Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Holiday

Brock Adams


The storm clouds slid by fat and heavy.  From way out over the gulf, the wind blew in and tumbled the water into brown, low waves that sloughed their way to shore.  The umbrella guy pulled the umbrellas out of the sand and folded them up and put them away in the hut near the road while the wind got colder.  Taylor watched him for a minute, then went back to watching his wife.  Haley was swimming close to shore, diving under the waves and doing handstands in the dirty surf.  Her hair was slicked back dark and close down her back, and with her tiny nose and her black eyes, she reminded Taylor of a sea otter.  He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes.

She came out of the water with her arms wrapped around her, her teeth bit into her lower lip.  “It’s cold,” she said.  She had bits of seaweed stuck all over her.

“It’s going to storm,” Taylor said.

“It was nice out there though.  It was warm.”

“Sharks come out when the water gets like this.”

“They do not.”

“They do so.  When the water gets all churned up, they get confused, come in close to shore and bite people.”

“Come on,” she said.  She pushed him on the shoulder.  Taylor looked at the sand.  Haley hugged her knees close to her chest.  “What do you want to do now?” she said.

“I don’t know.”

“If it storms we could go see a movie.”

“We can see a movie at home.”

“But I don’t know what else to do if it’s raining.”

“We didn’t come here to see movies.  We’re supposed to be getting away.  You know, recuperating.”  He started burying his feet.  He piled sand on top of them until it looked like his calves just disappeared into a big pile of sugar.  “It might not even rain,” he said.

“Umbrella guy’s putting his stuff away.  He probably knows better.”

“I don’t care what umbrella guy’s doing.”

“You don’t have to be so angry at me all the time.  It’s not my fault.”

“I’m not angry at you.”

“I mean, I can’t help it,” Haley said.  “And I’m upset, too.”

“I don’t want to talk about this right now.”

“We don’t have to.”

The rain came across the gulf in a frothing white sheet.  A fishing boat motored by at full speed just in front of it.  The wind was cold and smelled of metal and wetness.

“Here it comes,” Haley said.

They got up and ran toward the road.  The rain chased them up the shore, patting into the sand and turning it brown and mottled.

“Our shirts,” Haley said.

“We’ll get them later.”

There was a convenience store near the road.  Two boys stood outside under the awning.  They were barefoot and shirtless in wet cutoff jeans, silent and tan, eyes squinted from days in the sun.  One of them sucked on a popsicle.  They watched as Taylor and Haley limped across the parking lot, the rocky asphalt rough on their feet.  The boy with the popsicle bit it with his teeth.  His eyes were blue and cold.

Inside the store everything smelled of air conditioner and electricity.  The fluorescent lights painted the walls chalky.  The clerk, an old Indian woman, stood behind a thick piece of plexiglass.  “You buying?” she said.

Taylor and Haley stood panting and dripping on the white tile.  “Buying?” Taylor said.

“You buy or you get out.”

“Okay,” he said.

“We should get some beer,” Haley said.

“You want beer?”

“I can drink as much as I want now.”

“I guess so.”

They paid for a six pack and stood next to the magazine rack, looking out the window.  Haley flipped through the magazines.  She took a beer from the pack and tried to open it.  She handed it to Taylor, squeezed her fingers in her other fist.

“It hurts my hands,” she said.

Taylor twisted the lid off and handed it back to her.

The rain started to let up and the two boys walked around the corner and came back with a couple of old bicycles.  One punched the other in the arm.  They laughed.  Then they got on the bikes and rode slowly away.  The sun broke out from behind the clouds.

Back on the beach, Taylor pulled his shirt out of the mud.  It was wet and sandy.  He shook it out and sat down on it and opened a beer.  Haley sat down beside him.  Near the road, umbrella guy was unlocking the hut.

“You think you might want to go swimming with me?” Haley said.

“Not really.”  He pushed the beer into the sand and picked it back up, a ring of brownish white sand caked around the bottom.

“It wasn’t supposed to storm every day,” she said.

“You can’t control the weather.”

“I know.  I just wanted you to have a good time.  I wanted you to be happy again.”

“I’m happy.”

“Happy like you were before.”

Her voice was creaky.  Without looking at her, Taylor could tell she was doing the face, the one where she scrunched everything up like a mouse and tried not to cry.  He used to think it was cute.

“We’re going to be okay,” she said.  “We’re going to be okay, right?”

Taylor drew lines in the sand.

“I mean, we can maybe even try again.”

“There’s no point.”

“Maybe though.  I mean, we can pray–”

“Praying’s not going to do it, Haley.”

“Well we shouldn’t...” She stopped talking.  Looked out over the water.  Things were moving around offshore, making ripples on the surface.

“The doctor says you can’t carry it to term.  That’s all there is to it.”

“It might change.”

“It won’t.  And I’m not going through that again.”  He stood up and walked toward the water.  The waves slid up the shore and covered his feet like foamy beer.  They went out again and took his footprints with them and left dozens of blue and silver and pink coquinas ooching their spiral path back into the sand.  Haley stood behind him.

“Well, there’s other things we can do.”

“I’m really not interested.”

“Or it can be just us.”

“That’s just not how I wanted it.”

“It’s not how I wanted it, either.”

The warm wind that was left over from the storm blew her hair out to the side.  The tears were wet on her face.

“Please please don’t be like this,” Haley said.

“I’m not being like this.”

“You are.”

Taylor waded into the water.  Tiny fish nipped at his heels.

“We’ll figure it out,” she said.

“I don’t know.”

“We will.  We can.”

Umbrella guy stabbed an umbrella into the sand.  He opened it in a flash of pink and blue.  He walked back to the hut and walked along the beach with another one over his shoulder.  Taylor watched him and then looked out over the gulf and then back at Haley.

“I just don’t think I love you enough,” he said.

She sat down in the sand.  She drank her beer.

“I’m going to go for a swim,” Taylor said.  He waded out until the water was over his head.  The wind was calming down and the gulf was nearly flat.  He dove under and opened his eyes and swam to the bottom where the water was dark and cold.

***

Brock Adams received his MFA from the University of Central Florida in 2008 and teaches English at USC Upstate in Spartanburg, SC.  His fiction has appeared in Eureka Literary Magazine, The Cypress Dome, and The Mangrove Review.  His short story "Audacious" has received numerous honors, including second prize in Playboy's College Fiction Contest.

© Brock Adams

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2009