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Fake Cannons on Compo Beach

By 

Matt Gillick

C

olin was off the boat and the sun was setting. It was the only boat left in the dockyard and the peninsulas riding along Westport, Norwalk and Stamford were a late winter gold. Colin’s father had driven in the direction of the dying light. On the other end toward the beach night approached quickly; it divided the day. Colin walked from the pier up to the metal bridge past the dock office. A teenaged dock volunteer was folding an American flag in military fashion. The kid stared at Colin like a worried stranger as he passed by.

“Nice night isn’t it?” Colin remarked but the kid turned his focus to the flag and left one section unfolded and limp and Colin sighed.

He made his way closer to the cooling darkness where the stars glimmered on the horizon. Darren was waiting in his car in the parking lot.

The retreating sun peaked over a peninsula several miles away. A ray of frail orange light shined directly on the moon like a prism. Darren’s car was in a parking space on that thin slab of asphalt by the stale beach. The engine was still running on that warm winter evening. Colin stopped at a median and looked up and down the nearly empty parking lot. Everyone had taken their dogs home, no one risked the briskness of a late night jog, not in Westport. Joey’s Sandwich Shop was closed until April and the lifeguards were back in high school. He looked up at the moon, partly white but mostly orange, and saw a constellation or a cluster of parts he couldn’t remember. On the right were these two cannons facing the open water. The two of them fixed in a perpetual stare into the blackness. The sun had made its way down and under the earth to emerge on an Easterly coastline. Colin played around with his snug blue jeans as he walked around to the passenger door of Darren’s 2000 Impala. He was inside, looking at Colin through his moonlit window.

“You guys are the only boat left,” Darren said over faded reggaeton music playing on the stereo.

“Why do you listen to that?” Colin asked while settling in his seat.

“Don’t like the beat? It’s got a movement to—man it’s a good night.”

“You can’t even understand what they’re saying.”

“I’m brushing up on my Spanish.”

The black water shined silver under the rising moon, gently washing up to the shore, lacking in surf. A beach skunk slinked under the headlights showing only its tail and a traveling stench. Darren smiled and his teeth illumined from the dashboard. His shadowy hand covered up his nose and he turned to Colin. His head hung down.

Darren, unfazed, “You know you kind of look like a peacock.”

“What?”

“The way you’re hair’s all up in the front and how your nose has a dip kind of, you know, makes you look like a peacock. It looks good in the dashboard lights. Oh look, there’s a smile!”

Darren pushed Colin’s shoulder and they chuckled. The beach was empty. Only two lights, the moon and those headlights, bore down on the trodden sand. Darren’s blue wind breaker ruffled like someone playing with their zipper.

“Alright, alright cut the shit. You gonna start wailing Bat out of Hell too?”

“Huh?”

“Nothing, sorry. Something my dad listens to. Uh, yeah, well I like my hair down. Doesn’t look messy. Didn’t have time to fix it this morning.”

“Yeah, man, you were pretty out of it. Glad I got you back before sun up. How much sleep did you get before you had to go out?”

“A couple hours, I think he heard me come in, or at least he knew I was going out. I still don’t use the front door. Still that second floor window and that tall ivy fence.”

“I gotta ask, why doesn’t your dad take his boat out the dock? Doesn’t he know that’ll rot through or something?”

“We were going to ground it at the loading station but then we just came back here. I don’t think he cares anymore.”

“Something happen out there?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Colin knocked his head on the headrest, the reggaeton played, crackling, already distant. His greasy, unwashed hair stuck to the upholstery.

“Something definitely happened and I need you to tell me, please.”

“Why?”

“Because I need to know if it’s okay or if everything’s not okay and I need to get back to Bridgeport?”

“What are you afraid of?”

Resting his folded hands on his lips Darren said, “Please stop being the one who asks the questions. I don’t know what I’m afraid of, but I need to know. I kind of know already from the look you’re giving me but just tell me.” Another skunk passed by under the narrow view of the headlights; or it might have been the same one from before. Constellations broke apart into nova and back together again in the churning, open ocean.

“I told him. We’d taken her out—Ronin—out far enough to pull the sail down. He gave me a soda pop—”

“I can see you with that red baseball cap you love out on that boat—”

“I didn’t bring it with me...yeah, anyways, we’re having a pop and, and you should have seen the water, Darren. It was just like how the moon is hitting the water now. Dividing and making all the light come back together. No choppiness. And the wind was just a little breeze, enough to where we couldn’t feel the sun baking us…I told him I needed to tell him something important. He looked at me like he knew from the moment I said yeah I’ll go on the boat with you, dad. Somewhere he couldn’t get away. He knew he was trapped. And he heard it. I just came out and told him.”

Darren turned off the Impala’s headlights and extinguished the dashboard sheen, all Colin could see were the whites in his eyes and the moonlight groping the hood of the car.

“He took a big swig of the pop, like he wished it was something stronger. He took off that hat he wore, like a lumpy fedora, I don’t know what it’s called. After I don’t know how long the boat rocked, like I finally noticed how choppy everything was. Some water washed onto the deck. It looked green and sick. He didn’t say anything until he finished his pop.

He asked me if it was always like this. I said thoughts would creep in and out and he looked at me. His teeth peaked out of the corner of his mouth. A ripping wave came through and we both stumbled. I could have hit my head and fallen over and I don’t know what he’d— My father, my father told me he didn’t think I was right. That I was dumb but not that dumb, he thought, to think like that. I told him I don’t know, maybe. All I could say was that’s that. He was standing by the bow, me by below deck. Cloud cover came in. Guy could have cornered and kicked the shit out of me. But he didn’t. He just told me to lift up the sail. We didn’t talk. Not a word. Then he drove off and now I’m here.”

Darren’s face remained still for a moment and his eyes began to register what his ears just heard or thought they heard. His shadowy hands moved in a slight progression for Colin but he held back. They both stared off at the dark beach and listened to sloshing water lap against the sand. Lights from downtown haloed above a bustle of trees near the coast. A single light came from a dim funnel thousands of miles away. Both their lips curled and wetted, both unsure. One couldn’t hear the other breathe until Darren turned to Colin, his peacock hair flattened at the top from the headrest.

“Did you mention my name at all?” Darren asked. Colin grabbed the other’s jacket.

“Are you kidding me? You’re asking about yourself…”

“Colin, please—”

“after…damn…I mean what the hell is wrong with you…”

“Please, please. I’m sorry. I’m only—”

“that why you came over here you piece of—after what I’ve had, what I wanted—”

Darren grabbed the back of Colin’s head and pulled his face close. Their lips were a shallow breath away from each other before Colin placed his hand on Darren’s chest, stopping him. Both took heavy breaths at their own settling pace, their foreheads rested on each other. Tears began gushing from Colin’s fuming eyes. Darren faced the shore so his cheek could feather Colin’s avian nose. His tears were salty. He closed his eyes and felt hot breath.

“Why not?” Darren asked, wiping a tear away from Colin’s face with his thumb. His cuticles were pink and Colin grabbed ahold of his thumb and brought it to the crest of his bottom lip.

“Because I don’t know, okay?”

“Will your pops be expecting you tonight?”

“I don’t think he cares. He drove off, didn’t say anything. Didn’t even ask why I didn’t get in the car. He put on his shades and rolled up the window. No clue what he’d do if I showed up. I don’t know. He looked right past me, you understand? I just don’t—”

“Hey, hey, hey,” and there was this pause that led to them peering into each other. The closest of eye contacts, his nose tilted to his left and his nose tilted to his right; Colin’s tears stopped for a moment, “look over there,” and Darren pointed to the glazed, hollowed out cannons facing the water (just the two of them), “yeah, you see those over there, those cannons actually forced the British to land on another, smaller beach right before the battle of Lexington and Concord—”

“You don’t even know if that’s true. It’s just a memorial.”

“There’s only one way to find out. You want to go over and see?”

“No. I just want to sit for a while,” and Darren turned off the music completely. Passing clouds blanketing the silver light glided shadows across the white sand. Colin followed those shadows and Darren watched him do so. His tear-streams dried, tattooed to his face, made visible by the moon.

“Come over here.”

“What?”

“Just do it. Come on.”

While Compo’s small waves lapped further onto the shore, a few crabs premature for the season hung around the wave-break, the cool water frosted their black eyes. Colin leaned to his left and adjusted himself over the divider. Darren pulled him closer as Colin rested his head in the crook of his arm. He smelled Colin’s matted hair and they both looked out to the dark water.

Darren whispered into the crown of Colin’s head, “Why don’t we just get out of here?”

“Where would we go?”

“I don’t know we could just go, away from everything.”

“No we can’t.”

“Why not?”

“We have nothing, nowhere to go to. We have no money. There’d be no way to pay for gas.”

“Having to go and be rational, huh? You can’t just go back home. Your dad made that pretty clear.”

“I know.”

“Why don’t you come back with me?”

“Back to Bridgeport? Does your family even know who I am?”

“Nah, but you could be a friend that just, uh, needs a place to crash. You can use the couch.”

“How many friends do you think look like me. They’ll sniff it out.”

“Peacock’s always gotta be the one asking the questions.” Darren said while taking a pinch of Colin’s hair and felt it run through his fingers like he was sprinkling pepper. “Then what do we do?” he asked.

Colin ran two lazy fingers along Darren’s left temple. He left them there.

“Let’s just stay here for a while. I want to feel this for as long as I can. Then maybe we could go and see what those cannons are all about. Is that okay? Can we do that? Us?”

“Okay. We can do that.”

And they got closer and ruffled Darren’s windbreaker. He could hear Colin’s quiet tears dripping down on his jacket like a padded raindrop. They looked at the moon and both smiled with their mouths closed, they didn’t challenge the silvery whiteness and preferred to stay in the dark, together. Darren turned on the radio to a different station, some old soul jam. Compo was dark; all around them. The only boat left in the dockyard sloshed about and bumped into the pier.

Quiz question:

If you were on a beach with someone you may or may not love, and you don't think you could go home because of your feelings what do you do?

Leave with the one you may or may not love and find your way hopefully together?

Leave with the one you may or may not love and find your way hopefully together?

Go home and live a lie but leave before it consumes your being?

Go home and live a lie but leave before it consumes your being?

Just leave on your own, screw everyone else?

Just leave on your own, screw everyone else?

Do not think about what may happen tomorrow or even two hours from the present moment, just be and live in that being.

Do not think about what may happen tomorrow or even two hours from the present moment, just be and live in that being.

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Issue 16

published 

March 21, 2017

Matt Gillick's family and friends keep the water from getting too high. His work has popped up in From Sac, aaduna, and The Wish Dish. He's hopped from place to place but has currently landed in Connecticut. 

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Issue 16

This writing was originally published in Opium Magazine, and is not listed in the Lit.cat archives.
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