Summer of the Horseshoe Crab
Fiction by Charles Bane, Jr.
Sometimes when you wake in the night and hear the rain and the seaplanes going over and see their red lights flashing outside the window, the feeling is stored inside you, and remains inside as day breaks and you open the screen door of the cottage where you’re spending the summer. It is like the book you are reading: your day is lived as Crusoe or David Copperfield.
I walked outside the house and down to the beach. The horseshoe crabs were gone. They had begun coming ashore two mornings earlier, and I had run to the house to tell my uncle of them, and not show my nervousness. He followed and, lifting one by the tail, threw it into the Sound. This was a wonder. Now the crabs had gone.
She was sitting on the beach not far from the house — the girl whose parents were renting the cottage beside ours, and who was my age. She was named Jody and wore her sweaters turned backward on purpose. When I met her, I was puzzled. I had not had a feeling like this, nor knew how to behave inside its pool. I had a sense of belonging to another who I barely knew. She read to my cousins in the afternoon. She sat against a tree, and they would listen to her, and I pretended disinterest. But I watched her as though she might reveal, in her lifting voice or in the tale she unfolded, some secret I waited to know.
I walked to her on the beach as she skipped stones, and sat beside her. She looked at me.
“Were you awake last night?” she asked.
“I was, too,” she said. “I signaled you with my flashlight. Do you have one?”
I promised to find one.
She looked out on the water, brushed the sand from her knees. “Lunch,” she said, and ran to her porch.
I watched her go.
That night I sat in my window. From the house beside us, a light flashed its unknown message from her sill. I blinked in return. The sky was an open field overhead, but my face was pointed, like a mariner, to a single star.
The 2016 Luminaire Award for Best Prose
We are pleased to announce this story as a finalist for The 2016 Luminaire Award for Best Prose, honoring the independent press’ best short stories and hybrid prose works of the year. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blindly and selects the full list of 12 finalists from hundreds of entries. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final.
CHARLES BANE, JR. is the author of several collections of poetry, including the recent The Ends Of The Earth: Collected Poems (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015), as well as I Meet Geronimo and Other Stories (Avignon Press, 2015) and Three Seasons: Writing Donald Hall (Collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University). He created and contributes to The Meaning Of Poetry Series for The Gutenberg Project. You can find him at charlesbanejr.com.