Anna Karina floats in the ocean, the shore just in view over a rip-curl. She heard someone say once that sinking is the quiet cousin of freefall. This seems wrong, thinks Anna Karina now, treading, tiring, her chin turned up to keep from dipping under. In freefall you might hear the swirl of air in the saucer of your ears, and maybe you’re singing, but it’s basically quiet—swish and done. Here, now, scissor-kicking at jellyfish, the sinking is blaring. The slush-slap of the tide like a slow-clap, the churning spiral of whales in schools, the grinding drag of clouds across sky, and a barracuda. It’s all so thunder-clatter-deafening that Anna Karina doesn’t even hear herself calling for help.
Anna Karina swam out this far on a dare. The other girls said, For such a high-horse famous actress, you sure know how to act like a slab of driftwood. Anna Karina is not the famous actress, first name: Anna, last name: Karina. Anna Karina is first name: Anna Karina. Her parents claim she’s not named after anyone. The other girls are sixteen, like her, and its 2015 and they have no business knowing who old Anna Karina the actress even is. It wasn’t exactly a dare.
Anna Karina can hardly see beyond her toes through the green fog, but the barracuda scraped past her thigh a few minutes ago. It was silver and long and thick as her leg. The bracelet of a sea monster, she thought.
The actress Anna Karina wasn’t always an actress. Anna Karina looked her up. She’d run away from foster homes over and over, but always came back, like a tide.
Now, in the water, Anna Karina is like a slab of driftwood. The girls had meant boring and flat as a board, but here, sloshing against the waves, Anna Karina hopes maybe she’s smoothing her splinters. Maybe, she thinks, not too long from now she’ll wash ashore all light and rounded like a buoyant stone and be worthy of someone’s mantle. If you hold her the right way maybe she’ll resemble a mallard. If you squint, she might even have a face.
Anna Karina’s arms itch. She can’t see or feel her toes and she wonders if maybe the barracuda snatched them while she was thinking. How long has it been? Hours? Days? She’s sinking so loud now she hardly hears the motor.
David Joseph lives in Philadelphia with his wife. He served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Susquehanna Review for its 2012 and 2013 issues. His fiction has appeared in Hobart, Big Lucks, and the W.W. Norton anthology, Hint Fiction. David’s story “Overcast” was selected as winner of the 2015 Highlander Fiction Award at Revolution John Magazine. Connect with him on Twitter: @dfhjoseph