FICTION: A Drop In The Ocean
Words, like tides, carry us. It's our distinct pleasure to present in its entirety the lead-off story from Anna's stellar collection currently under the Obsidian Sky moon: A Drop in the Ocean, a story for resisting uglier tides no matter how prevalent they be...
Hey, don’t toss your cigarette butt at me. And don’t look around like you’re someone else. I know your face. Musta seen it for what, thirty years? I got a memory like you wouldn’t believe.
And look at me when I’m talking to you. The moon’s not gonna help you. What you see in that big fat face? The moon buffs my tops. Never look up to someone on the same footing as you. They’re no use. The moon’s just a worker with no more pulling power, power where it counts—than you.
Unfair? Whose fault is it your taking shit from anyone? Especially from those old farts you’re whining about who stink of diapers, booze, cover-up perfumes? And whose fault is it you hold onto your accent like it’s some precious mineral?
That’s no excuse. Look, there’s no one who knows people better than me. Hey, you have NO IDEA how many I’ve known, and I don’t like to think of myself as old, but I was around before you were a mistake in your daddy’s pants, and I’m telling you—
So they mistake you. This is sad, so sad. The people are always right. You think I should sympathise? Sympathy is for losers.
That’s a good one. You think I’d spend my life like some little mud wallow? I could make two continents and your birthplace swim with the fishes if I wanted. If I wanted. The moon gives me massages. Right now what, a billion, billion and a half people are admiring me or trying to get within sight of me. And it gets bigger every day, as I get bigger. The moon’s poetry, man, while I’m everyone’s obsession. Didn’t they name a perfume Obsession? I could take out—
Hey, Whine and Grosses, it’s rude to interrupt. Don’t go! I can help you. I’ve helped a lot of people. So many people.
Even I can’t change that. Trust me. If you talk like a duck you must be a duck even if your papers say you’re a swordfish. You’re in a bad way. A very bad way. Like a sardine in a baitball.
No, I’m not saying you’ll be snatched up, but my instincts tell me, and that adds up to that duck. I can feel it about you. And there’s worse.
Your family? You shouldn’t have had those children if you weren’t prepared to work hard enough to succeed. You see me making do with lesser expectations of myself? No one could accuse me of being a sardine. Everyone in the world knows of me, but who are you? See what I mean?
Stop that. Crying is weak. You see me cry? Let’s face facts. You must be already on a list and it’s only time before they come for you, could be soon as the next tide.
It won’t help, and you know it. Look, I’m very instinctual, can’t you see? And so, so deep. You can feel it in your guts that I am right. That knock on the door—
I told you. People tell me things. It’s just the way I am. I’m so approachable, you should know. If you didn’t trust me, you wouldn’t have told me how low you are. How you let them say things to you. I’ve got no spine but you don’t see me putting up with—
Fat use ‘I have to’ has done you. I—no, you’ve already told me. And no, dogs are not treated better, so many dogs. But why are we still talking about you suffering? Believe in me and save yourself before—
Maybe when the ship lands. Maybe the night after, which would be MUCH worse. You don’t want your wife, Maria isn’t it? Whatever, you don’t want your woman and kids seeing you pee your pants. Disgusting.
Yes, I can see it. Nobody can predict like I can. Later, you’ll meet lotsa people I’ve saved who will tell you that. So many people. Huge schools.
Yes, lawyers, too. And judges. And criminals like you. Yes, not like you but if you’re gonna let your ego get in the way—
Innocence? That’s no help. It’s a weakness. You’re soft as a rotting whale.
Help? You think anyone but me is gonna help you when you need it? Before you’re some one minute too-late headline? When does that happen in real life, unless you’re a winner?
Don’t waste my slosh talking about your relatives, or groups. Intervention? You believe in that down here, you get chomped.
I was just saying. Don’t worry. I’ll protect you.
Rights? Don’t make me laugh. You know no one who counts. Only I can fix you.
Look, I’m more patient than anyone else in the world, but you’re taking up valuable time. I’ll only say this once again. No one else has thought of your family as much as I have, of their needs, their quality of life. Their lives will be so, so beautiful, you can’t imagine. You don’t have the experience. But you must act now.
That’s the best thing about it. You don’t have to think it out. And there’s nothing you need to study up about. That’s my job. And I’m the best in the world with this kind of thing. I love you people. And now that we’ve looked at each other so much, you know in your heart that I know you better than you know yourself. That’s okay. You don’t have the capacity.
Here, wipe your face. You don’t wanna look disgusting, do you? Good to see you finally helping yourself—it’s going to be SO good! You’ll—hey, where you going? Shit, no! What self-respecting body would write a note? You’re done explaining. And you’ve wasted enough of my time.
I forgive you. Well said. You sure do have your limitations. Now let’s do it. You’re gonna love it. No one can take care of you like I.
Yes, I told you already. They’ll be rolling in benefits, and you’ll be a hero. Where else can you achieve these heights, that you don’t even deserve, but I love you people. It’s my weak spot, and—as I said, my instinct says about you that bad—
Thank you. I know you’re grateful. So jump.
A leap of faith? Obviously. Jump.
No, I’m not in a bad mood, but you’re liable to make me so. After all, who’s ever heard of you? And who doesn’t know me?
Come on already. You’ve got nothing left to lose. Jump and I’ll catch you.
A picture-postcard sea, a perfectly selfie scene, the Carnival Cruises ship’s wide butt trails a broad white wake, the moon at two o’clock working its buffing rays on the ocean’s tops—the moon’s fat depressed face looking as if wanting to say something, as if wanting to have said something, as if wishing it had intervened; wishing it could at least say sorry though what could it have done? The crinkle in the eyes is almost mean, as if it’s wishing it could turn those shiny white blades down below—the tops of waves—into stabbing instruments, as if stabbing the water could make the ocean bleed. The moon fight the ocean and win? Preposterous hope. A fantasy for losers. And that face on the moon, like its capacity for emotion, its silly compassion: like all fairy tales—FAKE! The moon no more needs a face to do its work than it needs a voice.
In the depths of the ocean much stirs, including the disappearing rumble of the ship’s bank of engines. In the tropical air above, the ship’s ambient noise of Entertainment is a thinning slick.
Soon the air here only carries the sound of a light wind such as you hear when you plug your ears, the odd sharp seabird cry—and as far as the ear can hear, the thuds of whitecaps clapping against each other.
And the moon? That worker is out as usual, on its endless round of tides.
Love, fear, and thankless work keep the world in order.
But also, there must be play.
Out beyond this horizon, the ocean’s having a whale of a time catching a little family. Afterwards, the child’s doll will be found, fulfilling its destiny as the closest thing this family will get to a black box, the doll will be seen making—if the right people see it—a human interest story. If not, it becomes another child’s toy. A child who might one day, also be tempted by the ocean’s patter.
And people, if the doll on the beach makes it into another human interest story, will cry and blame each other or a storm, same as they do when a church’s destruction costs believers their lives so that other believers live to build another.
People die all the time in places they worship, same as they die all the time at sea—the blame sliding off gods and oceans easy as water off that proverbial duck’s back. Though in people’s love, there’s desperate worry. Places of worship are built as fortresses. And even as the oceans are predicted to become so big they take over land, people love them so much, they cluster near the very edges where the ocean is most likely to overcome the land. Yet “The Ocean’s at Risk” scream the headlines. “The Oceans are Dying” is a truism. But oil can pour on the waters till the sea looks like marbled paper, and it’s like a doctor jabbing a patient. It doesn’t hurt the ocean, just those in it. Coral bleaching? That’s the coral. Fish stocks plummeting? Fishermen and laws to blame there. But what’s less fish to the sea? The ocean we’ve witnessed is, with its global network, the most powerful force today—and in its power, above blame. “I can do anything,” it has said, and for once, it might be right.
A boat can capsize killing all it carried, and a storm is blamed. Fishermen die every day, plucked from boats, snatched from rocky shores, as some ocean bats them around till they die of exhaustion. Indeed, fishermen are like those rodents with infected brains, coming to be played with to death—but Fate or Bad Luck, the never-divorced spouses of losers are always blamed. But oceans can do anything. “I could drown the most loved person in the world and I wouldn’t lose any lovers,” this ocean brags to itself, quite truthfully. Just yesterday it promised one beautiful, romantic, heartbroken woman a bracelet with the moon as the charm. And she fell for it. To a child, the ocean rippled the moon’s reflection, calling it a rubber ball to kick. Another drop in the ocean. The boy’s shoe might be found some day.
Shores everywhere are littered with the oceans’ castoffs, dragged there by the pull of the moon, who is unwilling but unable to stop.
The moon has seen so much by oceans everywhere, for they’re all the same even though one is called ‘pacific.’ Mutely, the moon must watch but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t or can't reflect upon its memories.
As it works, maybe it mindfully looks back—back to when it worked with the tireless fanaticism of an artist of leisure.
Now, the moon has been around long enough to know that past performance doesn’t guarantee future results, but the moon’s seen many cycles. And time and time again, for times that each seemed crystallized, all that glittered was ice—ice, ice, everywhere. Endless drifts—walked on, hacked at, wind-chapped. Ice—tortured by the playfully cruel sun, moonshined by that old poker-faced perfectionist moon. Ice shrieking as it rubs against itself. Ice, stain-streaked from the shit of innumerable unmentionable things.
From sea to shining sea, every ocean—well locked up.
From THE ROAD TO NEOZON
Text copyright (c) 2018 by Anna Tambour