The Substitute: Inspired Once Again by Travel

I had a little too much coffee before my morning flight, but other than that the trip from Charlotte to Santa Barbara was easy-going.

I’ve been dragging ass all day, so I suppose that makes it easy to kick back, shrug the shoulders. I mostly slept from Charlotte to Phoenix.

I capitalized on the post-trip blues on my flight from Phoenix to Santa Barbara, though – I turned the airplane into the lab, rocking some music and penning a short story.

The Substitute

Early in the morning the beach had spots of shade from the palm trees and he was able to sit and have his coffee without breaking a sweat.  The headache was a thing of the past and he found it rather pleasant there in the shade as he drank the coffee.

Across the water he could see the Caribe Hilton, and to the right at the end of the channel the water came in swells and smashed into the rocks creating big, foamy whitecaps that dissolved back into the sea.

He was feeling a bit sorry for himself, looking at the beautiful scene in front of him but still feeling incomplete, still feeling like he had lost.  There had been no contest, no battle to speak of, only expectations that were filled and further expectations and desires that were not.

The sun was rising at this back and he knew it wouldn’t be long before it grew hot, but it was something to look forward to after the coffee was finished and the caffeine made him feel better about himself. He was very upset about the girl but he knew at any moment he could see another and all that would change.  At least that’s how it always had gone, yet somehow a part of him was forever concerned that it would not be so.

When that day comes I’d better come up with quite a plan, he thought, because to live like this for any longer than a morning a man would have to be a fool.

He heard the people coming through the trees and watched them spread out the towels.  After a while he saw them smiling.  It’s so nice here in the shade, he thought, I don’t know how those people can stand the sun this early.  It’s much too early to be in the sun.

But as the time passed the sun rose higher and there was very little shade remaining.  The coffee had made him feel better and he thought to himself, I think I’ll go for a swim, and so he got up to go for a swim.

He walked past the girl who looked very sexy in her black bikini – the bottoms allowing a good amount of shape to take form – and when she was kneeling down and picking up the small sand crabs he told himself, Jesus, don’t stare so much when her man is right there.

He waded in up to his knees and dove in, getting his whole body under the water and comfortable with its temperature.  The water was mostly calm but in the afternoon when the wind picked up he knew it would get choppy again.

Back at his chair he opened the cooler and cracked one of the beers.  He tasted the cold, foamy beer and he knew they would only get better as the day went on and the sun warmed his body.  Look at that fool, he thought, sitting there while his lady bends over and collects the crabs.  Maybe he’s just enjoying the view like you are, he then thought, it’s an awfully nice view.

He again looked at the man, but before he could really take him in his eyes went down and to the left. It looks like they’ve got some ice there, he thought, maybe I could borrow some ice from them.  I’m not sure these beers will stay cold if I don’t get some ice.

Oh, you just want to talk to the girl, he told himself, that’s all you’re looking to do.  You know damn well there’s plenty of ice in there to last you the day.

Then he said to himself, it’d be nice to have some more ice for the beers.

When the time was right he pushed down on the arms of the chair and rose up and walked over to the girl who was looking for crabs and said hello.

She said, “Hello,” and straightened up.

He looked at the girl and felt nice there talking to her.  He was fine if they only stood there but the girl was not and she asked him, “What’s up?”

He said, “I was hoping to borrow some ice.”

“Go on,” she said, “Ask my brother,” and she signaled toward the blanket.

The man looked at the man then back at the girl, who had turned her attention once again to the sand and her search for crabs.

“Your brother?”

“Yeah, he’s over there,” and she pointed to the blanket without lifting her head.  “He’s got the cooler.”

“Oh,” the man said, looking to the blanket and the man, who was now looking on curiously.  Turning back he said, “So, I should go over and ask your brother.”

“Is this about the ice?” the girl asked him, straightening up again, brushing her dark hair aside.

The man said, “Things have changed a bit.” He had a young face and a nice smile and never came off as a threat.

“Go on and ask my brother,” she said, “Tell him I said it was all right.”

“Will you have a drink later?”

“If he leaves early,” she said.

The man did not say anything at first, instead he flashed a smile. He knew all about women and he knew the girl would be over soon enough and that they would have a drink and that it would be a swell time. He turned to walk away and said, “Fair enough.”

The girl went back to collecting the crabs and he went over and the man gave him some ice. He brought it back to his chair and he leaned back as far as he could and dug his feet into the sand and placed the beer can on top of the cooler.

There’s a lot of ice in there now, he thought, and I don’t care how many times I feel the sand in my toes or the light breeze on my hair or the wet suit on my thighs, it’s the same damn amazing feeling every time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s