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December 2009, vol 5 no 4

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Glenn G. Coats

 

For the Sake of a Quarter



The boardwalk is quiet this morning. A few wheels start to spin, pinball machines begin ringing, some faces stretch long in the mirrors. Gulls gather on store tops waiting for fries. The tide is low so the beach sand is wide. Lifeguards perch like hawks watching a quiet sea as small waves roll in and break.

Twenty-five cents to go through the gate and swim all day, watch the girls, get sunburned shoulders. We decide to jump the fence and race to the ocean, drop our wallets and towels on the sand, and run straight into cold water. We dive under the first wave.

distant ships
cigarette butts drift
in a tide pool

More than one whistle blows behind our shoulders. Three or four lifeguards are waving us in and the one who knows our names must have turned us in. “You’re in some deep trouble," he says as they walk us dripping to the board walk. A paddy wagon with its bright lights flashing drives across the wooden boards to pick us up. Policemen tell us to sit on our towels.

bright sun
we forget our own
phone numbers

We are each placed in a separate cell. “Don’t mess anything up,” a policeman warns. We are left alone for an hour or so. I sit on the edge of a plastic-covered mattress and don’t move. I am still wet with ocean water, my hair uncombed.

They lead us to an open doorway where we are asked to run in place. “Which way is it to Grandma’s house?” one of the policemen asks. I point in the direction of the bay, the mouth of Tom’s River. “Keep running,” he tells us, “and never come back to Seaside Heights.”

afternoon breeze—
near Good Luck Point
crab boats anchor

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