Write It Poetry
Critic's Picks: FICTION

Of all the stories I've written, I believe Greeting Cards has had the most unique transformation. This work did not begin as a story, but rather first took shape as an imagery-intensive poem. I first wrote this poem, then entitled Down, near the end of my junior year, in response to a recurrent dream I had been having (similar to the one described in the story). As I read over the story now, more than a year after it was written, I can still vividly recall the emotions that I felt when writing this piece.

Editor's Comments:
Adam blends dream and reality in this short fictional piece, engaging the reader's with lucid descriptions of a fishing expedition. The level of detail in this story is one of its greatest strengths, transporting the reader to the open sea in a very short space.

Greeting Cards

By Adam Eaglin
age: 18

When I arrived at the dock that morning, the sunrise was wrapped in a wool coat of fog and all the seaside shacks, drawn in a dim light, stepped right out of my memory — frozen in the position as I had left them. Of course the bait shop was still there, looking more like a third-world shanty than a yuppie's ex-hobby. I went up to the side of it, and making sure no one was watching, I broke off a piece of flaking blue paint. Slipping it in my shirt pocket, I jogged off to find the boat.

Frothing with the current, waves tapped against the paper-thin metal, silently grinding at the paint and wearing away the bold "SS Hoffman" with each successive patter. I've always thought the sheer expanse of the ocean was enough to make anyone realize the truth of their own solitude, but fortunately I was not alone — a boatful of fishermen bustled around me. As we pulled out further, the waves grew stronger, and the lapping of the ocean nearly drowned out the sounds of the nets slicing through the water, pulling striped bass and albacore tuna to dinner table conclusions.

"Hey, how about some help over here," called Tahmos to another fisherman with that familiar easy drawl that glided like pale molasses to my ears. It was my first time out on the boat since the previous September, and I surely wasn't ready for the swell of sensations that returned to me like scorching sunlight to an opening eye. The taste of the salt in the wind made my temples pound achingly, and I rubbed my cheek against the cold rivets of the boat's side.

"You know, you really made a good choice," Tahmos said to me, never ceasing his labor. As he spoke, I watched the tendons in his wrists tighten and release in response to the weight of an extended net. "Times have been tough lately. Rebecca and I had to sell her mother's old silver that we promised we would never get rid of," he scowled, then repeated, "You made the right decision."

Nodding with a sympathetic smile, I was truly too somber to pay complete attention, or even give him my sincere commiseration for that matter. Now I think he might've found me to be cold and uncompassionate; perhaps I was.

With a lull in conversation, I diverted my attention from Tahmos back to the water — I loved the ocean and it's ever moving strength, how it held power over all five senses; and so the dreams disturbed me even more. For the past month and a half, every night, sometimes in a daydream, I would sputter awake, trying to cough up invisible water that wasn't in my lungs. I was sinking, sinking down to the deepest trench of the deepest sea, where the pressure snaps bones and fish eyes glow like sizzling coals. It was only a dream, and my sticky eyelids would pop open — yet, the residue of the dream would remain like a clammy coat of brine on my tongue, ears, and fingertips. Sometimes, I swear I could feel it eating through my thin skin, scalding me as the red summer sun.

"You alright over there?" Tahmos called sensitively, never ceasing the clockwork motions of his swooping arms.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

Waiting for me like a faithful terrier, my apartment crouched back in the city. I hadn't been gone for more than a couple of days, but occasionally images materialized in my head to remind me of missed comfort: pea-green walls, flannel sheets in desperate need of washing, or the shag carpeting that plastered a scowl to mother's face after each visit. But despite my settlement into the growling metal framework of the city, I was still painfully close to the shore. If I looked hard enough from my bathroom window, I could actually catch a glimpse of the Fisherman's Market at the end of the block, and I'd often imagine foolishly that those fish were wrenched from the seas by the rough hands of a man whose cancerous skin flaked off like the paint of my now sold shack and whose destitute career forced him to sell his wife's heirlooms. I imagined Tahmos, passionately netting hoards of fish, and then sending them off like greeting cards to the market by my apartment building, adorned with little neon scales screaming for my attention and haranguing me with pictures of spiraling conch shells. In the hands of burly men, these tuna and bass emanated a feeling of churning surf and rhythmic seawater that scuttled off to hide in the echo of my eardrums, piercing so deep that it gripped my subconscious with icy jaws and destroyed any pleasant dreams. I pictured Tahmos standing on the stern of his ship, staring off at the horizon, and smiling.

I imagined Tahmos; but not me.

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