In March, in fifty degree weather, my friend convinces me to walk out across a frozen pond. He slams a log into it to show me it’s safe. He wants my help grabbing an old hockey puck. I walk across the pond, despite all the school videos showing us not to, and we both fall through. The water is only up to our chests. My friend’s mother screams at us for an hour when we get home, but I don’t get in trouble with my own parents. Two weeks later a girl from the grade below us drowns after falling through a different pond. My mother cries in her room with the door closed. That night, an animal leaves an eviscerated duck beside our porch.
In college three of us drive across the state to the beach, paying an unexpected thirty dollar toll, because my friend Ana has a crush on our friend Jeff who is at home for the summer. We go swimming even though the red flags are up. The waves are incredible, higher than I’ve ever seen. If we aren’t careful it is like belly flopping sideways each time they hit. Our friend Kim’s top keeps getting knocked off by the waves, but Ty, who years later we learn is gay, is the only one who sees it happen. That night we head back to Jeff’s house and he and Ana have a long talk in his room while the rest of us hang out on the back porch. A palmetto bug crawls across my hand and I try to be cool about it, but I end up crying a bit. Ty and Kim say it’s ok, it’s just a bug, but this only makes me cry more. I am older than them and graduating, and I know this is the last time we’ll all hang out together.
My babysitter when I am seven likes to make tea. I am obsessed with the scream of the kettle, the quickness of the manufactured cloud. Once, twenty minutes after her tea is done, I am patting my hands across the counter and stove. I did not realize the burner would still be hot, and I gasp suddenly in pain. The fear in my babysitter’s eyes makes me want to amplify my hurt, to wallow in a place where I, briefly, am more powerful than she is. She says she’s sorry, she’s sorry, she shouldn’t have made tea in the first place.
Glenn Shaheen is the author of the poetry collections Predatory (U of Pitt Press, 2011), and Energy Corridor (U of Pitt Press, 2016), the flash fiction chapbook Unchecked Savagery (Ricochet Editions, 2013) and most recently Carnivalia (Gold Wake Press, 2018). Individual pieces have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Ploughshares, The New Republic, and elsewhere. “Water in Its Three Forms” first appeared in Matchbook during February of 2017.
Look for new work from Glenn Shaheen in TLR: Chemistry, the all-poetry issue, available now.