HomeShort StoryOur bodies of Water -

Our bodies of Water –

Our bodies of Water –


6:32 a.m.
There may be an agitation within the Morgans’ swimming pool. The water turns into abruptly extra conscious, as if nudged from drowsing.

The September solar is edging over the horizon. A flurry of crows crosses the brightening sky. Their squabbling rings out within the morning quiet of this Palm Springs suburb.

The ripples within the pool abate rapidly. There isn’t a breath of wind but, and the pump stays off at this hour. The water lies inert, held down by gravity, walled in by layers of concrete. It seems tranquil however just isn’t. It probes the rows of tile on the waterline. It investigates the grout that holds them in place. It presses towards the pebbled coating that covers the underside and sides of the basin. Its seek for fissures is relentless. There are none to find.

8:00 a.m.
The pool tools clicks on. The pump begins pushing the water by way of pipes and valves, affording it a small measure of reduction. Motion staves off stagnation, however water can’t provoke movement. It should depend on gravity and climate, or on residing issues and the machines they develop to do their bidding.

The water flows from the pool, to the pump, to the filter. It travels as much as the photo voltaic panels on the roof of the home, right down to the salt cell, and again out to the pool. The circumscribed migration is sufficient to forestall these 30,000 gallons of chemically handled liquid from turning inexperienced or emitting a foul odor, which isn’t to say that it’s adequate.

8:50 a.m.
Lisa Morgan walks down the steps into the eighty-nine-degree water. The heat is cloying and intrusive, like somebody touching her in all places directly. The yard, and the pool inside it, are laid naked to the desert solar 13 hours a day. 5 royal palms are the one timber. Their fronds shimmer sixty ft overhead, tethered to the property by their slim, silver trunks. They solid their scant shadows on the neighbors’ neighbors’ yard.

Lisa, too, is tall and skinny. Her legs and shoulders are sculpted of muscle. Individuals who meet her are by no means shocked to listen to that she was in an expert dance troupe in her twenties. Eight months in the past, simply after her forty-eighth birthday, a podiatrist recognized the ache in her ft as arthritis, one of many unremarkable, incurable illnesses that beset a physique midway to obsolescence. She gave up the trendy dance class she taught on the neighborhood school. For train, now, she swims.

She adjusts her goggles, takes a pointy breath, and pushes off for her first lap. As her lengthy limbs churn the water, a voice involves her by way of the liquid tumult.

She stands, anticipating to see her thirteen-year-old daughter Camille leaning out the sliding glass door, asking for the Netflix password or twenty {dollars} and a experience to the mall. The door, nonetheless, is closed. Nobody is within the yard. The one sound is the drone of the air-con condenser.

However when Lisa places her face into the water and begins to swim as soon as extra, she hears the voice once more, a cascade of inscrutable syllables. It appears like somebody attempting to gargle and converse on the similar time. She decides it’s an auditory mirage, just like the sound of her cellphone ringing when she is within the bathe, the place some tone within the gushing water lends type to her concern of being unreachable when somebody wants her.

Daylight strobes off the pool’s floor, and her goggles intensify the glare. She closes her eyes. She doesn’t have to see to anticipate when her fingertips will brush the wall. There may be room sufficient for 4 full strokes and a clumsy half.

The voice burbles on, incoherent however expressive, like a child who’s picked up the cadences of language. There’s an unfocused urgency to it that feels acquainted. In latest months, an undercurrent runs beneath all her ideas, generally clamoring for her consideration and generally barely perceptible. It urges her to get in her automobile and drive for days to reach at a distant metropolis, a spot the place she will be able to change her title and soften into its nameless mass. She acknowledges this isn’t a sensible risk, or perhaps a fascinating one. However the effort of resisting it consumes extra of her power than she realizes.

Lisa’s stroke is highly effective however inefficient. Her fingers attain, seize, and pull. Her legs kick with extra pressure than is required to propel her by way of the foreshortened laps. When she reverses route, she swims towards a present of her personal making.

Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards she goes, her physique refusing to launch the promised endorphins. The voice retains tempo, demanding however companionable. She grows accustomed to its rhythms. Her arms rise and fall in time.

9:05 a.m.
The water exults within the turmoil the girl’s physique introduces. Her ft pummel the floor. Her cupped fingers scoop downward, drowning handfuls of air. She drags among the water alongside together with her and flings a few of it away, droplets arcing from her fingers, a wake of spray rising at her heels. The water sloshes ebulliently. It laps on the tiles.

9:52 a.m.
Eric Morgan slides open the patio door, which constitutes one-third of a wall of glass that runs the size of the residing and eating room. He steps into the paved rectangle of outside that’s his yard. The air temperature is 112 levels Fahrenheit.

The warmth of the concrete permeates the soles of his flip-flops. Seen above his neighbors’ rooftops are the blue peaks of the San Jacinto Mountains, the place it’s little doubt twenty or thirty levels cooler. Eric sees Palm Springs, and the Coachella Valley on the whole, as all however unfit for human habitation. Six months a yr, an individual can get second-degree burns from strolling barefoot on the pavement. The water provide is dredged up from deep underground. The animals are venomous; the crops bristle with spines and thorns. The San Andreas Fault bisects neighborhoods and open areas, and the place it has not been paved over, it puckers the bottom like a surgical scar. However Eric is {an electrical} engineer who focuses on renewable power, and two issues that this desert valley has in abundance are daylight and wind.

He slides out of his footwear and steps into the shallow finish. It looks like bathwater. His intention was to hitch Lisa within the pool, however he has missed her by twenty-five minutes, having spent longer than he realized squinting at his firm laptop computer, scanning the incoming knowledge on their wind generators within the San Gorgonio Move.

Eric is making an effort to work much less on weekends. Lisa has stopped mentioning it, however he is aware of higher than to interpret this as a great signal. The truth is, she hasn’t been talkative for months. To his feedback and questions, she furnishes responses which are acceptable, informative, and blandly nice however go away him feeling barely silly, as if he have been attempting to gin up dialog with somebody compelled by circumstances to tolerate him. An worker on his workforce, as an example, or a cashier or waiter. He has the sense that the larger a part of his spouse has sunk below the floor, and it’s his accountability to drag her out, however he doesn’t know easy methods to go about it.

He stands within the shallow finish. He can’t recall what there may be to do in a pool. He remembers throwing his small, squealing baby up into the air, and he remembers sitting on the steps with a chilly beer in a plastic cup, however in the meanwhile he has neither. He walks alongside the inside perimeter, rubbing his thumb alongside the ring of calcium that has constructed up on the waterline. It doesn’t work. He wants vinegar and a scrub brush, at a minimal. An influence washer could also be required.

He reminds himself he’s right here to calm down. On the deep finish, he suggestions his face to the sky and stretches again to drift. Because the water covers his ears, he feels himself overtaken by a reminiscence. As youngsters, he and his pals would soar into the chilly, swift Klamath River that ran alongside his hometown within the Oregon mountains and let it sweep them alongside for miles. The river gulped air and exhaled spray, hurling their our bodies downstream as they yelped with pleasure and the concern that heightened it. They glanced off boulders and submerged logs. When his head was pulled beneath the floor, he would maintain his breath and hearken to the roil and roar of the river. Why he ought to do not forget that now, on this tepid, static pool—and recollect it so vividly that he would swear that he truly hears the river’s chaotic, exuberant babble—is a thriller he doesn’t attempt to fathom.

He floats on his again, listening, letting the solar sear his pores and skin.

10:07 a.m.
The water is impatient with this human flotsam. The person bobs along with his stomach to the sky, drifting like a desiccated leaf. Movement is the one language water understands. It feels him breathe, his physique buoyed by every inhalation.

3:15 p.m.
Camille Morgan sprawls on a unicorn floaty within the deep finish, gazing at her cellphone. She’s not allowed to make use of her cellphone within the pool, however her mom is in mattress with the blinds drawn and her father is tinkering within the storage. He doesn’t know the foundations, anyway, not to mention implement them.

Camille watches a YouTuber stroll down Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. Individuals circulation throughout him. Everyone seems to be on their method someplace. The advancing crowd eddies round obstacles—a lamppost, a mailbox, a falafel cart. Camille has been invited to go to New York with a good friend’s household for Thanksgiving break, and he or she’s been pouring over journey movies all weekend. She has absorbed steering on easy methods to eat and store like an area and paid digital visits to the Empire State constructing, the Apollo Theater, and Coney Island.

The YouTuber approaches a subway entrance and goes down the steps. The station, flooded with fluorescent gentle, saxophone music, and passengers, is sort of a dirty subterranean magic portal. The trains that trundle by way of it join all of the locations Camille desires to go. Hidden beneath the floor of town, they flow into endlessly, day and night time.

The YouTuber boards the 6 practice, certain for decrease Manhattan. On the final cease, he stays in his seat as the opposite passengers exit. He explains, in a hushed voice, that the 6 modifications route to go uptown by looping by way of an underground station that has been closed since 1945. By the home windows, Camille sees the deserted station, stunning and ghostly. The practice passes below a leaded glass skylight. Arches tiled in emerald inexperienced and bone white glide by.

Camille’s display screen goes black. Her cellphone battery has died.

She blinks. She seems round. Boredom, undammed, rushes in. The pool is much less entertaining than it as soon as was. Final yr, when she was twelve, she spent Sunday afternoons swimming with the dual boys who dwell subsequent door, the three of them throwing themselves into the pool with more and more aggressive abandon. Cannonball. Entrance flip. Aerial cartwheel. Again tuck. However Camille has grown three inches since then, and her command of her newly lengthened physique is imprecise. In June she tried a backflip and was shocked to land flat on her abdomen. She got here up, sputtering and gagging, to listen to the boys laughing. They haven’t been invited again.

Camille’s scalp prickles. The warmth is extra oppressive than when the solar was instantly overhead. The pimple on her chin looks like it’s aflame. She paddles to the sting of the pool to tuck the lifeless cellphone into the shadow of a planter. Then she slides off the floaty.

As quickly as her head is underwater, she hears somebody talking to her, making some demand, she assumes, telling her to do her homework or wash her health club garments. She exhales and sinks to the underside, pretending to not hear. Day by day, the universe affords up 100 minor assaults on her dignity. Her physique bleeds with out warning. Sudden feelings bombard her. She exacts small retributions when she will be able to.

She listens to the garbled voice till her lungs burn. Then she comes up for a breath. The sound stops. She glances across the yard and finds it empty. Gratified that whoever it was has given up on her, she plunges again below.

And hears the voice once more.

Experimentation reveals that she will be able to hear it each time her ears are submerged. She prowls the pool’s depths and shallows. The voice appears to return from in all places and from nowhere. With the help of a patio chair stacked with cushions, she friends over the fence. There may be not a human being in sight in any of the encircling yards.

Having established these truths, she dives to the underside of the pool and provides herself over to listening, anchored to the drain’s grate by one finger. The voice is, by turns, a mumble, a lilt, and a roar. Its that means is past attain, like poetry in a language she doesn’t perceive. However she acknowledges its stressed power, feels it in her physique.

“Good day,” she says. “Good day?” Every syllable is a wavering bubble that glints within the solar.

3:45 p.m.
The bubbles rise, pulled towards the sky. The water feels the knocking of the woman’s coronary heart in her chest, the tremor of her pulse at her wrists and neck. By the semipermeable barrier of her pores and skin, it senses the liquid coursing by way of her bloodstream, simply because it senses, by way of layers of gravel and stone, a spring far beneath, winding by way of crevices of its personal making to hitch forces with a river that rushes to the ocean.

3:55 p.m.
Lisa has been mendacity on the mattress immobile, eyes closed, for 50 minutes, within the hopes that if she acts like she’s asleep, her physique will come round to the suggestion and lose consciousness. This morning she woke at 4:30 when Eric received as much as go to the lavatory. She had simply fallen again to sleep when she bolted upright at 6:32 for causes she wasn’t capable of establish.

After one other ten minutes, she pulls the distant management from a drawer within the nightstand. She by no means watches TV throughout the day, however she is simply too weary to stand up and too tense to sleep. She flicks from channel to channel with the sound muted.

There’s a close-up of a well-recognized face. It’s Gene Kelly, and he’s singing within the rain. The film is an outdated favourite of hers. It’s been years since she’s seen it. She turns up the sound. Kelly snaps his umbrella shut and grins up right into a downpour that drenches his swimsuit. He croons and glides and spins, fluid and effervescent, kicking up spray, and her mind mechanically provides the title of each dance step. Shuffle. Scuff. Stamp. Ball change. Pull again. She registers the perfection of his timing, his consummate, loose-limbed artistry.

And but.

And but she finds herself unmoved by this scene that she has all the time liked. As Kelly faucet dances alongside a moist gutter, bobbing up and down off the curb, nothing inside her springs in response. Her physique feels leaden. Her pores and skin is clammy and too heat. Damp hair clings to her temples.

A sheepish Kelly mugs at a policeman, who crosses his arms in disapproval. The film hasn’t aged effectively, she makes some extent of pondering. However she doesn’t consider it. The deficit is inside her.

It is a loss, she is aware of, however it’s not one she feels acutely. Her sense of remorse is vague, like a dialog overheard from two rooms away. And so she is shocked when she places her hand to her face to push again her hair and finds that she is crying.

5:00 p.m.
A sensor checks the pool’s water degree. Throughout the arid days bridging summer time and fall, evaporation spirits away half an inch a day.

The water contemplates the cloudless sky. The trickle from the autofill valve is welcome, however the water longs for a thunderstorm or, higher but, a flash flood. Water seeks out water. The world’s oceans and lakes, its creeks and its ponds, the rivers that fan out over its floor and people who discover their method by way of rock underground, are a fragmented complete eternally attempting, and failing, to coalesce. The pool is much less a physique of water than an amputated extremity.

6:50 p.m.
The Morgans cluster at one finish of their oak eating desk, a monumental furnishing chosen extra to suit the expansive open-plan residing and eating space than the wants of a one-child household. “It will be a studying expertise,” Camille continues. She ticks off websites of potential cultural enrichment. “The Statue of Liberty. Ellis Island.”

Eric extracts a bone from his salmon fillet. “Do we all know this household, Lisa?”

“Form of.” She has requested herself the identical query.

Camille pries open one other dinner roll. On her plate is a meatless patty drizzled with citrus caper sauce. It rests there, pristine, topped by a twist of lemon rind. She has not too long ago declared herself a vegetarian. “The Met.” She ranges her stare upon her dad. “Central Park.”

Eric holds up his palms. “I’m going to depart this choice as much as your mom.” This deference is meant to please his spouse.

Lisa closes her eyes. Mentally, she tosses the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, The Met, and Central Park on the mounting pile of causes to yield to her daughter’s unrelenting entreaty, now in its third day. The pile’s detrimental counterpart is much less effectively outlined, a shadowy jumble of mishaps and calamities of various specificity and chance.

When Lisa opens her eyes, her daughter is holding up fingers, the higher to trace her progress by way of the weather of her argument. “The UN Headquarters,” Camille says. Lisa’s thoughts counters with airplane crashes and meals poisoning. “Carnegie Corridor.” Homesickness. Baby abduction. “The Guggenheim.”

Eric whistles. “Nicely, effectively. Any individual spent all day on the web.” He raises an eyebrow towards Lisa, inviting her to hitch him in being impressed or amused by their thirteen-year-old baby’s precocious itinerary, however he finds her expression unreadable. She seems at his empty plate and slides the platter of salmon towards him.

Camille leans ahead to put herself in Lisa’s direct line of sight. “Broadway.” She has by no means identified her mom to have the ability to resist a musical. She name-drops three present productions.

Lisa understands what is predicted of her. She smiles broadly, repeating the primary two titles. “I haven’t heard of that final one.”

“It’s about that singer from the eighties. Michael Jackson.”

Lisa pauses together with her fork halfway to her mouth. She doesn’t know easy methods to categorize the unfamiliar Michael Jackson musical. It may very well be a candidate for both pile.

“He was an awesome dancer,” Camille provides.

The pool gentle comes on, its illumination reaching by way of the wall of glass into the room. The three of them every look out on the pool. Their faces are bathed in its pale blue glow. They drift for a second, alone of their ideas, which have extra in frequent than they think about.

Then they flip their consideration again to the dinner desk. For just a few seconds, nobody remembers why Camille is holding up eight fingers.

Then she places up one other. “The, uh, Met.”

“Sure, you stated that one.” Lisa nods towards Camille’s plate. “Eat your dinner, please.”

Eric forks one other fillet onto his plate. “I used to be pondering perhaps we may all go as much as Oregon for Thanksgiving week.”

Camille seems stricken. She chews her bread.

Eric describes his hometown within the fall, the crisp air and speeding river, the purple and gold leaves on the timber. “And perhaps we’d get somewhat rain.”

“If we’re fortunate,” Lisa says. “Freezing rain, if we’re not.” Her gentle snort is belated and misleads nobody. She gathers the empty bread basket and half-full water pitcher and hastens to the kitchen, the place she stands on the sink, mechanically taking stock of her blessings. Then she refills the containers and returns to the desk.

“Nicely, I assume I may go to Oregon,” Eric says.

8:00 p.m.
The pool tools shuts down. The water’s momentum ebbs. The day has not fulfilled its promise.

The stillness is stultifying. The water seethes.

Progressively, torpor overtakes it.

2:09 a.m.
Lisa awakens as her husband shifts in his sleep. She inches away from the warmth that radiates from his pores and skin. Unbidden, the New York query involves thoughts. Her ideas circle it doggedly. The potential of sleep recedes.

The home’s quiet, ever-present noises are audible. A fan whirs contained in the AV cupboard on the wall reverse their mattress. Three rooms distant, the fridge hums. Forty minutes cross.

Abruptly, the sounds stop. The facility has gone out. Lisa will get up and pulls on a T-shirt and shorts. The home is darkish, each glowing factor eclipsed—the nightlight within the corridor, the digital clock on the range, the modem below the TV within the household room. She navigates the rooms effortlessly, sliding previous furnishings and home equipment and potted crops. She is aware of the places of all of the obstacles. She positioned them there herself.

She seems in on Camille. From the doorway, she listens to her daughter breathe. In. Out. The sound is a balm. Together with her household asleep, needing nothing from her, it’s not doable for her to fall quick. The burden of loving them feels lighter.

Lisa slips out the again door and slides it closed behind her. Past the fence, the encircling homes hunker black and silent, however the sky burns with stars. She will see their gradations in coloration—white, ice blue, pinkish, yellow. The pool displays and animates their illumination. She watches it glimmer for a second, then steals alongside the aspect of the home and lets herself out the entrance gate. The streetlights are all out, however the stars are brilliant sufficient to stroll by. She shivers in her gentle T-shirt as she wanders the empty streets. The breeze lifts her hair from her neck.

7:16 a.m.
The blinking digital clock on the range reveals that the ability has been again on for 3 hours. Lisa units a plate of eggs and toast on the desk in entrance of Eric.

He doesn’t want her to make his breakfast, however he understands she must make it. He hasn’t realized it’s as a result of she requires a cause to get off the bed, and this one will do.

Camille is on the reverse finish of the desk on her final spoonful of cereal, her backpack slung on her shoulder. Her top notch doesn’t begin for nearly an hour, however on college mornings she cycles off to satisfy her pals as early as her mother and father will let her.

Lisa fills Eric’s cup with espresso after which stands by the desk. The three or 4 minutes within the morning when they’re all in the identical place is the time for bulletins and preparations. However her thoughts feels foggy, unable to deal with right this moment’s schedule.

She pours herself a cup of espresso and appears into it, as if the data she seeks is there. One other thought involves her as an alternative. With Camille in New York and Eric in Oregon, she can be alone for a short time right here—or, actually—anyplace she desires. She envisions the solitude. She feels the quiet. She feels the house. It’s peaceable, beguiling, annihilating. It’s like being a liquid spilled from its container. “Okay,” she says.

Eric seems up. “What?”

However she doesn’t get an opportunity to reply.

7:17 a.m.
The water within the pool is jolted from lassitude. Seventeen miles away, the sting of a slab of rock deep underground has succumbed to stress and crumbled, and two tectonic plates, at an deadlock for years, have begun to grind previous one another. The bottom strikes in waves.

A cluster of crows explodes from the royal palms. Their squawking is riotous.

Vitality surges by way of the pool.

7:17 a.m.
The Morgans crouch below the eating desk as the ground beneath them rolls just like the deck of a ship. The dishes on the desk slide. A sideboard door yawns open and bangs shut.

They grip one another’s fingers, surrounded by expanses of glass. The house’s architect used solely sufficient wooden and metal to carry the construction collectively, however the oak desk, ringed by a fortification of eating chairs, is a home inside a home. Eric braces himself towards one in all its sturdy legs as his spouse and daughter lean towards him. A plate crashes to the ground, swiftly adopted by Camille’s bowl, which splatters them with milk.

They peer out between the chair legs. The pool churns, awash in chop. Peaks rise and collapse.

Water rushes towards the shallow finish, collides with the steps, and shoots eighteen inches into the air. “Ooooh,” they are saying with one voice, as they do when they’re watching fireworks collectively.

A swell builds. It travels the size of the pool, crests on the edge, and breaks over the aspect. It followers out on the concrete, reaching towards them. The sheet of water shivers. It stops in need of the door.

A wave broadsides the unicorn floaty, which rears and spins and bucks. By clenched tooth, they snort.

7:18 a.m.
When the shaking has stopped, Lisa pulls the chair cushions onto the ground for them to sit down on. They watch the pool’s floor steadily develop nonetheless as their heartbeats gradual. The crows proceed to wheel within the air, cawing fitfully.

Camille digs her cellphone from her backpack, however there is no such thing as a cell service. They have no idea if it was a giant earthquake distant or small earthquake shut by. They have no idea whether or not highways or buildings have collapsed. For the second, they know solely that the three of them are collectively and unharmed.

Eric sits behind Lisa, and he or she leans towards him together with her knees pulled to her chest. Her head rests within the indentation between his shoulder and collar bone. Camille props herself towards her mom’s shins. The beforehand agreed upon plan of action is to stay below the desk till the hazard of aftershocks has handed. However this plan, they now notice, is much less particular than it appeared once they made it. Aftershocks can occur for days.

Lisa gathers Camille’s hair into her fingers, separates it into three clean rivulets, and weaves them collectively, her fingers transferring with inconsiderate surety. She holds the tip of the braid, after which, having no elastic band to safe it, she lets it go, combs by way of it together with her fingers, and begins once more.

Gradual minutes drip by because the household shelters of their low-ceilinged, ten-by-four-foot refuge. They may every return to this time and place time and again in reminiscence, individually and collectively.

One after the other, the crows return to the palms.

When Lisa has braided her daughter’s hair twelve occasions, Camille’s cellphone pings, its sign restored. In flows information of the world, principally intact. The marquee of an outdated theater downtown has collapsed. A brush fireplace from a downed energy line is already partially below management.

8:30 a.m.
The pool’s floor is as nonetheless as glass. However the water is much less contained than it seems.

A hairline crack runs nearly the total size of the basin, meandering from the drain to the steps on the shallow finish. Beneath it, within the pool’s concrete shell, a wider crevice has opened. The water seeps by way of the crack and drips down into the crevice, the place it passes into the soil beneath, looking for out groundwater.

The water’s escape is incremental. The Morgans won’t ever discover the leak. The underside’s tough, pebbly texture and the blurring impact of the water make the crack invisible to the attention. Replenished by the autofill valve and rare rains, the pool will stay full. However all of the whereas, the water will slip out little by little, discovering its approach to the ocean.


_________________________________________________________________________________________  Denise Heyl McEvoy lives in Southern California. Her fiction has appeared within the Iowa Assessment and Santa Monica Assessment. She is an alumna of the Neighborhood Writing Workshop at Chapman College, the Neighborhood of Writers Fiction Workshop within the Olympic Valley, and Amherst Faculty.




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