Written by Noah LaPointe
The dark raw of a cleft lip puckers and gapes like a bloody bruise in the cement of a city by the bay. Water that is brackish and torn dull by the flow of excrement swirls down, down, downward into the mouth, gurgling like a squirming toad, and on the crest of this water is a green leaf, full of vines and spines and the pulsing flow of something perfect.
Atop the water is a paper stamped Date of Birth and Time of Death.
Atop the water is a cigarette curled inward and outward again, crushed within itself.
Atop the water is a boat, made of paper, carrying abstract ideas and the scent of wet ink. It’s been riding-rocking-sailing in the aftermath of a violent carnage called Storm. Crafted by thick fingers under the eaves of an overcrowded apartment building, the boat was taken from the window’s edge by the ever-growing gust of wind and flung down the street, out of sight, just as a little girl called something loud and desperate after It.
Her Mother with the loose skin, cheek grooves, jaw bags, and greying hair. She smiled and petted the girl’s shoulder and told her they would go on an adventure to discover where nature had taken the boat.
The girl stumbled over herself as she dressed in a pink-white slicker and her Father argued at the volume of a stage whisper about leaving the house in this weather.
“Will not hit us. The news said.”
“They could be wrong. You don’t know.”
Mother smooched Father, dry and loving, through the fabric. Daughter led her own way down mildewed carpet stairs to the street. Mother felt something grossly exaggerated yet foul growing in her gut, but when her Daughter looked to her for a smile, Mother smiled and did not stop smiling until the little girl looked away.
When the little Daughter found her boat she squealed with joy, clapped her hands, jumped on her toes, splashing puddles in great arcs. Around her the rain had lifted only to come faster and with greater pace against the tin houses and mud alleys. Water was streaming in rows down the hill from the apartment building, and a wind unlike the one before it—for this was sharp and smelled of grime—cut through Mother’s clothes and made her flesh turn Braille.
Her Daughter gave her the doe eyes of every pretty little thing, and then she screamed as a wave of black ‘n blue bruise hurled down the street towards them.
They lost their feet—Daughter and Mother—just as the water blew underneath them. Mother dropped to her hands and knees, planting herself firmly. Daughter called out for Mamma but Mamma was too far away and rubble from shattered ground collided with the girl’s head and opened eggs in the swirling soup. Mother shouted out, struggling among increasing blast work, but the water hit her waist and she was thrown backwards
further down the hill, kicking wildly against the storm, thrashing and throbbing at the metal, stone, and steel speeding after her like a flurry of medieval pikes, and she felt
something in her heart’s heart break when she heard the breaking of something large and she knew her home had tumbled against the foundation and came down on Father’s head like a carnival hammer and the bell went up and DING DING DING WE HAVE AH WINNNERRR!!!
Mother hit a piece of broken storefront glass, and her Daughter rode atop the water by her boat. The Storm coughed and sputtered and after days of hurt it swirled like snakes escaping down the drain.