a ruby, a blankie, and a baby walk into a shoal


by Sarah Coates

Rubies are rare
so are blankies
so are babies that drive boats
When a ruby is wrapped in a blankie 
in proximity to a swarthy baby
(especially near the sea)
certain things happen. 
Magic things. 
A baby can become a sea witch 
with a blankie to signal her great power
and a ruby to channel her warmth
Magic things. 

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The ruby’s first home was at the tip of a bent-horned, barnacle encrusted, raspy voiced narwhal. The narwhal’s horn swept out at exactly a 47.5 degree angle. At the horn’s end hung the ruby, always slow dancing with the undercurrents. Often the bobble glinted and winked and spread red rays as the narwhal rose to the surface for his ritualistic air gulping. It seemed like his ornament could soak up the sun, however briefly in its presence, and hold the sun’s fire so that the narwhal’s face felt warm even in the hard dark of the sea. 

But one day, on his way surface-ward, our gnarly narwhal lost his precious ruby. It drifted down, still slightly glowing, to the deepest part of the ocean. The descent took days and the jewel saw many glorious and unexplainable creatures. It even lived on a vampire squid for a slippery, albeit very giggly, moment. To calm the distraught drifter, the squid tickled the jewel silly with its many small fangs and made cute faces with its large eyes and flappy ears. But eventually, because the squid undulated too quickly and swam too speedily for the ruby to hold on, it fell once more into the deep. Days later, filled a curious mixture of sorrow and relief, the ornament landed softly on the sea floor.

Meanwhile, far away, as the jewel fell a blankie was made. It was stitched and hemmed and dyed and ushered into existence with deft fingers and the help of a little dog. Despite evidence to the contrary, dogs are great at folding. This dog was the finest. She folded and folded and folded until the cows at the farm where the blankies were made came home and promptly applauded her folding. She even won a medal from the I.S.P.F., the International Society for Proper Folding. But when she started folding this blankie, our blankie, she began to sob riotously. No matter how hard she tried it seemed impossible, even immoral, to fold a blankie this full of magic. So, naturally, she dumped it in the ocean.

As the blankie, our blankie, drifted across international waters it felt a tug downward, saw a warm flutter below, and became strangely itchy. So it gave into this wet, somewhat uncomfortable, but exciting gravity. It sank. And sank. And sank. It was lonely, true, but it was also filled with purpose.

Until, one day it fell onto a jewel, a little ruby secured with a small knot to a loop of seagrass. The corners of the blankie sunk partially into the loop and a sudden strong current tangled the loop tight, swept up the body of the blankie like a sail, and lifted the duo off the ocean floor. Rising, they cheered and shared greetings and felt like they had known each other for their whole lives, though of course the ruby was considerably older than the newborn blankie. They rose past the vampire squid dancing with a pack of very pregnant sea horses. They rose past two sea urchins playing mean tricks on a sleeping eel. They rose past a party of fish dodging a shark, their rent, and the law. They even rose past ruby’s narwhal who sung a raspy greeting and shed a large, happy tear for the sight of his dear friend. They rose to the surface of the ocean where they bobbed along only for a second or two before being scooped up by a baby on a boat. 

The baby promptly sailed back home and showed her parents what she found. (This wasn’t any ordinary baby). To her dismay they ignored her rather unusual discovery (like always). So she crawled to her room, sat on her floor and slowly wrapped the glowing gem in it’s colorful friend and placed them alongside a gleaming treasure heap that smelled faintly of seaweed and salt. Every night she unwrapped the ruby, placed it firmly in her palm, and swaddled herself in the blankie. And as she grew and the blankie no longer fit she would use it for other things to keep them safe and warm like the cloth once did for her on those cold nights by the sea. First she used it to swaddle her pet horseshoe crabs. The blankie suffered minor damage from their claws, but she felt the tiny holes meant only that it was loved. Then as the horseshoe crabs raised families of their own and moved away, she started having picnics and would place the warmly faded cloth on the very top of a dune and in an aging hole she would sit the ruby. And they would have tea and listen to the waves chatter about the animals within them. 

When she was older, much older, she raised the blankie as her flag with the ruby in its post and made her home on the waters that fed her. The flag became a symbol known ocean-wide for a very potent magic. A fierce and kind and brilliant magic. You know the type. When you feel a creeping chill, a desolation, are drenched through with loneliness, or maybe if you’re simply stuck in the middle of the sea, keep your eyes wide and your heart open for a windswept blankie, a warm ruby, and a powerful woman on a boat.