Clama a Dios

House at night is quiet despite the insects and bird cries and creatures. Floating in liquid. As if the house were sloshing around. A container in which fluid was sloshing. Tidal house. House waves. Amniotic. We cling. We root. We tumble. The sweet gum tree has a greater tolerance for salt than the oak and other hardwoods, and there’s the loblolly pine, fast-growing and less susceptible to drought. The house stretches, breathes, sweats. Blood fills the little cracks, house blood, composed of the dreams of everyone who has ever been inside.

Earth is a girl in a short dress. Earth is a girl in trouble. Earth is a girl dreaming of a girl in a short dress in trouble.

“Dad brought home a beagle, Mom.”

Say you’re a tree with waterfront property, okay, minding your business the way trees do, connected insofar as your roots travel, leafing as needed, barked and bathed in sunlight or rain, day and night, no different than the rest of us on this spin-cycle planet. There are pockets and divots and crevices. Everything is shiny or jagged or broken or rough. There are dark places where something might lurk. There are bright places where the light burns. Salinity is bad for trees.

“Can we keep it? Mom, I think we should keep it.”

Four homes and a commercial building, brick, that had hosted a variety of retail businesses over its hundred or so years, on Locking Lane. Some historic value but not enough to save them. DeFiore Contractors knocked them down, one, two, three. Salvaging what they could (which wasn’t much; some old sinks, copper pipes, wire, a few of the old doors; the bricks from the retailer). One house remained. It would stay, because, unlike the others, its owner was alive. Alice the town clerk who saved the last house was a recidivist smoker and could have lost thirty pounds. The double battle tore at her and made her cranky. But she had just returned from a satisfying lunch, and two half-cigarettes’ worth of smoke lingered in her hair. It would be a while before guilt and remorse set in. Guilt, remorse, and disappointment, in herself, her pitiful lack of resolve. She was in the mood to be helpful. In that mood, Alice was formidable.

Earth wakes up. Earth is uneasy now, trembling.

Sea level continues to rise at a rate of about one-eighth of an inch per year.

The apparatus is made of metal. Metal and pvc, which is a kind of hard, durable plastic. There are also plumbing parts, and electronics, which have to do with electricity and motion. The apparatus is not alive. The apparatus is here to serve a purpose.

“The beagle is panting.”

“A little.”

“Do you think he’s scared?”

“I don’t know. Maybe, a little.”

“Dad’s taking forever. I’m going to see.”

Describe an egg. Describe all the eggs. Describe any egg. A woman is born with all the eggs she’ll ever have.

Grandma suddenly told a story. “We were on a date. And the bridge. It was a drawbridge. That was about to open. It was snowing. Danny instead of stopping just as the what-is-it-called the blockade the thing that is supposed to prevent cars from passing goes down, he guns it and off we go over the bridge which had already begun opening and whomp”—she did a whomping smack on the table with her hand, rattling the dishes—“we landed on the other side. Fishtailed a little. It was snowing. Forecasts weren’t accurate back then.” “You told me to go,” Grandpa said, downing the last of his drink. Grandma went white. Down went the fork. Grandma said, “Yes, but why? Why did I do that?” “We were in love,” Grandpa said. Then he started coughing. Then it was night.

Tree, what do you wish for? We want that wish too.

Life is a mask we assume human form. Coldblooded doesn’t mean their blood is cold.

Water expands as it warms. Ice melts.

Where can a fella get a drink these days?

Earth is a boy in a short dress. Earth is a boy in trouble. Earth is a boy dreaming of a boy in a short dress in trouble. Earth is awake. Trembling. Is Earth a mountain?

Eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are near a coast. Oceanfront property is the dream scenario. Realtors claim this is true.

Hours before Great-Aunt Lillie died she asked for a cigarette. It had been thirty years since the last one and she was ninety-nine if she was a day. Oh god so good, she didn’t say, didn’t have to, you could see it in her eyes and the whoosh of that long hard suck of dirty air. Elena the hospital nurse climbed on a chair and unscrewed the smoke alarm, swathed in scrubs like an angel.

Living in a floating city feels a bit like being a soap bubble in a warm bathtub, or a little rowboat snug on its tether, or like tiptoeing on soft carpet. We rely on meclazine and ginger ale to counteract varying degrees of motion sickness but agree it’s far better than living in the regular old cities where basements flood, salt marshes turn to sand, and cars rust from the chassis up.

The floating city is home to a very small percentage of the overall population, including nonhuman animals, who seem to have adapted beautifully. We know how lucky we are but not why and there’s no one to ask. Maybe it doesn’t matter. We woke one day and there we were. First thing, we voted to keep the whereabouts of our floating city a secret. Really we had no choice. Even if you managed to find us, where in heaven’s name would we put you.

Sperm met egg. Knock knock. Who’s there. Me. Me who. Me I don’t know no one’s named me yet. Sperm penetrated egg wall. Wiggly ambassador to giant host, round as a planet. Knock knock. Who’s there. Tickled. Tickled who. Me, that tickled me. Sperm embedded, cozy as an indoor cat on a cold wet night. Set in motion, life began.

On the drive back from the funerals they get behind a line of vans each with a sticker that reads En Caso de Emergencia, Clama a Dios.” Why would they make a joke about that?” Sal says after they translate for her, indignant as fuck. “Maybe it’s not a joke,” Mom says.

Sources

As Sea Levels Rise, So Do Ghost Forests, Moises Velasquez-Manoff and Gabriella Demczuk, New York Times, 10/08/2019

NOAA. Is sea level rising? National Ocean Service website, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sealevel.html, 11/05/2020

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Author: Susan Tacent

Susan Tacent’s work appears or is forthcoming in Tin House Online, Michigan Quarterly Review, Blackbird, DIAGRAM, Slice Magazine, Coolest American Stories 2022, and elsewhere. In addition to teaching writing workshops for her local public library and Creature Conserve, a nonprofit that celebrates, studies, and protects animals and their environment by bringing artists, writers, and scientists together, she feels lucky to facilitate a lively assisted living book club, seven years strong now, where the participants’ collective age exceeds 900 years.

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