Cherry beach, the burnt cologne of strong wood and coal fragrant
on her lips and tongue and under her nails. Fame smiles, tilts
her neck to the side. Benjamin drives out of the parking lot,
the back of the car to the lake. Empty Tupperware, tiny seeds
and red drool roll in the back seat.
"That was odd. Lobsters on the beach," she smiles,
rubs his hand with her finger.
"The whole night was weird. Where did that swan come from?"
"It was beautiful. The fire and the swan and the beach."
She squeezes his hand.
"And the lobster. Did you see the water, you know what is
"No. There aren't any. Don't scare me."
The car is filled with their smells. Tinfoiled lobster, bread
soaked in butter, a half-drunk bottle of white wine and their
blanket crawling with nostalgic herbs and twigs. Folded up by
her feet a charcoal sketch of a calm ocean, a couple knee-deep
in seaweed and green foam. The car rolls into the unlit driveway.
* * *
Early Sunday morning she rises from the bath. They nestle in
bed. The bath is her coffin. Some mornings she cries uncontrollably.
Sometimes he paces behind her, shadowing her cleaning. She rolls
over, into his mouth she puts a finger.
"I had another shark dream. We drove out to the beach. The
headlights stayed on and we walked out into the water. I was dressed
like a bond girl. You were in a tuxedo. We were drinking martinis."
"Did we go under water?"
"Yes. And then it came at us, and bit into us. The screen
went all red as we kissed."
"I would be the Bond girl who died in the first thirty minutes
of the movie. I know it."
Fame climbs into the bed. Benjamin is lying on his back. She
presses crawls onto his torso. Begins to swim. He lies back; a
dense chainsaw is faintly heard through the small crack in the
window. The early morning activities begin to unravel. Elastic
bands fling from newspaper, sprinklers and hoses relive their
circulation. The asphalt heats, tar stretches.
"I'm getting some juice. Want anything?" Fame slips
down the staircase into the white kitchen with the dark blue tiles.
There are waves of plastic from salad and vegetables, fresh ones.
He reads his horoscope. He reads hers. She bites his neck. Lips,
gums, and teeth red from the juice. Pure cranberry extract.
"Remember Easter at my Aunt's?"
"Yes. I peed red for a couple of days."
"The beets and the roast beef. It was all red. The Wine
too. Even the napkins."
They fade in the new sun. The sun pushes itself up into their
bedroom. The digital alarm clock numbers fade. A hot day. The
morning peels itself. Asses are in those white chairs across from
the cemetery. The convenience store is getting a paint job. He
wants coffee. Crows, sparrows, squirrels. He counts the animals.
Stares out the window, she sips her juice and reads her horoscope.
Goes into the bathroom.
There is always something to look at, he thinks. The lines from
the cable companies make it that way, especially for driving.
You can look up and follow the lines. Stay inside them. On the
road. Don't run over the cows. Don't topple the weak fences.
At the beach, he thought about the empty salad dressing bottle,
waiting for it to come out. He forgot to shake it so there was
this pre-cum, thin and without flavour. He brushes his teeth.
There are things he misses about gaps in his memory. Her face
fills up the pillow. He crawls back in the bed. The rich taste
of cranberry in his mouth. She offers him another. A faint moan
from a bending negative mouth on the television. An open road,
a highway sign.
"Can you fix the reception?" Fame pouts. Blinks her
eyes. He blinks his eyes back. The screen cackles. Car lights
bend across mountain curves. A woman in a dress blurs gray and
red and white. The volume is down.
In another world his coffee mug is full, a few sips less than
when it was first poured and another woman in another outfit is
sipping another kind of juice with another man.
"Do we still have strawberries?"
"I used them all in the salad for the picnic."
He imagines every sentence and word everyone would ever say to
him for the rest of his life and tries to estimate how long it
would take to pronounce each vowel. He notices his legs were crossed
at the ankle. The last time Benjamin went to his grandfather's
at the nursing home his feet were crossed. At the ankles. His
grandfather held his hand. His grandfather couldn't describe Benjamin
his dreams. He was frail.
Fame nudges him. "What are you thinking about?"
She gets up. The bathroom door closes. He turns off the television.
There is a cold draft. He shuts the window.
The bathroom lights are off. Heat and flesh and moisture from
the flesh. Curls her toenails. A rubber shark floats in the bath.
Mouth molded open. She slips in. Screams. He runs. Opens the door.
Her mouth. Up from water. He slides in.
"Kiss me." Fame spits out a playful showing of water
and juice. Pruned fingers walk along a bar of soap. Little snags
of armpit hair get temporarily trapped in a six-string of coiled
shadows. Mirror fogs up.
Benjamin feels the tiny dark hairs crawling with soap next to
his thumb as his spine bumped by the plastic toy. A hard fin.
She grabs the glass of juice with laughter, her back to him. Turns
around fast. Fame's mouth spills cranberry juice down her throat
in between her breasts and into her belly button. The bath turns
red. She lunges forward. Arms flail. They kiss softly, scratching.
Plug is pulled.
"I'm cold." She sips the rest of her juice. He towels
off, the deep scent of the fire and the lobster is nestled in
his difficult chest hair. Swallowed by the blanket, head cradled
in the thick pillow, he watches her tiny feet dangle and wave
from the bathtub.
Nathaniel G. Moore
waited with feet dangling. Not anxious.