by Kathryn Aldridge-Morris
When the nurse returns, he’s in a wetsuit, an oxygen tank strapped to his back, clipboard in his hands, says he’s a mental health nurse and you think ‘Sure!’ as the carapace of a sea turtle grows from his ribs and he shakes seaweed from your files and that thing you’re doing with your arms? you think it’s swimming but it’s the start of drowning and knowing the bottom of the seabed smells of hospital linoleum you try to catch hold of something to help you float, like a child’s armband left behind in the sand, or a mantra, an inflatable mantra: she sells seashells on the seashore—nice—and the nurse seems pleased with you, Keep going, he says, and you don’t let yourself look at the orange windsock behind his head, you focus on the slow tide of words which lap across the lines on his notebook, a memory sunk within you scratching its way out through his pen: Sean’s jacket puffed up in the water; Scratch Scratch, says his pen, then he tells you, It only takes a half pint of seawater to enter the lungs to start drowning, and you look at the plastic cup he’s handing you – that water is not from the cooler, is it? it’s from the fish tank on the side, the fish tank full of dogfish, stingrays, and the red rubber sandal of a six-year-old boy, but you drink it because if you don’t, it’ll go down in a tick box marked paranoia and that’s not a tick box you can swim in, and swimming’s what you need to do right now, swim, out to the buoy where you see your son waving, swim for god’s sake, move your limbs—he needs you.
About the Author
Kathryn Aldridge-Morris is a flash fiction writer with work forthcoming or in Flash Frog, Bending Genres, Emerge, Janus Literary, Ellipsis Zine, The Phare and others. She has stories in seven anthologies, including And if that Mockingbird Don’t Sing. She lives in Bristol, UK, and tweets @kazbarwrites