Sherod Santos reads
Variation on a Theme (I)
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1. The Pier What she said was not what she meant to say. As they side-stepped past the rotting patches of giant kelp the tide dragged up on the strand, she held his hand, she admired the fine-boned features of his face, she studied the overlapping shadows they cast. He seemed less distant than preoccupied (or was he simply shy?), and his narrowing slightly cross-eyed stare would rarely hold on hers. Nevertheless, two years younger, she followed him into the shadows of the pier. The joint, the condom, the in not out of the body thing, she’d heard about them from the other girls. But once they went their separate ways, she was surprised to find the throb of whatever she felt inside was no bigger than a bottle fly. 2. Film Noir A mist had settled over everything. It was after ten, almost eleven. A smudgy lamplight overran the curbs where leaves had started to gather as well. Some young people prowling the neighborhood were afraid that nothing would happen tonight, just as nothing had happened the night before. Although it was cold, the boys wore cutoff sweatshirts, and the girls, more comfortably dressed for the weather, kept laughing at things the boys said. A car turned onto Millbrook Road, dimmed and then extinguished its lights before rolling to a stop in the leaves. When the young people passed, they banged on the hood with their fists— the boys, not the girls, though the girls were amused by this as well— and frightened the man inside. Or did they? The car door opened. The man stepped out and, as killers do in Hollywood films, slipped a hand inside his coat. And then, in a quiet, almost whisper of a voice, he said something none of them could hear, though how he said it was the thing he said. Without looking back, the young people kept on walking, though faster now, kicking up leaves as they went. And when they were finally far enough away they were sure the man couldn’t hear, one boy turned and shouted back “Oh yeah motherfucker, we’re really scared.” And that was that. One of the girls drew closer to the boy who’d said those words, another drew farther away.