Fiction | Short Story

Under the Pier

“She thinks he’ll ridicule the toothbrush.”

Her parents were in agreement for the first time in years: he wasn’t right for their daughter.

They sneak in the house after dark, once they know there’ll be no one to greet them.

Joe suggests the spot beneath the broken pier.  She remembers laughter and ice-cream.  She gathers things: blankets and beer, crisps, cigarettes and condoms.  She thinks he’ll ridicule the toothbrush.  So she leaves it at home.

But it isn’t like a summer beach day.  The breeze isn’t playful and it carries stale alcohol, not coconut oil.  The sand gives off a brackish odour and she worries the tide’ll flood in.  A drunk slurps on his flask and coughs.  Joe says she’s being a baby; they’re not being watched.  When she shows him her stuff, he takes a cigarette and lights it, and huffs smoke plumes into the dusk.

They sit in silence, their night a back to back of endurance.  She huddles in lee of his snores, listening.  But at dawn, she can’t remember the point at which he took the remaining full bottles and walked away.  She folds the blankets and offers them to the drunk along with the untouched crisps, and he mutters words into his collar that could be a curse, or could be thanks.