Saturday, April 16, 2011



At night, she imagined the water in the pipes, an invisible liquid intelligence snaking around the house. What did it know? What would happen in this world?

Then she worried about the dripping, the incessant liquid swarm, falling drop by drop from the tap into the sink.

All week, things were not certain. The ground had trembled three times and the house had shaken.
Early morning she went outside and stood under the elm tree, looking away from the house. There was a faint pink colour to the sky. Birds were finishing up their songs. The air was warm with a cold lining. Or chill with veins of warmth. Somewhere, there must be squirrels. And worms. The ground was always squirming, crowded, bustling. Though you didn’t always know it.

Then the sound like the sudden deflation of something vast. The last sigh of a whale the moment before it sets out to do something which it knows it will regret. The sigh and then the great tail propels the whale forward.
Windows shattered. Water burst from the house. An exploding lake. An escaping ocean. It swept over the lawn and the ground disappeared. She was taken in its terrible hands, the terrible ecstasy of being swept away.

The people, the animals, the houses and cars. An immersion in the tide of memory and thought.  Why this chaos and loss? the water wondered. The washed-away villages, the broken land.
What is the world trying to say? the water thought. I have tried but I cannot understand though I have my rivers, my rain, my oceans, glasses of water, deep lakes, puddles, and fogs.

The woman was still being washed across what once were fields and highways. What once might have been schools or discount malls. She knew the water was scared as if it were a small child that had waded too far into the sea. 

“Do not worry,” she said to the water. “Do not worry and never turn your back.”  


sandra said...

I like the idea of a sinister super- intelligence flowing through the house in the pipes. There seems a kind of balance in the wave of Japan, considering the radiation now washed into the water. Cruel, sinister. I think water is intelligence, but for it to think humanoid or form word-thoughts sounds a bit like a children's tale?

gary barwin said...

Thanks, Cz/S&ra,

I appreciate your comments.

I was thinking of fairy stories / folk tales which use magic realism. And, now that I think about it, I remember a Japanese tale where a wave (or the tide?) is a character in the story and the villagers have to appease it. They talk to it and it talks to them. I like the matter-of-factness of these stories, how the exigencies of the world are addressed straightforwardly, but yet the psychological experiences of its characters are made tangible or corporeal through such 'magic realist' devices as this kind of extreme personification. (BTW, I've made a small change to the ending of the story, which I think makes a difference.) Again, thanks for reading & for commenting.