DISCLAIMER:Well ... the Crabtrees and the
Malloys are mine. That must count for something.
SUMMARY: Bobby reminisces, a snippet
WARNING: None. Clean as a whistle. Sorry, folks.
ARCHIVE: Should the fancy strike you, yes.
NOTES: For Poi Lass, who did say "anything"...
This has not been beta-ed; so feel free to point out general foolishness.
This is very possibly the prologue to a series; but we'll just have
to see what my muse thinks about that.
FEEDBACK: Ooh, baby, that's a-what I like. Alestar213@aol.com
The Iceman Cometh
Once, when I was fourteen, Dad took me out sailing in Kingfisher
Bay. It was the twilight end of summer, and the wind brought back
the same smells that it had all those years ago when his father had
brought him. Dad loved sailing. There were those months earlier in
the year when he would work into all hours of the night, I wouldn't
see him for almost a week at a stretch, so he could save up enough
money to take this trip; but it was all worth it for him. You shoulda
seen how his face would light up when he'd talk about it, for weeks
in advance. It was his one escape; the one dream he had ever indulged
Dad loved sailing, and I hated it.
I hated the smell, a cross between fish and metal cleaners; even
when Dad would stand on the docks and make me take that big whiff
with him, and he would get that dreamy look and all I ever got was
I hated the people, too. Every year, I would loiter in our rooms,
pretending to have lost this and that, or to need this or that before
going anywhere, in order to put off the inevitable trip to the Kingfisher
Den. The Kingfisher Den was the meeting hall for all the other fathers
bringing their sons to the past, sacrificing them on fish and metal
cleaner-smelling slabs to the spirits of their own fathers. Cowering
along, listening to Dad make proud conversation with his fellow pilgrims,
it was like one of those carnival Hall of Mirrors, in every line of
view a twisted reflection of me and Dad, each father full-chested
and nervous in that classic overcompensating way, and each son displayed
and tightlipped. I hated the Den.
There was so much I hated about it; the politics, the pretentious
competition, the mounted fish in all the restaurants, the forced nostalgia,
the fiberglass . . .
But what I always hated most about going sailing year after year
with Dad was the silence. There was no talking when we went out there
on the water, and that's the way he wanted it. He always made sure
I knew ahead of time what I needed to do, because he sure as hell
wasn't going to explain it to me when we got there. If he needed me
to do something extra, something unexpected, he'd stare at me, willing
me to know; and if I had been the perfect son, the son that
would have lived for Kingfisher Bay the way his father did, I would
have. But I never was, and his eyes would narrow as he brushed past
me to do it himself, never saying a word. To this day, I cannot abide
I remember when I dared to break the silence.
It was hot, and there was the taste of Banana Boat in my mouth. The
winds had gotten us beyond shore-view and then abandoned us, so there
hadn't been much to do but rock in the waves and wipe sweat and listen
to the deep, dark quiet. Dad sat across from me, eyes half-lidded,
swaying to that personal symphony he found there. I watched him, and
I wanted so much for him to look at me, for him to sense my terror,
to know; but I knew that that desire was no more rational than
his expectations of me, and so I resorted to what he never had.
He looked up, startled, ripped out of his music.
"I wanted to talk to you about something."
His eyes narrowed, a familiar dance step, and he hesitated for a
moment, as though he would refuse me, and then acquiesced.
"What is it, son?"
"I . . I was wondering if maybe I could stay in tonight. Not
go to the Den. There's this thing on TV that I need to watch. It's
educational. I need to watch it for school. For a project. For school."
"What's it about?"
"Bugs. Those big, poisonous ones in Africa. It's for school."
"Well, you're in luck, son; The Malloys are going to be there
tonight, and Mr. Malloy is an entomologist. I'm sure he'll be able
to answer all of your questions."
"Actually, Dad, I'd rather stay in anyway. I'm feelin' kinda
sick. I think maybe I got too much sun."
"Don't be silly; you're not red at all."
"Well, not ye-"
"We'll go, and if you're still feeling sick after an hour, you
can back to the room," his voice lowers an octave, "with
I lower my eyes, wanting to just take him on that offer- Jesus, just
don't look at me like that- but it's not good enough. I can't go to
the Den tonight. I can't face those people.
I can't remember why . . .
But I look back anyway, and say, "No, Dad, I just don't want
to go. I- I really don't."
"Why not?" gruffly, a challenge. At least he's not looking
at me anymore.
I go with a half-truth.
"There are some people there I don't want to see. I got into
a, uh, fight with a boy today when you were at lunch with those people,
and I don't want to see him at the Den."
A fight, huh? He can look at me for that.
"Who was it?"
"You don't know him Dad. He and his folks just got here; it's
their first year."
"I might recognize the name."
"Oh, it's, uh-"
Dammit! I never was very creative . .
"Crabtree? They're not new here."
"Oh yeah? I musta been thinking about someone else."
"Well, if it's a fight we're talking about, then staying away
is the worst thing you can do. You have to show this young man that
you're not afraid of him."
"But what if-"
"No, no. You're going and that's it. You don't want all the
other boys to think you're a sissy, do you?"
No, Dad, anywhere but that. I shake my head.
"So it's settled. You'll go, and you'll show this Crabtree boy
you're no one to be messed with."
And then a flash of Jimmy's father's eyes as he ripped him away from
me; that same silent stare, screaming, You. You did this to my son.
And the terror hits me. I cannot abide the quiet.
Suddenly, I'm in front of my father, hands clutching his pant legs,
and the thing blurring my vision in not sweat.
"No! Please, Daddy, I don't want to go! I can't! I can't!!"
My father's narrowed eyes widen in shock, moments before the look
of disgust he cannot hide passes quickly into one of fury. He stands
up violently, knocking me backwards.
"That's enough! Look at you, you baby! Get up!! Act like
a man! It's no wonder you got beat up by this boy, acting like a fag!!"
He surprises himself with that one, and immediately quiets down,
But it's too late.
The wind changes, bringing cold. It blows, and the trees bend to
it. It catches the sails and they billow upward, outward, in this
frenzy of frigid air, freezing the sun in its place. The water follows
the wind, swirling upward in giant waves, only to freeze in their
Everything around them is freezing; there is nothing but the solid,
I look around in terror, disbelieving; and I glance at my father
who is wearing a face similarly fearful, and is strangely now resting
in a wheelchair. He has less hair . . .
And then the ice tilts, like someone shaking up a snowglobe; and
a thundering CRACK shatters the ice in the water some distance
off. From within the hole comes a roar of fury, and through the ice
bursts a creature covered with ice, or else made of the ice itself,
in great jagged spikes. It howls again, and then spots our sailboat.
I open my mouth to scream, prepare myself to run, but neither happens;
I too am frozen. It comes towards us, and then turns decidedly to
one end of the boat, my father's end. His great frozen eyes fixate
on the man who, for some reason, is now bald; and as it comes nearer,
my father tries to scream just as I did, and, like me, he fails. The
creature reaches out with an icy claw and draws my father out of the
wheelchair; I struggle, but I can't help him. I can't help him. Even
now, I'm failing him.
The creature opens his great gaping maw, bringing my father closer
to it; and I realize what's happening; and I try again to scream,
but I can't; and it's the same all over again. My father wants to
scream, too; I can see it in his frenzied eyes. He regrets the silence.
All that time that he could've been screaming wasted. And now it's
His eyes fixate on me as he is lowered into the jagged icy depths,
staring at me, willing me to hear his screams, to know, just
as he had always done with the things we wanted to tell me but never
could; but I could never hear it then, and I can't do it now, for
I hear nothing.
I cannot abide the quiet.
Bobby Drake shoots up in bed, panting. He is covered in sweat, and
the salt of it mingles with the tears on his palate and on his pillow.
in "Snowglobe" >>
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