The Beach (A Summer of Flash Fiction #5)

I went to beach today. Though I'd seen in the paper that it was going to rain later in the afternoon, it was hot out mid-day. I put on my swimsuit, grabbed a beach towel, and packed a book in my bag, a novel. All my friends were busy, so I went alone, figuring it would be a good time to catch up on some reading. I'd not had much time available for it recently, though I usually carved out a few hours a week for it, generally.

I walked to the beach. I live only a block away, across a highway. It was a five minute walk, a nice way to start a day at the beach. 

When I arrived, there were several dozen people and groups scattered across the sand, and some in the water, which had still been freezing cold a few weeks before, the ice from our malicious winter only melting a month or so ago. The people in the water were shivering, hugging their arms with their hands, though most of the children were shrieking and playing, splashing each other as if their skin was numb to the cold. The sand, in contrast, burned my feet. It had been roasting all morning in the torch-hot sun.

I laid my towel on the sand, the wind blowing it into a twist once or twice before I got it settled. I removed my shirt and shorts, so I was wearing only my swimsuit, and laid on the towel on my stomach. I'm not normally concerned about my appearance, especially something so arbitrary as the color of my skin, but I hadn't had a boyfriend in a while, so I supposed it couldn't hurt to get a slight tan and to look nice for the summer. 

I opened my book and read a few pages, listening to the chatter of the other beach-goers' conversation humming in the background. The story was serene and assuming, though a bit dull. In it, a boring, nihilistic young man was admiring his girlfriend's ears. 

The breeze continued to increase its power, foreshadowing the rain. A few grains of sand blew across my towel and the pages of my book, and then the body of a small, dead spider bounced by. I watched it, noticing how it tumbled and how its legs were folded up like a lotus, or like the fingers of a relaxed hand resting on a table. I imagined what it would be like to be that dead spider, drifting across the beach, or what it would be like if human corpses were light enough to be tossed by a wind and to traverse this land of which were are so sorrowfully a part. But no; human bodies are heavy with blood and bone and fat and earth, too weighted down to blow with a breeze like that. Instead, we bury ourselves six feet under the ground and call that home.

I felt a drop of water on my back and at first assumed it was a child running by and splashing me with her wet hair or swimsuit. But then I heard a man tell a young boy, presumably his son, that it had begun to rain and that they should pack up. Several children began to squeal with either delight or fear, running from the water, or to it, and announcing the rain. Parents and twenty-somethings rolled up their towels and put them in their bags, shuffling into their flip-flops and heading up the beach to their cars. I thought it was funny that everyone was becoming hysterical at the few drops of rain that had fallen. But I, too, stood and put on my shorts and shirt. I didn't much care about getting wet, but I didn't want to ruin my book. I picked up my towel and left the beach. I was starting to get hungry, anyway.