An Existentialist Children’s Story

Once upon a time, after the good S.S. Omnipotent
capsized and sank, if it even existed in the first place,
the assistant to the social director for the cruise ship
saved her life by seizing the first object she saw
before being washed overboard. She now bobbed
in the ocean, clutching a large tortoise piñata,
shrink-wrapped to protect it from puddles and rats,
intended for a health nut’s daughter’s quinceañera.
The boxes of Kix cereal hidden beneath the carapace
lent the piñata buoyancy, but the dense carob bars
under the plastron and in the hind legs pulled it
into the deep. The woman, the temporary survivor,
looked above her at the sky, empty to the horizon,
the sun blinding her with its wasted majesty.
She thought back to the afternoons she had spent
basking by the pool, hours she would never recapture.
She looked at the endless miles of liquid void
around her and beneath her, into the wet darkness
welcoming her to what would be her final destination.
She was glad that the transparent film of polyurethane
covering the piñata’s jaunty green-and-blue surface
still kept out the sea, but there would come a time
when she would have to tear through this wrapper
and make a hole in the tortoise itself to get food.
She needed to eat, but what she ate made her accidental
flotation device float a little lower in the salty water,
leaving more of her chunky but fragile body submerged,
pressing her lungs to make it more difficult to breathe.
On the other hand, if she did not eat, she would weaken
and lose the strength needed to keep holding on.
The decisions presented to her were so ridiculous,
so petty, but they were all she currently possessed,
besides the piñata, and they would determine the course
of a finite existence devoid of intrinsic meaning.
Eventually, because help never came – how could it? –
because of decreased buoyancy, of starvation, of
exhaustion, of an absurd but very real combination of
sunstroke and hypothermia, the former assistant to
the social director for the cruise ship S.S. Omnipotent
ultimately defined herself by thrusting the tortoise
away with her last bit of strength, seeing its red mouth
smile mindlessly for the last time, and letting the ocean
swallow her. Someday, you will die, too. The End.

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