Here’s Something

We revise…this’ll be all you get for a bit, but we are on task!

My mother passed away at night, just before an angry storm broke. The priest came in the evening to anoint her forehead and her feet, to send her ready to God. I listened to her breath rattle, and I watched her eyes dim as the fire dwindled to nothing but coals. When she was gone, I folded her arms over her chest and kissed her still warm cheek. I stepped outside into the wind, not sure where I was going. I thought I was going to go to my uncle’s home, to tell them that she had finally died, that, after days and nights of nursing her illness, her end had come.

Steps naturally took me toward the water, and I found myself on the shore’s edge by the tethered fishing boats. Some of the boats teetered toward their sides, like cradles a perverse mother had shoved with an iron hand. The clouds above the ocean leered like puffy faced old men, lightening flickering slyly in their depths. Waves of water glowed like pearls when the old men winked. Pity the poor fishermen still on the water, if any there were.

Fat droplets of water covered my face in tears. The truth is that I wasn’t crying, no matter what anyone might tell you. Sometimes the sea demanded a price of you. I was the daughter of a Catalan fisherman, and I had lost my father early to a storm like this, his bloated remains washed up on shore after his body was crushed by the angry ocean. And because of this, my mother worked her fingers to bone. I lost her to a wasting illness, her rattling breath my constant reminder of her painful struggle to live. Among the boats that night, I decided that I would be strong enough so that the ocean would not take me. I would live. Whatever life sent me, I would live. The ocean would not take us all.

A gust of wind snapped the tendrils of my hair, whipping it away from and then across my face. I shook my head and it flew back just as the rope of one sail snapped and the cloth fluttered in the night. Lightning illuminated the ocean, the dark shadows cupped in the pearl waves of the water. I held my breath because it was beautiful. In an instant, the scene was gone. I knew the ocean and I understood each other. I let myself be soaked by the rain, as though I were being baptized under the water, drowning, trying to find my father to tell him that his wife was gone. Then I put my face to the air and the rain sliced my face like cold razors. I closed my eyes pretending I was the empty sea.

When I came to my senses, newly baptized, I went back into my house. The fire was nothing but ash. I began again, feeding tinder and kindling, shivering in my wet clothes. The fire tentatively began to smoke and crackle. I barred the door against the storm and the night and placed pennies on my mother’s eyes. I sat across from my mother’s body, until the fire grew light enough. By the time I had hung my clothes around the room and put on my nightgown, the storm rumbled around me, but I decided not to sleep. I took one of my bed sheets, some of the linen thread I had spun, and a needle, and I began to sew my mother’s shroud.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.