Surf’s Up

I saw a show recently where someone’s stomach got pumped. I got to thinking about a character who might have undergone that, and apparently, she was talking for this prompt.

beach blue motion nature

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“It’s like a scene right out of Jaws,” Jane said, eying the beach. She stood on the boardwalk, beach towel and cooler in hand. The beach towel was white, with large blue words that read, “Surf’s up” on one side. She wasn’t a surfer, but the towel, threadbare in places, had been her brother’s. Since he lost his mind and went to school in the frigidity of Canada, she decided he couldn’t be a surfer anymore. 

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” her older sister claimed. “Come on.” 

They wove between blankets and beach chairs. Boomboxes blared. Babies and little children tipped buckets of water onto piles of sand, and with frantic digging, tried to make tunnels and castles before the sand could dry. 

“There’s no space anywhere. And it’s really hot out here,” Jane whined. “Why did we come here again?”

“I’m not missing the holiday weekend at the beach. Not when it’s this nice out. And I can’t exactly leave you home alone.” 

Jane’s face flushed. “It’s been a whole year, Sara. I wouldn’t do anything—”

“Yeah, right. Mom and Dad come home tomorrow with Dave to find you OD’ed on the kitchen floor. Nice image. You promised we could do what I want today. I took you to the bookstore yesterday, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but I hate the beach.”

“Get over it.” 

They found a few square feet about three feet back from the tide and spread their towels. Jane sat on hers, wrapping her arms around her knees. Sara rolled her eyes. 

“You’re not going to sit there covered head-to-toe.”

“I’m here. What does it matter what I wear?”

“I know you’ve got a bikini on underneath. I had the happy task of checking your closet and dresser last week. You don’t own a one-piece. Show off a little.”

Jane shook her head and chewed her cheek. She’d been clean for over twelve months and had the chip to prove it. But she didn’t want Sara to see the long thin scars she’d made with a steak knife she snagged from the kitchen as soon as Mom and Dad went away for the weekend. If she’d known the beach would be the payment Sara demanded for a full morning at the local bookshop, Jane wouldn’t have cut herself Friday night. She would have waited. Because she knew how Sara was, how she could get—for some reason it mattered to her if Jane was covered up. 

“You’re so weird.”

“Thanks,” Jane said, a half smile peeking out. “I resemble that remark.”

Another eye roll. “Whatever. Just be quiet and let me enjoy the sun.” 

Jane didn’t nod but she didn’t disagree either. She watched the surf rolling onto the beach, and timed her breathing to each breaker. Breathe out, slam the sand. Breathe in, pull the sand back into the water. She imagined it churning, and her with it, spinning under the water. Dave once told her about a time the riptide had sucked him under. She wondered if it was more uncomfortable than having her stomach pumped. That’s what happened the last time she overdosed. 

“I’m going for a swim,” she said. Sara made some noncommittal noise, and Jane stood. She didn’t take off her teeshirt or shorts, but kicked off her flip flops. She hoped some sand got into Sara’s eyes. Jane wove her way toward the water, and when the next wave rolled, she dove under it.

This work of fiction is in response to my writing prompt from this Sunday. All characters and events are completely fictional, and in no way created to represent myself or anyone else I know.

Graduation Day

Lucy’s accepted the folio embossed with her university’s name and logo, and shook the dean’s hand. She remembered advice her father always gave, to offer a firm handshake. She squeezed tighter and the dean hissed in a breath and narrowed his eyes. She muttered an apology and, head down, hurried from the stage to catch up with the students—no, graduates—ahead of her.

Marching in file reminded her of fire drills in primary school. Her teacher would take them out into the hall, hold up two fingers to indicate they were to be silent, and say, “Don’t let go of your buddy’s hand until I say so.” Miss Pear, that was her name. Well, Miss Pear would turn her back and lead them out of the building, not once looking back until they were outside. Years later, Lucy hated her for that. Any one of them—or pair of them—could have been consumed by rampaging flames and Miss Pear wouldn’t know until she took attendance outside. Then it might be too late.

Lucy took her seat. She ran her fingertips over the gold letters on the folder. Even though she knew it would be empty, she opened it anyway. Under the plastic sleeve was a typed note that read: Pending a review of all financial obligations, you will receive your diploma in the mail within two to three weeks. In the end, Lucy thought, it comes down to money. 

Over one hundred thousand in student loans awaited her. The thought of it turned her stomach. Sweat dampened her forehead under the Pennsylvania late-spring sun. A degree from Wharton opened doors for her. That’s what everyone told her. Years later, she had no prospects. No guarantee that she’d be able to pay her student loans when the six months were up. 

Frank got a job as a business manager for some firm in New York City. He already had an apartment lined up. Lucy was supposed to help him move next week. Sarah had four offers to choose from. Lucy had joked with her that the three Sarah decided against should, by default, become hers. Sarah had tossed her hair and said, “If only it worked that way.” Joe, Lucy’s boyfriend, had called things off last night.

Lucy didn’t care about where he went next after graduation day. All she knew was he was going to California. “I just can’t do the long-distance thing,” he’d said. Lucy had offered to move. Joe said she could drop him a line if she made it out to the west coast.

When Pomp and Circumstance started to play, Lucy felt glued to her folding chair. Frank and Sarah had to hoist her to her feet so their row could file out. Joe should be sitting with her. He should be her buddy. Like Miss Pear, he didn’t give a damn what happened to her now—but if she managed to make it out to California alive, maybe he’d notice her.

This is in response to Sunday’s writing prompt. I came in at exactly 500 words on this one.

The Stowaway

Tommy felt someone haul him out of the waves that slapped his face and rushed down his throat. He coughed, sputtered. Someone said, “hold on boy, you’ll live.” He clutched the side of the row boat as hard as he could. The oar smacked his leg right before the rower pulled it out of the water again. By the time the rocking stopped, Tommy slept.

When he woke, he felt the warmth of fire on one side of his body and turned to ease the chill on the other. He opened his eyes. The walls of a cottage and a hearth surrounded him. Above, he could just make out the underbelly of the thatched roof. He wasn’t rocking anymore but lay on a straw bed before the fire. A deer skin rug stretched the short distance between the straw bed and the hearth. A black kettle hung in the orange and red flames.

He pushed himself to his elbows. Tommy’s arms shook. “What happened?”

“Shipwreck,” a male voice answered, and then the man came into view. He was short with wide shoulders and sand caked on his breeches and boots. “We got most of you out of the water.”

“Most of us?”

“Aye. You’re lucky to be alive.”

Tommy sat up all the way and winced, pressing a hand to his sore side. “The captain—of the Content—did he make it?”

The man shrugged. “Wouldn’t know. I pulled you and two others out of the water. The others are upstairs. Neither looked like a captain though.”

Tommy nodded. “Thank you for saving me.” He stood.

“Whoa, where’re you going?”

“I have to leave.” He’d been a stowaway on the Content, and the captain had just discovered him before the storm hit.

“You’ll stay. You’re hurt and the sky’s open.”

Yet another I might turn into a longer story. I kind of want to see what becomes of Tommy, find out why he stowed away, etcetera. This is in response to Sunday’s writing prompt though, so I had to cap it at 300 words.

Three’s a Crowd

“Speak not, reply not, do not answer me!” Sara threw up her hand.

Frowning, Neve looked at the books in her friend’s arms. “You know, you might be taking your Shakespeare obsession a little too far. All I said is that maybe you should consider—”

Sara’s expression darkened with each word until she thrust her books at Neve. “And you could do with some more Shakespeare. You have no poetry in you, you dark heart.” She turned on her heel and tried to storm off, but the between-classes traffic stalled her.

Neve reached out and grabbed the elbow of her sleeve. “Hold up, Sara. I know you don’t want to hear it, but he was kissing someone else. I wouldn’t lie.”

Sara shrugged Neve off and ducked into the crowd like a fish joining an upstream school. Neve let her head loll back and let out a groan. The bell rang, and everyone shuffled faster; Neve walked across the hall into Mr. Basset’s history class. “Am I cold-hearted?” she asked Andrew, Sara’s boyfriend.

“You? Maybe. But I like that you were brave enough to get rid of Sara for us.”

This is my response to Sunday’s writing prompt. The tome? Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare.

Grand Central Market

Fletcher heaved the sack of bows over his shoulder, balanced the across his back, and left his apartment. He gave a nod to the doorman, Floyd, because he had to hold the sack with both hands. “Headed to the Grand Central market,” he told Floyd.

“Ah, good luck, mister Fletcher, sir.” Floyd was lean except for a round ale belly that stretched his tunic so Fletcher could see his belly button. Fletcher looked down at his feet. “Taking the lot today, sir?”

“Aye. Hoping to trade a few for new boots. The army’s in town.”

“Good luck,” Floyd said again and pulled open the glass and brass door.

Fletcher turned sideways through it and walked to the corner to hail a cab. Three passed him by, their numbers lit up. He hissed a curse and walked three blocks to the subway. Fletcher lived downtown—way downtown—in the hunting district of the island of Manahatta. Tall apartment buildings, all identical with identical two-room apartments surrounded a massive grassland. Deer often roamed south an when he wasn’t crafting bows and arrows, Fletcher hunted for his community. His hunting partner, a descendant from the Lenape tribe, would spend the day preparing their kills from the day before.

Fletcher was descended from one of the few European families allowed to live on the island. His great, great, great, great, great grandmother was permitted to stay because she’d been pregnant when her husband brought her over from England. He’d had to return. He climbed down the steps to the subway platform, apologizing to people who pressed against the handrails to get out of his way. He got plenty of stares and grimaces on the subway, except from a man who shuffled the car, hands outstretched and begging for food.

Fletcher didn’t have any on him, so he just shook his head. “I’m sure you could trade something at the market.”

“Ain’t got nothing to trade,” the man said. He flashed Fletcher a jack-o-lantern smile.

Fletcher stopped the man before he could shuffle along. “If you’ll assist me today, I’ll give you one of my bows to trade.”

The man grinned again and then wiped some drool from the corner of his mouth where he didn’t have a tooth to hold it in. He extended the same hand to shake Fletcher’s. Fletcher looked at the drool-drenched hand and swallowed back a grimace. “Can’t let go of this sack, but you have my word.”

A bell dinged and they both swayed as the train stopped. Fletcher led the way out of the train and above ground. Grand Central was filled with booths, tables, and people milling around, peddling trades. “What’s your name?” Floyd asked.

“Fred,” the begging man answered, shuffling to stay close.

“Fred…I’m Fletcher. That makes us neighbors. If you’re hungry, why don’t you come to me for venison?”

Fred shrugged. “Likes of you never look my way.”

Fletcher pulled a bow out of the sack and passed it to him. “Until now.”

This is from Sunday’s writing prompt about a parallel world. I thought about how the world might be different without money, if we still lived on a bartering system. I might turn this into a longer story.