#171 That Which Was Not

by G. K. Adams

Sheila arrives on the sandbar early every Sunday. Today the dark willows are filigreed against an orange sunrise whose filtered beams dance macabre on the muddy river. The air lies heavy, birds chirp. She eases herself to the ground, to-go coffee in hand.

A pulsing line of foam marks the boundary between river and backwater. With a stick, she stabs the foam. After each strike, like a recurring nightmare the boundary reforms.

The sun becomes white hot, washes color from the willows. Dreamlike, swimmers appear on the beach, with chairs and ice chests. The birds retreat to the woods. Wasps mine the river bank.

Sheila places little Raymond in his blue float and gives him a push. Waves caress her legs. He beats the water with his chubby hands. “Rain, Mommy. Rain.” White jets of water shoot up and, falling, soak his curly blond hair. “Look, Mommy.”

A smile crosses Sheila’s face, but a wasp lights on her arm. Instinctively she yelps and slaps. It buzzes her head. Her arms flail like the blades of a crazed windmill. When she turns, the blue float is bobbing empty in the water.

“No!” she shrieks, and begins to thrash, grasp, reach until at last she feels a writhing, kicking body. She grabs and raises the choking, screaming child. She presses him to her heart.

The officer never comes to say, “Sorry, Ma’am.”

The pulsing line of foam again snaps shut. Sheila flings the stick into the river, watches it course downstream.


Dino Parenti said...

Your imagery and language is incredibly beautiful; some of the best I've read yet in this contest.

Unknown said...

I love the subtly of the narrative, the idea that more than one emotion flows through the story. Bravo!