When Sedgwick saw the body on the beach, in the evening, he didn’t believe it was Adelaide, the woman he had been seeing for a few months, earlier, until they had wordlessly drifted away from one another, having never, he thought, made any sort of commitment to one another, save for the general assumption that they’d spend an evening or two together, sometimes during the week, when she was in town, but mostly on the weekends, at one of the bars along the A1A strip up by Fort Pierce and have a few drinks and maybe share a plate of peel n’ eat shrimp or maybe the conch fritters which she liked better, even though they were greasy and she’d have to take a Zantac if she remembered to bring them with her, and also because she didn’t like how the smell of the shrimp on her fingers would linger for hours and keep her from teasing herself with the smell of Sedge on her after he left, usually some hours before sunrise but after the sky had lightened over the water in the east which she could see from the windows in the condo she rented in the winter months, but before the beachgoers had set up their chairs and umbrellas with, of course, the exception of the brown-skinned men in Panama hats and long sleeve shirts and their tall fishing rods out to catch the blues or whatever was running from the tuna that early in the day, and Sedge felt a shudder run down his spine and down into his legs behind his knees from the flush of adrenaline or whatever chemical it is that shocks into your veins and courses through your heart and lungs and stomach even before your eyes have adjusted to what you are seeing or, say, to the screech of tires before you actually hear them in your brain or feel the crush of the metal all around you, throwing you into the exploding airbags and breaking your fall and your nose, and he then realized that it was her, with men and a few women standing around her with their towels around their waists and their heads bent to her, lying on her stomach with her arms spread out away from her, limp and wide, and her head turned away from him to the other side as if she could not bear to think of him looking at her lying flat on the beach in the black bathing suit she loved and thought she looked stunning in and how he might think that she’d worn the same bathing suit two days in a row instead of how she washed them each evening and hung them to dry on the railing of the deck of the condo, soaking up the morning sun and the freshness of the sea in them, and with her hair, red and clogged with clumps of sand and bits of seaweed, and the grains of sand adhering to her back and her thighs in a way that she would feel made her look dissolute and un-ladylike and as if she wanted him to look away from her and walk back up the beach while the other men and women standing over her in a rough circle, like huge mournful Neolithic sarsen Stonehenge sandstone pillars, blocking the sun and creating slow shadows across her body, and with one of them pointing toward her with a beach towel as if questioning whether or not they should cover her before the police came, and talking in soft tones as if to spare her from hearing their funereal voices that perhaps only she, if she were alive, could parse, in the way she always had, of the criticism and fault with her in their voices like her father had done in the years before he left her mother and herself in the one bedroom apartment in Kissimmee where she slept on the pullout couch and, even then, at the age of seven was expected to have washed and dressed herself and made her own breakfast and folded the bed back up into the rank and moldy innards of the couch that had been in the apartment they rented by the month, and hearing, on the first day of every month, the rapping on the door as she picked up the trash and bottles from the kitchen floor and put them in the bin as she had been told to do when the landlord came for the rent, peeking in over her shoulder, breathing his foul breath and touching her on the small of her back in a way that chilled her and made gooseflesh on her arms and she would tell him that he should come back in the evening to see her father who had the money for him, while her father, at that very moment, was laying in his shorts and tee shirt with his arm across her mother before she dressed and left for work at the nail salon in Orlando six days a week, knowing that the life she had was not the life she wanted or wanted for her daughter, Adelaide, and prayed that when Adelaide was old enough she would leave this place and its guns and ammo shops and have a life that would bring her a little happiness, a little rest and a man who would treat her right, treat her like a woman wants to be treated, and which she told Adelaide that that life would come to her because she was smart and strong and wiley, to which Adelaide would laugh and tell her mother that she never wanted to be like Wile E Coyote because he’s the one who always runs off the edge of the cliff or has an anvil falling down on him and maybe he dies or maybe he doesn’t but she didn’t really know because she’d always put her hands over her eyes and turn off the TV when she saw that starting to happen and she hoped that it never ever would happen to her, and then her mother would grab her up in her soft white arms and hold her as tight as could be and she would squeeze Adelaide’s breath out of her and her mother would say to her, “Adelaide my baby that will never happen to you,” and, when Sedge saw her lying there in her black bathing suit in the center of the growing crowd on the sand on the beach with the receding tide, his heart sank into his knees and he sat down right there where he had been standing and he put his hands over his eyes so that he would not see what would happen next.
2 thoughts on “Adelaide On the Beach”
Trying to understand the connection between the story and the one sentence format. I noticed it made me read without taking a breath. The stylistic ending, almost like a couplet of Adelaide and Sedge covering their eyes might be better earned if there was another one earlier. Overall it left me sad and desolate which I think you wanted. I want to read all of these captured in one book.
Breathtaking, riveting, devastating. I agree that your stories should be published in a collection, Joe. I need to recover from this one.