Chapter no 55 – Grass Flowers

Where the Crawdads Sing


As Jodie’s truck bumped off the pavement onto the sandy marsh road, he talked gently to Kya, saying she’d be fine; it

would just take some time. She scanned cattails and egrets, pines and ponds flashing past. Craned her neck to watch two beavers paddling. Like a migrating tern who has flown ten thousand miles to her natal shore, her mind pounded with the longing and expectation of home; she barely heard Jodie’s prattle. Wished he would be quiet and listen to the wilderness within him. Then he might see.



Her breath caught as Jodie turned the last bend of the winding lane, and the old shack came into view, waiting there beneath the oaks. The Spanish moss tossed gently in the breeze above the rusted roof, and the heron balanced on one leg in the shadows of the lagoon. As soon as Jodie stopped the truck, Kya jumped out and ran into the shack, touching the bed, the table, the stove.

Knowing what she would want, he’d left a bag of crumbs on the counter, and, finding new energy, she ran to the beach with it, tears streaming her cheeks as the gulls flew toward her from up and down the shore. Big Red landed and tramped around her, his head bobbing.

Kneeling on the beach, surrounded by a bird frenzy, she trembled. “I never asked people for anything. Maybe now they’ll leave me alone.”

Jodie took her few belongings into the house and made tea in the old pot. He sat at the table and waited. Finally, he heard the porch door open, and as she stepped into the kitchen, she said,

“Oh, you’re still here.” Of course, he was still there—his truck was in plain view outside.

“Please sit down a minute, would you?” he said. “I’d like to talk.”

She didn’t sit. “I’m fine, Jodie. Really.”

“So, does that mean you want me to go? Kya, you’ve been alone in that cell for two months, thinking a whole town was against you. You’ve hardly let anyone visit you. I understand all that, I do, but I don’t think I should drive away and leave you alone. I want to stay with you a few days. Would that be okay?”

“I’ve lived alone almost all my life, not two months! And I didn’t

think, I knew a whole town was against me.”

“Kya, don’t let this horrible thing drive you further from people.



It’s been a soul-crushing ordeal, but this seems to be a chance to start over. The verdict is maybe their way of saying they will accept you.”

“Most people don’t have to be acquitted of murder to be accepted.”

“I know, and you have every reason in the world to hate people.

I don’t blame you, but . . .”

“That’s what nobody understands about me.” She raised her voice, “I never hated people. They hated meThey laughed at meThey left meThey harassed meThey attacked me. Well, it’s true; I learned to live without them. Without you. Without Ma! Or anybody!”

He tried to hold her, but she jerked away.

“Jodie, maybe I’m just tired right now. In fact, I’m exhausted.

Please, I need to get over all this—the trial, jail, the thought of being executed—by myself, because by myself is all I’ve ever known. I don’t know how to be consoled. I’m too tired to even have this conversation. I . . .” Her voice trailed off.

She didn’t wait for an answer but walked from the shack and into the oak forest. Knowing it was futile, he didn’t go after her. He would wait. The day before, he’d supplied the shack with groceries

—just in case of acquittal—and now set about chopping vegetables for her favorite: homemade chicken pie. But as the sun set he couldn’t stand keeping her from her shack another minute, so he left the hot, bubbling pie on the stovetop and walked out the door.

She had circled to the beach, and when she heard his truck driving slowly down the lane, she ran home.



Whiffs of golden pastry filled the shack to the ceiling, but Kya still wasn’t hungry. In the kitchen she took out her paints and planned her next book on marsh grasses. People rarely noticed grasses except to mow, trample, or poison them. She swept her brush madly across the canvas in a color more black than green. Dark images emerged, maybe dying meadows under storm cells. It was hard to tell.

She dropped her head and sobbed. “Why am I angry now? Why now? Why was I so mean to Jodie?” Limp, she slid to the floor like a rag doll. Curling into a ball, still crying, she wished she could snuggle with the only one who’d ever accepted her as she was. But the cat was back at the jail.

Just before dark, Kya walked back to the beach where the gulls were preening and settling in for the night. As she waded into the surf, shards of shells and chips of crabs brushed her toes as they tumbled back to the sea. She reached down and picked up two pelican feathers just like the one Tate had put in the section of the dictionary he had given her for Christmas years ago.

She whispered a verse by Amanda Hamilton:

“You came again, Blinding my eyes

Like the shimmer of sun upon the sea. Just as I feel free

The moon casts your face upon the sill. Each time I forget you

Your eyes haunt my heart and it falls still. And so farewell

Until the next time you come, Until at last I do not see you.”

The next morning before dawn, Kya sat up in her porch bed and breathed the rich scents of the marsh into her heart. As faint light filtered into the kitchen, she cooked herself some grits, scrambled eggs, and biscuits, as light and fluffy as Ma’s. She ate every bite.

Then, as the sun rose, she rushed to her boat and chugged across the lagoon, dipping her fingers into the clear, deep water.



Churning through the channel, she spoke to the turtles and egrets and lifted her arms high above her head. Home. “I’ll collect all day, anything I want,” she said. Deeper in her mind was the thought that she might see Tate. Maybe he’d be working nearby and she’d come across him. She could invite him back to the shack to share the chicken pie Jodie had baked.

• • •

LESS THAN A MILE AWAY, Tate waded through shallow water, dipping samples in tiny vials. A wake of gentle ripples fanned out from each step, from each dip. He planned to stay near Kya’s place.

Maybe she’d boat out into the marsh, and they’d meet. If not, he’d go to her shack that evening. He hadn’t decided exactly what he’d say to her, but kissing some sense into her came to mind.

In the distance an angry engine roared, higher-pitched and much louder than a motorboat—defeating the soft sounds of the marsh. He tracked the noise as it moved in his direction, and suddenly one of those new airboats, which he hadn’t seen, raced into view. It glided and gloated above the water, above even the grasses, sending behind a fantail of spray. Emitting the noise of ten sirens.

Crushing shrubs and grasses, the boat broke its own trail across the marsh and then sped across the estuary. Herons and egrets squawking. Three men stood at its helm, and seeing Tate, they turned in his direction. As they neared, he recognized Sheriff Jackson, his deputy, and another man.

The flashy boat sat back on its haunches as it slowed and eased near. The sheriff shouted something to Tate, but even cupping his ears with his hands and leaning toward them, he couldn’t hear above the din. They maneuvered even closer until the boat wallowed next to Tate, sloshing water up his thighs. The sheriff leaned down, hollering.

Nearby, Kya had also heard the strange boat and, as she boated toward it, she saw it approaching Tate. She backed into a thicket and watched him take in the sheriff’s words, then stand very still,



head lowered, shoulders sagging in surrender. Even from this distance she read despair in his posture. The sheriff shouted again, and Tate finally reached up and let the deputy pull him into the boat. The other man hopped into the water and climbed into Tate’s cruiser. Chin lowered, eyes downcast, Tate stood between the two uniformed men as they turned around and sped back through the marsh toward Barkley Cove, followed by the other man driving Tate’s boat.

Kya stared until both boats disappeared behind a point of eelgrass. Why had they apprehended Tate? Was it something to do with Chase’s death? Had they arrested him?

Agony ripped her. Finally, after a lifetime, she admitted it was the chance of seeing Tate, the hope of rounding a creek bend and watching him through reeds, that had pulled her into the marsh every day of her life since she was seven. She knew his favorite lagoons and paths through difficult quagmires; always following him at a safe distance. Sneaking about, stealing love. Never sharing it. You can’t get hurt when you love someone from the other side of an estuary. All the years she rejected him, she survived because he was somewhere in the marsh, waiting. But now perhaps he would no longer be there.

She stared at the fading noise of the strange boat. Jumpin’ knew everything—he’d know why the sheriff had taken Tate in and what she could do about it.

She pull-cranked her engine and sped through the marsh.

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