The Grounding, by Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond
Anchor chains break, and ships drift to shore. Wrecks collect with the tide, rust, and recede. And every hundred years she comes to beach. Eyes reach up on stalks above the waterline. Most times seeing nothing, sometimes structures. Like ships, crashing back into the sea, so does she.
Ned spent his life on the pier. Hanging a rod, occasionally reeling, not catching much, but it hardly mattered. First, he was a boy here, then a man. Finally old, he stood alone, being with the ocean and the sun, and the screech of gulls, and the padding of pelicans on the rail.
He watched umbrellas set up on the sand, families picnic, then retreat. The lone jogger and the man that walked his dog until the dog died and he replaced it. Only the horizons remained the same until that one day.
Fishing as usual, Ned watched a boy maybe eight, skipping stones, running along the wash of waves, and grabbing shells. All the usual things boys do. Bright blue shorts, white striped shirt fluttering in the breeze. About to turn away, Ned saw the boy freeze. Stock still, finger in nose, up to his ankles in the water, looking at something. Fixated.
The sun angle turned the surface into rippling glare. Ned, unable to see what the boy focused on, watched him walk out deeper, up to his hips. The surf lifted him occasionally as he bounced on his toes. Stopping again, he stared, digging in his nose. To Ned’s utter astonishment, the boy lay belly down on the water’s surface. He read about walking on…but not this.
The boy relaxed, rolled his head towards Ned, and seemed to sleep.
Ned raced along the pier, trying to catch an angle and see what was beneath the tide. What buoyed the boy up for magic didn’t explain it to the unbeliever? What he saw was breathtaking.
An immense lobster, larger than any he could imagine, stunned Ned. The boy lay on her pincer arm, legs between spines at an articulation of its exoskeleton. Bright red, as if cooked, but very much alive, antennae wheeling in the air. A century had passed, as easily as a millennium for the creature who ignored the scamp that rested upon her.
The boy did not see the eyes rise above the water and examine the shore, as it always did. It stayed for a while. Ned looked about, wanting to tell someone, anyone, but he was alone. The grounding of such a sea miracle needed to be shared.
Slowly, she backed up into the water so as not to disturb the sleeping boy. Ned watched him float off the magnificent beast, waking only when the water filled his mouth and nose with an inhalation of seaweed. He stood dripping and walked on shore toward Ned. He had no memory of it, nor of her, when Ned asked. Just ran off and played.
Ned climbed back onto the pier and back to his rods and caught a last look of the lobster as she beat her immense tail and disappeared into the deep sea once more. He knew no one would believe him and bit into a piece of black licorice, tearing a piece off, the odor filling his nose. Then his rod bent with something fighting his hook down below.
On his deathbed, Ned recalled the grounding. Was it a wish? A memory? Or a figment of his imagination. It hardly mattered as a comet flew over and closed his eyes.
Dr. Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond is a family and emergency physician. He practiced in eight countries in four languages and currently lives in Austria with his wife. When not volunteering his practice skills, he is writing, lecturing, or scuba diving. In 2008, he discovered the wreck of a Bulgarian freighter in the Black Sea. He has multiple medical citations, along with publications in Flash Fiction Magazine, The Grief Diaries, The Examined Life Journal, The Satirist, Chicago Literati, Blood Moon Rising, Frontier Tales Magazine, and in the scifi anthologies Sanctuary and Alien Dimensions among others. He is the fiction editor of SavagePlanets magazine. Find him on Twitter @DocRaymond1.
In the topside world, Marilyn Whitehorse teaches academic writing at Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu, HI. In the river that flows beneath, she is a writer, photographer, and collage artist. She has been published in The MacGuffin, Epiphany, and Orange Blossom Review, among others.