My silver glitter shoes float above me. The strappy slingbacks with the platform heels.
“What in the world are you going to do with those silly shoes?” my mother had asked me.
“You’ll break an ankle, mark my words.”
I kick my feet. The water slides warm between my toes.
Wrong again, Mom.
I reach for the shoes, but my arms hang heavy. Numb below my shoulders.
I hold my breath.
My heart is bursting.
I kick again. I’m a swimmer. I’m a fish. I’m a god damn mermaid.
Red and blue lights spark the water. Baitfish swarm in notice and kiss the surface with slick lips.
The kisses are for me. I am their queen.
I flipper hard to kiss them back.
My watery brackish world explodes, all appendages and suckers and fleeting fish. My blue lips part in safe haven.
Tentacles wrap and cling and pull me along.
I break the surface, gasping and gulping sweet Jesus air. My mermaid lungs rebel and choke up the creek.
“I’ve got one, over here!” the octopus yells. “You’re okay,” he tells me. “Hang on, I’ve got you.” I float back and ripple in the wake of the approaching boat.
I see the train stopped on the trestle. Emergency crews walk the line. I’d begged off crossing the tracks to short cut home, blaming my shoes. “I don’t want to break an ankle.” My girlfriends laughed. “You and your silly silver glitter shoes. Take them off. Let’s go, we’re losing the light.”
Dead center, the rails rumble beneath my bare feet. I look back. The tracks go blue with stark white light and barreling behind, I see the train, a million pounds of machine, wailing around the bend, horn blaring, bearing down on five girls frozen in its cold wicked glare. My mother grabs my thoughts and gives me a good shake as surely as if she were standing beside me. Seven sec-onds for the train to cross the trestle. Seven seconds flat. Get to jumping, pumpkin. My silly shoes flicker and flare, sudden lanterns in the leap off and away and into the murky depths.
The boat pulls alongside and the engines cut. “I think her arms might be broken,” my octopus calls out. “Hitting the water from that height is like hitting concrete. I hitched her tight inside the life jacket, but she’s blue, let’s get her in quick.” I feel a tug at my back. “Okay, sweetheart, nice and easy, here we go.”
My silly silver glitter shoes float close. I reel them in with my legs and we glide along, safe.