Sea Mud

Valery sits on the concrete base of a lamppost on a beach in Southern California. The base is solid, built to withstand rising tides. Later, Valery will find this fact significant. A monument of progress, a beacon for the deeply American act of paving over nature as if in victory—Let There Be Light—will hold her barely teenaged self through what is to come.

A dozen feet away, Michael asserts his foot into the surf. The waves peak around his tanned climber’s calves. The marine parfum is strong—salt, decay, rust. Back turned against Valery, he thrusts his hands into his boardshort pockets.

Valery thinks he looks for answers in the waves. She is fourteen yet she can accurately guess his question—is she old enough. She finds his monologue around this ethical dilemma foreign. A waste of time. Offensive, even. As if she didn’t have a say. As if she wasn’t even there.

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