The sand clung to his hairthe
softness of strawberry blonde on the California Coast. He moved
a slender thumb around his right earlobe; thought of Heather.
He had never been wrong.
And he had always been too good for the four-hundred people
of his town, San Joseph. Not hidden, but dropped, between Salinas
and Paso Robles, California, a few miles of flat lettuce fields;
but, sure, green enough for a postcard.
He liked to take his brother's truck down to the Nipomo Dunes,
zip through the sands on his dune buggy, and come home with ocean
on his facea man's water.
last time he went to the Dunes, he met Heather. She wore a black
sailor's hat, her hair nearly white in the sun. She took pictures
of the waves with a Polaroid camera. "Perfect," he'd said out loud,
not about her, but about the hunt. She said three things to him
that day: "Heather," "My dad has cancer," and "Your mouth is my
She was not a broken bird, just a little blue.
And now, he waited, with his hot head in the sand, for herand
it was all right so far.
"Hey there, yellow-haired Robert!" she called, picking her
knees up girlishly as she made her way over the thick sand to him.
His name was not Robert, but he enjoyed watching her ankles weak
and her arms nervous.
She sat down.
"Hey pretty girl," and he leaned forward to give her the mouth
that was her favorite.
But she pulled away.
A thin cloud passed over the sun, hushing the colors of the
scene. The Pacific was calm and turning gray.
"Do you think my hair is pretty too?" she said; her bottom
lip turned white from the tight bite she administered to it.
"Oh," he said, "yeah." Covered his browa seagull had
shit on him once.
"My dad is bald now. It's like this shiny dome. The eyebrows
are gone too."
For a long time, he thought of what to say in response, but
said finally: "Heather."
He had only wanted their mouths.
"I told him I'd bring him back seashells that were millions
of years old. Will you help me look for them?" Heather stood, and
was already taking long strides toward the shore.
His mother had always scrutinized his girlfriends' waists.
If they wore their pants on their hips, she scoffed at "the shapeless
flatness of the torso." "An hourglass," she told him, "an
hourglass is a real woman's shape. You be sure to bring home
a girl who wears her pants up here" she held her hand stiff
above her navel "and not some whore who wears them down here"
and put her hand below the navel, on the soft spot that was his
He watched Heather, bent over with her hands in the dark, wet
sandthe clouds now heavy over the sky. He went to her.
"Okay, seashells a million years old," he said, clapping his
"There's none here. We need to dig," she said, looking him
in the eyes.
He held the stare, soft in his face, and wondered if the green
in her eyes was a tear.
"The old ones are under the dunes," she said. "They've been
buried like the dead."
She kissed him.
Full, huge, too wet, tragic.
No hands, no grabmouth. Her mouth, and what about his?
That was all, and so it kept on. The ocean going grayer and grayer.
Heather stopped as quickly as she'd lunged, and said:
"My dad used to always tell me I could do anything I wanted
to. Anything I touched would turn to gold. 'Heather,' he said, and
then he'd rattle off lists and lists of occupations. 'Heather, Editor-in-Chief.
Heather, Secretary of Interior. Heather, Senior Botanist. Heather,
Scuba Diver. Heather, Stock Broker.' And on and on. His hands are
huge. He's six foot five. And I think he's a giant. I still call
And again, the mouth.
Furious this time, almost tearing. A wet biting, with teeth
and tongue and something acrid. He could not contain it easily;
had to put his palm on her face to steady them both. She pushed
down his throat, and he couldn't tell if there was love in his stomach
or fear. He felt for the hourglass and didn't find it.
She was on him for a long time, the waves methodically crashing
their heavy cycles beside them. Her tongue rolled with the water.
Then she said, her face already turned away: "Seashells."
As they started to dig at the foot of the dune, he wondered
if he could take her home to meet his mother and brother. His mother
always had an eye out for "the crazies," as she called them. "Don't
you go bringing anyone home who wrings their hands at my dinner
table and says prayers before they take a sip of water." His mother
was a San Joseph native, born and raised; and he looked at Heather
now, wondering: "My ticket out?"
They clawed at the sand; and it fell in on itself, as sand
does. The hole got wider but not deeper, as things in life do. He
touched his tongue to his teeth; she'd bitten it in places, rawlove?
She started talking again: "I'll let you cum in me. I'll let
you, if you want. I'll let you."
He wanted to stop digging, look at her and see who was really
there; but instead, he moved his arms faster, bent his fingers sore,
thinking of home and his ticket out. She talked more about cumming,
cumming inside, whatever he wants.
The words diluted.
The waves slate now, and this big hole in the sand as they
dug for things older than they.
He was handsome, and his gold hair was her second favorite.
Her mouth again.
But he, fearing death, twisted kissless, almost felland
plunged his palms deeper into the dune.