Third Prize, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 8
You go to the beach to get away from HIM. You take Arthur, your sloppy-tongued Labrador whose heart is as big as his head. Because you love Arthur. And he obeys you.
You, Chris, also take a flask, having filled it with a concoction of guilt, forgetfulness, and a splash of ambivalence. Vodka stirred in to dull the taste.
You consume your bitterness.
The beach is pebbled. You smudge a bum print to sit. You throw a furry tennis ball Arthur has mauled. He retrieves it and returns.
You drink. It singes your throat on the way down – the same throat you earlier yelled at HIM with – burning what’s hidden in your stomach.
Your SON, SAM. SAM, not Sarah, you insist. Never Sarah. SAM.
You live by your rules and SAM will as well. You blame Julie for leaving the way she did. Though you know you’d get a good telling off if she was here.
She’s a beauty, isn’t she, Arthur? you say of the sea. You think it glistens and sparkles for your eye.
It’s at this point, Arthur salivating at the thought of another throw, that the sea rises out of herself. She forms as a liquid human and drags her way towards you.
This is real, you aren’t that drunk.
When Arthur comes back, you cradle him into your lap. He is panting loud and you’re worried he knows something you don’t.
You won’t admit you’re scared.
Hey you, the sea says.
Who me? you ask.
Don’t play dumb. It’s the middle of May, you’re the only one here.
You want to call for help, to Sarah, but you can’t. You remember what you said to HER this morning.
I know you hear me, the sea says.
She stands over you.
So, why do you misgender me?
You find it an odd question and have no reply.
It is I who will tell you what to call me, okay?
You nod. Even you understand calling the sea, she, is as illogical as calling Sarah, Sam.
At that point, a cloud comes over and sends rain down on your head. Arthur, unfortunately, is collateral damage. The pebbles beneath you start to heat. You squirm.
Lightning cracks close to you and Arthur jumps from your lap and runs off. You’ve keeled over and your hands cover your head. Nature is warning you you’ll lose HER.
I whisper into your ear, though you can’t hear me anymore, that our child is not unnatural. That this, what you’re doing, is.
You’re crying. You think of Sarah growing HER hair and wearing my earrings, my clothes. That big smile of HERS in the mirror when she thinks no one sees.
You don’t have the words yet, but you hope to. Arthur bounds back into your embrace and you wipe your tears into his black coat.
The sea slides away from you and into the vast expanse of the world, turns and points, and tells you to be better.
Joshua Kepreotis is a writer born in Australia of Greek heritage, and living in Greece. He has published essays in 3AM Magazine and HuffingtonPost Greece, prose and poetry in 100 Words of Solitude, Lucky Pierre and others. He writes through his experience, his privilege, and challenges dominant ways of thinking.