This story grew from an experience I had yesterday sitting with my legs in the pool and looking up at the clouds. What a great writing prompt I thought. Jake, the protagonist from my first story posted here (“Dead Meat”), returned to give me this shell of a story.
That day the angel and I stared up at the sky as blue as the Mediterranean Sea stretching wide over our heads, wisps of clouds opaque puffs, jellyfish trailing streamers like long tentacles behind them. Hundreds and hundreds of them slowly floating by. Do you see that? I pointed at the sky.
The angel nodded, sucking on two of her fingers. I knew she could hear me, even though I never said anything out loud. She smiled, making dimples in her chubby little brown cheeks as slick as Snickers bars.
We’re under the ocean. Can you feel the tide tugging on us? The heat that pressed down on us didn’t feel so much like a raging fire on my face.
“Hey dork, you want to come over and go swimming?” Meat Boy poked his pink ham-face over the fence. Yoda set up barking his head off, but I shushed him with my hand on his head.
Day after day, ever since school got out for the summer, I’d heard Meat Boy and his Orangutan Gang splashing and hooting in his backyard pool, but he had never invited me to swim before.
“What’s the matter? Can’t you swim?”
I shook my head. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t and Frizzy Hair Mama had told me never, ever, never to get near any water ever without her there to watch me.
“Come on, I got some of those blow up plastic floaties you can use.” Meat Boy dangled too orange puffed-up tubes over the fence.
The angel shook her head no and put her dimpled hand on my arm as if to stop me. The heat kept pressing down like a hot steam-iron and I licked the salt off of my lips. I looked at the back of my house, the shade pulled down in Frizzy Hair Mama’s bedroom window and I knew she was laid down taking her afternoon nap.
“Are you a baby? You have to ask your mama? There’s no need to bother her. You can wear the shorts you got on. The water’s nice and cold and I’ll watcha if that’s what’s eating at you. Come around to our back gate and I’ll let you in.”
The angel’s fingers dug into my skin and her head kept shaking, no, her brown eyes pleading. Sweat rolled off of my forehead and stung my eyes. It’s okay. I’ll be fine, I told her. I can’t take this heat anymore. I walked away from her and Yoda.
Meat Boy let me into his backyard and I saw the jellyfish clouds wavering on the surface of his pool. He tugged my shirt off and slipped the floaties over my hands and onto my upper arms. My stomach clamped up on me. Frizzy Hair Mama would ground me to my room for a month if she knew what I was doing. Yoda scrabbled at the fence with his claws and whined. Fat Louie, Meat Boy’s pug, lay panting in the damp dirt under a bush, his bright pink tongue lolling from his mouth. He lifted his head, gave me a look and laid it back down. I stood with my toes gripping the edge of the pool.
“Go on, jump in.” Meat Boy stood behind me. I felt his hand on my back and before I could take a breath I flew through the air. The cold chill of the water came up all around me and for a moment filled my mouth and stung my nose. The floaties popped me right back up, me gasping and coughing, to hear Meat Boy laughing like a baboon. “How’s the water?”
I waved my arms and paddled to the side, still coughing until I gagged.
“Oh that’s right, you can’t talk—not even to call for help.” He stomped my fingers where they clung to the side of the pool. Pain shot through my hands all the way up my arms and I let go to paddle to the other side away from him, my breath coming in quick gasps. Why had I trusted Meat Boy? He never did anything without causing me pain. Why didn’t I listen to the angel?
I heard a splash and Meat Boy’s face bobbed up in front of me, his eyes as dark as two dead stones. Something glinted between his thumb and index finger—a pin. My stomach cramped and my whole body shivered. I struggled to kick away from him, but he stabbed that pin over and over into the floaties.
Yoda started up howling, clawing the fence. Fat Louie had got himself up and ran frantically back and forth at the edge of the pool, barking like a mad seal. I heard our back screen door slam and Frizzy Hair Mama screeched, “Jake—where are you?”
The air hissed out and the floaties went limp on my arms, the water pulling and sucking me down to the bottom. My lungs ached, bubbles escaping up over my head.
The angel’s warm hand took mine and I stopped struggling. We lay there looking up to the blue Mediterranean Sea stretching wide over our heads, wisps of clouds opaque puffs, jellyfish trailing streamers like long tentacles behind them. Hundreds and hundreds of them slowly floating by.