The Beach At Fire Island

It was one of his funnier failures.
My old man decided
to take me on a day trip
walking the shore
and exploring the dunes.
I couldn't have been
older than eleven.
He hadn't done his research
or checked the weather forecast.
We both paid the price
like so many times before--
two souls stumbling through
the aftermath of divorce.

The shells I found were useless;
huge, redundant clam husks
too large to make them worth carrying.
A horseshoe crab was rotting
in a tangle of seaweed spewed up
by the surf.
It smelled so putrid
that even the seagulls stayed away.
Clouds covered every inch of the sky.
Florida was better.
My mom used to take me to Florida.

"Turn your head,"
he told me
as the man with the leather cap
and bright pink sweater
sauntered passed us in the sand.
The man, you see, was naked
from the waist down
and beaming like a sailor in port.

At least the old Asian fellow
had the decency to set up a perimeter
of loosely planted barricades.
We still knew he was nude
and that made it awkward.

"Let's get out of here,"
my father told me, half asking, as
we reached the next pathway
through the mounds of moving earth.
He sounded confused by a world
that'd passed him by decades ago.

The parking lot was filling quickly
as cars of scantily clad men unloaded.
If the sun was any lower
an orgy might've ensued.

It was the only time
he didn't embarrass me
with snapshots.
That was a plus.

The ride back was silent
or so I'd like to remember
for the sake of a better story.
For all I know he went on and on
about his lentil soup
that won him the prize at work.
One never knows with Charlie.
That may be what I like about him
aside from the childlike innocence
and that whole conception thing.

We went to Jones Beach the next time
and left unchartered territory
for the socially lubricated.

I was too young to laugh
at my dad's folly then
but now, at almost thirty
it makes my guts rumble.

He tried.
I can give him that.
He always tried.

Currently reading:
"Dry" by Augusten Burroughs.


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