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Far from our home in the old Borsch Belt of upstate New York, my older brother Sam wraps the beer can in a towel. Our parents bicker over the teenage girl who walks between our rented beach house and the neighbor’s place. It’s embarrassing you talking to her, scratching your big belly my mother says to my father. I follow Sam to the piss and fever shed below the house. Goddamn neighbor’s cat’s been in there. Sam talks to me about the teenage girl in a way I imagine he talks to his high school buddies back home. Sam usually ignores me so I feel like we’re finally connecting. He’s going to ask her if she wants to drink beer with him. I take a sip and it burns going down and then bubbles up in a puke reflux. Can’t leave that piss shed until he’s finished the beer. Sam wants me to go upstairs for another one. Ask mom if you can get a soda from the fridge he says. I take the towel but go to the beach instead.
There’s a young couple in the indigo shallow. The boy grabs the girl from behind. She looks outraged, turns and pushes him away. I stare past the indigo to the horizon. What are you looking at the boy in the water asks. The girl looks my way and crosses her arms impatiently, covering her excitement. You want some beer I ask her. Sure she says laughing. I’ll be right back I say. Mom and dad are in the kitchen arguing over take-out menus. I’m sick of shrimp my dad says. It’s North Carolina shrimp my mother argues. I casually open the fridge and remove a cold beer, wrapping it loosely in my towel. Are you drinking more soda? Bad for your teeth mother says.
Back at the beach, an old couple walks their golden retriever. Children pull a kite — it turns upside down, shakes violently and crashes into the hot sand. The boy and girl from the indigo water are nowhere to be found. I finish the brewski and walk back over the dunes to our beach house for another cold one. From the deck I see my father talking to the teenage girl. I overhear something about surfing and he’d be happy to teach her. Mother sits at the kitchen table searching for options through the litter of take-out menus. I wrap another can in my towel and head back to the beach. The beer is tasting better. The light changes and I see where the indigo ends and the teal water begins its long stretch to the horizon. Sam walks toward me. He looks angry. I draw a line in the sand with my big toe, take a sip from the sand-encrusted can and await the approaching, immutable tide.