OCTOBER SHORT STORIES

October 1, 2011 Fiction

In this issue Selma Sergent and Marita C. Masuch  will take you for a fascinating trek down a path that is both a spiritual and intellectual journey to two very different realities.

 

 

 

 

 

Singing Waters

By

Marita C. Masuch

 

There is a man who stands on his boat, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and plays his saxophone for the whales.  The whales create a circle, heads down, flukes immobile, like an underwater necklace around an invisible neck.  They listen to his notes, muted through the ever circulating living waters, silent and immobile.  Suddenly, one whale sings some notes, a string chosen from the saxophone player, notes that struck his fancy.  Another whale takes the newly formed song, repeats the notes, and adds a few more.  

Eventually, the saxophone player sits, his instrument silent, and listens to the chorus of whales singing a song he started.  Each whale has a distinct sound, if you listen closely, just like an opera singer and even in a group you can hear the distinctive voices.  Slowly he feels his boat rock as the whales move their flukes, as if tapping their toes to the rhythm, and carefully begin breaking their circle, returning horizontal like the horizon, and continue their song.  

The man in the boat smiles, the whales gently lift their heads above the water line, touching the edge of his boat, waiting for him to reach out and touch their head.  One by one, they wait, until he’s touched them all in turn, then they dive down, silent except for their song, deep into the dark waters until they are heard only by the other ocean dwellers.  The sun has set by that point and in the darkness, the silent washing over him, he brings his boat back to his land, solid and brown, and dreams for his next trip to the singing waters.

“Are you telling stories again Omi?” Iska asked with a mix of annoyance and fear tainting her question.  The old woman looked at her daughter, her gray eyes watery and clouded from cataracts.  She didn’t respond.  Iska stared at her mother, waiting, impatient, until her mother stood up and silently walked to her small bedroom next to the kid’s room.  Andra, the oldest of the two children, squirmed in his bed, trying to ignore his mothers glaring eyes that followed his grandmother until the door clicked shut.  Finally, as her eyes slid back to her children and a forced smile started to grace her lips, Andra said, “Why do you always shut her up?”  His sister, Ravkish, let out a noise that could have been a sigh or a hiss.  Ravkish did not want to hear the argument, again, between her mother and Andra.

Astrid sat in her room, staring out into the dark streets, mumbling to herself.  I am not telling stories, I know the truth, I remember it.  I remember my brother pulling his boat out into the waters, far out, so far that even when I squinted I couldn’t make out his figure.  He took me only once because I threatened to tell papa.  Astrid stopped mumbling, sat silent, staring out into the dark into the long hours before morning.  Her bedroom light was the only light seen from the streets, the streets that were always dark, in this place so far from the whales.  She remembered that experience, with her brother, out in the middle of thePacific Ocean.

He wasn’t even supposed to have a saxophone, music was outlawed even then, but he found papa’s hidden in a trunk in the attic.  Papa didn’t have the heart to throw it out, like he was supposed to, like the government told him, and it was only sheer luck that the secret police didn’t find it in the trunk even though they searched the attic that summer.  They assumed the ignorant fisherman was too stupid, too scared, to defy the laws.  Astrid discovered her brother when he took the small skiff out, watching over his shoulders, looking as though he was doing something he shouldn’t.  She watched him from behind a dune on the beach until he was so far out she thought he would reach some other land.  She waited for him, expecting him to return with fish, but then she heard the distance music.  

At first he was awful, the saxophone sounded mangled instead of melodic, more like bathing cats then singing birds.  Astrid realized he went out to the middle of the ocean to practice.  When she finally confronted him, after months, demanding he take her out with him, he told her that it was the whales who taught him how to play.  She glanced at him incredulously.  ”No, really, they taught me the different notes.  I didn’t know what the darn thing was supposed to sound like until they started singing.”  Larsson kept looking forward, speaking in hushed tones to his sister, and Astrid realized he was looking for something specific before stopping.  

Larsson was never much of a talker and that trip out on the boat was probably the most he ever said to her.  Once he found what he was looking for he stopped, anchored, and stood up with the saxophone poised.  Astrid worried that the boat would tip but her brother clearly knew how to balance and play.  He started slowly, just a note or two, then ran through scales and she watched her brother take on an entirely different air.  He was more relaxed then she had ever seen him, he had a dreamy quality to him, with the shimmering waters casting an eerie aura about him, glinting off the instrument.  

She didn’t notice the whales at first, too busy looking up at her brother, but then she felt a shift in the waters.  She held her breath, looking down into the depths, seeing the shadowy figures circle slowly all around, so large they could easily envelop them with a flick of their fluke, like a horse flicking a fly with its tail.  She worried they were going to be harmed and she looked nervously at her brother but he just kept playing.  Astrid wasn’t sure if he knew what was happening or if she should interrupt him to alert him to imminent danger.  When she returned her gaze to the waters below she watched the whales drop their heads down, as if falling, and just hang still in the waters below the boat.  Astrid paid no mind to her brother from that point, just watching the whales dangling in a circle.  She wanted to slip into the waters with them, swim around them, run her hands along their huge bodies, but she was afraid she would disturb them.  

She dropped a hand tentatively into the water, reaching down toward the closest fluke, daring to give it a quick touch.  She saw the whale turn its head slightly, one giant eye peering up at her, and felt his fluke twitch under her hand as if she was tickling a child’s toe.  Astrid didn’t know if whales could smile but she believed that one smiled at her before returning to his position.  She left her hand on his fluke, the other hand making circles in the water, and after a few moments she heard the first notes from one of the other whales.  She was so shocked, as if electricity surged through the waters, that she jerked back into the boat.  Neither the whales nor her brother seemed to notice, too entranced in their ritual.  

Once a few more began to sing, once the chorus started, Larsson stopped playing.  He seemed to suddenly remember his sister was with him.  They sat in silence, listening, looking down and watching the chorus of whales, until they broke their circle and nuzzled their heads to the edge of the boat signaling the end.  Larsson reached out, as usual, but the whale didn’t move back.  Larsson was confused for a moment before he realized the whale was waiting for Astrid to touch him as well.  Astrid slowly reached out, looking into the large eye, and pat the head of the giant whale.  She felt a calm rush through her hand, up her arm, and deep into her emotions.  The feeling of calm got stronger after each whale.  The very last whale looked at her a little longer, as if memorizing her face, before drifting off with the disappearing pod.

Astrid broke from her memories, blinking down at the dark streets, the dried leaves blown by the wind.  She glanced around her room, listening to her grandchildren snoring slightly, heard her daughter talking to her husband in worried whispers.  “If she keeps telling stories like that she’s going to get us all in trouble,” Iska whispered.  Her husband patted her hand, “She’s an old woman, let her tell stories.  The police aren’t going to arrest an old woman.”  Iska looked nervously, “Maybe not but if she keeps filling their heads with those stories the children might slip and tell a teacher or someone, then we’ll all be in trouble.”  Again, her husband spoke calmly, “The children are smarter than that and they are just stories.  I don’t think they are going to run off to find the ocean, or figure out what music is, let alone hunt for whales.”  Iska sighed deeply before turning away from her husband.  

Astrid stood up with determination, a plan, a dream, ready to finally leave this oppressive place.  She hated this place, where music was outlawed and even stories were frowned upon.  Her grandchildren weren’t even allowed to scribble or draw, as if a child’s painting could subvert the government restrictions.  No wonder the streets were always dark, always cold, always frightening.  She slipped out into the night to make her way one last time out to the middle of the ocean, to the middle of the singing waters.

 

 

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12 Comments

  1. adeeyoyo October 11, at 19:47

    What lovely stories from such talented writers. I enjoyed them tremendously!

    Reply
  2. Magsx2 October 04, at 19:00

    Hi, Really enjoyed both these stories, very well written. I came to this site via Selma's blog, and so glad I did, was having my usual morning coffee when I stated reading the stories. (Well timed on my part) :)

    Reply
    • Administrator October 05, at 20:32

      Thank you Magsx2 for enjoying the stories and hopefully you will return to continue reading with your morning coffee. :)

      Reply
  3. KLaus Kommoss October 04, at 16:50

    "atheism seemed to be a reaction against something rather than a movement towards it" This was just one snippet that caught my eye. Magical story. It's so much fun to follow you, Selma.

    Reply
  4. Selma October 03, at 23:32

    Marita's story is excellent. Fantastic imagery - the image of figuring out what music is has just got me right in the heart. Beautifully written. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Stephanie October 03, at 11:07

    Wow. Selma never disappoints. Beautiful and magical.

    Reply
    • Administrator October 03, at 19:29

      Indeed this is both beautiful and magical. Selma's stories always take you places that make you smarter in some way.

      Reply
  6. JCT October 03, at 01:33

    Stumbled on this site. I liked the first story very much.

    Reply
    • Administrator October 03, at 09:52

      You stumbling is Tuck's good fortune and we hope you come back to read some more!

      Reply
    • Administrator October 02, at 16:55

      Thank you Evelyn for contributing your incredible words to Tuck!

      Reply

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