Below The Surface

Total Words: 563

Words within first 1000 of GSL: 89.05%
Words within second 1000 of GSL: 8.82%
Outside list: 2.13%
Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 2.99
Flesch Reading Ease: 90.63



Thomas wanted someone to give him a nickname.  He wanted people to call him Tommy or Tom-Tom or Little-T.  But nobody ever did.  Everybody just called him Thomas.  He lived with his mother in three small rooms close to the ocean.  He didn’t know where his father was and his mother never talked about him.  When Thomas felt lonely, he went to the ocean and swam.

The summer he turned seven, Thomas discovered he could hold his breath for a long time.  He liked to stay down under the waves and count.  By the time he was ten, he could count to two hundred without coming up.  Eventually he stopped counting.  He just took a long breath and swam as deep as he could.  There was coral down at the bottom.  There were blue fish that swam over the rocks like little flashes of lightening.  There was even a lionfish, with long whiskers around its face.  Thomas thought it looked very wise.  Sometimes Thomas asked it questions which had no answers.

While he was swimming, Thomas could hear the waves moving above him.  It was like someone singing a song that changed with the light or the wind.  One day, when Thomas was fifteen years old, he took a deep breath and swam down until his ears began to hurt.  The water got dark and the current felt like a cold wind.  There, at the bottom of the ocean, was a telephone box resting in the sand.  It leaned slightly to the left.  Inside the box was an old phone, the black kind with a round dial.  Thomas picked up the receiver.  Even in the water, it felt heavy in his hand.  He held it to his ear.  There was noise coming from the receiver.  It was an even hum, like an invitation to make a call.  But Thomas had no one he wanted to call.

The day Thomas graduated high school, it was cloudy.  When he got to the beach, it started raining.  The raindrops hit his skin like the tap of small drumsticks.  He took a quick breath and dove down into the water.  He was about to head back up when there was a sound, like a faint bell ringing.  It was a call.  It was a phone call for him.  But the phone box was still far away.  As he swam,  Thomas started counting the rings.  Ten rings.  He kicked faster.  Twenty rings.  He stretched out his arms.  Twenty-five rings.  He pulled himself down.

When Thomas reached the phone, his head was getting light.  He grabbed the receiver and held it up to his ear.  There was a noise, like a cough, from the other side.  But it was too late.  The ocean was a hand wrapped around his chest.  There was nothing left in Thomas’ lungs but the ache to breathe.  He let go of the receiver and kicked for the surface.  As he swam up, he thought he heard a man call out, “Tommy, is that you?”  But he wasn’t sure.  And even if someone he knew from long ago called out to him, what could he say?  He was a young man who talked to lionfish.  He listened to the song of the waves.  What he needed was a new language, a language to share the things he had come to know now.


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