The Far Shore
Mireya looked down at her legs in the middle of fifth-grade history class and discovered that she was a fish.
Right in the middle of Mrs. Ho’s lecture on Chinese history—or was it Korean history? No matter, since no one in class was paying attention to Mrs. Ho or Mireya.
She had in fact become a mermaid. Her knees had fused, her toes growing slender and long, webbed in fins. She pointed her chin straight ahead so as not to draw attention. Her upper body was the same old Mireya but now, below her waist, she had scales. They were not hard or stiff as she would have imagined, like the armor of a knight or dragon; her scales were firm and flexible, like the clear plastic sheeting her father hung in the garage when he made repairs. They fit like a hard rubber glove or light chainmail, tight to her muscles. She squeezed her thighs and her hamstrings and felt the graceful curve of her flesh, fish-flesh, each fingernail scale iridescent as the wings of the dragonflies that came to rest on her mother’s hibiscus, like the king salmon leaping up a fall of water on the nature shows she and Ben used to watch.
She wriggled in her seat. She couldn’t wait to tell Ben she had grown a mermaid tail. She would say she slid out the window of her classroom and slithered to the gym and swam in the pool, swam and swam, and when she dove deep she found a tunnel she had never seen before, and she slid through a tunnel coruscating with light as though diamonds were embedded in the rock. Coruscating: Ben taught her that word when she helped him write his college application essay. It would remind him of their plan, their secret shared dream, that he would get into an Ivy League college and she would win the state spelling bee. He would be glad to hear her use one of his words.
She would spin a lengthy story for him, say she found the sea and tasted the warm salt and there were other fish and gulls sailing overhead like kites, and she lashed her tail and shed her clothes and dove in and out of water warm as a load of laundry, warm as a bedtime bath, and she would tell him she made a seaweed necklace and earrings of shells and there were dolphins—yes, there would be dolphins, because they were his favorite. And she would tell the story so well that he would believe she had become a mermaid and open his eyes to see if it were true, finally he would open his eyes and smile at her, his eyes the same deep brown she remembered from long ago, the same Ben she had watched play basketball in the driveway, after dark, alone, the garage light shining like a moon on his face; he would come out of his long sleep finally and be Ben, the Ben she had known from before, the Ben she had known for always.
In Mireya’s house, there were lids for things. There were always proper containers: a breadbox for the bread, a flour jar for flour and a crock for sugar, a shaker for pepper and a shaker for salt. These things mattered. There were symmetrical pairs and sets of coordinated wash cloths and dish towels, matching sets of towels for the bath. For her mother, order meant serenity.
Ben’s hospital room matched too but only in that everything was white: white light, white walls, white sheets for the bed. In Mireya’s house they communicated by doors: open door meant enter, closed door meant studying, sleeping, shush. They tried to leave the door to Ben’s hospital room open, inviting guests and visitors, but someone came and closed it in the night. Without the light from the hallway only the dim light from the parking deck fell through his window. Mireya would wake in a sandwich of black, not knowing if she faced the floor or the ceiling, if her head pointed toward the window or the door. The darkness made the room enormous, its edges disappearing. In the quiet the hiss of the oxygen machine by Ben’s bed sounded like the breath of a dragon from one of her childish storybooks, a great red-winged dragon lying dark and brooding over his treasure, a watchful dragon that never slept. Mireya would reach out her hand slowly until she felt the bed and then she would feel across the bed until she found Ben’s foot or ankle. She would keep her hand there, touching him, until she fell asleep again. If she were touching him she knew that her chair could not draw away from him in the moving vastness, that he would not accidentally float away.
“Mireya,” Mrs. Ho said, “would you like to join us?”
The sea disappeared, sucked itself into a dry canyon. The dolphins bounded, blinked, and then vanished also. Quick as a flash the coral turned to dry scrub, the waving sea plants to tumbleweeds. Mireya squinted at Mrs. Ho. She heard the giggles around her as a folding curtain of sound, muffled underwater. Her eyes hurt from staring so long at the water, the sun’s glare.
“Way to go, dopehead,” came a low whisper from the back. “Mireya’s a dopehead, just like her brother.”
Her tail disappeared. She felt her legs, human legs, the skin dry and scaled like rock salt on a wintry road after the snow thawed. She curled her feet in her shoes and pressed each toe into the sole of her sneakers.
The voice was Jimmy Rosdale, and she would find him, during the afternoon recess, playing basketball, just as Ben used to do before he’d developed that tense look and started going out every night. She wanted so badly to make Ben smile again the way he smiled at her when she was a baby. Only their father could make him smile sometimes after dinner when he had his homework done, or on weekends when they disappeared into the garage. Mireya was no use to him after he learned she was no good at baseball.
“I’m listening, Mrs. Ho,” Mireya said. “I find the Tang Dynasty—invigorating.”
“Yes, scintillating,” Mrs. Ho agreed dryly, and continued.
Scintillating, Mireya wrote in her book of words. It meant the same thing as coruscating. The school spelling bee would be held soon and as one of the older girls, practically a sixth-grader, Mireya had a chance. She wanted Ben to be proud of her. She didn’t doubt that all those words and ideas he’d studied for his college prep class were still floating in his head somewhere, in a silent mist.
This land was an odd surface, Mireya thought. Why had that first fish ever tried to leave the water? And how was it he got a mate to follow? Mireya’s textbooks wore the sticker: evolution warning. The Christians were worried that reading this philosophy of the scientists would endanger their faith. But Mireya’s Creator could handle dissenters. He slapped doubting Moses with a serpent and burning bush, back-handed Noah, the drunk. He dragged his chosen through the wilderness and drove Abraham to the top of a mountain with his son and a knife. Mireya read about it online, evolution with its magical connections, its tidy logic, in the half hour a night she was allowed to use the Internet. Her parents were not around to monitor Internet usage, but Mireya stuck to the rules. If she was bad, her parents anxious or unhappy, Ben would not want to come back.
There were so many things she didn’t understand, though. How algae became a fish became a primate, all the gaps and leaps. It was just easier to trust that the terrible lord of her ancestors had created all things with a mighty breath, a holy and unutterable word.
“Look, it’s doper Mireya.” Jimmy Rosdale had the ball. He stopped and bounced it twice on the pavement when he saw her appear on the court. “What are you, stoned? Can’t you see we’re playing here?”
“My brother doesn’t use drugs.” Mireya looked at Jimmy Rosdale and no one else. He was shorter than the others; she was as tall as he was. His hair, as black as hers, stuck damply to his temples.
“Yeah, not so much now, I guess?” Jimmy jeered, while his teammates hooted encouragement.
“Get your girlfriend off the court, Roswell!”
Jimmy flushed. “She ain’t my girlfriend.” He didn’t like the nickname, Roswell and its hint about aliens, since Jimmy’s mother was Puerto Rican. She had cleaned houses before her marriage, so Mireya overheard at one of her mother’s ladies meetings. One of her clients had been Jimmy Rosdale’s father. There must be something shameful about being paid to clean other peoples’ houses, Mireya gathered from their tone. Only goys didn’t clean up after themselves? Mireya observed Jimmy, looking for signs of slovenliness and neglect. His T-shirt had frayed sleeves and some of the letters of the team name were wearing off, but his hair was neatly trimmed. His mother’s housekeeping ways must have thus far survived marriage to Jimmy’s father.
Jimmy spat onto the asphalt between his shoes and Mireya’s. “We don’t have any dope for you, Traub. Go ask your brother.”
“My brother,” Mireya repeated, “is not a drug addict.”
“Yes he is,” Jimmy sneered. “Don’t y’all remember this?” He addressed the faceless sixth-graders. Mireya didn’t know any of their names; she focused on Jimmy’s dark eyes. “Sure y’all remember that crackhead what drove himself and his buddies into that truck on the interstate this summer. Coming home from some party high as a kite, my dad said. Not two brains to rub together, the lot of them. They all shoulda been killed.”
“He was not high!” Mireya screamed. “He wasn’t even drunk!”
Her voice was swallowed by the tall forms around her. They waved like seaweed plants at the aquarium, growing up and up, lilting in the wet dimness with the lights that came from nowhere. In the silent wet Mireya saw their bodies cluster and move around from her, boys rounded like anemones, limber and healthy and whole. She saw rather than heard their mouths bubbling with laughter, saw her arm waft outward, saw her flat palm sink into Jimmy Rosdale’s face and come away smeared with blood. A red arc spurted through the air as Jimmy’s hands came up to meet his horrified eyes. He ran in the direction of the school and Mireya saw the basketball boys step back, parting like fronds, and she wiped her palm on her skirt.
On the TV cop shows that move could drop a man where he stood. She was disappointed that it had not dropped Jimmy Rosdale.
Mireya sat at the long gleaming dining table and thought about her knees. She pressed them together and waited for the fusion to happen. The house was quiet except for her grandmother, Nonna, putting away dinner dishes in the kitchen. Mireya lingered over her pudding and her self-made spelling dictionary. New words poured over her tongue like honey. She was learning them in clusters: Elevation. Apotheosis. Transcend.
One of the tall windows to the patio stood open and beyond it the insects tuned for their evening chorus. In the pool the neon glimmering water swished gently to one end and back. Beyond it the tailored garden fell into neat patterns of hedge and lawn tucked in at the corners, rooted with flowerpots and sloped with trees. It was her father’s night to be at the hospital. Her mother had a meeting and would come home late. Nonna and Mireya would watch the news and then Mireya would practice her violin.
She was allowed to go to the hospital on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. Friday at dusk all three of them joined Ben to celebrate Shabbat, burning candles and saying the ritual prayers. Her mother sat before the heart monitor, the oxygen, all the other life-giving machines as if keeping guard over the outlet and its bristling cords. There had been a discussion once—only once, angry and agonized—over the command against artificial life. Through it Mireya sat with held breath in her room, poised on her bed as though she thought it might collapse beneath her, pressing her fingernails into her palms. The red half-circles left their imprint for a long time, a line of coral scales.
Nonna was a much better cook than Mother. Mireya still remembered the boiled asparagus, too tough to chew, and her mother’s rule that no one leave the table until they had eaten their vegetables. Their father, on call as always, swallowed his food whole and left to read medical literature in his study. Mireya sat at the cherrywood table, sulking, while Ben bit into a stalk and let it hang limply from his mouth.
He affected a nasal accent. “Do I have something in my teeth?”
Mireya giggled and did the same. “Do I have somefing—” The asparagus fell out of her mouth and she caught it, cold and sticky in her hand.
Ben dangled two green stalks from his ears. “Do I have something on my face?”
Mireya squealed and clenched her bladder muscles so she wouldn’t pee from laughing. “Ben,” their mother said as she stood at the china cabinet where she had been polishing her collection for an hour, trying to wait out her kids.
“What? I’m just asking. Mir will be honest with me.” He put his hands down and Mireya saw him drop the stalks on the carpet behind his chair. The sight inspired her.
She threw a shoot from her plate at him. “Now you have somefing on your head!”
As punishment they were made to clean the dining room, kitchen, and then, the worst thing their mother could think of, the laundry room. Scrubbing the floor, Ben turned his sponge into a car and they raced, spewing bubbles. The floor was a swamp of dirty water before they were done.
Ben made everything interesting. When their mother told him to take her hand across the busy street he stuck his finger through her belt loop and towed her like a tugboat. As they waited for the school bus he made her guess how many fingers he held behind his back. She was never right, but it passed the time.
The best were the spring evenings when they played catch. He wore his uniform in the front yard where all the girls in the neighborhood could see him and Mireya knew they could see her, too, with one of Ben’s old gloves, her hair swinging as she threw the way he taught her. She was the chosen one. She threw as hard as she could and kept inching forward though he yelled move back, move back, till her arm hurt and her gloved hand stung like bees, but she never told him this. Ben snapped the ball out of the air, threw himself on the ground as though touching first base, came up holding his closed glove like a trophy. He was announcer and crowd all in one.
“Home! Home!” Mireya would call, holding up her glove for one of his easy pitches, but he’d say, “No, you’re tired, we’re done,” and casually look around to see whose eyes were on him. Mireya liked it best when none of the girls were dallying along the street and he would come into the house and check her homework and pretend to let her check his, shoving his indecipherable books at her and saying, “Hey, Mir, check my geometry proof, will ya?” and then they could watch TV.
The doctor said, when Mireya asked him, of course Ben could hear them when they talked. He could hear every word she said to him. It was like being in a very deep, long sleep, though his eyes were sometimes open. His brain had gone into a kind of loop and for the moment, for Ben, everything around him was like being underwater. He could hear and sense things, but it all felt far away.
Nonna stood in the doorway to the kitchen, holding the phone in her hand. Mireya realized it had gotten dark.
“Your mom’s meeting went late,” she said.
“Mom’s meetings always go late,” Mireya said, and mashed her fork into her pudding.
“She asked if you did your homework?”
“There was just algebra,” Mireya said, dismantling the Tower of Babel she had made of her uneaten food. She separated the mighty edifice into separate ruins, the elbows of a five-pointed star. All of her algebraic equations had turned into waterlife: clumps of seaweed, curving starfish, sea horses with long eyelashes and coy spiraled tails. The borders of her math books waved with bubbles. Mireya liked them better that way.
“The principal wants to meet with your parents,” Nonna said. “Were there problems at school today?”
She wavered in the doorway to the kitchen as though she were the housekeeper, the hired help. She wore her customary black sweater cardigan and a long dark skirt. A silver chain dangled from her eyeglasses, glinting against her silvered hair like large, erratic earrings.
“No,” Mireya said. “No problems. But I saw a boy get hurt on the basketball court today.”
Nonna pulled a long thread from her sweater and stared at it. “Your principal seems to think there are problems with the boys in your class.”
Mireya spooned a starpoint of pudding into her mouth and moved it over her back molars. “A ball hit him in the face. There was a lot of blood.”
Nonna looked at the mezuzah in the doorway, looked at the parquet floor. Mireya knew she was praying for strength, for guidance.
“Mrs. Ho says that you have difficulty paying attention in class.”
“Mrs. Ho,” Mireya said, “has difficulty being relevant.” She put the last of her pudding in her mouth and swallowed.
“They asked that I keep you home from school for the next two days.” Nonna held the phone before her with both hands, like she would hold her siddur. Something she knew what to do with, unlike her difficult grandchildren.
“I can’t possibly do that,” Mireya said, scraping clean her plate. “Tomorrow is our class spelling bee, and Monday is the school-wide one. I am going to win.”
Nonna looked at her as though she could see the traces of fish scales. Clearly she wished this was a problem Mireya’s mother would handle. The mother who would be home late from an office meeting and too tired to deal with anything beyond taking off her nylons and pulling back the covers of her bed.
“Isn’t it time you practiced your violin?” Nonna said.
Mireya brought her plate into the kitchen. “I will,” she said. “As soon as I finish the dishes.” She knew this was Nonna’s least favorite job. She brushed her grandmother’s hands as she reached to take the telephone. They felt dry and soft and nubbly, like rough wool.
“Who are you calling?” Nonna asked as Mireya ran water.
“The hospital,” Mireya said. “I want to talk to Ben.”
Nonna opened her mouth and no sound came out of it. Mireya thought suddenly that the whole kitchen might be underwater. The soft light from overhead fell in ripples, like a diffused light seen under the surface of the sea.
Ben understood, as she knew he would. He was glad she had defended him. When she described it to him, whispering over the phone so her father and Nonna could not overhear, she could tell Ben was imagining, with glee, the blood spurt that arced through the air after her hand encountered Jimmy Rosdale’s face. She imagined that the Ben inside his head received the news with a cocky gleam to his oak-brown eyes and a quick sweep of his arm as if throwing an imaginary baseball, the way Ben swept off all news he didn’t like. If Ben had not had the accident, if he had gone to the college their father picked out for him, everything would be different. She would not be able to talk to him like this.
Mireya still didn’t understand what the fights had been about, but they were always the same, and always bad. One night she curled up on his bed, against his leg as she always did, and he called her bug like he always did, but he read a comic instead of talking to her, and when she woke up later stiff and cramped she saw that in sleep he had pulled away from her and was sleeping on his side, one hand trailing on the floor, the lamp still burning.
Her mother saw her come out of his room and pressed her back as she guided Mireya to her own room and said, “You mustn’t be sleeping in Ben’s bed anymore, Mira, he’s too old for that,” and Mireya thought it funny that it was Ben, and not she, who should be too old for it; she was forever outgrowing things in those days. A year later he got his driver’s license and stopped communicating with his family altogether, but Mireya marked that moment—of waking up under the glaring lamp, sleep gluing her eyes and her hair sweaty and Ben’s body far away from her—as the moment she began to lose him.
Mrs. Ho was not pleased to see Mireya appear in class the next day. “I thought your grandmother said last evening that you didn’t feel well,” Mrs. Ho said, which Mireya understood as the lie that would have reached the ears of her parents.
She was tired of lying. “I feel very fit,” Mireya said. “I feel exuberant.”
At lunch Jimmy Rosdale leaned over her as she sat at the cafeteria table and dangled a forkful of limp and glossy green beans in front of her face. “No hanging around the court at recess, Traub,” he said. “I’ve already had my vegetables today.”
Inside her shoes Mireya felt her feet congealing. Her toes pressed together with sweat. It gave her the courage to look Jimmy Rosdale in the face. His eyes showed faint shadows of bruises. She had not quite broken his nose.
What would Ben do?
“You think my brother’s a vegetable, Roswell?” she said. “That’s what all your friends say about you.”
Jimmy Rosdale turned the color of the roses that Mireya’s mother grew in pots on their porch. The ringing bell signaled the end of lunch and the monitors came to the table, and Jimmy Rosdale could do nothing but glare before he walked away.
Mireya took a deep breath and walked to her classroom to study. Inside her shoes her toes stuck together, webbed and fortified. She sat for the spelling bee with her knees interlocked, as though her calves were bound together with cord. Every word stood out in her head, carved in letters of fire. When they were down to three contestants she started silently reciting the Shema, the first prayer she had learned as a child. And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart. Isabelle Hayes fumbled stationery and then it was two. They went back and forth for an hour, tireless, precise, and Mireya felt the sweat running between her legs, gluing her ankles. The lights in her classroom burned hot and bright and relentless. Sophia Murphy went down on the word excision and with the next randomly generated word, recalcitrant, Mireya won.
The sound came from far away, dangling in the air. In the soft currents of water surrounding her, the words were a quiet hum. Did fish sing to one another? Dolphins did. Mireya fanned her hands at her sides and the water moved around her, curving like a halo around her drifting head.
“Mireya!” A hand appeared in the dewy surface above her face, gripping her seaweed hair. Mireya sneezed water out of her nose as her mother yanked her head out of the bath.
“What are you doing?”
“Don’t!” Mireya grabbed at the bath towel wrapped around her hips.
“Why are you—Mira, you know we have to get going . . . we’re supposed to be at the hospital soon.” She looked at Mireya’s feet under the bathwater, wrapped in the towel like a mummy. The towel kept her heavy body anchored to the bottom. The last of the bath bubbles floated like a tiny raft over her former knees.
“I’m coming. I’ll be ready in a minute.” Mireya looked up at the face looking down at her. She could see where her mother’s penciled-in eyebrows had become smudged. “Just a minute,” she said again.
Her mother went to the medicine cabinet, opened the middle door. Mireya supposed she had not checked her cell phone messages yet.
“You can’t watch me,” Mireya said, pressing a hand to her thighs.
Mireya’s mother did not have Mrs. Ho’s smooth silken face or smooth-silk expressions. Her mother had a rake of deep lines across her forehead and small narrow lines running from nose to lips. One beautiful cluster of curls at her left temple never absorbed hair dye and remained a bright streak of silver, just like her own mother’s hair. Mireya hoped she would have her own silver hair one day. It would look lovely in the sea light, shimmering under a setting sun.
“Fine. You have five minutes to dry off and get ready.”
Mireya waited until the door was fully closed before she grasped the mummy wrap of her towel and began to unfold her fins.
“Economy.” Mireya spelled the letters out on Ben’s hand, squeezing each fingertip. Her spelling dictionary sat propped against Ben’s leg. He was in one of his sleeping periods, though sometimes when she squeezed his fingertips, she could get Ben to open his eyes. When he grimaced or smiled, what the doctor called involuntary responses, she knew he was responding to her. She raised their joined hands before his face and waved at him, but his eyes were closed, the lashes against his cheeks standing in points like the bristles of an anemone.
“Epitome,” Mireya said aloud. “Epithalamus.” She didn’t even know what an epithalamus was, but she heard the doctors use the word.
Under the cheese slice of the half-open doorway stood three sets of shoes: her mother’s brown heels, her father’s polished black oxfords, the scuffed brown loafers of Ben’s doctor. She wondered why they did not come into the room.
“Persistent vegetative state,” the doctor said. Mireya caught a slip of the words, a scent floating past, intangible. “Chance of recovery . . .” His voice went into some depth beyond Mireya’s hearing.
“Ethereal,” Mireya spelled with a whisper, sliding each of her brother’s fingers across her palms.
“Drug therapy?” her father said in a short burst of air.
“. . . functionality greatly reduced.” The doctor’s words drifted slowly past. The click of padded shoes surfaced through the sussuration of their quiet voices. “Among the possible negative effects . . . ”
Mireya’s nose itched suddenly, sharply, as if she smelled fresh paint. She didn’t want to release Ben’s hand. She looked out the window at the leaves fringing the sky, flat as a pressed canvas. Her people had a prayer and a blessing for everything, and the words rolled in her mind like an ocean wave. Blessed is this day and He who created it. How beautiful it is.
“Exalted,” Mireya spelled out on Ben’s hand. Just like Anne Sullivan teaching Helen Keller in the book they had read at school. The word made the kaddish prayer came to mind, but she was afraid to recite it because it was also the mourning prayer and Ben might think it meant something. She would never give up on Ben.
“I’ve heard of cases of full recovery after a year,” came her mother’s crisp voice, like the principal calling the words of the spelling bee that would be held the next day.
“Excision.” Mireya moved to the next word on her list. “Sophia Murphy screwed that up today. Can you believe that, Ben?”
“Severe damage,” came the doctor’s quiet words, a lap of sound in the long low mutter of their voices. “ . . . disability . . . brain death.”
She heard her mother’s indrawn breath, then a high, thin tone she had never heard in her mother’s voice. “End support? Malachi, you can’t . . .”
The fringe of trees against the sky looked like a beaded skirt, like the hairs of an arm, like the thin floating fingers of seaweed. Any moment Mireya expected to see a fat otter go rolling through the sky, belly turned up to the heavens, to the stars hidden behind the blue. All this time she had thought her Creator above her and here He was in the white within-spaces she had to look so closely to see. Extolled and honored, elevated and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He. “E-x-t-o-l,” she whispered, threading her fingers through Ben’s.
She turned her eyes toward the window. It was not evolution but decay that made sense to her. That empty building across the parking lot, the old movie theater: eventually it would all return to the earth. The concrete wall would break apart, the glass would shiver and the steel corrode; the insulation would dissolve, the asphalt turn to powder and then dust, and how many years before this bizarre and symmetrical growth became a ruin, as ruined as Masada, as ruined as Temple Mount. Someday it would matter simply because it was old, though now it stood empty because a better cinema had come along, a cinema with more screens, and brighter lights, and soft carpet, and nobody knew what to do with what was left sitting there, abandoned. Too much effort to restore or transform it, too much expense to tear down. So much matter clumped together, so much energy compressed into a silent, still, abandoned space. And someday, after it became a ruin, someone else would wander through it and see what had existed: the cozy theater with its antique lights and painted walls, the velvet curtain before the cracked screen, the orchestra section, the wooden stage. To them, this ruined thing would be beautiful.
She’d been speaking aloud and hadn’t realized it. She looked at Ben to find his eyes open. The doctor said he understood nothing, but Mireya knew. He’d heard outside the door. His eyes focused on her, trusting, lost.
“Persistent,” she spelled out on Ben’s hand. The doctor’s loafers left. Her mother’s shoes stood close to her father’s, but Mireya heard no more voices.
“I’m going to win on Monday,” she whispered to him. “I’m keeping up my end, okay?”
Night descended over the parking lot, a purple dusk shading its way to dark. Mireya watched the pine trees tossing their heads, sniffing the cooling breeze. Blessed be the night, and He who created it. How beautiful it is.
“It’s all right, Ben,” she told him. “I’ve got this. It’s all going to be okay.”
Ben closed his eyes and the oxygen tube hissed. It sounded like the rhythm of waves. Her legs felt dry and her knees hurt and her cheeks felt odd, sticky. She draped her legs over the side of the armchair and put a hand on Ben’s ankle to hold him. Soon it would be complete. The last of the land Mireya would disappear and she would be transformed. She would have the body of a silvery fish and she would dive into that spirit sea, into that realm that had no limit. She would find Ben, wherever he was in that long dark tunnel he was trapped in, and she would pull him free to the open sea, to where the bottom fell away and there was only the ocean where the waves went on forever, scintillating, illuminated, coruscating with a thousand million points of light, and they would swim together into that place that was pure and perfect and whole.
Misty Urban is the author of two collections of short fiction: A LESSON IN MANNERS, which won the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award (Snake Nation Press, 2016), and THE NECESSARIES, short-listed for the Indie Star Book Award (Paradisiac Publishing, 2018). She also publishes medieval scholarship and co-edited a volume of essays, MELUSINE'S FOOTPRINT, on the medieval fairy Melusine. She holds an MFA in fiction and Ph.D. in medieval literature from Cornell University, and currently teaches writing at Muscatine Community College and curates femmeliterate.net, a website devoted to literary feminism and women in/and/of books.