The Bargain of Winter


The high winds helped the shoreline view’s clarity all the way across the bay. The last sunset of the year had brought lots of dark silhouettes to the horizon, and all the bonfires were lit. They’d get a few extra hours of darkness before the Rangers would shut the beach down at ten — a trade-off with the bargain of winter.

The Salinas Valley sat low and beyond the horizon, a mirage in which I liked to imagine that slough between the two mountain ranges instead was a wider stretch of Pacific, and the other outline across the bay was a cresting Hawaiian island. It was a simple fantasy, but one that has become more fixed and firmly real as I’ve aged.

Kids below were playing some form of a game on a makeshift table. I couldn’t believe they were barefoot. The game seemed improbably bizarre, like a mix of beer pong and shuffleboard but played with a single … marble? They carried their plywood and chairs everything back up but you could still see the footsteps of their flat little wooden island, that trailing afterimage of competition like a coronal sunset.


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