Art Pact 151


I didn't want to go along with Uncle Reggie's plan, but it seemed as though there was very little I could do to protest them. Mum was super-excited about them - she kept going on about how it would bring the family together and solve our "little problem" (that's exactly how she said it: "little problem", you see what I'm dealing with, right?) Dad was less enthusiastic, but he's never really enthusiastic about anything, so that was no good. He kept saying things like "we'll see" and "maybe this will be a good thing" which made me think that he was secretly in favour of the whole idiot idea even thought it was obviously him who was going to have to do all the work; Uncle Reggie was too weak to lift the gate, I was too young to drive the car, mum was too occupied with Frizzle to do anything. Dad didn't mention any of that, though, and when I pointed it out to him he just smiled and said "we'll see", which was a pretty annoying thing for him to do. I used to get enough of that mystical crap from gramps while he was still alive, if Dad turned into his own dad I was going to spend most of the rest of my life (short as it seemed likely to be) wishing there were some way I could run away from home which didn't involve me being torn limb-from-limb or drowning.

I helped Mum out with Frizzle a bit, carrying him in his little cage-thing from window to window so that he could see the gardens and stuff. Down under the water it was only possible to see for maybe twenty or thirty meters, so we couldn't see anything past where the garden gate was, but what was inside our little plot of land was interesting enough.

The bird-table was still in the middle of the lawn, amazingly - I remembered that last year when the hurricane had been on its way Dad had fixed it into the ground with a couple of big metal staplers. They'd loosened a little bit with the soft mushy ground, but they were still holding down the base and preventing the bird-table from floating back up to the surface. Most of the bird seed that had been on it was gone, but the metal mesh feeder was still hanging from one corner and still full of nuts and seeds and globs of fat which were slowly dissolving into a little grey cloud around it. Little fish darted in and out of the cluster of food, picking at the specks of nutrition which Mum had intended for her coal-tits and sparrows. It was easy to think that we were still above the surface and that it was the fish who were weirdly out of place. I saw a big greyish one (about the size of my arm) muscle into the group and scatter its smaller relatives, and it was so like a fat rock-pigeon scattering smaller birds that I laughed out loud.

Frizzle, of course, had no idea what to make of the whole thing. When an octopus swam silently past my bedroom window, flapping his big webbed arms so that he looked like a giant red umbrella opening and closing, Frizzle went crazy with his weird bark-meow noise, scratching at the cage front as if he wanted to leap out of the window and tackle the cephalopod for the interloper it was. On the other hand, the handful of sharks that circled around Uncle Reggie's shed he completely ignored, even when one of them broke away to spiral out lazily towards where the rabbit hutch used to be - Frizzle's favourite territory. Back up on land he would dash out madly if there were so much as a kitten on that patch, but faced with the giant cartilaginous trespasser he simply couldn't seem to be able to muster up even the slightest irritation.

It was hard to tell, so bad was the visibility, whether any of the other houses had survived the submersion. It had looked as though the whole road had come with us at the time, but that was only what Mum had seen as the first quakes started. By the time we were falling in earnest the water was too churned up around us to be able to see anything out of our windows, and when we landed the mud and silt on the ocean floor had been kicked up into a huge dark cloud that had obscured everything for a week. Even now it still seemed like the liquid outside was a sort of thin soup rather than sea water.

"What if we go for a swim?" I asked Dad later on. He was in the garage, working on the modifications to the car. Every few moments there would be a "ping" from the garage door and one of the little plugs of Uncle Reggie's sealant would vanish, fired into the room at the head of a tiny but high-pressure stream of brine. At first Dad had been in charge of fixing the leaks, but there were so many that it had threatened to hold up the whole plan so he'd showed me how to do it. I used a metal cup to catch the water and zero in on the hole in the door, then clamped a little suction pad over the spot before readying the caulking gun full of sealant and quickly whipping the pad free and squirting a new plug over the hole in one smooth movement.

"Nice work," he said. "Where would we swim to?"

"I mean, to the other houses. Like, to see if any of the others...uh, survived." It felt weird saying the word, and I felt suddenly sad. What if the others hadn't been as lucky as us? There had been plenty of Uncle Reggie's sealant around, but there was no way of knowing if everyone had had it.

"I'm sure they're fine," Dad said, but he wouldn't look me in the eyes.

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