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Mud clots dripping. Shell fragments.


Water droplets. Then she notices microscopic movement, translucent flecks squirming. Hopping like fleas. The boy shakes his hand. A tiny clam appears on his palm, its foot half-clamped in the shell like a bitten tongue. Also a snail clinging upside-down, its minute unicorn horn shell pointing at the earth. And a tiny translucent crab. Some kind of eel squirming. Dorotea pokes the mud with her finger. The boy laughs again, washes his hand in the sea. Says, You haven't been here before.

She looks out at the sea.

Feel every word with award-winning performances

Thinks of all the creatures that must be under her feet. Thinks how much she has to learn. Looks at the boy. Asks his name. She tacks a map to the wall. Sits on her sleeping bag and traces the state of Maine with her eye. The land with its borders and capitals and names. Her eye is drawn continually back to the blue that stretches into the fringes. A moth hurls itself at her window. In the trees outside insects rasp and scream. Dorotea thinks she can hear the sea.

She pulls the bucktail streamers from her pocket to admire them. Her father stands in the doorway, knocks softly on the door frame, says hey, sits on the floor beside her. He looks caved in by sleeplessness. His back and shoulders are round.

TOKYO (1 a.m.)

Hi, Daddy. What do you think? It's so new, Daddy. It'll take some time. To get used to it. She doesn't talk to me.

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She hardly ever talks to anybody. That's her way. Her father slumps. Gestures with his chin towards the streamers in Dorotea's hand. What are those? For fishing. He does not bother to conceal that he is elsewhere.

Introduction & Overview of The Shell Collector

I want to fly-fish, Daddy. Can I tomorrow?

Her father's hands open and close. His eyes are open but not seeing.

HarperCollins Publishers UK / The Shell Collector, by Anthony Doerr, Read by Robert G. Slade

Sure, Dorotea. You can go fishing. The door closes behind him. Dorotea holds her breath. Hears her dad inhaling slowly in the other room. As if each breath taken summons barely enough courage to take the next. She pulls on her brown cardigan, slides open her window and climbs out. She stands in the wet yard. The galaxy wheels above the pines. The wind is clean, the grass drowned with dew.

Clouds slide in ranks below the stars. Her sneakers are soaked. Forest mulch clings to her cardigan.

She crouches in pine needles outside the circle of firelight, sees dark figures shifting, their warped shadows thrown up into the pines. They sit on logs, stumps. They laugh.

Happy April fools!!(Interviewing my Grandpa(shell collector)!!)

She hears the clink of bottles. She sees the boy among them, sitting on a log. His smile orange in the firelight. His necklace white. He laughs, tips back a bottle. She holds her breath a long time, almost a minute. She stands, turns to go, steps on a stick and it snaps. The laughter fades. She does not move. Hey, the boy says.

Dorotea turns from the shadows, steps out into the firelight, walks with her head down, sits next to the boy.