A Girl Named Serenity Sea

Here’s an excerpt from the story, “A Girl Named Serenity Sea,” part of my upcoming short fiction collection entitled Beyonder and Other Tales, to be published by Panthera Press  in early 2018.

Serenity Sea was born in a parking lot near Lagoon Creek Picnic Ground in Klamath, California, in the back of a poorly restored 1963 Volkswagen Bus. Had its former owner chosen a new clutch over sparkly blue paint, perhaps Serenity’s mother would have made it to a hospital, and maybe things would have turned out differently. However, what we think is the great, gulping randomness of the divine is actually the pattern of a complex flower we are too small to discern. This particular flower was determined that Serenity be born free from the encumbrances of normal society, and so she was. Just as her grandmother veered off Highway 101 in search of a restroom, the old VW’s clutch cable snapped, ending its life with the bus stuck in second gear not far from the Pacific Ocean that would give Serenity her name. Fortunately, the VW was a camper, its owner herself a barely renovated hippy, and Camp Claymore RV Park and Campground was practically within bus-pushing distance. Serenity, her soon-to-be wayward mother, Stormy Sea, and her grandmother, Cerulean Sea (née Jessica Mildred Andersen) spent the night of the girl’s birth camped out and listening to live music blared through staticky speakers care of Dusty Miller and the Loners who happened to be finishing up a two-day stand at the park for two hundred dollars and a free RV slot. They were overpaid, judging by their music.

Sometime between the end of the last set and 5:00 o’clock the following morning, Stormy disappeared, deciding she was more equipped for being a roadie-slash-girlfriend to the band than she was a mother. Serenity had no opinion regarding the matter, other than objecting to the sudden lack of milk, as she’d not known the woman long enough to gauge whether she’d made the correct choice. Had Cerulean—or Gamma Blue as she’d come to be called—been consulted, she would have been decidedly in the pro-roadie camp, as she’d known Stormy practically since birth (she had slept through her own daughter’s delivery under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms and cheap Kentucky Bourbon, choices she would later blame for Stormy’s Earth-quaking rages and inconceivable inconsistency) and was even more certain than her daughter that the baby would be better off under Gamma’s sole care.

Serenity, in contrast to her mother’s natal red-face ire, was born under the calm Pacific sunset—or what could be seen of it from the back of the camper—and never once cried. Upon emerging from the womb with a great, gooey gush of gratitude, Serenity blinked twice, looked at her mother diffidently, and then at her grandmother, to whom she gave her first smile. Gamma Blue lifted the swaddled newborn to the western sky. The sun bowed behind a small cloud as a gesture of respect.

“Serenity,” she suggested, still facing the ocean.

“I need a smoke,” was Stormy’s offering. She’d been placed on a tobacco, alcohol, and meat restriction by her mom for the duration of the pregnancy and was itching to get her life back on track.

“You can smoke later. Right now, you have a daughter to care for.”

Stormy sighed, pouted, and paced, but finally gave in and fed her newborn. She was tender, as much as she was capable of being, whispering as the baby suckled, “That noise you’re listening to is music … what we call Rock and Roll. Next to sex or maybe having tits that give whisky, I imagine it’s about the the best thing in the world.”

Gamma Blue could only pretend she didn’t hear.

Once silence had claimed the park and Serenity had been cleaned, fed, and put to bed, Stormy asked, “Can I go take a walk and a smoke now?”

“You just had a baby, honey. You really need to take it easy. Those stitches I gave you are fresh.”

“Oh please. You had me in the middle of a hippy commune and then went right back to planting pot or whatever it is you people did. I’ll be fine, and so will you and little Simba there.”

“Her name is Serenity.”

“Whatever, Rafiki.”

“Just go, and don’t come back in here reeking of tobacco.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t.” Stormy grabbed her satchel and headed out.

“I know you won’t,” Gamma Blue said to the empty space she left behind.

To her credit, Stormy kept her promise for nearly the entirety of Serenity’s life, the only one her mother had ever known her to keep.