Bright tropical fish circled the coral head, picking at colorful fans swaying in the current. Through the crystal water I saw my favorites: the lemon-yellow butterfly, the tomato-red clown with three black-lined white stripes, and the little iridescent green one that shimmered pink and orange in the light. Seeing them again felt good, like I was back with Kendra but before all the fighting. Clouds of darting fish broke up and reformed in syncopation to my heartbeat. The three fish just floated and stared.
I knew from hours of watching the little guys that they had only one expression, a cute almost-smile. Now, from how they regarded me, mouths eerily opening and closing, they actually appeared distressed and unsettlingly aware.
Go on. Pick at some nice seaweed, I thought, and swam closer. The shadowy crevices and caves in the coral were full of murky, dark shapes. One of them shifted, and I felt its hunger. My heart raced, jolting out of time with the rhythms around me. I swished at the fish in warning, but they weren't concerned. I felt myself lifting, and I rose through long streaming beams of grainy sunlight. The sandy bottom receded, the fish tiny, flitting dots. I floated up and up and was sure the presence in the cave was
watching me. The lap and burble of the waves above grew louder and louder . . .
I followed the fountain's murmur from somewhere in the depths of sleep to that eyes-closed-half-awake state. I could still feel the dreamy warm water and sun on my back. I blissfully resettled into the couch. The session from hell wasn't till eleven, and I had no intention of waking or even thinking about the drums until I heard my watch alarm's nasty little beep.
A familiar tingle bloomed on the back of my neck—the prickly feeling that I was being watched, by the cat no doubt about to wake me with a gentle paw to the face.
I reached for her and opened my eyes, but she wasn't next to me at all. She was with Kendra in her new place across the Park, along with the juicer, the bread maker, the salt-water tank, plasma TV, our bedroom set, and the Pilates machines.
Dim streetlamp light filtered in, keeping the long, sparsely furnished room in haze and shadow. The heat hadn't come on for the year yet, and the late September nights were already foreshadowing the cold to come. As my eyes adjusted, I wondered where my new kitten, Nicholas, was. I got him a week after Kendra and I split. I had kept the apartment, which, along with peace of mind and my share of the Lotus songs rights, was what I wanted.
I clinked my nails on the empty Heineken bottle on the coffee table, a sound he couldn't resist. I could squeeze in another twenty minutes of lounging before I had to get ready. "Nikkie," I called, surprised he hadn't come running.
I spotted the little devil across the room, standing in the corner next to my cymbal bag, his paws all perfectly tucked in. His tail twitched as if he were tracking a fly.
I clinked the bottle again. He acknowledged me with a chirp and went back to watching whatever he was watching.
I propped myself up to take a look just as the phone rang. Was I late? I'm sure the corporate record company puppets they called a band these days wouldn't care, but Morty was producing, and he had always done me good. I fumbled for the phone.
Kendra's number flashed on the screen and a pang of fear hit me.
Why would she call? The papers just became final, and it'd been about a month since our last rendezvous after the big Zildjain party.
I thumbed talk. "Hey. Is everything alright?"
"You took them," she said.
She sounded okay. Pissed, but okay.
"Took what?" I asked. What the hell had I taken? She had everything she wanted. Nothing of hers was here anymore.
"You know," she accused. "It's our destiny. Every wrong I try to right you throw a monkey wrench into."
I pictured the moment I saw her at the party. Black slacks and a sheer top hugged her tall, lean frame. Her long hair was back in a single braid, streaks of natural brown growing in beneath the last bleach job. A simple turquoise choker brought out her deep green eyes. She stared at me when I entered like the night we first met back stage on the Mystic Tryst tour. Two hours and three times that many drinks later, we were back at the apartment ripping our clothes off like it was twenty years ago, feeling the exact opposite of what I felt from her now.
"I'm half asleep," I said. "And I gotta get ready for a session, for Morty. I'm going to hang up unless you tell me what you're talking about."
"The fish," she said. "They're with you."
Funny, I was just dreaming about the fish. Kendra was incredibly smart and had killer instincts, but this time she was just plain wrong. I had watched the movers take the neglected and green-crusted thing myself.
"You have the tank," I said as calmly as I could, though I was getting heated. Despite all her yoga and enlightenment business, she could really sock it to you when ticked off. "We just can't keep going back and forth like this. What about our clean break?"
I braced for her to remind me that I hadn't been clamoring for a clean break after six cocktails courtesy of Zildjain.
"Joe, don't hang up," she said. Her voice resonated like the long decay of a thick, hand-hammered earth ride. Using my real name caught me off guard. She was the only one who did. Even old Morty still used my stage name.
"I'm not wrong about this," she said. "Look across the room."
She was crazy. Beautiful. Impulsive. Complicated and crazy. But when the smoke cleared she was usually right. Usually.
I rubbed the sand from the corner of my eyes and took a look. Nicholas was still there. What the hell was he so fascinated with? I waited a bit and saw nothing.
"And . . ." I said.
"You don't see them?" she asked.
"See what?" I called the kitten again, but he didn't even turn his head.
"Turn off the lights, and try again," she said.
Every wishy-washy pie-in-the-sky thing Kendra had ever done sprung into my mind. The feng shui consultants. The astrologers. Chakra readers. Aura aligners. Where had it gotten us? Split apart and across the city. My stomach shifted, and I felt woozy. I had walked around feeling nauseous and dizzy like this for months after the split. I wasn't looking forward to it returning.
"Kendra, I gotta go." I slammed the phone down, hunched back into the couch, and tried to relax. Maybe I could recapture a few minutes of my dream before I had to get ready.
I shimmied into position and let my eyes close. The room blurred into a hazy, soft focus.
Nicholas chirped, and I opened my eyes for one more glance his way. Shimmering in the dark above him was a glowing ball. I squinted, and it came into focus. A puffer fish. Exactly like the spotted one I bought Kendra for our anniversary two years ago, except it was a washed out, almost translucent white like an underexposed black-and-white image. I sat up and saw that the corner was crowded with glowing shapes. The seahorse. The lemon-yellow butterfly. The tomato clown. The little green one. Every fish we had ever tried in the tank was there.
In the shadowy, cave-like corner, something floated. A two foot distended blur emerged from the darkness: the big spike-finned lionfish. It was the first fiasco; how could I forget? I paid four hundred bucks for it, and when I brought it home, it wouldn't eat. Kendra was furious ("The money doesn't matter Joe; it's the thought of the energy of a dying starving fish in this house.") and she sent me back to the store. The guy had told me that's what happens with the more exotic ones taken from the sea, but gave me a refund anyway cause he thought the first half of Mystic Tryst was the perfect album side.
The spindly apparition hovered above my cymbal bag, silent, ominous, and hungry as it had been in life. I never believed in Kendra's mumbo-jumbo, but unless someone was pulling an amazing trick on me, this changed everything. I picked up the phone and dialed her. I had to apologize. I had to tell her.
"You see them now," she said without me saying a word. "Don't bother, I forgive you."
I said what I had said to her so many times before, in the fragile, quiet moments after our many storms. "So, what do we do now?"
"Meet me at the diner by the park."
I dressed quickly. On the way out, I looked at my cymbal bag. Morty was going to kill me, but he would have to wait.
The diner patrons looked lost and lonely, right out of the lyrics of Eleanor Rigby. I could hear the steady cello strokes driving the song forward despite the lack of percussion. I felt like one of those lost people, hoping for a second chance at a dream that had already failed. The papers had come. It was official. This would be our first encounter since then. I bumped past some cops and a drunken group of men in old suits at the door, and then I saw her, radiant and angelic, sitting in one of the big booths along the front wall.
She waved me over, and I sat down. She smelled of neroli and vanilla. I missed that smell. Her hair had grown out and she hadn't re-dyed it. Streaks of silvery gray mingled with her natural straw-brown. Her facial features seemed stronger and more defined, even the tiny spider web lines at the edges of her eyes looked good.
"How've you been?" she asked.
"Not bad," I lied. I didn't know what I was doing. Hanging around with Morty again, listening to the tracks of the unfinished album over and over, running around with a girl half my age. I said none of this; she hated when I was negative.
The waitress came over with coffee, and I dramatically encouraged her. We laughed, long and easily.
"I saw them," I said and took her hands in mine. "I can't believe I saw them."
She smiled knowingly.
"Why? Why are they here now?"
"There has to be a reason," she said. "Otherwise you wouldn't be able to see them. And if you didn't see them, you wouldn't believe me. Then it would be much harder to get them back."
I hated how her explanations were always circular. But maybe it was something I just didn't understand. I always thought all our disagreements and fights were all her fault, just another symptom of her incomprehensible ideas, until today.
"They're yours," I said. "But why is it so important?"
"Its my burden. My responsibility. I let them die."
If they died under her watch, they died under my watch too. It was just as much my responsibility.
"That's it?" I asked.
"That's it," she said. "Don't change your mind on me."
"So what do I do? Scoop them up in a coffee can?"
"Let's go. I'll figure something out."
Suddenly it didn't seem like such a good idea to have her back in the apartment.
"No. Wait," I said.
"Why? Is the flavor of the month waiting there for you, naked?"
"No it's just . . ."
I didn't want it to end up the way it had after the Zildjain party. I wanted so badly to hear her breathing in my ear—to feel her against me slick with sweat. But the pull was so strong that I was afraid I'd break down and beg her to reconsider.
"Just what?" she asked, her deep green eyes accusing me.
"Just nothing," I said. "Let's go."
I swiped the fish with the little green aquarium net I found in a box of junk in the back of the closet, but it passed right through them.
Kendra watched disapprovingly. She took the net from me and sat down cross-legged on the floor. She closed her eyes and muttered what sounded like a yoga mantra.
"There," she said.
She stepped into the corner and swiped around. The net passed through the glowing shapes just like before.
"Damn," she said, and scooted up on my speaker cabinet. It looked so natural, so right to have her sitting there, kicking her legs in frustration. "What does a fish want anyway?"
"Bait," I said and scooped her up and lifted her over my shoulder.
"Not now," she yelped. "We have to figure this out."
I carried her toward the bedroom.
"Stop. Stop. Stop," she yelled. "Look!"
The fish had moved from the corner, trailing us in a glowing line across the living room. Nicholas swatted at them.
I gently put her down.
"Turn out the lights so you can see them better," she said.
I walked to the wall and flicked the switch.
"They didn't follow you," she said focusing on the glowing line. "How about me?"
She walked the few steps over to the couch. The fish stayed in place.
"Pick me up and carry me again."
I did. The fish followed us all the way to the bedroom.
We flopped down on my bed, clouds of fish hovering above us, and we lay side-by-side staring up at them as if they were constellations of stars.
"I should have known," she said. "They want to go home."
"Okay. To your place it is." I put my hand on her leg. "But I'm so comfortable right now."
"No. To the ocean. The Caribbean. That's where they're from."
"How do you know?"
"I just do."
"Think about it," she said. "The fact that we couldn't make it work hurt only us, mostly. But we failed them. They were our responsibility. They couldn't go to the store and buy food or get water from the toilet like Sasha if we were gone for days."
"Couldn't they float over to a map to make it clear?"
"Stop it. We have to make this right, or it's always going to be hanging over us, no matter what the divorce papers say."
She sprung out of bed and went into the room off the living room that we once had used as an office. I heard her clicking away at the computer.
"They're just fish," I called.
The lionfish hovered in the corner away from the rest. I wished it didn't look as if it were waiting for food. I was so late. Morty was going to kill me.
Kendra emerged in the doorway. She held the frame with her strong, thin arms and looked at me the way I always wanted: a mix of contentment, respect, and lust.
"We're on the next flight to Grand Cayman," she said. "Four thirty, tomorrow afternoon out of Newark. If we're lucky, we can get a couple of hours' sleep in." She turned out the light and crawled into bed next to me.
I wanted to stay. I wanted to wriggle out of my clothes, tell her we were going, and lose myself under the covers. But I rolled away. In my head I heard Jack singing the haunting, lush refrain of Mystic Tryst: "One more mystic tryst, one more earthy tide, and yet you're still here with me . . ." He always knew the right thing to do, the right thing to say, and he made it look easy. He was a rock star walking on water until his early end. I felt dizzy as I picked up my cymbal bag. Everyone was waiting on me, and I had to go.
Morty met me at the door with his client, the wispy-haired, high-cheekboned lead singer of the latest big-budget, teen-angst band.
We embraced in an exaggerated, back-clapping hug.
The corporate rock boy beamed. Just the look of him reminded me why after every session I swore no more favors. Somehow Morty always found a way to remind me that he landed the first Lotus record deal back in '69. I just wanted the session to be over fast so I could go back and deal with Kendra.
"I really love your work," corporate rock boy said as he clasped my hand. I'd seen his face somewhere but didn't remember his name.
One of the bulbs flickered, and a spindly shape lowered from the ceiling. The lionfish had followed me. I awkwardly shuffled up the hall to get away from it. Mort and the kid followed.
"If you asked me if I'd ever get to meet the Casey James, I would have said you're crazy," the kid blathered. "And now, to have you play on my disc, it's more than I ever dreamed of. It's gonna rock."
Mort had played me the demos. It was going to take a lot more than me to make this rock. As for his ass kissing, I knew he had asked Steve Smith and Terry Bozzio before me, and they had both turned him down.
A cute brunette in a busy patterned top and too much eyeliner entered the hall and demanded rock boy follow her to hair and make-up. I had to fight to keep from laughing. Mort stole a glance at her as they left then ushered me to the lounge behind the control room. He poured me some coffee.
"So, what happened to the drummer this time?" I asked.
"Rehab. Heroin, I think. He'll be back for the tour," Morty said in that callous, chipper way of his.
Being here reminded me that the album I'd been "working on" forever, or at least since things went bad with Kendra, was horribly stalled. Perfectly recorded rhythm tracks filled the reels, but the spark was missing. I wasn't looking for a comeback or anything stupid, I just wanted—I needed to hit it square on and nail it. Like Jack would do if he were here. I struggled to remember the syncopated rhythms of the motion of the fishes in my dream.
Thin spikes emerged from the wall above the coffee machine, and the lionfish drifted through the wall. Stupid fish found me. Maybe if I ignored it, it would go away.
"Kendra called," I said, to take my attention from it.
"So much for your clean break," Morty said in an 'I told you so' singsong.
The lionfish had moved to the center of the room. Light passed through it disconcertingly, and I couldn't keep my eyes off it. I kept thinking that if I turned away it would become corporeal and sting me in the back of the head with those sharp spines.
Morty slurped his coffee. "Ready for hair and make-up?"
I stood up. "I told you I don't want to be attached to this. No photos."
"Calm down," he said. "It's just a segment for that 'Making of the Song' show."
If I said no, he was going to remind me again of the good old days and all. I just couldn't stand it. I'd give him this. Maybe use it to throw in his face if I actually took off with Kendra. Maybe I could use a couple of days.
Two minutes later I was in a chair with the cute brunette spraying my hair. I noticed her small diamond ring as she powdered my face. I thought of Kendra's two-carat, platinum-set rock on the day we split. It was the quietest moment of my life, looking at it sitting on the kitchen counter top.
"All done," the cute-brunette said, and ushered me into the big sound room. The techs had set my cymbals up correctly; at least Morty was good for that.
Tripod-mounted cameras loomed in the corners. I sat behind the kit and slung the headphones on.
"Sorry, Casey, over there with the rest of the band," Morty said. I looked at the control room window. Morty was pointing to the side of the studio where the rest of the band leaned against the wall.
"What the hell," I mouthed to him.
"We're gonna do some takes of the vocals along with a click while he's still fresh," Morty said.
I pushed off the headphones and stomped over to the corporate rock peanut gallery.
Morty's client entered, followed by a procession of cameramen and producers.
Were we just going to stand here for B-reel? It was all ass-backward.
I stood around for a half hour while they took a million different angles of the kid singing the opening lines of a song that didn't even exist yet. He was going to just have to do it over anyway once the music got laid down. Morty was a lot of things, but he knew how to make a record. If this was what he wanted, then fine. I just wasn't going to stand around waiting. I walked over to the drum mike to tell him.
I bent down to test if the mike was on. The lionfish appeared out of nowhere, its beady black eyes and splotchy spikes right up against my face. I swatted at it, lost my balance, and fell forward onto the kit. Cymbals crashed and the toms toppled as I tried to stand. Morty burst through the doors.
"What the hell," corporate rock boy said.
"Get the cameras off," Morty yelled to the laughing cameramen.
I picked myself up and headed for the door.
"Casey, wait," Morty said. But I kept walking. Screw it. I was going to the Caribbean.
Mercifully I didn't see the fish on the plane, but Kendra assured me they were there. We checked into the Blue Heaven resort in the middle of the night. Kendra sat down in one of the lobby's rattan chairs while I went to the front and deposited her ring in the hotel safe with the manager. When we returned, he escorted us to our low-rise suite on the beach.
After a few hours' sleep, we ordered breakfast and watched the ocean from our patio while we waited. Endless shades of blue stretched to the clear sky. A young couple held hands and leisurely picked shells at the rolling surf while a team from the hotel spread out a bright red chute for parasailing. Soon the staff arrived with a lush spread of exotic fruit, caviar, fresh breads and juices.
Kendra held a crumb up. "Not long now," she said.
I couldn't see the fish well in the light like her, but I could feel them watching.
Kendra slid out of her chair and kissed my forehead. "I'm going to make the boat arrangements."
While she was gone, I picked at the pineapple and thought of Nicholas. My assistant would be feeding him, but cats were creatures of habit; he'd miss me and his ghostly playthings. Morty however, was just a creature; he was going to kill me.
A half hour later we were riding the wind away from the hotel dock in a catamaran. I sat on the net in the front and Kendra sat under the sail, covered in big sunglasses and a batik wrap. She flipped through a book on fish from the hotel gift shop.
I breathed deeply, taking in the salt spray on the wind. Breakfast had been exceptional, and Kendra looked like a dream. I was sorry that back home I had forgotten how to truly live.
The driver, an old weathered guy with kinky gray hair and a quiet authority about him, stopped the boat over a shallow spot. I could see the sandy bottom and the coral heads below.
"No," Kendra said. "Not here."
"Ma'am. This is the best place," he said. "My personal spot. No one snorkels here."
"It's not right. Over there . . ." she said, and seemed to arbitrarily point out to the water.
"Dangerous out in the open," he said. "Currents are bad today."
"I don't care," she said.
The driver made a face and tacked the boat a hundred yards away. I thought I could make out the long spikes and black eyes of the lionfish among the rigging.
"What the hell does he know?" she whispered angrily.
I felt that things were about to get out of control like so many times before. New Year's 1980 popped to mind. Morty had scored us front row seats to the Zen Squires show at the Fillmore, and Kendra had insisted they were better than my back stage access. She danced away, her usual wild self, much to the delight of a rowdy bunch of bikers who wouldn't leave her alone.
"Got a boyfriend," Kendra said.
"So why ain't he dancing with you?"
"Fuck off! He's Casey James."
The current had taken me, and I was up in that biker's whiskey-stinking, bearded face. The rest was pure chaos. We came out of it bruised and battered, but okay. I felt that same nervous electricity now, except the lionfish hovering over me made me think things weren't going to end so well this time.
Before I could say anything, Kendra was at the edge of the boat unpeeling her wrap, revealing a bright orange bikini. She rolled off the side with a sploosh.
"Its so warm," she said. "Come on."
I grabbed our masks and snorkels and followed her in.
The coral teemed with fish. Kendra was right, again. This spot was just like my dream.
"Hold your breath and dive with me," she said.
Pressure built in my ears as we descended the fifteen feet to the coral head. I could faintly make out our fish among their flesh-and-blood counterparts.
After a few seconds we went to the surface for air, then dove again.
The butterfly, the clown, and the little green one were picking at the coral when we returned. I could barely see them. They were fading away, and I had to go up for air.
We surfaced farther from the boat. The current had either taken us or the boat.
"Come back," the driver called, but Kendra didn't listen. Her feet disappeared beneath the waves. I held my breath and followed.
Looking down I could see I was already being pulled away from the coral head. I spun and saw Kendra kicking—struggling for the bottom. The water darkened, as if the sun were blocked out. I kicked harder, hoping to catch up, but I lost sight of her in the increasingly turbulent water.
In the sandy murk, the specter of the little green fish appeared at my mask for an instant, then was gone. Out of breath, I broke for the surface. Clouds had moved in, obscuring the sun. The tropical rain I'd heard so much about poured down. I bobbed at the surface. It would have been almost pleasant if I didn't feel myself being pulled farther out into the ocean.
I looked around and saw the catamaran a hundred yards away. The driver was fishing Kendra out of the water. Good, I thought. She was safe. I waved and yelled, then remembered the catamaran had no engine and would have to tack out to reach me.
I put the snorkel in my mouth and treaded water. I could keep it up for a while. I stuck my face in the water. The lionfish was right there. I felt a strange kinship to it. Its simple life had been interrupted, all control and certainty taken away.
The current pulled me faster. The catamaran grew smaller by the second. The waves, the rain, the racing of my heart all beat their chaotic rhythms. There was nothing to latch onto. My leg exploded into a burst of pain, and I jarred to a halt. I had been snagged on a wall of coral. The current dragged me along it and that same burning spread to my back. I scrambled for a hold, hoping the coral wouldn't snap. The ocean wanted to take me, but I held tight. Someone from the hotel would come. I searched the rain for a steady beat, kept my head above water, and waited. Floating in the water, I saw the patterns of my life—the currents that moved me. A cycle of bliss and chaos. It had always been this way with Kendra and it always would.
Later that night, after the hotel had fished me out, Kendra and I sat in our big tub full of warm, foamy water and soothing aromatic oils. The flicker from dozens of candles reflected off of the beige and white ceramic tiled walls.
"When you didn't listen and went under like that, I felt like it was New Year's 1980 all over again."
"Things turned out okay then I remember."
"Today could have been a lot worse," I said.
Except for the welts from the fire coral that saved me, things were fine.
"You made it down, right," I said. "The fish are home?"
"Almost all of them," she said, and pointed to a small cluster between the candles and a conch on the floor. "I knew it from the second dive. But I saw a shell I just had to have."
It was no use to tell her she could have gotten us killed. I couldn't handle a dose of her circular logic right now.
"A souvenir?" I asked. She knew as well as I that the reef was a protected zone.
"Today was intense," she said. "A milestone. It merited it."
"The shell belongs to the sea," I spat, trying to remember something Jack had said to me once while in a haze. "At one time the calcium was part of the earth. So that shell belongs to the sea . . . to the world. How's that for a cosmic thought?"
"Calm down," she said, unphased by my tirade. "I was reading up today." She pointed at the fish on the floor. "They're called gobis. I'm pretty sure they're from the Red Sea, but could be India or the South Pacific. We're going to have to travel the world together finding out."
Her foot found my leg somewhere beneath the foam.
"I could think of worse ways to spend my time," I said, but I didn't want to touch her. I was thinking of treading water while being carried out to the sea.
"Good. Tomorrow I'll get the tickets to Israel," she said, obviously missing what I meant.
"The Red Sea's in Israel. I hear Eliat has the best reefs. Good hash and backgammon, too."
"Isn't it dangerous?"
She sat up, creating a wave that spilled over the side, dousing the nearest candles.
"Here we go again. Joe the monkey wrench. We're almost there. Don't ruin this."
The smell of smoke filled my nose. With the candles out, her face was in shadow. The big lionfish floated between us. I smacked it but only hit the wall.
"I'm not ruining anything. You always have your head in the clouds and ignore what's on the ground."
She stood up and stormed out of the tub, the water pouring off her extinguishing the remaining candles with a sizzle.
I dried off, turned the wastebasket upside down, gathered the two conch shells, and drummed.
I started with the cool fade out from Mystic Tryst. The part that was cut too soon on the record. The little gobis scattered and reformed their school on the ceiling. Soon I had recaptured the rhythm from my dream, the beat of the circling fish dividing and reforming their circling schools. It was so locked in that I shouted, and shouted again in time. I chanted and pounded on the pail and shells till my hands were raw.
Then I slid into the tub and sat in the tepid water counting fish.
When I couldn't stand it any longer, I quietly crept back into the room. Kendra was passed out, draped over the bed peacefully.
I lay down on the couch. It was long into the morning before I slept.
I woke up and Kendra was gone. Just like when we split the first time, gone in the night without so much as a note.
Just as I sat up, the door clicked. Kendra walked in holding a big covered tray.
"Done with my workout, sleepyhead," she said without looking at me. "I saved us a spot at the pool, and I'm going to have a shower. I brought you breakfast."
She placed the tray on the table, put an envelope on the bed, and disappeared into the bathroom.
When I heard the water running, I went over to the bed and checked the envelope. Plane tickets. To Israel.
I pulled my suitcase from the closet and threw my stuff in it. I stomped around and decided to just leave it. I threw on some clothes, grabbed my passport, phone and wallet.
I opened the bathroom door and thought I was going to yell at the top of my lungs. She was in the shower. The water streamed down her silhouette behind the smoked glass. We'd never be happy together. Or at least she'd never be. I was happy in my looping patterns. Circles of misery moving closer to and farther away from happiness with every encounter with Morty, with every affair, with every unfinished (then completed) beat, track, and project. She'd feed into me, like the endless tide, and I'd be satisfied in a way she'd never be. She was beautiful, mysterious, and complex as the boulders at the beach, as the reef. I was drawn to her as she was drawn to me, like earth to water as she would say. But ultimately, I'd wear her down, slowly but surely batter her to sand. She didn't belong with me.
I took one last, long look at the water cascading on her slender form and closed the door. The last fish would find their way. Just as she would. Maybe they wouldn't. But I was going home. This was where our paths branched, for certain.
In the cab on the way to the airport, I called my assistant. Morty had called.
"I'm coming home," I said.
He asked me about the weather, but I was watching the propellers of a seaplane in the channel along the road sputter to life.
"If Morty bothers you again, tell him to screw himself. I'll deal with it when I get back."
Morty being pissed at me suited me just fine. I was going to be real busy for the next few months with the album.
I looked around for the lionfish. That feeling I was being watched was gone. It'd probably be back again. I had a lot to do yet before I joined Jack in rock star heaven and was sure I'd mess up plenty.
The plane leapt from the waves into the sky. Soon it would be me up in the air, and I'd be out of here. I could already feel myself rising.
Daniel Braum's stories defy category and often reside in the fuzzy
areas in between genres. Much of his fiction is set in the here and
now and explores places on the edges of civilization. Another line of
stories are science fiction tales with speculative elements that
border on the fantastic or magical. His work can be found on the web
in places such as The Fortean Bureau, Abyss and Apex, Dark Recesses,
Psuedopod, and Darker Matter; and in print in Full Unit Hook Up,
Electric Velocipede and Cemetery Dance. New stories are coming soon in
the October 2008 issues of Byzarium and Dark Recesses #10.
Others are forthcoming in future issues of Electric Velocipede and
Cemetery Dance. More about his fiction can be found at
www.danielbraum.com and http://dbraum.livejournal.com.
copyright © 2008, Daniel Braum
BECCA DE LA ROSA
—The Baby is Safe
—The Fisherman's Child
—Faith, Hidden in the Hands of the Blind
—A Comic History of Bullets
—To Recover from Lightning, Etc.
A. ROSS ECKLER