Monday, February 20, 2012

Another Fragment

I wrote this one some time after visiting a friend who lived on the Tijuana estuary south of San Diego. I have extensive notes for a long-ish short story but I've never written it. Some time down the line, I reckon.

A fragment
By James Robert Smith

He stood in front of the refrigerator for a while, letting the cold air drift over him. Normally, he didn’t get hot in this apartment, even on the second floor as it was, because the humidity was rarely high and a fairly constant wind blew either up or down the Tijuana estuary toward or away from the Pacific. But one of those rare fronts loaded with moisture had stalled over Imperial Beach and the air was heavy, the temperature was high, there was no wind, no clouds, lots of sun, and his shirt stuck to his torso like wet paper.

Gazing over the contents of the fridge, he decided on a bottled beer, took it out, closed the refrigerator door and said goodbye to the cold air. He’d have to make do with the beer and get used to the heat and humidity. A man could get used to anything, he told himself. The bottle cap fell to the counter top with a little metallic sound and he turned the bottle up and drained half the beer; he had to, because it would just get warm in this hot air, and he hated warm beer. Warm beer was something he didn’t want to get used to, but he might, if he had to.

Slowly, in bare feet, he eased across the den floor, feeling the shag carpet under his soles. The shag was old, left over from installation at least fifteen years before he’d taken the apartment, but had been kept clean by both himself and previous tenants. He liked feeling the stuff around his toes, and the way it softly filled his arches. In a moment, he was standing at the open door looking down on the marsh. Nothing moved except for a young skunk nosing about where the marsh grass met the lawn: nature’s blue-green meeting Chem-Lawn’s manmade emerald hues.

He looked to his right, and realized that Logan Peck, his old hippie neighbor, was draped over his wooden lounge chair, his soapstone pipe gone black and dead in his hand.

“Hey, Logan,” he said.

Logan sat up, placed the hand-carved soapstone pipe between his legs as his hand drifted to his pocket to withdraw a baggie of weed newly arrived from Oregon’s coast.

“Hey, man,” Logan replied. “You sure slept late today. I’ve been waiting out here for a long time waiting for you to come out. See if you wanted to smoke out.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said. “Thanks for thinking of me.”

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