I heard yesterday that a poem of mine will be published in an anthology released by Steady Moon Press. In celebration I will share this piece of semi-flash fiction/semi-landscape description called “The Narrow Sea.”
“The Narrow Sea”
Chapin Beach resembled the end of the world—so said Matt Gooding.
The sun-baked beach slanted steeply for a few yards before white sanded molted to a field of barnacle encrusted rocks. Hardly a beach at all. To soldier on seemed foolish, especially barefoot, but a keen eye could trace the flexed arm of sand stretching through the shallows, wound between vast piles of rock, plunging into a tide pool and crawling out the other side like the first trilobite born with legs.
If you persisted along this haphazard path the rocks and crushed molluscs sunk beneath the sand and you could look in any direction but back and see only ocean—it surrounded you, lurking in clean pools, threatening to swallow the sandbars at the slightest suggestion from the moon.
Further out still—where the drowned armor of horseshoe crabs roved like zombies on gentle streams and seabirds congregated around banks of driftwood, where the surf amassed in white wreaths along the shore (a mile from the beach now) and where, above in space, no smart phone satellites hovered—Aleks and Matt pressed their foreheads together and whispered tactics, slapped each other meaningfully on shoulders burned red, then came apart.
Across the sandy plain James and Jacob labored through a late August afternoon, on the brink of defeat, salt-streaked Aviators drawn like ineffectual shields. James drew a black disc from the sand and without theatrics hummed it sidearm to the ocean. Matt took the first step and Aleks directed from there—“Mine, mine, mine” or “Yours, yours, yours”—before Matt waved him back, stopped, pivoted and leapt skyward, blind to the Frisbee’s whereabouts but able to catch its underside with the tip of a calloused, bass-worn finger, interrupting its flight long enough for Aleks to lay out over the shallows, his thin, pink palm all that separated black plastic from white sand.
And it was over. By now the marijuana cookies had taken full effect. The winners were delirious, the losers dogged, already heading back to the beach—demarcated from oblivion by a green band of blanket, their girl’s butts poised catlike over magazines glaring in the sun.
“I decided how I want to kill myself,” Matt began as they crossed the watery mesa.
“If you want to kill yourself,” Aleks corrected.
“Can you buy quicksand?” James wondered.
“Like have it installed?”
Jacob’s face was flush. “I’m stoned.”
“Don’t freak out.”
“Which way do we go?”
“Stop freaking out. Go ahead. Ahead.”
“No.” Aleks stopped walking. He extended his arm in front of him. “See…we go this way, we’ve got rocks on rocks on rocks.” He clocked his arm ninety degrees to the right. “This way is clear sailing, but about doubles our ETA.”
Matt made a ponderous face. “Decisions, decisions.”
“Look at those rocks.”
“Look at those girls.”
They all glanced up. The sun could have not occupied a more aggressive station in the sky. It said everything about those days: This way was easier but hurt so bad it might kill them; That way was a picnic, but would take them forever.