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The Myth of Drowning

By
May 23, 2006

“Are you sleeping?” he said.

“Are you?” she said.

“I guess,” he said.

“What are you thinking?”

“Nothing,” she said.

“Or nothing you want to say,” he said.

“I didn’t say—”

“Listen—”

“Goodnight,” she said.

“Wait,” he said.

“Don’t go to sleep angry.”

“Who’s angry?”

“Or cross,” he said.

“Not cross,” she said.

“What now?” he said.

“What on earth is wrong now?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing. You know what I think?”

“No, what do you think?”

“Forget it,” he said.

“No, tell me,” she said.

“Please,” she said.

“I’m thinking. That story you told”

“Which?” she said.

“What’s that?”

“The wind,” he said.

“I know,” she said.

“The woman?”

“What woman?”

“The lake,” he said.

“The woman on the lake.”

“The river?”

“The river. I guess it was the river. The woman who drowned.”

“I’m beat,” she said.

“Who was she?”

“No one.”

“Everyone is someone.”

“Okay, someone. But no one we knew. A story my mother told,” she said.

“You sure?” he said.

“I’m sure,” she said.

“I think so.”

“Oh,” he said.

“Still—”

“What made you think of that?” she said.

“Just” he said.

“Shhh,” she said.

“What is it?”

“The children?”

“The children are sleeping.”

“But—” she said.

“Don’t change the subject.”

“It’s late,” she said.

“This house,” she said.

“It moves in the night.”

“You mean it creaks,” he said.

“It spooks me.”

“Nothing but the wind. The woman,” he said.

“What of her?” she said.

“How was it that she drowned?”

“Who knows,” she said.

“She couldn’t swim. Or cramps. Maybe undertow. The undertow was wicked.”

“You know what I mean.”

“No, what do you mean?”

“I mean people were there,” he said.

“That’s how you told it. A crowd on the shore.”

“That’s what the myth is: Drowning is noisy. It isn’t,” she said.

“It isn’t,” she said.

“I heard you the first time.”

“Tired, I said.”

“Broad daylight,” he said.

“And shallow,” he said.

“No one could see her?”

“No one could see her distress,” she said.

“They looked too late. Or else they didn’t look.”

“I love you,” he said.

“Okay,” she said.

“What?” he said.

“Okay,” she said.

“Me too,” she said.

“Goodnight,” she said.

“Listen, I’m sleeping.”

“You are?” he said.

“I am,” she said.

“I’m going down.”

Dawn Raffel is the author of a novel, Carrying the Body, and a story collection, In the Year of Long Division.

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