“Don’t go in the water. No one knows what’s in the water,” the boy’s mother said. They were at the beach.
“I know what’s in the water,” the boy said.
“You can’t see what’s under the water,” the boy’s mother said. “It’s too dark and deep for anyone to see what’s there.”
The boy looked hard at the water, its green and blue and black swirling.
“There,” the boy said. “I saw.”
“No, you didn’t. You couldn’t have seen.” His mother dug her feet into the sand down to the cool wet beneath.
“I did,” the boy said. He walked close to the edge of the water and stared. He looked like a small tree bending out over the water.
“What do you see?” the mother said.
“Monsters,” the boy said.
“Well, that should teach you. Now that you know there are monsters under there, you won’t go in.”
She looked down at her disappeared feet, vanished under the sand.
“I’ve never seen any monsters in the water,” she said.
“Have you ever looked?” the boy said.
The woman did not answer and began to feel wistful for her invisible feet.
The boy kept staring. His mother looked up at him. His body stretched out over the water, strained with the effort of looking. She shivered and pulled her feet up to the warm top of the sand and was glad to see them again.
“What are you doing?” she said.
“I’m looking at the monsters. I can see myself there.”
“That’s your reflection,” she said. “You wouldn’t go into the water with the monsters there.”
“I’m not so innocent and stupid that I don’t know my own reflection. Of course it’s my reflection. But it’s there in the water with the monsters.”
The boy took a step.
“Don’t go in the water,” the mother said. Her voice sounded like metal scraping the bottom of a stainless steel bucket of cold water.
“You never told me that the monsters are beautiful,” the boy said.
“I’ve never seen them. They’re not real. You won’t go in the water with them there,” she said.
“They’re beautiful,” the boy said.
“No, they’re not,” his mother said.
“How would you know?” the boy said. And then he stepped forward and walked out into the water until his head disappeared under the waves and he was gone.