The Iceberg

by Walter Giersbach


The iceberg appeared suddenly on a Wednesday morning and the phenomenon was radioed in by the fishing smacks going out to sea. It lay a kilometer off the coast of St. Martin in the Caribbean, moving with the current so slowly that later that day even the smallest tourist boats could easily follow its northward drift.

Children in the elementary school chattered, guessed how big it was and where it had come from, and promised they would beg their parents to take them out when the weekend came. Françoise Resnais, Jordan’s teacher, took this opportunity to tell her distracted class that eighty percent of an iceberg lay underwater, that icebergs were made of fresh water — not salt — and that it probably floated up from Antarctica. That was all she remembered about icebergs.

“I know that,” Jordan said, waving his hand for attention. “I saw them once in Canada where my dad took me for a vacation, and then we had to go back to New York, but only for a while because he had troubles with his hedge fund.”

Jordan’s white face contrasted with the darker faces of the St. Martin natives and the tanned skin of the French nationals who had lived there for years.

“Thank you, Jordan,” Miss Resnais said. “Now, take out your…”

“I dreamed about an iceberg coming last night and now it’s there.” He spoke defiantly, looking around to see if anyone would challenge him.

“Jordan, pay attention!”

“You all made fun of me when I wrote my story, when I said the ocean waves looked like icebergs, and you said there’s no such thing here! So there! Now there’s an iceberg!”

Miss Resnais exhaled loudly. “Jordan, enough! Take out your composition books.”

* * *

“Mom, did you see the iceberg!” Jordan shouted, banging the door behind him. Their bungalow lay on the eastern shore, a hundred meters from the water.

“I did,” she exclaimed, “and it was everything I expected. I took a picture so I could show your Dad.”

Jordan shrugged. “He won’t care. All he does is work on his hedge fund.”

“I’m sure he’ll be interested when we talk about it over dinner,” she said, but small wrinkles in her forehead betrayed her optimism.

“Mom, what’s a hedge fund?”

“Well,” she ran a hand through her hair, “I don’t know for sure. It’s a way for people to make money. I know that. Dad is a very important person because of his hedge fund, and all the government people and business people want to talk to him.”

“We had a hedge in Connecticut. There was a man who came to trim it when he cut the grass. Mom, can we go back to Connecticut?”

“That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Now, how about a glass of milk and a cookie before you do your homework? I bet ten-year olds can get mighty hungry.”

* * *

“Iceberg?” Jordan’s father seemed to come up from a deep reverie when Jordan asked him if he had seen the iceberg. “Oh, sure. Yes, I heard about it, but I haven’t seen it. Guess it’ll melt in these tropical waters.”

“Maybe it’ll float up to Connecticut,” Jordan said, pleased then that his mother smiled at the thought. “I dreamed it.”

“I believe it’ll melt before then. The water’s very warm and Connecticut’s a long way away.” His head dipped to look over the spreadsheets next to his dinner plate.

“Have you ever noticed that things are usually hot or cold?” Jordan said, begging his father to raise his eyes. “Like this is a hot place and Connecticut is sometimes cold, and Miss Resnais is hot — I don’t mean she has a fever — but she laughs a lot, and Mom’s really warm, and…” He stopped.

“Yes?” his father asked.

“Um, you’re... cold.” He tried to extricate himself from the idea. “I mean, sometimes you’re warm, but… Dad, can’t we go home?”

“I have work to do here, Jordan, but I’m glad you think Mom’s hot.”

“I dreamed she’d be that way, and never mad or not have time to answer a question.”

“Oh, Jordan,” his mother said, “that is so sweet. I love you,” and she went Mmm mmm mmm with her lips.

His father stared. “You dreamed Mom would be that way or you’re pleased that she is?”

“I dreamed her. Like the iceberg.”

“Jordan, don’t be tedious. She’s been your mother a very long time.”

“No she hasn’t. She hasn’t! I dreamed her when we came here last month and there was nobody to talk to!”

“Jordan,” his father’s face clouded over, “the synonym you’re looking for is daydreaming or hallucinating or playacting and you do not want to go there, believe me. Life is serious and rational and unjust.”

No, I dreamed my Mom and that’s why you don’t have any pictures of her before and why you can’t remember her meeting you or remember the wedding — not to my first mom, before the divorce, but my second mom.”

“Of course I remember,” his father said. But then he frowned as any memory slipped away or was hidden below the surface of his consciousness. “There must be pictures, but I may have left them… We left in a hurry.”

Jordan watched his father wrestle with an idea the way he, Jordan, might have wondered where he’d left a toy. The answer seemed just out of reach, the way a cloud reshapes itself as you watch it.

Jordan’s eyes narrowed. “I know. It was the middle of the night and someone was banging on the front door and you got me out of bed in my jammies. We had to go to the airport.”

“A simple misunderstanding, Jordan. I’m clearing it up with the authorities now. I have a lawyer.”

“May I be excused? I’m going to sleep early tonight. I hope I can dream of going back to Connecticut.”

“Jordan!” Panic from a sudden realization hit him. He could not remember his wife before a month ago, and the vacuum where a memory should have lain sucked at him. Other instances — Jordan’s new pet, the dog that appeared last week — were equally elusive. And an iceberg had suddenly floated into the Caribbean. Impossible. But Jordan had dreamed it.

“Jordan!” he shouted. “Not Connecticut, goddammit, there’s a warrant out for me! Jordan!

But the boy had run upstairs in anticipation.


Copyright © 2009 by Walter Giersbach

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