In Emily Dyer Barker’s “Premonition,” Paloma measures and compares the sweetness of oranges by the time of the day. The story opens with this grounded statement, but quickly eddies into a something like a hallucination. Barker’s writing takes on a dreamlike quality without ever losing its sense of place or character. Read on below:
The fish shivered. Her scales shimmered with joy, Yes, this is a good thing. Eat the fruit of the tree with the veined leaves, you will see the night more often—the stars will swim for you.
The oranges were sweetest in the afternoon, around 3:00pm. Paloma knew this. She’d tried the fruit at various times during the day and kept a record in the notebook God gave her. More than the sweetness of the oranges, the notebook helped her realize how much time she had. There were many points of the day. Morning—noon—afternoon—. There was a luxuriance of blue sky.
To be honest, it was difficult to remember what had happened because the points of day were more like lines—going on in every direction. It was difficult to keep track of the shapes they made between them, how long each went on forever. She wrote things down in her notebook as best she could which is where she found the conversation with the fish. The note reported she’d washed her hair in the lake because it had been a warm day. Her hair wasn’t dirty, she just wanted to feel her own fingertips on her scalp, the way the water moved it in heavy sections when fully submerged.
She met the fish while sitting in the sun on a black boulder waiting for her hair to dry. This moment exists forever in many directions, but one of the things she wrote down is that the fish said, Salutation. Paloma said nothing. The fish’s scales looked warm. They were bright copper and green. Greet me, it said. Paloma said nothing.