DOG OWNER

It was early in the morning around 7am, late August and maybe 50 degrees outside. Clouds blocked the sun but it managed to seep out in white lines making the whole of it—sky, ocean, beach—a muted grey with glowing horns. The sand was wet with rain. Two young girls splashed in the water. Their parents in overcoats and knit hats with coffee mugs in hand sat together on a blanket. The girls were tall and lanky with long red hair and exceedingly white skin. The only other person on the beach was a man in dark brown pants and a wool sweater. He wore laced-up boots and a wristwatch with a thick black band. His hair was dark. He had a beard. He was handsome and bothered by something that existed on a different plane. He did not seem to notice the other people—me, the girls, their parents. He paced back and forth then stopped, took off his boots and walked into the ocean. The waves were choppy. I saw him dive once and then he was gone.

 

When he emerged he was farther down shore carrying a long piece of driftwood. He dragged it out of the ocean and left it beside his boots and returned to the water. Again, he walked in fully clothed, dove, disappeared and reemerged a little farther down shore dragging a long piece of driftwood, his beard dripping, sweater sagging, his pants darker than ever, all of him heavy and his face twisted with rejection, confusion, an indebted sense of hope due in part to the past.