With a pinch of Lavender

I Tree Safely Down

April 1, 2009
Leave a Comment

My turtle was Polish. His name was Magnar Stanislaw; it said so in blue glitter on a sign over his tank. Magnar Stanislaw was a red eared turtle and on a Wednesday I left work early to get to Pet Planet before five thirty. I put the Turtle Bites canister into the eco-friendly mesh bag offered at the door, and stepped, probably very suspiciously, to the tank ornaments. I tried to look like I was not looking at tank accessories, or specifically the ceramic mermaid breasts. By facing the other way, I was staring into the face of an angry parakeet. The sign hanging below his swing said his name was Sturge. Of the decidedly aquatic themed knickknacks, the maritime selection was under stocked. I did not want to be the pet owner with a treasure chest in his turtle tank, so I picked a submarine that promised to float and sink depending on how much air was in the sub. The cashier was a high schooler, the kind that would say that animals were his friends. I walked the five blocks to my apartment with the submarine in my hand and the turtle food in my pocket. I wondered if passersby noticed the bulge.

Magnar Stanislaw paddled water when I closed the door. I took off my pants because it was hot, and walked over to Magnar Stanislaw’s tank to drop turtle food pellets in the water. I felt like saying something witty to him, like Rocky, but decided that talking to my pet turtle was too weird. Instead I pointed at him with both hands like old-timey cowboys. Magnar Stanislaw stared at me. The submarine was grey without any markings. I put it in the tank and Magnar Stanislaw pushed his neck out and tried to bite it. He kicked up the bottom of the tank scum, brushing the plastic propeller with where I imagined his nose to be. The sub bounced off the side of the tank, poking Magnar Stanislaw in the mouth. He blinked a few times and then involved his front feet in the fight against the ornament. I decided that the sub was German. I pictured the tank as the Atlantic, or the Baltic, whichever one was closer to Poland, with a fleet of subs coming to attack the country of Poland, represented by Magnar Stanislaw. I could see it perfectly; the u-boats surfacing off the coast of Magnar Stanislaw, preparing their torpedoes, the sailors running to their positions. I wondered what it would be like to man a torpedo, put it into place, alert others that it was ready to fire, receive the command, push the big red button, hear the whoosh of an object propelled through water, and the inevitable explosion that followed. Magnar Stanislaw’s red ears made me think of the ignition of the Polish fleet, the fire and smoke covering the beaches of the Baltic.

Thursday, Lane came over to watch NBC programming; I had the advantage of basic cable over her local news channels. I had found my model car paint in the shoebox at the bottom of my closet, and set them out on my desk. Lane walked into the living room holding the submarine.

“Why was this in your dish rack?” she grinned with one eyebrow raised.

“I’m going to paint it.” I gestured towards the paints.

“What are you going to paint on me?” She said in a high voice, bobbing the sub in front of her face. She taught first grade, and her energy level matched that of her students.

“It’s going to be German.”

“Ja, I am German! Vhat’s going to be painted on me?” She asked in a German accent, wiggling the sub.

“I’m going to do the Luftwaffe, because a swastika would be— bad.” I plucked the sub out of her fingers, and leaned over to kiss behind her ear.

“Do I have a captain?” Lane asked, still in accent.

“Ja, Kapitän Arnulf Schtockheimer.” I put the sub on my desk.

“Ja, dat’s goot.”

I painted the sub after she went home. Magnar Stanislaw was chewing his freeze dried shrimp and spitting them back into the water, only to chew them again. I figured that’s what cows would do, had they the opportunity to survive in water. I made a black cross with the widened ends on the grey sub, and outlined that with the white. I felt like a lonely fifteen year old– painting insignias with model paints at my desk for my turtle.

After I washed my hands, I turned on my new X box for some ‘Stripes of Glory’ WWI hand to hand combat. After dusting a few krauts, I felt a little bad for shooting at what were technically digital versions of my Great-Grandad Edsel’s countrymen. I wondered if there were any pro-German video games. Maybe in Germany, but they would possibly feel bad about promoting Nazism, so it would probably be Viking themed. It would be cool to play a Viking game, but, in my experience, games with shooting were a bit more satisfying. Lane was Swedish and English by ancestry, so only half of her would be offended if I were to play a pro-German game. I wanted to play that game, but no one had invented it yet. I decided to make it myself. I had no experience with programming, but I knew a lot of people who did. That was the advantage of working at Crunch Board Entertainment. I would ask on Monday or Tuesday how to go about making a proposal. It could be bigger than ‘Stripes of Glory’ or ‘Liberty Trenches’ or even ‘Patches of Honor: Pacific Theatre.’ I looked at the sub in the tank, gently dipping with the waves made by Magnar Stanislaw tapping the glass with his front legs, his unsteady feet shaking the water.

Advertisements

Riptide

February 3, 2009
Leave a Comment

Mercer kept salt water in a jar next to the window over the sink. It wasn’t the same as the water she scooped it from. This was clear, with sand in the bottom and bits of seaweed or fish parts settled. Mercer liked the thick glass, with the smooth letters that spelled a cursive ‘mason.’ The jar was clear, and the water was clear, and it was wrong. Her mother Hannah kept old bits of china and sea glass. They were splayed with gray rocks that had white veins in them. They were wrong, sitting on wood instead of being polished and smoothed and worn down to bits of sand. Mercer thought of what should have been little piles of sand on her mother’s dresser.

Mercer secretly climbed a tree. She wanted to look over the pond, see where it met the ocean. Her grandmother’s house was mildew and pine. Hannah spent her summers there until an orphan burned it down along with five other houses near the beach. The fireplace was old; the rest was rebuilt while Hannah was in school. Mercer climbed down, the dry bark crackling. The beach was past the pond, but she had seen snapping turtles crawl onto the lawn. She climbed up the rock face instead of walking around the house to the lane, and closed the faulty screen door that let mosquitoes in. Lucas poked a snapping turtle with a stick on the front lawn, smiling up at the living room and reaching his foot toward the turtle’s mouth. She didn’t watch him taunt their mother.

The kitchen was connected to the living room by a slate pathway shouldered by windows. Her grandmother had jars with nothing in them. Mercer fit the jars into each other like Russian dolls. She slipped her sandals on in case her grandmother came into the kitchen. Her feet were dirty, and scratched between the light calluses.

Mercer went to the beach with Hannah, her grandparents stayed under the overhang of the clubhouse. Hannah told her about diving off the elephant with the boys, her swimsuit snapping when she hit the water, spending the entire summer with her bikinis held together with safety pins. Mercer wanted to climb the elephant. To see what the beach looked like from up there. To step around dried barnacles and touch the warm rock with her hands as she maneuvered up the tail and onto the back. To shoo the sea birds off, trying not to step in their droppings, thirty years of baked seagull scat.

* * *

She tried to swim to the elephant when she was little, with Lucas, both of them in life vests. Hers had dolphins on it. The undertow started, it was hurricane season, and the jellyfish were coming to the shoreline. The sign on the beach said that they were only allowed in the water if accompanied by at least one other person. Hannah held Mercer and Lucas by the nylon tethers on the backs of their life vests. They were floating on their stomachs, paddling, tipping right and left to crawl, necks sticking out as far as they could go to keep their chins out of the water. Lucas had a red life vest with yellow piping, she knew it was red, because Hannah’s feet got knocked by a wave, and she didn’t let go. Mercer saw Lucas’ red life vest through the sand and the seaweed. She saw Hannah’s blue swimsuit and her own white life vest with the pink and purple dolphins on it. They all looked darker under the water; the sand was between her and the sky. She saw legs and sand and sand again. When Mercer’s head came out of the water, Lucas was crying.

“Why do you want to kill me?” His cheek was already pink from where his knee hit.

“I didn’t try to kill you.” Hannah pulled her yellow hair out of her face.
“Yes you did! I saw! You went under and wouldn’t let go! I was going to die!” His other cheek was blushing, and his eyebrows arched in a ‘why?’
“If I let go, then you’d be dead. The riptide would pull you out far, far out to sea, and you’d be gone. You’d go one way and Mercer would go another way, and I’d lose you both. Would you prefer that?” Hannah turned them back to the shore.
“Yes! My head wouldn’t be underwater.”

* * *

Mercer left her sandals by the door, and closed it slowly. In the dark she almost couldn’t see where the tears were in the screen were. The dog stared at her, pacing. She hoped animals could receive telepathic messages, because she promised him a treat if he didn’t bark. Apparently he could, because he sat and tilted his smooshed face to the side to ask ‘now?’

Every pad of her toes slicked with the dew on the slate stairway. She walked in the grass until the driveway met the road, and took a right. The honeysuckle draped itself over the stonewalls like balloons filled with dough. She pulled the flowers and sucked the stamens clean, leaving empty petals. Her red brown hair was littered with leaves on the right side where it snagged twigs. She passed the sleeping beach houses with road bikes in the front yard. Mercer walked through the hurricane damage from before her grandmother was born, over the felled chimneys and sunken bathtubs. The fence on the dunes was missing a section where the pallets were stacked end to end around the clubhouse. She folded her shorts and shirt next to the lifeguard chair, the sand fine and cool, squeaking against her metatarsals. She retied her bikini with a double knot, the dark green matching the dune grass.

Mercer planted herself at the edge, the water sucking the sand from under her, leaving foot shaped pools, the pale and lacy foam ankleting. The elephant was between her and the lights from the harbor, glowing, the beached side black and wrinkled. She squatted, picking up a hollow green crab, flicking it onto the beach for the gulls. She climbed into the ocean, her arms sunk to her elbows, toes curling into the sand and shells at the shore. She gripped the bottom, the shells and old seaweed clinking against her bracelet, crawling.


    October 2017
    M T W T F S S
    « Jan    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    3031  

    Blog Stats

    • 981 hits

    Top Clicks

    • None