Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Short Story: Man Lost At Sea

Hey ya'll! So, I've mentioned that I was in a writing dry spell, and last week the lovely Cristina suggested that I write a short story to get my writer brain working again. So I did. And it totally helped! I wanted to write one short story per month this year, but this is only my second one because I'm a slacker. Sigh. Here's the story.

Man Lost At Sea

I stand by the sea and wait.
The water is dark and tumultuous, crashing at my bare feet. The bottoms of my jeans are cold and wet, sticking to my ankles and up my calves. Rocks and sand give way under my feet as the water pulls back, claiming the land, taking it away because it can. Just like it wants to take me.
I run a rough hand through my briny hair. I don’t want it to take me, but I’ll go willingly. I’ll go on my own terms when I’m ready. I’ll leave Brit behind. She won’t care anyway. She never did. I reach down and pick up a rock, smooth and cool from the ocean, turning it over in my hand. I want to throw it but it won’t skip in this choppy water. It warms as it steals my body heat, rolling over and over in my palm.
       The sun is lost behind thick, grey clouds, turning the horizon into an angry infinity. I know they’re watching me from the water. They’re waiting for their chance, or for me to make a choice.
My cell phone jingles in my pocket for the seventeenth time and I know it’s Brit again. The electronic tune grates on my nerves, like it’s Brit’s voice nagging and pulling at me, and I yank the phone out of my pocket and throw it long and hard out to sea. The exertion feels good, really good, and I thrill as I watch the device soar through the air and plunk down under the water’s surface.
I can almost feel them laughing at me, knowing that I’m close. I’m so close.
“Ha! Cade!”
I’d know that voice anywhere, even obscured and disembodied in the howling ocean wind. I stuff my hand in my jeans pocket, holding tight to the rock, mildly amused that I keep the rock but chuck the phone. I keep my back to the shore and glance toward the sound.
“Cade Johnson, man lost at sea!” Hank Donnelly gallops down the shoreline like a damn fool, hair flapping in the breeze. I know it’s because he’s in love with Shannon Moore, and I bet he’s just been to see her and that’s why he has that dunce grin on his face. He’s oblivious to the world but somehow manages to make spot-on observations.
I grip the rock in my pocket. Not lost at sea yet.
He stops a few feet behind me to avoid the breakers. “Where’ve you been?” he asks, panting, and I can hear the grin still plastered on his face.
“Here.” It’s suddenly stuffy on this vast beach now that I’m not alone. I take a deep breath of ocean air, and when I lick my lips it tastes like salt.
“Brit’s been looking for you. Said she called you and you never picked up. I knew you’d be here.”
“And here I am.” My tone is mocking, but Hank knows I don’t mean it at him. I don’t even know who I mean it at. Brit, probably. I can see her catlike green eyes squinting at me, judging me, always wanting me to change.
The sea is inviting in its wild thrashing—dark slate water churning, urging me to come forward. I keep my ground, feet planted in the sand and in the sea. I’m on a precipice, in between, and I’m not sure what will sway me one way or the other. Jolly Hank Donnelly isn’t helping.
“Everyone’s coming for the bonfire. You’ll stay for it, right?” Hank says.
“Did you come all this way just for that?”
“Yeah?” He says it like a question, like I should know that he’d come down to the beach just to find me.
I do know, because he’s trying to stop me but won’t say it, and I won’t acknowledge it.
“It’s supposed to storm,” I say. The darkening sky confirms my words, and the wind blows icy shards of seawater into our faces for good measure. I don’t wipe it away—it might be my home soon.
“Cade…where are your shoes?” Hank takes a step toward me, still out of the way of the greedy water.
I step deeper into the surf, my jeans soaked through to my knees as the waves hit. My shoes are in the water with my phone, but I won’t tell him that. It’s a dead giveaway that I’m practically signing my life over to the sea.
Practically, but not yet. Not yet, I shout in my mind at the eyes that are watching.
“Come on, man. Let’s get the bonfire started.” There’s a shred of desperation in Hank’s voice. He knows. He definitely knows. Damn, I don’t want to do this with him here.
I take a minuscule step back. I know they’re watching me. “I’ll be right there,” I say, turning the rock over in my pocket.
Hank just stands there like he doesn’t know what to do, staring between the ocean and me. “Brit’s coming soon. I told her I was looking for you here.”
I rake a hand through my hair, then two hands when I let go of the rock, breathing loudly through my nostrils. I want to be furious at Hank but it’s not his fault he’s an idiot. It’s Brit. It’s Brit I’m furious at. I don’t want to see her, don’t want her anywhere near me. And I sure as hell don’t want her to see me go under the water. Just the mention of her name drives me forward into the waves.
“Shut up, Hank!” I yell as the water hits my waist, chilling me to the bone. Dammit! I didn’t want it to be like this. I’m halfway there and I haven’t even made up my mind yet. At least I can be sure that Hank won’t follow me. He’s too scared.
The rush of wind and roar of the ocean is loud enough to cover my breathing and my pounding heart and any attempts Hank might make to stop me. I’m deaf with it, with the sea, and as a wave builds before me and water sprays into my eyes I’m blind with it, too. My sensation is lost, and all I know anymore is cold, freaking cold and wet and numb.
Numb is what I’m after. Numb erases her name and her eyes and the sound of her voice when she lies to me.
I can hear them now. They’re laughing, jeering. They’re coming to take me if I don’t move quickly.
I make up my mind. I go willingly into the sea, plunging deep into the water and away.
It’s like ice to my bones and a heavy veil over my body as I swim to them. I can’t open my eyes yet but I know they’re close, and I know they see me, and I know they’re angry that they didn’t take me themselves.
This was my choice. Nothing from before matters anymore, null and void in the face of what’s to come. Cade Johnson the quarterback is dead. The only son, the failing student, the drummer, the boyfriend. He’s gone.
I brace myself and I open my eyes.
I am Cade Johnson, man lost at sea.


  1. oh man, poor Cade... I was hoping Hank would go after him, damn it. And that Brit girl... I hate her, LOL

    This is awesome... I loved your descriptions. And I didn't think the swearing was too much.. I mean he was preparing to end it, so he's allowed to swear a little in his last moments :)

    1. LOL, stupid Brit. I was wondering if people would think he committed suicide...hmmm... :)

      It's your turn to write a short story now!!

    2. oh see, I thought he was committing suicide, though I did wonder who was out at sea trying to lure him in. I'm confused, LOL

  2. You have such a nice flow to your writing and a way of getting me to care about your characters without stating too much. Can't wait to read more!

    1. Thanks :D Short stories are super fun. Never thought I'd like writing them so much.

  3. SO GOOD. And was true to the story. LOVE the ending. And I didn't think he committed suicide. Which leads me to want to know what is out there????

    Great job!

  4. What's out there!?!?! Or better would be, who's out there?

    Awesome job Amanda. So, so good. Had me plowing through the whole thing. So well written. Turning it into a full story??

  5. Yay, thank you! Who/what is out there is a mystery! I don't think I'll turn it into a full story, but who knows. Maybe one day. :)

  6. Wow! What a great way to get out of a writing slump! I loved the tone of this piece - and how a lot about Cade's character was revealed with such few words.
    Thanks for your comments on Falling For Fiction today. I appreciate your encouragement.