In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Sea around Us
  • Christy Edwall (bio)

The dolphins swam across the tennis courts. In the library, paper sediment stirred on subtle tides and lodged in nooks near to where a family of barracuda had settled. The sunken gardens where residents had once grown unnecessary vegetables were ruined, their weeds beaded and sporing. This is what the captain told Ruth, while she was waiting for Ben to come back from the first day's dive.

What happened to the crocodiles? she asked him.

Alligators, he corrected.

The captain was South African, and he had the look of the Dutchmen of that country: high shoulders, deep chest, large hands, and brown leathery skin. His expression was ruthless, tender, proud. His people were sheep farmers in a semiarid country, he had said. They loved red soil and scrubland. Although he said he had spent twenty-five years in Australia, Ruth couldn't hear it.

The alligators are out there, he said, waving at the expanse. They were used to the salt water. For a few weeks, there would have been a feast. Bodies bloated (he puffed up his cheeks) into manatees. After that, maybe they went northwest along the coast.

She liked Captain Gericke but she would have liked better for Ben to return so they could open a bottle of prosecco and sit in west-facing chairs to watch the sun drown before dinner. Instead, she watched the surface of the water with the captain as he smoked, his pail of fag ends, which he called stompies, mounting.

The Coracle was moored to a satellite dish. An archipelago of apartment blocks extended for a mile in every direction from the Coracle, concrete roofs edging just high enough above the water to allow for easy navigation. Gray rectangles, against which the lip of the sea slapped affectionately when the wind roughed it up.

Why are the roofs flat? she asked the captain, and he told her it was so that helicopters could land on larger roofs in hurricane season.

They must have been rich, she said.

Rich and old and dead, he said.

All of them? she said. [End Page 174]

Or nearly all, he said, sucking on his cigarette. The old, the sick, the stupid, the faithful, and the staff. All the black ladies who couldn't get back to their own families. The bridge was cut off early, you see. The ones who survived had booked flights when they heard rumors. They went north to their children and grandchildren and filed insurance claims after the storm.

Above the Coracle, clouds rose in high coiffures, catching the pink of the late light. The captain described what was below the surface of the water—restaurants, a post office, a gym, an ice cream parlor, a model train shop, a church, a hospice, a cemetery, bike lanes, hundreds of abandoned cars. Ruth thought if she peered hard over the edge of the Coracle she could see the crest of palm trees beneath the water. The leaves of the palm rose and dipped in the pulse of the water like it had once shivered in the wind. While she stared overboard, she heard the distant whine of a motor as it steered through the archipelago.

Here he is, the captain said, stubbed out his last cigarette, and stood.

When the motorboat had drawn up alongside the Coracle, Ben passed his equipment to the captain and then climbed across. He looked like a crayfish in his slick black wet suit, Ruth thought, the goggles pushed back over his forehead. Thanks, Miles, Ben shouted to the driver of the motorboat over the noise of the engine. Six, yeah? He held up his hands and showed six fingers. The motorboat took off toward the horizon, where another boat like the Coracle was anchored.

There was a puddle beneath Ben wherever he stood. Hello, Juniper, he said to Ruth and kissed her. The taste of salt water puckered her mouth.

Good shoot? she asked, feeling the damp marks of his fingers on her arms and back.

You would not believe what we caught, he said. You would not believe it.

When Ben had come back from his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2168-5541
Print ISSN
0038-4534
Pages
pp. 174-184
Launched on MUSE
2020-04-11
Open Access
No
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