Delta by Mahalia Smith

The river tumbled in the wind and lightning, taking our boat along with it. I struggled to pull on my life-vest while Dad scrambled around the slippery deck trying to balance us. A hard wave tipped the boat to the left, and he slid down into the dark water. I screamed out for him, but he never came back up. I fell asleep gripping the rails.

“You’ll love it when we get to the delta,” Dad said when I woke up. He had always wanted to sail this river with me as he did with his family when he was young. It only took two days to get from our town to the ocean.

He was sitting at the wheel, smiling as if nothing had happened. Sunlight filtered through him as if he were a drop of amber. I looked down at my own hands. They were solid as they always were.

I couldn’t tell him.

“When will we get there?” I asked him.

“By sunset,” He said.

“Sunset,” I said. We only had the day.

The river was somber and still. For a while, a small family of ducks paddled behind our boat, quacking softly. Dad put on a playlist of his favorite songs, singing along every now and then. The sky was golden when the river’s mouth opened into small streams. Fireflies dotted the low-hanging trees.

“It’s just like I remember,” Dad said. We stepped out onto the bank. My boots squished the muddy sand, while Dad’s hovered lightly over the ground. He reached out to put his arm around me. We both watched the waning sunlight poked through his arm.

“I’m not going back with you, am I?” Dad asked.

“No,” I whispered, looking down at his transparent hands.

Mahalia Smith is a fiction writer from Nashville, TN. She is a 2021 MFA candidate at Lindenwood University and is currently working on three graphic novels.