In 2009, one of the multi-talented members of our writing group organized a program called, “Inspired Words.” The idea was to use a piece of art in a local museum as the inspiration for our monthly writing prompt. We were also given the opportunity, along with the community at large, to read our results at the museum.
I wrote a flash fiction piece for the, “Crest of the Wave” segment. This the statue that was our focus –
This is what I read in front of a live, studio (okay, technically museum auditorium) audience –
Her family always called her special. It’s what you did, when your child was obviously not normal – as if the label could deny the reality. Her parents took her to all the specialists within two hours of their tiny hometown in the Midwest. They ran down the list of all the diseases with fancy initials but none of them seemed to fit. So they called her differently gifted and left it at that. She always seemed to be one step behind everyone else, her conversation just a second or two off.
When she was sixteen they went to visit relatives in the bustling fishing community of Gloucester MA. Her cousins had a house in the tiny little suburb of Magnolia, not too far from the beach. She’d never seen the ocean before. They arrived at night, and she could hear it calling her from the open windows in the room she shared with a girl cousin she’d never met before. The one who seemed scared to look at her, as if her giftedness were something contagious.
She woke early in the morning, and saw light dancing on the walls. Out the window, the water beckoned to her, so she tiptoed downstairs, past the closed doors of sleeping relatives, then ran barefoot, across the narrow road to the beach. She felt she couldn’t breathe with all the space and the enormity of the water. The waves played tag – dancing forward towards her feet, then at the last second, dashing away. They pleaded with her – come dance with us.
Knowing her mother would be upset if she ruined her best night dress, she pulled it off, not bothered by the thought that anyone might see her. She folded it carefully on a rock, then went to the water to dance. Her movements matched the tidal rhythms perfectly. She began to sing – each note being echoed by the crash of the waves or the rush of the ebbing waters.
She wanted to swim away, to try to reach the sparkling diamonds just out of reach, but each time she tried, the ocean gently pushed her back to the shore. “Not yet,” it whispered. “Someday you will come back. You are part of me, and when it is time you will come back to dance forever. But not today.”
Her mother saw her from the kitchen window, and raced to the beach with a huge towel and bigger admonishments. But it didn’t matter. She finally found where she belonged.