The Diver’s Song (A Strange Paraphernalia)

The diver disappears into the water, as though descending into the iris of an eye. A chorus of mourners stands on the dock watching, holding poppies and signs with names on them, wearing surgical masks, bowing their heads. Mothers in the crowd throw paper boats into the water. In the evenings, they light them on fire and set them out on the ocean, each burning vessel an elegy to someone lost in the wreck. Caskets piled with flowers lie side by side in the town hall. A wall of faces is stacked above them, portraits of young boys wearing glasses and smiling collegiality, as the principal hangs from a noose in front of the school, overcome with the guilt of having survived his pupils. The ship went down several days ago, a few hundred students emptying from its cargo in the night. Below the water it is silent. There is no inverted world as children have imagined, only darkness and floating matter. The three-legged chaise lounge hovers at the end of the seaweed tentacle. The fake squid poses dead, surrounded by harpoons. The whale passes incognito from the eyes of pursuers above. Years from now there will be parades in the town square on feast days, commemorating the diver’s mission. An enormous marionette will be made in his image, operated by villagers swinging from ropes. He will look like a giant wooden astronaut. Dangling from a crane over the water, his sad, gaunt face will
glimpse out from the antiquated circular windows of his helmet, as though he has been somewhere as speechless as the stars. But now, as he swims up to the vessel to unload his equipment, the diver knows none of this. He does not know that he will survive but a few minutes more, just long enough to be struck by one of his own instruments, as a beautiful fish erupts from an open cavity in the side of the sunken ship. In the city above him, a herd of teenage girls cross the street dressed in long black caftans and colorful headscarves, gossiping like parrots despite their shrouds, spaghetti straps and punk jewelry glinting beneath each abyss of shapeless cloth. A young woman in a scant yellow dress saunters down the street beside them. As she walks over a vent, her dress blows over her head. It should be a photograph but no one is there to take it. In the distance, a single boat is left in the fleet of burning paper. It washes up to a ring of children in garish swimming costumes, digging on the beach. They have seen many of its kind over the passing week. They know now that it is an omen, released into the water when language is gone from bodies.

A Flash Fiction Contest Winner

Kyra Simone

Kyra Simone is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Conjunctions, Black Clock, The Brooklyn Rail, Cleaver Magazine, Little Star, Prelude, Vestiges, and The Best American Experimental Writing Anthology, among other journals. Originally from Los Angeles, she is a member of the publishing collective at Ugly Duckling Presse, and she works as an associate editor at Zone Books.

Ary Renan

"The Diver (The Coral Fisherman)," 1882. Via Wikimedia Commons.