The Underwater Caretaker

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The ranch house needed organized. The rooms separated with bed sheets hanging pale white and cream yellow. Bugs maybe spiders, maybe roaches, maybe both crawled throughout. Creeping, strolling room to room. I arrange my sheeted square space, in a frame I drill in screws aligning a door. Red dirt hugs the floor’s trim, a firm hug. Dingy carpet to match, complete with a worn foot path from traffic. My bedroom was more a hallway than my private quarters.

It is dark outside, cool enough for you to nip. Lights shine through my window, on my sheets, on my new door. I put on a coat. A truck pulls along the west of the house. A door shuts, metal scratches, the winter caretaker putting his things into the bed of his truck. The winter caretaker was an older Mexican man. He tended the livestock, cleaned the barns, the troughs, graded the arenas, sometimes he welded. The winter caretaker had a permanent scowl on his face. Superglue on his lips. Never smiling. He may of had no teeth. Maybe he did. Season had ended, the reason he packed his truck, ready to trade out with the spring caretaker until next winter came back around.

I walk through my new door, dusty shoe boxes and romance novels stacked high as my waist, an aisle to the back porch. Cringing screens peel from the frames of the windows, the paint of the house curls into feathers. I lean against the door frame looking at the spring caretaker, an Indian man standing by a cement silo eyeing the winter caretaker as he packs his truck.

Metal clang of the tailgate, a push-up off the back. The Mexican departs, the truck crawls over the trenched driveway curving away slowly, groaning, the sun begins to rise. When was the last time I’d seen a sunrise in a silence such as this? Two women wear thick black strapped heels, the 90’s kind, and the kind of long dresses looked made of the very sheets we used to separate our rooms. Add ugly flowers. Looks of distraught on their faces, chins down. Not smiling, superglue lips.

I am standing on a wooden boat dock made of two by four planks, some crowns up, some not. It overlooks a large clear lake. Next to the dock, a cement boat ramp. Boat ramps ideally extend with a 13% slope underneath a minimum of three feet of water. Ideally four. Ideally in a place where the water depth is semi-consistent. To avoid needing to dredge. To remove sediment caused by deposition. To avoid undercuts made by the water current. To avoid the end of the ramp breaking off, a sharp drop. This boat ramp, the one I’m standing by, it is not ideal. It is a cliff, a crag, an edge I peer over. Water is gurgling in a swirl, a tornado, above a large sunken item. The winter caretaker’s truck.

I look at the women, they’d strung themselves together with a thin black rope round their waists, black like their black straps. Their faces blanched. The first and smaller of the two stuck her strapped foot into the water, and retracted, shocked at the temperature. Lifting a black loop of rope in hope I would take the last loop, the women gaze at me. I take the loop.

I dive off the dock into the water, I don’t think about how cold it is, and I swim 20 feet to the submerged truck. No one is in it. The windows are rolled down in their frames, the truck bed empty. It sits like a decoration in a fish tank. Some of my things are inside. My bow, my pack, three plastic matching suitcases, a blue shower curtain inside, printed with bubbles. Three TY beanie babies, one a puppy named Wrinkles. A machete, my green knife, my clothes, lots of them. I grab my items and swim up to the dock piling them. A returning swim for more. On my third trip the women look at me, their indexes touching their lips.

The Mexican caretaker stands behind them, soaked. Deep grooves in the lines of his face, his hair shellacked to his forehead, water oiling off his skin. A puddle on the dock. A snake rises to strike the women next to my pile of things. My misplaced objects. The Mexican throws a knife. It plunges into the back of the small woman’s hand. She screams, clutching with her other. I grab the machete and strike down the snake, as blood pours from her wound. A puddle on the dock.

Someone fell to the bottom of that lake, drowning, pinned underwater. My hands are stacking cement blocks. There’s loud noise. I cannot remember if it is the Indian or the Mexican caretaker, maybe the women, their black hair flowing in the water upward, graceful, as I swim to the surface. Black like their straps, black like their rope. I only look one more time to see. One glance under me, and their hair is faded to white.

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2 thoughts on “The Underwater Caretaker

  1. I enjoyed this reading Sarina. It’s captivating, mysterious and the imagery is vivid. I’m drawn in and want to fathom more about this subaqueous event.

    Liked by 1 person

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