By Melinda McCamant
When she told him about the other man, the tide was going out. But now, several hours later, the tide was coming back in.
Cold green water slid into his boots as he thrust his shovel underneath the bubbles forming on the slick sand. When the waves retreated, he flicked the clam, teetering on the edge of his shovel, into the half-full bucket resting just beyond the tide.
When he got home she was waiting. She held her coffee mug in the nest of her hands and breathed heavy sighs between sips. He pulled off his boots.
Leaving a trail of soggy sock prints across the kitchen floor, he filled up his own mug, the one with the picture of a lighthouse etched onto its side, and sloshed over to the refrigerator for milk. “We’re out,” she said and took another sip of her creamy, pale coffee. He closed the refrigerator door and sat down across from her at the table. She was still in her robe, eyes cloudy in the morning light that seeped in through the kitchen windows. “I need you to tell me what you’re thinking.” She looked at him and waited.
He pulled off his socks, rubbed his wrinkled pale toes. He knew he had no answer. That she would not be coming home.
The clams were still in the bucket on the back stoop. A red plastic bucket made for building sand castles—on the bottom were turrets, and along the edges the indentations of make-believe windows.
She went into the bedroom, leaving her empty coffee cup on the kitchen table. He heard her fumble through the closet, the familiar noises of her indecision.
When she emerged, her lips were the color of coral; he felt them, waxy and cool, as she slid her mouth across his. Her keys jangled from her index finger like tiny metal corpses.
As she closed the door behind her, his mouth formed the shape of her name, stopping just before sound. In the red plastic bucket the clams murmured, spitting sand from the linings of their thick white shells.
This story was the 1st prize winner for the Ooligan flash fiction contest in honor of launching “You Have Time for This” anthology.