Short Fiction by Elizabeth Kay. Llyn Dwfn was shortlisted for MIR15.
Stretched, my back remembers well what my adult brain cannot. Against wide breasts in the bath, Mum’s harvest hymns would caress my ears whilst her fat fingers bobbed me up and down, sometimes thoughtlessly.
Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Aries balanced the car well on the way to the lido. Mum and Dad sat together on plastic seats at the side; her knitting, teeth sucked in, him picking his nails watching me and Emma. We barely swam though. What was more entertaining was to hold your nose, duck underwater and guess what the other was singing. We always knew what was number one and never missed an episode of Top of the Pops. The other bodies in the pool were oblivious; dumplings in a pot of stew.
One day Mum dropped dead in the yard pegging out knickers on the whirligig. Emma brought the flowers home from the cemetery and twisted each stem around the banister in between corn dollies. Now we ate fried isosceles triangles of bread with tinned kippers every Saturday. Afterwards I would sit opposite Dad waiting for the ash to drop from his smoke.
Late summer, Dad planned to take us across the country, then up its spine to Wales. We twisted and turned to the cottage that you couldn’t see if you came from the other side of town. On the Tuesday we wriggled into swimsuits and dipped in the sea by the castle. Emma threw the beach ball long, making reach an impossible idea. We emerged teeth chattering like dolls, Dad holding open scratchy towels. At the blue cafe, we drank hot chocolate with ice cream confusing our temperatures even more. My legs dangled whilst I stared out of the window to where the sea met the sky.
Emma had to go home early from the wedding reception. She’d got a heavy period that she thought was going to stain her bridesmaid’s dress. One year later we watched her disappear into a clever machine designed to make drowning more bearable. Michael and I moved into the farm where I set him to some general cultivation.
The farm shrunk. Dad swept salt around the kitchen floor.
I booked a one way ticket to Bangor stopping at a clinic on the way to the station to get my womb removed.
Under dying rays of summer I hitched a lift with a girl who offered me chewing gum. She spun me a yarn about Beddgelert. The story ended: He never smiled again. ‘All Welsh legends are gruesome’ she shrugged, then hurtled out of my life quicker than I could watch.
I stripped my layers for the first ritual. I hobbled into the water like an amateur zombie, agitating it more than I wanted. My toes drank the dirt. The key points were reached; knees, groin, tummy button and nipples. I placed my hands into prayer position then fell forward. And in that exact moment I realised I have never learnt how to breathe.
And now my life is focussed on perfecting this art. These days I can lie on my back knowing that mountains aren’t just about what you can see. I place my hands on my belly with just the right amount of pressure. Tickle its scar. One brain, two feet, one mouth, two ears. The depth of the Llyn holds me like a church.