by Kara Vernor
He poked the drying jellyfish with a stick and flies scattered. “Looks like a fake tit,” he said. “Like someone was jogging along and it flopped out.”
With the tangle of seaweed around it, she thought it looked more like a testicle, sac-like and hairy as it seemed, but she didn’t argue. He had brought them here to this just warm enough seashore so they wouldn’t argue.
“Leave it alone,” she said. “Why do you have to mess with it?”
She was trying, but she wasn’t perfect.
They smeared each other with coconut-scented lotion and then read atop striped towels on a sandy knoll before nodding off. When she woke, what felt like years later, they were both buried to their waists beneath sand that had cemented.
“Baldwin,” she said, jostling his shoulder.
“What,” he groaned, but then, realizing, his head shot up. “What the hell?”
The beach was deserted except for the jellyfish, which had multiplied and were strewn as far as she could see. Flies—possibly millions—hung over them like the dust of disturbed dirt.
“How long were we asleep?” he said.
“Can you get out?”
He strained to no avail. He’d stopped lifting weights a few years ago.
“We’re fucked,” she said.
“Don’t make it worse,” he said.
Night came and they slept again. She dreamed of jogging women—in yoga pants and sports bras, in red swimsuits and black spring suits, a superhighway of women along the shore. Then the men came, weaving through them in swim trunks and Dolphin shorts, their testicles shaking loose, slipping down their legs and onto the sand.
“Baldwin,” she said in the morning. He was already awake. They were buried now up to their necks. “I think they’re testicles. If they weren’t jellyfish, they’d be testicles.”
“That’s what you want to say to me right now?” he said.
They were on their stomachs, their faces turned to each other.
“We could be stuck here forever,” she said. A fly landed by her eye and she blinked it away.
“We won’t be,” he said. “That’s improbable.” He was looking past her.
She turned her head and scanned the empty beach for signs of life.
“Someone else will come by, won’t they?” he said quietly, and she recognized what she heard: a latent notion, something he’d said to himself several times.
Kara Vernor’s fiction has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Green Mountains Review, Fanzine, No Tokens, and elsewhere, and her fiction chapbook, Because I Wanted to Write You a Pop Song, is available from Split Lip Press. She is the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation scholarship, and her stories have been included in Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions, the Best Small Fictions finalists, and Golden State 2017: Best New Writing from California.