Alaska Shorts: Visiting with Permafrost- Bodies of Water by Lauren Eyler

Permafrost is the farthest north literary journal for writing and the arts, located at 64° 50′ N (198 miles from the Arctic Circle). It is a graduate student run journal associated with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Issue 37:2, online here, is formatted like a “choose your own adventure story” with hyperlinks moving the reader throughout the issue.

Bodies of Water

by Lauren Eyler

My grandfather kept a book by his recliner. The book’s cover was a picture of a map. Its land was the cream color of things faded. Its water was a blue sullied green by sitting too long. Across the top, in black bold letters, ran the words, The English Channel. I never saw him touch it. Never once in the summers I spent in Kansas. When I finally screwed up the courage to ask him, at the age of twelve, what the English Channel was, he didn’t take his eyes from the television. He sat unmoving and I thought he hadn’t heard me. When I turned to go, too scared to interrupt him again, he spoke.

“It is just another body of water I did not drowned in.“


My grandfather, John Henry McVicker, never owned such a book. He never spoke the words I have him speaking. He never once, in the 23 years I knew him, mentioned this body of water, which rests between southern England and Northern France, which is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean, which is the smallest of the shallow seas that surround the Western half of Eurasia. The Channel existed in the parts of my grandfather’s past that he would not talk about, that my mother instructed me not to ask about, because the subject upset him. This part of his past, the unspeakable part, was World War II.


He could have never dreamed this, his sitting in a jeep, which is sitting on a boat, as he stares off into dawn. There it is in front of him, the sun coming up. There it is coming up, its light stretching over the water, both covering and uncovering it at the same time. He is from Kansas. Talmage, Kansas. This makes him an expert at watching the sun break open over wheat fields, not water.


The truth is I made my own body of water from 19 to 28. It was not an ocean, lake or channel. It was not something I could cross. It was an alcoholic morass that I carried around inside of me, a veritable swampland that extended from ribcage to ribcage that I never took the time to log, to drain. So the rats multiplied and their bacteria compounded. I had breakouts of fevers. I yellowed from the inside. Leaks of blood sprung in my lungs. I was an internal flood.

Read the rest at this link.
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