Guy in the Dunes

That guy in the dunes, his ass planted on that pillar. Who am I to ask him what's in those pockets? Who am I to ride my bike up the boardwalk every morning? I would likely question his motives should he inquire, "Who are you, and why do you ride your bike up the boardwalk every morning at the same time?" I would, almost certainly, say "nothing" and keep pedaling. I might even take to the road thereafter to avoid him. My motives are solid, of course. He should know that. How could he not?

His hands are in his pockets, his head is hooded. He looks at the sand. What is he thinking about? He might be stupid, or lazy.

He is not stupid or lazy. Impossible. He is eccentric, somewhat off; unique, possibly unequipped to realize it. He needs my help; I can feel it. Sometimes he looks up -- I mean up. Not straight out, but straight up. And he follows the clouds, or something moving slowly above him. Or he looks down; counts grains of sand, or something plentiful and still, beneath him.

Why won't he look at me. I am as interesting as he. Look at my eyes, guy in the dunes. I'm looking at you, guy in the dunes. I want to know why you look up, and look down, and I want to know what is in your pockets. A device of some sort? Did you invent something? Tiny books, maybe?

Why don't I just ask him. Why won't he just ask me. I am as interesting as he is.

Tolstoy wrote in the square. He was inspired by the faces. He was INSPIRED BY THE FACES. Are you not inspired by me? I see the top of your hood, the bottom of your beard. I am confused, not inspired by this! Let's say, intrigued, guy in the dunes. Please look at me. I don't want to have to ask. It's been so many mornings. How many more will there be? There's no such thing as forever, guy in the dunes.

"Good morning." He can't hear it. He is thirty yards away, and I whispered. We're both better off for not having engaged on such picayune pretense as the acknowledgement of morning; good, bad, or neither. Tomorrow I will say something better.

"Good morning." I know he can hear me. We're both better off. Tomorrow I will say something better.

"Hello!" He doesn't want to hear me. He doesn't care. All he cares about are clouds and sand. Tomorrow I will think of something better.

"What's he building in there."


"What's he building in there!"

Tomorrow, I will…

…wreck and stumble up. "What's he building in there," I whisper through the side of his hood. Please. Do you know how long I've waited to understand you? How long I've wanted to give myself to you? I know your eyes plead Save me. I know it. Show me. Admit it. I can save you if you let me. I am important and have many things to say. Many things to learn. Let me.

I will…

I cannot help myself, guy in the dunes. I am the man in the telltale, you are the eye. Be pleasantly received, or be no more!

…say something better.

So many times, rejected, come back. Let me, guy in the dunes. Just let me! I may not come back some day, you know. Good morning.

Tonight I will have a nightmare. Tomorrow nothing will stop me. Good morning.

There is nothing under that hood. He does not protest. I am gentle. I drop it like a lover's waistband. I cry, but he does not know. I say "What are you building in there?" I cry but he does not see. I scream but he does not hear. There are no pupils. The ears, there is skin where the holes should be. He can feel me. He can feel my hands on his face. I hold it steady, straight out. I type onto his cheeks, for it is all I know to do:

"What is up there?"

"What is down there?"

"What are you building in there?"

I am right here. You can feel me. This is different, I swear. You can trust me. I will wait for you. "See me as I see you." Be inspired, guy in the dunes. Please inspire me; more than you have up to here.

One grain of sand smiles amidst a quadrillion straight-faced fellows. Would you see it?

I can see it. We'll get you all cleaned up. We'll sit down. We will sit down and you will see my face, and hear what I say. You will be inspired. Inspire me.

There. Now, just tell me what you're building in there. Take your hands out of your pockets. Show me. Find it. Show me. I can help.

She kicks the sand, smiles one-quadrillionth. I see it, I swear. Her eyes say "save me," when I can see them. Yes, she kicks the sand, turns, and I think that's it. How many every-days until I come to terms. How many every-days will I ride by, wreck and stumble here, stand ass-planted at this pillar, where I found her first. Where I lost her last. How many days will I hide, count sand, follow clouds; forgive myself whatever I was supposed to forgive myself. Save me.

"Good morning," they say. I do not hear.

About the author:

Nicholas Barnes has been published in The Story Garden, Adirondack Review, Akkadian, Pontalba Press’ "Short Stories Volume One," Zoetrope All-Story Extra, Wolfhead Quarterly, and other nowhere ghost malls. He is the author of one novel ("Thresholds"), one fictitious memoir ("The Lost Writings Of Steve Garvey"), and one collection of short stories ("Gas [and other liquids]"). He has played music in Columbus and New Orleans coffee houses for tips and business cards, has written and produced original music for feature films ("The Barber," starring Malcolm McDowell), and has recorded three independent albums that impress his friends and relatives, but few others. Between fits of literary and musical procrastination, he owns and operates Nick's New Orleans Deli in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.