Warning: I haven't written fiction in way too long (or perhaps not long enough—you be the judge). I wrote in college, published one short story and that was it. A few years later I submitted a piece of flash fiction to a magazine. They accepted it. As I was busily buffing my nails, wondering what was all this whiny fuss about the harrows of getting published, the magazine came and went without my story. I contacted them to ask about this. They wrote back and said: “Oh we're sorry, we sent you that acceptance by mistake.”
I haven't submitted anything since.
I dedicate this story to that magazine.
The man stared at the silhouette of the boat disappearing over the horizon.
“Well shit Timmy. I could have sworn they said to meet us here at 8:00 sharp.”
The warm water washed in over their ankles and out again, pulling at them. Timmy could feel his heels sinking into the sand, feel the sensation of moving backwards while standing still.
Well, no, not here specifically. This cove was too shallow. The ship docked further west. And dinner was at 8:00 sharp. The boat left at 6:30, everyone was supposed to be aboard by 6:00. Timmy had told all this to his father, several times, who of course didn't listen, never listened, which was only one of the reasons he was glad he saw him so infrequently. And now this.
“Look” said the man, “let's find us something to eat. Didn't we see some fruit earlier.” He laughed. “We'll be like, uh, who was it? Robinson Crusoe.” He laughed again. His breathing was shallow. Of all the places, for fuck's sake. An island full of lizards and bug-eyed monkeys. And not a bloody drink in sight.
“They'll do a headcount,” said Timmy. “At dinner. Or in the morning, when they stop at the next island.” Why didn't his father spring for a real cruise, where they spoke English and counted heads?
The man turned and headed back towards the trees. “Come on. It's getting dark. I'm hungry.”
Timmy didn't move. “It's dark already. Shouldn't we go back to the other beach? What if they come back? They'll look for us there.”
“Oh, this is rich.” The man turned around and threw his pack to the ground. “Perhaps I should have just brought your mother. I could have had contrary and caustic. Two for one. Look, are you coming or not?”
Timmy didn't move. He thought it through. If he kept to the beach he could see by the moonlight, could see enough to make his way there. It would take maybe two hours because he would have to move slowly, pick his way in the dark. From this distance he could barely make out the shape of his father against the trees, a dark form blending into the chaos of the jungle behind him.
“Well then, come on.”
And though the man could see him plainly, standing there on the beach, Timmy knew that if he waited a moment longer, until the light faded from the horizon behind him, he wouldn't be able to see his father at all.