The waves roar their disapproval.
I glance at them from the corner of my eye. What I am about is my business.
Well, mine and Sarah’s.
The shore here is rough and jagged. My mother always took me to soft beaches. Sandy beaches. Where children dig and run and where women lay out and sunbathe. Here, there are rocks. And not the kinds of rocks that come from the ocean, so that they are round and delicate and fit in your palm. These rocks are sharp and brutal. Obsidian, I think. You have to watch yourself.
And so I teeter and hop my way across them, occasionally thrusting my arms out sideways like some hillbilly kid crossing a log over a stream. It’s low tide, so the higher ones aren’t as slippery. Got a long scar on the left calf as a keepsake from that lesson learned.
The waves snicker.
I have to be careful, because of the package on my back. I step wrong, I crush it. And then Sarah’s pissed and for no reason.
It’s midday, and the sun is scouring down on me. It sweeps the water off of the ocean and shoves it in my face, as if it’s smothering me, as if it wants to finally end this. It creeps into my nostrils and crawls into my lungs and sits and drains and eats away at my energies. Everything is dry and sweaty and rough.
It is good that the heat is tempered by the pine and rhododendron and undergrowth on the other side. But the foliage has grown arrogant. It has thickened into a pubic mat of unkempt wildness. It reaches and tickles the rocks, attempting to spread its dominion and claim the hellish beach for itself. Who would bother?
Tempting to think of it as a war, as a battle for dominance of the shore. Mighty Poseidon on one side, Gaia on the other. They haven’t clashed, not yet, and they probably won’t. And besides, why does everything have to be so confrontational?
The waves grumble in suspicion.
I am almost to the spot. A veritable Switzerland of unclaimed shore, bowing out into the ocean in a wide, flat splotch. It’s actually sandier here, and whiter. When we first arrived we would come here and lay out and talk for hours. We’d light fires too. Big enough to see by, small enough to put out if we needed to.
I step over the old firepit, sit down on my old rock. How long had it been since I had perched here with her, watching the fire fling crazy shadow puppets onto her face? Talking over our plans and strategies and contingencies? How long had it been since we last spoke to each other like we used to, anywhere on this place, about anything except hunting or planting or rationing?
I dump the sack, root through it, pull out the cargo. We’d talked about that, too. Right over the fire.
“We’ll save it,” she’d said, “for a rescue plane. Once things settle down.”
But none came. Only the bloated warplanes, following routine flightpaths. Too far away for us to make out a flag or figure out where they were coming from. And too far away for them to care about our tiny island.
“We don’t know for sure,” I’d said.
“Not worth the risk,” she’d said.
I don’t bother with silent ruminations or apologies or assurances when I see the plane approaching over the swift curve of the horizon. Just pull the trigger.
A red angel (of salvation? of death?) bursts from the barrel, exhaling as it speeds towards the heavens. It spirals, ever so slightly, like a badly thrown football. Not as visible here in the daytime, but it will have to do.
The plane turns.
The waves are silent. They hold their breath.