“Midday is thought to be the worst part of a diurnal creature’s life. I disagree; it’s late afternoon.” Emma dangles a cigarette, and her accent, in the corner of her mouth. Reclining on a park bench, she lets the perspiration wet the filter before removing it. If her company didn’t know any better, they’d say she woke from a nightmare. She would tell them she hasn’t yet.
“Although, I don’t see myself going out on that kayak yonder for another six hours. I didn’t even bring sunscreen. I’d crisp like a bucket of chicken.” Using her plaid shirt, she places a circle of sunlight inside her checks. The magnolia tree reaches the shoreline from her feet, holding grass and leaving white sand alone. It’s the only way to view the bay in August.
Few whitecaps line the surface of the Choctawhatchee with rolling dimples gulf bound. The sun shatters on its algae-ridden mirror. It sparkles naturally and relieves itself of nature’s living in waves of smells. The varicose appearance of seaweed twiddles barely beneath the surface just outside the shoreline. It’s beautiful if for its unsanitary nature.
“I’m not used to lying around like this,” Chip stood up for another trip to the cooler. “It’s like time and the Earth are standing still at high noon. It’s a showdown to see who will move first and it’s heating up.” Looking at the ice slush he picks out a can of High Life, neurotically shakes off the water, and taps the top. “…and you’re saying it only gets better.”
Emma’s aviators slide down as she makes eye contact with the wiry boy. “Sweetheart, if you didn’t want to be steamed or parboiled at any time in your life you should have stayed out of Florida.” Raising her index finger, the bridge of her glasses smack into her forehead. Her sandals come off and she flattens out on the table. “Besides, you’d be pissed about the cold in Minnesota.”
“Oh, fine,” he hands a gold can to her and wanders to the blue and white lawn chair facing the dirt road out. “You wouldn’t be here, if I hadn’t said anything about going. For a professed ‘loner,’ you sure do spend a lot of time with other people.” The can dribbles slightly and receives a short jump from Chip.
“You could have said ‘no,’ and I wouldn’t have,” Emma kept her eyes shut with cool composure, letting the sweat invade and burn her eyes. “What does that say about you?”
“That I’m a generous, kind-hearted, good person?” Slapping the side of his neck, he examines his hand for tangible signs of pests. Regardless of his findings, he wipes his hand on his shorts with a grimace.
Moving out of the sedentary position, she darts back “how about lonely and desperate for attention?”
He eyed the split in the button-down shirt as she shifted her position on the table. Billowing out in gaps, he caught a glimpse of her white bikini top currently grey in the shirt. He looks back into her eyes without speaking. “People have ulterior motives, you know?”
“Yeah, yeah. Well, I’m going to take a nap. I’ve been driving for hours.” Setting the can of beer on the ground, the chair makes for a recliner. Soft wheezing could be heard in a matter of minutes. Emma’s eyes spun and landed on the bay. Its haze is hypnotizing. She lays her head on the table and begins to doze as well.
Sailing! A small craft, too small for a cabin, glides on a bay with water that ceases to amaze. Wildlife continues without interruption. The limitless vision breaks any vanishing point, and could deceive one into thinking they were a god. Light found ways to illuminate everything. On the jagged shoreline laid greens and other finely made specimens of vegetation. There was no noticeable sign of construction or development.
Closing his eyes, Chip took in the breeze as the boat sails. Not knowing whether or not he was used to the seaside smells, a sense of sweetness gives comfort. Its course is to the west, or so it seems to be, as its sailing into the sun. Another deep breath and he rests his back. The light under his eyelids fade, though, and he opens them to find a mass of charcoal grey clouds boiling over the horizon.
“Chip, wake up!” The wind is harsher than before. “Wake up, before I hit you with something.” Waves spilling on deck match the clouds over the horizon. His vessel is taking on water. Trying to scoop the water out, the bailing becomes frantic. No quicker than he could shovel it out did he notice the bow of the boat underneath the surface. The boat is the ocean and he the buoy.
Anything demonstrates an exercise in futility. The swells grow stronger and are looking to pummel. Black water smearing the face prevents Chip from screaming. He goes with the boat. Vision is lost but he worries on breathing. With no air, the panic intensifies. Time becomes irrelevant for a millisecond before a sharp pain erupts from his chest.
“Ah!” Chip screams and bird flap away from the magnolia tree. In the waking world, Emma is holding a “You were having a nightmare. I’ve seen nothing like it. You were flailing and screaming. I had to do something to make you stop.” Letting go of the stick, Emma took up the hobby of clinical diagnostics.
“You seem all right now. Let’s go for a swim. It’s five o’clock and I want to do something.” Within seconds she began prancing down to the beach in her swimwear.
“Uh, sure. Let me get my shoes.” With the proper footwear on, he makes his way down to the shoreline.
“Why do you have your shirt and shoes on?” Emma was already far enough out not to touch the ocean bed. “You know you’re swimming right?”
“Yes, but I find it helpful to have a shirt to block the sun and shoes to avoid cuts on my feet.” He lays his towel neatly upon the bench, folded just so.
“Don’t be a wimp. Did your mother tell you to do that?”
“Oh, for the love of God. You’re not scared about that are you?”
“I don’t know, maybe a little. It’s always possible I suppose.”
“You’re ridiculous! Get in here already. I’d like to spend a vacation having a good time and not worrying about what could go wrong.”
Resignation sets in as he strips down further. Slowly approaching the water he shuffles in and goes out to meet her. The water is cold, but warms up slightly as he takes each step. Halfway through Chip screws his face up and lets out a few profane words. He stares ruefully at the shoes on shore.
“What’s wrong now?!” She slaps the water with both hands.
“I think I stepped on something. It might have cut my foot open.” His baleful eyes met hers.
“We’ll take care of it when we’re done. You’ve got that first aid kit in the car. Do you want me to kiss it and make it feel better, too? For the last time get out here! This vacation’s starting to be a pain in the ass.”
“OK. OK. I’m out here.” Shifting left and right, he makes sure he sees nothing out of the ordinary.
“You’re a terrible traveler. Next time I’m going to buy a plane ticket and you can take your own little adventures. You need to loosen the Hell up. You’re so uptight your asshole squeaks. Do you always do this on your vacations? Oh, what the fuck now?!”
“There’s something in here.” Chip began to swivel his head. The water’s murk reveals nothing.
“Quit being paranoid, dick! If you’re joking around you can stop that too. What the fuck has gotten into you?” Emma shoves the water right in his face.
“I don’t joke. I’m sorry; I’m getting ou–” His scream is more like a yelp, and Chip’s head dunks underwater. The silence weighs on Emma as she scowls at the bubbles. Her face begins to burn with an intense heat.
Seconds pass, and then a minute. The bubbles and foam settle with a slight fizz. Squinting she moves to his former spot. It’s empty, save for a strand of seaweed. She feels the wetness of the bay through her fingers.
“Chip? Chip? CHIP! Jesus Christ!” Emma swims an Olympic lap to the loose sand on the beach. Every inexplicable bump or shift produces a scream. Flight is no faster. Crawling on her hands and knees she makes it to the dutiful towel on the bench. She props her back up on the bench and stares out at the bay.
She waits for any sign of him: a head, a hand, a gasp. Everything stays quiet, except for the birds in the magnolia tree. Looking at the picnic bench, see eyes the car keys among the other things.
“This vacation is fucked.” Emma stands up and runs for the car.
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