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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Pictures—The Beach Outside of Nice

Story by Nance Knauer (Read author interview) December 15, 2003

Nick skipped across the scattered light with a catamaran while I sat and watched from the shade. Click. He was out of practice, and the rope slipped through his hands too fast, leaving a red burn across his back from hip to shoulder. An hour later, when he sat beside me and a swimmer running to her towel kicked sand up against his welts, I brushed his back with my fingers.

“We should put something on that.”

He flinched. “Mmmm.” A short silence, and then, “Why didn’t you sail with me?”

“I told you. I’m no good on boats.” I tightened my belly and fluffed my hair as a bronze beauty, all legs and coconut oil strolled by.

“You haven’t told me why.” He watched her dive into the surf. Click.

“My father tried to drown me when I was a baby. Put me in a canoe and shoved it out onto the lake during a storm. They didn’t find me until the next day. Haven’t been on a boat since.”

“I never know when you’re joking.”

I had the urge to place my palm against his heart as he turned but I reached for an ice cube from my drink instead. “Does it matter?” I turned him back around and rubbed the ice along his burn.

“Christ, that’s cold!” He shivered and I waited for him to answer. “Ultimately? Yes, it matters.”

I pictured him smiling as he said it. Click. I tried to smile as I replied. “I’m going back to Edinburgh tomorrow.”

He shivered again. I imagined him laughing. I filled in the silence with portraits of us, running along the sand, splashing and falling into the waves. His voice came through quiet and sharp. “Go on, then.”

Clouds or someone’s shadow dimmed the light until I couldn’t see, and I grinned like an idiot. Click. “See? You can tell. You knew right away I wasn’t joking.”

I think he left then. I don’t remember. I was having trouble seeing, and then there was too much light, but I believe he was smiling. I’m almost certain. I might have a picture of him somewhere.

About the Author

Nance Knauer is a transplanted southerner who gathers wool all day and knits it together all night. Published at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, now dealing with the fame of it all.

This story appeared in Issue Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Two
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