There was something about the feeling of his sole touching down on the packed wet sand that made the whole thing feel real. Real, precious and stolen seconds passed with each squishy step.
The motel room had an oak table that was moved closer to the window so that poker could be played while looking out on the ocean and the very near horizon. Spread out on the table were backgammon chips masquerading as poker chips, a bottle of Teacher’s bourbon pretending to be an innocent bystander and a box of matches solemnly offering to be just that. They played Texas Hold ‘em while the radio droned country western ballads and the flop always came too early, the hold cards not quite ready to give up the spotlight. Time moved just as quickly inside that box of matches as anywhere else, despite the constant and combustible potential that something might take place. During a bathroom break, he switched over to the Motown station and the air appreciated the change of pace. But even Smokey Robison couldn’t do anything about the weather and its lack of vitality.
Until it changed: the morning gave them a bright orange sunrise, perhaps to distract from the tide receding too far out towards the horizon, leaving in kind view from the wooden table, a salty plain of unearthed shellfish. He purposely didn’t comment on the brightness of the day, because it was certain to revert back to gloom as the clouds returned.
When he saw the wave: he had just check-raised on the river card, the Eight of Clubs, which completed his full boat. A casual turn of the head, and he rose up from his chair to look directly at the oncoming wall of blue, towering above everything except the bright-orange sun and what was left of the heavens.
After the rescue: he spent a week at a trauma clinic telling different people different details about his time on the roof. About how he’d seen the bottle of Teacher’s floating on the third day and how he’d wanted to cry then, right then, and couldn’t. And how crying after that just seemed pointless.
On the way to the coast: there was a drunk man at the bar that sang songs and could define any word by its letters. They’d asked him to define MATCH and he’d told them enthusiastically that it meant Meaningful-Angelic-Thoughts-Coming-Home. Then the drunk man sang his way out the door. And this memory, which crossed his mind much later, was the first thing that brought a tear to his eye, him sitting with his morning coffee and looking out at another cloudy day, deciding whether to light another cigarette.
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Portland Fiction Project
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