The Only Beach Boy Who Could Surf (Part 2)

This is just a sad story. But I finished it, and that’s something. I thought there might be more, but this is where Geri ended it.

“Well, this is your show,” Marjory said, “I’m just an audience member.” She put her plate and coffee mug in the sink and went back to the guest room.

I stayed at the table, thinking. All 24 year hadn’t been bad. I’d exaggerated that, like most wives married to shiftless men like Walter. Because he hadn’t always been shiftless, and we’d been in love once. I remember how handsome he looked when he got out of basic training. I thought I was the luckiest girl on Earth as we walked through town, my arm in his. I lost my virginity to him before he shipped out and I promised to wait for him. And that’s what I did. It all sounds like a story now, doesn’t it?

We got married when he returned, and before long, Nate was born. I had a hysterectomy in 1976, so no more kids for us. That was fine with Walter, who never wanted kids anyway.

I could almost forgive Walter for losing interest in me, for letting himself go and drinking so much, but I had a harder time forgiving what he did to Nate. He didn’t rough him up or anything like that. He just never showed any interest in him. Nate was a weird kid, I’ll admit it, but every boy needs his father to support him. Hell, to at least take him fishing or show him how to shoot a gun or work on a car. Nate hung around Walter like a lost puppy, and Walter never paid him any mind, When I confronted him about it, Walter would just shake his head and say, “Everything’s fine between us. Leave it alone.”

Well, if everything had been fine, I don’t think they wouldn’t have talked for the last five years. I looked over at the phone. I knew I should call Nate and the police. I glanced at the clock and noticed it wasn’t even nine o’clock yet. For all the police knew, I slept every day until eleven. Nate knew better, though. He knew I still got up around six, after so many years of doing so and making Walter’s breakfast.

I walked back out to the pool and looked in the water, suddenly convinced that Walter would no longer be there. But there he was in the same position: face down, arms spread out. He was wearing his work jeans and a flannel shirt, tucked in as always. His graying hair spread out like a halo.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” I told myself when I felt tears prick my eyes. But I couldn’t help it. My husband was dead. He’d broken my heart more times than I could count, but he was mine and now he was gone.

Before I knew it, I was in the water. I waded over toward the middle of the pool where Walter was and peered down. The image of him swirled and for a moment, I could pretend that he’d just dived down to the bottom for fun. Not that he was down there because he was a drunk and he’d drowned, just like that Beach Boy Marjory talked about.

What was that Beach Boys song I always liked? Lord, I couldn’t remember anything anymore.

“Walter,” I said, and my voice scared me. It didn’t sound like me at all. I tried to say his name again, but nothing came out. I dipped my head under water. the Walter looked peaceful, his body not completely touching the bottom of the pool. Like he was trying to float but just couldn’t pull it off.

“God Only Knows.” That was the name of the song. I took my head out of the water and tried to sing it: I may not always love you, but long as there are stars above you

That’s as far as I could get.

The Only Beach Boy Who Could Surf (Part 1)

“If I wanted to get a close-up of crazy, I’d just look in the mirror.”

This line popped in my head as I walked out of the grocery store earlier in the week, and I laughed out loud. I don’t know if it’s about me or not (I don’t think I look that crazy, except first thing in a morning, especially when it’s been a while since a haircut). That line led me to write the following. It’s incomplete, but I actually see myself finishing this one. Forgive the typos. 

The Only Beach Boy Who Could Surf

I found him at the bottom of the pool, deader than dead. I sat in a chair and smoked a cigarette, thinking about all the years I wasted with his sorry ass. 24 years. We were only a few months away from our 25th anniversary. He couldn’t have waited a little longer before he died? 25 is a nicer number, and it says more about my long-suffering. Yep, 25 years I spent with Walter, I could say. 25 years of his drinking, womanizing, lying, stealing, and all the other shit he got up to. It just sounds better than 24 years of his drinking, womanizing, and so on.

Marjory wandered out from the house, sleep still in her eyes, wearing one of my extra bathrobes. I had four or five, all gifts from Walter. He thought I liked them when the truth is, I couldnt give a rat’s hairy ballsack about bathrobes. I’m always hot after a shower or bath and I liked to parade around naked. Walter used to like that, way back at the start of everything.

Marjory bummed a smoke from me and stared in the pool. “That Walter?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Huh. He’s not floating.”

“Bodies don’t float for long.”

“And just how do you know that?”

“Saw it on a Law & Order or something. Or maybe I read it sometime. Does it matter?”

“No, I reckon not.” Marjory plopped her fat self in the chair beside me. She still had her rollers in but she’d put on lipstick. The filter of her cigarette looked bloody. “Well, now what?”

I flicked my cigarette in the pool. It hissed when it hit the water. God knows the last time we’d had the thing cleaned. Walter had died in some nasty water, for sure. “I guess we could call the police,” I said.

“You kill him?”

“No. I came out here and found him at the bottom of the pool. My guess is that he got drunk and tumbled in.”

“Like that Beach Boy.”

Lord, what was Marjory yapping about? I knew better than to ignore her. Just like my son, Nate, when he was four and he asked one of his endless questions. After what felt like the hundredth question, I’d ignore him, and he’d hitch his voice up a couple of octaves and say “Mama!” until I thought my damn head would burst.

I lit another cigarette. “What Beach Boy would that be?”

“The only good-looking one, Dennis. Remember, the drummer? He got drunk and fell off a boat and drowned. Did you know he was the only one who surfed?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“True. Not even the leader, that crazy one Brian, could surf. That always rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, how can you call yourselves The Beach Boys when only one of you guys can even surf? That song ‘Surfin’ Safari’ is nothing but a pack of lies.”

I often imagined finding Walter dead–dead in his chair, dead in the driveway from a heart attack, and even dead where he slept all those years right beside me. But I didn’t ever imagine sitting here with my best friend talking about how The Beach Boys betrayed the public’s trust while Walter’s body got about the business of decaying at the bottom of the pool.

“Well, I guess I’ll make a little breakfast and put the rest of my face on,” Marjory said, groaning as she lifted herself out of the chair. “Let me know what you decide to do.”

“Okay,” I said. “You’ll put on a pot of coffee?”

“You know it.”

“Sounds good.”

I sat by the pool for a little longer before going back in to get a cup of coffee. Marjory made it extra-strong, which I liked. She’d been staying with us for about a week by that point. I remember Walter pulling me aside after two days and hissing, “Now just when is she gonna be on her merry little way?”

“Whenever the mood strikes her, I guess,” I said. “You know Majory. Free like the wind.”

“She’s not living here.”

“Lord, who said anything about her living here? She’s got a nice place of her own, you know that.”

“Well, I know women like Marjory and you don’t,” Walter said, ignoring the obvious problem with his statement. Walter fancied himself knowledgeable about many things when in fact he knew about air conditioners, cheap beer, and chasing ass. So-called “women like Marjory” scared the pants off him because they didn’t rely on a man and they mostly did what they well pleased. Like taking off on a whim and coming to visit me without a specific end date in mind. It was those kinds of things that really curdled Water’s milk.

Marjory was thumbing through the newspaper and eating a bagel when I sat down at the kitchen table with my coffee. She hadn’t put the rest of her face on; she was still just wearing lipstick, her curlers, and a bathrobe. Well, what was the hurry? It’s not like we had a dead body in the pool or anything. Ha ha.

“You think you’ll run an obituary on Walter?” she asked.

I sipped my coffee and thought. “I don’t know. Do I have to?”

“You’re the expert on death, not me.”

“What if you can’t bury the body unless you run an obit?”

Marjory narrowed her eyes at me. “What in the hell kind of sense does that make?”

“I don’t know. There are rules, aren’t there?”

“Your worthless husband is laying dead at the bottom of your pool and no one knows but me. You don’t seem like someone who’s real worried about rules right now.”

She had a point. I figured I could call Nate later and ask him, and he could look it up on the Internet. He was always bugging me to get one of those smart phones so we could text back and forth. I asked him what use I would have for that? If I needed him, I could just call him. He said he wasn’t always able to take a call, but I could text him. I asked if he could get a text, why couldn’t he take my phone call? He just sighed and told me to forget it.

Well, I didn’t forget it. It made me mad the more I thought about it. Like he was superior because he had the Internet on his phone and I was still using my phone. Excuse me, my land line.”

“Geri, you zoned out. Come on back.”

I blinked. “Sorry,” I said, “I was thinking about Nate.”

“Oh. Huh. I guess you’d better call him.”

“No, the thing about the obituary can wait.”

“What?”

“About whether you have to run an obituary in the paper. I’ll ask him later.”

Marjory leaned over the table. “I meant telling him that his father died,” she said slowly.

“Oh, that. Well, that can wait, too. Nate and Walter haven’t talked in nearly five years. No reason to dump this on him so early in the morning. Maybe after lunch. Bad news can keep.”

Marjory shook her head and her curlers did a little dance. I was always envious of her hair. I could do something with mine, but I never saw the point. I sure as hell wouldn’t put rollers in at night, but I suppose it wouldn’t kill me to use a brush every now and then. I caught my reflection in the mirror the other day and thought I look like someone children should be frightened of.

I Might Miss You

I Might Miss You

Some tomb-dark night,
when the stars seem perilously close
and the moon hangs like blame,

I might miss you.

But then, I’ve roamed
the gaps in the constellations
and found the cold delightful.

I’ve set foot on our fickle satellite
and planted my own fucking flag
which I kissed before soaring back home.

For that matter, I won a staring contest
against the sun with retinas in-tact,
and the sun flared and glared for days.

I might miss you.

But, my erstwhile dear,
don’t count on it.

Onion Soup of the Damned

“I’m like an onion,” you said, winking.
“I have many layers. You’ve just peeled the–”

“Bullshit,” I said and ripped off your flesh.
You didn’t die, which was confounding.

“I told you,” you gasped,
“I’m a–”

“Nope,” I said
and divested you of muscles and organs.

The mess of you somehow muttered,
“Here, look.”

I sifted through your remains
and found a small, yellow bulb.

“Huh,” I said, picked up the blood-flecked produce,
and left you to fester.

I cut it up—the hell with peeling—
and put it in a soup.

I ladled your screams into a bowl and swallowed them.
I sopped up your pain with dark bread.

I left the kitchen a disaster and took a nap
and didn’t dream of you.

Broken

My watch is broken,
like your face.
A general art major
couldn’t do the damage
justice—this is the work
of an old master, the canvas
of your countenance

a lecture-perfect example
of fine-point detail, droplets
of blood, the deep yellow
of bruises, the apples
of your cheeks skinned
and shattered.

What time is it?
I ask your ghost,
but it’s mute, gathered
like an old coat in the closet,
the hanger giving it shape.

I look at the sun,
but I can’t gauge the hour
(stupid to think I could).
So I wait for the stars
and pretend to navigate by them,
casting off into the boiling sea,
desperate to be shed of you forever.

I Caught Your Eye

Here’s a weird poem for your weekend.

I Caught Your Eye

I caught your eye–literally,
I caught it in my hand as it floated
away from you that strange,
purple-tinged evening.

Just an old parlor trick,
you said, smiling, plucking
your eye from my palm
and dunking it in your whiskey
before screwing it back in place.

Later, as you slept, the soft
train of your snores rolling
across the bed, I watched
your eyes vibrate beneath their lids–
not REM, but telegraphed desires
to float again, to be free,
without any hands getting in the way.