Toll Road

There is a road with sinking houses and a funnel shaped race track. Tall grass yellows on each side of the highway lines. We take it all the way to the coast, baby and mutts in the backseat, early morning on the radio, air still full of frogs.

My husband drives for long stretches without talking because we will interrupt each other and finish each other's sentences with the wrong words. We aren't polite any more.

We smell the ocean before we see it--the stink of sea decay. Sea weed, muddy mangrove roots, purple streaked jellyfish washed up over night, their bells like swollen petticoats. The island is a hook made by lava, its point sharpened everyday.

My husband always purchases the same postcard, aerial view in mid-afternoon. In our hotel room at night he writes back home.

We dangle the baby in the water, lift him up before the waves break. He squeals. The dogs run wild; they swallow dying fish and roll around in the sand, before collapsing on a towel in the shade. Once or twice I wander out and let the tide pull me until the people on land blend with the sea grass.

I go under and under, holding myself there, taking longer breaths. I imagine I am brine, or flotsam, turning just below the surface in a rectangle of sunlight. I am a shadow down there. I am fronds and stipes, dorsels, spirula, exoskeletons. I stay out there for awhile with who knows what, wondering if this is where all those dreams about drowning and flying come from?

Back home in the air conditioning, we go about the rooms of our house, the streets of our town, sunburns tingling. There is sand in the bathroom floor and in the cracks around the kitchen sink. We shower everyday, but the salt is still there, taking the shine of our hair.

About the author:

Lydia Copeland's stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Quick Fiction, NOO, Dogzplot, elimae, FRiGG, Glimmer Train, SmokeLong Quarterly and others. Her chapbook, Haircut Stories, is available from the Achilles Chapbook Series, as well as part of the chapbook collective Fox Force 5 from Paper Hero Press. She works in Manhattan and lives in New Jersey with her husband and son.