Fiction by Thomas Andrew Green
The wind blew around the eaves of my bedroom I was sharing with my
cousin. Through the window, light of an autumn moon fell across the posters
on my walls. Kevin stirred in his bed.
“Derrick,” he whispered.
I said nothing.
“Derrick,” he whispered louder. “Are you asleep?”
“Yes,” I said.
“I had a dream,” he told me.
I said nothing.
“Don’t you want to hear my dream?” he asked.
I still said nothing.
“It was about jellyfish,” he said. “Deep under the ocean. A city of
jellyfish. A whole country of jellyfish. A long time ago. While there were
I had no one to blame but myself.
Earlier, after we had come upstairs to my bedroom, which we had been
told we would have to share, Kevin had gaped open-mouthed at all of my
posters of dinosaurs and at my timeline of life on Earth. I made the mistake
of trying to awe him. He was only my cousin, and I had no need to impress
him, but still I tried. It was just one of those mistakes we all make.
Especially when we’re that young. I resented him and his family coming to
share our home, and I wanted to establish my place as rightful occupant by
dazzling him, and the only way I knew to do that was with my knowledge of
At first he had doubted my tales of prehistory, but he had looked at the
drawings I had made for school, and he had listened to me tell about what I
had heard from teachers and what I had read in books, and the wonder began
to take hold. So that night, when he started talking about his dream, I felt he
was just trying to outdo me with his own fantasies.
“It was huge,” he said from his side of the room. “This city. Bigger than
New York. Bigger than Chicago. It had buildings made of seaweed and no
roads because the jellyfish swam through it like birds flying through trees.
They had nothing to write on, so they had no schools or blackboards or
books, so they had to remember everything. And they didn’t talk because
they had no mouths, but they waved their feelers to make signs about
whatever they wanted to say.”
“Tentacles,” I said. “Jellyfish have tentacles, not feelers. Besides, what
would jellyfish have to talk about?” I laced my tone with scorn.
“Everything,” my cousin said. “They had no idea about the world above
the ocean. They couldn’t see the sun and stars, but they could feel the moon
even though they had no idea what caused those feelings. They had stories and
histories about places that we don’t have any way of knowing about just like
they couldn’t imagine Jupiter or Mars. In their world, water was everywhere,
and they couldn’t dream of a place of not-water. But what they did know
would make us heave and throw up to think about.”
His idea of a civilization of jellyfish made me despise my cousin even
more. Our parents had talked about how his family had lost their home, a
concept which made no sense to me—how could anyone lose a house?—
which just proved how stupid he and his family were.
“That’s dumb,” I said. “How could we ever know about anything like
that? Jellyfish don’t have bones, so they wouldn’t leave fossils. Seaweed
buildings would leave no ruins, so how could archaeologists discover them?
If jellyfish never wrote anything, how could we figure out their alphabets and
read their messages? It’s just stupid is all.” I turned over and pulled the
covers over my head.
My uncle and his family stayed with us for almost three years. I often
heard arguments between the adults, but Kevin and I learned to tolerate each
other except for a few rough spots. My uncle was a chemical engineer and
had a hard time finding work. Finally, my dad managed to get him a job
teaching in a community college on the other side of the country. When my
uncle and his family moved out, they packed up everything they had brought,
loaded it into their station wagon, and puttered away. Mom and Dad and my
older sister and I were happy to see them go. After a week, it was as if they
had never been there at all.
A few years later, my sister married and moved to upstate Michigan. I
graduated from high school and left for college in Florida. Mom and Dad
continued living in the house, even though it was too big for just the two of
them. I married a woman I met during a post-graduate dig in Africa. Mom
died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Dad moved to France. I received an e-mail
from him, telling me to sell the house and send him the proceeds.
After the closing, I walked through the building one last time. My
bedroom was an empty cube. No furniture remained; the posters were all
gone. No evidence existed that I had ever been there. When the new owners
moved into the house, they would take possession of a residence clean and
devoid of history.
Thomas Andrew Green has had stories printed in The Madison Review,
Negative Capability, Crosscurrents, and Amelia, among others. He
graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in American Indian
Studies and now lives in Kennesaw, Georgia, with his aunt, who just
celebrated her 104th birthday.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of
Volume 7, Number 2
Copyright © 2012
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to
in the Apple Valley
Review are retained by
the individual authors