WEDNESDAY: Swimming with Sharks

BY RACHAEL SAVOIE

Copyright is held by the author.

MY DAD always yells at me after I have a shower because I always forget to turn the bathroom fan on. The bathroom is like a sauna; steam clinging to the mirror and rushing out into the hall as though it’s been trapped and held against its own will. I wish I remembered to turn it on so it doesn’t have to suffer as much. I wish dad didn’t take it out on mom.

Mom and dad’s fighting has been pretty bad lately and it feels like I haven’t slept in days. When I just about fall asleep, a slammed door or a smashed glass snaps me out of my near unconscious state and I’ll have no choice but to lie awake and listen. At times there will be silence and just as I think it’s over, dad starts shouting again. I’ll eventually fall asleep after what feels like an endless amount of time.

School has been getting really busy and I spend most of my time in the library cramming for tests and writing essays. I’m having trouble with an essay for my media class. Mrs. Hilton told us to pick a TV show and write about its positive and negative influences on teenagers. I chose 21 Jump Street; Hanson and Penhall prove why teens should stay out of trouble because they’ll always get caught in the end. I can’t think of a negative influence though. I constantly stare at my phone screen waiting for inspiration to hit, but nothing. What teen wouldn’t want to get caught by Johnny Depp?

I stay late in the library one day and don’t get home until dinner time. Mom’s car is in the driveway. So is dad’s, which is strange because he usually doesn’t get home until 10. My dad works for an advertising company in the city. He’s in charge of creating large billboards for food businesses, movie companies and hair products. Once on our way to grandma’s we passed by a billboard for the new Harry Potter movie. It was dark blue with the words “Nowhere is Safe” in the corner with Ron looking out into the sky. The girls in my math class all have a crush on Ron. They would freak if they knew that my dad got to edit and position Ron Weasley on a gigantic poster.

“Check it out Jeff. That’s some of my work.”

I smile to myself knowing that dad is in charge of something so cool.

I see mom sitting on the steps crying when I walk in, while dad is standing next to her. They both glance at me and tell me to go to my room. I think I saw a red mark on the side of mom’s face, as if someone had taken a red bingo marker and smeared it against her cheek. All the dots merged together to create a messy red stain. I saw one on her arm last week and when I asked her about it she told me the curling iron burned her. I don’t know why she’s doing her hair right now.

I hurry upstairs jumping on every other step and flick the T.V on. Some shark documentary.

“Sharks are not able to distinguish humans from seals or sea lions. This is why most shark attack survivors are missing major limbs, as sharks dislike the taste of human flesh and swim away. They would much prefer a large sea mammal, which is why sharks should not be considered a major threat to human beings but rather to other forms of sea life.”

I’ve always wanted to go swimming with sharks, like those guys in wetsuits who are locked in cages. I want to experience the feelings of danger and safety all at once; the thrill of being so close to a dangerous animal while still safe inside a metal cage.

There’s a great white shark on the TV screen: its pearl white body gliding through water chasing after a small seal and its large teeth piercing into the creature’s skull, splitting it right in two. The seal looks as if it’s made of rubber because the shark’s teeth bend it this way and that until it tears it to pieces. A puff of red slowly seeps into blue. I fall asleep.

***

In the morning, mom drives me to school. The red mark on her face is gone so maybe she covered it with makeup to make it disappear. The makeup infomercials say the trick is to apply and blend until you achieve a natural effect. I wonder what other colours mom is hiding from me. I’ve never seen pink before.

“You know, you’re father and I are thinking of finding another place to live next year. One for me and one for him, this way you can have two beds and two TVs all to yourself. How does that sound?”

“Sure mom, that sounds great.”

“Okay, have a good day at school.”

Just before I leave the car I get a closer look at the curling iron burn on mom’s arm. Its edges are outlined in purple and the inside has started to turn blue. I imagine peeling it off her skin and rolling it into a small marble; round and smooth but hard enough to break your finger. Makeup can’t hide everything, I guess.

I’ve forgotten to pack a lunch and only have a toonie on me. A toonie won’t be able to buy me much from the caf, except for some candy or maybe a cookie. I resort to a pack of Skittles and arrange them into a rainbow on my lap. Red and orange are my favourite flavours, they have the most juice in them. Looking at them remind me of the colours on mom’s skin: red and blue and purple. She’s close to becoming a rainbow. A colourful glowing spectacle same as the ones in the Skittles commercials. Without looking at the colour I pop another one into my mouth. Grape.

***

I’m starving when I get home from school and can’t wait to see what mom is cooking. It’s Kraft Dinner, my favourite. Dad’s reading the newspaper at the kitchen table. He’s concentrating on whatever he’s reading about.

“Beth, can you get me a juice box from the fridge?”

“Dave, you know too much sugar isn’t good —.”

“Now Beth.”

Mom grabs a juice box from the fridge and walks towards dad. She quickly peels the plastic off the straw and jabs it into the hole. Her hand slips and the box lands with a thud, getting juice all over. Little drops of purple juice sit on dad’s reading glasses and he slowly takes them off dabbing at them with a napkin. I don’t realize how much juice has gotten on them until I see how wet the napkin is. It doesn’t even look white anymore, but closer to a ball of purple mush. Mom rushes to grab a cloth from the cupboard.

“Dave I’m sorry, I’ll clean it up right away —.”

“Get upstairs Jeff.”

I suddenly forget how hungry I am.

Dad’s eyes are serious and his hands are clenching in and out of a fist. I run upstairs, listening to dad’s yelling and the murmur of mom’s apologetic voice. There are pitter patters across the hardwood floor.

Then I hear something different. Something that never happens when mom and dad fight. Short controlled words and pauses repeated over and over. I close my eyes so hard that I see stars.

“Why. Can’t. You. Do. As. I. Ask.”

Silence. I open my eyes and peek downstairs. Mom is sitting on the steps with her hands covering her face. I can’t see dad anywhere. I run downstairs and her nose is dripping blood.

“Mom I’m calling the police. I’m —”

“No you’re not.” It’s dad.

“But her nose, its —”

“I told you to stay upstairs.”

I never turn around to check where his voice is coming from. I hurry upstairs and lie down on my bed. This time there are more words but even more pauses. There are drops of blood on my blue shirt from mom’s nose.

Maybe he didn’t mean to hurt her. Maybe it was just an accident. Dad is supposed to make things
look nice, but mom didn’t look nice at all. Dried up blood and salt water stick to her cheeks, making her look like a monster. A wet green eyed monster with yellow spots and blue bruises. I feel sick and dirty.

I close the bathroom door and crank the water high. I flick the bathroom fan on and remind myself of how fun it’ll be to swim with sharks.

2 comments

  1. Michael Joll

    Rachael, if you cut out paragraphs 1 and 3, and the one beginning, “Sharks are not able to distinguish…,” your story would be more concise without losing any relevance. Otherwise, a good story (sounds like a report card, doesn’t it?).

    If you are interested, you can contact the Brampton Writers’ Guild for friendly help and occasional advice at: mbj691@gmail.com. Good luck with your writing. I look forward to reading more.

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