A Very Fine Time

They were sitting alone on the white sand. Everyone else had gone to bed. The night was cool and calm and the waves collapsed peacefully on the shore. The rods were still standing in the sand with their lines in the water. It was said to be bad luck to take them out after sundown.
“Why’s the sand white?” asked Marjorie.
“I don’t know,” said Nick. “Why is anything the way it is.”
“No,” she said. “That’s not what I meant. I meant why is this sand white. Not all sand is white.”
Nick scooped up a handful of it and let the tiny grains filter through his fingers until there was nothing left save dustings.
“I remember Bill’s father talking about the sand here. He said they bought the place because he loved how the sand looked in the morning when the sun rose.” He was looking at his fingers rub together. “Isn’t that something?”
“Oh yes,” said Marjorie. “That’s something.”
They were sitting on a blue blanket. The blanket had deep impressions from where people had sat down earlier and was covered in patches of sand. Marjorie was propped up on her elbows and her dark hair which went to her slender shoulders dropped as she looked up at the sky.
“Yes,” she said. “That’s certainly something.”
Earlier in the evening their friends had played games and relaxed on the beach while they’d fixed dinner. Marjorie was always rather lost in the kitchen and she mostly stood by the wall slowly sipping a glass of red wine. Nick had gone and bought lobster the day prior because it was everyone’s last night at the house and he wanted the dinner to be special. From the kitchen they could hear their friends, other couples whom they had gone to school with or now worked with, laughing and talking through the screen window. Marjorie ran her scarlet-painted finger around the lip of her glass and listened and thought how wonderful of a time everyone was having.
Nick had the water boiling for some time when he put the lobsters in. He asked Marjorie for seasonings and she got them out of the cabinet. She set the wooden rack of spices on the counter then returned to the far wall. They hadn’t spoken outside of this and when the lobsters began to claw at the water’s surface Nick put the lid over the boiling pot.
It was very dark but they could still see the white foam and green undercarriages which rode atop the waves. The rods stood still in the sand.
“The sand is nice but I don’t care much for the smell,” said Marjorie.
“I don’t know,” said Nick. “I don’t mind the smell.”
“It reminds me of the hospital,” she said.
“What do you know about hospitals?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she said. “It just reminds me, is all.”
The blanket was clumped and wrinkled in the space between where they sat. Overhead the clouds moved but there was no wind.
“It was a good trip, wasn’t it?” said Nick.
“Oh yes. A very good trip,” agreed Marjorie.
Nick kicked out his legs and dug his heels into the sand. He didn’t see the silver line of the middle rod lurch.
“Then why do we feel like this?”
“It’s better if we don’t talk about it,” said Marjorie. “It’ll go away. I’m sure of it.”
“Maybe,” he said. “Maybe it already went away.”
Just then they heard the soft patter of feet behind and turned around. Bill was walking towards them, his tall body a great shadow on the white sand. They could see a bottle of wine in one hand and three glasses in the other. Nick turned back towards the water and watched the steel rods.
“I thought I’d come check to see if you two were still alive,” he said jokingly. He eased himself to the ground and stretched his legs on the blanket between Nick and Marjorie.
“Is everyone still awake?” said Nick.
“Claire’s packing. The rest are asleep,” said Bill.
He poured two glasses and was about to start the third when Nick raised a flat hand.
“I’m fine,” said Nick.
Bill laughed and Marjorie took her glass and drank.
“Everything alright, Nick?” asked Bill.
Nick was watching the steel rods. “What could be wrong?”
Bill shrugged and took a drink. “Just don’t think I’ve ever seen you turn down a drink before.”
Marjorie said nothing. She had her head bowed and her legs crossed.
“Do you want me to have a drink, Bill?” said Nick, his voice suddenly urgent.
“I didn’t say that,” said Bill.
“You said something, Bill,” said Nick. “You said something.”
“What’re you talking about, Nick?” said Bill. He sat up straight and was looking at Nick’s back.
This time when the middle rod lurched Nick saw it. He didn’t know if anyone else had seen it. Then he closed his eyes.
“Yeah, Bill,” said Nick. “What am I talking about.”
“I don’t know,” said Bill. “But it might help if you got some sleep.”
Nick said nothing. Marjorie had finished her glass of wine.
“Sleep always helps,” she said. “It’s been a very fine trip, Bill.”
“Oh, it’s been a fine trip, alright,” said Nick. “A fine trip.”
Bill drank and looked out at the dark waters. It had never ceased to amaze him how still it could all seem from so far away. “We saw a whale while you were making dinner,” he said. “It rose and turned over and then it was gone.”
“Isn’t that something, Nick,” said Marjorie.
Nick laughed and reached around his back for the bottle of wine. Bill watched and said nothing.
“It’s something,” he said. He took a long drink and the wine spilled down his chin. “Something indeed.”
The middle rod swayed and bobbed. Nick sprang from his seat and was seen sprinting across the immaculately white sand, bottle of wine in hand. Marjorie was smiling and Bill stood up on the blue blanket. They watched as Nick ran past the steel rods. He leaped and kicked and water sprayed everywhere and then he was underwater and out of sight.
Bill took a few steps forward and raised a hand over his eyes. Marjorie grabbed his glass of wine and poured it into hers. She was still smiling.
“What the hell’s gotten into him?” asked Bill.
Marjorie shrugged and drank. “I don’t know,” she said.
Bill turned and looked at Marjorie’s white face. They could hear Nick splashing around in the rolling waves.
“How are you two?” said Bill.
“Oh, we’re fine,” said Marjorie.
They sat and watched Nick’s dark head bob up in down in the dark water.

About the Author

Daniel Bartkowiak

Daniel Bartkowiak is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. His work has been featured in issues of Thrice Literary, The Write Launch, Free Spirit, and Allium. He is 27 years old.