.

They finally tested and reopened the $11 million Chinese bridge, but the road is practically impassable on either side. I call it the Bridge to Nowhere, but not too loud and not in public. Why? If one has the courage to live here and the patience to wait, the government of Dominica can be quite helpful, i.e. they finally gave John the money for his operation with no strings attached—he can spend it how he wants and probably will. I got some money for food allowance a few months back, and I am also pleased to be getting a monthly sustenance allowance for the elderly through August. Then, miracles of miracles, the guys who came to assess the damage to my home in April return! Yes! They intend to supply labor and materials to fix my roof! There are three of us from Layou Park on their list:  my 80+ year-old widow neighbor, a blind man up the road, and myself. Some people might be offended to fall in such a pitiful category, but all I can say is thank you very much. The representatives say they want to inspect the structure to make sure it can take a proper roof, which fortunately it can. What a relief. I’m so glad I didn’t rush out and fight for materials myself. Sometimes courage and patience pays off, although when I ask when they intend to begin, they cannot tell me. Oh, well. I’ve waited ten months already, so I guess I can wait a little longer.

Just when I’m practically broke, July 18, 2018 dawns as a bonus payday. It’s the third Wednesday of the month, when my US Social Security payment is deposited in the bank. It’s also the day I pick up the third government sustenance check from the village council in Mahaut. Surprise! Surprise! First thing in the morning, the guy who’s the supervisor for the construction of my roof phones to say they’re coming to inspect my structure (again). I commit to waiting for him, but a tropical wave accompanied by torrential rain has arrived, so he later postpones. I go to Mahaut and collect my cash, and then I powwow with Giselle to try to sort out a problem between my tablet and my dashboard at WordPress. We succeed, and I manage to send off the second installment of “Maria! Maria!” to my WordPress blog from home.  

I make lunch using what I imagine to be seasoning peppers from the garden, but they turn out to be extra hot and my food is ruined. Shit, man. As I’m cursing the peppers, the phone rings. The representative from the World Food Program informs me that I have another installment of WFP money waiting at the St. Joseph village council office. What, boy? I thought that was finished. He says it’s a one-time payment, and I can pick it up tomorrow. Great. I only have one question — if I am so blessed, why am I so depressed? It must be all the rain, or maybe it’s the fact that my old Rottweiler, Babylon, has a grossly swollen head and seems to have gone blind in one eye. It started with a runny nose about 3 months ago, and the sneezing and coughing up blood. I had the vet for antibiotics to no avail, then he cut off a growth under the dog’s tongue which bled like a stuck pig for 3 days and then stopped. I thought he was getting better, then all of a sudden Baby went completely blind! I wonder if he doesn’t have cancer. He’s still eating and I take him out on a short leash so he won’t bump into things, but I feel so sorry for him.

AUGUST: Don’t Trust

August is a month of celebrating emancipation in Dominica. I had thought about launching Nobody Owns the Rainbow in conjunction with August Monday, at the beginning of the month, but after the cultural events that occur at the Old Mill, which includes dance, music and an art exhibition but nothing literary, folks are accustomed to taking a vacation before school starts in September. Luckily, Anne, my friend at Papillote Wilderness Retreat in Trafalgar, decides to host an art exhibition for a mutual friend of ours on the 12th, and I am able to take my books there. It’s a lovely spot with a hotel, restaurant, gardens and hot springs, most of which has been restored since Maria. The crowd turns out to be just the kind of people for me to chat up. I have a good time and sell quite a few books. At 6 p.m. I make my exit and drive like a maniac to reach home before it gets dark at 7.

On Monday a guy comes to measure the metal gates that need to be replaced after fifteen years of service at River Ridge. (Maria dealt them a final blow.) I know he is not the best welder around, but he used to be my mechanic and helped me out of some tight situations, and I know his family needs the money. I give him a deposit for materials, and he says he’ll complete the job in five days.  

On Tuesday morning, a set of roof people show up. (I now realize that my case has been juggled between a couple of different aid agencies.) These folks are from the IOM, International Organization for Migration, sponsored by the UN. Two nice young Dominicans, Nathaniel, the supervisor, and Jewel, his sidekick, spend a long time taking pictures of flowers, gathering herbs, and telling hurricane stories. On Wednesday, a long dump truck that actually manages to back down my driveway and over the bridge delivers the materials. There are about six other people involved besides Jewel and the driver, and they all have drinks in hand. After endless chatter and confusion, the lumber, galvanized, nails, screws are in my possession. Great. Jewel says she will call to let me know when the work is schedule d to begin.

The next day, a set of neighbors that have never been invited to set foot on my property for various reasons arrive with an order to take away four sheets of galvanized. What? I’ve waited eleven months to get this stuff and now they’re taking it away after 24 hours? When I find out that these are the guys assigned to put on my roof, my heart sinks. I know beggars can’t be choosers, but as far as I know none of them has much roofing experience. On one hand, just like with the gate builder, I like to give people a step up and a chance to improve their skills. On the other hand, I wonder if they can handle the job. I have plans to visit my family in the States in September, so I hope they will be done before then. Maybe it’s better if I’m not around if and when anything goes drastically off the rails. As I’ve said many times before, I never signed up to be “de white boss” so it’s a good thing John will be around to keep an eye on them.

The IOM roofers return and start on the house on August 15. Luckily, the weather holds up and they finish what they are authorized to do in 5 days. About halfway through, the guys inform me that I need to buy 14 more sheets of galvanized, but Nathaniel comes to my rescue and has them delivered along with plenty of extra lumber and plywood the same day. The inside of the house now resembles a big barn with the bare underside of the galvanized showing and the rafters exposed. Sheets of plywood running the wrong way block the sides. Although they never intended to do the veranda, they refuse to divert from their plan so that it can attach to the wall of the house instead of an extension of the new roof, which is bad in case of the next hurricane. Oh well. Before they can come for the extra wood, John has already used it to construct the frame for the veranda. I’ll have to buy more galvanized, but other than that most of the roof was a gift.    

Meanwhile, I’ve located another growth on the edge of Baby’s gums that bleeds profusely when you press it. Just as I’m about to call the vet again, the very expensive new gates arrive—big, clunky, boxy atrocities with menacing spikes on top. Ug! After you pass down my long driveway surrounded by hedges of colorful flowers, the gates are the first thing that greets you. Stop! Beware! War in Progress! That is the message the new gates broadcasts loud and clear. The way I see it, I have two choices about the gates and the dog: try to fix the problem, or live with it. But I am not a welder or a magician, so again I’ll just have to wait and see.

September: Remember

The roof is on (more or less) and the plane is on the runway. Never mind that my dream home now more resembles a barn with a high pitched roof that exposes galvanized corrugation from the inside and that Hurricane Isaac is marching across the Atlantic toward the Lesser Antilles as a Category 1 storm. I am off to the States to check on my boys, Zach and Josh, my three grandchildren, and my friends, all of whom have their own set of paersonal problems—emotional, marital, and health wise.

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since Maria. Before I leave home, I secure my few remaining belongings and leave the rest to John, poor guy. Currently, there are no windows in the big hutch and the veranda roof isn’t nailed down, so of course I’m worried. Truth be told, I’d rather stay on island and face the music rather than fret about it from abroad, but the developed world awaits.

Amazingly, the official death toll death toll in Puerto Rico has risen from 67 to almost 3,000 despite President Trump’s claim of stellar response. The threat of Category 4 Hurricane Florence to the Carolinas is yet another wake up call for a world where some folks still insist that climate change isn’t real. Luckily, Isaac is downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reaches Dominica and does little damage. Florence, however, made landfall as a Category 1 and continues to dump rain measured in feet instead of inches on the eastern seaboard and inland. It will be interesting to see if Donald takes this hurricane more seriously than Maria. His narcissistic world finally seems to be seems to be crumbling around him. Dude, where is my country?

As much as I love my family and friends, I feel like a fish out of water in the States. The time spent in front of the TV watching news, sit coms, and sports combined with the endless hours spent in the car and eating fast food on the run is debilitating. That’s not how I want to spend the last years of my life. Sure, it’s great to be mobile and have proper roads and telecommunications, but life on the Nature Island (despite the relative struggle) is still worth it in my mind.

Apart from the lack of convenience, the deep and abiding love I have for Dominica is second only to that of my family. Let’s just hope the hurricane season settles down for the rest of the year, I reach home safely, and, God spare, I can linger in “paradise” a bit longer.