Salome Magazine
covenant dance chamber archives gatekeeper
LAce Posted Monday, January 10th, 2005
Sue Miller

Shelly touched her toes into the water and decided that it was almost warm enough to be comfortable but that was going to be good and cold enough to shock her into the present, into May 2, 2004, where she, Shelly Waters was going to force her own tide to turn. He wasn't going to come. He'd told her that this morning on the phone. He was sorry she was so upset, sorry he'd led her to believe he loved her, even if he had said it, well, you know how it is in the heat of the moment, Shel. Yeah, Shel knew. She knew more than she said, but figured it was better he didn't know, if there was no love between them.

She stripped off her windbreaker and waded out through the muddy flats until she hit a deeper hollow between sandbars where a current was pulling the tide out in a fast-moving channel. She could float out on that as the tide receded. Sewn into her favorite jeans, she felt the weight of the lead she'd swiped from the neighbor's scrap heap. He made buckshot with it, and fishing sinkers. She bought some from him once, to give to her sister for her birthday. Funny how that memory came back to her when she needed it. there'd be no heavy coat with pockets full of stones for her; she was no writer. She'd burned her journals. They were full of him, and he was forgotten, forgotten already, she told herself as she looked out to sea.

Her lips were blue, and she couldn't feel the snails and crabs she knew she was smashing as she traversed the tidal flat. The oyster shells were slick with algae and she kept nearly capsizing before she was ready for the plunge. She stepped quickly, knees coming high out of the salty water; the kelp slipping up inside her pant legs and licking at her calves in feathery sheets skeeved her. She hated it, hated those million green fingers caressing her, lapping at her legs like watery sycophants copping a feel.

Someone was yelling something to her from the shore. The woman reminded Shelly of her sister. The wind was coming off the water and Shelley couldn't make out what the stranger was saying. She didn't want to. Shelly was glad she was this side of the breakwater and the tide was going out—at least there's be no hooks from errant casts, no nets to catch her.

Shelly stood thigh deep in the sound. The warm water raced past her and she trailed her fingertips in it. The full moon held its own against the sun, high in the sky in the middle of the day. Sun and moon, together. Was this some sort of celestial event? Putting the sun at her back, she turned and faced the moon, faced the shore, and sank slowly down, testing the water. She recoiled at the cold. Women protected their breasts when they went into cold waters, but she was sure it was modesty that made them cover their nipples as they hardened. Shelly kept her body slowly sinking as the water hit her crotch, froze it. Damn, that was always the hardest part. The sea snuck inside of her like she was a mermaid or something. Sorry Sir, that seat is taken, she joked to herself.

Shel stood up and waved. The woman on the shore looked nervous. She was yelling, making like she was going to come in after her. Shel knew that wouldn't happen, and the wind against her wet t shirt was something she didn't want to face. The water was much warmer than the air, and almost pleasant, once you'd gotten used to it. Shelly removed her glasses, and tucked the arm through and behind the little yellow bow at the front of her bra. She was awash in a world of sensation, now. Nothing was clear, save the sharpness of the cold and the cries of the seabirds as the plummeted around her, snatching the minnows that flashed and collided against her cold white flesh. Their silver frenzy soothed her, hypnotized her, as in her mind, she went further and further away.

She spread open her arms, raised them in a graceful arc like a seagull about to take flight, smiled, and let herself fall slowly backward into the sea.

She opened her eyes under water. The view was milky at best. Brown and silted with minimal visibility, it flowed around her, began to claim her as her body temperature normalized with it. She felt herself rising, and expelled the air from her lungs as she'd seen cormorants squeeze it from their feathers. The bubbles rose, round silver worlds racing to rejoin life on the surface. The minnows dodged and bumped her air as it went from her. Mindless, they were, scattering from the shorebirds' sharp beaks that broke the barrier between light and life as she slid out to deeper waters, borne on the out-rush of tidal current. She watched it all, concentrating hard on ignoring the pain that was creasing her.

She held her dead-man's float and tried to relax into it, but little things began to bother her. She didn't mind the fish nibbling at her. But these disquieting floaty green lacework blobs kept washing over her face, brushing her open eyeballs. One lodged in her teeth. She hadn't realized her mouth was open, but there it was, feeling around inside her mouth. It tickled and disgusted her. She shook her head violently, trying to wash it out. Part of it slid down her throat and she gagged and heaved to expel it. Without realizing what she was doing, she burst out of the water, clutching her throat and coughing.

The stranger, now waist-deep in the water and franticly searching, saw her and scrambled toward her. Shelly felt herself hauled up and out. "Godl! Oh, God, Shel!" she sobbed, and clutched her in an unbreakable embrace.

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Myfanwy Collins on Sunday, January 16th, 2005 at 8:02 AM
This is lovely, Sue. At once desperate and hopeful. I love the ending.

Posted by Katrina Denza on Sunday, January 16th, 2005 at 7:00 PM
Wow. This is really powerful--and surprising. Wonderful details.

Posted by sue miller [ ] on Monday, January 24th, 2005 at 10:36 AM
Thank you, ladies. very much. this one is a little close to the bone for me, so i really appreciate your comments. --sue

Posted by Cecilia Miller on Friday, January 28th, 2005 at 9:06 AM
This is so hauntingly beautiful! It leaves me wanting to read the entire story and not just this snippet. If you haven't written the whole story, you should!

Posted by Nexus Full [ ] on Tuesday, March 15th, 2005 at 10:17 PM
Beautiful! Haunting! Do you have other works published? I would love to read them.

Posted by sue miller [ ] on Tuesday, April 5th, 2005 at 11:19 AM
Thanks to all. I put up a page here with links to my published work. I hope to continue too add to it.

© Copyright 2002 Salome Magazine. All rights reserved. email gatekeeper