Wednesday, March 3, 2010

{XI}

They skitched down the dune and got out on the spit. The sun looked orange and slick, like a canned peach. Bob dipped a foot into the mild water.

"I'm getting in," Bob said, unbuckling his belt.
Derrick was brushing off a spot on the rock and slowly getting down on it. "In the water? To swim?" Derrick asked.
"Yes," Bob said. He shucked his shorts and waded in.
"What, nude?"

Bob didn't answer. He pushed out into the water, which was as thick and warm as baby oil. Even when he stopped moving, the water buoyed him up and wouldn't let him sink.

"All right," Derrick said. "But don't laugh at my small pecker."

He took his pants down. Bob glimpsed the melancholy little change purse he had between his legs, and looked away. Derrick's problem. Bob didn't want to know about it. He stroked into the tide.

The sea floor dropped away fast, and just a few feet out, his feet couldn't reach the bottom. He dived down through the green water and floated for a moment in the mantle of coolness where the sun's heat didn't reach. That would be an all right place to stay, if you could only find a way to linger there. But his lungs were full of air, and he soon felt the surface break across his back.

Claire was picking her way down through the grass. She wore a terry-cloth skirt and a leopard print bikini top. She waved to Bob.

"Back up Claire," Derrick called out. "Bob is a nudest, and he's got me involved in it."
"I see," said Claire.

Bold as an athlete, she shrugged off her top and pushed her skirt down. Across her breasts and oval hips, her skin looked soft and new and pale as paraffin. Bob floated off the tip of the spit, looking at her and smoothing the water with his sore hands. He watched her ease into the green curl.

He considered for a moment the many miles that lay between him and his own wife, and what it would take to cinch that distance up again. A lot of talking, a lot of work was what it would take, more than a hundred patios. It was a discouraging thought, and Bob slipped beneath the water with the weight of it.

With the sun beginning to sag, Bob crawled out and got his shorts back on. Derrick and Claire were still far out in the waves, their heads blinking in and out of sight as the swells fell and rose.

He went to the hole in the rock and saw that the last tide had filled it with amazing things. A quivering halo of vermilion minnows hung near the surface. Hugging the side of the rock was a little blue octopus no bigger that a child's hand. Advancing on a yellow snail. Bob got the net. The minnows slipped through the mesh easily, but when Bob went for the octopus, it panicked and pushed off straight into the netting. He dropped it into the pot, and the plucked the snail with his fingers.

Derrick climbed out of the water and came and had a look.

"Caribbean reef octopus," he said. "They mostly live south of here, but when the water starts going through it's cooling, like it is right now, the current goes a little haywire and draws these funny drifts up here."

A smokey curtain of squalls was moving in from the west. Claire crawled out of the water, catching her balance in a long legged sprinters crouch so as not to scrape a knee. Then she stooped and braceleted a dark thigh with her fingers, easing her hand down the length of her leg, stripping the water off in silver peels. Bob watched her dry the second leg this way, and the beauty of it made his throat itch. While Derrick went on about wildlife and currents, Bob coughed into his fist.

{The Brown Coast, from Everything Ravaged Everything Burned by Wells Tower}

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