by Brendan Strong
20 minute story
Drinking at the Waters Edge
They were drinking at the water’s edge from the middle of the day. Jumping in and out of the water all day, now tired; they looked out at the lights peeking over from the other side. Moonlight and manlight streaked accross the solid ripples.
The boy held a can up to his mouth, and beer dribbled down his chin onto his shirt. “Shit”, he said. “How about that.” The rest laughed, and he looked at the girl. His girl; or so he liked to think. She was looking away out at the water. So he looked away over the water and stopped larking.
“Tea,” said one of the other girls. “I think I need a cup of tea. I’m fucked from all this drinking.” The rest made nyaah noises, and raised their various glasses, cans, bottles. She got up anyway and went back to the house.
When she came back, they’d all paired off except the boy who spilled his beer and the girl; both looked out to the sea. The boy looked over every so often, but then looked back out.
“Well lads, what’s up with ye?” she asked. The boy looked over at his girl; she looked at the girl with the tea and said “Nothing. Just… thinking.” The girls nodded, and the boy tried to think of something to think of. He looked down at his hands, clasping and unclasping each other. It helped him concentrate on not talking or showing off.
From over a rock covered in darkness came a laugh, followed by a bikini top. “You bastard” said a young one over there. Who was she with? The boy wondered. He thought she had a great sense of humour. Would his girl have… no. No, it couldn’t be like that, he thought. Not us. We’re more serious, you see, he said to himself. He looked at the girls beside him, who were grinning to each other, but looked sternly at him. No, he thought. Definitely not.
“Sham” came a voice from the other direction, “Sham!” again, louder, “Sham! Come here!” He looked at the girls, and they looked at him. At first he did not move, but then they looked at each other. So he got up and followed the voice. “What is it?”
“Look at this…” said Jimmy’s distracted voice. Sham stopped dead and said “What’re you up to?” He looked back at the girls, but they were now immersed in conversation. “Have you beer with you?”
“Yes. Just come over here. C’mon!”
“Ok, Ok, I’m coming”
It was a dead sheep, lying on its side, neck broken so you could see the twinkles from both open eyes. “Well, he didn’t see that coming” said Sham, and the three boys already there laughed. That’s what they wanted me for, thought Sham.
“Too sheepish to swim” another said, starting in a whisper, ending in a scream; it flopped. They looked at the sheep, its seaweed tethers, the blue stain on the back.
“Here, Sham” said Jimmy, “here.” Sham went over to him and put his foot under it at the arse. Jimmy had the head. “Ready… one… two… three!” Sham went to kick it over sideways, but Jimmy kicked it upways. Sham jumped back and screamed. The boys laughed at that one. One of them gave him a beer. The girls looked over and said “What’s going on?” Oh Jesus no, thought Sham. Now she’ll know. It was the girl with the tea who saw them, but she screamed, so Sham’s girl came over too.
“Aw Jesus Christ, what’s wrong with ye? Jesus Christ. Can’t you see it’s dead?” Sham tried to get mature, but couldn’t help himself. He giggled along with the other boys. They looked at the dead thing, and looked at the girls, and couldn’t believe they didn’t get it. The girls looked at the dead creature, then at the boys giggling, and couldn’t believe they didn’t get it.
“Sham…” his girl said,
“What?” he tried to say it softly, hoping she’d ask him away with her for a minute; but in his rush to reach out, it sounded like he was too busy to answer. She went back to the house with the girl with the tea.