BY LARRY BROWN
Copyright is held by the author.
BREAKFAST AT the folding table, Raisin Bran and toast, Maxwell House and static. I kill the tiny TV, the scratchy voices, the coat hanger failing as an antenna. Wiping down the table Roberta now decides it might not rain after all. Our change of plans, we should, oh, change back. Rock and roll, I say. She takes this as a yes, which it could be. I am open to interpretation. We gather up our towels and paperbacks and I drape the blanket over my shoulder. Roberta’s baggy T-shirt hides her bathing suit, her feet are bare, her new ear plugs in place, the plugs yellow-brown, almost the colour of ear wax. Me, I wear shoes with my trunks. Black socks probably aren’t far off.
Across the road from the rented cottage we find a sandy path by the wire fence. Private Property, reads a sign. Something stirs near a tree on the other side of the fence. A shape, it’s a large dog, rising from the weeds. The dog charges. Shit, we say together, and swerve off the path, the dog skidding to a stop at the fence. Its head is almost square. But the dog doesn’t bark, doesn’t show teeth. We walk, the dog shadows us, staring, undistracted, we are its entire world. Weeds swish.
It is a stupid idea. One I could, but don’t, resist. I approach the fence, slowly, cup my hand to my mouth and, for fun, stammer, B-B-Boo! The dog’s ears stand erect.
The dog looks poised to leap the fence. I hear Roberta swear again. This time she includes my name.
The fence corners. We turn, the dog turns. An empty beer bottle litters the path. There, I say as a warning. “What?” says Roberta. But the bottle is already behind us and then, for us, the fence ends. The ground slopes towards the beach. I can’t smell lake. The dog remains at the fence corner, watching. The next time I check it is gone, back hiding in the weeds, I suppose, guarding the vacant lot.
I spread the blanket. T-shirt off, Roberta runs a thumb beneath a shoulder strap on her bathing suit, straightens it out. She touches one ear plug.
But these days? No, I can’t imagine any of my friends really want to. Fuck her, that is. So, I should feel how?
The sky is low. A breeze chops the water. Steps To The Beach said the ad for the cottage. We’re here for two weeks.