Monday, December 12, 2016

Three Stories by S.J. Culver

When We Are Old

When we are old, we will go to the beach almost every day. This is not what everyone will expect of us, but we will do it, because we do not like bingo, or jigsaw puzzles, or television, really, at all. We’ll go to the beach, you and I. Is that all right?

I would also like it if we could stop, on the way to the beach, at the gas station where we used to stop. You remember the one, where I used to get coffee and sour-cream doughnuts? And you’d say to me, “Why did you get coffee? We’ll have to stop again.”

And then I’d say, “Because I wanted it.”

That’s what we’ll do, on the way to the beach. I wonder if those sour-cream doughnuts will be as good as I remember.

Before we go, I’ll be sure to pack everything you’d want, because when we’re old, you’ll forget things. I will too, but not as much as you, I suspect. You already forget a good deal of the things I tell you, so I’ll be the one to pack your bag for the beach. Camera, towel, paperback, sunscreen. I will bring some antacids and the new Reader’s Digest, because we are old, remember? We will want those things, and we will keep our money in those fluorescent plastic containers that hang from our necks, and I will wear a large straw hat.

Don’t worry, you can still drive. You won’t be too old for that.

I will call the kids and tell them we’re going to the beach, and they will try and tell us to do something else, something more stationary, with more stable footing. And we will tell them to heck with all that, because we are old, and most of our joints are artificial, anyway.

Because we are old, we will be invisible to the other people at the beach, who will be young and have only the concerns of young people. We will remember these concerns and be glad that they have passed.

I will wear a bikini, and feel better about it than I ever have.

You will touch one of the scars on my hip and say, “What is this from?” and I will remind you.
I will rub sunscreen on your bare scalp and marvel at the constellation of brown spots that have appeared there.

You will ask me, several times, if I remember the first time we came to this beach.

I will complete crossword puzzles, in ink.

At the end of the day, we will call the kids again from the pay phone at the beach and tell them not to worry, but that we’re thinking of moving to the beach permanently. The kids will think we are joking and laugh the distracted laughs of people with their whole lives ahead of them. They will be good kids, good people. We will have raised them well, with kindness and just enough discipline.

We will stay at the beach until the sun sets. You will ask me when we are leaving, but I will not answer. You will say that there is sand in your hearing aid, but I will not respond. You will grow quiet eventually, and the sand will cool, and we will finally hear the waves crashing against the beach, now that the children and the raucous seagulls have turned in for the night. There may be fireworks; I can’t see that far ahead. But we’ll be happy, that much I know. We’ll be happy. We’ll be happy. We’ll be happy.