The cat who wasn’t Lucky

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Have you ever noticed how we seem to attract what we fear the most? Maybe it is for a reason…

I always hated cats. Everybody knew it, including the cats. But the only thing this piece of information would encourage in this detested feline species was a willingness, a keen willingness, to win me over to their side. If there was a cat in the room, it would only care about getting my attention, no matter how many other people were in the room, and it would do anything to get it, including serving me up half dead mice and squeaking baby birds.

So I was not surprised when it was a cat who greeted me first when I moved into my new townhouse in the long dreamed of Notting Hill. The cat was, yes even I could see it, a fine specimen, a credit to its race I would say, with its golden and white stripes, plump fur and intense green eyes. It reminded me of someone, but I could never really get who it was, it seemed to escape my attention every time I tried to figure it out. My first instinct was to shoosh the cat out the door, but the cat’s response to that was just a rather insulted lazy glare. I was too afraid to touch it, and even tried to coax it with various food items, but the cat refused to go anywhere. It stretched out its long hairy body to its full length on my beautiful newly acquired sofa, and there it remained, staring at me. The sofa was positioned in front of the TV, and it ended with me watching the news seated on the floor while that good-for-nothing prince of a cat occupied the sofa. I kept glancing at it nervously over my shoulder.

The thing I hated the most about cats was how unpredictable they were. I had experienced first hand how they all of a sudden got it into their stupid heads that they wanted you to scratch their belly or decided that your fringed skirt was an interesting plaything, and suddenly, without any warning at all, they were all over you, paws, claws and teeth. You could never really trust a cat, and I certainly did not trust the cat sprawling itself all over my new sofa. And those eerie green eyes……god how they creeped me out, staring at me coolly without a hint of intent.

I decided to let the cat have the living room to itself and retire to my bedroom early, but when I got up to leave, that awful cat followed me! I sprinted over the floor and managed to sneak into the bathroom and shut the door swiftly with a bang before the cat could follow me in there too. I was so relieved to be alone and safe that I decided to just sleep on the central heated bathroom floor. I spread beach towels for a mattress and folded several hand towels to shape a pillow. But before I could really fall asleep the cat started meowing and whining in that horrible cat language outside the door. I opened the tap in the sink to maximum flow and covered my ears with more towels, and eventually I fell asleep.

When I woke up it was still barely dawn and the light was dim and lilac outside the little bathroom window. I got up, closed the tap, and there it was again, the warning wails of my jailer. What was wrong with that damn cat! I tried to go back to sleep, but after tossing and turning for two hours I gave up. I armed myself with a wet dripping toilet brush, unused of course, and slowly opened the door with my heart pounding madly in my chest. The cat stepped aside and gave a little startle when he saw the wet toilet brush, and I could walk freely into the kitchen, but with the cat following me from a safe distance (safe for him or me?).

I put the kettle on for tea and popped a few slices of bread into the toaster. The cat stared at me from his spot on the floor. “Well, all right,” I said to it, “here you go,” I tossed a piece of toast down on the floor, but to my surprise the cat didn’t even react, he just sat there staring dumbly at the discarded food, as though I had insulted him. I opened the fridge and tried with a piece of sausage, but even that seemed uninteresting to the cat. When I wolfed down my own breakfast, he just continued to stare at me with a rather curious expression in his eyes. He looked…..amused…as though I was doing something extraordinarily entertaining. “You’re a strange one, aren’t you,” I said, and the cat lifted his mouth and widened his eyes, and if I hadn’t known better I would have said he was…smiling!

“But what will I do with you? You’re a pretty thing, I mean, pretty for a cat that is. You must surely belong to someone.” I switched on my ipad and typed “missing cat in Notting Hill” into the google search bar. Hundreds of hits popped up. I started browsing through them and after about an hour I came across an ad with a picture that looked just like my feline guest. “Lucky,” I said, “is your name Lucky?” The cat meowed and stretched out his paws positioning himself close to my feet. Well, there was no telling if this was Lucky or not, I’d better call the number listed under the picture of the missing cat. I tapped my phone and dialed the number. The minute the beep tone started a phone inside my own house rang. ” I never brought a landline phone,” I said startled. “What’s going on?” I disconnected the call on my mobile phone and the ringing inside the house stopped. This was getting too spooky! I called the number again and the ringing started again. This time I let it ring and traced the sound to an old stationary phone with a ring dial and a grey receiver, I picked up the receiver. “Hello? Helllo?” I heard my own voice echo in the speaker on my mobile.

“The old owners must have forgotten to disconnect the phone,” I said and looked at the cat who had followed me on my search around the house. ” But that means…..oh you poor thing, did they leave you here?” Lucky, if it really was him, meowed and licked my leg on the spot between my sock and my trousers where it was bare. I typed in “Phone company Notting Hill” on my ipad and found a number I could call. When the automated welcome message connected me to the right adviser I explained my problem, and he assured me that I was right, the old owners had forgotten to disconnect their phone. I asked if he had a new phone number to where they were staying now, but that he could not help me with. I decided to call the real estate agent who had sold me the house instead, he must know something. “I’m sorry Miss, all I know is that they moved to Paris in a hurry, something about a job offer. But hold on, I can at least give you their last name. One minute…let me see…..yes here it is….Carlson….their last name was Carlson, and the name on the contract here is Michael, Michael Carlson. ” I thanked him and disconnected the call.

“Michael Carlson” I typed into the search bar. But there were too many hits. “Michael Carlson Notting Hill, England” I tried. This time I was in luck, only a few hits popped up on the screen, one also listed a mobile number. I dialed it and waited. After five rings someone picked up. “Is this Michael Carlson?” “Yes, yes it is,” said a deep man’s voice. “Oh, good. I am the new owner of your old house in Notting Hill, and I wondered….did you forget your cat here?” The line went quiet. “Hello? Hello, sir? are you there?” “Yes, yes I am here. Our cat Lucky is dead.” “What!? But I just found an online ad saying that he is missing.” “Well, yes, he was. I must have forgotten to take down that damn ad. A few weeks later, after he had gone missing someone found him. He had been hit by a car. They took him to the vet, but there was nothing to be done. His injuries were too substantial, we had to put him down. My daughter loved that cat.” I didn’t know what to say. “Oh, I am so sorry sir, it must be another cat I’m talking about. I am so sorry. Please forgive me for bothering you.” “No problem, I hope your cat finds his way back home,” said Michael Carlson, and we hung up.

I sat down in my chair and stared at Lucky, or the cat that wasn’t Lucky. “Who are you?” I said. I thought maybe if I could just managed to get him outside, he would go home on his own, so I opened the front door and called him (I still called him Lucky). Lucky took a few steps towards me, but stopped before he reached the door. He looked at me with such sorrow in his eyes I just couldn’t get myself to shoosh him. “Don’t you need to go pee or something,” I asked desperately. But Lucky just turned around and went back inside.

Lucky stayed with me a couple of weeks. I could never tempt him with any food, and he refused to go outside. At night he slept on the floor next to me in my bedroom, I eventually had to let him in otherwise he would spend the night crying and wailing and keep me up until I passed out of sheer exhaustion. Then one day he was gone. Just like that. I never saw him leave and I never saw him again. But some days, I caught myself staring at the empty sofa, missing him.

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The River Goddess

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This story is inspired by the myths and legends of the country I am now living in: India. Here rivers are goddesses and are worshipped by all hindus. They are said to have magic powers, cleansing souls and giving the departed easy passage to the afterlife.

There is always the river, and the people crossing it. My grandmother would say that rivers were the black locks of the goddess’ twisting, growing, and winding silky hair; pathways to the valley of the dead, and the lands of the unborn. Chaos and creation came washing down like cold floods from the Himalayas, cleansing and taking, drowning and sustaining. After a good storm my brother and I would search the banks for pieces of debris, be it a washed up fish or the green pieces of a broken bottle. My brother knew the best crabbing and fishing spots, I knew the best places to swim. “Don’t disturb the goddess!” my grandmother would shout after us, waving her fist for effect, but we, young as we were, took no notice. Every morning the ladies released their flower rafts into the river after the men had taken their morning bath. What they prayed for we never asked. “Maybe it is the goddess that makes them do it, ” said my brother. “Or maybe it is the dead,” I grinned and pulled a grimace trying to resemble a ghost. My brother air-boxed me and we started laughing.

The river carries stories, mother used to say. The whispers of the goddess Yamuna and the prayers of millions of people. But for us children, it was all about a good swim. “Look out for the sharks!” my father would say. The sharks came to release the souls of the dead from their bodies. “We aint dead!” protested my brother. My father sighed. The sharks were real enough, we saw them sometimes, lurking in the dark, but it never crossed our minds that they would bother about us living people. One day my brother found a shark tooth in the river. He fashioned it into a good luck charm and wore it around his neck. All the other children were mad with jealousy, why had the goddess favored him and not them? It became his most precious possession. “It aint right,” protested grandmother, “a shark tooth is a bad thing. it can carry black magic.” But my brother just pulled a face and ignored her. We all ignored grandmother, she was too old to matter.

Right at the edge of the river there is a place we call Sarayu, it means tear of the goddess. The river has taken an unexpected turn and carved a pool into the bank, a pool shaped like a tear. Women in saffron colored saris and naked toddlers, darkly tanned by the burning sun, come to bathe and wash clothes here. But after a storm it is always empty, the men say that the walls of the pool can cave in and suck up whoever is in the pool. The currents are always stronger after a storm. The goddess is wild, she cannot be tamed by people or river banks, and she does what she pleases, not bothering too much about the river people. Father says it is our job to respect her, not her job to respect us. It was a day like that, in the aftermath of a storm, my brother and I came to the pool to fish for crabs. From the pool you can see for miles and miles across the bank. The fields are burnt amber by the heat and the sky is grey and misty and colorless. On such days the river is black. The red sun makes no difference. The goddess is moody and throws her anger tantrums as she pleases. But she is often eerily still after a storm. “Don’t let her meekness fool you, ” says father, “underneath she is hiding her other aspect, the rageful Kala, she can pull you in faster than you can say tomato.”

“Look, the monkeys have beat us to it!” shouted my brother angrily, and he was right. A band of five monkeys were gathered by the tawny pool, carefully hovering their tiny red hands over the water. “Shooosh!” we roared, and started picking up stones from the ground throwing them at the monkeys. They screamed in anger and fear, but eventually after sustaining a few hard hitting blows they ran away, climbing hurriedly up the nearby coconut trees, still watching us suspiciously as we approached the pool. “Heeeey!!” shouted my brother as a coconut thumped and landed dangerously close to his head. He waved his clenched fist at the monkeys in the tree, and I had to laugh because he looked so much like grandmother. We quickly understood why the monkeys had been so reluctant to give up their hunting ground, the pool was teaming with crabs! We tried fishing them out with our hands, but many of them got away, hiding in the many nooks and corners of the pool. “I’ll go in,” said my brother. I felt a bit nervous, remembering my father’s warning, but I didn’t want to show that I was scared so I didn’t say anything. As soon as my brother was in the pool I knew it was a bad idea. He seemed to struggle to stand up right, his body was being pulled towards the mouth of the river by invisible hands. But he fought against the anger of the goddess, and by using all the muscles in his arms and legs he managed to sustain his position in the water, and he started grabbing crabs from underneath him. It was an easy game, now the crabs had nowhere to run where he could not reach them. Overjoyed by the prospect of the delicious meal we would have, I failed to see what was about to happen. As my brother reached even deeper into the water something grabbed hold of the thread around his neck bearing his precious shark tooth, and he went under. I screamed. I called his name over and over again. But he was gone. I began to climb down towards the river, desperate to save my brother, but something held me back, it was my father. He had heard my screams and had rushed from his work in the fields to come to my aid. “Where is he? Where is he?” he shouted. “He went into the river,” was all I could say. My father ran for help and soon the river was full of people in small canoes stabbing the water with sticks and calling my brother’s name. But he was gone. Vanished from sight, as though the goddess had swallowed him whole and left not a single ripple to prove that he was ever there.

Three days my father and his friends searched for my brother while the women in the village cried and begged Yamuna to release him. I was left to myself. “They blame me, ” I thought, as they should. Why had I not stopped him, why had I let my pride win over the warning my fear had given me?

On the fourth day after my brother’s disappearance there was a horrible storm. The roof of our hut almost blew into the river and everyone in the village huddled together for comfort. The goddess spat her anger at us, floading our crops and spraying our faces with cold foul smelling water. The women started praying, and for once the men joined them. But the goddess would not be appeased. For two days she raged, until our entire village was left in ruins. Then she calmed down and a sudden inspiration came to me. The debris after a storm like this must be stupendous! I walked on my bare feet down to the messy banks where sand and soil and torn off plants were piled together like a garbage dumpster, and there he sat: my brother, by that messy bank with a coconut in his hands. His face was pale and his eyes glassy. I started laughing and crying at the same time, pulling him desperately into my arms. “She took my shark tooth,” he said weakly. “I fought her for it, but she won. It’s gone, see! ” He pointed to the place around his neck where the chain with the shark tooth had been. “It’s gone!” He started crying bitterly, as though he had parted with his own soul.

There was a celebration in our village that day, to give thanks to Yamuna for giving us my brother back. But my brother took no part in honoring his enemy. He grieved the loss of his beloved shark tooth for a long time, and he never got over his grudge against the goddess, he avoided the river like the plague, but I was happy for it, at least I never had to fear losing him to the angry Yamuna ever again

Ghost Writer

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Everyone has a story, even those departed souls the world has forgotten, but that does not mean they no longer want to be told, or that they don’t have ways to make us listen...

She always writes at night. She likes the dark and the chattering of nocturnal airwaves . The glow of the lamp on her desk is enough to illuminate the keys on her old-fashioned typewriter. She has been working like this since she was eight years old, when she published poems about the changing seasons in local newspapers. She is far more than a writer now. She is a ghost writer. She knows every secret of the craft, hears every word spoken between the lines. All words must pass between her fingers. But to most of her friends and relatives she is just a housewife tinkering with a typewriter. Some have read her words without knowing it is she who has written them. But none has ever seen her face behind the words.

Her machinery is operated by skeleton editors. Most of them are in bed, and she can have the night and its stories to herself. This is when she is happiest. When she is alone with the clock-ticking voices of ghosts, sending their messages of sleepless breakups and desperate pleas of forgiveness through the invisible sound box of the night. One such voice is speaking right now. She calls herself Matchmaker.

Things always sound different at night. Voices too. They are passed between silences. The writer’s fingers move with the stillness and listen in the pauses between, summoning the invisible images by words of her own choosing. The Matchmaker is made beautiful. She is really. In a curios kind of way. She requests that her story is given a happy ending. She does that quite often. There must be someone to giver her that at least. And the writer types. “Are you there?” “Yes, ” replies the Matchmaker. ” I am here.” She types. The words bounce off her fingertips. They mark the blank page like black scars echoing a life that once were. “What do you think will happen?” The Matchmaker questions the writer. The voice takes on a different form:

I was brave when I lived. I put things together. It was something like enchantments, I weaved their threads around each other. It was their destiny, I just helped completing the tapestry. Of course, it wasn’t quite reality, most people find it difficult to see the world of other people. But I knew. I saw their faces. But I never let them see mine. I was born with an open cleft. My parents could not afford the operations, so I never learned to talk, and I had to hide behind veils. I knew there was no match for me. But it was okay. I had the voices for company, telling me to make things right, to bring two lights together to make something shine again. Have you ever wondered what happens to light that stays apart? It remains small, like an island, until it fades and disappears into labyrinthine corridors of space. Space and time. Until it is quite forgotten. Not like me. I took a different path. Did you know that owls have night vision? You probably do, it is quite common knowledge. I had light vision. No, I don’t mean that I could see in the daylight, most people can. I mean that I could see the tiny threads of light that connect us all, and I helped stitching together the places that were broken or torn. I brought a boy his lost toy. I reunited a grandmother with her lost granddaughter, but yes, as you probably have guessed, it was the lovers that took up most of my time. Sometimes I even had to mend time. But when my own turn came. I was helpless.

I know, I said there was no match for me. I was wrong. I met him in Central Park one afternoon. It was snowing and I was happy to hide my face in a blue muffler. There is an old wooden bench there, just beneath one of those old-fashioned lampposts next to the bridge, the seat is broken so no one ever sits there. No one but me. I come to feed those hideous pigeons. And on that snowy day that is what I did. Tossing crumbs to pigeons I did not notice him at first, until he sat down beside me on that old broken bench. “Damn snow,” he said and sneezed. I jumped and all the pigeons flew away in a cloud of feathers and crumbs and gray dust. He looked at me startled. “Didn’t mean to scare you there, love.” I looked back at him accusingly. His eyes lowered and fell down at his ungloved hands, “Sorry.” I shrugged. We sat in silence for a while. Strangers normally do. “Can I take you out for coffee?” he suddenly asked. I was caught off guard. Nobody had ever asked me out before. Suddenly the weather changed. The snow stopped falling. And then, the light. A thin silver thread reaching from his hands to my throat. Connecting us. And I knew what I had to do. I nodded. He took my hand and we left.

That was the first of many coffee dates. I was amazed. He never once asked me why I didn’t talk. I used my hands to communicate. Made up my own language. And sucked my cold coffee out of a straw the way I had learned to. He never questioned that either. His eyes were blue most days, but they changed with the weather. On sunny days they were deep brown and golden, but that winter was a cold one with hard snowfall. And his eyes remained blue. “I think it is going to be a wet spring,” he said one day. We were sitting by the window in my favorite coffee shop, Lalu, the one with all the fairy lights. He opened his hands and the clouds parted. He reached for mine. I hesitated. He smiled, “it’s okay, love, it’s me.” That was the first time he touched me, and I could feel the threads spinning, growing stronger, attaching us to the tapestry. The park outside blazed with color. I realized that it was time to end this little game. I had had my fun, it was time to face the music. Slowly I unwind my muffler, just a little bit, just for his eyes. I studied his face as I revealed my secret. But it did not change. Either he was a good actor, or….no….it was not possible. How could anyone love me? “Look,” he said, ” there is something I haven’t told you.” He stiffened. Here it came. That which always had to come. The rejection. ” I am not who you think I am, or who I appear to be.”

My hands stopped unwinding. Was this about him? Had he pulled some awful prank on me? Around us fairy lights danced on the twilit window and the rising moon glittered on the frozen lake. Light snow fell, softly, like comfort. ” What I am about to tell you will sound crazy,” he said. I nodded. I was prepared for anything now. But I was wrong, nothing could have prepared me for what he was about to say. ” I wondered if you suspected, but how could you. You just seem different. Like me. But how could you be? I am old, forgotten, I live in tales and myths only. You are so young and vibrant and so full of….light.” I stared at him, what was he saying? He wasn’t old, he looked my age, and what did he mean by light? Could he really know? No, that was impossible. ” I have felt scattered for so long. Unable to collect my parts, then you came along with your beautiful sliver threads.” I startled. He knew. He saw the surprise in my eyes and smiled. “Yes, love, I see them too.” He hesitated. Paused. Took a few sips of coffee. He looked nervous. Outside the twilight had turned into night and the ice skaters had gone home. “Refill, sir?” It was the waiter. “Ma’am?” I nodded. He did the same, and our cups were topped up. Then it came: ” I am one of those old gods nobody talks about anymore.” He stared into his coffee cup. His fingers were all in knots. Around us people were talking softly, the waiter kept filling up coffee cups, the cappuccino machine hummed loudly. Regular things happening. Thing that had nothing to do with us. I didn’t know what to think. In a weird twisted kind of way it made perfect sense. It explained everything about him. I raised my hands to my face, removed the muffler and smiled for the first time in my life. He smiled back at me, and little sparkles rose from his lips. ” Come, let’s go for a walk.” He took my hand and we left the coffee shop. “Can we do this again?” he asked. I put my hands on his face and the knots were tied. Silver threads sprang from my body to his. We laughed. We laughed. And our bodies joined together and the tapestry was complete. The stars took us back then, and the night embraced our light, and he looked at me and said: “Welcome home, love.”

She always writes at night. She likes the dark and the chattering of nocturnal airwaves . The glow of the lamp on her desk is enough to illuminate the keys on her old-fashioned typewriter. The Matchmaker is silent now. Gone most likely. She had her story. The writer seals the envelope with her story inside. Puts it in the red mailbox next to the old-fashioned lamppost. It is snowing, even though it is April. The roads are frosted dusty white. There are rises and falls like cream on a wedding cake on the waysides. The lamppost casts a soft yellow shadow. The wind is still and the snow comes together under her snow boots. The next day a publishing company opens the envelop and emails it to their most celebrated author. She responds right away: Great! Love it!

Boat on land

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Easter is for me stories. All kind of stories really, but mostly magical tales of ghosts and fantastical creatures. So I have given myself a challenge this easter, to write and share as many stories as I can. This is the first. I hope you will enjoy it.

By the willowed banks of a black lake, between a grove of old cashew nut trees and a thick bramble hedge, someone has pulled a boat on land. The green paint is scaling off the keel and white prickly splinters poke up from the dried up wooden surface of the stern. A name tag on the side of the boat reads: Memory. I should know, I put it there, and yet, I have never seen the boat anywhere but on land. It is not my boat.

I first noticed her on a rainy day in April. I know what you are going to say, there is no such thing as a mermaid, and you are probably right. I never really saw a fish tail. Just a girl with long black hair and a blue dress sitting on a rock beside the boat crying.

I was a student, just months away from graduation. Life seemed like a broad pathway with opening doors on each side, every door revealing some new and exciting opportunity. I loved walking, especially by any body of water. I took immense pleasure in the play of light on expanding ripples, willows swaying against the blue surface, and the quiet pathways with tiny round pebbles crunching under my feet. I walked by that particular lake often, breathing the scent of the wind beaten lake, sweet and fresh. It was always quiet. People prefer treadmills in front of TV’s to cold and humid nature, vulnerable to shifting weather, these days. But that particular day there was one exception: the girl in the blue dress.

When I first heard her crying I didn’t know what to think or do about the situation. Had she come here for privacy, should I just leave her alone? Or was it my own awkwardness around strangers that prevented me from approaching her?
“Oh, I am sorry, have I startled you?” It was the girl who spoke first. I apologized for sneaking up on her, slightly embarrassed, and turned around to leave. “It’s okay, you can come and sit with me if you like.” Her face looked so vulnerable and imploring I could not get myself to decline her offer, so I made my way through the netted brambles and sat down on a black slippery rock beside her. She smiled at me through her tears and I could see that she had green glassy eyes, like an exotic fish, I caught myself thinking, and pale gauze-like skin. She was beautiful in an ethereal way. ” I love coming here to see my boat.” She sighed and gave me a curious smile. ” He used to take me out rowing all the time, ” she continued. I assumed she was talking about a man now. ” That was when he was still in love with me. ” I nodded, feeling her loneliness deep within my own heart, like a hushed sea in a conch you’ve taken back to the city after a day on the beach. Faint, but still there if you really listen for it. Much like her story:

We met in a bar. I know, not very romantic, but that is what it was. He bought me a drink, and I accepted. He took me home with him afterwards, and I guess I just never left. Oh, those first days together were like in a fairy tale, filled with roses and talk of dreams and late night kisses. And of course the boat. He gave it to me one day by the lake. He knew how much I missed the sea. Every day that summer we went rowing. I sat at the rear with my bare feet in the lake, he lifted and lowered the oars into the water, it was like a dance, how the boat rose and fell into the water by the touch of those oars. He was red -headed with purple-green eyes. His skin was tanned and smooth. Water made him dreamy and still, even the rain, when it beat steadily on our bedroom window. He was the last thing I saw before closing my eyes to sleep, and the first thing I saw when I opened them. Sometimes I could swear I could smell the sea on his breath. Salty and wild. Gradually he took the place of the ocean in my heart.
But summer came to an end, and he had to go back to his office job. His bare feet were covered up in black leather shoes, and he cut his red hair short. Long days I spent alone. First I missed him, then I missed the sea. Our flat was far from the lake and even further from any seaside. But one day I defied the distance and walked on the gray cold concrete to our black still lake. I took off my shoes and dipped my bare feet into the cool colorless water. I sat like that for hours, until a hundred tiny fish came and nibbled at my red skin, irritated by the uncomfort of shoes. I let them remove the layers of my hardened skin, until the soft glow of the water was restored. I came back late that day, and my feet were tired. He scolded me, told me it was too far to walk by myself, and I begged him to take me out rowing again. “Tomorrow,” he said.
Tomorrow came and went, and more tomorrows came and went, but he said he was too busy.
I took to going to the lake every day, timing the journey so that I would return before him. The fish nibbled and restored my skin. For each hour I was in the water I became more and more at one with all that lived in it. I learned their ways. And they, I suspect, learned mine. I whispered my secrets to the deep dark blue. My breathing slowed, my movement slowed. The lake and its many creatures was never too busy to listen or to love me. I pretended to myself that I loved him more.
One day I again asked him to take me out rowing, but the same answer came, he was too busy. Something broke in me that day. When I dreamed back to those summer days I saw a different man, not the one standing in front of me. I missed that man. The man that smelled of the sea and made boats dance on water. He was gone, perhaps spirited away by the lake itself.
The next morning I went to the lake as usual, but this time I did not sit on my rock. I pushed the rowing boat gently off the bank and into the cold autumn water. I did not bother about the oars, I just dipped my feet into the lake like I had in those first days of summer, and let the current take me farther and farther away from land, from people and houses, roads and the shoes we must wear to walk on them. It started raining and I smiled. When the boat was as far from the banks as possible, I let myself glide into the water. It welcomed me with its silence and its softness. I was home. At last.

I don’t know what happened to the boat that day. But a year later I resurfaced and found it here, the same place it had always been: on land. I still miss him, but I was happy to return to my family, I guess my love for my home: the sea, was in the end stronger than my love for him.

As her story ended, she stopped crying and stared longingly at the old boat. I got up and stretched my legs, walking slowly over to the boat. Was it really her boat? Or was she just a sad lonely lost girl making up stories? When I turned around to look at her once more. She was gone. I never saw her again.

By the willowed banks of a black lake, between a grove of cashew nut trees and a thick bramble hedge, someone has pulled a boat on land. It is almost invisible against the greenery. No one ever comes here but me. I guess everyone is too busy to bother about the life of an old dried up rowing boat.