by Erik Peters
“What are you afraid of?”
“Nothing,” I lied.
“Then get in the water!”
“No, I don’t want to.”
The sun beat down from above and the sand radiated heat from below. I was beginning to panic. I wouldn’t have come on the bike ride if I’d known we would end up at the beach, but it was too late now. I couldn’t go in the water—who knew what terrible monsters swam just below the frothing breakers?
“There’s nothing to be afraid of!” said Anthony. “Look, it’s fine!” He kicked water at the
I stayed where I was. Kyle and Jordan stood ankle deep in the rime, glancing back and forth between Anthony and me. The pressure was mounting. It was only a matter of time before someone mentioned sea monsters.
“Why won’t you come in?” demanded Anthony.
I was silent. My face was burning. I knew I was too old to believe in sea monsters, but I couldn’t help it. In science class, Mrs. Wilson told us they didn’t exist, and when I asked about Jonah, and the Leviathan that Beowulf fought, and the squid that used to carry ships down to Davy Jones’s Locker, the entire class laughed. Since then, I’d avoided the fantasy and marine sections during library block. But the other kids still snickered about it.
“It’s like a thousand degrees out, why won’t you come in?” called Anthony over the surf. The heat made him irritable.
But my stupid brain had frozen. I had the biggest vocabulary in our grade, I’d won the Spring Reading Competition two years in a row, but now my stupid brain was frozen. My eyes reached out to Kyle and Jordan. Kyle’s face hardened. “He’s afraid of sea monsters!”
Anthony laughed the cold laugh of triumph. The laugh that comes from victory rather than from joy.
Kyle turned and waded into the waves. “C’mon, Jordan, there’re no monsters here. He’s just scared.”
Jordan went in, just up to his knees. He hesitated and pretended to shiver, but I could see that he didn’t have goosebumps.
“Uh, I dunno, it’s pretty cold. I don’t wanna get sick.”
“Pfft! You’re just as bad as the baby up there! I bet you losers sleep with your mums!”
Anthony and Kyle laughed the same triumphal laugh as before, turned, and waded deeper. Jordan hesitated a moment more, then followed.
I wanted to scream that I hoped they’d be eaten alive. I wanted to show them all the pictures of sea monsters in my books. I wanted them to understand that my fear made sense. But my stupid brain had frozen.
As I ran up the bank I could feel the acrid tears burning my rosy skin.
On Monday morning, Principal MacDougall came to our classroom with the school counselor.
“As some of you may know, Anthony, Jordan, and Kyle drowned at Grey’s Beach Saturday afternoon,” he said. There was a gasp. I could feel sets of eyes turn toward me. Everyone knew that the four of us did everything together. Everyone could guess why I alone hadn’t gone swimming.
The coast guard said that they were caught by the riptide. To this day, I believe in sea monsters, but no one ever made fun of me for it again.
Circus in Antarctica
by Serge Lecomte
Erik Peters is a teacher and avid mediaevalist from Vancouver, Canada. Erik’s work with marginalised students has profoundly influenced his writing which has been published in numerous magazines including Coffin Bell, Showbear Family Circus, Prospectus, The Louisville Review, and The Dead Mule School. Check out links to all Erik’s publications at http://www.erikpeters.ca or @erikpeterswrites.
Serge Lecomte was born in Belgium. He emigrated to Brooklyn in 1960. After graduating high school, he became a medic in the Air Force. He earned a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Russian Literature, worked as a Green Beret language instructor and received a B.A. in Spanish Literature from the University of Alaska where he taught from 1978-1997.
He built houses, worked as a pipe-fitter, orderly, landscaper, driller, bartender. He is also a published poet, novelist, playwright and artist.