This piece I wrote in Lidia Yuknavitch’s writer’s workshop. The prompt was: write about the “peak” of an event, from someone else’s perspective. The narrator in this piece is my aunt Dorothy, the year was 1970, and if you don’t know by now–Robby is my father and a major character in my memoir.
“Where’s Robby?” I heard mom’s voice. She turned around and looked directly at me.
Her drunken gaze was unusually fixed, “Where’s Robby?”
I couldn’t respond before she said it again, “Where’s Robby?”
I looked out at the water and there was just a woman and a toddler sitting in the shallow water on the shore, a scuba diver gearing up and an older man in a bucket hat rowing a boat. The last I’d seen Robby he was swimming over by the big rock pile people liked to jump off of. But he wasn’t there anymore.
“I dunno where he is!” I told her, annoyed. She acted like I was the goddamn second mom. I was the oldest but I was only fourteen. If she thought I was gonna go looking for Robby she was wrong. She was the mom and she needed to remember it.
Mom started panicking and walking up and down the riverbank. She was asking other families if they’d seen her little boy, he was wearing a mask, she told them.
“Was he wearing a snorkel?”
“No, we haven’t seen him. Not since earlier, not since lunch.”
Fifteen minutes went by. Fifteen minutes.
I watched mom look. She searched the parking lot. Robby wasn’t a parking lot kind of boy. She scanned the bushes, the tree trunks, the fields, she scanned the opposite side of the river—the wild side. No Robby. I started to get a sicky feeling in my stomach. Marie didn’t know what was going on. Robby’d gone missing before, but this just felt different, ya know? Mom felt it too. She was yelling Robby, Robby! I started yelling too. Robbbbbbyyyyyy!
Mom approached the scuba diver who was a few feet from the shore. She waved her arms and he wattled over on his flippers through the shallow green water. “Can you look for my son? In the water?” She asked him.
Ten minutes went by. Ten minutes. I saw the flick of a blue flipper make a splash on the calm surface of the water and then I saw the scuba diver’s head followed by my brother Robby’s head in front of him. He was carrying my brother Robby and he’d brought him up from way down in the water. Robby’s head was limp at the neck and there was a mask around his head still, it looked like it was weighing him down. It was my daddy’s mask. The first thing I thought was: Robby’s dead.