East Beach

1.
It was a hot clear day in early July 1991, and each time Sam’s father pointed at something and said, “Here we go, big man, picture opportunity,” that was the picture Sammy took. Russ said, “The salty dog there,” and Sam turned his Polaroid on the ragged man standing with his cooler and pole at the breakwater’s spray-tossed end. Russ said, “Lifeguards, three o’clock,” and Sam captured the two bronze icons in their tower. But when Russ saw a gang of boys storming an imaginary bunker in the dunes—boys about Sam’s age, armed with pieces of driftwood and rusty old Red Ryder rifles, hollering, low-crawling, covering one another, throwing Coke bottles as potato mashers, throwing sand as falling shrapnel, ventriloquizing the explosions, the booming cannon, the rat-a-tat-tatting of enemy weaponry, then falling, wounded, dying, crying “ma-ma, ma-ma,” not at all thinking of their own mothers, some of whom were enjoying light beers under umbrellas just yards away—Russ forgot the game. He nudged Sam’s shoulder and pointed. “Run on over there, Sammy. Borrow a gun. I’ll snap a picture.” But Sam and his quivering lips refused, so Russ cast around and saw the sunbather. He knelt beside his son. “Babe alert,” he whispered. “Make sure she’s in focus.” And Sam took a picture of a tanning brunette, her bathing suit straps untied, her big toes sensually interlocked in the sand beyond her towel. “You dog!” Russ said. He tousled the boy’s hair. He stole and pocketed the picture before the opacifier had cleared and there was anything to see. “Can’t send you back to your mother with that,” he told Sam. “No sir.”
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