Flash Jab Challenge #3 was written by Andrew Waters, a nonprofit manager in Salisbury, North Carolina, with a two-pack habit and an unhealthy Raymond Chandler fixation. He is the editor of On Jordan’s Stormy Banks: Georgia Slave Narratives, published by John F. Blair, Publisher. Job well done, Andrew!
by Andrew Waters
Isaac snuck out of the condo where his older cousins played video games and headed for the beach, through the opening in the dunes. He walked past the sign that said, “Guests and Members of the Dunes Resort Only.” Afternoon thunderstorms had passed but the beach was still empty. Not even Dusty, the Dunes’ beloved umbrella man had returned to his post. But the boy from the day before, the one with the metal detector was waiting for him.
The only other person around was the man who sold drinks from a cooler attached to his bike. He was rinsing his cooler in the faucet where Dunes’ guests washed their feet. The sight of the boy startled him. The day before Isaac spent an hour following him around, hoping for a turn with the metal detector. About the same time the kid told him to “get the fuck away from him,” Isaac sensed the detector didn’t even work.
“Guess what?” the kid asked. He was a few years older than Isaac, maybe twelve or thirteen.
Isaac resisted the urge to run away. Something about the kid scared him. “What.”
“I saw Dusty ripping people off yesterday. He was taking wallets and shit. You should tell somebody.”
This was unimaginable. During his family’s two decades of vacationing at the Dunes, Dusty was the one constant, a mythological figure in family lore. Yet the kid seemed confident in his accusation. Isaac said, “OK,” and turned to walk back to the condo, eager to get away.
He struggled with this secret knowledge and kept to himself for the rest of the day. No one noticed. He was here with his Aunt Sheila and Uncle Roger because his parents were staying home this summer to “work things out.” His aunt and uncle spent their days under the beach umbrella, getting drunk, while their sons, Jason and Andy, both high schoolers, played video games in the condo, rarely giving Isaac a turn. But word spread through the resort that several thefts had occurred, and the next morning, Roger realized cash was missing from his wallet. Isaac told Andy he thought Dusty was the thief, and within the hour, Roger, his breath already smelling of beer, was forcefully leading Isaac back to the condo.
“Did you see Dusty taking my money?” Roger asked. Isaac was scared by the aggression in his uncle’s voice. He sensed telling about the boy with the metal detector would only make him angrier.
The police came and escorted Dusty off the beach. The next day Andy told Isaac they searched Dusty’s car and apartment but found nothing. “How could you do that to Dusty?” his cousin lamented. “After all he’s done for our family.” Uncle Roger wouldn’t even speak to Isaac for the rest of the trip.
Flash Jab Challenge #3
Isaac missed his mother and father. He missed his home. His aunt, at least, still fed him, but even she avoided him outside of this basic requirement. Two days later, their last day of vacation, he asked her if he could go for a walk. She said yes without looking at him.
He wandered east, toward the beach town in the distance. He walked and walked, past the resorts and high-rise condos, past the luxury beach homes, to a section of run-down motels, tiny beach shacks crammed onto small lots, a smattering of mobile homes. The crowd here was rougher, what his mother would call “blue collar,” sitting in their own chairs or stretched out on tiny towels in the sand. There he saw the boy, sitting in the wet sand in cut-off jeans, almost directly in his path at the edge of the tide. “Why did you lie to me?” Isaac asked. “You made me get Dusty in trouble.”
The boy stared at him blankly for a moment, then with recognition, laughed cruelly. “Look who it is,” he sneered, then added, “Members only on this beach rich boy. Get the fuck out of here.”
Isaac heard another laugh and looked up to find the man who sold drinks sitting a few feet away staring at him. “You heard what he said. Members only here,” the man said. Isaac felt fear mixing with desperation. The man and the boy were still staring at him, menacing him with their eyes. He wished he could fly away, back to his parents, his house. Instead he turned and began the long trudge back to the Dunes, shimmering white in the far distance.
(c) 2011 Andrew Waters