Outside of Waverly
by JM Crimmins
Juliet -- let me tell you -- your brother is a little boy king out there in the water. On Monday, he's going to military school to be a drum cadet -- boots in step, a flatfoot rhythm. Drums and sticks. And at his ear, the chaotic snap of the standard in the wind.
Watch him now. This is his shoreline kingdom. He rules the ocean up to his waist. Rings of rib-bone crown his stomach. Above his head, his arms shake, furious like edicts.
A moment ago, Juliet, we were changing in the dunes. On our way, dry sand burned our arches and dune grass scratched our shins. You snapped a picture of me while I tangled with my swimsuit straps, sand flies biting my thighs at the back. To scatter them, you shook your towel. Terrycloth on the soft of my legs. When I finished, you stood bare shoulder to mine, your temple resting on my ear, your feet mounding sand around my ankles. I held the photo. We watched the ghost emerge. You shook my wrist to rush it. It's just like you to want forever now. The picture grew clear and still. My twisted suit cut a blue horizon across my chest. My skin pale as sand, my mouth wide, my hair a curl at the jaw.
Now look. A wave knocks his hips into a tumble, rolls him like fate, douses the sun's heat on his back, soaks his curls. Again on his feet, a shiver and dance. Drops cling to him. His hands clutch his biceps. Belatedly, he shouts alarm.
We run to join him and venture further out than he -- tiptoe over round sunken stones until the water is deep enough to hold us. The cold keeps our lungs small. Our legs churn circles in the tide. We rise on the swell, and dip just the same. Your brother trumpets from his ground, while your hands and mine caress the water's back.
But you will tire before I will.
Then I, undulating in the slow ocean, will watch the two of you departing drip, lumbering wet. The tide will drift me further. I will float a distance in the brine. Your brother, you know, is a little boy king. On the shore you will hold his hands as he drips from them a castle.
About the author:
JM Crimmins lives in Seattle.