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August 22, 2022 Fiction

Florida Man

Dan Leach

Florida Man photo

He sits alone on the beach with his feet in the sand, cigarette in mouth, eyes on the water, though there’s no one out here who knows him, and it’s not clear what he wants, unless what he wants is to be alone, in which case he picked the wrong part of the strand. He plucks cans of beer from the box beside his chair, and the longer he sits there, drinking and staring, the more his skin darkens towards the color of rust, especially his bony shoulders, which are bruised with bad tattoos. My wife doesn’t trust his mustache, and I don’t like his face, that cracked, ungrinning brick. I’m also unsettled by all the silver rings on his fingers and how, after several beers, he pulls out a hunting knife and begins cutting the empty cans into figurines and planting them in the sand by his feet, a dead confederacy of tin come to life in their reflection of the sun. Even on a day as perfect as this, it is tempting for me to compose for him a history. Without coming any closer, without exchanging a single word, I could give him a home and a voice that match his mustache and his rings, and by the time I leave the beach, I could believe it. But composition is too convenient. It’s ambiguity that takes guts. When I finish swimming, I approach him and ask for a beer. When he spits in the sand and says no, I walk away. I tell myself he needs it more than I do, and I refuse to imagine why.

image: Tyler McAndrew