Hummingbirds, humming words, suspend themselves in front of hibiscus bushes, fighting the wind as the palms bend away from Hurricane Ed. Mrs. Enid Frame keeps smoothing the sand beneath her striped mesh beach chair with her bare feet, then pokes vicious random holes in the flat granules with her toe.
Suddenly her terry cloth beach coat doesn’t seem warm enough, yet she makes no motion to leave. The waves are swelling, slapping closer and closer in a reproach that echoes the voice she carried to the shore with her this morning.
Her first vacation ever and nothing had gone right. The blackening sky blots the sun’s warmth as she plays her husband’s criticism and announcement over again, while vaguely scratching at a sand flea. It has burrowed into her armpit causing a trickle of warm blood to join the unneeded sunscreen slathered all over her limbs.
In her lap she cradles a picnic basket, the one that holds her lunch and evidence of her mistakes. Beside the devil’s food cake, and apple walnut salad lay the pictures--all she really has left. A couple of school pictures from the grandkids way out in Seattle. One of her friend Anne on a riding lawn mower, in her new front yard over in Illinois.
Lots of the dog. Sleeping, chewing a dried pig’s ear, wearing felt reindeer ears. Gilbert, The Mister, she calls him, had killed the last of her comforts.
This morning, across the breakfast bar of their Efficiency Suite, he announced with that twisted smile of his that he had not taken Mitzi to the kennel before they left for Florida. Instead he’d taken the cataract stricken mutt to his pal Lester, who would have put the gun to him by now. Said he was sick of the fur.
Enid had squirreled the pictures away, the way she always did when they went off to a funeral or a family reunion. At least she has those. Now she sticks her tongue out at the storm in front of her. Shoot me too, why don’t you?
And then more sensibly, drown me like a bag of kittens, you old fool. It doesn’t matter. She’d found the lump growing out of her neck under her long gray braid weeks ago. She knew what it was and she’d just stay here, thank you, on the aluminum chair, her eyes clear, waiting for whatever would come her weary way.
Waves, wind—as the storm closes in on the coastline—the hurricane water first tickles her inner thighs, then drags her, pulls her, like the warm dark lover she never had, into the soft, deep foam.