Fiction

The Fieldstone Review (2017-2018)

Aesthetician

By Allison McFarland

           

After so many visits to the promotion room I should have memorized every depression in the coffee table, however small, made by the force of so many individual mugs planting themselves on the surface. As if the degree of assertion of the mug’s position allowed the person clinging to the glazed porcelain to stay. My fingertips tease the indentations, some deeper than others, but all perfectly partial circles. I coaxed them, the aestheticians ready for their promotion, to look at me, every time feeling I had thrust my entire arm through the filmy tunnel of a black widow’s web. Immune, I continued.

In my first week, Steve Sullivan summoned me to his office, gestured for me to sit on the concrete chair opposite his desk. An homage to brutalist design. Too heavy to move closer or further, and no cushion. Sometimes Steve Sullivan called an aesthetician in to sit on the chair while he perused documents with no ulterior goal than to measure how long the aesthetician would sit still for, and he somehow equated this ability to sit, immobile, on solid stone with strength of character.

In my first week, I possessed no notion of Mr. Sullivan’s proclivity for inciting discomfort. Just out of university, working an internship at Central Processing, and desperate to get hired as a full aesthetician. And I was the only woman.

Statisticians fed us the knowledge that women were, simply, ‘choosing not to pursue such occupations or career trajectories associated with the creation of memory reservoirs.’ We did not choose to create memory reservoirs because we only saw women stored in membraries. Throughout our degrees we transposed our useless memories, factoids and experiences, to free enough space for education. And every time we did, we gave the cast-off thoughts to a woman, a grandmother. Imbued with a fear so tangible and paralysing, so real, by the repetition of women, you begin to see your face, the pattern of freckles and nearly faded acne scars on every MR until you transpose all memory of that face and find yourself unrecognisable when you arrive home and catch yourself in the mirror in the entrance way above the squat table that you toss your keys onto before removing your shoes.

My best friend, Ryan, with her male-coded name to get her resume through the first screening process. Ryan. Whose parents set her up to succeed, whose fiancée called me, slobbering because not only did she not know her own features, but she had self-induced prosopagnosia. Transposition, back then, was not as precise as today.

I did not benefit from the same luxuries as Ryan. My parents settled for ‘Genevieve.’ A name you must prove, command attention with or recede, forgotten. I whittled away my childhood on the outskirts of a city. My parents succumbed to the fantasy of suburbia, but bought so far out the city never grew to reach us, and I made playthings of the wilderness beyond the back fence. Discarded branches became maps to alternate worlds: the hollowed inside of a cedar transformed into a cave, a hive, a place to create a new colony; leaves larger than my palms were birds, patient, ready to wrestle a vole as it trundled by; the mosquito netting cast between shrubs made luminous gloves that could direct the fantastic to overwhelm the fence for our little yard and push itself through the backdoor and into the kitchen where my mother canned tomatoes out of habit, tradition. Instead of netting, the gloves wove themselves from silk, spider’s silk, and the black widow whose house I plunged my hand down let me know her displeasure. I flung her off, but soon my hand spasmed and every muscle in my arm, then shoulder, then across to my other arm, flinched incessantly. I upset my mother’s box of salt when I fell through the doorway.

When Steve Sullivan called me into his office, I lunged toward his door with the same verve I had for those silken gloves.

“You might not know, but CP put out a new directive that all aestheticians, upon reaching age sixty-five are given the option of a promotion or termination.” Mr. Sullivan spoke before I sat on the uncompromising chair.

“I am neither sixty-five nor an aesthetician.”

“Yet. Not an aesthetician, yet. You will deliver the option of termination or promotion to Darryl, who celebrated his birthday yesterday. Here, read this. You meet with him in twenty minutes.”

I took the proffered folder and began scanning the pages, still standing at almost the centre of Steve Sullivan’s office.

“And do sell the promotion. Company interests and all.”

“The promotion is becoming a memory reservoir for use at membraries.”

“Do you have a problem advocating on behalf of our employer?”

I felt my smile pulse in my eyes. “No, no problem at all.” All these men, getting older, and when they outlive their usefulness in a physical sense, repurposed as a storage facility.

Statisticians market memory reservoirs as a state of being where the elderly can relive their best years through their memories while performing their civic duty of accepting extraneous memories from the working class and students. I learned from those marketing advertisements. No other aesthetician could produce the same results: a ninety-three percent acceptance rate of the promotion. And the other seven percent usually did volunteer themselves as MRs when their children left home or their spouse passed. Eventually, I delivered all company promotions. I waited twelve years to propose the ultimatum to Steve Sullivan. And I savoured every syllable.

“Steve, you know what this meeting regards. You should have already decided. I expect you did decide, but upon sinking into the sofa across from me, you began reconsidering. Tea or coffee?”

Bravado stolen, Steve looked at the fine creases on his hands, crumpled into them. Some part of him thought he was important enough, special even, to turn sixty-five without consequence. Devoted, he resolved to accept the promotion, until he reasoned that the company denied showing the same loyalty to him. Unoriginal. I raised my finger as if I were my younger self and still taking notes in class, tentatively positing a question. An intern brought a mug of decaffeinated Lady Grey, thinned with skim milk and laced with one spoon of sugar.

I practiced variations of this move until I mastered the balance of demure deference and withheld authority. I offer both tea and coffee, but not choice.

Now, I find myself in that familiar room, but opposite my armchair. I neglected to consider the ivory cotton from this perspective before, how the impenetrability of its weave added to my demeanour. Comforting to know I will not miss the feel of that straight back against my own, that instead I will relive the moments in entirety. I will dwell in this room, revel in the panicked breathing of the men across from me because I lived here, in every sense.

In this room, I can linger. Taste the undulations in the air as the men curl into their knees, rendered, suddenly, infantile, despite knowing this moment would come. Perhaps the majority transpose this inevitability, choose to ignore the conversation to come. But that would be tedious, would require the transposition of the summons of every co-worker to this room and every conversation about approaching sixty-fifth birthdays. I suppose they practice a willful self-deception over an authentic ignorance.

I considered signing the papers to become a memory reservoir last week, as a statement of my confidence in the company and excitement for the promotion. I had this debate with myself earlier, decades ago, when I contemplated transitioning into a memoir, the advanced version of an MR that retains other’s memories for future viewing, when my brain was young enough. No one wanted a memoir older than twenty-nine, at least not back then. Now most prefer under twenty-five. Statisticians say the age limit depends on the rate of mental deterioration and storage, but they mean to say the market determines the limit. I would have, back then, if I had already promoted Steve Sullivan, but he was too young and I waited to tell him the good news.

I decided not to pre-emptively sign because I craved, almost lusted, to know my successor. Alone in the promotion room. Maybe the company wants to make me sweat, maybe they doubt my commitment to the program. Or maybe they still seek my replacement.

I hope they send a man.

They do not, of course. A man cannot handle or control me, never has. Smart, they send Aliyah, dressed in her fenestration scrubs.

“So sorry I’m late, Genie.

I don’t bother acknowledging her.

“I mean, Ms. Marks. They told me to ‘embody a distant professionalism.’”

“Why would they instruct that?”

Aliyah twirls a pen between her fingers. Amateur move, which she realises and stuffs the pen into her breast pocket. She breathes outward twice.

“I must inform you of the choice before you: a promotion, where you will serve the Central Processor with your entire mind; or termination, which does not include a pension or reference letter.”

“Oh, Aliyah, sweetheart. Your delivery is all wrong. You do not ‘inform’ me, you need to convince me. Refuse to offer the choice.”

“But it is a choice. A personal one at that.”

“No, no, no. Not a choice, a business model, a framework. The CP, the company, through you, wants me to accept the promotion because then they spend less on recruitment advertisements for memory reservoirs. You are an ambassador, Aliyah. Act like one.”

“That doesn’t seem fair.”

“Fair? You want to talk about fairness? What about the empty beds in the membraries that lead to increased wait times for users and elevated stress put on the MRs that necessarily means those units wear out quicker than anticipated? What about the job opening I leave for a younger, even brighter, aesthetician to fill? You cannot argue that I should stay, not with my arthritis. What if I create a stylobate one capillary too large and ruin a whole model?”

Aliyah blinks, faster, restrains a thin tear from overwhelming her eyelashes.

I lower my voice, almost whisper. “Forget about the company. You, Aliyah, want me to volunteer for the operation so I can continue to help people in the only capacity that remains. You do not want me cast from my office to live on what meager amounts I saved while the cost of living towers higher than the skyscrapers in this city. You do not wish that fate on anyone.”

Aliyah’s palms viciously wipe at her cheeks, rubbing away tears that haven’t yet dropped. She opens her mouth to speak but emits a high-pitched keen, interrupted by a bout of hiccups. They leave her shuddering on the chair for longer than I expect. Perhaps they want her to consider a position as a memoir, and this was a last promotion for me to give.

Dom enters with a blanket that he holds up to entice Aliyah to stand. His arms barrel around her, swathing her in the blue fleece, and leads her out without a glance at me.

“Who next?” I cross my arms at the camera in the mirror on the opposite wall. My face, flushed, glowers back. This is my room, my home. I cannot tolerate my web callously brushed away to allow space for a timid creature to nest. They should have accepted my offer to train the other aestheticians in the art of promotions. Perhaps they will reconsider, keep me on for another week, maybe two, just to make sure someone can get the job done.

By the time the door opens my skin has faded to its usual muted pink. Jeremy enters, stands with his hands on the back of my chair, the one opposite where I sit, one I know so well.

“Where to begin.” He refuses to ask. I like Jeremy and his questions coated in confidence, delivered as answers. He might suffice.

“Offer me tea or coffee.”

“I did not ask. And you know we do not provide coffee; it destabilises the sedative used on models.”

“Yes, I know. Offer it nonetheless.”

“But everyone knows we do not have coffee to offer.”

“Precisely.” I smile at him, all lips.

“Okay. Tea or coffee, Genevieve?” Jeremy finally sits.

“Do not wait for a response. Have the tea ready; force the mug into my fingers.”

He smirks at me, “Oh no. We’re doing this my way.” Jeremy stands still. Eyes gouging into me.

I gesture at him with my chin. “You think you’re special. How precious.”

He abandons his post, moves closer. Puts his arms on either side of my face, holding onto the back of the sofa. His breath, redolent of spearmint gum, oozes into my mouth, nose. I push myself flat against the sofa back and he wedges a knee between mine.

“Did you consider yourself valuable because of the results you produced in here.”

Jeremy. Stop.

“What? We’re having a conversation and I asked you a question.”

I shove his shoulders and he stands upright. Laughs, while he lowers himself atop the coffee table. I feel my venom leave, evaporate from my pores. I am an old woman.

“Genie, you know I respect you. Sign the promotion papers and go home. And then relive all those times you felt powerful and forget about your inconsequential impact here. Anyone could have done the job. Anyone.”

I unbutton the top two beads of my blouse and lean forward. “Do you feel powerful? Bullying an old woman into submission. Do not confuse me with the interns who allow your caresses for the hope of a job.”

No, my venom did not leave, instead it burrowed deeper and found my younger self sitting on that concrete chair in Steve Sullivan’s office. Trying not to blink as Mr. Sullivan’s fingers grappled inside her. Scratched her cervix and radiated pain through her abdomen. He refused to look at her, but she stared into his Adam’s Apple and envisioned herself biting into the flesh, how it would taste like a red delicious, sweet.

“My relations with women are not your concern. If they did not want my affections they would simply refuse.”

Jeremy still sits on the table, arms at his sides, his body language a mockery of invitation. I stand and trap his legs between mine, kneel on the table so my pelvis pins him. Grainy linen between my legs.

“They could just say ‘no?” I extend my hand beneath me, into my underwear. Jeremy wriggles but does not push me backwards, does not scream out his distress. I remove the black widow from my vagina, cloaked in a film of white-ish liquid, my own web, and ease her into his mouth. His tongue laps at the offer.

I pluck the promotion papers from the inside pocket of his jacket and release him. “Do you have a pen?”

Painting On Waves

By: Nolan Janssens

 

     Tommy Faa knew how he wanted to die.

     Tommy didn’t notice the centipede inching its way up his board shorts nor the wailing of the morning adhan from the village mosque. He was out cold until the crowing of several roosters broke his drunken sleep. With every crow, a brain cell in Tommy’s throbbing brain seemed to burst; something Tommy would neither complain about nor admit. When Tommy finally built up the courage to open his eyes and face the light of day, he awoke to complete darkness. Tommy worried that the Arak liquor had blinded him, something he was warned about, but he took his chances. Tommy banged on the walls around him, looking for a light switch. He had almost found the door handle when the door suddenly opened, the merciless morning light hitting him. When Tommy reopened his bloodshot eyes, a grinning Indonesian man dressed in straggly clothing, stood in front of him holding a cup of coffee.

     “Tommy the Arak man!” The Indonesian man said with a thick accent. Tommy noticed various rusty tools and a broken (but most likely still being used) bicycle. Looking up, he saw a tin ceiling infested with ants and shrouds of cobwebs. This wasn’t the first time Tommy had woken up in an unfamiliar shed.

     “Where am I?” Asked Tommy as he grabbed the strong, black coffee.

      “Indonesia.”

      “Cheeky.”

      “You’re in Kuta.”

      “Kuta, Bali?”

      “Kuta, Lombok.”

      At that moment Tommy’s phone rang. Tommy searched his pockets. When he looked up, the Indonesian man laughed and handed Tommy the phone.

     “I charge it for you.”

     Tommy accepted the call.

     “Hey, man… Naw, I’m in Lombok… I dunno how I got here, Ryan. I’m guessing a boat…” Tommy diverted his attention to the Indonesian man. “How long will it take to get to Uluwatu?”

      “Four hours… if there’s a fast boat available.”

     “I can be there in four hours… Since I’ll miss training, I’ll train here. Competition’s not for another three days… Yea, I’ll be there tomorrow then, Ryan.”

     “There’s surfing around here, yeah?”

     “Yes, but not today. Big storm coming.”

     “Fine by me.”

     “I call my cousin, Dee.  Dee is the best surfer in Lombok. He give you good price, my friend.”

                                                                     ***

     Dee was born in Kuta, Lombok several years before it became noticed by the western surf community. The beaches and waterfalls around Kuta attracted tourists and when the tourists came out to play, so did Dee. Dee, among many of the children born in Kuta, was destined to never leave his hometown. He could name every capital city in Europe and knew enough Dutch and English phrases to sell anything to the tourists—for three times the valued price. His little sister praised him for his crafty ways. With her wide, innocent eyes, she followed him around like a baby quail following its mother. For years to come, no man would compare to her brother.

     As Dee grew older, he wanted nothing more than to continue with school but when his father decided to have two wives, his children from the second wife became his duty. What little money they had before was even more sparse now.. By thirteen, Dee had grown tired of hustling tourists, but he was now the man of the house. He needed to make enough money so that his little sister could stay in school. When the first group of surfers came to town, Dee foresaw Kuta’s potential as a surfing hub.

      Several years later, when the surfers started to come by the thousands, Dee was ready. He could ride better than anyone on the island, and whatever money he made, went to his family or hiring other locals as instructors for his surf school. He dreamt of one day becoming a professional surfer and making enough money to move to Australia, but with the little money he had saved, he would never obtain his dream visa. Now, at thirty, it seemed unlikely Dee’s fate would change. Dee told Tommy all of this in broken English on the way the point break pick-up.

      “Cut the sob story, mate. We’re going surfing,” Tommy said as Dee sped through the narrow, pothole-laden road. “If you want a tip, don't yap about how broke you are. Show me how well you can surf. If you don’t suck, maybe I’ll fly you down under myself.”

     “Really?”

     “Don’t get your hopes up. I’ve been known to break promises.”

     “Is that what your wife says?”

     “I’m still playing the field.”

     “What?”

     “I’m not married.”

     “Men our age should be married.”

     “If I could have multiple wives like you, maybe I would be.”

     Dee’s laughter rumbled from his stomach. His laughter turned into a prideful smile as he said, “Not every Muslim has many wives. I only have one wife, and I will always have only one wife.”

     “But if you fell in love with someone else, you wouldn’t have to worry.”

     “I would worry about my son and daughter. I make promise to not be like my father.”

     “Now that’s a promise I wish I could keep,” Tommy said more to himself than to Dee.

    The potholes disappeared as they arrived in a village with more chickens and stray dogs than people. Dee parked the van in front of his surf shop. The second Tommy jumped out of the vehicle, two little kids tried to sell him their self-made yarn bracelets.

     “I give you good price, my friend.” The two children repeated the phrase several times before Dee stepped out from the vehicle and intervened.

   “These are my children, Intan and Arif,” Dee said. Arif had the same dark, brown eyes as his father, but as a four-year-old, his skin was not yet beaten by the weather. Intan was only a year older than her brother but possessed a protective quality that was almost motherly. Her green eyes filled with a sullen sweetness, and her facial features were finer than those of Arif.

     “Are you going to become little shredders?” Tommy asked.

     The children gave Tommy a blank stare.

     “Surfers,” Tommy said.

     “I’m already a surfer,” Arif said.

     “How about you?” Tommy asked Intan.

     Intan wouldn’t look up at Tommy.

     “She has to take care of the house. She has to learn from her mother,” Dee exclaimed.

     “Saya ingin menjadi seperti Maria” I want to be like Maria, Intan said.

     “Adikku bukan seorang ibu. Kamu tidak akan menjadi seperti dia.” My sister is not a mother. You will not be like her, Dee said.

     Intan stormed off with Arif quickly following.

     “So, what was that about?” Tommy asked.

     “Let’s surf,” Dee said.

     Tommy and Dee grabbed their surfboards from the roof of the van and walked between two restaurants. A small opening led to the tiny harbor. The port contained two rundown motorboats and three Jukungs. The Jukung’s wooden canoe-like hulls had double outriggers attached by four spider-like wooden legs—the traditional build—but with four-stroke engines connected to the back. Dee waved at someone in a Jukung a hundred meters way. As the Jukung approached, Tommy noticed an Indonesian woman piloting it. Her grey, wet t-shirt clung to her breasts. She had the type of body, which even when modestly dressed, looked free and nude. Her green Hijab was wrapped around her face and accentuated her eyes that held more emotional grit than Iranian women in a National Geographic photograph. Tommy wouldn’t have known he was lovestruck because Tommy has never experienced love.

     “Kenapa kamu di sini?” Why are you here? Asked Dee.

     “Because your friends have little balls,” the woman said with an understandable Indonesian accent that delighted Tommy.

     “What?”

     “They won't use the boat in this weather. No balls.”

     “This is my type of woman,” Tommy whispered to Dee.

     “This is my sister.”

     For once, Tommy didn’t know how to respond. Tommy couldn’t stop staring at Maria. The morning sunlight had found its way between the clouds, casting a golden ring around Maria’s green eyes.

     “Are you Tommy Faa, the surfer?” Maria asked as she lifted Tommy’s surfboard into the boat.

     “Yup.”

     “An Australian couple showed me a video of you. You almost killed yourself on the Garret McNamara, and rode it again the day you got out of the hospital.”

     “Okay, we go before the storm is worse,” Dee said.

     “You speak much better English than your brother,” Tommy said.

     “That’s because she has no family to make food for. She only needs to think about herself.”

     From Maria’s insouciance, Tommy could see that the siblings have had this conversation many times before.

     “I only think about myself too. We’d make a horrible team,” Tommy said.

   Maria smiled with her back turned to Tommy and gunned the engine while Tommy and Dee were still standing. Dee caught his balance, but Tommy fell flat on his ass, laughing.

    “We’ll be at the point break in ten minutes,” Maria said.

     Nobody said a word the whole way there. Dee concentrated on waxing his surfboard, even though it was freshly waxed. Maria didn’t see the need in conversation; she was happy knowing that Tommy was memorizing the teasing way her t-shirt traced her backside.

            *** 

     Maria stayed in the Jukung in case something happened to Tommy or Dee. As Maria watched Tommy surf, he showed her everything about himself. The ocean was his canvas, and he painted the stories of his life on each wave. The waves became messier and more sporadic as the winds picked up, but the more difficult it became to catch a wave, the more free Tommy seemed to appear. He paddled with unyielding aggression, but as soon as he stood on that board, he was free from pain. He seemed to blend water and air into one element as he flew from the waves. When he dropped from the sky and landed back onto the wave, he never fell. Whether he landed backward, forward, or sideways, he quickly maneuvered the board in whichever way he chose. He had full control over his board until the storm picked up, and that’s when Maria saw Tommy’s self-destructive nature.

     Dee’s surfing was  impeccable. This point-break helped raise him, and he knew the waves better than he knew his father. Dee didn’t have the eclectically creative bag of tricks like Tommy did, but he knew which waves were better to ride. Their tenacity and power were on par, but unlike Tommy, Dee liked to stay in control.

     “There’s no way to tell how waves will crash now,” Dee said.

     “No balls, as Maria would say!” Tommy said.

     “The tide is lower. We will crash into coral.”

     “Saltwater cleans the cuts, my man.”

     “I’m done, Tommy. Please come.”

     Tommy didn’t listen. As Dee struggled to paddle back to the boat, Tommy paddled out to where he hoped the next set would come. Maria was busy bailing out water from the boat. The wind-formed waves kept crashing in.

     “Dee!” Maria said, pointing at the wave forming behind Tommy. Dee looked back and saw Tommy surf a wave four times his height; the biggest wave of the day, but not even close to the biggest wave of his life. The wave, at first, broke left as Tommy expected. Anyone could see that Tommy was struggling to keep his balance in the high winds. Tommy expected to lose a bit of control, but what he did not expect was that the wave would suddenly break all at once. The wave picked Tommy up and then threw him down onto the coral with its several tons of might. Before Dee could say anything, Maria grabbed his board and jumped into the water. By the time Maria reached Tommy, he had been dragged onto the rocks below the cliff. The whitewash usually subsides at the rocks, but with the winds, the waves slammed Tommy against the rock behind him. Tommy was smiling as Maria approached.

     “Shit’s gnarly,” Tommy said.

     “Can you move?” Asked Maria.

     “Everything but my right arm.”

     “Use my board to get to the boat. I’ll swim.” Maria noticed that Tommy’s board had split in two.

    Dee brought the Jukung as close as he could to Maria and Tommy without hitting the rocks or being too close to the waves. It took Maria and Tommy fifteen minutes to swim one hundred meters to the boat; the winds kept pushing them back toward the rocks. As soon as Tommy reached the Jukung, Dee hefted Tommy’s bloody body from the water.

     “It’s not a very safe surf school you’re running here,” Tommy said to Dee.

     “Fuck you,” Dee said.

***                         

     Dee and Maria brought Tommy to the clinic where the Doctor applied twenty stitches down the right side of his back and five stitches on his forearm. Fortunately, his arm wasn’t broken but severely sprained. The doctor advised Tommy to keep his arm in the sling for three weeks followed by two weeks of rest. Tommy thought they did a good job (not that he has high medical standards) until he asked if he had a concussion; something the doctor should have checked for at first. The doctor used the tips of his fingers to press lightly onto the back of Tommy’s skull in a massage-like manner.

     “Does that hurt?” Asked the doctor.

     “Uh, nope.” Said Tommy.

     The doctor repeated the finger pressing three more times on various parts of Tommy’s skull. If Tommy hadn’t been so amused by the doctor’s inept concussion examination, he may have noticed the discomfort.

     “Does that hurt?”

     “Nope, not there either.”

     “Great, your brain isn’t bleeding.”

     “But do I have a concussion?”

     “Oh yes.”

    What ever happened to seeing if my pupils react to light, Tommy thought. After Maria had made sure the receptionists didn't overcharge Tommy, and that they hadn't taken down all his credit card information, Dee and Maria brought him to an ATM. Tommy took out four hundred American, approximately five million Indonesian rupiahs. He paid Dee for the rented surfboard, boat gas, and his time. He split the remaining four in half million rupiah among Dee, Maria, and himself.

     “What’s this for?” Asked Dee.

     “You’ll need that money to come with me. You’re going to surf at the Rip Curl invitational. I’ll make sure of it.” Tommy then looked Maria. “As for you… I would like your company.”

     Maria burst out laughing. “My company?” From the few hours Maria knew Tommy, she knew that he had never used the words your company in his life.

     “I want you to come with me, Maria.”

     Maria smiled and said, “I’ll book the fast boat for tomorrow morning.”

    “I can’t leave my family,” Dee said after a moment of staring at the money as though it were a sacred map he couldn’t read.

    “You will be back in four days. I’ll give your family the money they need for the week,”Tommy said.

     “Why do you do this for me?”

     “I told you I would.”

     “I thought you break promises.”

     “I didn’t promise you shit.”

***

     Arif and Intan were in a state of jubilation that their father would be in a surf competition, and Tommy would be with Maria. Dee’s wife, Sania, however, could not be convinced by words. Fortunately, Tommy’s cash told Sania all she wanted to hear. Tommy saved his manager for last. After several moments Ryan calmed down and said he would speak with Tommy’s sponsors. Turns out, that some of the sponsors knew about Dee’s surf school and thought that sponsoring him for the competition would have a high marketability in Indonesia. After two days of training, it was time for Dee to enter the Rip Curl Invitational.

***

     Maria and Tommy sat on Padang Padang beach watching the surfers and drinking a beer. It was Maria’s first time drinking in public. For once, she didn’t have to worry about being further alienated by her community. Tommy was the first man that looked at Maria with nothing other than admiration, not only for her physique but for her mind and rebellious spirit. They didn’t need to hold hands; they held one another in each other’s eyes. They were looking into the future; something neither has ever cared about until now.

     “Did Dee tell you the story about my father and his second wife?” Maria asked.

     “I assume he tells all the tourists,” Tommy said.

     “I wanted to blame my father for leaving. Instead, I blamed our religion.”

     “I have a sister from a different mother and two half brothers whom I’ve never met. And my father’s an Atheist.”

     “So it’s men we should blame?” Maria intoned facetiously.

     “I never had a chance to hear my dad’s side of the story, but that’s a safe bet.”

     “Do you want children?”

     “No.”

     Maria smiled, happy with the answer, and Tommy knew it. At that moment, they heard the announcement for Dee. The wave forming behind Dee was four to five meters high. The largest wave Dee had ever surfed. Maria’s heart was racing, and Tommy’s head was thumping. 

     For the first several seconds of Dee’s ride, he rode without style, it was as though he was still finding his balance. The velocity of the wave felt new to him, but as soon the power transferred over to Dee, he playfully cut back and forth. He used the new found speed to his advantage and popped into the air, executing two flawless one hundred and eighty-degree spins. Dee immediately cut back towards the barrel. The wave broke faster than anticipated, Dee disappeared into the tunnel of water for what seemed like an eternity to Maria. The wave was nearing the end of its life. It appeared that the several tons of water would crash onto Dee. As soon as the barrel collapsed, Dee spat out from the whitewash with everyone on the beach cheering. Everyone except for Tommy. Maria looked back and saw Tommy holding his head in pain.

     “Tommy, what’s up?” Maria asked.

     Tommy couldn’t answer. With every exhale, he groaned with an animalistic distress. The lacerated sounds seemed unnatural coming from Tommy.

     “Tommy!”

     Without looking at Maria, Tommy stood up and grabbed a surfboard that lay next to a teenager with blond dreadlocks passed out on the ground. Tommy continued to walk towards the ocean with tears of torment swelling his eyes. He stood where the water washed up onto his feet, holding the surfboard in his good arm. He heard the announcement for Dee's nearly perfect score. For what may have been a fraction of a second, Tommy felt a lifetime of peace. He stared at the little beach break wave forming in front of him. It was the same type of wave Tommy would have learned to ride on as a child. As the wave collapsed so did Tommy. It was the only thing he ever planned.

Fiction