NEW FICTION - Short Story release

Long Road Beach 

Long Road Beach Cover.jpg

“You’re fucking ridiculous sometimes, you know that?”

Her voice was like a q-tip of fire in my ear. I jabbed my greasy fingers back into the pile of french fries in front of us, the cardboard tray holding them almost tipped, a few tumbled off onto the table. 

“I’m fucking ridiculous?” I chuffed through my mouthful of salt and potato fluff. “I’m fucking ridiculous?” My mind was trying to think of some logical response, but all I could think about were the tits of the three girls in bikinis walking by on the street beside us. The chest of the blonde girl in the centre seemed barely contained within her white bathing suit and her skin looked as smooth as cream. She didn’t look a day over 16, but her tits suggested she was slightly older, around my age. “I’m fucking ridiculous,” I said again, this time it seemed to be less of a question. 

“Yeah, you are.”

Tiffany hurriedly pinched another fry from the pile, stabbed it into the paper cup of mayo beside her and folded it into her gob. 

The girls passed by us, it was getting a little late to head to the beach, but I guess it was better late than never. I watched Tiffany stare at the trio’s backs as they walked by. 

“Just admit it,” I said. “Admit it, and I’ll forgive you.”

“I never said I was sorry, Connor,” said Tiffany. “There’s nothing to apologize for.”

The anger was like smoke inside me, heating up more and more with each breath that I didn’t let it out. I wanted to, oh god I wanted to, I wanted to scream salt-flecked spit into her face and call her a god-damn whorish liar. I loved her, but fuck she could be stupid. 

My eyes fell on Tiffany’s chest. Sweat was coating her slightly reddened skin and I could see a pimple starting to form where her bikini bra rubbed her right breast. I sighed.

Tiffany thought it would be a good idea to get away for the day. 

It was a Friday, and for some fateful alignment of the stars, both Tiff and I had the day off from work. Generally, my day off would be spent in front of the TV playing Call of Duty, but of course Tiff had to have the day off too and whoops, say goodbye to those relaxing plans. 

Beach day. 

My skin practically reddened at the very thought of it. Yet, Tiffany insisted, and before I could say shit she was already slabbing sticky suntan lotion on my skin and we were in the car on our way here, my body leaking sweat, creating a slimy coconut smelling goop between my bare back and my leather seats. 

The AC had been broken for months. 

“This is going to be so fun!” Tiffany exclaimed. She leaned over the gearshift, her other arm held to snap a selfie of the two of us. I didn’t look over. Behind my aviators my eyes were narrowed. My teeth were clamped over my tongue to keep it from flapping fucks at her for almost pushing me into reverse. 

The destination was Long Road Beach, a numbskull name for a beach if you’re asking me, but I guess it makes sense since the road leading directly to the water is a nearly 10 kilometre stretch of perfectly flat pavement. We’d been there several times before and Tiff and I actually realized you could sit at one end and see people walking at the other end, practically the size of ants. We sat their arm in arm and tried to figure out how old the people were. That was back in Grade 9. 

Fuck, that was more than 10 years ago. 

“Are you even listening to me?” Tiff shouted. 

I blinked. My eyes were stuck on the road, staring at the other end of the empty street. 

“No, I’m not actually. What did you say?”

For what felt like the first time all day, our eyes met and I could see that there were tears in hers. The look of her red-rimmed eyes, something that used to bring me to my damn knees before our 100th lay, now only had the affect of making me angry. What the hell was it this time?

I looked away, I’m not the one who should feel guilty here, she’s the one texting the fuckboy. Multiple fuckboys actually. 

“Oh nothing, only laying my heart on the fucking table,” Tiffany yelled, the tears leaking down her face. 

“Tiff, fuck, calm down,” I tried to say over her screaming, but not scream myself. No need to draw any more eyes our way, the entire patio was practically staring at us now. 

The place was a small shack that served the best fries on the beach. The patio attached to it was covered in picnic tables that looked like they were organized by someone trying to make crop circles. They snaked and turned in every direction, tables of blue, green, yellow, red, all of them bleached by the sun and peeling like dead skin on a calloused foot. 

Tiffany was standing, I looked around at the few remaining people, all of whom were wearing bathing suits or some semblance of beach attire and all of them were looking at us. I wanted to shout at them to mind their own fucking problems, but decided to keep my mouth shut. A guy in the corner wearing a full-on white suit looked like he was straight out of a 50s gangster flick. 

“Tiff, just sit down,” I said. 

“Why, you’re not listening to me anyways.”

Despite her disagreement, she sat back down with a thud. The bench creaking beneath her. 

When we first met back in high school, Tiffany Sawyer had been the hottest chick I’d ever seen. Skinny legs always shrink-wrapped in black jeans, punk-band t-shirts that never made it all the way to her waistline, showing off a string of shooting stars that wrapped their way around both her hips. 

Grade 9 me marvelled at how she convinced her parents to let that happen. That was before I knew her parents had died when she was five and she had mostly been raised by her older sister. 

“I will listen,” I said, sliding the fries out from between us, moving my hands carefully, unsure if they could keep up the slight movement or if they would betray me and fling the grease sticks into the air and shower us with trans fats. 

“Sure,” said Tiffany. 

“Once you apologize I’ll listen,” I added. The tears were mostly gone and I felt it was a good time to get a good plug in for my cause. 

Relationships really are like fucking politics. You need to campaign for the things you want and the things you want are only warranted if favours are promised. Sure, I’ll blow you, but you’re paying for dinner the next two times. Oh, you want a back rub? I get to pick the movie tomorrow night. You want to try anal? That’s really going to cost you come election time. 

My timing was bad. 

“Oh my god, you really ARE fucking RIDICULOUS!” Tiff screamed. She shot up from her chair and stormed off. I didn’t bother to move, I slowly took a deep breath, followed her progress to the bathroom, slowly lifted my fist into the air, and as she slammed the panelled wood door of the bathroom, my middle finger popped up as if on a spring. 

Glancing around at the dedicated couples that had managed to stick it out through our little domestic dispute in the middle of the french-fry patio all seemed to have immediately lost interest in our situation. I glanced around, my hand and middle finger still held up in front of me like a periscope. That was, until my eyes fell on the man in the white suit again. He looked completely out of place. It’s a fucking beach, everything is covered in sweat, sand and grease and here’s Dapper Dan in a fucking three-piece. 

He was looking right at me. I dropped my hand and turned back to my fries, swatting Tiffany’s mayo from the middle of the table as I pulled the tray back in front of me. 

It rolled and toppled to the ground where it popped a little explosion of white that looked like coagulated jizz. 

I shuddered and jammed a few more fries into my mouth, taking my gaze away from the chairs and out onto the road. 

Buildings lined the entire main drag. All of them the same cliched shops you’d expect to find in a beach town. The surf shop. The tikki bars (there were three along this stretch). The sunglass huts, the place selling the joke t-shirts with stupid fucking sayings on them, which you have no idea how they stay in business because who the fuck buys those stupid fucking things. There’s the middle of the line surf-shops that some people can afford and there’s the top of the line surf-shops with shit nobody can afford. Of course there’s two tattoo shops, ice cream shop, burger joints, a couple restaurants and an insurance agency. 

A few cars were parked diagonally along the road, abutted against the curb that was piled high with drifted sand. 

The evening was clear and looking all the way down the road, I could see that a young couple were sitting on the far north bench. Well, I think they’re young, I can barely make them out at this distance. They seemed to be arguing about something, the guy on the left was thrusting his arms in front of him like he was insanely adamant about convincing his partner about the size of a fish. 

“Great,” I said to myself. “Misery loves company.” I tossed another fry in my mouth and glanced over at the bathroom door. Tiffany was still holed up inside, crying her eyes out I was sure. 

Why won’t she just stop texting them, I said to myself. It’s fucking obvious what they want. 

The frustration inside me thrust out through my fingers, crushing the french fries in my fist. I took a deep breath and stared into the grease stained paper tray in front of me. The dark grease and grey tray forming a camouflage pattern. I sighed again.

The first time I’d ever seen Tiffany cry was at a house party in Grade 10. 

The basement wasn’t finished. The studs were up, but the drywall was nowhere to be fucking found, so the pink insullation filled the space covered over with thick clear plastic,  like some kind of weird mould in a science experiment. 

It was a wide open space, the concrete floor was covered in a thin grey carpet upon which sat an old antique coffee table, and a pair of broken metal futons. The place wasn’t much, but it was my buddy Charlie’s place and his parents didn’t give two shits about what we did down there. So naturally, it was the place high schoolers went on weekday nights to drink and smoke. 

I wasn’t involved in the conversation. There were about six of us down there from what I can remember, and our buddy Ron, who had the longest hair I had ever seen, like he’d been growing it since kindergarten, was trying to convince us of the facts of life. After a couple joints of course. 

“They always say that life is so short,” he said. “So short, but you know what? Life is fucking long man. Fucking long.” He held his hands out in front of him, stretched wide, almost hitting Charlie, who was sitting beside him on the couch, in the face. 

“And what would you know about it, Jesus?” I asked. 

“I know all about it Connor, all about it,” Ron said, his tone suddenly serious. “My uncle died last month. And that man went with a fucking smile on his face. God damn, dude worked for almost 80 years. You’re telling me life is short?” he blew air out between his lips in a single burst, fluffing a few chunks of stray greasy hair that had fallen down in front of his face. 

I opened my mouth to tell him life was about as long as his dick when Tiffany, sitting on the floor beside me, was suddenly up and heading out the door. 

“Hey you smoking a joint or what?” Ron called after her. But she was out the screen door and slamming it behind her before he could even get out his full question. None of us said anything, but being the guy who had recently started dating the punk chick that nobody really knew yet, it was my responsibility to get up and see what was up. 

Standing, I screwed the lid back onto the half-empty mickey of Fireball, slid it down into my back pocket and headed for the door. Once I was outside, the talking inside resumed. Typical. 

The backyard was dark and after a few short feet of wooden deck and a small square of back lawn, the yard dropped away into a forest and low valley with a thick creek running through its middle. 

The moon was big that night, hanging above my head like the world’s biggest lightbulb. It illuminated the backyard with a milky white light and I could see Tiff standing at the edge of the grass where it dropped away to the forest. Her arms were around herself, the position pulled the back of her small t-shirt up revealing the thin, curvy whiteness of her lower back. 

It was here that I first touched as I approached, wrapping my hands around her waist and then moving my arms so they were all the way around, dropping my nose onto her shoulder. Her bleach blond hair looked white in the night light. 

It was as my cheek moved and pressed to hers that I realized she was crying. 

“Jesus, Tiff, what’s the matter? I said surprised. I tried to turn her around using her hips, but she refused, and she didn’t speak. After a minute with no response, I tried again, but was met with the same nothing response. Not even a nod. “Please hun, talk to me,” I said, quieter this time. As if by softening my words it may soften her resolve. 

It didn’t work. I became dissuaded and decided to leave her to whatever it was she was dealing with, but when I started to move my arms from around her, she moaned. It was a short burst of sound, almost sexual, and pulled my arms back around her. 

I moved closer and she settled back in again, sniffling, and not answering my questions when I tried to figure out what we were doing standing in the backyard with her in tears. 

Eventually, I gave up and just held her there in the darkness and the moonlight.

We had only been dating for a few short months, and in that time I found that every time I was close to her like this I couldn’t help but get hard. That time was no different. 

My dick had been practically pushing at the front of my jeans the second I touched her, but I’d been standing awkwardly to keep it from pressing into her. However, after about 20 minutes, my back started to hurt, and I resigned myself. 

The second she felt it, her body twitched as if in surprise, then she pushed back into me, like she was trying to figure out if what she thought she was feeling, was what she was really feeling. The friction sent a warm rush into my stomach. 

She snorted laughter through her tears then turned around and wrapped her arms around me. 

We stood like that for another few minutes, before she took my hand and we headed back inside. 

Movement from the corner of my eye brought me back out of my day dream. I blinked, trying to figure out how much time had passed. My fingers were still coated in clumpy potato, the bathroom door was wide open and Tiffany was nowhere to be seen inside it’s dark, garbage-littered depths, and now the man in the white suit was making his way over to where I was sitting.

I thought at first the guy was just leaving. I hadn’t seen him eat anything anyways, but he was staring at me, and walking slow, his hands deep in his pockets. He looked like a man out for a Sunday stroll, despite the fact his leather shoes were squishing through discarded french fries and dried ketchup stains. 

Glancing to the bathroom again, hoping I had just been hallucinating before and Tiff was actually now on her way back to the table to save me, proved useless. The door was just as open, and the bathroom just as empty as it had been before. 

I tried not to look at him, but there was no mistaking the fact that he was headed toward my table. 

The couple I had been watching before were now making their way down the street toward me as well. They weren’t holding hands and now it was the woman’s turn to be making the frantic waving gestures. Her left hand was jerking forward in front of her in a rolling motion like she was imitating a broken wheel. 

They were a bit closer now, and I noticed the man was slightly taller than I anticipated when they were sitting down. Now I could peg them around my age, perhaps a little older. 

Then the man stopped beside my table. The thin material of his suit drifted in the light breeze, which felt heavenly against my greasy skin. He had a thin stubble of beard and when he turned his head to look up the street I noticed a pony tail that was tied back behind his head and hung down between his shoulders. What looked like a heart patterned pocket square was folded neatly in his breast pocket. 

For a minute he only stood there. From the corner of my eye, I saw the toe of his boot was only a finger’s length away from stepping in the splattered mayo, which had turned a slight yellow tinge in the setting sun. 

“Can I sit?” the man asked. His voice was as smooth as polished wood. 

“What?” I said. 

Taking this as an invitation, the man sat down in Tiff’s spot and folded his legs over one another, cupping his knee in both palms. He looked like a man settling in for an interesting discussion. 

“Look man,” I began, picking up the greasy tray and starting to stand up. “I’ve gotta get going.”

“Sit back down, and shut up,” the man said. 

His words immediately caused my legs to halt their upward motion, and I angled my head him. 

“Are you serious?” I said, dropping the tray back to the table and straightening up. 

“Extremely,” the man said. “I never joke about matters when it comes to love.”

I laughed. Glancing over my shoulder to see if perhaps Tiff had gone to get herself another snack and was now finally making her way back to the table. Forget the fight, I’d be more than happy to take her hand and escape this weirdo. 

“Look man,” I said again, hearing myself this time and hating it because I sounded like an ignorant shit-head. “It’s none of your damn business, alright.”

“Well, you’re lucky, today I’m making it my business,” he said. 

“Lucky?”I spat through laughter. 

“I can help you,” the man said. 

My eyes had wandered back to the couple walking down the street. The man was aggressively pointing to the sky, then shaking his head. At the man’s words I turned back. 

“What do you mean help me?” I said. 

“Sit,” the man said immediately. I debated it for a second, looking around and realizing we were the only two left on the patio and decided fuck it, let’s hear him out. 

I sat back down, but took the chance to get rid of the greasy tray by lobbing it onto the picnic table beside us. It landed with a papery click, which sent fries bouncing into the air. 

The man was silent. He stared at me with bright blue eyes that never wavered. 

“Do you love her,” the man asked. “Tiffany?”

“How the hell do you know her name?” I said, immediately offended. 

“Couldn’t help but overhear,” the man said, motioning back to where he was previously sitting in the back corner. “Me along with the rest of the patrons.”

I nodded. “Fair enough.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” the man said. I sighed. 

“Sure, yes, I do.”

“Sure don’t act like it.”

“Fuck you man.”

“No, fuck you, you ignorant shit.”

I laughed. “See you later man.”

I stood up and reached for the cellphone in my pocket to text Tiff. I imagine she hadn’t gone far. It’s not like she could drive herself home or anything. 

“I’d be careful if I were you,” the man said as I turned and headed for the sidewalk. I couldn’t help but take the bait. 

“And why is that?” I asked. 

“It could all be gone before you know it.” I laughed again. 

“You going to spew the whole ‘life is short’ bullshit to me? Change the fucking record will ya.”

“Life isn’t short,” the man said. I stopped at the painted green fence that opened up to the sandy sidewalk, his words causing me to turn around.  He seemed to brighten at having my attention again and leaned forward onto the table, being conscious to avoid the french fries and ketchup drips. “Life can be short. You know what also can be short? Love.”

I rolled my eyes. 

“For some it’s like a flash fire, erupts out of nowhere but only lasts the time it takes to snap your fingers, but others, it burns for years. If that’s what you want you better be more careful.”

I nodded, completely bemused by the entire situation. 

“Thanks for that,” I said. “Nice suit by the way.”

Stepping out onto the sidewalk, I could feel the man’s eyes staring into my back, but didn’t turn around. Still making their way toward me, the subject couple were a bit closer now and I realized I had really, really, misjudged their age. In silhouette they had looked teenagers or perhaps in their twenties. They were almost fully in the light of the setting sun and from this distance, though they were still tiny, I noticed the man was quite tall and wore a thick collared shirt. The woman’s hair was cut short around her head. Fuck, they were probably my parents age. If Tiff and I had been playing our game I’d owe her a couple drinks for that one for sure. 

I turned and headed in the opposite direction, knowing that if Tiffany was going to head anywhere in a snit, it would be the beach. 

My shoes scuffed through the sandy coating atop the sidewalk. I shoved my hands into my pockets and glanced into the windows of the shops passing on my left. Most of them were dark with paper CLOSED signs hanging in their front windows or hanging on a plastic hook inside the front door. 

I took a deep breath, feeling the sweat of the day between my back and the thin t-shirt I wore. Sand was in the crevices of my shoes scratching against my bare ankles, I was starting to get a blister, and my belt felt like it was determined at growing tighter with every step. 

Why did she always have to text these guys?

The thought was like a snort of cocaine to my jealousy-addicted brain. It started surging with anger, sending the normal super-heated blood through the rest of my body. The images of her fucking these dudes with gym-toned muscles and shitty haircuts flashed through my head like a child’s flipbook. 

I swung my foot at a pop can laying against the bottom wood step of a tattoo shop, hoping it would boot the thoughts right out of my head. It clinked against the step before going skittering across the pavement in front of me. It left small divots in the sand covering the ground.

Just like me walking to meet the can, serving it a solid kick each time, the thoughts kept coming back, no matter how much I tried to push them away. 

Tiffany said it was harmless. They were just friends. 

I said that was bullshit. Friends? Yeah, friends she met on Tinder.

So what nothing was going to happen. She was just talking.

That was the worst part.

I couldn’t understand why she felt the need to flick around on a hook-up app. It bothered me that she even had a profile in the first place. She’d obviously set it up when we were together because Tinder wasn’t around back in our high school days. 

I sighed and lashed out at the can again. This time it went skittering against the bumper of a Civic parked against the curb and dropped out of sight. 

Reaching the bottom of the street, the beach opened up in front of me, followed by the massive swatch of Lake Ontario. The mass of people that were there before had disappeared. A few stray people were walking across the sand. Some were sitting and enjoying the sunset. One person walked with a large golden retriever on a leash. 

None of them were Tiffany. 

I shook my head, trying to figure out which way she would have gone. To the left the beach quickly ended in a large sea-wall that jutted out into the lake with a large lighthouse on the end. To the right, the coastline stretched off toward the horizon. It could take me quite a while to catch up with Tiff if she went that way. 

Instead, I plopped myself down on the bench and went nowhere. 

Glancing to my right, I squinted directly into the setting sun, thinking about Tiffany. The way she used to be. The way I used to be. 

Things had changed so much, and a part of me was happy it did. But a larger part of me wanted to go back to those days where Tiff wore shirts that were too small and our biggest worry was where our next case of beer was going to come from. 

Now there were these apps, jobs, university, careers. It was like our relationship had first moved to the backseat, and then the trunk, where now it was slowly suffocating. 

As much as I hated to admit when fucking weirdos were right, the weirdo in the white suit was right. I did need to be careful.

I glanced up from my hands at the sound of feet scraping on sand-crusted pavement. It wasn’t Tiffany though. It was an older couple with grey hair and wrinkled faces. They shuffled past me, both of them slowly bending to take their sandals off. I watched their leathery skin push down into the velvety softness of the sand. 

“No, no dear. I definitely love you more. I’d probably say this much more.” The man spread his arms wide, like a bird trying to take flight. His leather sandals dangled from each hand. The woman, who had a fluff of white hair styled neatly around her head giggled and placed a free hand over her mouth to catch her laughter. It could have been the light from the sunset, but she looked like she was blushing.  

After the woman stooped slowly to pick up her shoes from the sand, the two set off and disappeared from my sightline. I glanced up the street, then back again, realizing those two had been the arguing (or I thought arguing) couple making their way down the street.

When my eyes returned to the place where the two had just disappeared, my eyes caught on something in the brush that had previously been behind them. Where the sidewalk dropped off and the buildings stopped a large dune was coated in a thin growth of yellowy grass and a spindly tree that arched and twisted it’s way up toward the sky. 

Tiffany was sitting beneath it, and she was looking right at me. 

We stared at each other for a moment. The anger and the disdain I’d been harbouring inside me all day was frozen in that minute. It had happened before, and I tried to hold on to that anger, only out of habit. 

I knew the feeling would be back, I knew this was only a temporary relief brought on by the bright look in her eyes and the small smile. The look still had the same impact on me all these years later, and it was a look I’d only seen her give to me, and nobody else. 

I knew all of this, and yet I didn’t care. I couldn’t help but smile myself. 

She rose from the sand and walked the short distance down the hilly dune to where I sat on the bench. Before she sat down I stood and wrapped my arms around her. Her body tensed, like she was surprised, then it relaxed and her arms circled around my back. 

“I’m sorry,” she said. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it. 

“It’s okay,” I said. It wasn’t the first time I’d said it. 

After a minute we sat down on the bench, hand in hand. The street in front of us, stretching far off to the horizon was empty. I moved her hand and placed it on my inner thigh so she could feel what had grown between my legs. 

She laughed and gripped me. 

“From the hug?” she whispered. I nodded and she laughed, cupping her free hand over her mouth. Strands of golden blonde hair fell down over her cheek. She winked. “You’re fucking ridiculous you know that?”

 

 

 

 

Joel Wittnebel