The Waters Of Enoch the short story
The Waters of Enoch.
Fortune first linked my fate with water by casting my birth under the stars of Pisces. Often I've wondered if there's a special star for the mischievous one, the joker, the prankster, and whether that star also shone over my birth, for though I was born to a water sign, I spilled from the womb choking on and spitting the very fluid of my first world and mother.
I would like to think I felt safe and cared for in that first, floating world and that I myself had filled my mouth to drink a fond souvenir as I felt myself propelled toward my voyage through the birth canal. But perhaps I was never meant to be, perhaps, as my mother's body expelled me, the waters of her womb sought out my mouth to drown me? But born I was, and at odds with my ancestral element I went forth into the world.
My eyes opened among a family that lived in a white, wood-frame house on the edge of a valley, atop a cliff over a winding river. Maybe the river whispered at my window. Maybe in sleeping under the voice of the river, floating among its sound as I had floated once before, I felt drawn back to that watery world.
Conjecture has it that I only wanted to be with my brothers that day, but a deep intuition tells me I yearned to be close to the river. Knowing that wet ride from the womb had taken me from my floating world, perhaps I surmised the river could also take me yonder.
It is told how I tried to follow my brothers, but my brothers were all unaware and crossed the road to the log steps and went down into the park without me. Had I innocently wandered on legs not yet three years old to a precipice overlooking the river, or had I walked right toward its voice? Could I really expect to remember? Then again, how could I forget? Maybe some imaginings are deep memories that can't surface; memories that stir themselves into yearnings, yearnings best left as imagination.
I picture my young self, standing at the lip of the river, feeling the motion, the swelling currents, like a buzzing inside. I imagine myself remembering my lost, floating world, feeling reassured by it, and yearning to re-enter the water, but of course I can also imagine being afraid. I expect that is why I was crying; wanting to be with the water, yet being afraid, afraid to stay where I was, afraid to let the water sweep me away.
The tale tells that it was my father who found me and scaled the cliff, grasping, branch after branch, the thorn bushes that tore blood from his flesh, while I clung to him, cradled under one arm. It goes that I kept crying as he carried me up. I expect I was crying at being carried away from the water.
But carried away I was. My family soon moved from the river. Still, my tears had joined with the water, and water had flowed over me.
Going held the promise of adventure, or perhaps simply promise. My child’s eye knows a moment when I first conceived of just what this talk of moving foretold. The whole family is there on a hilltop, all our possessions gathered up inside a transport. My father, it seems was something of a conjurer. It was his way to take objects of base metals and immerse them in potions so they emerged transformed to the eye, all gleaming in silver and colours. For some reason, perhaps unexplained, we were to travel to a place he could better pursue these endeavors. It followed, to my thinking, that in this place were more powerful potions, and so the waters there must be magical. From the hilltop my eye gazed off as through mists, over the winding road, out toward this new, distant place that was said to lie near the states. Already, so young, I had gleaned some knowledge as to ‘the states’. My mother always was saying ‘You’re in a real state’, or ‘However did we end up in this state?’ and the states she spoke of were deemed unsuitable to say the least. As my family was picking up with everything we had, I felt certain these distant states were of a more favourable disposition, and so I looked toward them with wonder.
And different the place surely was. Immediately I longed for my river, the green treetops of the valley, even the thrilling cliff-face.
“A God-forsaken backwater, flatland hell hole” was the way my mother soon described it, which made no further sense at all. That the land was flat was plain enough, but there was no water out back to be seen. All that could be said to flow there were the grasses of the field and two, silver ribbons that stretched all across it atop a long mound of black rock.
It would seem my attempt to communicate with the river was misunderstood, or at very least unappreciated by the people in whose care fate had left me, for I was not to enjoy much freedom of movement for an intolerable long time, years in fact. Perhaps this explains why I have few memories of the house I was carried to, why I can’t describe being inside it. I can say there was a front door, which I think of as being in the middle, but I know there was a door at the side. It led into a kitchen, but I can’t picture the kitchen either. I don’t actually remember my room, but I think of it as being at the back of the house. I recall trains going by in the night, their dark, shuffling sound, like a big, metal wind rolling off somewhere. I’d never think of where to, and I didn’t think of where from, as if the trains only came into being as they clambered into my ears and drew me off in the night. My memories of that place reside only in the outside world I discovered just as soon as I was able
Under a yellow, summer sun I'd walk the dusty asphalt of that flatland town, pausing to poke at pliant bubbles in the tar-lines that criss-crossed the grey, asphalt streets. Picturing molten rivers seething beneath the earth's crust below my feet, I’d jump from slab to slab, before the plates could shift and tear apart like the streets of the lost city of Atlantis. As I drew near the outskirts of the sub-division, out by the abandoned orchards, I’d slip along like the Dark Crusader, trailing my cape behind me. Out there the lawns grew scorched and untended. Overhead, holes were cut in the blue of the sky by the blackened husks of dried frogs hanging from the hydro-lines, slung there by some wild boys I’d watch out to avoid as I made my way for the fields.
Out beyond the orchards, willow fronds waved along the flanks and curves of the creek, blowing high above sprays of red sumac, pale milkweed pods and thistles. Purple columbine, blue chicory stars and goldenrod. Devils' paintbrush threw orange explosions along the breeze. Iridescent beetles, grasshoppers and butterflies, clung to, hopped from, or floated over the swaying grasses, as I'd scout across the field. There were wetlands dotted with the green lily pads and in among them small things grew. Day by day little clouds of milky bubbles grew spots and the spots formed little, black creatures with tails. In time the tadpoles grew legs and turned green, lost their tails and turned into wee hoppers.
All along the creek I'd find dams other boys had built. Ramshackle walls of rocks and stones pulled from the muck of the bank, from the bed of the stream. Great, grassy clods of earth ripped from the fields would line the dam walls, striving to hold back the flow. I'd watch the water roil and curl around, under, over the rocks, licking away at the mud of the clods, until it could flow on past. The water would skim over a stone in a thin skin and slip along the bank to lick its way inside a hole where a rock had been, sliding down the moist wall to nestle and pool in the hollow, rising slowly, slowly, but rising all the way to the muddy brim to spill over and snake down the far side of the dam, back into the merging currents, to flow on down stream.
A stone at a time I'd take apart the walls, letting the water burst all it could. I'd cast the stones back to the fields, toss them into the deepest gullies of the channel, lay them, step after step, across to the far bank. Then I'd pick my boat from the elbow sticks and driftwood scattered along the shore and set it sailing out onto the waters. Bobbing and tilting, my boat drifted among islands and rode out the doldrums to shoot along narrows and down over rapids as I ran through grasses along the bank. A swirling eddy might entice and entrap us, but a thrown stone, like the fall of a meteor crashing into the sea, could raise a great wave to curl across the waters and free me from the vortex.
Even as a child I needed no one to tell me the human body is for the most part made of water, or the planet either. Whether I sat with these thoughts in deliberation does not matter, but I picture myself sitting, one hot, summer day in the shade of a broad-leaf maple, a plump, red grape displayed between my fingers. I can almost hear my thoughts, their gentle sympathy, as I compare my young life and body to that of the grape, as I peel its skin and squeeze its naked, vulnerable flesh between the small, pink tips of my fingers. Can you feel my thrill in the delicious instant when, holding the bunch of grapes by their twig of vine, I raise them to the sun and sense that we all, to the sun and stars, are like the swallowed grape to my thirst.
It seems a peculiar depth of intuition for one so young, but I was one who knew the river with uncommon intimacy, and the river, it is said, knows all. A little knowledge, it is also said, is a dangerous thing, but that, the river did not choose to tell me. There is a wide expanse between knowing and living blind, but either shore holds equal charm while one is swept up in the torrent and all the purchase one can aim for is more instants of up than down.
Soon enough I encountered the social world of school life and began my attempts to rend meaning from it. As my family had left all relations behind I mainly knew of other people only at a distance, and so assumed all people were as those I knew. I was not to be entirely disappointed and I was to discover remarkable surprises.
Feminine mystery was revealed to me in a schoolyard game of marbles. As we boys clambered around a heel-dug hole in the dirt, glass globes against our curled thumbs, I heard the clamour of girls’ voices singing out jumpsies and looked up at the whirl on the air. As the skipping ropes snap, snap, snapped on the blacktop I was drawn into the blur of the ropes. Within the wriggling colours I saw rolling waves and inside the waves, magically suspended, her shiny shoes flashing, hands floating, fingers gently flickering as if casting her levitation, what I’d thought before just a girl. I saw her jet hair tossing, the small teeth of her smile. As the other girls counted, higher and higher, she stayed floating and dancing and I felt as if lying out under the sun, eyes closed, as warm, red mandalas unfurled on my mind.
One recess me and a kid were involved in dealing for Dark Crusader cards. The girl came over, stood there looking at me, and said “I have candy.”
I was working my fast shuffle as he called “Got’m, got’m, need’m.”
“Would you like a candy?” she asked, her little eyes flashing.
“Sure,” I said. “Who doesn’t like candy?”
Delicately, one by one, she pulled from her pouch colourful little heart-shaped sweets, then read out what each one said.
“Icky,” she said, and handed it to the kid.
“Dreamboat,” she smiled, and gave it to me.
“Trouble” and “Dummy“ and “Sore Sport“ all went to the kid, but she kept smiling and blinking at me.
“How come you’re giving them all to him?” I said.
The girl scowled at me, closed her pouch tight, turned and walked away.
I found it all most inexplicable.
“Got’m, need’m, got’m, got’m,” I said, and then we got down to the real dealing.
The kid had ‘Dark Crusader vs. the Whirlpool.’ In deepest, black night the Crusader was caught in a raging, whirling eddy, grimacing but grasping an overhanging branch. I wanted the card for my own.
“Three cards or I keep it.”
His stakes were pretty high, but I had to have it, even at three cards to one. I held out for two doubles and a ‘Dead end for Dark Boy.’
Grace came to me in the form of Miss Johnson, delivered by the medium of crayons on thick, manila paper.
“Today class, we are going to draw pictures of our homes,” she said, handing out the wands of colour.
I began with the river, winding around a bend in weaving bands of blue, then the cliff in a few bold strokes of brown. Up above, and back a little, behind a green fringe of grass, the tops of two windows and the peak of a roof.
Miss Johnson lifted my drawing on the tips of her fingers and her smile curved up and shone.
"How very interesting, Enoch. See class, Enoch has shown how we live in a house, and our house lives in the world.”
I was considering just how to explain exactly, but then she opened her box of stars. Miss Johnson selected a beautiful gold star, touched it to her tongue, and placed the star on my picture.
As the class started singing the Kookaburra song, I secretly drew another; Miss Johnson with sweeping bobs of blonde hair, a curvy sweater and a beautiful, red smile. ‘My Dream Wife,’ I wrote out above her, then I slipped the drawing inside my desk.
One day I wandered, alone under the blue sky, out past the neighborhood streets, through the grasses of the field, drawn back toward the creek. I went poking along, kicking at stones, until I heard voices and laughter. Moving slowly, keeping myself hidden as I went, I came upon those thin, ragged kids, the frogers. With sharpened sticks they were hunting in among the cattails of the wetlands. I saw the old one lunge and thrust, then his dull face crawled with hiccuping spasms of mirth. He held his spear up, cackling as the two others fawned.
“Right through, right through,” the smallest one said, hopping and leaping about.
Clearly now, I saw his prize; impaled, one upon the other, a bright, young frog atop its mother. Did I cry out in anger or disgust? I can’t say I remember. I don’t recall. But soon they were upon me and I was thrown down on the bank. They broke strips from the willow and lashed me and lashed me.
Only dimly do I recall my watery walk out of the fields and streets. It seems dark, but surely it wasn’t. I stopped for a moment out front my house, stood there looking at the windows. Out back, in the distance, a train lay at rest and I went over the fence and toward it. One of the boxcars had its door open and I climbed up and went inside. I took my favorite card from my pocket and sat with it in a spot of light. The waters were fierce and howling, but the Dark Crusader, midnight cape unfurled on the wind, reached, and from the water, he would rise.