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Apr 27 2013

Saturday Storytime: The Siren

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam has reviewed more stories than she’s published, but I’m not sure that will continue to be the case for long.

The song came again at midnight; it seeped in through the windows of Jen’s room and filled the pillow beneath her head with hot air. She woke. The trance of the song had little hold. Now it only reminded Jen of Mina’s face marred by tears, bloated and red.

She followed the song to the pool. Mina stood at its edge. At first Jen thought she was alone. Then she saw the chaos of bubbles breaking the still pool surface. Her mother. Jen dove.

Under the water Jen made out the form of her mother’s body, the hair around her head an underwater mane. She was smiling. Jen hadn’t seen her mother look so serene for years, not since the news of Jen’s father’s death, delivered to them at three in the afternoon by an officer at their door: out boating by himself, unsure of the nature of the accident, and was he in any way unhappy with his life? Not that we know of, Jen had said. Her mother stood silent in the background.

Part of Jen didn’t want to disturb her mother, but then the other part of her, the part that wouldn’t know what to do with such a huge home and no family to fill it, grabbed hold of her waist. In the water Sam was light, but once they broke the surface Jen found herself straining against the song; her arms felt as though they might break, but she was able to heave Sam from the water and lay her limp body on the concrete.

Jen didn’t know CPR, but she thought she could imitate what she’d seen in the movies. Her interlaced hands placed on her mother’s chest, she pumped like her hands were a heart all their own, once, twice. She remembered the lips, that she should breathe into her mother’s lips, so she leaned down and breathed a breath into her. Sam reeked of chlorine.

“Stop. You’ll hurt her.” Mina touched Jen’s head, the hair hanging like seaweed. “Let me.”

Mina tilted Sam’s head up with her fingers. She placed her lips over Sam’s and sang into her mouth. Jen pumped. She felt her mother’s body tremor, a shiver that traveled through her skin and up her neck and into her eyes. Finally she coughed the water from her lungs, and Jen rested her hand on Sam’s forehead. Mina scurried to the side, on her face a look of fright, like she didn’t know what she’d done.

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