Hello Internet! And welcome back Ki Brightly to Flash Fiction Friday! She’s here with “Sand Art,” a cute little story where we meet a lifeguard having the Worst Day Ever. That is until he meets the most peculiar sand sculptor.
by Ki Brightly
After my morning swim I stop into the office like I usually do before my shift and sneak around to avoid my boss, Dan. I change into my red shorts and scratch at my short beard. He hates me. Scorn a man once on a dance floor and he never forgets apparently. I check the work log and there’s a nasty Post It note waiting for me, as usual.
THERE WAS TRASH ON YOUR STRETCH OF BEACH AGAIN. I’M WRITING YOU UP. ONE MORE AND YOU’RE DONE.
I rub my temple with my pointer finger as I read three more bitchy notes. As far as I know I’m the only person who gets them, and I’m the only one who actually takes the time to clean my beach at the end of my shift on my own time. No good deed goes unpunished. I storm out of the office and don’t bother to take the obnoxious lime green notes out of the book this time. I don’t care if people coming in later see them.
“What the…” I mutter to myself later as I stand at the wooden station overlooking my stretch of sand with my whistle twirling on its string in my fingers. I have the good spot today, the hut with a roof, rather than baking in a chair on stilts. My arms hurt from my marathon of laps earlier. I roll my shoulders to loosen them. A man with a bucket, a bunch of mini shovels, and too much free time on his hands for a Friday morning is making what looks like two huge arms on the beach. They’re at least five times as big as he is. And he’s digging a huge fucking hole to do it.
Sweat drips down my chest and back as I step out into the spiteful sunshine and stomp toward him. As I get closer I realize he’s a cutie. I’ve seen him around before, but he’s outdone himself today in an electric green speedo. For a second it reminds me of getting passive aggressively reamed out, but it pops against his deep tan and keeps my eyes firmly on that section of his body. As I get close to him my shadow covers the finger he’s meticulously creating. He glances over his slim shoulder with a smile on his square, no nonsense face and my heart flips.
“What, exactly, are you doing?” I ask rather than telling him to knock it off the way I was going to.
“Creating a sand sculpture.” His voice is a startling, deep scrape of sound that mimics the small plastic shovel in his hand intently carving out a fingernail. I scratch through the hair on my chest, damp with sweat, and watch him work. I do a quick scan of the beach to make sure no one is drowning while I shoot the shit.
“It’s arms. Why are you making arms?”
His eyes widen and he booms out a laugh. “I’m not making anything. I’m discovering.” His muscles bunch and flex in interesting ways as he works and I shake my head at myself. Time to stop ogling and get back to work. I try to do as little staring as possible, but…it’s the beach. It almost seems rude not to look when people go to so much effort to strip down.
“Whose are they?”
His eyebrows shoot toward his hair line as he stands with his bucket and heads toward the gently lapping waves. “The Venus de Milo.” He says it like it makes perfect sense and I snicker to myself. What a fruit loop. He seems harmless. My gaze follows him, but then I notice some men beyond the buoys. Damn it. I whistle at them and they pretend not to hear me, which always pisses me off. I stalk toward the shoreline and blow my whistle as loud as I can while waving them in and eventually they start to move closer to shore. When I get back to the disembodied arms the man is dumping water onto some sand and mixing it.
“Uh…okay. Well, pal, you can’t dig up this much of the sand. I’m going to get yelled at if the supervisor comes by.” My stomach clenches. My whole goal is to not get hassled, and well, not have anyone drown, while I’m at work. Dan would probably give this guy ten bucks for giving him another reason to tear me down.
“So, you’re going to have to keep coming back here to bother me until I fill in the hole I’m making?”
“Pretty much,” I shrug.
“Hmm…” He says non-commitally with a smile. His eyes sweep me and I blink. No. He did not just check me out. Did he? He shots me a cheeky smile. I retreat quickly toward my life guard station with a blush. Oh, hell. I spend the rest of my morning watching the hole on my stretch of beach get bigger and nervously listening out for the drone of the engine on the Gator Dan drives around to check on us when he can bother to drag himself out of the air conditioning in the office. It’s hotter than the outer circle of the sun today, so hopefully he’ll stay put.
Around lunch time the arms start to draw a crowd and by one o’clock there’s another group digging up the sand nearby and I groan. There’s no one to replace me for my break today, so I whistle and wait for people to drag themselves out of the water, cursing me the whole time I’m sure. I make my way to the man on the beach again. This time he has a camera out taking photographs of his work. Sure enough, there are two perfect, huge arms made of sand. I’m not sure what the group next to him is making, but it seems like they’ve just started and the mound is already taller than my head.
“Excuse me?” I try to sound nice. I get a flash of a white teeth from Mr. Speedo.
“Here,” he says thrusting his camera at a bystander. “Take one with us.” Somehow I get pulled into his side. He’s a bit shorter than me and I notice his eyes glitter a warm golden green that almost doesn’t seem possible. It’s natural to wrap my arm around his shoulders. Three seconds later my frustration is immortalized.
“I’m going to post this online. You don’t mind, do you?” he asks, but he’s ignoring me, fingers already flying over the screen on the back of his camera.
“Sir, you have to put the sand back now.” I eye the crowd and don’t like it. I’m going to have to call in for help soon, and then Dan will come out here…fuck.
“I’m Elliot.” Those pretty eyes fill with good humor and I gulp down another demand that he make my life easier. Hell.
“Manni,” I say distractedly as I watch a few people slip back into the water even though I haven’t given the clear whistle. My head feels like it’s going to pop off and I hold my breath. All of their lives are my problem. Why don’t people ever realize that before they get in the water? I force myself to take a deep breath.
“Glad I finally know your name.”
“What?” I jerk my attention to him and he’s smiling again. It seems to be a permanent fixture on him. I’m hotter all the sudden. I swipe at my forehead. Damned sun.
“I’ve been coming here for a month. I was considering drowning to get your attention,” he says, all shiny good cheer. I glance out over the water. Guys aren’t usually so forward with me outside of the few gay spots in town. It’s kind of …nice, in a way. Weird too. His eyes do an exaggerated up and down on me and this time I’m the one laughing.
“Oh.” My cheeks heat and I use the excuse of not letting people die to look away from him.
“So, are you?”
“Into this?” I can’t tell if he’s talking about his gorgeous self or the sand art, but I nod dumbly anyway and earn a deep chuckle.
“Manuel!” Dan calls from the wooden station behind me. My muscles clench and I wince. I’m not a small guy, and Dan isn’t either. I think that’s part of his problem with me. He feels the need to try to big dog me. I walk over and he meets me halfway arm flung out toward the crowd around the sand art.
“Why didn’t you call this in?”
“The crowd just started to build up. I was going to.” I force myself to meet his steely eyes. He has on a goofy sun hat and the standard red shorts, but unlike me he’s all gym bulk on his upper half. His smile has a knife edge to it, and I think that’s what has always steered me away from him.
“You’re this close to getting fired,” he yells and I can hear some whispers and titters behind me.
“I asked them to move along, but they didn’t,” I mumble.
“If you can’t deal with a situation, then you’re not guard material,” he growls at me and I sigh, looking out over the water dappled with golden sparkles. I love this job, but is it really worth it?
“Then I guess I’m not,” I say in exasperation. “You take this stretch. I’m going for a swim.”
“You’re quitting?” Dan asks, with a nearly gleeful grin.
“Yeah. You don’t have to worry that I’ll one up you anymore.” I give him the finger, kick off my sandals, and head toward the water.
“Give me your whistle,” he yells after me. I laugh. I paid for the damned whistle. I’d rather drop it in the bottom of the late. I slip the string holding it around my neck as I splash into the water then set a heavy pace for myself doing laps. I hit the unguarded section of the beach and keep going. I probably swim about a mile and a half before I stumble out of the water where I started exhausted. An argument is in progress that I honestly didn’t expect. The crowd from the beach has surrounded Dan and to my utter delight they seem to be yelling at him.
“We decided to come out here. The art community does a lot for Erie,” a spunky little man with a bubblegum pink hair do and zebra striped board shorts says hotly to Dan.
“You will put this sand back and go,” Dan bellows. They laugh and more people seem to be arriving.
“I work for the newspaper,” one man from the back shouts.
“I have your little rant recorded. We’ll see who’s losing their job,” Elliot says. He gets into Dan’s grill and I’m surprised when the big man shoves him. There’s a scuffle and some punches are thrown. I race over thinking I’m going to have to save Elliot from getting pounded into the dirt, but before I can get there several other guys have jumped in to separate them.
Elliot swipes at some blood leaking out of his nose as he pulls up his speedos which had slipped down a bit on his nicely rounded butt. Smoke tickles my nose and I notice someone is starting a fire down the beach. I sigh. They’re going to get chased out at this rate, for sure. The park rangers won’t let them get away with that. “You had to work for this guy?” Elliot demands. My heart swells. I’ve wanted to punch Dan for a while.
“I’m pressing charges,” my former boss yells over the heads of the people separating him from us. Elliot shakes his head.
“My Dad has wanted me to come to work with him for a while,” I take a deep breath and grab his hand to get his attention back on me. “Let’s go. Let’s drive around the peninsula. I’ll buy a beer for you.”
“Yeah?” he asks, the corner of his mouth going up. I gather my courage, lean down, and plant a kiss on his cheek. He blinks at me as a laugh bubbles out of him.
“I’ve wanted to punch him for ages. You’re my hero. I’ve got a first aid kit in my car. Let’s go.”
His dark chuckle sends a wave of anticipation through me. I help him pick up his buckets and shovels. Hand in hand we walk off the beach. I should be upset, I guess, that this menace of a man showed up in my life today, but somewhere deep inside where I haven’t relaxed all summer I’m unwinding, and it feels good.
If you liked this story, check out Threefold Love by Ki Brightly.
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