The Death of a Million is a Statistic This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

July 23, 2010
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When he entered, there were approximately fifteen other people chatting in French and English, with lovers, family, or acquaintances. Where two wooden walls met in a corner, a band of four men were plucking and hammering on their instruments, strumming out vivacious Irish drinking tunes. The smell of beer and coffee mingled in the air, the classy and the rude dancing to the same music. After weaving through tables, he arrived at mine, dragging out a chair with a screech emitting from its metallic feet so he may sit. He collapsed into a slouch, knocking the table and creating a tremor in my coffee. A tuft of pepper red hair fell over his brow, and he said hello with a charismatic smirk. His eyes were dreamy and distant, and I knew he was thinking about the future again.

“Hey Chatham, what took ya so long?”

“Was finishin an episode of the Simpsons.”

“Whats with the obsession with the yellow buffoon?”

“I think I’ll get a juice or somethin.”

“Nice and healthy ginger.”

“Damn straight, I’m gonna be livin’ a lot longer than you. Doin’ lots of things.”

I didn’t ask him what things, because I already knew. He was the boy, who didn’t think life started until college, when he first pays rent for his cheap apartment in new York, shared with his fiancée. He knew the furniture would be matching, a green and white theme, and his girl would be a grey eyed blond round like a teacup. He told me she’d wash the dishes, he’d make the dinner. He’d make JUST barely enough money to surpass her income.

Chatham’s slim fingers counted out euros as he ignored the cashiers desperate flirtatious attempts. God knows why, any guy here would kill for a date with her. She fluttered her lashes as he gave her 3 euros, and “accidentally” dropped one behind her so she could bend over before him. I knew this as I had seen her do it every time we came. Can’t blame her for trying though.I wouldn’t normally say this, but Chatham, he wasn’t a half bad looking guy.

He came back rubbing his ruddy cheeks.

“I’m thinkin its about time for a shave.”

“In your dreams peach fuzz.”

He flushed redder than a tomato at the weekly farmers market. Like I said, he was just dying to grow up and sport a beard.

His orange juice was sipped thoughtfully. Behind him a young pair gazed at each other, the man’s glasses fogged up by the heat from his coffee.

“Whatcha wanna do after this, Pat?”

“Uhh beach. Lets go to the beach.”

“Nah it’s a little gusty out. I’d rather go back to your place or mine and play skate 3 or something.”

“Why would I want to pretend to skate more than go to the beach where there are girls? You remember what those are, right?”

“Yeah yeah how could I forget.”

“Screw you, I’m goin to the beach.”

He sucked down the last of the pulpy mixture of orange and sugar, and followed me out the door with a grunt. Our bicycles treaded the dirt of Lansdun street, grit popped up in miniature explosions as we skidded by tourists dressed in flower print shirts, who snapped pictures of us as we rode by and hollered in their American accents “Lookie there some Irish youngins!”. Stupid as cows, the tourist group. Men wishing to scam them fell into step with the group, and street artists beamed their brightest and played their loudest as they went by.
Grey stone walls disappeared as the road went on, and graffiti immigrated onto the bark of trees. Someone had scrawled “The Coronas” in vivid violet, and I shouted to Chatham, asked if he had heard their new CD.

“I'll pick it up later!"

My feet hit the sand first, and were followed by my elbows and back as I executed a clumsy somersault. I tossed the sand from my hair and clothes, then noticed a pretty blond and her not so attractive friend, clad in bikinis, staring with resentment and boredom. Chatham arrived beside me, sauntering leisurely. I ducked my head, embarrassed as hell, while they rolled their eyes at our retreating figures, then continued their discussion about the hottest irish soccer players. The sun sharply reflected off the blond one’s fingernail polish, as the fingers upon which it rested tapped in an impatient dance.

“Chatham, think she’d go for me?”

“Which one?”

“The blond, obviously.”

“I dunno. You plan on taking her to the circus then performing some of that delightful acrobatic foreplay?”

“Dirty p****.”

“You have no chance.”

He giggled then, a high pitched juvenile noise.

We sat on the stone cluttered part of the beach. Salt from droplets, racing from the splashes of the ocean like escaped convicts, burned alive and furious on my skin. The smell of the decay of seaweed and rotting fish with mouths that gaped tossed on the rocks by waves, and freshness of the water infatuated my sense of smell, and I breathed deeply.

“Can I have her?”

“Chatham… what the hell? Eh whatever. Good luck.”

He snickered, the same glitter on her nail polish emitting from his eyes.

“C’mon, lets go for a swim.”

“What in our knickers?”

“Naked, unless you’re chicken.”

“Hell no, naked it is then.”

We peeled off our worn shirts and ravaged jeans, tripping over shoelaces and wiping windblown hair from our mouths and eyes. His stomach was almost featureless, showing only shadows of muscles beneath his skin. The sky was a deep grey, outlines of clouds floated lazily across it. Smooth shells scraped the bottoms of our feet, and Chatham picked up one. Pearly and slim. He paused, and did not take off his underwear just yet.

“Hold on just a minute.” Rolling broad muscular shoulders, he strolled over to the blond.

“I see this matches your nails in colour… and body in beauty.” He said to her.

Smooth b******.
Her friend hid her jealousy inside her, eyes flattening like those of an enraged kitten, while the blonde flipped Chatham the bird. He began walking away, dejected look hanging off his face resembling that of a wilted leaf hanging off a branch right before winter. Then the girls cackled, and he winked at me. With a fluid motion and a yell, he tossed the shell in the general direction of the girl, missing his target by a mile. He ran like a pack of wolves was after him, though the only things that followed him were the utterly confused and scornful eyes of the girls. We entered the ocean with none of our usual timidity, shedding undergarments, and it splashed up from our feet, angered by our rough and abrupt entrance. Every part of me seemed to shriek as the bitterness of the temperature engulfed us.

“You’re crazy. Absolutely bonkers,” I panted as I followed him blindly into the waves. “You sure we’re safe from their, uhm, wrath?”

From his fingers came a splash.

“Shut up, not like you did any better.”

“Her friend might take ya.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah, try tossin’ a boulder at her. Couldn’t possibly make her any uglier.”

He glared, then grinned. His eyes looked as if someone had taken two teaspoons of the ocean we were soaking, and freezing, in, and poured them into the milky white orbs that were his eyes. They darted, agile and swift as minnows, between the sea and the sky, and me, taking in his world. It really was all his world. He had it all planned, and his presence seemed to attach little strings to those around him, and in this way he was a puppeteer.

“I know, lets swim to black sheep rock.”

“Race you”

“Sure you weakling,” he replied, lazily and confidently. His spindly arms, white as shark flesh against the depths soon revealed to us, took motion, ripples from his push barely noticeable floating on the white caps. His bottom revealed itself occasionally, small and shy in the vastness of this underwater world.
The malicious cold of the ocean enveloped my whole, cooled my core, created goosebumps all over my body, and left me gasping for breath. I strained every muscle to catch up to Chatham, who was a good few feet in front of me. Several excruciating minutes passed as I paddled and pushed, and microscopic creatures stung my skin, before I even reached the halfway point. Seawater rushed into my mouth, as I coughed and spit my way through valleys of currents and the brandishing shoulders of the ocean. In snapshots of scenes between flickering lashes I glimpsed the rock. Chatham had disappeared from view, and I assumed I passed him Suddenly desperate to put space between me and the disturbingly deep ocean, black as night and undoubtedly filled with ships crashed by drunken sailors, my hands spread out before me. The pads of my hands collided sharply with the grimy algae infested surface, and through clogged ears I heard the crackling of shells and snails as I crushed them. It would not be until much later, after the sun had sunk below the ever unreachable horizon, that I see the deep slits encrusted with blood on the calluses of my hands. At the moment, I was still very invincible, and my knees and legs scrambled until I was able to rest comfortably, shivering, on top.

“Beat you, you bloody phony!”

Words that came out in a squeal, piggish and innocent, from my lips.
The ravenous lapping of the sea against my seat answered for Chatham. It seemed to hunger for my flesh. The sudden quiet was eerie, and almost teasing. I assumed he dove under for amusement, at first, so I turned my attention to the females on the beach, some how transformed to ants who’s hair and beings blended with the sand. Already only specks in my memory.

I waited.

I waited for the rouge hair to breach the surface. Waited for him to pop up behind me, and scare the s*** out of me.

I waited and begged the mirror I was held above to shatter and show life. 2700 seconds passed, and only I seemed to notice they were disguised as days and years. The girls on the beach didn’t seem to notice anything odd about the actions of time, as I stood there.

I waited while my throat and lips bellowed at the blonde and company to call the police, the fire department, the hospital, anything.

I waited while a man, dressed in navy scuba gear and a somber expression, sank calmly as a stone into the massive body of liquid turquoise. His face was pallid, but the portals to the soul only revealed the repetitiveness of it all, the unsurprising end he knew would come.

I waited still, as he emerged with a boy, limp with skin made of opaque olive-coloured seaweed. Drips fell from darkened hair hung over rolled back eyes, which lay above an open mouth that should have been laughing but was silent as a catacomb. The lips were blue as the eyes that I could not see, and his nude body bared itself unashamed and pathetic. The crowd shied their eyes away from his shrunken genitals, while I could not avert my eyes. I had never seen it before, and it was exposed for the whole town to see right here, hanging off his still body. My stomach sank into my bowels as I watched it flop between his flaccid thighs.

A raft floated me back to shore, where I slipped on my boxers, and a crowd of people unrecognizable today stood around a male pumping on the soundless boy’s chest, blowing air reverently into the gap between the lips of the gaping fish-like mouth. Hands that looked like mine pulled at sleeves, and my voice appeared over articulations made by the meat of my tongue. “That’s not Chatham. That boy isn’t laughing, its not Chatham.” A woman burdened by years and given a hideous mask of tears rushed to me and dealt a heavy harsh backhand slap to my cheek. Her mouth sported an ugly snarl as she hissed, telling me it was my fault all my fault never forgive my fault why the HELL is he naked what is wrong with you, words blunted by a clogged nose and a grief numbed body. Her husband, made of stone, held her back with unmoving features, and she collapsed into his chest. Papier-mâché soaked with tears.

The world, free of Chatham’s puppet strings, turned to chaos as I passed by it at 60 kilometers per hour. In what used to be home foreign fingers ran shampoo through my hair and placed a towel around my shoulders. Yet all I could feel were the barnacles of the rock, the chill of the algae’s slime, the burning of salt.

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Jeeisme said...
Aug. 11, 2010 at 7:08 am
Excellent as usual. 
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