There’s an unnamed beast
waiting at your front doorstep;
There’s an unnamed beast
There’s an unnamed beast
waiting at your front doorstep;
The bumblebees are clapping
For they did not have to go
And the butterflies are laughing
Because they spent all of their dough
The raspberries stay so skinny
All bundled up in lies
The cherries lack good spelling
“Vodka lemonade!” they cry
The loveseats come with crooked teeth
To nibble on your heels
While the strollers irk the innocent
Rolling by on stubborn wheels
Your eyes twist up your mindful face
In a funny, frittered way
And your tongue trips over wedding cake
Every second, song-filled day
Adam and Ramata broke from each other’s heated gaze and turned towards the stage. The curtain had parted a tiny bit and, right at the bottom, a tiny Turtle poked its tiny head through the tiny crack.
“Children, please, keep it down. Do you want all of Ocean to be privy to your ridiculous bickering?”
Ramata pushed Adam at his shoulder and whispered, “Told you.”
He turned to give a mean look but saw that Ramata was smiling. He smiled back. “Yeah, yeah, you told me.” The three swam over to the open curtain.
Sometimes, a Turtle Finds You
The Turtle on the stage in between the red curtains’ gap was brown and green and oh-so-small.
“I thought you’d be bigger,” Adam said.
“And that, brilliant one, is what you get for thinking,” said the Turtle while slowly taking its time to look at each of them. “You three certainly make a ruckus. You do know that sharks hunt these waters?”
Adam put what was left of his foot in front of him and stuck the mangled mess into the Turtle’s face. The Turtle turned its head and frowned. “Then why must you yell?”
Adam explained, “I didn’t think you were here and I was beginning to get angry.”
“And mean,” added Ramata.
“Well, I heard every moment, loud and clear.”
“You were here and you didn’t say anything?” said Adam, anger again threatening to overtake him.
“Where else would I be? You kept talking. I kept listening. Interrupting another’s conversation quite rude and the like.” The little Turtle, no bigger than Adam’s hand, crawled out from behind the curtains and swam up to look Adam in the face. “Now, you must answer me in haste for I need to surface for a long, long breath. Why are you here?”
Boldly presented with THE question and being on the spot to answer, Adam drew a blank. He looked at the little creature in front of him but was unable to say a single word.
“Speak, child, or you will surely have cause to scream and yell about being alone with no Turtle around. Why…are you here?”
There is a black glove
and there is your red heart.
The black glove covers
a thin, pale hand.
And there is your red heart.
In the cold, dry palm
of that thin, pale hand
covered by the black glove,
there is your red heart.
And your red heart beats
like it wants to beat forever
like it don’t know how to quit
like it cannot give in
until, of course, it does,
like all red hearts do,
especially so exposed
by the cold, dry palm
of a thin, pale hand
covered by a black glove.
“Were there many of these ships?” asked Ramata.
Spot spoke up . “This isn’t the first floater I’ve seen. First one I’ve ever been in though.”
“Ramata, what are we waiting for?” Adam tried to bring them back to their point for being there in the first place.
“Were there many of these ships?” Ramata asked again.
“Oh, jeez, I dunno,” Adam replied, annoyed. “A hundred maybe?”
Adam noticed a hint of uncertainty in Ramata’s voice. “What, Ramata? What is it?”
“It’s just…well, I thought…I hoped this was the only ship.”
“Um, what if a Turtle isn’t in this one?”
“You don’t know if there is a Turtle is in this ship? You brought us here to see a Turtle, right?”
“Well, maybe it doesn’t live here, and goes from floater to floater – if there were so many of them. Maybe that’s how Turtles stay hidden, keep their bubbles of mystery around them, you know? Or maybe Turtles just get tired of the same old floaters all the time and go to new ones, looking for new things.”
Adam’s face turned pink then red. The ocean water flushed cool against his warm, angry face.
Spot warned, “Don’t yell, Adam.”
“I’m not going to yell,” Adam said, his voice rising anyway. He turned that voice towards Ramata. “Where’s the Turtle, Ramata? You brought us all the way out here. My foot is ruined! And I still don’t see anyone or anything that can help me find land!” He swam over and got in Ramata’s face. “Where’s the Turtle?!”
Adam grabbed Ramata by the shoulders. Ramata turned and bit his fingers. “Don’t you ever do that to me!” The water-folk swam away. “I didn’t guarantee you anything. How could I?”
“Children,” came a voice from behind them.
“Shut up, Spot!” both of them yelled out, still glaring at each other.
“Uh, that wasn’t me,” said Spot from above them. “Look. There on stage.”
The future holds the future
And the past repeats the past
And what’s happening now happens forever
And my heart only flutters every time I blink my eyes
And fetch a glitched-out glimpse
Of an eternal office building
Where we’ve sat in grey-walled graves
Speaking spells of acronyms
That make some ones a million dollars
That make some ones more unlike us
That make some ones forget
That the future holds the future
And that the past repeats the past
And that it all occurs forever
And that amen means so be it
And so we say amen to that
“What are we doing here, Ramata?”
“I told you, Adam. We’re-”
“We’re waiting, we’re waiting. Well, what’re we waiting for? That’s what I wanna know! There’s nothing here but us and those sharks outside!”
“Who, if you don’t quiet down, will hear you, Adam. Sshh. Remember how I first found you in Ocean?” Spot said.
Adam thought back to what seemed like years ago. He replied, much more quietly, “Yes. I remember.” The sharks were the last things he wanted around. His foot hurt so bad it was all he could do to not complain about it. “But, look, we’re just sitting here doing nothing.” He clenched his teeth and let the words struggle to get out from between them. “Ugh. I’m sick of waiting.”
Ramata looked all around the theater, confused yet interested.
“Adam, what was this floater?”
“This ship, yes, this room, this thing. What did humans do here?”
“Well, people would pay to get on this ship and travel on top of Ocean. We called it ‘going on a cruise.’”
“On the water?!” Spot blurted. “You never went in the water?”
“Oh sure. At the beaches, or in pools – but never this far under and never for very long. Some people did, I guess, but not as many as took cruises.”
“So, they cruised on the water, then what?”
“Then, whatever the wanted, I guess. Play games, lay out in the sun, watch people perform in rooms like this. Anything but work.”
“But somebody worked here, right? I mean, somebody had to guide the ship. And cook? And clean?”
“Oh, sure, a whole crew of people ran the ships.”
“So, what did those people do when they didn’t want to work?”
Hmm…I dunno, take a train ride maybe?”
“What’s a train?” Spot asked.
Think of it like a ship on land.”
“Not too humans. We like to take time off doing what we do every day to try out new things.”
“But why take a land ship if you worked all day on a water ship?”
Adam didn’t have an answer.
I thought it was a good plan
I only wore your undies once
Yes, the aliens exist
I needed much more help
I never liked your taste in movies
I never slept when you weren’t there
I kept a secret secret diary
I often peed in the shower
In the Woods was where they found me
I believed your good intentions
I know you weren’t all that crazy
You had it rough when you were younger
I know we both wanted a safe dream
In the Fall the leaves won’t hide you
In the Spring the flowers whisper
In the Winter cold toes bite you
In the Summer hours blister
And this is how a safe dream ends
Ramata was out the door without a word. The water-folk swam along one of the ship’s decks and followed it to a large opening into the ship’s interior. Ramata swam into the ship and and down three flights of a wide stairwell. Adam and Spot followed close behind the water-folk. All were nervous and silent, wary of the sharks. The interior of the ship was grim and dark; precious little light came through from above.
“Get in close. Don’t lose me.”
“Do you know where you’re going?” whispered Spot.
“Well, I know where I’ve been and where I saw the Turtle the last time. Now be quiet.”
Ramata led them down one more flight of stairs to swim in front of a pair of brass-handled, double wide, swinging doors.
Spot whispered, “What’s in there?”
“Soon, we’ll be.”
“Is that where the Turtle is?”
“I hope so,” Ramata said and pushed the doors open.
Inside the room Adam saw row upon row of chairs covered with torn, red fabric from which leaked bundles of dull, cream-colored and rotting padding. The rows sloped downward and at the bottom of the room they saw an elevated wooden platform. This used to be one of the ship’s theaters. The curtains that once covered the stage now hung in red, ragged strips, rotting like the chairs. The stage itself was riddled with holes and cracks. Adam wondered how long the ship had been under water.
“So now what?” he asked the other two.
“Well, I don’t know. Wait, I guess.”
“You don’t-. Spot, Ramata doesn’t know. All this way and Ramata doesn’t know what’s next…,” Adam shrugged his shoulders and swam down into a row of seats. He found one that was still mostly upholstered and tried to sit down in it despite his constricting swim suit. Spot swam up to the top of the room and back down again. Ramata moved to one corner of the theater and stayed there, quiet. No one talked. Adam sat in his seat, looked at the stage, and tried to imagine the shows that once graced it. He dreamed up dance numbers, magic acts, and smile-soaked songs. After a while, the noise in his head became overwhelmed by the lonely silence around him.
Should You Ever Go Looking for a Turtle…
Adam winced when Ramata touched his foot. “Ow!”
“It’s going to hurt! Be still.”
“How bad is it?”
“I’ll tell you later. Hold your breath,” Ramata said. They took a piece of seaweed from a belt pouch and tied it around the wound, cinching it tight. “This should stop the bleeding, but it’s going to hurt for a long while. Not much I can do about that.”
Tears welled again in Adam’s eyes as he contorted his body around in an attempt to see the shark bite. “This suit is a pain sometimes.” He gave up to rest and floated down to the floor of the room.
“I am so glad to see you two.”
“We didn’t realize we’d lost you until we got to the ship,” Ramata said. The water-folk swam about the room swishing the water as much as possible. “I’m trying to get rid of this blood,” Ramata replied to quizzical looks from Adam and Spot.
“We turned around, Adam, and no you! What happened?”
Adam looked at Spot. “You went too fast, I guess. You went too fast and didn’t wait.”
“But we agreed to keep at it until we arrived.”
“You’re here now, Adam,” Ramata reminded him.
“I know, I know. It’s not your fault. I’m scared, that’s all.”
“The good thing is: this is where we need to be.”
“This is it. The Turtle is here. Well, not here, in this room, but in this ship. We just have to find it.”
“Ramata, this ship is huge,” argued Spot. “How’re we supposed to find the Turtle?”
Ramata opened the door a crack and stuck their head partway out. “We start by looking,” they whispered. “Looks clear for now. Adam, can you swim?”
“I don’t know. Spot, is my foot still bleeding?”
“Umm…looks all right. Ramata, are you sure those sharks are gone?”
“No, but they’re not right outside anymore, slamming against the door. And that’s about the best we can hope for. Adam, if you can swim, we should go.”
“I can try.”