Before pain, there was water. Warm water. Warm that quivered in his reflection as his fingers carved through it. He knew when they got out, they'll be scrambling like lizards up the hill to Moms, kicking up sand, wind, and rain. They will stand in the doorway, clothes clutched to their small wheezing chests. Moms will look at their sandy feet and up at them shivering in their undies without a towel or nothing, and she will be yelling, What did I tell you? What did I tell you? and him thinking, I know what you said.
But the water was warm. And Pneumonia sounded like a flower. Dads was always pulling up Pnuemonias at the dinner table. Moms not eating, she never ate, just looked at his dirty hands carving into cooked meat. Dads spoke with steak flailing out and back into his mouth like a cuckoo bird. Rene was looking at her cold little bowl and stirring its contents. He waved his knife in her face, grumbled, and carried on. Moms never stopped watching the knife. A chair screeched across the linoleum. He stood up with his eyes on Rene. He said, I don't want beanie weenies for dinner. The room was still.
He leaned into the sunlight, It's warm, Rene. She smiled and shivered in the wind. She looked back at the house and down at her dress and twirled it up into the air. She was too big for diapers. When they opened the trunk where the noodles were, there was only one left. He grabbed it, We can share. The little girl watched him a moment, stepped back, and threw her fist into his groin. She took the noodle from his trembling hand and threw it into the water.
A while later, it was dark and colder than ever with him rubbing the salt out of his eyes and licking his fingers. He gagged again, kneeling, leaning over the side, watching a string of mucus slide like a spider's web into black water, into stars. Anywhere but there, he snorted lightly and looked back at the house. Moms's car was gone, and Dads was laying in the yard, shirtless. Rene was gone. And the noodle was off half sunken in all that starry warm. He limped back to the house, passing his father, smiling, Anywhere but there.
Anderson Holderness hails from Greensboro, N.C. and is a sophomore majoring in English. A few of his favorite authors include Evelyn Waugh, J.M. Coetzee, and Flannery O'Connor.