A Lovely Boy

Artwork by Nicholas Walton-Healy

Artwork by Nicholas Walton-Healy

By Kiren Valjee

There is a lovely beach in a lovely town. You stand on the shore and see that the water is deep and dark so it’s impossible to know what lies beneath. The lake is most calm in the morning. You see, in those early hours, a single lonely sailboat daring the wind to rouse from its slumber. The air is still where you stand, yet you occupy the same space as the boat. You are not so far apart. You imagine the same gust that fills the sails to be the same air that fills your lungs. But of course it is not the same air. The wind travels north to south, between you. The boat is out there among the waves and you are here upon the sand.

The sand is cool between your toes when you walk to the water’s edge. You walk gingerly, for there are many stones in the sand. The stones are smooth, but the bottoms of your feet are smoother. You don’t mind. It is quiet, and the lake has no discernible end if you look straight out, due east. If you turn to your right, however, you will see the east and west coasts of the lake converging into a river. If you get into the water there, at the convergence, the current feels swift and threatening. You might panic, even if you are a strong swimmer. But after a few deep breaths, you notice there is no undertow. The water is bottlenecking, speeding up, but it means you no harm. It is rough, but that is to be expected when there is too much water and not enough space.

 You stand on the shore and see that the water is deep and dark so it’s impossible to know what lies beneath.
There is a lovely boardwalk along this river in this lovely town. When you walk along this boardwalk, you hear the chit chat amongst the fishermen in greased blue jeans and flannel shirts. They cast their lines, waiting not to go home. You wait too, your elbows on the railing, chin in your cupped hands. You wait for the tanker, sitting high after unloading, the faded belly exposed that spends so much time unseen, to pass by, heading somewhere, but never home. Ice floes no longer clog the river. Some fishermen blame global warming, but others say they’ve seen this before, and the ice will return. In the winters of your youth, the floes were so thick you were certain you could scramble, hop, and skip your way across to lands on the other side. You long for those winters.

There is a lovely window in a lovely home on that lovely beach. Sitting by the window, you see a boy diligently digging behind a snowdrift. His blue cap is dusted white with blowing flakes. The north wind is piercing, and he sniffs and rubs his nose with the back of his glove. His cheeks are red from the whipping wind, but also from effort. It is to be the sturdiest snow fort he has ever built. Over here you can see the tunneled entrance. You cannot see where it ends because he has expertly dug a winding route concealed by the pine that was planted the year he was born. It is tall and strong now, yet it still sways in the winter wind. The moisture is beginning to seep through his pants. You worry that he is getting cold, but he knows that he is fine. The light is waning in the afternoon and at your post by the window, you watch and wonder what drives this child to his duty. Perhaps it is not that different from what drives you to perform yours. You pity the child and promise yourself not to let him grow to be you. But that is an impossible task.

 

Kiren Valjee lives in Gainesville, FL, where he is opening an independent bookstore with his friend Keri. She wants to name it Romantic Dogs, he has his doubts. He has been published in ‘Metazen’ and has received an Honorable Mention from ‘Glitter Train’.

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