Published Monthly

At the Beach
by Vera Searles

A woman with teeth in her hair and eyes in the soles of her feet arrived at the beach. She carried a towel and a folding chair. When she came to the water’s edge, she shook her head free of the teeth and sat in the chair, holding her feet up to the sun.

“Now do you see it?” she asked. “It’s called sun. It warms you.”

The teeth floated back in toward the woman and she grouched at them. “Go away. I don’t want you any more. You’re free to go home.” She pointed. “Spain is that way.”

Still the teeth lingered. The woman pushed water at them with her hand but they persisted.

A man wearing purple trunks and a scuba mask swam past. When he saw the teeth, he asked the woman, “Don’t you want those any more?”

“No. I’m finished with them.”

“Then I’ll take them,” said the man, gathering the teeth into a large satchel that was strapped to his back.

“What will you do with them?” the woman asked.

“I run a museum for disassociated parts,” he explained. He sat in the sand and spread out the contents of his satchel. “I found this in a rest stop in Montreal,” he said, showing her a broken leg. “And these came from a wedding in Zanzibar.” He held four fingers in the palm of his hand. His collection included a chin, a cheekbone, two toes and a kneecap. “What about those?” he asked, pointing at the eyes in the soles of her feet. “If you don’t want them, I’ll gladly take them.”

The woman hesitated. “I don’t know. I use them all the time to see where I’m going.” She lifted one foot and looked at the eye. “Would you like to be in a collection?” she asked.

“I’d rather stay here with you,” the eye replied. “I see the sun is fading and you will need me. And my sister, too.”

The eye was right. When the woman looked up, she saw that clouds had formed and the sky was the color of sad.

The man shrugged and packed his collection back into the satchel. The woman waved goodbye to the teeth as the man slipped into the water and disappeared into the below.

“It’s time for my swim,” the woman said. She left her towel on the chair and waded into the balmy waters of the Gulf.

“Watch out for the jelly fish,” the right foot eye said.

“And those crabs look vicious,” warned the left foot eye.

She avoided the hazards and lay down on the water. After a short nap, she swam out into the ocean. Her arms were strong and she swept the water away easily.

Surrounded by the tarnished sea and the moldy sky, the woman covered several miles. About to turn back toward the beach, she saw a small island hovering gently on the horizon.

She went ashore. A signpost read: Island of Lost Skeletons.

A number of bleached bone people sat beneath the palm trees, playing cards and drinking mint juleps, their laughter crackling through the tepid air. The woman asked, “Do you like living here on this island?”

No one answered, or took notice of her. The man in the purple trunks walked over. “They can’t hear you or see you. You’re invisible to them because they’re dead.”

The woman nodded. “That’s all right, then. Just as long as they’re happy.”

“Would you like to see my museum?” the man asked.

It was beautiful. All the disassociated parts were strung together on hemp fiber and jiggled in perfect harmony. The man and woman kissed and made love, and when it was time for her to leave, she looked down at the eyes in the soles of her feet. “You may have them,” she told the man. “They belong with you.”

He accepted the eyes and in exchange, placed a bleached bone behind her ear. “I will always love you,” he said. “I will treasure your parts forever.”

The woman splashed into the water and swam back to the beach. She took a last look out toward the island, which sank into the sea beneath the horizon.

She smiled. It was one of the best days she ever had at the beach.

Vera Searles has published over three hundred short stories and recently completed a fantasy novel.


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