From Easy Living, published in 2011 by Exile Editions.
They were boys running, three young boys with no place they had to be because they were there already, running on the beach with the summer inside them. The thin ones were brothers and the heavy one their friend, and as they ran he lagged, but they were all together, slapping their feet on the sand and kicking through the surf flashed by the sun. It was cider light, stronger than usual. Yet the sky was low, and held a drape of smolder, for there was always haze. Most days it didn’t burn, staying heavy like grey wool and everything was vague. Today it was sparse, the wool pulled to gauze, and the sun came warm on their backs, their faces, on the new brown of their bodies, theirs to use.
The part of the beach where they were was crescent-shaped with a bluff behind, so it harboured the wind and enlarged it. But there wasn’t much now, only weak lifts from the sea. They spread their arms and held them, and when the breeze caught they became gulls anyway, fierce ebullient gulls with the throats of boys snatching the air fresh alive in their mouths. They climbed, stunted, soared. They scanned and drifted, and they swooped the pipers to see them skip. One of the boys roared and banked. He returned a plane, a fighter pilot in a spindle plane with blazing wings, so the others were, too, and they fought their shadows until each where they crossed crashed laughing down, and lay dead on the dunes.
Waiting for their breath they counted the waves—spools rolling, unrolling, long white furls like shavings, cresting and falling apart, gathering again—then forgot the waves and leapt up, roamed. Away from the shore, up where the banks curved and cliffed out, there was slashgrass that hid nests sometimes, so there might be eggs. They went there looking, poking around. One plucked a tine of the grass and blew a squall between his thumbs. Don’t cut your lips, called another, pursing his like their mother. The brother blew louder, laughed.
They jumbled back to the shore, sailed stones and hunted shells. Dogwhelks and mussels, nothing good. Then suddenly a rare one, a fist-size spiral with a pink mouth. Glassy and cool, they held it to their ears, each other’s ears to share the sea there, hear it surge in them and deepen. That was fine. After, they put it down carefully, and paced back steps like duelists, turned, and smashed it with rocks. Then, because there was no one to scold them no, they stared at the sun, seeing who could the longest. When they shut their eyes other suns appeared, and pinwheels with comet tails glittering back and forth in the black.
The heavy one got a stick, leaned on it and tottered about tapping, his eyes closed and feeling the air with his hand. He said he was blind, he was old and blind now, and please would they show him to the hospital? The brothers snorted and hooted, he looked so funny with his big legs in shorts and his shaky cane. They snapped to his side and led him about, up and down the beach. When they tired of that they said they’d arrived, the nurses could have him and stick him full of needles. They poked him and tried to trip him, at first, but he wouldn’t, so they spun him instead. The brothers cried faster and he whirled, whirled round and faster round till the beach did with him, and they let him go. He staggered, a drunk old man, and toppled to his knees. He was happy on his knees, very happy but a little ill, and he dove his hands in the sand to still it.
It was then he saw something odd. When the sun stopped banging and he could balance, he crawled over and fished it out. It was a record, an old 45. It wasn’t broken, hardly scratched. He showed it to the brothers. One side was “Cattle Drive Blues,” and the other had the title inked out. They didn’t know who the singer was, but they admired the picture of a guitar, laid against the full face of a moon, with some tiny notes floating up. Each note had a cowboy hat. One of the brothers said that meant it was country music, which was mostly yodeling. They all tried a few howls until it hurt. Then the brothers wanted to skim the record on the waves, but the heavy one said no, it was his because he’d found it, and he was going to keep it. He put it on his head for a hat and walked. It wouldn’t stay, so that was nothing. He turned it in his hands instead and made it a wheel, and they were off, with him in the lead now, driving where he would, his cargo of friends chuffing engines behind him.
When they rounded the narrow of the shore, down by the big rocks where the spray hit and the beach opened again, they saw ahead a bright tent pitched low on the sand. They held the horn loud and long. The tent moved. It unbent and stood, and the tent was a man. He saw them and waved. The beach was ruined a bit then. They let go of the train and plodded up aimless to where he was. When they got there, though, it wasn’t a man anymore. It was a woman now, a short round woman in a huge sundress spatted with red dots like measles. She wore rubber boots, and was very pale and had a long fat neck. Black bangs made her face small, and when she spoke she notched her head aside like a bird asleep.