Everything he said sounded abrasive. Ami gave Jasmine a hug. Anyone want donut holes? They were all two years older than me, one year older than Emma.
They just nodded. I sighed. Ami and Ari and Joey were moving up to Portland. Jasmine would be working in the music shop in Garberville and living at home.
Mark talked vaguely and. Fiction hopefully about Colorado. I was the only one headed to college. It was a little awkward. You want a nip of it, Lil?
Someone told the Russian sleep experiment story and someone told a hitchhiker story and someone told one of the many variations of the ditzy-babysitter-with-stalker-upstairs story. Then we poked the fire with sticks. We tried burning salt grass too, but the smoke made Ari and Ami cough.
Jasmine dropped her sweater to cuddle closer with Joey, which morphed into making out. I popped another donut hole in my mouth. The sea crashed on the sand. Joey and Ami and Mark got drunk and started telling smuggling stories. In her bra. I mean, have you ever seen someone put one on their patio? No one wants a dumb pig.
Flutes, clarinets. Mark let out a sputtering laugh. Joey shook his head. Joey took a swig of beer and kicked a little sand in the fire. Jasmine fingered the veins on his neck. If you want to hear it. A bit later, a bloke is arrested trying to cross the border holding the wee babe in his arms. When they unwrap it There are far more Mexican babies in Mexico than American babies in Mexico. And anyway, all the American babies in Mexico are being watched pretty closely. Just like all the finger-in-the-soup stories. I looked over to Jasmine with my really?
No one really listened, but I waved goodbye anyway and started south towards the lighthouse. The fog and rain had packed down the sand. It was easy footing. I found a big stick. I dragged it behind me making a line. When I turned around the thick fog obscured the beginning of it. I smiled, kept drawing.
The wind picked up, gusting low-hanging clouds over the sea. In the breaks between the clouds, there were stars. Back in middle school Emma and I were in choir together. Ahead, the lighthouse flashed three times.
The intermittent light revealed a rough bluff, concrete pad, candy-striped shaft. And below on the beach, there was a huge dark mass of something. Throwing down my stick, I went to take a look, trotting until I reached the Thing. Fifty feet of dark, reeking meat: the dead whale. The side facing the bluff was intact: inky skin, ribbed rubbery stomach, a single flipper sticking up.
The mouth lolled open and the tongue spilled onto the sand, big as a queen-sized mattress and jellified. The other side was a wreck. The blubber had been shattered over rocks till it was rubble and the sand was impaled with spears of baleen. Ribs the size of driftwood logs jutted out. Garden-hose-thick veins wound into the grooves on their sides. My anatomy textbook had shown the same thing on a clean white page. Here was the diagram in real life, the stench abysmal.
The lighthouse. Fiction flashed again, illuminating every detail of the flesh. Raindrops repelled by grease pooled on the skin. I walked in a wide circle around the whale, then found a driftwood log a few feet upwind. The underside of the log was relatively dry, so I rolled it over and sat.
Sat and stared at the whale. The intestines, meshed as tree roots, tangled gently with the surf. The smell was bad but I found myself sniffing the air again and again. The rhythm of the waves and the flashes of the lighthouse were lulling. I must have stayed there twenty or thirty minutes.
Then the burst of light revealed a figure coming towards me from downwind. When she got to the log I scooted over to make room for her.
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She sat. She was wet from the rain. Or a juvenile blue? Elizabeth Wing We sat in the quiet, then the light flashed. The fins are the right shape and everything.
The story and everything. I scrambled to lighten the conversation. I prodded at the mash of intestines.
On the intact side there were blisters forming under the blue skin, so I poked at one of them. I searched for adjectives. Was it rubbery? It shifted under the skin. Jasmine found a dinner-plate-sized boil. Together we pressed it, soft at first, then angrily. Gritting our teeth. Daring it to do its worst.