Buddy System

Warning – Swearing

I put on the uncomfortable weight belt that digs into my skinny hips, and I think about the bruises I will have by tomorrow.
“Okay, Steve.” Dad gives me a huge grin and an exaggerated OK sign that shows how much he loves going in the water with his two boys. My brother Barry comes over and says “let me help.” He stuffs my arms roughly into my buoyancy jacket and then lifts my mask so that it pings back sharply onto my face.
“Areshole.” I whisper. I struggle to the open gate with my heavy tank and awkward flippers and step tentatively off the boat. Dad and Barry, dressed only in shorts, jump off the gunnel with a whoop. I bob around in the choppy water trying not panic as the waves flood over my face.
On the descent, I crash onto the ocean floor with my customary lack of grace. I suck hungrily on my air as I flail around trying to get my balance. Dad and Barry hover and watch as they breathe calmly through their gills. When I finally get my act together, I look at them with a resentment born out of embarrassment. Generally, I can just about cope with being the only normal in a family where everyone else has a superpower, but this diving bullshit is just rubbing my nose in it.
Dad gives the OK signal, and we both reply in kind. As Dad looks away, Barry raises his middle finger at me.
“Oh great, rusty fucking metal,” I think as we move towards the shipwreck. Suddenly we are enveloped in a shoal of fish, and, to be honest, this is pretty cool until Barry disperses them with a few kicks of his big webbed feet. It pisses me off when Dad rewards Barry with an indulgent smile. I wish he would listen to Grannie’s warnings.

“Be careful with Barry, Son. Remember your great Uncle Alfred.” He’d been the only supervillain in our family, and Grannie had spent most of her adult life battling him. “I could have stopped Hitler before he got started if it wasn’t for that bloody Alfie,” she would lament when she was on the sherry.
“Mum, the only supervillains that I need to battle are the politicians and corporations who are ruining the oceans.” My Dad can be a bit pompous, but, to be fair, the great TV watching public can’t get enough of his underwater documentaries.

Dad indicates that he is going to say hello to Pedro, an old lobster who lurks below my depth limit. I admit that I used to believe that he could actually converse with sea life and Barry never lets me, or anyone else forget this.
It’s just Barry and me now, so I prepare myself for some mischief. Barry grabs the handle of my tank and drags me inside the wreck. I wave my hands and legs about, but the struggle is futile as Barry is safely behind me. I plummet to the bottom of a hold when he lets me go. The water is thick with the silt that I displaced in my panic, and although my eyes are wide with fright, I’m effectively blind. I can’t seem to get sufficient air in my lungs, and my rapid breathing is loud in my ears. Instinct compels me to bolt for the surface and I collide violently with the top of the hold and then land at the bottom.
“Stop panicking, Stop panicking,” I tell myself and struggle to slow my breathing down. At last, I get some benefit from the boring old diving stories that Dad’s friends repeat whenever they have a beer. I want to search frantically for an exit, but force myself to stay still and wait for the silt to settle. Visibility improves enough for me to read my air gauge, and it transpires that I don’t have much time.
“If you got in, you can get out.” I try to fool myself into staying calm. I inch around the perimeter of my prison feeling for the gap. One side, two sides, and then on the third side, there’s a doorway. I propel myself out using my hands, and with little thought to the danger in ascending too quickly, I make my way to the surface.s

I float on my back breathing deeply and loving the feeling of the sun on my face. I wonder if Dad will believe me.

10 thoughts on “Buddy System

  1. I love how the questions of belief and story are just under the surface and then break out on the last line. I would have liked a bit more interactions with Barry, but I understand it’s a tight space to work within word limits.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You did a really nice job of answering my question right when I’d start to think it. It’s such a challenge to build a world like this in this space, and I think you did a fabulous job. It felt like you did a lot more than space allowed, so big kudos on your ability to layer like you do. If I had one critique, it’s that it did feel a bit like a component of a larger piece, but it’s something I really, really want to read!


  3. Barry isn’t much of a buddy, but as the youngest of three boys I understand how the narrator got overpowered into the ship. Really nice job building plot and relationships outside the parameters of this story, Oonagh.


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