The Seeds of the Lotus Flowers
The wind carried the smell of salt and fish. My mother took her scarf off and wrapped it around her neck. Her long black hair and scarf flapped in the wind. My father held me as we watched the birds diving into the water.
A man rode the boat to the nests where the seagulls laid their eggs. He stopped the motor and started paddling quietly. The nests were hidden behind the reeds. Lotus flowers moved up and down with the waves.
The man took out a gutting knife and cut a lotus flower. He opened up a pod and gave me the seeds to eat.
I looked at my father and mother to see if I could eat the seeds. They said yes with their heads.
The taste of seeds on my tongue. The gulls calling.
On our way back, the silhouettes of rusted ships were sinking into the sunset. We passed by shacks, little islands floating on water. Other children waved from their shacks.
When we got back to the bay, the fishermen were beaching their boats. The sky had darkened.
Children were selling lotus flowers and seeds to the last people left on the streets. We saw two teenage boys that had wrapped a rope around a gull’s neck, where it hung from a tree. The gull was making a noise.
“What’re you doing?” my father asked them.
“It doesn’t matter,” one of the boys said. They laughed.
The same boy took a hunting knife from his back pocket and cut the bird’s head in one move. Blood sprayed out on the boy’s face. What was left of the bird fell into the ditch.
My father walked over to the boy and slapped him in the face. I’d never seen my father angry like that.
The boy spit into my father’s face. “The bird is ours. We’ll do with it as we want.”
“Let’s go back to the motel,” my mother said to my father. She pulled my father away. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
In the motel, my mother put the lotus flower into a glass of water. My father washed his hands, opened up the sofa bed, and crawled under a blanket without saying goodnight.
My mother spread the clean sheets that she’d brought from home on the bed.
“I don’t think I can stand it here any longer,” my mother said to my father.
Most of our luggage was still in the back trunk.
“Let’s look at the map tomorrow,” my father said. “We’ll see where else we can go.”
All night, the rain slammed the tiny windows of the motel. I heard rain and I heard water dripping from a faucet in the bathroom.
I thought of the lotus flowers, the strange taste of the seeds still in my mouth.