A Choir of Small Creatures
TIMOTHY SCHIRMER
Lydia sits up from her towel and takes a long elegant swig of beer, “Just curious,” she says, glancing at each of us, “does anyone know how we’re going to sink this boat?”  A fearful expression passes over Peter’s face, the young sailor Lydia has employed since she and Keith, her soon-to-be ex-husband, put their names on everything right down to the hand towels and saltshakers.

“We’ll sink your husband’s boat tomorrow,” Ari says, “when the jellyfish have gone.”

Samantha, Ari’s wife, nudges me and whispers, “I hate how she get between husbands, completely out of control.”  Yes, this is true, I think, like an unbridled fire hose gushing water, swerving about, that’s Lydia without a strong man a hold of her.

The bay is packed with jellyfish, probably more jellyfish in the bay than people on the island.  “I’ve never seen it like this,” says Peter, staring out at the swarms.  The day is still.  The sails useless.  Luscious blue sky rises from the Caribbean Sea in fading gradients, all the way up to the little sun, like a blister in the quiet. 

“How bad do those things hurt?  I want to swim!” Lydia whines, taking another swig of dark golden brewski, an exchange of bubbles chasing up inside the bottle.  

“Cool it on the booze,” Ari warns, “it’s only noon.”  

Every girl, Lydia brags, should keep handy one pal she forgives for poking her in the back when she’s a real cunt.  For Lydia, Ari is this friend.  His knowledge of her stretches back to her first days in New York City, straight off the bus, a nobody from nowhere with a fresh, beautiful face, come into the city with a duffle bag full of unfortunate clothes, chewy candies and her mama’s ashes in a coffee tin.  The rest of us met her much later.

My husband, Benjamin, dislikes my old friends, and he especially dislikes Ari.  I suppose Benjamin can’t register a man who won’t eat meat and dairy and has Hindu poetry tattooed across his body like ornaments beaming on a Christmas tree.  Unfortunately, what lodged in Benjamin’s memory in one of Ari’s dizzying sermons on his ink, was something about rejecting one’s material possessions.  Brenda, my husband scoffed, these people don’t know who the hell they are!  Why doesn’t he reject that apartment on Central Park West—that wife of his has enough snooty art on their walls to run a small museum—then he can ramble on about the Gita-whatever-it-is.  

My husband certainly knows who he is: a Republican who likes cheese on his burger and solid old-fashioned people without Hindu scritch-scratch on their skin.    

We are here, Ari, Samantha and I, a few good friends, to say sayonara to the sailboat, and to help Lydia recover from a life almost entirely focused on heels, handbags, and blue and white china plucked from the bottom of the ocean.  Not this ocean, the North Atlantic.  And not the Titanic, but that other ship that sank in the Edwardian era.

Keith, Lydia’s estranged, made his fortune in the ’80’s, in coal, blowing up mountains in West Virginia.  The surly old man has a deceptively jolly look about him, like Kris Kringle dressed down for Nantucket.  When we first met, on this very boat, I ran my fingers through his fancy beard and smiled largely at him, featherbrained off one too many Mojitos.  He did not smile back.  

Though retired, Keith retained his penchant for magnificent manly machinery, shifting his interests, however, into maritime activities; acquiring boats, a seaplane, even a little submarine.  Money, Lydia says, affords women costumes and eye-dazzling little things, while it guarantees men the world’s most spectacular toys.  Naturally, from time to time, the desires will overlap.

It was a riveting expedition, Lydia said, descending to the floor of the Atlantic.  Dropping through the thinning layers of sunlight into a darkness that fastened around the little submarine like a threatening membrane, a darkness offset only by the occasional wary fish seen darting from the floodlights.  Then suddenly the ocean floor appears through the black fog, the sad underbelly of the planet.  And for a moment, at first sight of the sinister landscape, Lydia felt her heart twist with fear that the world above was nothing—nothing more than an aimless charade.  

It’s my private opinion that Lydia was never genuinely interested in shipwrecks and all the little things they took under, and that a dusty red rock from Mars would have pleased her just the same as those plates had.  Lydia’s marriages (the five of them) were like themed chapters.  And the theme of this most recent marriage: let’s see what we can scrape off the bottom of the ocean in our little submarine.  It seems about right for a sensationally beautiful woman incapable of making babies.

And the plates made a real ripple within the antique and art worlds.  The cognoscenti came buzzing from all corners of the globe to see what Lydia had exhumed from the Atlantic.  People took photos, wrote articles.  Fabulous, said the old queens.  Exquisite, said the old professors.  From the end of the Qing Dynasty, the plates belonged to that last fiery breath of Chinese porcelain, and were especially coveted for their unforeseen survival.  Each of the six plates was hand painted, rimmed with a pattern of curvaceous blue roses.  At the centers, beastly dragons, fire-spitting mouths slung ominously open. 

Last summer in a bit of harmless fun while watching Lydia’s Bengal cats, Benjamin, our daughter Olivia and I, ate lunch off the china.  Benjamin even took his plate up off the counter and walked about the kitchen as he ate, to which I breathed in a sharp hiss of worry, but corrected myself, because after all, the fun was in using Lydia’s hundred-year-old plates as if they were common dishes out of the cupboard.  When we had finished our lunch—the sacred porcelain speckled with crumbs and daubed with mayo—Benjamin said matter-of-factly, should we run them through the dishwasher?  I laughed harder than I had in eons.  Benjamin grinned quietly.  Olivia giggled her sweet inward giggle, full of misgivings at her parents’ behavior.  Don’t tell Auntie Lydia, I said, planting a kiss on the top of her head. 

We lay on the deck.  We talk of New York.  We talk of everyone we know who lost their summerhouses, or worse, their apartments, and took shelter at their summerhouses.  It’s a big boat, and Ari is off somewhere else, perhaps meditating on the bow.  Peter, the young sailor, is leaning lazily into the helm, reading a chunky paperback novel.  Somewhere along the line we get on to talking of Lydia’s ex-husbands.

“I liked Vincenzo,” Samantha says.

“Yes,” Lydia agrees, “it was nice living with a man who always had a first-class bottle of red open.  I woke up with purple lips for three years.  I’d remarry Vinnie; if he was still alive.”

“I could see that,” says Samantha, smiling fondly.

“I didn’t mind Scott,” I say, “he was nice.”

“Oh Brenda, he was out of touch.  A total nerd,” Lydia says, scrunching up her face.   “Computer guys are always laughing at things that aren’t funny.”

“If a man is laughing alone,” Samantha says, “he’s either an idiot or a genius.”

“Scott was a genius, and a bad fuck,” Lydia confesses.  She sits up from her towel, gazes over at Peter.  At the helm, he’s probably too far off to hear what we’re saying, unless he’s pretending to read and intentionally listening.  “You know, sometimes,” Lydia says, “I feel like fucking a really, really young guy.”

“How young?” I ask.

“Oh, I don’t know… sixteen, fifteen even.”

“Lydia!” Samantha screeches, “What for?  What a mess that would be.”

“Of course,” Lydia says, “that’s not the point.  When you screw someone, you imprint yourself on their sexual identity, even more so when they’re young.  It would be a sort of sexual immortalization.”

“I need a man, a man with hair on his face, like my Ari,” Samantha says.

“Brenda?” Lydia asks.

“I’ve thought of it.”  I laugh, nodding my head and shamefully covering my eyes.  And lately I have.  There is a certain boy who works the checkout at my market, the kind who gawks, and though I find him a touch pathetic, I don’t mind that his eyes always catch on me.  It’s fascinating actually, to know that my image is made utility by his starved skin, fuel for some perverted fantasy that gets him off.  The very realization has shifted the boy into my own skittish fantasies.   

“Exactly!” Lydia exclaims, “And I’d like it even more if he weren’t all that handsome.  You know, one of those gangly, vaguely good-looking boys, but with a slightly busted, greasy face.  And you know he’s just dying for it!  Like Peter over there.  I bet you Peter looks just fine with his clothes off.”

“Peter’s not fifteen,” I say.

“Oh, I know that,” Lydia replies.  “Like Peter; four years ago.”

Suddenly a pillar of fresh shade slips over me, and Ari is standing above us, his handsome face rimmed in golden sunlight.  

“Hello my love,” says Samantha, flipping onto her back.  “Let me ask you a question: if you weren’t with me, and it weren’t immoral and illegal, how young would you go?”

“Twelve,” Ari says.

“Ari!” We all gasp.  “Twelve?”

“Relax ladies.  Sixteen I guess.  Just came back for a glass of water.  I’m meditating on the bow.”

Later we sit portside, dangling our feet from the edge of the boat.  Bunches of boats hang lazily at the mouth of the bay, and a few—schooners, a yacht, a catamaran, ourselves included—are slipping farther out.  On them are people like us, little flecks buzzing at the edges of their wealth, contemplating the unusual severity of the jellyfish infestation. 

“They look like atom bombs,” Ari says.  “Well, not the bombs exactly, but mushroom clouds.”

“They’ve always reminded me of hearts,” Peter says, “the way they move in pumps.”  We all glance back at him.  His eyes drop into his book.

“I read somewhere,” I say, “of a jellyfish that grows old and then grows young again, its cells rejuvenate.  Potentially it can live forever, provided nothing kills it.”

“Then there’s hope after all for a fountain of youth,” Lydia says.  “I’d love to grow young again.  Peter,” she chirps mockingly, “catch me one of those things with the net; we’ll mash it up and I’ll have it with my fruit-cup in the morning.”

“You’re still plenty young,” Ari says reassuringly. 

“They’re unbelievable, like uprooted little flowers dragging along their roots,”  Samantha gazes into the swarms, mesmerized.

Samantha is a woman who believes all life is cyclical and systemic, like water.  She’s a woman who will stop you from killing a spider.  Several years ago, in fact, at one of Lydia’s cocktail parties, I remember Samantha folding a massive wolf spider gently into a dishtowel.  When she cracked open the terrace door though, hoping to shake the spider free, she realized, puzzled, that the creature had escaped through the folds.  I watched as her silk dress flapped against her body, her pretty red hair whipped into her mouth.  Shut the window, someone yelled angrily as cold wind gushed into the room.  Shortly thereafter a man whacked that spider off Samantha’s shoulder, chased it across the room, spilling most of his martini, and grinded the thing into a rotten smear on the rug.  Samantha walked off sadly in her husband’s arms.  She and Ari are more or less gentle people who inherited their money. 

Benjamin used to ask me what I get from these people, my old friends, and I would never answer him.  But yes, I know that they quench some peripheral thirst, that I probably get from them what the rest of America gets from its juicy dramas on the television.  Escape. 

***

Sun-mellowed, Ari and Samantha disappear under-deck.  Lydia falls asleep on her towel, drenched in sun, tired from sucking on limes and guzzling beers all morning.  Peter reads his book, as do I, every so often glancing out at the ocean.  The nearest water is translucent right down to the sandy floor, with a tinge of blue, but farther out the water assumes a dense rich turquoise color.  This ocean, I think, shifts into a deeper ocean, a darker more cutting ocean—it goes on like that around the planet, this bleeding of the waters—into an ocean that defeated majestic liners, fated them to be time capsules, halted narratives. 

Asleep, Lydia reminds me of a Grecian statue laid on its back, in transit perhaps, from one museum to the next.  I consider draping a towel over her arms or asking Peter to rearrange the shade by shifting the sail, but I do neither of these things, I observe her freely in the vigorous sunlight.  She has the sort of blessed body that compliments its skeleton: flawless knees, hipbones like jewels under silk, and a Jackie Kennedy collarbone, chiseled, elegant.  And that face!  Something a touch dark and exaggerated in its features.  French and Russian blood.   Lovely and hypnotic.

When Ari and Samantha reemerge, Samantha pushes a glass of cold water into Lydia’s hands, waking her.  “Drink,” Samantha orders, “you’ll get sick lying around wasted under the sun.” 

“We have something to tell you both,” Ari says, standing on his toes, stretching his arms happily toward the sky.  

I suspect they’re pregnant.

“We’re moving to Spain,” he says.

“Really?” I ask.  

Lydia drops her face into her hands and sighs. 

“Our friend, Javier, owns a strawberry farm just west of Seville,” Samantha explains, “and there’s a house where Javier’s mother used to live, but it’s empty now, he wants us to come and stay.”

“A strawberry farm,” Lydia laughs.  “What will you do on a farm?”

“I don’t know exactly,” Ari says, “maybe we’ll eat pork and strawberries.  We’ll certainly drink too much vino.  Now don’t be mad at me for saying it, but I’m feeling like New York is tired.  Or maybe just tired of me.”

“New York is never tired,” Lydia says sharply, “you’re tired of New York, Ari.”  Lydia is a woman for whom every day is a ripening love affair with her city.  She’ll always return to Manhattan.  It would be a betrayal not to; nothing compared to a pesky little divorce.

“Are you eating meat again?” I ask Ari, stuck on his mention of pork and strawberries.

“I was thinking of it.  For Europe,” he replies.  

“A Vegan in a Spanish restaurant,” Samantha says, “is like a vampire at church.  The waiters can’t make sense of it.  It won’t work, unless Ari wants pan con tomate for every meal.  Anyhow,” she continues, “I’d like to start painting again, and Ari’s full of ideas for a novel.  And… well… we’re thinking of taking lovers.”

“Seriously?” I ask.

“We’ve talked it over very seriously,” Samantha replies, “and in five years neither of us will be young enough for a filthy little love affair.  It would be a shame to have regrets.”

“Yes, but what if one of you falls in love with somebody else?” I ask.

“I’m not worried,” Ari says, glancing hopefully at Samantha.

“Me neither,” she says, “ of all the things to worry about, I’m certainly not going to start worrying about love.” 

“What about citizenship?” Lydia asks.

Ari shrugs, “We’ll figure it out once we’re there.  Samantha’s great with that kind of stuff.  And if we can’t make it happen, we’ll go to Portugal and Morocco.  We’ll be drifters.”

“And your lovers, will they follow?” Lydia says.

“New country, new lovers,” Ari replies bravely.  Samantha laughs, sits and rubs her knees, taking some pleasure from the friction. 

“I’ve been considering,” Lydia says, lassoing the conversation, “giving up on marriages all together, shifting my energies into casual love affairs.  I have enough jewelry to sell off and live nicely for a decade.  Why not go in a new direction?  Confound everyone?  What do you all think?”

“Sounds wonderful,” says Samantha.

“Brave,” says Ari.

“Yes, brave,” I agree.

***

After a late lunch Ari and I suggest docking the boat and ascending the road back to the hotel, but Lydia pleads with everyone to stay an hour longer; a strong breeze finally sloshes off the Island, carrying a sweet blossomy fragrance from the trees.  “Yes, let’s stay out an hour more,” Samantha agrees, smiling kindly at Peter.  He’s thumbing a bug-bite or, possibly a pimple on his shoulder.

“There’s a new article in The Times, about your plates,” Ari says.  

“In The Times!  Really?  Oh Ari, thanks for keeping up on things!” Lydia barks sarcastically. 

“Well,” Ari hesitates, “this article is not about what happened, it’s about the lady you sold them to.”

What happened.  Keith, Lydia had confessed, was always better at screwing her while a touch angry.  A bit of hate wound him up in the right way.  At the outset one could see that they were prone to a delightful, edgy kind of bickering, a blatant excuse for foreplay.  But as their marriage progressed, the little quarrels (over absolutely everything) became less lovable and increasingly mean.  In a fit, Keith once tore open a headboard’s worth of feather pillows, like opening bags of potato chips.  Lydia broke an egg on his face at a dinner party, the friends quickly falling away.  Once little lovebirds pecking at each other, they had become Pit bulls, and it seemed, at times, as if they were tethered to opposites ends of their palatial apartment, just far enough apart so that only their teeth nicked in their ferocious growls, always on the brink of annihilating one another.  I suppose ‘what happened’ was unfortunate, how Keith snapped his tether a few nights before Christmas, when, in resisting the gnawing temptation to beat his wife unconscious, he instead charged into the study, tore open the lighted glass case, gathered up Lydia’s plates and flung them around like Frisbees.  One went straight through the window, fell hundreds of feet down onto Park Avenue, where it exploded into an ashy powder that hung for hours in the night, like a ghost.  A witness said she looked up immediately from the shattered thing in the street, to the only lighted window and heard a crude screaming.

“I thought you sold the pieces to a curator?” Ari says.

“Yes.  I did.” 

“Frizzy gray hair?”

“That’s her.”

“Well, she’s in Brooklyn making very pretty rings and necklaces out of your plates—out of the pieces I mean.  They’re selling like Wonka Bars.”

“And not for cheap,” Samantha says, “we looked at the website.”

“What?  Are you sure?” Lydia asks, genuinely startled, quizzically biting her lip.  “She did insist on a bill of sale.  And she mentioned owning a shop in Brooklyn with her husband.  Cheese.  I thought it was a cheese-shop!  That bitch!” Lydia cries.  “I wasn’t paying close enough attention!” 

“I wonder if she’s turning a profit?” I say.

Lydia and Ari both turn at me with a cutting sharpness in their eyes.  I suddenly want to tell them that Benjamin and I had lunch off those very plates, now broken to bits and drifting every which way across the city, belonging to a lower, limitless dimension now, belonging to the people and the people’s junk.

“Of course the little old troll is turning a profit!  I sold her those pieces for nothing.  For academia.  For her to glue them back together.  Not for every Brooklyn heathen to have on her neck!  I was deceived!”

“We ate sandwiches,” I rapidly confess, “off your plates, last summer when we were watching the cats, when you were in Ireland.”  It was a bullet fired squarely into my foot. 

“You ate what?  Sandwiches?” Lydia says, her eyes expanding in wild disbelief.  I could feel instantly, regretfully, the immensity of what trouble I had caused.  “You and your husband,” she snarled.  

I first introduced Benjamin and Lydia almost fifteen years ago at a benefit dinner.  At the tail end of dessert we watched as Lydia abandoned her slice of cake and zigzagged through the ballroom, sucking people off their seats, a slender, enchanting tornado of a woman.  To my delight, Benjamin leaned in close, scotch on his breath, and whispered snobbishly in my ear, I can’t respect a girl who makes a business out of her face.  Lydia too has her rules: she won’t open the gates to her lush little life for anyone who doesn’t melt all over her, at least once.  And to my knowledge, Benjamin never has.  And it’s better this way, it really is, to have them separately.

“I have to get off this boat,” Lydia says, “or else I’ll slap you, and I don’t want to slap you, Brenda.”  

We all turn to Peter, who drops his book flat on the deck and heads for the engine, but Lydia has already stepped quietly over the rail, and before anyone can grab her by the arm, she casts her body into a graceful dive.  She plunges deep and far through the water, a trail of bubbles peeling off her.  She bell curves to the surface, says a relaxed, “ahhh,” slicking back her dark hair.  She is unscathed.  The jellyfish ripple outward around her impact.

I smile helplessly and laugh a sour little laugh.

“What are you trying to do?” Ari asks.

“I’m not trying to do anything,” I reply, surprised at his seriousness.

Samantha whacks her husband across the arm, “Ari!  Lydia gets this way from time-to-time, irrational, careless.  Brenda was just being honest.”

“Yes,” Ari says, “and there’s a very fine line between honesty and cruelty about one’s friends.”

“I wasn’t being cruel,” I snap.  

“You should have waited about a decade to be honest about your little tea party; or whatever it was.”

“She’ll be stung,” Peter says suddenly, “they’re closing in on her already!”

Ari climbs a few rungs up the mast.  “Shit,” he whispers.  “Lydia,” he calls out, “you have to come back, you’re being encircled.”   Lydia’s mouth dips beneath the water, she expels a gurgling laugh.

“She’s had about a gallon of beer,” Samantha says.

The breeze strikes a note on the water, and from where Lydia bobs about, the ocean is surely a vast quivering reflection of sunlight.  Perhaps she’s blind to those gelatinous creatures, slowly girding her.  From the boat we see them through their intense colors, hemorrhaging in their umbrella shaped heads, running down like ink through their tendrils.  “Lydia.  Swim down a fathom.  Go underneath them,” Ari is resisting sounding panicked. 

Far inside me some corrupt impulse wants for Lydia to be stung, in the same way it can be ironically captivating to watch a house burn, to witness the flames churning in their frantic takeover.  As long as it’s not your own house. 

Again she sinks a little and there’s gurgling laughter, interrupted now by an awkward gasp.  “Ouch!  Fuck!” Lydia cries, punching at the water.  “Ari!” she screams.  “Peter!”  She goes under a moment, kicking around, comes up gagging on water, her hair messed over her eyes.  We hear her say: “Oh God.  Oh my God.”  I can make out one jellyfish sliding under her arm, another brushing against her belly.

Ari wrestles out of his shirt, and Peter, with all his thin-armed might, throws out the donut, it hits the water, pitifully short of Lydia, in a loud plop.  Ari gives Samantha a quick, hard kiss.  This is it, I think, a moment one spends their entire life trying to sidestep: auto accident, deadly fall, drowning… and then one makes a single wrong move and all he or she can think is: this is it, it’s happening, it really is.  As if we always knew, intuitively, that life would end this way, in some horrific disaster.

Ari’s jump includes a short running start, his back foot hits the rail perfectly, launching him far out over the water.  He slips feet-first into the ocean, comes up just aside the donut, swatting.  “Fuck!” he says, as the little monsters brush against his arms.  Lydia draws a last desperate breath of air before the water swallows her, all except for her hands, which flap wildly at the surface, keeping contact with the world above.  And then something very odd happens.  A guttural roar gathers itself inside Ari, flows up and out in an eruption of anger.  Of all imaginable people, Ari is hacking through the graceful willowy jellyfish, grunting like a savage.

“I can’t watch!” Samantha cries, scrambling under the main sail to the opposite side of the boat, toppling over a few dishes with the ends of lunch.  She crouches down, covers her ears.  “Ari!  Awful!” I hear her crying.

***

Both Peter and I take hold of Lydia’s up-stretched arms.  They are blushed with stings.  We help her carefully over the rail and I’m afraid she’ll claw off my face.  So completely ravaged, she falls on me instead, and I take her with all my strength, letting her slide down me slowly into a pile on the deck.  Nimble, breathless, Ari follows over the rail, he stands there gazing blankly.  At me.  

“Ari, are you all right?” I ask.

A gesture with his eyes.  I glance down and my bathing-suit top is tangled up in Lydia’s thrashed limbs, and there are my pale (even translucent) white breasts, rooted with veins blue as the ocean, my nipples like curious pink noses sniffing up the sunshine.  Peter tosses me Ari’s shirt off the deck.  I turn and slip it on just as Samantha is coming under the sail.  Her eyes troubled and teary.  “Ari, baby, are you okay?  Lydia?  Lydia?” she cries.

***

Feeling the buzz of the engine that goes under my feet, I stand alone contemplating an early flight home, watching the island spread out ahead of us.  The four of them are clustered at the bow.  Lydia and Ari with damp towels draped over their arms.  Samantha glancing back at me, a pathetic, sad smile on her face, meant to convey her diplomacy.  I feel like a punished child who has played too freely with fire and combustibles. 

A memory.  Ten years ago I had snagged Lydia a quaint four-room apartment in our building, just after she divorced Vinnie and was backsliding into her unfocused life as a single woman.  She had the walls painted a soft shade of pink and moved in with little more than a big sleigh-bed, mountains of splendid clothing and heaps of takeout menus.  At the time I was very pregnant with Olivia, Benjamin was busy building his business, and I would find myself day after day in that womanly sanctuary, where the two of us languished on the bed like angels adrift on a puffy summer cloud.  

One afternoon, inadvertently, I found something in Lydia’s tangled-up bed sheets.  A photograph.  Her and Vinnie on a terrace in Italy, looking cheerful, a valley studded with olive trees scrolling out behind them.  Embarrassed, Lydia snatched the photo, sighed and ran its corner pensively over her lip.  Pinned under a crashing wave of memories, she said, I always hear the doors slamming shut behind me.  She then crumpled the photograph and tossed it from the bed.

I have too often wondered which of us is living the better life; and only a few times have I been sorry for Lydia, sorry for her heavenly beauty, how someday it will have passed through her like a failed investment.  And yes, on that balmy summer afternoon, I felt an overwhelming sadness about my friend.  Blessed I was, to have child coming along, furniture in every room of my apartment, a husband who wasn’t sealed off in the past.  It was only several weeks later when I gave birth to Olivia and Lydia met Charles and shot like a bright little pinball downtown.  We barely spoke until Olivia began preschool and Lydia began contemplating her next split. 

Now she has dropped the towel off her arms and is surveying the blotchy red stings, tracing them with her fingers.  Peter whispers something in her ear and she laughs uproariously, a noise lost in the wind.  An image of them flares inside me, I close my eyes to see it more clearly, how she’ll casually invite the boy up to her room, enthrone him there, fuck him and feed him there.  Satisfy her appetite for young men.  And then she’ll leave him there too; to sail, to read, to suffer the crushing weight of her absence.

Another image of the future.  Ari and Samantha in Spain.  Samantha wandering the ancient canyon-like streets of Seville; men transfixed by the perfect inside-of-an-apple whiteness of her skin, her marvelous red hair.  She vanishes into more than one love affair.  Gone for weeks at a time, she skips like a stone across the liberated European landscape, absorbing each exotic impact.  Leashed to his book, Ari stays at the farmhouse, his belly taking the fat from the pork, his beard a real mess.  Maybe a lover for Ari too, I’d guess a farmer’s daughter, a girl with moody eyes.  And all the while the strawberries are turning the color of blood in the fields.

I let my head fall back and the wind baits my hair.  I look out over a last column of shattered sunlight on the water, and I notice the jellyfish once again, and I do think that Peter’s observation is most fitting, the weaker ones adrift on the tide, and the stronger ones like hearts, getting about in rhythmic pumps.  Small creatures, I think, going from one thing to the next.



TIMOTHY SCHIRMER lives in a lovely little corner of Manhattan called Alphabet City, where he's happy to walk down the street with his headphones on.  His writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Bluestem Magazine, Jenny, Interrobang!?, and now in The Adirondack Review.  He is currently applying to MFA programs around the country.