Swimmers Beneath The Street: A Cave Painting
Henry found Zak behind the dumpster at the end of the alley, dancing like a puppet in the rain. Zak had long slender fingers, dark hair plastered to his head. When Zak saw Henry watching he said, "Do you want to kiss me?" This is what Zak always said when he caught someone watching him dance. Once, when he was dancing in the basement of the parking garage on the corner of Eighth and Z, he turned to find he'd been watched by a short fat man holding a sad-eyed bassett hound on a leash. "Do you want to kiss me?" To his surprise the little man walked up to him, rose on tiptoes and touched his lips to Zak's neck. Nothing more.
"It wasn't your dancing," Henry is saying. "It was your hands." Henry takes Zak's hands in his own. "These fingers." He spreads Zak's fingers, interlaces them with his own. "Letter openers."
The room rings with the constant shock of water against iron.
He's gone AWOL. Threw his army boots into a marsh just before he picked her up. The boots came bobbing back up in the blackwater and he thought - for a split second - it was a body. His. When she climbed into the car he asked her to roll a joint for him, pointed at the glove compartment. His hand was shaking.
He turned onto a dirt road around nightfall, parked the car next to a crumbling dock. "I need to sleep," he said. "I'll take the back." After a few hours, she crawled into the backseat, wedged herself next to him. He held her. They both pretended to sleep.
In the morning, she watched the man stand at the edge of the dock. A white egret stepped carefully in cattail shallows to his right. He took something out of his shirt pocket, tossed it into the blue water. The egret opened its wings, took off. Later, he bought her breakfast.
"Ain't you gonna eat?" she said. He shook his head, played with an unlit cigarette.
They found an empty stretch of beach. He watched her slither out of her jeans, lie down in the sand in her underwear. "How old are you?" he asked. "Fifteen," she said. He closed his eyes and laughed. "How old did you think I was?"
She struggles to get beyond the first line of breakers, can't quite make it. Her head disappears under angry foam. The waves pushes her down into a wheel of silver fish. These are the fish that chase every storm, addicted to the sudden Nirvana-view they find at the yawning green height of each wave.
She takes a wave full in the chest, breathes in water, rises up coughing. She retreats, neck deep. Another wave catches her off-guard and she falters again, falls, goes under. Her arms and legs switch places. She's a doll, upside down. Her hands clutch gravel. The wave crashes, planes up onto the beach, leaves her stretched out in the foam, exhausted.
She looks up to where he was lying. Gone. She isn't sure if she'd been hoping for that or not. When she pulls on her jeans she finds a five dollar bill and a joint stuffed into her right front pocket.
The only person on the beach is an old man in plaid shorts, fishing. She walks over to him, holds the joint up to his face. "Got a light?"