A Tongue Withdrawn
Frosty said he couldn’t see me for a couple of days – something about an old friend coming to visit. Tell you the truth, I didn’t mind having some time to collect myself. For one thing, the beach walks, the late nights and all that sex had just plain worn me out. For another, I admit I’d grown a little attached to my exasperated victimhood. I was damn near ready to start writing country and western songs. So moving on with my love life wasn’t as easy as I’d have thought.
I woke up – egad! – at noon, and deepened my sin by taking a thirty-minute shower, allowing those Ninja spraylets to clobber my back and shoulders until I felt as loose and disjointed as a marionette. I didn’t dare step my tardy little toes in the dining room, so I settled for some cheese Danishes in the listening room. For my audio-feed I settled on Tristan und Isolde, figuring Wagner the optimal soundtrack for a day-long slumber.
The weather was looking gray and violent. Every few minutes the door to the “bucket” would pop open to let a blast of cold air sweep through the room. After about five of these, I gave up on sleeping and acceded to a little beach trip.
On the way to Archer Bridge, feeling more and more revived, I began to look around and take note of my surroundings. For one thing, the long edge of the water resembled a serrated knife, little half-moons cut out of the sand’s edge. Frosty had called it a “crescent beach.”
When I arrived at the site of my ill-fated “fly-fishing,” I noticed that the crescent was cut particularly deep. It was bound on either side by high, sharp fingers of sand, covered with the small rocks that had previously lain under the waves. Though curious about the possibilities of finding glass, I ventured no further, thinking it better to wait until Frosty and I could attack it together.
In order to deflect further temptation, I perched at the scoop’s beachward nadir and began to study the waves. At either end of the C, the two peninsulas would slice off the inrushing water and send it rallying around the banked edge like a racer at Indy, gaining power as the gallons stacked up. The wave would eventually ricochet into a north-south direction, resulting in two small, speedy flows running at each other from opposite ends of the crescent. You’d expect their meeting to be violent, but, being children of the same mother, they didn’t seem all that eager to fight. The clash resulted instead in a lovely three-tier blossoming: the initial splash a tennis net of white straight out to sea; the secondary motion a swelling hesitation, raised up like the spine of a large sea serpent; then the tertiary spending-out, as the twin waves went right through each other and flowered forth in transitory, parallel speed bumps. The ripples fanned out, forming a peninsula of water like the nose of a surfboard, and slipped back to the sea, a tongue withdrawn.
It didn’t take me long to figure that this was precisely what Frosty had done to me. Spat out by the same Silicon Valley, we had taken flight, struck our tracks of sand and somehow ended up racing directly toward each other. We collided, hesitated in a momentary merge, then passed on through. I sat there on a bank of sand, cleansed, ground out, newly polished but largely unchanged, free to slip back to the ocean if I so desired.
An hour later I hunched over clam chowder and a notebook at Gilda’s, listening to a guy playing classical guitar and discussing politics with an elderly lady.
“George? Yeah. Friend of mine knows the family, and he assures me that George is a moron. Certifiable. Oh, this? This is an old Spanish piece, based on a motet by Vittoria. Nice little melody, especially this part right here. I recorded it once with a choir and an organ. Can you imagine?”
I thought I heard someone breathing. When I raised up from my poet’s stance, I found Carlotta peering over my shoulder. Carlotta’s hair was now blonde. Was everybody turning blonde?
“Whatcha writin’?” she asked.
“You’re a poet? I didn’t know you were a poet.”
“I’m not. I haven’t written a poem since college.”
“So what’s the inspiration?” she asked. I had the sneaking suspicion she already knew.
“Just the ocean,” I answered, smiling and evasive.
“Okay, Carlotta. What do you know, and when did you find out?”
“Sandy and Frosty, sittin’ in a tree, F-U-C-K-I…”
“It’s all right. None of our customers know how to spell. Was it good?”
I tried my damnedest to stop it, but one of those sneaky, self-satisfied smiles sprouted across my face.
“Oh yeah,” said Carlotta. “I know that look – absolute… relaxation”
“How did you know?” I asked, feeling a bit overexposed.
“Jeremy was in here yesterday, four different shades of depressed. I asked him why, he told me his suspicions.”
“This town,” I sighed, “has a bored little citizenship.”
“Yes it does,” said Carlotta. “And Frosty’s our only bona-fide eccentric, so we keep close tabs on him. And we’re happy for him when he scores a good piece of womanflesh.”
I grinned. I had a question regarding Frosty’s sordid past, but like a good piece of womanflesh, I held it back. Carlotta cocked her head like a curious puppy.
“I like the new hair,” I said.
“She smiled. “Thanks. Hey – I gotta set up for my shift.”
She turned and trotted off to the kitchen, leaving me staring at my cold chowder and my seventeen lines, thinking, Wow. I’m a poet.
hoto by MJV