by Kit McCoy
The rains started, and the yard filled with green stalks under tiny white flowers. Jasmine hung heavy on the breeze while we sat on the back porch watching puddles fill and glasses empty. The rain didn’t stop for fourteen years. The dull light of overcast days linked together, a depressing chain that wilted the flowers and our vivacity. It was a dreamscape we lived in because it wasn’t possible, but there we were.
Six months of rain and the best joke we could come up with was, “Maybe tomorrow.” We’d chuckle as we shuffled off to bed then lay in growing fear as the rain drowned our hopes of seeing the sun again. After three years of rain, we remembered the sun but didn’t speak about it. Six years passed before we decided to move on with our lives. We bore three children while the rain fell, and none of them saw the sun. They grew slowly, very slowly. The world grew slick with moss and swamp, and it became unsafe to play outside.
The water rose slowly, more slowly than the children grew so we had time to stack everything in our home on top of the roof and gather whatever debris floated by to build the floating home that was tethered to our old life. There was a woman who claimed she spoke to God, and He told her we were being elevated. She was carried off one night, presumably by God, to talk to other folks about our shared elevation.
There’s a listlessness that comes when you live on the water. The children didn’t notice it because they’d never been on land in their memory, but we knew. It sounds like a ballad you might sing to an infant, one you remember from your infancy, so it creeps through the filters of time and then through your mouth and seeps into your baby’s ears an entirely different sound than seeped into yours. All our songs sound like splashing, or raindrops on water, or wood drifting into wood. Sometimes our songs sound like bubbles rising from what rots beneath our home.
When our first child grew fins, I was relieved. The food was running low, and we needed to grow our home to make room for our second son. Needless to say, he was an avid swimmer, but he refused to kill fish so we ate only bugs, alligators, and whatever furry animals clung to nearby debris. He was a great help in reminding us of our past. He often brought mementos up from the depths. I had forgotten about glass, a substance born to separate the inside from the outside while maintaining the illusion of being close to nature.
When our second child grew wings, I was very sad. I had forgotten wings, having been replaced in my mind by mold and damp wood and empty bellies. Yet, when I saw the wings, I remembered they had one use. To fly away. He was young and I was loath to teach him to fly so he was a weak flier for a long time, hopping on one leg and then the other, flapping the damp from his wings and taking a deep breath before stretching both wings in tandem and attempting flight. His older brother watched from the water, waiting to fish him from the drink because he never made it more than a few wing beats from home before he was lost in the growling waves.
The boy died shortly before our daughter was born. It was my fault. My wife said so and I agree. I should have taught him to fly properly. Instead, I secretly enjoyed his failures. Those failures enraged him and I should have known he would eventually try on his own. He was gone for two days, and his brother searched for him all that time before his body washed upon our doorstep. The shock of it sent my wife into early labor, and our only daughter was born very, very small. She was so small, in fact, that we often lost her in the home until we heard her cry. A baby’s cry is a distinct and terrible sound that shakes the eardrums and curdles the belly, but her cry was worse because it brought storms.
We didn’t recognize it at first. In fact, we thought that she didn’t like storms and they made her cry. But it dawned on us eventually that she would cry and the storms would come, horrible storms that threatened to tear us all apart. The louder she cried, the louder the storm became, and that made it all the more difficult to find her. One night in the pitch black, she began to cry. That was a very bad night, the worst night. The storm raged above us while we tried to find our daughter in our heaving home. The walls creaked, the floor groaned, and our baby cried. It went on for so long that I couldn’t remember the difference between all the sounds that surrounded me, and I simply stopped looking, having forgotten what I’d been looking for.
The sea heaved, the sky crashed down, and in my belly there was the emptiness of something very important, forgotten. No one else forgot though, and they found her between folds of sea that could only be unfolded in just the right way in order to find her. How she’d found the place was a mystery and how they found her was equally as mysterious, but we were all very happy to have her back.
That was the first time she smiled, and when she smiled, the clouds parted for the first time in a very long time, a very long time. When we saw the clear sky, we began to hate the rain the way a slave hates his master and we worked very hard to keep our daughter happy. That is why she was given the name Summer and why all her tiny children are the happiest children in the world.
Category: Fiction, Short Story