The Unswung Bat

Thursday, October 20, 2005
 
Telling Stories

There is fiction in the space between
the lines on your page of memories


There's a convection, hot and cold, forgetting and knowing: it carries little true and false things up and under again. A surface, pocked with doubts and diving questions, watery surface of a story. Why does it always come back to water? He remembered stories of cloning and stolen nuclear material, told in a lab, and him as an eight year-old paranoid of someone suctioning off his DNA and injecting the stolen chromosomes through the membranes of some foreign egg, him being uncompressed and reconstituted as a frog or some other misformed hellishness. Not that he was to be put off from science: conversation turned comfortingly soon to hyperdrive, artificial intelligence, the measurements and prospects of bones.

Lost in a churn of slides - Can Animals Think? Pannonian Shoreline: 12 MA, arrows weaving to and from Africa - and clay models, scaly questions, a boy floating somehow towards a distant want, islanded just off-path of a mean current that plucks and tows and tosses out to sea. Where is he?

Soaked cardboard boxes with inscrutable labels in black marker, letters two inches high drift by like brown kelp. A flock of tickets, practically a book's worth, to nowhere he's heard of slide by on the warm wavering surface of the water. Brown wrinkled lillies bob by like toy boats. He wonders about long and deepmawed fish or sea snakes. Where he is is insensible, dark and oceanic beneath his neckline, only the theoretical land of those tickets to remind him - where did they go?

Some years later and only after learning to live off the odd flotsam and when to trust and distrust the whims of waves and flows, he washes up on a bed of sand, sleeps on top of where the sun has laid down on the silica grains, gets up with them sticking to his back.

A yelping dog is waiting for him, it runs back and forth from him to some indiscrete whiteness laid on the sand. The body of a fish, same as he worried about in the drift earlier, gapes blind through milky eyes. The dog has not touched it and wags its tail as it watches the boy watch it. He reaches out to feel the dried fish, breathless afraid that it might snap at his hand, and finds its deceptively dull skin still damp and slick, and its gills twitch and flutter. Terrifies the dog, which bolts and then runs back, wagging, and bolts again. The boy follows, finds himself at the edge of a water hole, black and thick as the sea and with creepers draped into it and swirling into its depths.

Falls asleep there, the dog in his arms, warmer than the night air, and awakes wet and gasping, canine nowhere in sight, island inconceivably absent, just a dream?

There is fiction in the space between
You and me



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