We arrive in Twillingate, Newfoundland, just after dark. I want to see the icebergs right away but Mom says we have to wait until morning
and drives the rental car to “Thelma’s B&B”.
There are two beds in our room; Mom lies down on the one by the window and closes her eyes.
I don’t like this house, and I tell her so; it smells funny and the sheets look scratchy. Mom says I should consider the “big picture”. I glance
around the room and point to the painting of the lighthouse that’s hanging on the wall above the dresser.
“That picture?” I don’t know what it has to do with the smell or the sheets.
“Never mind, Dylan. Just go to sleep. Tomorrow, we’ll see icebergs.”
I turn out the light, lie down on the other bed, and distract myself by thinking about the density of pure ice in relation to that of sea water.
Eventually, I drift off.
In the morning, weak sunlight peeps in around the curtains. Mom snores softly. I look at the clock, waiting until the numbers say 7:00.
I slip from my bed and stand staring down at Mom, shifting my weight from one foot to the other. The floorboards creak. I do it again. And
again. And again.
“Good morning, Dylan.”
“Can we go now?” I ask.
“Let’s get dressed and have breakfast, first.”
Mom used to have brown hair. It was long and smelled like coconuts. She has a bald head now, and she covers it with hats or scarves. I
miss the smell of coconuts, but not the tickly, spider web feeling on my cheek when she bent down to kiss me.
Today’s scarf is red and the ends hang long down her back. “You look like a pirate, Mom,” I tell her.
“Perfect,” she says. “Because we’re going on a boat ride.”
Mom drives us to the harbor. I study the horizon, looking for towering white spires, while she talks to the boat man and arranges stuff.
While we wait to board, Mom plays with her lighter. She doesn’t smoke cigarettes anymore, but she still carries the Zippo in her pocket. I
don’t know why.
When it’s time, Captain leads us to his boat and makes us put on life jackets. Mom’s legs are wobbly today. She takes his arm and he helps
her to a seat. Then he turns to me.
“Your mother says icebergs are a special interest of yours, Dylan.”
“The word iceberg comes from the Dutch ijsberg, literally meaning ice mountain,” I tell him. I read that on Wikipedia.
“So I heard, once,” he says. “Okay, let’s go.”
Just outside the harbor, I spot a streak of white and point. “Iceberg!”
We pull alongside it, but not too close. Captain explains that we have to keep a safe distance away.
“Equal to the length of the iceberg, or twice its height, whichever is greater,” I say. He nods.
The ocean is the color of new jeans. Waves splash against the side of the iceberg, slide along its smooth edges. The ice is a hundred shades
of white with hints of blue. It’s so beautiful and scary, I lose my words.
There is a flash of red from beside me: Mom’s headscarf, twisting in the wind. She takes my hand and squeezes, hard.
“Is it everything you dreamed it would be, Dylan?” she asks.
I want to tell her thank you. I want to laugh and dance and hug her tight and tell her about the length-to-height ratio of tabular icebergs.
Instead, I just nod my head. She’ll know what I mean.
This still, perfect moment is broken when two birds take flight, leaving the glistening chunk of ice behind.
“Watch, now,” Captain calls. And then it happens.
Shards of ice break off along the tallest part of the iceberg and splash down into the choppy water below. Over the wind and the waves,
over the sound of the boat’s engine, I can hear the iceberg dying. My eyes fill with tears.
The creaks and groans grow louder, come faster. Until, at last, all that’s left of the iceberg slips beneath the water and breaks apart.
I turn to look at Mom. Her face is pale under her red scarf. For a minute, I think I smell coconuts. Then the scent, like the iceberg, is gone.
“I love you, Dylan,” she says. “Happy birthday.”
And I laugh, because my birthday is still months away.
Corrie Adams spends her days wrangling numbers, but enjoys playing with words at night. Her short fiction has appeared in several magazines and anthologies.
Corrie lives in Newmarket, Ontario with her husband, two sons, and an overactive imagination.
By Gina L. Grandi
WAITING FOR SAM
Sam circled the yard, stepping deliberately, a procession of one. He had no friends or there would have been more. We kept to ourselves.
I watched from the kitchen window. He had wanted to do this with ceremony. Sam lined up his toys in precise intervals before bed, acknowledging a
definitive, constantly changing hierarchy. He dressed in order: underwear, socks, pants. If socks were in the dryer he would sit, in his underwear, and
he would wait. We went to the park on Tuesdays - every Tuesday - because that’s what we did on Tuesdays. My recent absences bothered him more
for the disruption of routine than for anything else. I didn’t know if all six year olds were as insistent on ritual, but an event of this significance, his
first death, called for structure and formality.
There would be a procession. There would be a speech. There would be a prayer. He would arrange artifacts beside the grave: the collar, the toy, the
whistle. I don’t know where he got these ideas. He watched a lot of TV.
It still hadn’t rained. I thought about watering the plants and remembered there was no point anymore.
He did not cry. Sam rarely cried. He walked step, together, step, together, in slowly narrowing circles, the whistle clutched in one fist. His grief leaked
despite his careful movements, his tightly held shoulders.
I heard the officer come in before he spoke. It wasn’t dramatic. I had left the front door open. There was a step behind me and I smelled cigarettes.
Mrs. Miller, he said. I need you to come with me now.
Outside Sam had paused, the procession halted. He rubbed one eye with a fist and took a shuddery breath. I swallowed. We need to wait until this is
over, I said. I did not turn around.
Ma’am, he said. I need to see your hands.
I leaned on the counter, fingers spread, but did not turn around.
You need to come with me now, he said. I heard the click.
Outside, Sam bowed his head. I could see his lips moving. Was the procession over? Had the service begun? He held the fist-clenched whistle to his
face. An unconscious gesture? A kiss? A consecration?
Ma’am, the officer said. You need to come now. You need to come with me.
I didn’t turn my head. I knew his arm would be steady and the gun would be level. I would not have been afraid of me, but I supposed he was trained
not to take chances.
Wait, I said. We need to wait. We need to wait for him to finish.
Mrs. Miller -
We need to wait, I said. The dog died. There’s a funeral today, I said. His incredulity was comical. Almost.
Mrs. Miller, I don’t think you understand, he said. It’s over. It’s time.
Sam had stopped walking. He stood below the tree, beside the scarred ground: my inept attempt at a grave. He had overlooked my imprecision,
maybe in kindness, maybe unhappiness. I didn’t know.
I spread my hands further. I know, I said. And I will go. But he doesn’t know yet.
We have someone outside, he said. For him. She will take him somewhere safe.
We don’t have any other relatives, I said. Not now.
I know, he said. There’s a family he will go to for tonight.
Sam knelt under the tree. His head was so small. His back was so thin. If I had regret, I regretted not running my hand along the knobs of his spine
one last time. I regretted not taking care to memorize every ridge of his knuckles, every jut of collarbone.
Mrs. Miller, he said -
You shouldn’t call me that anymore, I said, and he sighed.
Ma’am, he said. Don’t make this hard. Not in front of the boy.
Please, I said. Let him finish. Let him have this.
You made this choice, he said.
I did, I said. And he didn’t. Please. Give him five minutes, I said, of sadness that makes sense.
I could hear him breathe. Then I heard a shift and a click and a step and he stood beside me.
We waited together. We watched Sam, still kneeling, carefully place the things he had brought: collar, toy. He did not put down the whistle, but
clutched it to him, mouth working. Sam’s face was beautiful, in this moment of his sorrow. When he cried, we looked away.
Gina L. Grandi was formerly a teacher, a teaching artist, and an arts administrator. At the moment she is working on a doctorate, writing plays,
making masks, and trying to get this cat off the keyboard.
By Catherine Arra
Your drums, silver with sparkles, stand in the living room, recently redecorated by Mom in a flurry of 1960’s modern.
There’s the walnut, stereo console with an AM/FM radio and top cover that flips up. Below, two flip-down doors: one spills out a turntable, the
other a bin for Bobby Darin, The Ventures, Pete Fountain, Basie. Side speakers turn forward or detach with long wires. A walnut colored couch with
sleek, James Bond lines, sexy half V’s at the ends. The double-tiered, walnut coffee table, a white amoeba ashtray, Better Homes and Gardens,
McCall’s, Redbook spread like a Spanish fan. Matching end tables with towering, white, bulbous-based lamps. The minimalist, 3-D guitar constructed
and framed in walnut against geometric orange and beige.
Your drums like stars wink in all that brown.
You play with your head tilted down and sideways, right ear to snare, spine curled ‘round the beat. I watch from the doorway, waiting. You
motion me in with a drumstick; lift me to your bass-drum leg, brace me in the crook of your elbow and resume playing. I smell Old Spice under earthy
sweat; feel your flexing forearm and thigh. I rise, fall and ride the thunder, one with you and music. Or you nose-guide me behind the tom-tom, give
me maracas. I follow: sassa-sha, sassa-sha, sackle-sackle sassa sha, or you teach me to hold the sticks, “Easy, easy,” you say, “leave play in the
wrists and fingers, never hold tight.”
You wanted this: drums, rhythm, music. But your Papa, in broken English, greased in garage labor, said no, the same way he said no to
baseball when lawn mowers needed fixing after school, “You can’t make-a no money you play-a base-a-ball.”
You took the post office job, delivered mail and brown boxes, sometimes music on weekends.
Me. A third-grade graduate of flutophone, I announce at supper, “I’m going to play the drums.”
“Drums?” The fork collides with the plate. Your head rises. You see legs straddled wide-open, breasts bouncing on the beat, men in bars, in
clubs, in beds.
“No!” you say, “No daughter of mine is going to play drums.”
I end up with a flute and later a guitar, but man oh man, I could spit out staccato like nobody’s damn business.
Catherine Arra’s poetry has been published in various journals online and in print. Red Ochre Press published her first chapbook, Slamming & Splitting,
in 2014. Flutter Press recently published her second chapbook, Loving from the Backbone.
IN ALL THAT BROWN