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Looking for Clues

You know I will walk the shore, eyes down, watching those prints form, looking for any object that isn’t sand or pebble or broken shell or dried seaweed.

The imprints that my feet leave will be clues that I was concerned, clues that will only last till the tide returns, or a dog let loose scuffs them messy. I’ll pick up anything I find and examine it, feeling the grit and the grains of sand and brushing it only half-clean. A shoe, maybe, leather, black, salt-cured and sun-baked, the laces rough like an unshaved face, lonesome, its pair long gone.

I will look up at the cliffs, red and scarred, imagining his walk from there to the sea. A long walk he took every day, the tide sometimes in, sometimes out.

I don’t know what he was wearing, precisely—whether he had a towel, whether he was clothed and changed there, even whether he was ready at all. Whether it was planned or an impulse acted upon.

The last time I saw him, he said his morning swim was a swim in the big sea. I just nodded, smiled, said right. When he was leaving, he went to hug me and I didn’t know what to do. When you’re fifty-five and your eighty-three-year-old father who’s never hugged you walks up to you with arms outstretched, you just think he’s making up for lost time.

And I know I will find them. The spectacles my father will have removed before walking into the sea, walking to swim, like every morning, or so I thought, just walking till he decided it was deep enough to stretch forward, feet off the bottom, arms forcing the sea away from his body, the air from his lungs, out, out, out.

Flash Fiction by Sean Baker

Published in Summer 2017


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