Become Like the Water
Angus Brown was an unhappy man. He hated his job, where his desk sat next to the loudest water cooler in the building and his boss who had never once looked directly at him kept calling him Agnes. The man who lived above Angus in the moldy apartment building sang boy band songs loudly and in no particular key and flicked his cigarette butts off his balcony. Some on them landed on a plant Angus kept on his kitchen windowsill and burned it up. Angus had asked him to stop and even bought him a lovely ceramic ashtray but the man walked right past him and pretended he was deaf.
And only spoke French.
Angus had stomach aches almost every day and, sometimes, he woke up in the middle of the night afraid of everything yet of nothing specific at all. He ate bologna sandwiches every day for lunch and boxed mac and cheese every night for dinner and sighed a lot.
He was also going bald.
One day, Angus saw a book on his desk. The title said “Become Like the Water”. He didn’t know who left it there but he liked the picture on the front cover. It was a picture of the ocean at sunrise in a place Angus just knew was neither too warm during the day nor too cold at night. It was a picture of the place he saw in his dreams every night before the scary thoughts crowded it out and woke him. He took the book home and spent the whole night reading it. When he finished the last word, five minutes before his alarm clock was to ring, he slowly closed the front cover and ran his fingers over the blue-grey sea. He sat there a moment, looking at his fingers on the book. He blinked slowly, as if someone or something had called his name from a great distance away, then he picked up his flip-phone, called his boss, and spoke five words in a voice more sure than he had ever spoken in his life.
“This is Angus. I quit.”
For the next three months, Angus tried to Become Like the Water. Every morning, he woke up and looked at that lovely cover. Every day he flowed and puddled and streamed. He learned the great secrets of the rain and the name of the River of Life. He breathed like a cloud and ground like a glacier. He had no idea what he was doing, really, and he didn’t feel very much like water, but he felt a little bit better every day and that was all right. Something was happening; he just didn’t know what. One evening he ordered dinner from a nearby Chinese restaurant that he looked up on the internet. Szechuan Chicken. The first bite was so spicy he thought he was dying but he recovered and ate every bite, including the cookie.
The fortune inside was a simple drawing of a waterfall.
One day, Angus stood in the shower, listening intently to the sound of the drops splashing in the tub when he felt a funny feeling in the deepest pit of his stomach and in the middle of his forehead. Before he could even wonder what was happening, Angus Brown became just like the water. He flowed right down the drain, through the old copper pipes, into the sewer, and away to the wide open sea. At first he was afraid, but his fear didn’t last long. He had nothing he would miss at his apartment, where soon the shower overflowed the tub and splashed down on the head of the building supervisor. He had become like water in the lovely ocean, the place of his dreams. And while he was there he made a friend, a starfish named Lucinda who always called him by his right name.
Angus Brown, finally, was a happy man.
I wrote this story, longhand, Wednesday night during the write-along Sarah Werner hosts every Wednesday night. She hosts one on Friday evening as well, simulcast on Facebook and Twitch. To get in on the Facebook video and chat and whatnot, you need to be part of her writer or podcaster group there. You can just follow her on Twitch to get in on it there.
You don’t have to be a writer or a podcaster to get the benefit of the streams either. Sarah is a delight and you won’t waste your time there at all.
Now. This story. It started with an opening line and just…showed up. I wish I could give you some learned writer advice about how I crafted the story from a Great Idea or how the Muse bestowed me with a few hundred interesting words. I can’t. I don’t know what happened. I came up with the opening line and that’s about all the direct will I imposed on the story. I followed Angus, who sometimes shrugged and answered to Agnes, around for a little while and wrote down what happened to him. That’s it! The neighbor changed a bit in the translation from notebook to computer, but not much else did.
So there. Useful, huh? Look, I’m not always going to be wise and clever, like I am so far in my own weekly newsletter called Thursday!
(Photo Credit: TimHill on Pixabay)