SURFBOARD - CHRIS BENTON
A few months after his birth, Nathan annihilated the nerves in my nipples. Over the next several years he was bullied by squirrels, dogs and boys until his brain was killed by a baseball. My husband took it hard. I didn’t.
I met my husband Ryan when I was in a freefall—a handsome guy, earthy. He had a landscaping business called Proud Growths, and he was the best man I ever met, with a very thoughtful tongue. Anyway, though, there I was, visiting my aunt Jane seven hundred miles away at the edge of nowhere, detoxing with the clandestine help of her antidepressants and a nightly regiment of tallboys and this guy took a interest in me at a bar called Lost Loop. He never graduated from high school but he liked my words and he was seriously cute, you know, the tall, dark and handsome type. So I seduced his large and lonely eyes and convinced him to neglect his ailing mother. She died soon after we moved into a condo where Nathan was conceived six months later. We married in the courthouse as soon as we got the news.
It was funny how fast the years flew by; the only things I remember are shitty diapers, whining, All My Children, and spaghetti sauce. I guess I was happy, because I never fell back on any hard shit. I was addicted to Benadryl and hard cider and Salems, so that officially made me Betty Crocker.
And then a flip was switched by a nasty hit from Nathan’s best friend Robby Hensen during little league practice. Nathan was playing shortstop and Robby hit a bulls-eye into his frontal lobe.
Lots of scary stuff happened for the next several months; I mean, Ryan stopped fucking me and began making sandwiches in his sleep. He fired half his workers and lost his most lucrative commercial contracts while I began to feel like some sort of neglected ghost. I knew a divorce or something worse was around the corner so I started shooting dope into my feet every now and then to take the edge off while Ryan started smoking pot again, I mean, an-ounce-a-week again but that was fine because I was hoping it would make him horny.
And then we found the surfboard.
It was after another long sleepless night where Ryan tried to catch flies with his hands in the dark for hours...the first birds were calling the light and thoughts we hadn’t shared for a while were about to pounce on each other. We both got up and had a meeting of minds concerning the kitchen. We cleaned it for a half an hour and when we took out the trash, there it was leaning against the dumpster. I guess it was a surfboard, it was shaped like one, but was all dark wood, and covered with these funky burn marks. Ryan dropped both his garbage bags when he saw it, one of which burped out a Progresso soup can that kept rolling and rolling until it vanished down a gutter. He walked up to the board and began stroking it for a couple of minutes like it was a wild horse or something before he finally gathered it into his arms and carried it back into our condo.
Something happened after that morning. Ryan became less and less despondent; cooking dinner after work, even eating me out two nights in a row. He threw a barbecue on our closet-sized back porch, inviting what few friends who still had pity for him. He had the surfboard on a couple of sawhorses in the living room. He kept cashing out joint after joint and mumbling about that goddamn board to his friends, who nodded in sweaty, stoned sympathy.
“No, man, it’s Koa wood and you can tell from the grains that girl is pretty fucking old.”
“Then why do you call it a girl then if it’s pretty fucking old?” I tried to ask innocently enough.
Ryan looked at me and his eyes said the party was over.
I guess it was about a week or two later when Hurricane Mae was born a thousand miles south of us, a category three sprinting northeast at twenty-six miles an hour. Wasn’t that a record? Anyway, when Ryan found his first glimpse of Mae, he grew this creepy grin from nowhere and began to moonwalk in the kitchen. A couple of nights later, when our county was under a Hurricane Warning, he started to dream with his legs again and I followed him. I’ll admit I was a little out of it, but in a pleasant way. I noticed the house was darker than usual and the wind was shrieking to be let in.
The next morning, I couldn’t remember much. I had this horrible headache and there was something wrong with my left eye. Ryan was looming over me, wearing a black wetsuit. He pulled me up in a dizzy blur and swept me out our home into the Grand Wagoneer.
On the way, he offered me a bottle of hard cider. “This is going to be perfect,” he kept saying over and over. I tried to drink my hard cider and vaguely realized I was dressed in my bright orange bikini. The trees all around us were trying to dance into the road.
When we got out of the Jeep, the wind wanted to tear my skin off until the cooling spray from the shoreline found us. The sea was beating the beach to death with tall dark heads. I felt Ryan’s grip vanish and I sunk harmlessly in the sand. Ryan said something that the air ate and he kissed me. I watched him run toward a roaring wall of waves with the surfboard tucked under his arm and knew there wasn’t going to be any divorce after all.
BIO: Chris Benton is some nobody from Wilmington, North Carolina, who is finally taking the writing game seriously. He was available on Facebook, but decapitated the addiction and is now reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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