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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