Sunbathing Party

One of those dead days in the newsroom when the phones pause in their eternal clamor, nobody is pounding out a story against a deadline, and the mild spring weather outside beckons. All I needed was an excuse, so when Ron asked me for a ride I was ready to go.

He had a make-work assignment, a story about how slow intra-city mail delivery is in the face of new postal rate-hikes. He wrote a bunch of letters to himself and was going to post them all over town and then report how long it took them to come in. But they yanked his driver’s license when he copped a plea to marijuana possession, so he needed a chauffeur.

We were over on the West Shore, finished with the mail boxes, when we noticed a road that looked interesting, roofed over with bright hot green leaves that reminded me of the Foret National near Fontainebleu, where I never took a girl with a blanket and a picnic basket and always wished I had.

The road dead-ended at a rippling creek, wide-watered, bright in the sun, the ruins of a bridge’s pilings slumping in two eddies of their own making.

“We’ve interrupted a sunbathing party,” Ron said.

We had parked the car by what looked like the topside of some mysterious underground installation surrounded by cyclone fence. Vents and apertures poked up out of the green. We walked down to look at the beach. Ron was ahead. He turned back, looking embarrassed. I thought immediately that he’d spotted a couple making the two-backed animal in the spring sun.

But it was a pair of bikini-clad women, sunbathing, lying sun-drugged on their towels beside an old Chevelle. They peered at us as if the ground had disgorged us.

“We didn’t mean to intrude, honest,” Ron called out. “We just came to look at the water.”

No reply; they just continued to stare in that bemused fashion. One turned off her belly and sat up. I saw suntan oil gleam along her flat, browning belly. She was the blonde in yellow; her companion was a pale brunette in white. Now they were both sitting up, clasping their arms around their knees.

“Quite a show for anyone over there across the creek,” I said.

Across the creek, past the spreading shade trees that lined the shore, I could see an International Travel All parked beside turned brown earth where a field began.

The girls watched us and we not-watched them. I felt acutely uncomfortable. They were taking turns watching us now, covertly and openly by turns. We left abruptly, without discussion, and they watched us all the way out of sight onto the path that led to the road.

I pointed out that I had felt no negative vibrations from the girls. They weren’t anxious, they were curious.

“That brunette now,” Ron said. “Wow!”

“Maybe we should have gone over and talked to them,” I said.

“They weren’t against it.”

“They weren’t high school. Too old,” I said. “They didn’t feel like college either.”

“They might have been — no, they weren’t nurses, either,” Ron said.

I drove up the steep bank back to the road, the company Chev laboring on the incline.

“I bet they thought we were a couple of fags looking for a place,” I said.

“We should have tried them,” Ron said.

“They were expecting it at first. You know they thought we saw them from the road and came down.”

“When I looked over, I saw that brunette looking right at me. She was still sitting up. I couldn’t see the other one.”

“They wouldn’t be teachers,” I said. “The kids are just getting out of school now. Office girls, playing hooky.”

“Office girls. That’s what I thought too,” Ron said. “Maybe we should go back.”

“Not now. At first maybe, but now they would be suspicious. It would make them nervous for us to go away and then come back like that.”

Our casual outing after dealing with the letters had gone stale on us. Ron got randy and wanted to go back really badly. I remembered that I still had to get my vehicle out of the shop. Then he remembered that he was obligated to go see “The Cross and the Switchblade” because he now is tripping on Jesus, as he puts it, a reformed head since his brush with the law, and such viewings are required by his new friends.

“So it’s all academic,” he said. “But, speaking academically, I abhor the shit out of it.”

“I’m glad of the opportunity,” I said. “I’m just glad to be shown that life will twist on you when you least expect it. Just the opportunity has made my whole afternoon.”
“They were already made,” Ron said. “Warm spring day, their first time in their bathing suits, first time out in the sun. All we had to do was be there.”

“We were there,” I said. “And we left.”

“They were half-made already. I may go home and beat my wife.”

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Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.