“Hey pop, tell me about the first time you were able to change.”
“What do you mean, little one? Do you mean the first time I was able to dress myself?” he said, a grin spreading across his face.
“You know what I mean, pop!” The little girl exclaimed, leaping to grab her dad’s hair.
“Ah! Ah!” Sione wrapped his arms around his daughter and squeezed her tightly. She giggled as he tossed her up into his arms and chided her, “I could see that coming a mile away.”
“Come on! Shine! Shine! Tell me why you shine!” She rocked and swayed, doing her best to move her father to action.
“Okay, okay.” He walked towards the driver’s seat and placed her up on the perch that turned into a bed above it.
“I will tell you how it happened, but first I need you to do something for me. Can you do that?”
She nodded adamantly and said, “You can count on me!”
“Now tell me, my little one. What do we say about the shiny man?”
“And who do we say it to?”
“And why is that?”
“Because it is just for our family and no one else!” she flashed a toothy grin.
“Good girl!” he said, patting her on the head.
“Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in. Let it out. Sniff your nose! Do you smell that?”
He turned aside and cupped his hands around his mouth making soft, trilling bird noises.
“Do you hear that?”
He quickly reached for a towel and pulled it taught, rubbing it back and forth beneath her toes.
“Do you feel that? I was at the shore, just like you are now in your mind. Do you remember Tan-Tan’s house? I wasn’t far from there.”
“I remember. I can see it now. The sand feels so good and the sun feels so warm against my skin.” She said her eyes still closed, her hands and arms still stretched out as if she were trying to keep her balance.
“Well it wasn’t for me back then. Oh no, I was cold. I had stumbled out there in my sleep.”
“Why would you do that?” She said, her eyes snapping open to examine her father quizzically.
“Have you never heard of sleepwalking before?”
“Nope. What’s that?”
“I’ll get to that in a little bit, but first, the rest of my story.” He chuckled a bit under his breath and reached out to put her hands back up in their previous position. He brushed his fingers over her face so she would close her eyes again.
“Now no more interruptions!”
“There I was, standing on the beach. I could hear the ocean crashing loudly, but more than that, I heard a song. A song I had never heard before was coming from the sea.”
“It was as if the sea was calling to me. There was barely a moon that night. I looked across the water and saw a rippling silver walkway. It looked like nothing more than the moon’s reflection at first, but then it became clear to me. The voice kept calling and I answered.”
“What did you say?”
“I didn’t speak, not yet, I took a step forward. The song rang out more loudly and beautifully. I kept walking. I walked and I walked on that silver pathway. I should have been afraid, but I wasn’t. I was so far from the shore and water surrounded me, but I was not afraid. Suddenly, I felt a warmth in my chest and the song of the sea lowered to a hush.”
“I began to sink. As I sank, I could see that the silver light shining on the sea came, not from the moon, but from below the water.
The warmth in my chest, became hot as it glowed. I was so confused. I thought maybe I was still dreaming, but I knew I wasn’t. It was too real to be a dream.
The silver light below me dimmed and shrank into a single point. I reached for it and sank faster. I pushed myself forward and swam towards it as quickly as I could.”
“Though it was a ways off, I shot to it like a stone. The dim light was coming from something buried in the sand. It looked like it could have been a tiny rock. I wondered how I had been able to see it from so far away and where that light had come from. I grabbed at it, but it wouldn’t budge.
I brought myself around so that I was crouched over it and put both hands around it as best as I could, but it still would not move. So I-”
“But how were you still breathing, Pop?”
“Like I said, I thought it was a dream, so I didn’t need to, I guess. Actually, I had never really thought of it before. Good catch.”
“Anyway. I figured that it must have been part of something bigger, so I swept some sand away, but it just kept going. I swept all around until I had uncovered enough of this rock that we could have a picnic on it.”
“It looked like there was so much rock that I could never dig it up. I thought about going back to shore, but something didn’t feel right. I floated above the stone and saw a pattern begin to emerge. I think the swirling sands had etched through the stone over time.”
“The dim light still glowed and held my attention, so I swam down to it again. This time, I decided to try something else. I listened to the rock. The dim light or the stone itself still called out in a hushed tone.”
I let myself sink again and put my ear to the dim spot. The sounds were coming from it. I closed my eyes to concentrate on what it was saying. I had to fight to stay close to it as the currents were rocking me back and forth. I worked out a way to relax and to go with the flow. That’s when I heard it. The sounds from that tiny, dim spot on the rock were a message for me.”
“The spot whispered to me, “Strong as the sun. Swift as the sea. Sure as stone.”
It fell silent and the dim spot faded entirely. The heat and warmth in my chest faded.
“I shook from the cold of the water. I began to feel heavy. I looked up above me. The silver light was gone, like the moon had disappeared. For a moment, dread gripped me. I felt my feet hitting the stone, so I gathered my strength and pushed away from the rock. I shot straight up, swimming as hard and fast as I could. Praise the Lord, I made it to land without any issues. I had been so far from shore.”
“Anyway, from that night on, I meditated on those words, but it would be some time before I understood their meaning.”
“What did they mean? When did you change?” she pouted.
“One day, I was walking along the shore. I was in a hurry to see off my cousin, as he was leaving soon. Something caught my attention in the water. I noticed a diver out a ways. They had pulled themselves back into their boat and dove into the water again a minute later. That was nothing out of the ordinary, but a couple minutes later, I had a strange feeling. I stopped and looked out at the boat. I turned to leave a few times, but something kept me there. The diver wasn’t coming up. I watched the boat until I saw something bobbing next to it. I felt relieved for a moment, but then I realized it wasn’t the diver, but their oxygen tank!”
“I dove into the water, swimming hard. I went straight for the boat so I could look down and see the diver while I caught my breath before going under to grab them. Like in my dream before, I shot through the water. I was surprised at my speed, but I didn’t think about it, I had to get to them. I got to the boat in no time. I felt so good, I wasn’t tired or even breathing hard at all. As I pulled myself into the boat, I noticed that my skin was blue! I ignored it and looked into the water. I could see someone struggling, it look like they were stuck on something and couldn’t get themselves loose. I dove into the water and was to her in moments. The woman looked at me, her eyes widened for a moment, then she passed out. I gasped and realized that I was breathing water. I blew out; a stream of bubbles flitted up. I had all the air I needed, so I pulled her close and…”
Sione paused, struggling for the words.
“I cupped my hand over her nose and mouth, giving her air. Her head shook and she blinked, confused.”
“I broke her free from where she had gotten caught and gestured to her that I would take her up. She nodded slowly and grabbed hold of me. I got us both into the boat and she lay there for a while. She was OK, but we were both distracted from the rescue by my appearance. As I dried off, I turned back to myself.”
“Well, Samaria, are you pleased?” Sione asked patting her knee.
“Pop, you’re a rescuer! Yay!” Samaria exclaimed pointing at Sione.”
The door swung open and a woman climbed into the RV. “Is it story time again, Sami?” She asked as she set down some bags.
“We just finished!” Sione exclaimed. He grabbed the bags and took them to the kitchen.
“Which one was it this time?” She said as she walked over to pick up Samaria.
“He told me about the lady he rescued and how he turned all blue and shiny to do it. And how he gave her air through his hand.”
She turned around holding Samaria and raised her eyebrows at Sione, “You gave her air through your… hand? And who was this beautiful young woman you saved, hmm?”
“Peninah! You don’t remember? How could you forget?!” Sione cried clutching his chest in feigned heartache.
Samaria knit her brow and turned to her mother asking, “You knew her?”
“She is me!” Peninah said with a grin. She squeezed her daughter and set her down.
Samaria looked at her parents and said, “I guess, it’s like you said, the Shiny man really is just for our family!”