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  • Writer's pictureBelle Kenyon

Exclusive story extract from Alice Fowler's collection: 'The Truth Has Arms and Legs'

We are delighted to launch Surrey author Alice Fowler's debut short story collection, 'The Truth Has Arms and Legs' - one which is making readers laugh, cry and remember just what makes us human. A story that Alice chewed over the most was; SOMETHING YOU NEED TO KNOW, and so we wanted to share a sample to celebrate publication day...


“Look, Mum – an egg!”

Our daughter Maya points to something curved, just visible in the sand. Ingrid, our guide, scoops the pale form up and holds it out towards us: crumpled like a ping-pong ball, stepped on by mistake.

“Safely hatched,” she says, and sets the empty turtle shell to rest on the damp sand.

Dawn light streaks Maya’s shoulders as she crouches, watchful and intent. Early on an August morning, on a beach close to Greece’s southern tip, we’ve come to search for sea turtles: to find how many of this threatened species have hatched out overnight.

With deft movements, Ingrid and two other conservation guides scoop away the sand. Most eggshells that emerge are curled and empty. Only a few come out intact, like small pink-fir potatoes. Knowing them too old to hatch, Ingrid breaks an egg apart: “This one stopped growing long ago.”

I stare at the withered form inside: thinking of other tiny beings, barely formed, that lost the fight for life.

Not wishing to see, I glance at Maya’s face. Will our tender-hearted daughter, not yet nine, grieve for this small creature? Turning, she slips her hand in mine. “Don’t worry,

Mum. It’s nature’s way. Not every baby turtle gets to live.”

Where does this wisdom come from, far beyond her years? Her empathy and love for every living thing?

We stand, waves breaking at our toes, before the sweep of Kalamata Bay. Small yachts dot the cove, bows pointing to the wind. A Greek flag flutters on the headland, proud.

We’d learnt about the sea turtles just the night before.

Behind the bright-lit restaurants at the harbour, a shack stands in the shadows. Our daughter tugs us to see the photographs of sea turtles, Caretta caretta, pinned up on its doors. “This year, we have a hundred nests along our shore,” a young woman in a T-shirt tells us. “Twenty years ago, that number was just forty.” If we pay a little money, we can adopt a sea turtle ourselves.

Our daughter’s gold-flecked eyes light up.

“Please Mum, can we adopt one? Can we, Dad?”

Her father Tim and I exchange a glance. I guess that, like me, he thinks of the wild creatures already taken to her heart. Rhino, puffin, polar bear, short-eared owl, brownhairstreak butterfly, a rare and special newt: all we have paid a small sum to ‘adopt’. Their pictures fill her bedroom walls; certificates in frames confirming the species she supports. All bring a new soft-toy, to be cradled to her chest each night.

“Oh Maya,” I say. “Don’t you have enough already?”

“Please –”

How can we deny her when every creature needs our help? When her yearning gaze implores us?

I think of nights stood at our daughter’s door, listening for the soft rush of her breath.

A form is quickly filled, a credit card passed over. Next morning, young conservation volunteers – two Germans and a Greek – will check the beach for nests.

So it is that, next day, our family of three is up before the dawn.

The sun, inching higher, strikes the distant, tree-cloaked mountains. Beside the beach, orange-pink roofs of tourist villas show through the bamboo groves. In spring,

female turtles come up from the sea at night, to lay their eggs amid the sun-loungers and palm-leaf fringed umbrellas. Man and nature, existing side by side.

Maya runs ahead. I hear her voice rise, sharp.

Sea turtle eggs – three dozen or more – lie smashed.

The tracks of animals – foxes, dogs, perhaps a cat or two – mill round them. Our guides draw in their breath and drop down to the still-damp sand.

Painstakingly, they count the broken shells. Thirty-seven eggs, dug up and feasted on. Streaks of golden yolk glint in the morning sun.

The Truth Has Arms and Legs by Alice Fowler is out now from all retailers and from FOTW direct here.

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