This was one of the more complete stories I wrote for my short story class back in 2013. I had been keeping it to myself, as it is somewhat of a personal story, but a few years have rolled by now and I feel that it is finally time to post it. Let me know what you think. Of course, it is completely fictional.
Sea of Diamonds
by Clinton Nix
I never told anybody why I got fired from Mover Bees. Whenever somebody asked, I just made up things. I got tired of the moving business, I’d say. Or that I wanted to try my hand at real estate. A good one was that my back couldn’t take it anymore, and my knees were making this horrible popping noise. Truth is, my back is as strong as ever. I was solid like a rock then, too. That’s what it’s like when you move dressers and beds and boxes of books around for eight years. I knew some guys who couldn’t do it anymore, who had to quit for health reasons, but that wasn’t me.
Me and my buddy Jeremiah, Jeremiah Wright, were friends for as long as I can remember. Last time I heard of him, he started up his own business, as a financial advisor, something like that. He was really good with numbers. I hope he’s doing well, I really do. Back then he just got married, and was having a baby. I wish I’d known what he was doing after we got fired.
We’d be playing games, the both of us, when we worked. I know it wasn’t right, to be messing around with peoples’ things. But we’d do it, out of sheer boredom and nothing else. Me and Jeremiah would have this contest, who could carry the most stuff. We’d get pretty serious, I mean, we started betting on how much we could carry at once, who could carry the most, and we’d throw down money on it. If somebody dropped, though, then they lost the bet. It was pretty simple. I was at, I don’t know—20 wins, and Jeremiah had 25 I think. He was beating me. There was an intense rush from the risk, of upsetting the customer, losing our jobs. I guess we did some pretty stupid things when we were bored, now that I think about it. And I felt like I could do anything I wanted back then. Always so angry at things, at my life, at people. And bored, too. I think that’s a bad combination, being angry and bored.
“Maybe we should hold off this time, Andy,” I remember Jeremiah said. He never did quite get to what he was saying, on our way to that move. I didn’t let him talk. I think I know now.
“Quit calling me Andy, dammit,” I said. Like a teenager. Jeremiah knew what he was talking about, though, and I was too stupid to realize what he was saying. I punched him in the arm, pretty damn hard if I remember, and he chuckled back at me. “Anthony. That’s my God given name,” I said. Then we looked at each other, and burst into laughter.
“Nah, let’s do this,” Jeremiah said.
He looked over and saw the ring, which I was wearing around my neck on a silver chain. Must have caught his eye, because it was banging against my chest whenever the truck hit a bump in the road.
“Man, you’ve got to take that thing off.” He reached over at it with his right hand, and he held the wheel steady with his left. I noticed just before he could reach it, and I gripped his hand pretty hard. It was funny now that I think about it, because the truck just about swerved off the damned road when I caught him. I wasn’t laughing though.
“Don’t you ever do that again,” I yelled.
“Dammit, calm down, I was just looking. How long’s it been now, a year?”
Jeremiah brought it up sometimes, but I would never answer him. I shrugged it off and sulked whenever he asked, and I’d think: just wait, you’ll see.
“Fifty,” I had said. I was in a betting mood.
“Fifty? That’s up there. You know what we make.”
“Fifty or nothing. After this, it’s over for real.”
“Fifty it is,” Jeremiah agreed.
I put my hand out, and he shook it hard. He was a good man, but a betting man. I knew he couldn’t say no to a good bet.
“What is it with people anyway,” I said. Jeremiah gave me this look, squinting his big dark eyebrows. He always did this when I was getting preachy. Usually, he’d say something like, oh please go on, but he was pretty silent this time. Not sure why, really. Maybe he had other things on his mind.
“It’s their damned things. They hold on to everything,” I said to him. “I’ve got nothing. A room, a bed, a few other things.” I really thought I was onto something great—that my mind was this damned miraculous oracle and I was imparting wisdom to the unwise.
When we got there and parked the truck at the house, I still remember looking out at the view. And what a view it was. It was a three story house overlooking a hill that was pretty deep, and you could see the ocean. It went down pretty far, a bit too steep to be walking down, but you could make it if you wanted. The house had a deck with steps that led right up to the third floor in the front. Big, open windows too, and you could see the big sky through them.
We went up and this lady came out, and Jeremiah and I just stopped there with our mouths hanging open. Tears were pouring down her face. She was this short older woman, and her face was round and beet-red, and just dripping, dripping wet. She spoke something to us, but I didn’t know what was coming out of her mouth. I think it was Spanish, or maybe Italian or something, but she was speaking too fast. I wonder if Jeremiah knew any Spanish. Well, if he did, he didn’t show it.
To be honest, I look back now and I feel bad. I really do. But I was kind of a cold bastard then, and I didn’t care. She was speaking gibberish to us, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with her sob story. I made a gesture with my hand to hush her up, and eventually she pointed to the things that needed to be picked up and we were on our way. Like a normal day, besides the crying woman, anyway. Every now and then, she’d go sit down over in the corner of the living room, at this desk with pictures arranged on it. She’d sit hunched over it, and you could hear the sobbing echoing from the other rooms. She’d get up after a while and pace around the connecting rooms, staring at a few of the pictures still hanging on the walls, and then back again into her sad, dark corner and do it over. I’d take glances at her. It was a new game—to see if she would do it again, and again and again, and she was a broken record.
She had disappeared and when we were about finished she reappeared from her secret cave or whatever it was, and her face was dried up, and I could see those brown eyes. They were round, a bit glossy and red, but there was a—softness to them. Still had these red circles under her eyes, but I could almost see a smile on her face. She grabbed my arm and pulled me over to the corner with all the pictures. I had no idea what she was doing. She was saying something, and pointed at this photo of a young girl in a big, black wooden frame. There was an arrangement of flowers laid out in front of it, mostly roses but some other yellow ones to the side. They smelled pretty nice, and it reminded me of Rosery, a flower store near where I lived. I’d gone there once before a date. But that was a long time ago.
Sometimes I think about this scene at the table, in my head over and over. I try to remember, I try to see if there was something, any kind of spark inside of me. I wanted to dig and dig, go deeper into that memory. I would sometimes imagine asking her about the girl in the photo, and she would talk to me in her own language, and I wouldn’t know what she was saying but I’d feel it, and like a light shimmering inside of my chest, I would sense it. But I can’t remember. I just don’t remember what I was feeling then.
I was up on the third floor afterward, and we were pretty much finished with the house and ready to go to her new place, or wherever she was taking the stuff. All finished, except for that table with the pictures. I didn’t touch it, because she would always jump in the way and point over at something else when I came near it. But I was determined, focused. I needed to beat Jeremiah this time, and I’d already wasted enough time. He was down below picking up a few of the random boxes or doing whatever it is he does. I noticed that there was this blue box sitting over in the corner. Memory is hazy, but I think it had ‘Maria’ written on it. Perfect, I thought, and I went and snatched it up and I was already through the door and out on the deck when she ran towards me all of a sudden, shouting and pointing.
Now, this part happened so fast. I doubled back, holding the box like a football at my side. I thought it was funny or something. I was running the ball, and I kept her away with my left arm. I tried to reassure her that it would be alright, like I knew what was best for her. I thought it would be good for her! My stupid, bloated head. She was shouting something furiously, over and over, but I thought of the dumb excuse that I couldn’t understand her and I kept pushing on with the box. It will be alright, it will be alright, I said to her. But the damnedest thing happened. I was edging along the rail and my finger caught in the chain around my neck, and the lid came loose on the box and it slipped out of my hands. Slipped from my fingers. Tipped over the railing. The box dropped top down, and I think time just froze.
I remember that moment in particular, with picture perfect memory, and the box was suspended in motion. There were some brilliant, shiny objects that spread out in the air, sparkling in the sunlight and looked like glass, or diamonds. Papers were spinning around, and everything glided towards the ground like feathers. Once they smashed on the driveway below, those shiny objects shattered into thousands of pieces that looked like a sea, of diamonds. A wave of millions of diamonds, splashing on the shore.
The lady was shrieking when it hit her. She went stark mad. She started shouting at me, and I broke into a rage and yelled back. She was whaling me in the chest with her balled up fists like a kid, and we where both shouting, in our different languages, and we were deaf, though it was echoing pretty loudly I’m sure, so we screamed louder. Her eyes caught sight of my chest, and then she reached out. What was she doing? That’s what I was thinking, anyway. It happened too fast. She grabbed the ring in her hands and ripped it off of me. Ripped it out of me. It was my heart, still pumping in her grip, and the blood—oh, the blood. Before I could even blink, she had launched it over the other side of the deck and it sailed down the hill fast—like a bullet. There was no slow-motion that time. And it wasn’t beautiful.
I was down on that hill in what felt like seconds, searching through the dirt and the dry shrubs, and the hole in my chest was burning. Burning like mad. I was going insane, then. I was frisking the ground furiously and I couldn’t find it. I just couldn’t find it. I had lost the ring! And that is when it came over me for the first time. The truth knocked me hard in the gut, that she was never coming back. My wife left me, and she wasn’t ever coming back, especially after what I had done—how I had treated her.
Looking back, I can’t remember what Jeremiah was doing then. I didn’t see him, he was invisible, even though I’m pretty sure I passed right by him on my scramble down the stairs of the deck. It was all a blur. I think I heard a loud thud, like a tumble, but I’m not too sure. I was so focused on the ring. Anyway, the boss must have found out pretty quick afterward, because new movers came to replace me and Jeremiah. And we found out later that day that we were fired. Jeremiah was fired and he didn’t even do a damned thing. We haven’t talked since that day, and I never saw that lady again either.