I have a character that I want to write a book about, but right now I’ve been so busy with editing that I haven’t had a chance to work on anything new. I sent a story about this character out and it got published in 2012. A friend of mine asked for a copy and I found out that the edition of Epiphany magazine is sold out. That’s the problem with hard copy – it can disappear pretty quickly.
This issue features work by Ana García Bergua • Lily Brown • John F. Buckley & Martin Ott • Jon Chopan • Sharmila Cohen • Scott Dievendorf • Julian Farmer • Michael George • Pshevsky • Jonathon Mack • Chris Martin • Victor Martinovich • Amanda Nadelberg • Vicente Riva Palacio• Kim Philley • Nate Pritts • Ben Purkert • Theo Radic • John Robinson • Matthew Rohrer • Michael Martin Shea • Mary Austin Speaker • Laura Hulthen Thomas • Wendy Thornton • M.A. Vizsolyi • Theodore Worozbyt • Liang Yujing
That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep a digital copy – nothing on the Internet ever goes away, as Sony pictures is finding out (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/11/business/media/emails-from-hacking-reveal-sonys-dirty-laundry.html?_r=0 )
I was very surprised to find that someone actually did a review of my short story online. I mean, who reviews short stories? But this was just so sweet, it made me feel really good (http://www.ann-graham.com/2012/03/wendy-thornton-donegin-takes-on-god-of.html)
I am very grateful to Epiphany Magazine for publishing my boy. Please, writers and others, support the literary arts – this is where a lot of your favorite stories and movies come from. (www.epiphanyzine.com)
Anyway, here’s the story – I don’t know why I keep writing about teenage boys, but I do love Donegin. We sometimes get so attached to our characters that we have to do something more with them – one of these days 🙂 :
Donegin Takes on the God of the Sea
Donegin is fourteen and pale. Well, he was pale before he spent the day trying to surf. Now he is a fluorescent pink color that will hurt him later. He doesn’t care. He has spent his life in Michigan. His mother, that slut, has decided she’d have better luck with Florida men. So she moved them across the country to this tourist trap of a town where he is practically spit upon in the halls ‘cause he doesn’t say “y’all” and look like he fell out of a peanut butter jar. Donegin knows the sun causes skin cancer. Not that he gives a shit.
His mother immediately found some new guy. The last one beat her and tried to beat him and threatened to kill them both. That’s why she packed up everything they owned, little as it was, and ran away. They’re staying in a battered woman’s shelter in town – not the first one they’ve stayed at. Donegin’s mother knows how to work the system. Her biggest regret is that her son is getting older and she won’t be able to get as much sympathy now that she doesn’t have a little one tugging at her mini-skirt. She says to Donegin, “Maybe I can have another kid. I’m still young.” She smoothes her hips in the mirror before going out with the new construction worker boyfriend. Slut.
His knees hurt where the fiberglass board has ripped away at the skin. Super Fish. His arms ache from paddling. He has watched the other surfers, who eye him with suspicion. They don’t like strangers in their waters. But he is not a stranger. He lives here now. Get used to it, fuckers. Watching them, he learns to flip his board over and duck under a wave rather than ripping through it. Hurts less that way.
He has tried all afternoon to stand, but hasn’t gotten higher than his knees on the board. Once the board flew up and hit him in the chin. Another time his own knee bounced backward from the surf and smacked him in the eye. He didn’t even know that was possible.
The board is a deadly weapon. Someone gave it to him and it’s not in great shape. There are shards of fiberglass sticking out. He cut his foot on a shell in the water, and now it bleeds lightly. He wonders if there are sharks in these waters, and if they will be drawn to his anemic blood. His pediatrician had told his mother to give him more meat. His mother had said, “Now where am I going to get the money for more meat?” She had given the doctor that suggestive look Donegin knew so well. So the pediatrician told them Donegin was too old to come to him anymore and sent him to a clinic where they prescribed iron tablets she had no intention of wasting her money on. Maybe she’ll marry the construction worker and he’ll cook steaks for them.
He drops into an oncoming wave and hears an irate shout behind him. He twists his head around and sees the flash of a board turning away just before a collision. The fact that he’s almost caused another surfer to wipe out unnerves him so much he moves down the coast away from the pack. He is so busy getting away from them he doesn’t see the huge wave coming. It smashes into him, dragging him down to the bottom, gouging his face in the sand. He flays underwater, trying to get his feet beneath him, and puts his hands over his head to keep the surfboard from braining him as it comes slashing down into the surf. He pushes off from the hard bottom and flies up to the surface, choking and spitting. The other surfers laugh, pointing and hooting. He shoots them a bird.
Again and again he pushes off onto a wave, trying to come to his feet on the board. His legs feel like broken toothpicks. The sun is beginning to fall lower on the horizon, assaulting his eyes as it disappears into the west. Clouds roil in on the east and here and there on the far horizon, a flash of lightning strikes. Donegin sees a huge wave coming towards him. He begins to paddle forward madly. He feels the wave pick up the board and hurl him forward, only this time, he is ready. He leans forward gently, gets from his knees to an unsteady crouch, then stands, slowly, arms akimbo. The wind whooshes by his head and he screams as the wave carries him, a god, on the surface of the water. He is flying. He is invincible.
He is in the water so suddenly he doesn’t know what hit him. The board is what hits him next, pounding into the back of his head with such force that he is propelled downward and inexorably opens his mouth, swallowing a huge gush of salty water that closes his throat and gouges his eyes. He flips upside down, swirling like seaweed. He can’t tell which way is up or down. He can’t get his feet anchored on anything. The board bounces around him, tethered to his ankle by the urethane leash that has now made it into a deadly weapon.
He can’t breathe. He can’t see. He is swallowed by the foam, enveloped by the current, rolled like a drunk being attacked by vagrants. He belongs to the ocean. Feeling his body go weightless, he surrenders himself to the cool green environ, drifting along like a jellyfish, boneless, home.
He wonders what his mother will do without him. He wonders whether she will marry her construction worker, have another baby. He envisions the baby playing in the surf beside the water where he died, his mother standing beside the ocean, pretending to cry.
The thought makes him so angry he pulls himself into a ball and floats around until his body somehow stabilizes. He lowers his feet, and feels the bottom. Gathering himself into a crouch he pushes off from the sand and flies straight up into the air, gasping for breath as he breaks the surface. His lungs burn, his eyes ache. Suddenly something touches him and he tries to draw away, but there is a hand on his arm, holding him up. “Dude,” someone says. “Nice ride!” He can’t tell if the person is being facetious or not. Another person shoves the board at him and he grasps it, desperate, hanging on as the waves break over him and he tries to get his breathing under control. The other surfers have gathered around him and hold the board steady so he can stay afloat.
He looks towards the sun, which lights up the green water he has just escaped from with golden highlights. Beside him, the surfers sit silently on their boards and watch the sun set. Donegin climbs painfully on his board and sits with them, rising and falling as the waves move beneath him.