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News & Features » September 2017 » “A Summer Underwater” by Evelyn Sharenov

“A Summer Underwater” by Evelyn Sharenov

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, pay more attention to your surroundings.

A Summer Underwater
by Evelyn Sharenov
Taffel’s Bungalows, Park Ridge, New Jersey

Things happen when you’re not looking. Things that you’re not expecting. Like the silent mutiny in the chest. Or the bus that hurtles into you; you don’t see it until you step off the curb and then it’s too late. Or your last memory is not your dog looking startled, but the smell of gasoline and bourbon. That’s how your friend’s mother quits smoking. Then there are the things that barrel into you and you go on living.

There’s the day you take a bus to the city with your mother to see your doctor. You have tonsillitis. You stay in the country at a bungalow colony every summer and your father goes to work in his jewelry store every morning and drives back every evening. Park Ridge, New Jersey is just about the most perfect place to spend the summer. Swimming all day in an icy lake. Charcoal broiled steaks and potatoes for dinner, with fresh beefsteak tomatoes cut up with onions and a little olive oil and salt.

Each summer you put on a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. You gather all your friends from the bungalow colony and from the neighborhood. Everyone has a part to play. You assign who will make the costumes, who will do the makeup and who will play the portable Victrola. You give orders; you’re the take charge girl who learns the lines and sings on key. This summer it will be The Mikado and you’ll play the bride Yum Yum. You learn how to flip your fan open and closed to show the pointed little red lips drawn over your mouth.

But that will be after the tonsillitis.

After the doctor looks at your throat, he hands your mother a prescription for penicillin and you’re on your way. Your mother grips your hand, always, on the city streets. She decides it would be nice to surprise your father at jewelry store.

The store’s gate is open and folded back into itself but the door is locked. The lights are out. Your mother fishes her keys from her leather purse. She drops your hand and tells you to wait. But you follow her inside. The next sounds are her shrieks when she finds your father hunched over a woman’s back, humping fast. Your mother’s arm reflexively rises to cover your eyes. Your father and the woman are scurrying like cockroaches when the lights go on. The woman runs out and your mother locks the door behind her. She throws whatever she can grab. Watch repair instruments—pointy and dangerous.

You’re sobbing because she’s hurting him. Your father doesn’t protect himself from the blows of her grief.

In the days that follow, there’s no sense of time. You try not to listen to the discussions of divorce, the talk of getting a gun. You remember later on that your father asked you if he should commit suicide or if they, your parents, should get a divorce, like you’re some psychic or psychiatrist, instead of an eleven year old girl. You learn to walk away. You learn that you will be judged for the things you did not do rather than the things you did.

You go about your daily schedule which includes swimming in the frigid lake. The water is always icy and clean, even in one-hundred degree heat. It’s the only relief you have. You walk the country road toward the water, in goggles and snorkel, swim fins slapping the dirt path. Little kids scream and get out of the way. Then you’re smacking down a steep treed path. You take this path twice a day, your nature hikes. When you recall Park Ridge over the years, it is always about the lake and the trees.

You jump in, take the cold as a poultice, a relief from life. You swim underwater, holding your breath longer each time you surface dive. You see more clearly underwater. It’s safe. Silent. On the surface, dragonflies strafe the water.

You understand that the bride Yum Yum’s black eye makeup will run a black river down your face this summer and you won’t care.

You’re not looking so you don’t see you father’s car driving too fast toward the lake. It plummets headlong into the water, nose first.


EVELYN SHARENOV writes fiction and creative nonfiction in all lengths—she found that flash was an excellent way to learn self-editing. Her longer work has been published in the NYTimes, the Bellevue Literary Review, the Opiate Review, Front Porch Journal, Oregon Humanities, Glimmer Train and others. A native New Yorker, she attended Hunter College and the Juilliard School, moved to Oregon and graduated from the Oregon Health Sciences University in psychiatry and now lived 3 blocks from the beach in southern California where she is working on a novel.


Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Sep 11, 2017

Category: Original Fiction, Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , , ,