What they don’t know is that first he was rat who was a vagabond, yes, but hid a softer side that enraptured a few. The most persistent: a water vole, too young, too naive. He would let slip a few words and she would slide into place before him. I saw you last night, your calligraphy is nice, isn’t it an awful day, I wish I was anywhere but here, and she would fan herself and giggle and smile. Funny, isn’t it, he gave no indication and yet she ripped out her heart and thrust it into his hands. C’est l’amour!
His mother, he did not give an indication of loving, nor his broodmates, nor his friends or the ones that wanted his heart. His love went all to the water. He had a small boat, and then a bigger one, and then he would go up and down the rivers and to the sea and disappear for weeks on end. She followed him to his boat on one summer morning and he let her watch, so long as she remained silent. She took his hand and offered to go with him, to anywhere, they could sail off the edge of the earth or catapult themselves to the moon and she’d hold tight to his hand with one of her own and cling to the mast with the other. The mast, the sails, they all rippled in the summer breeze and heat and yet his expression remained unwavering. He took his hand back from her, softly, gently, and turned away.
With a splash she had thrown herself overboard and in the murky water of the pool he could not see where she had went. So he threw himself over as well and groped for her in the mud, opened his eyes and mouth to the brackish water to scream out her name and search for the eyes that had always found him, he grabbed at the silt and made whirlpools in his panic and rage that she had done this to him, to herself, and in the end was forced to give up.
Not his fault, they all agreed. She had never been the most stable.
He threw away his old name and his old life and climbed into his boat and made his way down the channel. Her body rotted somewhere along these waters and he would find it, or perhaps he was chasing her soul, her hopes, he was chasing time and if he caught it he would pull it back until he could make her alive and make himself alone, without the voices that irritated him or the gale in the trees or the memories that took him from the water. He sailed down the river and to the sea and never caught his quarry and became an old man and no one ever knew him the better for it.
Maya Levine is from Chicago, IL and lives in Palo Alto, CA. She has been published twice with the Leyla Beban Short Story Contest. She will be published with the Eating Disorders Project and MoonPark Review. She enjoys The Wind in the Willows very much.