Floating Garden

Mary LaChapelle, 2015 Fiction Prize Winner
| Fiction

I pictured our truck traveling across the pink shape on the map, over the mountains, into a differently shaped and colored land. Sometime after our descent from the mountains, the air became sharp and fishy, a smell I would always recognize afterward as the sea. We heard more and more traffic and hollow booms and scrapes, and then a sound bigger than an elephant’s trumpet, which I would come to know as a ship’s horn.

Through the crack I saw it was twilight. The older girl came close to me and placed her eye against the gap. I smelled her hair and the faint residue of spilled urine. After the truck stopped, we heard voices and then for a short while, no voices, and then the sound of a plank of wood dropping, the startling clatter of metal chains dropped on the top of our box.

We heard the screeching of machinery and I felt the older girl sway against me and begin to fall. She cried out, “Oh, Auntie!”

I squared myself in the corner. “They are lifting us!” I called out. Then we were set down with a thud. We heard two voices near our box, the sound of the chain dragging over the top of us and landing with a clank nearby.

As time passed, quiet descended. “It is cool now, night air,” my mother said. And then to me she whispered, “We must break out.”

“How?” I whispered back.

“We will batter the wall with one of the statues.”

She told the auntie and the girls to back away, to give us room to run the diagonal length of the box toward the outside corner. I began to lift the Lake Father, but she said “No, this one.” The two of us hoisted the Road Guardian by his legs. The Lake figure was the bigger statue but perhaps because his long feet reminded her of my father’s and my feet, she did not want him battered.

After several rammings, the head of the statue broke through, but because of the many crisscrossing metal straps, we couldn’t chip an opening large enough to climb out.

Mary LaChapelle is author of House of Heroes and Other Stories and recipient of the Katherine Anne Porter, PEN/Nelson Algren and Whiting Foundation Awards, as well as fellowships from NYFA, Hedgebrook, Edward Albee and Bush foundations. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

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