Strange & Short Stories
by Cindy Hansen


WATERLINE

Her mother traced an imaginary line from one small pink bump to the other across Crissy’s chest. “This is your waterline,” she said. “Don’t go deeper than this in the water. You understand?”

“Ok, Mommy,” Crissy finished pulling up her swimsuit with a smile. Her sister giggled at the idea of a built-in safety mark but tested it out when she went in the lake. That was just about right. Any deeper and things could get a little scary.

Crissy followed that rule for several years, but has gone way past her waterline in several areas of her life since then.  Crissy has become Christina, a woman with a heart as big as the sky. She’s been to Hell and back testing Life’s boundaries and trying to rescue everyone she loves.  You can’t save the world if you only wade in up to your waterline.

Her sister dreamed one night that Christina was desperately treading water far from shore in a dark lake. Her head kept going under and then she’d pop back up gasping and sputtering.

“Hold on, Crissy! I’ll go get help!”

“No, don’t worry. I’m fine. “

“Wait…what? You’re not fine, you’re drowning.”

“I’ll be ok. Really. But do me a favor…don’t tell Mom. She’ll just worry.”

“Like I’m worrying now…”

Crissy went under and her sister shouted for her before running off to find help. Resurfacing, Crissy found the beach empty and kicked her feet a little harder. I can do this, she thought to herself. If I can just learn to tolerate water in my lungs, I’ll be fine.

A man came walking along the beach and saw Christina floundering out in the water. He nodded and looked sympathetic.  “You know what you need?” he called to her. “Dry land!”

Christina bobbed and gasped.

“Yep, my sister had the same problem. Once she found dry land, she was fine. You should do that.” He waved and continued walking while whistling a tune. Christina rolled her eyes at him and turned herself a little so she didn’t have to look at his self-righteous back.

As she turned, she discovered her husband in a boat behind her. There was a spout of water coming from inside the boat, and he was baling water over the side.

“Jack!! You’re sinking!” she cried.

“No, no, I’ll be fine. You’re overreacting,” he chuckled.

She grabbed a rope that was hanging from the front of the boat and put it between her teeth. She tried towing him to shore by swimming hard but she was so tired and the shore was so far away. He baled a little faster, trying to lighten the load.

A group of her friends came walking up the beach, laughing and talking amongst themselves. One of them pointed and cried, “Oh no! Look! Christina is in trouble!” They all cried out in unison, stretching out their hands, wishing they could reach that far. “Are you ok?? Is there anything we can do to help?”

“Thanks for caring, you guys! You’re the best, “ Christina called between clenched teeth.  “I’ll figure this out.”

“We’ll be praying for you. Hugs!!” they called, wiping tears and waving.

A business woman stood behind them, her spike heels sinking into the sand. She clicked her tongue in dismay and cast a sympathetic eye to Christina. “Your situation is dire. You need help right away!  I can get a Lifeguard to swim out there to rescue you and your husband, give you dry clothes and a hot meal, and a lift to your home. Fill out these forms and submit them to me, along with a check equaling a month’s pay, and I’ll have you out of there immediately.” Christina’s eyes widened and she coughed out a mouthful of water, losing the rope momentarily, Jack drifting back.

“Can you help me out first, and then I’ll work out a payment plan with you? Please! “ she lunged for the rope on the boat.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. The law forbids me from doing that. I need the waiver signed before I can even begin to act. I’d be willing to work something out with you but my boss is pretty strict about getting at least half up front. Can you do that?” Christina shook her head and went under.

“So sad,” sighed the woman as she went back to her car. “Maybe I should call someone for emergency assistance. I’ll research that when I get back to the office.”

Christina  broke the surface with a wild-eyed gasp, partially fueled by anger and fear. She grabbed the rope but burst into tears. I can’t do this, I can’t keep inhaling water, I can’t keep towing the boat! This is too much!

“When you’re done pretending, you can get back to work,” called her boss from the beach.

“What?! Are you serious?!”

There was a splash near her. She turned to see her mother behind her in a sinking rowboat. “Crissy, something is wrong. I need help. I'm sorry. I didn’t want to bother you because you have enough to worry about.” Crissy grabbed the second rope and tried pulling both boats while swimming. She immediately went under.

Her sister watched from the shore in horror. “I’m going to lose everyone if I don’t do something!!”

And then she woke up.

 


Copyright Cindy Hansen