Oct 10, 2022

About the time I joined the Sierra Club Singles, I began to write some of my autobiographical vignettes in the third person, imagining that I would eventually develop them into short stories or a novel. I named my protagonist Seely, short for Selena, meaning “moon.” (Originally, I was going to call her Celie, for Celine, until I discovered it meant “blind”—not so inappropo after all, as events would prove.)

It was a misty morning at Barnacle Beach. Seely felt ridiculously overdressed in her heavy down jacket and ponderous backpack, straggling behind hikers in jogging shorts, their only encumbrance the Nikes strung around their necks. She had come prepared for any weather, her pockets stuffed with mittens and earmuffs. At the moment, however, she wore a broad-brimmed, floppy straw hat which the kleptomaniac wind kept trying to swipe off her head; she had to pull it so far down over her eyebrows to secure it that she could only see a few feet in front of her, unless she craned her head back, which she did until she got a painful crick.

A roly-poly man named Jason, who had squarish teeth with great gaps between them—his smile reminded her of washcloths strung out on a clothesline—escorted her along the water line. He told her he was an insurance loss-prevention agent.

“I go to construction sites—” he began.

“And stand below and catch anyone who falls off?” Seely suggested.

“No, actually, I have a net,” he grinned.

After a short distance they came to a huge jag of rock that angled down into the water and blocked their path. It was steep and unscalable, so there was nothing to be done but dash around it during the ebb of a wave. Seely, who had rolled her jeans up to her thighs and tied her bulky jacket around her waist, made a concerted scramble, but emerged with soggy cuffs and jacket tails.

On the other side, the cliff was eroded to form enormous columns, like a vast set of organ pipes. The two of them clambered up the bank and squeezed themselves into the hollows between the pillars, which were perfectly round, covered with moss, and tunneled up fifty feet. Jason had some difficulty prying himself out again, but, thanks to Seely’s calm cliffside manner, didn’t get unduly alarmed about his predicament.

Everywhere across the sand, bits of scarlet seaweed were strewn like autumn leaves. Seely found a long, rubbery piece of seaweed that looked like a donkey’s tail. When she brandished it like a whip, Jason roared, “If you hit me with that, I’ll yell for kelp!” Just then, a particularly wily wave ambushed them from the side and sent them tumbling over each other to escape its foamy clutches.