Breathing Underwater


March 5, 2013 by The Citron Review

by Jon Pearson


I was seven years old and standing on one foot, like the time I saw the very fat person at the carnival leaning against a wall, and there was in the wide, white day a feeling like bare skin. And looking straight ahead of me, I saw a good big deal of space, and I felt like a moth flying in large, buttery circles and then like being in a rowboat in the middle of a lake and plunging my head all of a sudden into the deep, dark water, because my head felt like a great big thumb and crash the water bit into my head like an apple and then fit perfectly all around it like a shoe.

It was nice to be a little girl then in the sunshine standing on one foot waiting for Daddy to come out of the store with an ice cream cone, in the forever way a leaf maybe waits on a tree. Daddy would tell me to be careful with the cone and not spill it on my dress because Mommy would be angry. And I would listen to Daddy with my whole pure brain, which looked in the picture book like a big, wrinkled walnut, and I would say, “Yes, Daddy,” taking the ice cream cone from his strong, brown hand perfectly, as if for a moment we were in heaven because I was in my dress with the butterflies at the bottom.

And we would sit on the bench next to the bright-red Coca-Cola machine as we always did, and I would eat my ice cream cone, kicking my legs and looking hard at Daddy’s shoes as if they tasted like ice cream too. And I would think how it couldn’t be easy having to walk around in such big feet all day, how tiring it must be, being a grown-up. And I would want to tell Daddy about the old lady who lived in a shoe, except it was a stupid story, and deep down the chocolate ice cream tasted old and crafty and reminded me of the wolf in Red Riding Hood. And I knew, sitting there with my father, it was the only time in my whole entire life I would ever feel just exactly like a bird on a branch. Like I could fly, softly, barely, in the same way you could almost smell ice cream.

Then suddenly I saw my father’s shoes sitting on the bottom of a lake and knew or felt or saw, right there in my throat, my daddy and mommy were going to get a divorce. And I knew it. Sure as ice cream and shoes, I knew it. And instead of growing wings and flying, I grew long, secret neck gashes because I would have to learn how to breathe underwater for a long, long time, and the water would swallow me, swallow me all up, like a spider eating a mouse.


Jon Pearson is a writer, cartoonist, speaker, and creative thinking consultant. He has written over three hundred short stories and his work has appeared in a slew of publications. Secretly, though, Jon is still five years old and believes that love will conquer everything and that courage, creativity, and caring just might save the world.  


3 thoughts on “Breathing Underwater

  1. carolyn says:

    Love this! Jon is such a talented writer with a unique voice. Love this piece!

  2. […] work has appeared or is forthcoming in Barely South Review, Barnstorm, Carve, The Citron Review, Fiction Fix, OnTheBus, Psychoanalytic Perspectives, Sou’wester, West Wind Review, Wild Violet, […]

  3. […] “Breathing Underwater” by Jon Pearson from Citron Review […]

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We have some happy news to share! The Citron Review contributor Amye Archer has joined our Creative Nonfiction editorial team. Let's welcome her! Amye Archer - Author of Fat Girl, Skinny: A Memoir, and is the co-editor of If I Don't Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings. (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2019). She holds an MFA from Wilkes University. Amye's work has been published in Scary Mommy, Longreads, Feminine Collective, Brevity, Marie Claire, and more. Amye is mom to twin daughters and wife to Tim. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania. Follow her at @amyearcher #briefliterature #cheerstotenyears #amreading #TheCitronReview #creativenonfiction
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