Saturday, February 15, 2014

Prompt: You have to go deep enough to see clearly

"Katya! Come out of the water!” Mama called until I pushed my head through the brown algae sludge. “Get out of there, Katya! You know it’s not good for you!”

I ducked back under and kicked down a few feet to reach clear water so I could swim to the shore. Mama didn’t understand. When I climbed out through the sludge, she hustled me over to the pipe shower and hosed me down, fussing all the while. I kept quiet and clutched the spiral shell I had found to show Papa.

“Look how this one winds to the left,” Papa said as I cuddled in his lap after dinner and showed him the shell. He traced its ridges from top to bottom, turning it slowly in his trembling hands. I leaned my head on his chest and listened to his tap-tappy heart and the whistle when he breathed – shallow breaths in and out, the nurse kept reminding him. My fingers followed his around the spiral of the shell.

Papa was a pearl diver before the sludge took over. It got in his lungs and now he can’t breathe on land or in the water. He taught me to swim before I could walk, and he taught me to dive deep under the sludge before he couldn’t get in the water any more.

“See, Katya. The sludge is on the surface. It wraps around everything – trash, pollution, slow children…” He would tickle me, and I would giggle and wrap my arms around his neck while he treaded in the water. “Once it covers anything, it pulls it under, sinking to the bottom of the ocean, where it turns to rock and holds the trash down there forever. So the sludge is on the top and on the bottom, but in between, the water is clean and clear. And all ours.” And we would hold hands and dive deep into the clear water, light filtering through the sludge high above us.

The sludge covered the oysters, of course, so there were no more pearls. Everything that lived on the bottom – coral, shrimp, anemone, crabs – they all were covered by the sludge and turned to rock. Everything that lived on the surface – dolphins, whales, turtles, resting birds – was pulled under and sank to the bottom to be covered as well. The middle oceans thrived. That was where I lived…

Dogs in house

Time writing
20 minutes

February word count

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