Unnavigable by Thomas Mixon

Just me and my naked grandmother, watching people fall out of the sky.

They don’t fall from too high up, not from the clouds. A few feet above the lake, or so. Some of them, as they’re falling, are already looking down. Some look like they knew they’d be meeting water, straightening their bodies into pencil dives. But mostly the people flail.

I know what a pencil is because my grandmother wears one in her hair. In this way, I guess she’s not completely naked. I don’t have a pencil yet, but my grandmother says I’ll have hers, someday.

Most mornings are like this, as are the afternoons. Night never comes, and my grandmother says, in this respect, we are lucky.

In other respects, we are not lucky. Mainly this is due to the people suddenly appearing in the air, near where my grandmother and I are sitting. Their falling interrupts something my grandmother is always on the verge of saying. Instead of saying the thing she wants to say, she reminds me I’ll have her pencil someday.

We sit and watch the strangers as they sink to their deaths. This is not the kind of lake one can swim in. I am not sure why the people fall here, whether it’s a punishment, or something they choose. Just as I’m about to ask, a man crawls onto the shore. This has never happened before.

My grandmother covers her breasts with her arms. I ask her if I should do the same, and she nods yes, instead of speaking. She is watching the man closely. I don’t think she’s scared, since the flesh is peeling off his body and we are up on a boulder he has no chance of reaching. He makes it a few feet before he stops moving, breathing.

I know what a few feet are because earlier today, in between people falling, I jumped off the boulder without warning. I looked back, triumphant, proud of my defiance.

But then I realized my grandmother had never explicitly told me not to leave the boulder. I took a step toward the lake and she said, “A few feet, that’s enough.”

I stopped right on the spot where this man is now turning into a puddle. I don’t have to ask my grandmother if I caused this, because of course I did.

She uncovers her breasts, takes the pencil from her hair. I say, “I’m sorry,” as she tosses it into the mess of what used to be the man. It melts.

The rest of the day is the same. I keep looking up at my grandmother’s hair, hoping another pencil will appear. But it doesn’t. Only people appear, then fall, like usual. In one respect, I am lucky, because now I don’t have to wonder when my grandmother will give me her pencil. But in other respects, I am not lucky.


Thomas Mixon writes and thinks about lakes and ponds a bit too much, and gets carried away. He’s tries to keep his distance from the nesting loons, but they want to be his friend. He has poems and stories in Feral, Peach Fuzz, Cephalopress, and elsewhere.