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The Best Thing I Ever Heard

I’m on South Padre Island, a few weeks after the end of their tourist season. I spend a long night with three witchy old women dropping LSD in their eyes, and then when that loses its luster, I drive back to my hotel.

I get out of my car and hang a long right around the Denny’s there beside the parking lot, all of it lit golden into the main road where nobody travels at this hour but apparently the beach police.

The last couple inside the Denny’s pick at their eggs and syrupy remnants of pancake crumbles until the boy — he’s a boy, 19 maybe, sitting with his sweetheart, a sort of cherubic girl with a teal dress, Hispanic, who keeps scratching at her face — sees me walking by. The boy and I nod at each other. He’s unhappy. He thinks I might be. I must look like I am. I’m not sure if I am. Maybe I am.

I probably am.

I pass a hatchback in this way. The car has its trunk open in the heavy sweet-fat smell behind the Denny’s.

A woman there says, “Don’t go off and kill yourself, son.”

I’m given to argue this point, but then realize it’s a joke.

The two old men in Hawaiian shirts beside her drink straight from a bottle of Old Crowe and laugh. A sticker beside their license plate reads a kitschy phonetic spelling of Louisiana.

I say, “It’s not what it looks like,” because I’m realizing what it looks like: I’m carrying a full pack of cigarettes and a full bottle of tequila toward the beach alone.

She gets up and stands in front of me.

“I’d like to keep walking,” I tell her.

“Oh sure,” she says, looking me up and down. “Lots of folks just… keep walking.”

I smile politely and nod. I keep walking. I think: LOW-EASY-ANNA.

The parking lot siphons into a single well-worn path, meandering 150 feet or so through high grass to the sands. I traipse through to a resplendently clear beach.

Four sets of lights sit on the horizon. Boats swaying together in a little innocuous dance of starlight synchronicity. They part and drift into the depths of the darkness on all sides. I stand with my feet in a cold ocean until they disappear.

I walk back to the misty leviathan of the hotel behind me and finally sit in the sand and pull from the bottle. The taste is killer. The ocean hits my feet, leeches up to the knee of my jeans. I drink until the bottle is about one third gone, wincing every time. I still have yet to develop a taste for warm tequila, and I wonder if I ever will.

The stars above me look quaint. Nobody ever seems to appreciate how each star is a hydrogen bomb out there, ready to consume everything in due time. The ocean in front of me suddenly has the mythos of the universe itself, with all the pathos of a thunderstorm.

A couple with flashlights walks by. They wave and say something, both of them, in the cadence of a joke. The man, then the woman. I can’t hear them for the waves but laugh loudly so they’re sure we’re all having a good time.

I get up with the intention of walking home, looking up into the universe. I think: I’ll be lucky to live twice this long.

The way back is always shorter seeming.

The old hatchback door is closed with the authority of a ghost.

A single cadmium-yellow Volkswagen Beetle now sits in the parking lot of the Denny’s gold light, honking politely.

It has a Gold’s Gym sticker and a Lyft mustache.

The couple I saw before toddle out.

The driver, a shirtless Italian guy, rolls down his window.

“Take me to the beach, “ the girl says to him. “I wanna see the beach!”

And this is the best part. 

“Lady,” the driver says to this girl, “let’s just get you home.”

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

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