Shipwrecked on Dry Land

[NOTE: I wrote this for my Writer's Craft class. It's supposed to be magical realism, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In fact, this is a continuation of his article, 'Shipwrecked on Dry Land,' which can be found here. I started my piece after the sentences, 'Juan Miguel did not have to waste tie finding out where Elián was, because in the Caribbean everybody knows everything -- "even before it happens," as one of my informants told me. Everyone knew that the leader of the adventure was Lázaro Munero, who had made at least two clandestine trips to the United States to prepare the way. He had the contacts and nerve to take along not only Elizabet and her son, but also a younger brother, is father, who was over 70, and his mother, who was recovering from a heart attack.']

But no one knew what had happened to the boat - not before, not for days afterwards. The sun was shining brightly when they left on November 22; no one suspected bad weather. All the passengers were settled in as comfortably as could be expected, both nervous and excited for the new lives they all hoped to reach. Elizabet and her son sat next to Lazaro Munero, who was working the motor. Elian had felt excited when his mother had told him they were going on a boat; he even asked if they'd see any dolphins. "He was always in love with dolphins," she said later, in the knowing way of mothers speaking about their children.

It wasn't until hours later that the storm came rolling in. Heavy rain began to fall and everyone in the little boat was drenched. They huddled together, under raincoats and a tarp. The old woman, Lazaro's mother, prayed in Spanish, but her words were ripped away from her in the terrible wind. "It was like demons screaming," said Elizabet about the storm, months later. Elian huddled close to his mother and the other boy, waiting for the storm to end. "Are we going to die?" whispered the boy, whom Lazaro had jokingly tried to frighten with stories of sea ghosts the day before. Moving closer to his mother, Elian didn't answer. The only thing he knew about death was that it had happened to his grandmother years earlier, and he hadn't seen her since.

After awhile, cold and exhausted, Elian fell asleep. When he awoke, he found himself immersed in clear, blue, warm water. It was good to be warm again, and in the distance he thought he saw a group of dolphins. He was swimming towards them when suddenly he was in his mother's arms. She was looking down at him, and he realized that she had wrapped him in blankets. That was funny; he didn't feel very cold at all, especially after the warm swim. "He's awake!" she said. Elian couldn't see whom she was talking to, but he thought she sounded relieved. He wanted very much to close his eyes again, because he wanted to go back to the dolphins.

"I kept telling him not to close his eyes - I tried to keep him awake and moving," his mother said several days after; someone had told her once that with hypothermia, the worst thing you could do was fall asleep. But Elian didn't want to stay awake; he didn't see the point in keeping his eyes open and being cold when he could just as easily close them and be warm with the dolphins again. So he let himself slip away into the warm, blue depths, following the dolphins, reassured by the friendly clicking noises they made. Surely there was no harm in this, Elian thought, not understanding why his mother was so worried about him closing his eyes. Besides, his grandmother was there with him, smiling, with her white hair flowing all around her in the water.

"No parent should have to bury their child," Elizabet said, tears in her eyes. "I can't believe I let that happen. It's like being shipwrecked, only I'm on dry land."


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May 2, 2006