Sunday, September 8, 2013

leaving non-fiction

no place like the beach in the summertime...
"I wrote this short story earlier in the year as a contest entry--I didn't even place in the contest, but I still think it is a decent story!  Plus, we are exactly in the time of the year when the story takes place, so I thought it would be interesting to take a "Fiction Break" from my usual essay style of writing and give you something different.  I have populated the post with pictures that I took when I was at the beach just after Labor Day--in other words, the exact setting and time of the year for the story.  How great is that??  Enjoy!"

"The Non-Endless Summer"

The most perfectly melancholic paradox I know is the phrase “Endless Summer”.   

He was in love again.  Shit.  No, he wasn’t.  Yes, he was.  Fuck!  Where was S---- now?  It had taken until September this year for it to happen, but at least it had happened.  Fuck!  Where was she?  He wandered north on the boardwalk with more purpose than that demonstrated by the people surrounding him.  He made good time on the stretch just below the pier that veered toward the water only to retreat back to its original path.  He then entered the cool darkness of the tunnel running under the street that dead-ended at the pier entrance.  

He had always liked this short tunnel—the darkness inside a striking contrast to the bright-white heat of the late afternoon pushing in at either end.  He always suspected (hoped?) that upon exiting the tunnel on the other side, he would emerge in another time— a time most likely in the past.  

This never happened, of course, and this never failed to make him just the slightest bit sad.  He walked out the other side into the sunshine and scanned the surroundings, blinking back the light as his eyes re-adjusted.  Then he saw her—riding on her old cruiser bicycle as if she didn’t have a care in the world besides whether to bring potato salad or coleslaw to a bar-b-que.   “S----!!!” he screamed, startling her a bit.  As she saw him standing there she smiled and gently applied the brakes. 

S---- walked the bicycle across the pedestrian boardwalk, then between the cushion-like walkways traversing the child and adult play areas, and eventually onto the actual bike path; oddly, it had just as many people walking on it as the pedestrian boardwalk—a fact she has never understood.  The tunnel where she was supposed to meet 
R----, the one he had just emerged from, was not so far away that S---- needed to ride the distance, but she felt somehow ridiculous walking a bicycle on a bike path.  So she mounted the cruiser and pushed the pedals for a couple of revolutions—just enough to get it going—and then let it coast easily toward the tunnel. 

Her thoughts along the way were a jumble, a contrast to the ease of the short journey.  She crinkled her sunburned nose while imagining what she would say to R---- when she saw him, the possibilities shifting each time she considered how he might open the conversation.  She only knew one thing for certain, and that is that she would tell him the truth.  The truth.  

The words dissolved in the late summer sun as soon as she thought them.  The difficult thing about the truth is finding our way there, she thought, noticing how the truth of the coastline was imposed upon by the pier, by the boardwalks, by the play areas, by the parking lots, by the people.  What is a beach other than the place where the ocean meets the land?  And yet, here in Southern California, on this hot, hot August afternoon, it was a million things more. 


When you grow up near the beach, it becomes a part of your personality.  You become a “beach person”, of sorts.  And yet it is not the same thing as being a “mountain person”, or a “city person”—it is not the same thing at all.  To grow up near the beach, to have it become a part of your personality, is to ingest a mood, not just an environment.  Mountains and cities can be said to have moods as well, but unlike beaches, these environments affect us by their sheer power—one has no choice.  We become affected by mountains and cities.  But beaches, well.  Beaches have perhaps more power than either mountains or cities, but beaches don’t force themselves on you.  Beaches seduce.  And therein lays the difference.  And it is during late summer, that time stretching from right before Labor Day up to late September, when the beach is at its most seductive.  As the tourists slowly leave, its attention is no longer divided.  There are times, especially during early morning or late night, when a person can feel that they have the beach all to themselves! 

And yet, even then, there is tension in the relationship.  To understand this you must first get that the thing about late summer is that it is, well, late.  We can track the days getting shorter, the sun setting sooner, the crowds thinning.  In some ways, during this time of year, our beach love affair is on borrowed time—we can never be certain when the weather will turn to a chill—when those early mornings or late nights will be better spent inside where it is warm and bright.  The joke of it all is that we know this, yet we carry on as though it will be endless—an endless summer. 

It is a beautiful truth that the loveliest of things always come to an end. 


R---- watched S---- glide toward him on her cruiser, and it took all he had to keep from running to her and bridging the remaining distance.  But he stood his ground and waited, ignoring the stomach knot that indicated restless emotions, knowing that if he were to release any movement at this time, more than just movement would be released.  S---- hopped off the bike and walked the last steps until they stood facing each other in the sun.  She looked at him, saying nothing, waiting.  And then it came from him, all at once.  “S----, it’s over.  He is gone…this morning…with his family…back home.  He’s gone.  He’s…”  Then he stopped, falling into her arms, and she held him as she knew she would when this moment came.  “I know, sweetie.  I know.  He had to go, and it had to end.  I’m so sorry, sweetie.  He loves you, but summer is over.  Summer is over.” 

The crowds continued past them, meandering either north or south on the boardwalk, while R---- and S---- stood still together like the axis point of a compass, pointing the way to the inevitable change of seasons.  Nobody paid attention. 

The sun may shine.  The waves may crash.  But summer on the beach…summer…is not endless.  That is why it is so lovely a time.

my summer feet


  1. I concur - 'endless summer' speaks more about our memories of summer than the summer itself.
    I plan to read this entry thoroughly prior to a proper comment.

    1. i will accept nothing less than a proper comment. wise of you to delay.

  2. A wonderful story, very appropriate for this time of year - - and it brings back so many memories. The accompanying photos are great.
    I remember the Santa Monica Pier when I was a child and Pacific Ocean Park (POP), which I'm sure is no longer in existence.

    1. Thank you, Jon! I thought about you when I published this, as I figured it would stir memories. I do not remember POP--must be gone! But of course Muscle Beach is still there--that is the first pic in the post!