The Boatman

Pink Creek, Louise Rossiter

Winter ends, and the lake thaws: frostscape turned fairyland,
flies flit through lilies, the surface serene. The boatman
unhitches his crafts at the coming of spring; the heat is a
harbinger, and he its only heeder. 

Soon enough, three visitors come: muddied boots, liquor-lipped.
“Ho!” says they. “Lend us one of your boats so we may cross.” 

The boatman, instead, spouts his practiced prophecy: “Sirs,
I wish to but must not, for under these waters swims a siren
with sharp teeth and a song that will tear your asunder.
Only my ears, after years, are accustomed to hear it. 

“I would row you across myself, but alas, my boats must
be attended, and the danger—” 

“If we pay you double?” 


The visitors stuff their ears and sit, stretched like cats,
along the skiff. The boatman rows with long, heavy strokes,
with hard-calloused hands, to the lake’s center. The visitors
cry, loud with their cotton-clogged ears, “Why have we stopped?” 

The boatman yells: “Are you hungry?” 


“Not you.” 

The siren emerges from the water, teeth sharp like jagged river
stones. Claws grasp the necks of the visitors — snap. She pushes
them beneath and dives down after. The boatman waits with
the patience and face of a saint. 

The siren returns, hair like snarled kelp spread on the water’s surface,
her one eye wide, pearl-white, pupil-less but pervading. She tosses his
prize with a jagged-stone smile — three coin purses. When she speaks,
it sounds more like suffocating: “Payment.”

About the Author

Sanjana Ramanathan  · Drexel University

Sanjana Ramanathan is an undergraduate student at Drexel University pursuing a B.A. in English. Her work has been published in They Say/I Say, Front Porch Review, and Horse Egg Literary, among others. Her hobbies include reading, playing video games, and daydreaming. She is currently the president of Drexel’s own literary magazine, Maya, where this piece first appeared.

About the Artist

Louise Rossiter  · Knox College

Louise Rossiter is a recent art grad from Knox College.  This piece first appeared in Catch Magazine.

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