writings!: salamander in the rain

she’s crying and it’s raining but i can’t tell the difference between her tears and the sky’s. it’s hard to picture but there’s concrete under our feet and we’re a tiny bit tipsy from the beer we snuck

i don’t know why she’s crying but our pajamas are getting wet and it’s cold. it’s the middle of the night. everyone is asleep. her back patio is flooded. she sniffs.

i tell her i’m sorry, again, and she says it’s not my fault, and i don’t know what ‘it’ is and she’s killing me because every time she touches me i get a jolt of 3AM and sleepless

she’s a ride or die but she’s closer to dying

there’s twig on the ground (why are we even out here what are we doing) but on closer inspection (who the fuck investigates a twig) it’s a salamander. it’s small and very dark brown. it’s drowning. this i know from my mother. she once said something about amphibians breathing through their skin

my feet are freezing and i tell her to get a leaf to save it but she doesn’t

i don’t think amphibians breathe through their skin, either. maybe that’s just worms. fifth grade biology bleeds together and it’s hard to remember one lesson from another, one day from another, god i wish i kept a diary–

i walk over to the bush nearest bush. get a leaf. rip it off. the rain is much to loud to hear it scream.

pick up the salamander with it. it doesn’t want to. it’s slow, stub legs barely moving. maybe it doesn’t want to live. maybe it’s too tired. maybe i should just let it drown. maybe i should just let her drown.

my sweatpants are soaked. so are my feet. i don’t have a change of clothes. what am i even doing

she’s just standing there her face glittering like some kind of terrified diva

the salamander is on the leaf. stub legs not moving anymore. it’s probably in shock or something. i rise and walk back to the bush, tuck the salamander and the leaf under it so it has some shelter.

we should go, i hear myself saying to her, back inside, you need some sleep. sleep my ass, she says silently, still staring out at nothing, you know i can’t sleep.

i know, i know

we go back inside, anyway.

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(an excerpt of a book i’ll never write): the mermaid

 

 

She washed up on our beach just like any other dead thing or piece of flotsam. She was  small and gray and cold, and looked like she might crumble like a sandcastle if you touched her. Her black hair was sort of matted, smashed under her head, and patches of it were missing. Her throat was slit with something jagged, but the wound was faded, a gash washed out by the saltwater. From a first glance, she looked like she’d been dead a week, but you could never tell with the sea. Sometimes the death it spat out was bloated like gray balloons, and sometimes it was perfectly preserved, beasts sleeping on sand with bruised eyes and a tendency of silence.

“I’ll be damned,” Martha mutters from next to me. She drops her cigarette and grinds it into the sand. The embers die instantly.

She’s not wearing a shirt. Not Martha, I mean, the thing at our feet. She’s not wearing anything, actually, but she’s covered waist down by faded gray scales. They reflect the clouds, shining dully, and some are missing or half torn off by God knows what. Pale burn marks slice across her bare stomach. They are the same color as the slash on her neck.

I shiver.

“I should…call someone,” Martha says from beside me. Who? I want to ask, but don’t, because I don’t like acknowledging the fact that we have nobody to call.

I cross my arms. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” I say instead, softly.

She turns her leathery head and stares at me. “Iris, are you seeing what I am?”

“Yes.” For some reason it’s not scaring me, though.

“Then I don’t understand why I shouldn’t–this thing–it’s– a–a–” Her voice is breaking. She doesn’t want to say the word.

“She’s dead, is what she is,” I say quietly. I uncross my arms and pick up a pretty piece of driftwood by my foot. “See?” I poke her in the shoulder with it.

Martha and I are used to dead things. Seals. Fish. People. The occasional body part, wrapped up tight in a black trash bag. We give the body parts and people a burial. No use in calling the police. Around here, secrets are buried instead of gossipped about. Might not make sense, but that’s the way it’s always been for us, for the other islanders.

But this, this is something else. Martha obviously knows it, too.

Martha grabs the driftwood out of my hands, dropping her remaining pack of cigarettes and her bucket of jetsam. She prods at the creature’s waist, tracing the line between dead person and dead fish.

“I don’t understand…” she says to me, dropping the driftwood. I don’t pick it up. It feels contaminated.

“Mermaid,” I say for her.

“Mermaid,” she parrots back.

Mermaid, mermaid, mermaid. A carved mermaid sits on my windowsill back at the house, faced towards the ocean. She’s made of driftwood and has a blue tail. She’s wrapped in a tiny blanket I made as a child, when I thought warmth was essential for survival. (It’s not). She’s the oldest thing I remember, other than Martha.

“What do we do with…it, then, if we aren’t going to get help?” Martha asks me. She seems to have regained her voice.

I brush some hair out of my eyes. The wind has picked up. We don’t need help. We never have.

“Bury her,” I say, or something like that, I can’t tell over the sound of the suddenly wild air and sea.

🙂 thanks for reading…feedback is appreciated