The 39th set of OLWG prompts are: It’s mostly true; We don’t make sense together; Derision.
Devin steered his sailboat through a light chop, somewhere between the marina and nowhere in particular. He’d taken down his sail and was under power, trolling as slowly as the engine would go without cutting out. He was in no mood to argue with the southeasterly’s today.
As the shoreline grew larger on his aimless approach, Devin conceded he needed to determine an actual destination. He spun the boat about and arbitrarily headed north. He checked the fuel gauge. Plenty of diesel to poke along for hours. He had time to decide. Sudden inspiration or boredom would dictate where he would anchor for the night.
The July sun was a warm shield on Devin’s shirtless back against the damp, windy chill. Seagulls silently swept by, pausing briefly to survey Devin and his boat for anything promising. Devin had a strongly held theory that seagulls could smell junk food from fifty miles away. He closed the lid of his cooler, and tucked his lunch of Arnie’s Fry Basket fish and chips a little further under the bench.
If Leah were here, Devin mused, she’d be shooing off the gulls, pissed off that Devin had taken the sail down. Or, she’d say she was pissed. But, as it turned out, Leah said a lot of things that weren’t necessarily true.
When Devin first met Leah, getting together made perfect sense. Both were divorcees with children roughly the same age. Both loved doing anything that involved being outdoors. Music, movies, football, social injustice, art…he seemingly could talk to her about anything. She even agreed that butternut squash has no place inside pasta dumplings. That Galapagos “Boobies” ought to have been given another name long ago. That weekend getaways and vintage cars are two of the best things ever. She had never sailed before she met Devin, and told him she was loving learning how to. Devin believed he and Leah saw the world the same way.
“She’s so bull-shittin’ you, dude.” Leah’s eldest son’s scoff came back to mind, and Devin winced at the memory.
Devin was standing on Leah’s back deck, alone, nursing a beer. Leah had invited a large group of friends over to celebrate the spring equinox. On these occasions, Devin often found himself alone on Leah’s back deck nursing a beer. Leah’s friends were focused only on each other, uninterested that anyone outside their circle was present.
Leah’s eldest son, a kid around 19 or 20 years old, was home for the weekend. Also feeling left out, he asked to join Devin, offering Devin a second beer. As the men made small talk, Leah’s loud cackling laugh suddenly filled the quiet night air. Her son shook his head in obvious embarrassment.
“She’s so bull-shittin’ you, dude. I’m just sayin’…” the kid shook his head again. “I mean, seriously, I like you man. You’re way better than some of the other assholes she’s been with, but…yeah. Anyway. I thought you should know. She’s fakin’ it.”
The blunt force of the boy’s blatant statement completely threw Devin off. First of all, the kid rarely, if ever, spoke more than two words together. Secondly, what other assholes? Devin couldn’t remember Leah mentioning past boyfriends. They only talked about their ex-spouses. She never said anything about other men.
Devin asked, “You saying, she…what? Says I’m a jerk?”
“No, not exactly. She bitches about you. Like, about always going sailing. She goes, ‘I don’t want to go sailing again!“ Leah’s son spoke in a snarky falsetto voice that sounded nothing like his mother. “But, like, when you’re around, she’s all, ‘Oh, Dev! I can’t wait!’,” again in the screechy falsetto. “Such bull-shit.”
Devin took a couple of long gulps of his beer, needing a minute to think. He knew the right course of action was to let it go, but curiosity got the better of him.
“Anything else, since you seem to want to share?” He hoped he sounded casual and not panicky, which was what he was feeling.
“Like I said, she bitches about you, a lot, about a lot of different stuff. Hey, I’m just sayin’, I can tell you’re really into her, and, like, you’re cool. I like you. I just thought you should know.”
Devin didn’t know what to make of the exchange with Leah’s son. On one hand, he wanted to punch the brat square in the face for going on like he was Devin’s good-guy buddy. More to the point, how could a young kid like him know about what really goes on between a man and a woman? On the other hand, he wanted the boy to tell him more and how he knew that Leah was “faking it.” Instead, he made apologies about feeling tired and headed home.
The next day Devin called Leah and told her about his conversation with her son.
“Oh, Dev. I’m so sorry. He shouldn’t have squealed on me like that.”
“Yeah. I mean, OK, it’s nothing. He’s mad because I told him he couldn’t, I don’t know, get a place in the city with his friends, or whatever his issue is with me these days. He shouldn’t tell you about private…He’s in a phase. Thinks I don’t understand where he’s coming from. He’s just getting back at me.”
Devin waited for Leah to explain further, maybe something about how her son misunderstood what she was saying, or better yet, reassure Devin that she loved him. But Leah said nothing more. The call ended, and that was that.
Devin dropped anchor in a small cove perfectly situated out of the wind, and with a full view of the now setting sun. He lit the small hibachi and plopped a hamburger on its grill. He then went looking for the expensive bottle of Glen Levitt he kept aboard. It was Leah’s birthday present to him the year before. He took a long swig and then popped open a beer.
A seagull landed on the cabin roof, obviously curious what Devin had to offer. “You follow me all the way here?” Devin teased the bird. “Hey, I get it. I’d go a long way for an order of Arnie’s, too.”
He reached under the bench for the unfinished bag of fish and chips, and while he cooked his dinner and finished his beer, he threw French fries in the air for the seagull to catch.
Sometimes the prompts spark a story right away, and sometimes it’s more like a candle that keeps blowing out. The first story I wrote I abandoned because it wasn’t shaping up to be a story so much as a character study with nowhere to go. This one was almost 3x as long, so I spent the week with a sentence sythe.