A Mother's Love
In times of peril:
Let the earth embrace you
and feel her breathe beneath your
Let the atmosphere wash away your fear
in a downpour so strong
you feel reborn.
Let the ocean cradle you
and leave a long trail of kisses
across your cheeks.
You’ll feel an adoration so pure
from the mother that made you.
Let the wind curl its fingers through your hair,
admiring every lock,
and whisper how beautiful you are
into your ears as it passes.
In times of peril:
Let the unspoken universe pour the love back into you
that you have poured into her
For Mom and Dad
With the light of summer’s first fireflies
glowing in the fresh mountain air,
with the soft dirt kicked up from a hole
dug by a little girl looking for dinosaurs,
with the bumps of the Penske truck
moving down the unknown road,
with the smell of paint
and football game food,
with the touch of nature’s wet kiss
from streams flowing through my sandals,
with the laughter of a dining room table
filled by just us three,
with the happiness of a million good lives
smooshed into nineteen years,
with the amount of love
some kids only dream of knowing,
I love you two / I love you too / I love you two
a speck among the stars
the planet placed so delicately,
a raindrop upon a lily
alas, the grace of summer; the flow of the seasons
the clouds and the sun
a deep breath, a beginning anew
city life has always complexed me
those coming and going, those without a place to be
a snowflake upon an eyelash; a blink of an eye
puget sound has never looked so beautiful
i lean my head on his shoulder
tranquil, silent, poised
a ballerina in a dance
a faun upon the flowers
the world revolving
I balanced on my toes,
and peeked through the patterns of the glass.
My father crouched in our backyard,
his height aligned with the fence
to avoid being sighted by neighbors,
with a newly purchased crossbow in hand,
aimed at a feeble rabbit.
She had been feeding off of our garden.
My father said she had no right to steal from us.
My eyes met her solemn gaze,
unknowing of her fate.
I held my breath
refusing to look away.
Then, my father pulled the trigger, silently
releasing the arrow that pierced the rabbit.
She ascended one final time,
before her remains sank into the earth.
My father and I,
the only witnesses to her final moments,
the only ones who know she is no longer,
and I, the only one to remember her.
Slowly he rose and walked towards it,
he picked up the corpse and threw it into the woods
behind our house so others could feed off of it.
He retreated towards our house.
When my eyes mets his, I collapsed
onto the ground.
Astounded by the inhumane
act he commited.
I lie motionless,
my heart racing,
knowing hers is completely still.
Daisies on the Counter
Daisies on the counter. Through it all, there were always daisies on the counter. Not every day was easy, but they were all good nonetheless. Anabelle’s mom worked on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so that she was there to play outside after school every Tuesday and Thursday, regardless of the weather. Jump rope was Anabelle’s favorite, but her mom wasn’t too good at it. She jumped still. Her dad rarely came home, and that was the way they liked it. Peaceful, loud with laughter instead of loud with anger. On the days her mom worked, Anabelle always looked forward to helping make dinner. Her mom let her cut up the celery for chicken noodle soup every Monday, and defrost the hamburger buns for turkey burgers every Wednesday. They always went out on Fridays, usually just to a fast food joint, but when her mom’s paycheck came through the third Thursday of every month, they made sure to go somewhere special the next day. Life was organized and predictable for them.
When Anabelle turned twelve, things started to change. Her mom ran out of breath quicker when playing jump rope, and one Thursday she actually turned down the game. It didn’t make sense, life was predictable for them. Her dad came around more and more, but it wasn’t like it used to be. The past five years when he would come home it was awkward, quiet, tense. Now it felt kind, longing, forgiving. From both of them. Nobody wanted to explain to Anabelle her father’s sudden appearance. Although she wanted to know, she didn’t want to ask. So she observed. She watched how he would come over at night, join the two of them for their planned weekly dinners. How he would stick around after Anabelle’s bedtime, how she heard her mom crying when she was supposed to be asleep. There were still daisies on the counter.
On Wednesday she came home from school to find both of her parents sitting in the living room. Tears in her mom’s eyes. Fear in her dad’s. Paperwork on the table. With a gentle explanation that felt everlasting, they told her about her mom’s ovarian cancer. She glanced at the daisies on the counter. They were wilted.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays Anabelle’s dad took her to St. Mary’s to visit her mom. They played cards instead of jump rope. On Mondays and Wednesdays they sat beside her hospital bed as she struggled to work from what would, for the next few months, be her home. On Fridays they cried in private. On Sundays they prayed in public. There were daisies on the altar.
A Life in Photographs
The woman closed her eyes and picked up the first photograph. Feeling was something she could trust, so she took her time moving her wrinkled hands around its edges, searching for marks of imperfection. The corners had softened with age, and one was folded inward like a dog’s ear. The surface in the middle was laced with more crease lines. The woman traced her fingers along each one, and in the absence of vision, she thought they were beautiful.
When she opened her eyes, a monochromatic child was smiling back at her. The girl had freckles dotting her forehead, nose, and cheeks, but they faded when they reached her chin. She was standing outside, presumably in a backyard, and the sun’s glow was bright on her skin. A crease beginning in the photograph’s top left corner stretched down and across the girl’s forehead, making it look like it was separate from the rest of her body.
The next photograph was folded like the first, but it was fully colored. The freckle-faced girl was taller here, older and leaner too. Her hair was woven into a long auburn braid that matched the flower tucked behind her ear. Dressed in a loose white gown, the young woman’s face was turned toward the man on her left. The photographer had captured the two in a moment of pure bliss—lost in each other’s eyes, oblivious to the world around them, and smiling like it was a moment they’d never forget. His dark hair was cropped short, and though his eyes were nearly hidden by a crease in the photograph, their startling blue color was clear.
The woman holding the photograph paused for a moment, looking deeply at the man’s eyes. There seemed to be something familiar about that blue, but it couldn’t be. She was looking at the face of a stranger.
The third image, besides a small tear in the bottom corner, was flawless. The woman marveled at its smooth edges, its glossy finish. Though her touch was already soft, she cradled it like a fragile glass vase.
Here, the freckle-faced girl was fully grown. The dark-haired man stood beside her, his youth abandoned in all places but his eyes. They each had an arm around the other like they were steadying themselves. If one moved, the other would be there to keep the balance.
In front of them stood three children, each with a feature that directly resembled their parents. A daughter with auburn curls spilling across her shoulders. A long-limbed son with freckles covering his cheeks. And the youngest, a daughter with eyes like the summer sky.
The photographs each captured a moment across a lifetime, preserving stories of the past and carrying them into a timeless present. But they were stories with no beginning and no ending. Each was a rung on a time-traveling ladder, but what filled up the empty space? How did the girl grow up? When did she meet the love of her life? What were her children’s names?
The woman closed her eyes again, pondering at the timelessness of these connected yet divided moments. The freckle-faced girl would forever be locked in her black and white world, her skin warmed by ageless rays of sun. She would grow and marry her love, but they too would freeze, always living in a world of their own. The family in the last photograph was where her journey seemed to end, but how could she know for sure?
The woman opened her eyes and looked at the man sitting across from her. There was a glimmer of hope in his gaze as he watched her stack the pictures, one placed carefully on top of the next, in chronological order.
She reached across and placed the photographs next to his hand, which was resting palm-up on the table. He had been fidgeting with the ring on his finger, but he took his hand away quickly when he saw she had finished with the photographs.
“Thank you for coming.” She spoke softly, carefully examining the man’s face as he continued looking at her. Time had carved wrinkles in his skin, much like the oldest photograph, but his eyes were still bright.
“Of course, Hope. It’s so good to see you,” he replied. He paused as if he would say more, but he let his mouth close instead, waiting quietly for the woman to respond.
“You tell a lovely story,” she said, smiling. “I do wonder, what happened to that little girl? Will you come again and tell me the ending?”
The man’s jaw clenched, eyes lowering to look at his hand. He opened and closed his fingers into a fist a few times before tucking the stack of photographs into his satchel.
“I’ll come again,” he said. His words were tight, voice breaking, but he struggled not to show it. “I promise.”
The woman smiled at him as he stood to leave, marveling at the way his eyes caught the light. He walked away, nursing his left side with a slight limp. When he disappeared from view, she closed her eyes, letting the image of his gaze remain in her memory for a few abiding moments. There seemed to be something familiar about that blue, but it couldn’t be. The memory faded, and she relaxed back into her chair.
She had been looking at the face of a stranger.
Maya weaved through the rows of empty cars in the empty Motorpool basement. It was early, and the vacuum of sound inside reflected the same vacuum outside. She squeezed lotion onto her cracked and drying hands, then pressed her fingertips up against the car windows as she passed them — just like she did when she was young and her dad took her to get Bath and Body Works samples before showing her the car on display in the middle of the mall.
She pressed the button on her key fob and was answered by a beep and flash of lights several rows down. Vehicle 379. Maya nestled into the narrow driver’s seat and stowed her backpack in the compartment on her right. She flipped a switch on the console above her head and breathed in the first few satisfying breaths of musty air as the filtration system kicked into gear. Already she could feel her lungs laboring less intensely and the oppressive weight on her eyeballs ease off.
She just sat, breathing, giddy and light-headed, until her body got used to the ready supply of clean air and it lost its charm. Scattered flashes of light indicated other drivers prepping for the shift. Ross always cut it close though, so his light probably wasn’t among them.
Turning on her music, she eased Vehicle 379 out of the low-ceilinged garage and into the intermediary bay. Heavy steel doors slid shut behind her before the ones in front of her creaked open, allowing the smaze to creep in. Maya waited for the tendrils to expand, forming a solid-white world around her, before revving all the systems into gear. The fans spluttered into full-speed, dispersing the smaze in a bubble around the car, and the low LEDs illuminated a path before her. The windshield sizzled the condensed smaze until it evaporated.
Maya rolled her shoulders back and accelerated into the empty morning. Within a few minutes, she’d already picked up several Civilian cars, and they fell into place behind her as she drove down the road. She dialed Phillip.
“Hey honey,” he said. “What’s up?”
“Are you teaching?”
“Walking in now.”
“Alright,” Maya said. “Well I’ll give you a call in a bit.”
“Talk to you later.”
The car jolted as the front tire dipped over the white line and off the edge of the road. Adrenaline forced Maya’s eyes back open all the way, and with rigid arms she righted the steering wheel. She looked in the rearview. A Civilian-citation was the last thing Maya needed right now, but they had all reached their destinations or veered off to catch another Lead on another route. She pumped the A/C to add a chill to the air and switched the music to something louder. Another Lead approached on the left side of the road. It flashed its brights at her before speeding past. She smiled and called Ross.
“Hey man,” she said. “Watch the speed limit.”
“Give me a break. I set the limit.”
“How’s hour five?”
“It’s eye-blinking hour, for sure,” Ross responded. “I don’t know how much longer I can take these eighteens.”
“Don’t start talking that way,” Maya said. “I’ve got another year I’m sure before they’ll let me have a say, and without you I won’t be able to keep my eyes open.”
“Maybe I’ll just move to the city,” he said. “I hear those city-drivers get a little respect.”
“I’m serious,” Maya said. “I’ll drive off a cliff for sure.”
“Ahh you know I don’t have the guts to do anything about it,” he said. “Y’know what’ll wake you up though? A quick break.”
“I should save my break. I can power through for a while.”
“Come on, we don’t even have to log it,” he said.
Maya didn’t respond. The two of them leaving together would put a whole Lead route out of commission.
“No one’s on the roads,” he said. “I haven’t had a tail since hour one.”
He started singing along to her playlist through the talkback system. The slight delay from speaker to system to his car and back again compounded until his words were a good five seconds after those of the vocalist.
“Fine,” Maya said. “But we’re taking your car.”
“Sweet. I’ll turn around and grab you.”
She started to sing along with him.
She stowed Vehicle 379 on the carport of an empty house, slipped a respirator over her mouth, and emerged into the day. The smaze had let up a bit, the orb of the sun blazing a smudge in the sky.
Before Maya could knock, Ross pushed his door open.
“Your chariot awaits, m’lady.”
“Fuck off.” She climbed over him and shifted her butt into the side compartment, tucking one leg and letting the other drape into the driver’s space. Her head pushed up against the sloping wall, craning her neck forward.
“Not far,” he said.
They pulled off onto a gravel spit on the side of the road. Maya raised her eyebrows. Ross just smirked at her, so she shrugged and followed him in donning her hoodie and respirator. Swinging her backpack on, she unfolded from the car to meet him at the head of a trail.
The rocks covering the trail were slick with fungus and condensation, and Maya stumbled down the decline to keep up with Ross’ strides. He never looked back to make sure Maya followed, and she wouldn’t give him the pleasure of calling out to make him slow down.
Maya crouched to ease down a particularly slick slope. When she stood and brushed off, she lost sight of Ross entirely. The smaze, thick, obscured her vision beyond the first few rows of drab trees. Mushrooms crept up the trunks, leeching life, but offering a mosaic in return.
“Where you at?” Ross called from somewhere.
Maya didn’t answer. She continued the descent. Ross appeared down the trail in front of her, far enough away that Maya slowed her breath and wiped a layer of sweat from her forehead before she landed level with him.
He took off his respirator.
“What?” she said.
He reached over and slipped the respirator off her face. Maya held her breath and lunged to grab her mask, but Ross just moved his hand, then held her at arm’s length with the other.
Pinpricks of light and pounding blood forced her to gasp a deep breath. She looked at Ross and took another, this time on purpose. Her lungs didn’t shrink away — instead they soaked up all the smells and damp and textures.
“Woah, man,” she said.
“See? Nice isn’t it. A little trust in me wouldn’t be ill-placed.”
Maya scoffed, but he was already turning and gesturing to the surrounding woods. They were big. Huge. The smaze no longer formed its wall — rather it hung above the ground and clung to branches.
“It’s mostly fog at this point anyway,” he said.
“You could have warned me.”
Ross urged her to take the lead the rest of the way down. The white tinge never disappeared entirely from the air, but it continued to ease off until Maya almost believed she couldn’t see it.
The trail stopped just in time for a pond, a small lake really.
“Neat, huh?” Ross stumbled up behind her shoulder.
She turned and pushed at him. He staggered. He sat down hard on a rock behind him.
“What the hell?”
“Why haven’t I been here before?” Maya said. “This isn’t the type of thing you keep from someone.”
“Chill,” he said and pulled off his boots before getting up. “You’re here, aren’t you?”
He walked to the edge of the lake, wincing at pointy stones. He began to strip down and toss his clothing backwards to the safety of a small boulder. Maya did the same. Goosebumps flared up her legs and down her arms. Still in her underwear, she looked to Ross, but he was already running into the water, bare bum flashing white before diving under the surface. Maya ran in after him — as fast as she could in the slow-motion of the water. She launched herself forward and under. Breath stuck in her throat. She surfaced, then eased under, swimming, soaking in the chill.
They rested on a flat rock in the middle of the lake — two beached jellyfish, useless. Outside, without a mask. In the woods, without the glass pane confining her inside 379. She took a breath and allowed it to come out as that raspy, half-sigh.
Ross propped himself up, leaned over. He kissed her, lay back down.
She continued to look up, the canopy concealed by the risen smaze, a roof.
“I think the mushrooms are beautiful,” she said, disregarding his advance. “I know they’re ominous — in terms of implications, I mean. But I think they’re beautiful.” She wrapped her arms across her chest.
Ross kissed her again. His skin was clammy.
“Alright, I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m in a relationship.”
They swam back, staggered, Ross in the lead. He stood on the shore, shoulders back. Water dripped down his body to pool on the rocks. Maya emerged on shore and scooped her hoodie over her head. The water from her hair seeped into the fabric.
The trek back up to the car passed quietly. Maya’s jeans, flung over her forearm, made her just that much more clumsy, and she slipped several times. Ross would pull her up, and they’d continue.
Though the upwards slope began to decrease, their lungs began to labor more intensely, so they pulled the respirators from their packs.
Maya eased into the car first, damp, chilly. Ross turned on his car, and they both waited for the flood of filtered air. When it met them, they sat in a trance — waking slowly from a dream. After a few moments, the effect wore off, and though she could think clearly, Maya still shivered. Her foot bumped against Ross’ knee.
“Why so many goosebumps?” He laughed and rubbed her shin vigorously until the bumps eased away. He turned the heat on.
“Christ, you’re cold.” He pulled her out of her perch in the side compartment to share the driver’s seat. “Do you have any dry clothes?”
“Nope,” she said. “Didn’t expect to be getting wet.”
He rifled around underneath his seat and pulled out a fleece blanket and a long-sleeve shirt. Maya angled herself away to pull off her damp hoodie and pull on the dry shirt. The fleece blanket was thin and covered with pills, but she curled up in it, grateful for the surface area.
“Warming up?” Ross said. He draped his arm across her shoulder.
Vehicle 379 rested right where Maya left it, but when she returned, a significant layer of gunk coated the windshield and doors.
“Damn.” She pulled a squeegee from the glovebox and set to working away at the layer of grime. When she finally managed to scrape it clear, her face steamed underneath her mask.
She settled back into 379 to continue her circuit.
The blankness infuriated her. Maya wiggled in place as best she could. Though she covered ground — lots of it — the motionless effect of the white drove her wild. If only it wasn’t the same loop over and over. Even just knowing that she traveled new ground would have helped.
Before she’d even finished another loop of her route, a shadow in the white world, a big shape loomed ahead. It sat off the left side of the road. Maya slowed. Its identity obscured until she rolled to a stop right next to it. A car. Battered and crooked. Not a Lead car, but rather a Civilian car. Though something had smashed the headlight, the bulb still cast its thin light, a penny in a waterfall.
“Shit, shit shit.”
She pulled off on the side of the road, narrowly avoiding the ditch.
She heaved open the door and ran to the car. It lay on its side, a dying beast. Maya crouched to look through the shattered windshield for the driver. A person hung limp.
“Shit.” She rounded the car. The crumpled guardrail gaped a hole. She teetered on the edge, squinting down the hill into the smaze below. Faint lights. Maybe.
Maya skidded and stumbled down the hill. She followed a muddy path where the leaves had been scraped clear or crammed into the earth. Hands outstretched, she ran into the metal of a car, halting her momentum. Another Civilian car, smaller though, the nose pushed in like a bulldog’s.
She wheezed now, her breath punctuated by racking coughs. She fumbled her pockets. They were empty. Her respirator was still tucked away in 379. She’d left her phone too.
The windows of the car were cloudy from smaze. The door had crumpled, and Maya couldn’t force it open.
On all fours, she clambered up the slope. Her feet slipped, and her breath came in shallow gasps. Using the guardrail for a handhold, she pulled herself back onto the asphalt, then lay there to recapture her breath. When that didn’t work, she crawled to the open door of 379, pulled it shut behind her, and turned the systems on. Maya had never been hungrier for anything in her life than she was for that air.
Which way had the Civilians been heading?
Ross didn’t pick up. The cars may have been heading opposite directions. She dialed him first on the talkback system, and then when that didn’t work, she fished her phone from her backpack. Either way, Ross and Maya could both be implicated. Still nothing.
Maya drove forward, leaving the scene behind her. She continued her route until the department line was clear and she was able to call in for a canteen break.
Back in the intermediary bay, Maya waited, her hands shaking on the steering wheel, for the brushes and suds and rollers to decontaminate the outside of the vehicle from all that grime and gunk and smaze. She parked it and hurried over to the canteen to find Ross.
The canteen bustled with loud drivers and enticing smells. Maya’s stomach burbled. She scanned the room for Ross but didn’t see him. Turning to the man closest to her, she tugged on his shoulder.
“Hey, yeah,” she said. “Have you seen Ross?”
“Ahh, right. Not today,” he replied and turned away.
Maya checked her phone, but he hadn’t returned any of her calls. She got in line for grub with the hopes of quelling her noisy stomach.
Her plate piled high with some sort of steamy curried mushroom, she scanned the room again. She knew almost everyone in passing, but driving tended to attract either the racecar type, or people who just didn’t want to talk to anyone.
She finally eyed Ross along the wall across the room, already seated at a booth. She pushed over to him, weaving around the packed bodies, sliding across the slick tile floor, and slipped into the bench across from him.
“Hey,” she said. “I need to talk to you.”
“Can we go somewhere quieter,” she said.
“Dude, this is important. I need to talk to you now.”
He took a sip of his water and looked beyond her. Then he smiled.
Maya turned to see another driver, Ruby, approaching their booth.
“Hey, there.” She talked straight to Ross.
Ruby nodded. Ross squeaked out of the booth to stand next to her. He took his plate with him.
“Wait, Ross, really,” Maya said.
“I’ll call you later if I have time.”
They chatted their way to the Motorpool. Maya gulped down some water. Ruby must not be one of the weird ones.
Maya ate the curry as fast as she could — the spice kept making her pause to sip water and blow her nose on the wadded napkin that just seemed to keep shrinking. She dumped her dishes into a bus bin.
Ruby and Ross couldn’t have gotten too far. On her way back to 379, Maya took a few extra turns. Past row one, Vehicle 283, Vehicle 282, 281, 280 — Ross’ car. Lights ventured out the windshield into the big empty space, and the bass of music, too. She strode past the windshield at an inconspicuous-enough distance and looked inside. They were in there, eating. Laughing.
The remaining hours passed. Maya succumbed to the white, the blankness. She focused on the task of keeping the wheel straight — keeping 379 in-between the white line on her right and the yellow on her left. Civilian cars appeared behind her at intervals, but she never noticed when they first arrived or when they split.
Each time she completed a circuit, Maya saw the dark shape of the crashed Civilian car. She didn’t know what to do about it. At first, the sight of it filled her with panic, but eventually she appreciated its ability to mark the passing of time, the completion of circuits. She’d pass Ross too, as he drove his route, but the lights of his car didn’t flash, and he never called.
She didn’t go back to the Motorpool — instead she drove straight home. The garage door opened to let her enter, and she parked 379 where her own Civilian car should have gone.
Phillip slept solidly. His mumbles remained constant as Maya showered, brushed her teeth, plopped into bed next to him. When she closed her eyes, white filled her vision. She turned over, jouncing the bed, but even that didn’t make Phillip wake up. She tried to sleep, but the white was too bright.
Leaning over, Maya placed her hand on his shoulder and wiggled it back and forth. He stretched and groaned and opened his eyes.
“Maya,” he said. “What’s up?”
“Will you come somewhere with me?”
“Huh?” He picked up his phone from beside the bed. “I start work at the school in a few hours. What’s up?”
“Come with me, please.”
“As long as we make it back in time so I can catch a Lead. I can’t lose my job.”
She had to explain to him how to fold himself into the side compartment — she’d never driven with him in 379. He laughed, awkwardly, but settled in. When Maya turned the systems on, Phillip sat in shock at the sweet, fresh air.
“It never quite gets old,” she said. “More of a dependency after a while though.”
The coordinates of the crash had been saved when Maya made her unanswered calls to Ross. She parked 379 where the GPS told her she should.
“What’s here?” Phillip said.
Maya couldn’t tell him — she couldn’t see the form of the car.
“I’ll find it,” she said. She pulled a mask on and stuffed another into Phillip’s hand.
Armed with a flashlight, Maya scanned the side of the road on foot. Phillip tripped along behind her.
“There,” she said.
The metal sheen of the car no longer showed through. A thick layer of white grime concealed it entirely, and fungi scattered the surface. It looked like some sort of boulder.
Phillip didn’t say anything.
Maya dashed up to the car and began scooping handfuls of gunk. It wasn’t too deep — she hit metal after just a few seconds. Phillip approached behind her, reached into the hole she’d created, and tapped on the steel.
“What happened?” he said.
Phillip lingered uncertainly at the guardrail before venturing down the hill in Maya’s wake. A trail still marked the ground, and she followed it to the second car. This time, Phillip took a few handfuls of gunk to help her.
“Shit. Ahh.” Maya pulled her hand away, and her finger bled. The feeble glow of the headlight, framed by shards of broken glass, inkled out from the white mass.
Phillip extended his arm to pull her back onto the road. She winced when he grabbed hold of her cut, and she scraped away the fungus that began to take root in her open skin.
“What happened, Maya?”
She didn’t answer.
“We better get that checked out,” he said, pointing at her finger.
“I think you’d better file a report.”
“Then they’ll know it was me.”
“Phillip, I can’t lose my job, can’t start over. We’re on track to move to the city.” Maya unzipped his jacket and eased her arms under his coat and around him.
“Well, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m good at my job.”
“Ross Irvin?” The clerk at the Department of Vehicles and Transit continued typing on her keyboard through the pane of glass.
“That’s the one,” Maya said. “He drives Lead opposite me.”
“Why didn’t you call in to report the incident when you first found the cars?”
Maya looked to Phillip standing behind her. He shrugged, then stepped up to her side.
“Excuse me, but I think we can agree that this was a distressing thing for Maya to find,” he said. “She had to maintain her composure and continue to do her job so that a similar incident didn’t occur under her watch.”
The clerk nodded.
“I’ll file the negligence report. Mr. Irvin should be hearing from your department soon.”
Strangers With One Commonality: Whales
Growing up, my dad had a lot to say about the ways of the world. I remember he would randomly pipe up to say, “life is meant to be a shared experience.” Then he would always wink at me and give me a satisfied grin. He never gave any context or tried to explain it; he would just remind me when he felt it was right. It wasn’t until I grew older that I understood what he meant when I went whale watching with a friend in Provincetown Harbor. We boarded our boat which probably held 300 people of various backgrounds, political views, and dialects. While the captain took us out past the harbor, babies whined, people stared at their phones, and most onboard minded their own business. There was a low murmur of voices talking, unintelligible conversations floated around the air. The overcast weather discouraged any hope of seeing whales. We were a group of strangers stranded together on this charter boat in the middle of the ocean. We waited for anything to happen. Abruptly, an enthusiastic young girl yelled,
“Over there! I saw it, I saw a whale!”
People rushed out to the deck with the same excitement as Black Friday campers waiting to buy half-priced televisions. We couldn’t get outside quickly enough. Elbow-to-elbow we stood, arms propped on the railing, looking out at the Cape Cod Bay. All of a sudden, the weather and the awkward silence lost its power. Together we became whale watchers, quietly waiting in anticipation as the endless blue ripples in front of us swayed left and right. Without warning, the whale made her presence known. Her blue-black hump broke the surface as she puffed water high into the air. Together, we reacted in one mystified “ooooh!” She curved her body down under the curtain of blue, revealing the delicate structure of her dorsal fin. Breathless, our voices together let out an excited “wooooow” trying to soak in every bit of her performance. She dipped under to prepare for the finale. Time slowed to the
of an old grandfather clock. The whale gave a beautiful flash of her tail, decorated intricately with blue and white trimmings. The water dripping off of her tail melted back into the unknown as if nothing happened. Dissolving out of stupor, one child nearby yelled, “that was AWESOME!” We all laughed and agreed wholeheartedly. I couldn’t help but think, “Life is a shared experience ― it’s better this way.”