The lawn was like a tightly woven carpet around the palm trees. Joseph's black skin shone in the sun as he stood next to flowering bushes, sheers in hand. The pale boy's head was bald and shone as well.
He was thin and wore an Izod shirt and plaid shorts.
The boy lingered as his parents walked on with the porter to their cottage. "Hi, I'm Tom. What's your name. . ."
And as they talked, Joseph came to ask, and the boy told. The reason he was bald was that he had cancer. The treatment made all of his hair fall out. But he was going to LIVE.
"But I know a girl in town. She has breast cancer. She is only 14--just three years older than you. The doctors said they could not help her. She is waiting to die."
"But they must be wrong! They can cure cancer!"
"It is too expensive to go to America, so she stays here."
"No! This is wrong. I have to talk to her. There must be money somewhere for cases like hers. It's stupid that she should die."
* * *
The next day, they passed through the clean white gates and down the dirt road of houses surrounded by walls topped in shattered glass. A short walk farther were the concrete buildings of the harbor, gray with dust and with corrugated aluminum roofs.
Through a gate was a small dirt yard with a naked toddler and a sad mother. She smiled at the visitors. "Please, come in. Joseph told us about you."
The inside of the house was small and dim and cooled by the smooth concrete floor. The thin, shy girl sat on the tattered couch. Her hair was cornrowed.
The boy launched into his sermon of hope. When he was done, the mother smiled and sighed. "We took her to Miami. The hospital had a free program. She saw the best doctors, but she has a bad cancer. They did their best, but there is no more they can do. She is home now, so she can be with us."
"Oh. . . Oh. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
Joseph took the boy back up the road and through the white gates to the manicured lawns and flowering bushes and palm trees and a beach of pink sand with warm, gentle waves.