Friday, June 13, 2014

Nature Boy, Chapter Five: Aquamarine

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Lindsy sleeps fitfully, wound up on flaming loincloths, mai tais and banyan trees with their sexually suggestive branches. In her dream, she’s being tag-teamed by Skye and the solo dancer as a roasted pig gallops around them singing “Little Brown Shack.” When the men pull out, their dicks have turned into tiki torches.

At two o’clock she’s wide awake, watching Shark Week on The Learning Channel, and this is where she has landed: she’s a woman on the run, a Jezebel, a harlot. Running into Skye was a roll of blank dice in a blacked-out casino, but she has the unsettling feeling that she has stumbled her way into something special. He has a quiet humor, a gentle intelligence, and the way his smile raises that dimple at the right side of his mouth is driving her insane. When he finally lifted his hand to her breast under the banyan, she just about shot out of her shoes. She wants so much more, but the nature of their meeting has typecast her as a wanton woman. She doesn’t want him to see her this way, and that’s why she’s been taking these weird turndowns so meekly.

Oh, who are we kidding? she almost says out loud. I am doomed to be the slut in this situation, so I may as well shove it into overdrive. Make the sex good enough and he’ll be unable to resist. She resolves, at first light, to deliver the world’s best wake-up call. Her blow jobs, after all, were one of the ways in which she landed the lovely Thad. Having made a decision, she relaxes just enough to finally drift off.

First light comes with a narrator, muted and echoey, sounding like Skye. He’s in the bathroom, talking to someone on the phone. Bastard!

She gets up too fast and the bloodrush knocks her for a loop. She stops to let it pass and catches a few phrases of eavesdrop.

“So what did you do with the children? Oh! Yeah, I love that part. They’re adorable, but not too much.”

Now her blood is boiling. She gives the bathroom door a solid pounding.

Skye sings out. “Kinda busy right now.”

“Who is that? Is that your wife? Is that why you won’t fuck me? ‘Cause you feel guilty? Oh, you fucking dick. Does she know you’re off in Hawaii with some Mormon bimbo? I’m fucking your husband, lady!”

She’s about to pound the door again when it opens. It’s Skye, in shorts and a T-shirt, holding a cell phone.

“It’s for you.”

Lindsy is too stunned to refuse. She puts it to her ear. “He… Hello?”

“Hi. Who’s this?”

“Um. Lindsy? Lindsy Charrish?”

Hi Lindsy. This is Molly Ringwald.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Molly Ringwald? Star of stage and screen?”

“Sixteen Candles Molly Ringwald?”

“Bingo! Anyways, I’m doing an interview with your… with Skye, and the thing is, I’m on a really tight schedule. So, could you yell at him in about fifteen minutes?”

“Um. Okay.”


“I’m so… sorry.”

“Hey, he’s a guy. He probably deserves it.”

Lindsy gives a halfway laugh and hands the phone back to Skye. He kisses her, whispers “Thanks” and returns to his interview. “Sorry ‘bout that. Yeah. So did you find inspiration for the child characters in your own kids? Uh-huh…”

Twenty minutes later, he thanks Molly for the interview, hangs up, and rounds out the final few quotes in his notebook. When he enters the bedroom, he suspects that Lindsy has run outside to dive into the ocean, but then he sees a crack in the sliding glass door.

She’s on the balcony, wrapped in a bathrobe, looking out over the waterfront: a few early risers strolling to breakfast, a dozen fishermen prepping their boats. He takes her thick mop of blonde and runs it through his fingers, like a stylist mapping out a ‘do.

“I am really sorry about that. She’s in Seattle on a book tour, and the only time I could catch her was nine in the morning – which seemed like a reasonable time until I flew to Hawaii.”

When she spins, Skye braces for another attack, but instead she pushes her face into his chest and starts to sob. She lifts one hand and squelches out words.

“…such a fucking mess I… Molly… so embar… no idea…”

He puts a hand on the back of her neck and gives it a rub. “Shh… now. I suspect you will never see Molly Ringwald in the flesh. Besides, I think she found it very amusing.”

Lindsy slaps him on the shoulder, which is precisely the reaction he was going for.

“Maybe she’ll use it on the Leno show.”

This time, a fist. He’d better stop before he gets a knee.

“Listen. I’ll shower up, then you shower up, and we will have breakfast in the lovely restaurant downstairs. I suspect we have some things to talk about. Okay?”

Her response is a two-note “okay” expressed entirely in m’s.

“She was on a tour of ‘Sweet Charity.’ Not much on dancing, but she grew up singing in her dad’s jazz band in Sacramento. The thing that intrigued me was her interest in literature. She had divorced one novelist, was engaged to another, and had begun to write book reviews for the Hartford Courant. I wrote one book myself – a collection of interviews with performers. And I swear I only mentioned it as a preface to a question, but before I knew it Molly Ringwald was interviewing me. But the interview had a time limit, and I had to get some material for my article, so I had to say a very painful thing: ‘Molly, can we go back to talking about you?’”

Lindsy sets down her coffee and releases a laugh that sounds like a carnation of birdsong.

“So when her book of short stories came out, I was not at all surprised that it was good. She has a sincere passion. I’m the first to decry the transformation of the publishing industry into a celebrity whorehouse – the very word ‘author’ is a joke – but Molly seems to be an exception. So I called her agent, and arranged for her to entirely piss you off this morning.”

He has overshot. Lindsy’s face turns pink and she bears down on her breakfast, a mini-buffet of sausage, eggs, toast, bacon and fruit. The restaurant is cavernous, its oceanward wall open to a spotless lawn. Skye finds a fascination with the little yellow birds that shoot in and out of the patio tables, scrambling for crumbs.

“Californians are not used to colorful birds. The most we…”

“Oh for God’s sake, would you tell me something!?” It’s a whisper, but it seems louder. Skye looks around, but no one’s seated near them. He takes a sip of guava nectar.

“Lindsy, this may surprise you, but I think you’re luscious.” He tries to outpace the expected eyeroll. “Believe me, you’re not the only one who’s been confused by my recent behavior. But I think I may have figured it out. Recently, I came into a lot of money – family thing, dying uncle, trust fund, very complicated. Doing what I do for a living, I have always been strapped for cash. Surrounded by the rich nerds of Silicon Valley, I have always felt second-rate, and I have a history of attracting women with major baggage. As if I was settling for leftovers, because I knew I couldn’t compete.”

Lindsy’s looking testy, squinting her eyes.

“Now you have to admit, a drunk woman in a casino, fleeing the entire Church of Latter-Day Saints, is a baggage handler’s nightmare. But the package was so luscious, I had to take her to Hawaii. However, somewhere over the Pacific, my subconscious began to send in the toxins: there you are again, settling for damaged goods. ‘You’ve got money now. You don’t have to settle. You have the power to say no.’”

The squint softens, and she collapses into crying. She starts to get up, but he grabs her hand.

“For a man who’s been castrated by poverty his entire adult life, do you know how intoxicating it is to say no to a luscious woman?”

She shakes her hand free, give him a hard look and stalks away, around the corner, out of the restaurant. Skye considers the corollary: You’ve got money now. You have the power to tell the truth.

Oh well. It’s an island. I’ll find her eventually.

Skye empties his bread plate onto the lawn and watches the yellow birds go nuts. He signs the bill to his room and leaves past the swimming pool, senior tourists gathered around the tiki bar. He’s surprised to see football on the television.

He finds her in the lobby, next to the outrigger, staring at a painting of a Hawaiian princess. Some relation of King Kamehameha, she stands straight-backed, sharp cheekbones, obsidian eyes, a robe of bright feathers.

“She looks so strong,” says Lindsy. She turns to look him over, estimating if he’s worth the trouble.

“Let’s go to the beach.”

The lava flows stretch for miles. Lindsy watches the roadsides, where the locals use white rocks to spell out messages on the black canvas: RIP Shorty, T.S. + M.L., Izzy Lives!

“Well,” she says to the air. “Lot nicer than spray paint.”

The landscape greens up and Skye spots the sign for Hapuna Beach. He suspects it may be the weekend, because the parking lot is pretty packed. They cross a lawn of spongy grass and take a paved trail down to the white sand. Skye heads for a spot near the shore’s only landmark, a clump of lava rocks poking just above the water. He’s surprised to find Lindsy’s hand in his. After their traumatic morning, she seems remarkably mellow, as if all the emotional erosion has worn off her rough edges.

They unroll their towels and make their revelations. Skye takes off his T-shirt, annoyed at a stomach that responds to crunchies by sticking out further. Lindsy removes her shorts and shirt to unveil a green one-piece that spirals across her midriff, leaving narrow triangles of white flesh. Now that he has cleared his mind of psycho-crap motives, Skye only hopes his tongue isn’t hanging out. It’s apparent that he has transmitted his appreciation, nonetheless, because Lindsy’s wearing a flattered smile. She hands him a spray bottle.

“My national colors are white and sunburn, so I want you to cover me in this stuff.”

She lies on her back and covers her eyes as he sprays her head to toe, then she flips onto her stomach. He pretends to have some trouble with the bottle as he admires her ass, which is both generous and marvelously rounded. Even in a culture of stick-figure models, there are certain geometries that a man cannot resist.

The coolness of the spray makes her hum. “Mmm. Any for you?”

He lies on his stomach, partly to hide his excitement. She gives his back a full dose.

“Nothing on your front?”

“Not just yet. I’ve got a pretty good base from my summer hikes.”

She lies on her back, eyes closed. “You ruddy boys are much better at taking the sun. I envy you.”

Skye doesn’t last long before the sun bakes him out. He kisses Lindsy on the back of her neck and heads for the ocean. Finding a gap between the lava-rock snorkelers and the boogie-boarders, he works his way in, dreading that moment when the water hits his chest and takes away his breath. Compared to the icy waters of Santa Cruz, however, it’s a cakewalk, and soon he’s bobbing with the waves, taking brief swims underwater.

The color of the water is unreal. He recalls a gemstone by the name of aquamarine, the palest blue, and imagines that it has taken liquid form. A wave comes in at eye level, breaking into a thousand facets.

The next color is green, disappearing into the breakers, coming toward him like a manta ray. She tickles her way up his leg before breaking the surface with a breathless laugh. When she opens her eyes they are precisely aquamarine.


“Well we don’t have an ocean in Salt Lake City, but we do have a Salt…Lake.”

It’s meant as a joke but it dies off when she sees the look in his eyes, a look she’s been craving for days. He cradles the back of her neck and kisses her. A wave lifts her feet from the sand.

Even with the superspray, Lindsy is looking a little pink, so they roll up their towels and cross the wide beach. At the top of the stairs, they find a low-lying building that appears to be a shower room, but a sign on the door delivers the bad news: Closed for Repairs. Lindsy gives the door a frustrated slap, and is surprised to find that it’s open.

“What the hell! Well, I just want to get rid of this bathing suit, anyway. Can you stand watch for me?” She pats him on the chest and slips inside.

An afternoon of visual saturation has left its seeds, and finally the proximity of a disrobing woman is too much. He sneaks inside and finds her standing at the mirror, running a brush through her hair, an Athena in white marble.

She knows he’s there. She leans forward, pretending a stray eyelash, standing on tip-toes to give him a full presentation. She’s not surprised at the hand between her legs, but when he slips his finger inside she loses her breath.

“If you are starting,” she pants, “you had better be finishing.”

He fills her up. Her head crackles with light.

Photo by MJV

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