The blood sun hits one edge of June’s face. She reads beside me. Here on the beach. A new book each time. I offer her the sunscreen to no response. Her mind is engaged. I glance elsewhere. An old man walks his dog, who mimics the man. I wonder if June likes dogs. Their pelts might derange her. Her voice calls me.
“Look over here, Glen.”
June reveals a shelled crab. The last nomad. I envy the titan-shucked soul. She takes it home and names it Reginald. He expires. We hold a vigil with cake and white rum. June gets drunk and weeps and takes three days off from work. The silent dinners in endless mourning annoy me. She squeaks short requests.
“Pass the salt, please,” and “some more wine.”
Months run. Summer trips and crumbles. Fall storms. June now wears scarves of scarlet wool. Still downcast, we drive to fields to eat bonbons. Fixed envy of the crab entombed in her heart. Ventricle crawler. He understands her thrills, so she speaks to him between sighs.
No, I am wrong. I burdened the crustacean with my guilt. I ignored her sadness too long. Her voice withered in my ego. Perhaps, as we age, she will forgive me. Pine groves gossip as we return to the car. She smokes to break me with fatal tar. She talks as I drive. Shedding trees reach out to us. Do they care? Are we meant to traverse this chasm? We have no authors. Only unwritten conclusions plus June to a dreadful omega. She points.
“Pull over here.”
On the bald, shouldered road, June kneels at the cairn. Here, a wreath for past pileups. Cars still speed past. Tears stream for whom God has failed, and I realize we must forgive him. A sudden warmth coils around my heart. The beach sun. Our summer still breaks through autumn.
Edward Clifford is a writer from Western Massachusetts currently working on a bachelor’s degree in English from UMass Amherst. His work has appeared in Valley Pulp and Jabberwocky.