3. Little Fish, Bigger Fish — Chapter 5

I am serializing my collection Stories from The Last Basin currently available on Amazon. The stories are best read in the order of Table Contents:

Little Fish, Bigger Fish

by John Anthony, 2021

Chapter 5

David was sitting on the beach, just above the high tide line, staring at the ocean with his one eye. He wore a black eye patch over the place where his left eye once was. The autumn sun set further south now than in summer, falling directly into the bay. His journal lay next to him. The crowds were gone; most of the lifeguard stations only opened on the weekends. The late afternoon wind was colder, cold enough to put color in your cheeks. Luna had just left to go get a blanket out of her car, a used Karmann Ghia her parents had given her for her sixteenth birthday. This had become their routine now. David hadn’t so much as waded in the surf since that day in August when he missed his first date with Luna.

David wasn’t exactly lucid when the ambulance had brought him to the hospital. His parents were waiting for him there, as was Luna. She likes to call that night in the hospital their first date and David lets her, but always with a loving smile. The story she had told him was that when he was late meeting her, she called his house and his mother answered and said that they were rushing out the door to meet the ambulance and police at the hospital. She said she ran the six blocks up Wilshire Blvd. and beat them to the Emergency Room entrance. That was Luna, how could he not love her? But first, he had to get over his anger. It wasn’t directed at Luna, it wasn’t directed at anyone specifically, he simply couldn’t understand how everyone could be so kind and understanding when no one understood and he himself felt no kindness. As the days passed and those around him continued to foil his foul temper with compassion and encouraging smiles, he finally broke and the tears flowed freely from both eyes, and this idea that he could cry where there was once an eye was so absurd to him that he began to laugh, and with the laughter came the first steps towards healing. He took out an empty school notebook, wrote “Journal” on it and entered this discovery on the very first page. Then he just kept writing.

The police had insisted on keeping the eye patch as evidence although David knew there would be very little investigation — there was nothing to investigate. Blood had been drawn in the hope of finding evidence of hallucinogenic drugs in his system; Occam’s Razor being the path of least resistance for the detectives despite David’s insistence he hadn’t taken any drugs. Several days later the laboratory reported the results of the screening: No known recreational drugs; a trace amount of tetrodotoxin, found in a family of octopuses of the genus Hapalochlaena which lived in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, and is also found in most species of pufferfish. As the meat of some of the deadlier pufferfish, known as sugo in Japanese, is considered a delicacy and served in countless Japanese restaurants throughout California, the possibility of pufferfish poisoning became the settled explanation for everyone except David, who insisted he had not eaten any Japanese food since a fifth-grade field trip to Little Tokyo and even if he had, what about his eye?

He had been wearing a bandage over his eye socket since leaving the hospital and Luna, who had been visiting him every day, eventually said, “Are you going to get fitted for a glass eye?”

“I wrote in my journal that the only way I’d wear a glass eye is if it matched the color of your eyes exactly. You’d have to come with me for the fitting.”

“Hmm. Kind of sweet but since your eyes are blue, totally wrong.”

“What I’d really like is a fake eye with a laser built into it. I could turn it on by blinking twice or something. Trouble is I can’t figure out how I would turn it off without burning my eyelid.”

“You’d probably be too dangerous to kiss as well.”

“That’s something I hadn’t thought about. I haven’t been sure anyone would want to kiss me.”

“I guess I’m the one who has to do the thinking around here,” Luna said, and pulled a small package out of her bag. She had even put a bow on it. David unwrapped it and inside found a black eye patch. Fragments of memory suddenly flooded his thoughts and he was afraid he’d start crying again if he said anything.

“Do you want me to help you put it on?” Luna asked.

“No. No.” David waved her off, turning his back to her. “I’ve got it.” He removed his bandage and slipped on the eye patch, then turned back to face her. “How’s it look?” he asked.

Luna reached out and made some adjustments, including smoothing out his long hair that had been puffed up under the elastic band. Then she pulled him close and kissed him on the lips.

“Thank you,” David said, then embraced her with his head on her shoulder and started to cry again and then laugh again and then they were both laughing.

Sitting together at the beach after school became their thing. She would read, he would write, they would watch the seabirds, and sit close and talk until the sun set. On this afternoon, a shadow passed over David and thinking it was Luna returning with the blanket he looked up, smiling. Instead he saw the giant taking a seat in the sand next to him. He started to rise, to perhaps run, but the giant put his huge hand on David’s shoulder and said, “No. Stay little god.”

“Where’s Luna?” David yelled. “What did you do with her?”

“Time has been stilled. She is on her way back. I’ll be gone before her return.”

“What the fuck are you doing here? What now?” David felt the anger return, like a breaking dam, huge sections of concrete studded with broken and twisted steel rebar propelled by the escaping water rebounded through his skull. “I want to kill you,” he said as steadily as he could, but the giant was unbothered.

“My Lord has sent me to apologize to you.”

“Apologize? For cutting my eye out?”

“No. For being mistaken.”

“Mistaken about what?”

“My Lord and I took your eye to the Infallible One. He appeared before us with his trusted Archangel Raphael by his side. My Lord explained to the Infallible One why the eye had been taken. He looked very sad and said we had made a mistake. Raphael fell to his knees before his Lord and said, ‘I believe this problem falls within my portfolio, I will make it right.’ The Infallible One said, as gently as sea mist falling on the verdant shore, ‘No my son, your portfolio grows quite large and this is the Lord of Seven Seas’ mistake. You attend to my children, he alone must find the remedy for the grievous harm he’s done to the boy.’ And then our audience was over.”

“And you didn’t ask him what the mistake was?”

“Of course not. He is infallible, although in truth my Lord still feels his judgement was wise but there was little sense in arguing.”

“Gigantus, you and the Lord are quite a team. Where’s Luna?”

“As I have said, time has been stilled. She returns, but has yet to finish her first step,” the giant explained patiently.

“Unstill time then. I want her here, not you.”

“No. I must give you this from my Lord,” the giant said and handed David a small almond-shaped chestnut cowrie shell, the color, shape, and size of Luna’s eyes, David thought.

“What’s this? Am I supposed to hold it to my ear and hear the ocean?”

“No, little god. Place it where your eye was and see the ocean.” David slowly shook his head in disbelief that he would willingly do anything Gigantus asked, particularly something so weird. But he went ahead and removed his patch, rinsed the cowrie with water from his thermos, and popped it into his empty eye socket not expecting much. However, the moment it fit neatly into place he found himself standing in the middle of the bay with Gigantus beside him. He wasn’t cold or wet, and his breath came naturally. He saw around him all seven seas of the world in every dimension including time. He could see how the water world birthed the first life and how future life found the abyssal depths to be its last refuge. He could see the whole history of man and the seas. He could see every story the oceans held and will hold. He was both awed and terrified.

“Remove the cowrie,” Gigantus said. David did and found himself back on Santa Monica Beach sitting next to the giant. “My Lord pronounced, ‘An eye for an eye’ and told me to give this special cowrie to you along with his apology and mine as well, little god.”

“This is the ‘remedy’ for the ‘grievous harm’ you inflicted on me?” David found himself chuckling, “Your ineptitude alone makes it difficult to stay mad at you guys.”

“Thank you for your kindness yet I feel you remain upset,” Gigantus said, and David heard a sadness in his voice.

“Give me time,” David suggested.

“We did.”

“Huh?”

“When you use the cowrie you are observing from a godly dimension. When you use it, time will still and not a living creature will sense your absence. You could journey for a year and no one would miss a heartbeat.” Finally, David was filled with a sense of understanding.

“So that’s how you did it,” he said as though he had solved a magician’s trick, spotted the misdirection and the sleight of hand.

“My Lord is a god, he is more than the shell,” Gigantus said in his matter-of-fact way. “When you use it, think where and when and there and then you will be. No one and nothing can see or sense you, you cannot change things, things cannot change you. Do as we just did and you will return, as we just have. There is nothing more.”

“Then this is good-bye?”

“Yes, or at the least, see you later.” Gigantus stood up and then was gone. David turned and saw Luna walking back from the parking lot with the blanket. He slipped the little shell into his pocket, grabbed his journal, and began writing:

Journal Entry #73: It now seems my two knuckle-headed and possibly imaginary friends are not going to be leaving me alone and the strange part is I feel comforted by that fact. What does that say about me?

The cowrie shell is pretty. I think I’ll give it to Luna. Maybe, together, we can make a necklace out of it for her. I don’t need it. It doesn’t offer me anything I don’t already have. I am content.

End.

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I am a native of Santa Monica, California. I enjoy writing fiction and mentoring those who would like to begin writing. Email me at johnanthony.medium@aol.com.

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John Anthony

John Anthony

I am a native of Santa Monica, California. I enjoy writing fiction and mentoring those who would like to begin writing. Email me at johnanthony.medium@aol.com.