Water Ghosts

I was only five when Dad told me I had died.

“You drowned,” he said. “I’m so sorry.” His hands disappeared into the soapy water and he lifted me from the tub.

Standing on the bath mat, dripping, I tried to feel every part of my body to see if it hurt. I wiggled my toes. I blinked my eyes. Drops fell from my pruned fingers. A bubbly island of soap floated across the tub. I began to cry.

Dad wrapped me in a towel. The flesh around his eyes was swollen and red. He sat on the wet bath mat and held me on his lap. Light snow fell outside the bathroom window. Flakes stuck to the steamy glass, melted, and became tiny rivers. The sign for the old quarry glowed in the distant shadow of the mountain.

“It’s okay,” he said. “It didn’t hurt.” He brushed the tears from my cheek with the rough pad of his thumb.

I nodded.

“You’ll never have to go to school. Never have to work. You’ll stay here, with me.” Behind him, the silver guts of the sink curled into the wall. Gray-green mold grew in the joints of the pipes.

I pressed my face into the ink-smelling flannel of his faded shirt and wiped my nose.

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