'When It’s Part Dolphin' by Nicholas Cook

My brother says I’m part dolphin, I should swim out there and join my real family. He pitches a Cracker Jack into the ocean and says it’s hungry. Yesterday I was part tire, he told me to roll up into a circle.

I tell him the ocean is a dirty bathtub I won’t step foot in.

Mom says if we don’t get clean we won’t grow up to be loved, love is what makes us whole. She’s had a few turns at it. Her new boyfriend Gil buys me Dots candy and leaves them underneath my pillow.

My brother pinches his nose and waves his hand in front of his face.

“Phew,” he says, “you stink.”

I want to tell him his mustache looks dumb—twelve hairs don’t make him a man—but I see that look, like he’s planning to fold my body up into origami.

“I’ll go in if you shave that off,” I say.

“No way Jose,” he says.

A baby walks into the water and makes a sour milk face, her mother tries again and again.

My brother says he won’t go home when Gil’s there. He says we’ll sit out here until we’re bright red, lobsters of the sand.

The worst sunburn is the kind on your feet, I tell my brother. Gil has hairy feet, and I ask my brother if we will too. He shows me his one dark strand growing from a mole on his big toe. Sometimes at night I see the shadow of Gil’s feet at my door, the sound of Dots shaking in their box.

My brother falls asleep on the sand. I angle his arms and straighten out his legs so he’s like an arrow pointing home. When Dad left, my brother said it was the ocean that took him. The ocean called Dad back to his dolphin family, squawked at him until he finally gave in.

Comments

  1. Love this, Nicholas! So many images abound between the lines.

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