"Kai"

A 2016 Flash Fiction Contest Winner: Cowley Student

I was born at sea. My mother had recited the story dozens of times, never losing her air of drama. “The spray of the sea showered you before they even cut your cord. The first air you breathed, strong with salt and tar.” She used to call me her ocean child. Even the name she and my father had given, Kai, meant ocean. She always believed everything happened for a reason. Sitting here on my boat, alone, surrounded by the calm waters rocking my boat, I suppose I did as well.

Of all the places my family had moved during my childhood, none had felt like home. None had given the peace of belonging. Only here. Only the sea. Had I not met the sea in those first hours, and later learned its ways, learned how to live alongside its powerful, ever-changing moods, I may have wandered the world all my life. Here I could wander and still be home.

The air cooled as the sun fell. My stomach groaned. I let my boat drift in the still, sun-kissed water as I went to the cabin to prepare my supper.

I popped opened a can of sardines. A pungent odor filled my nostrils. Images churned in my mind. Sunday brunches with my father. My mother’s face squinted as she held her nose and marched out of the room. With a wink, my father grabbing the can and chasing after her. The admonishing. The laughter.  

I sliced a potato and fried it in bacon grease I had chilled from the night before. I dumped the potatoes onto a plate covered in paper towels and smothered them with ketchup. The sardines I ate straight out of the can. Paired with a bottle of lukewarm water. A meal of kings.

I threw the dishes into the sink and made my way to the deck just in time to catch the changing colors of the mid-Autumn sunset. The purples and oranges danced on the water. A world on fire. A world all my own.