Photo of cerulean beach water double-exposed with an image of a hand blocking the sun

Double Exposure

The foamy wake of a boat churns and spreads. The hump of an island reclines on the horizon in the distant-left, and the sun flares in the upper-right.

Also, a child rides a tricycle over bright green grass behind a brown-shingled single-story house. He hunches forward to pedal across the chop.

The boat wake softens, the horizon sways, the sun flashes in and out of frame.

A bigger kid runs up to the tricycle and grabs the handlebars. The small kid steers away from him, into the sun. The horizon evens out as the big kid tips the trike and pushes the small kid into the rippling grass.

A large white bucket. A screwdriver pries the lid off to reveal a sludge of purple-red fish parts. The two children wrestle in the sludge, and a woman in a yellow sun dress rushes to separate them. A man with a blond crew cut and swim trunks says something and points out at the water. The woman guides the big kid out of frame, which pivots away from the man to look where he’s pointing, where the small kid rights the trike on the water. Another man dumps the bucket, and purple-red blooms into the lawn.

The blond man laughs and says something, while another him wearing old jeans carries a ladder and big pruning shears to a tall hedge on the boat deck, where he and other men assemble large fishing rods. The man opens the ladder and beckons to someone out of frame. The men cast off the back of the boat as the big kid runs up to hold the ladder. The man climbs and raises the shears.

Another man’s face is large in the frame, looking out to sea. He scratches his head, and the man on the ladder uses the shears to trim his curly hair.

The small kid sitting on the water blows dandelion fuzz and laughs at the way it spreads. The surface of the lawn shivers to life with snapping fish.

A man pulls a flexing rod, reels, and his line is suddenly connected to a TV in a living room, where the two children dance and hop around, and the small child climbs onto the couch clear of the biting fish. A gray fin cuts through the carpet and lowers again. The big kid joins the small kid on the floating couch, laughing. They both bounce.

The man pulls, relaxes, pulls, relaxes. The blond man steps through the couch to help hold the rod. He shouts and points at the TV. The carpet churns, and a smooth gray shape with rows of hooked teeth bursts from it.

A dark dining room with a doorway to a lit kitchen. Oven and microwave combo stacked over the horizon as a man enters with a knife and cuts the fishing line. He points at one of the party-hatted kids seated at the table in the dark and shouts, beckons others with an arm.

The yellow dress woman enters from the kitchen carrying a cake with five lit candles that drift down from the flare of the sun onto the deck of the boat.

The table boils and the shark’s gray face appears and grimaces among the children.

The small kid leans over the shark’s open maw and blows, and flames on the shark’s teeth flicker out.

The lights come on in the dining room. The blond man stands in slacks and party hat by the lightswitch, and he and the woman and children clap as the other him rushes in swim trunks to the edge of the table and points a gun at the small kid.

The shark reappears in the cake, and sparks and tufts of smoke blast into frame as the woman plucks the candles from its gills, where “Happy Birthday, Felix” is written in cursive red piping, leaving holes that bloom purple clouds.

A man points at the birthday cake, gets on his knees on the table and wipes his forehead. Another man appears with a long hooked baton. They jab at the cake as the big kid scoops his hand into the jerking, twisting shark and smears red and white across the small kid’s face.

Two men guide the hook into the small kid’s eye, and he cries, shows rows of curved teeth, grabs more icing from the chop and throws it at the big kid.

A few men stand around the dinner table with beers. One raises his can and takes a swig. Two of the men hold up a wooden handle with a metal hook from which hangs the shark, scooped and smeared.

The boat deck is a churn of children throwing fistfuls of sea foam.

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    1. Zachary Dillon

      I’m so glad you loved it!

      I’d heard of Coover, and might have read an excerpt from “The Babysitter” in a class, but I just read it in its entirety and wow. He somehow found a way to use ALL of the answers to the “what if” question in the same story, while maintaining suspense! The comparison is flattering.

      I’m excited by what I’ve done in this story, and would love to use my double exposure technique to tell something bigger. Coover is an inspirational model for that. Thanks for sharing this.

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