BACK / NEXT
a collection of short stories
THE BEACH HOUSE
Sheila had not meant to hurt Jim. Her negativity came from frustration, and to a degree, jealousy. It was a man's world. She was tired of Jim's constant pursuit of his own success, his own power. Anyway, she felt it was her contributions that made things happen for him, but the limelight always fell on him, flooding away the foundations of her own hard work. Yes, she was jealous. Bastard luck! No. Not just luck. It was Society that couldn't see her as the professional she was. She was the assistant to a MAN. It was Society that relegated her to a backseat position! Damn it all! It was too much. Years of the same movie, over and over. It was not the first time the pot had boiled over. There had been many occasions.
Jim tried to understand the humiliating position she was locked in, but he was a man. He was an professional too. It was a battle to be a professional no matter who or what you were. It always had been and it looked like it always would be. He couldn't understand her jealousy. They should celebrate the victories together. Sheila's flash of bitterness made him feel betrayed! She was acting like an enemy! Fear of Eve's ancient role consumed him.
They went back to their friend’s beach house, acting like the argument never happened. Jim was silent, morose. Sheila was hostile. Burt immediately recognized the dark cloud over them. He once had a wife and knew what they were. He tried to clear the air with light-hearted joking, but Jim was trying to disappear into a bottle of red wine, and Sheila refused to compromise for another man. She would fight the war by herself.
The day simmered on. The adults took themselves to their own private world while the children played on in their uncomplicated way in the shade of the beach umbrellas. Burt was windsurfing in choppy seas. Sheila was baking in the sun reading EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES. Jim was slowly losing all hope of rational thought with the help of his little friend, Vin Rouge. At six o'clock the party grudgingly came together for their evening meal. The previous evenings had been warm affairs, but now the table was frozen and heavy.
Burt needed to change the situation. Being married once was more than he could handle, and he didn't have to put up with the theatrics of other people's marriages now. He had the heart of a bachelor and he could see that Jim needed help. Sheila was a bitch! Burt suggested that Jim join him for a ride to a friend’s house. He had some tools he had borrowed and they had to be returned. He and Jim could stop at the local tavern and have a drink. Sheila could stay and watch the children.
“Just brilliant!” hissed Sheila.
“What a good idea!” said Jim.
Burt felt relieved.
Sheila suddenly revolted, “I'm coming too! I want to see the village! Why should I be stuck with the children!” Her chin was pointed like an icebreaker.
Burt swallowed hard and decided to keep his head down. Marriage, he muttered to himself.
Jim was fuming with anger and the red wine fired his tongue, “Look, I jus' wanna be by myself ... jus' for awhile...we jus gonna' for a li'l drink. We'll be right back!”
“I'm not going to be dumped with children while you two go off and get drunk! Goddam you men!” Sheila screamed. She was determined to have her way for a change. Men Indeed! She would show the bastards!
Jim's drunkenness made him growl like a mad dog, “A'right, if ya wanna be so fuck'n pushy, but I'm tell'n ya, shtay out'a my way! ... ya’jus, never unnershtan ... a mans' gotta' have time to himshelf !” He reached for his glass of red wine and guzzled it down, then quickly refilled the glass and drained it again.
Soon they were all stacked in Burt's sport-coupe like coals in the furnace. The burn was audible. As they were leaving the village, Burt decided to stop at the gas station for cigarettes. Jim was sitting in the front seat, and he turned to face Sheila who was crammed in the back with the children.
The mad dog was still in him as he barked, “A’right, Goddam it! You so intent go'n on thish trip, I tell you what! You go with Burt an'the kids, an' I'll shtay at the house!”
Sheila snapped back, “Oh Jim, stop acting like such pig!”
Before she could say anything else Jim jumped out of the tiny car. He was a broken Jack-In-The-Box banging a metal door behind him. He walked off into the dark surrounding the village. The night had come and the sky was blue-black, but there enough light from the crystal display of stars for Jim to stumble his way back to the beach house. He retrieved the half bottle of wine still on the table, and continued his meandering wobble to the shoreline where he sat on a large rock. He was like a pile of crumpled steaming laundry.
A few minutes passed, Jim mumbling and cursing himself, feeling incapable of resolving a conclusion to anything except his manic desire for alcoholic numbness. The gentle splashing of the night tide had lost its natural oceanic melody and had been replaced with the slushy friction of one sad world dissolving another. To Jim, the world was a Chernobyl meltdown. Then from behind, he heard the small thud of Sheila's footsteps.
“Son-of-a- bitch! I knew you'd come! Why can't ya leave me fuck'n alone! Jus' go back! Ya wanted to go so fuck'n bad, well go!” Flames circled Jim.
“Jim stop being this way! Let me talk to you!” Sheila pleaded.
“Go fuck'n away! I wanna be on my own!” he screeched.
He started to stand up and run away with his madness, but Sheila grabbed him by the arms, her face pointing into his. She began to shake him, “Jim stop acting like a fool!”
Jim pushed Sheila away. She grabbed him again. He pushed harder. She pushed back. He responded as he would to another man. Hard.
Sheila screamed, “You bastard!” and began to attack him with little flying fists, with their untrained knuckles, and thin fingers. An elbow was thrown in for good effect.
Jim was not a big man but he was much stronger than Sheila and with one open palm slap and a hook with his foot, he crashed the petite woman, his wife, to the stony beach. She fell hard, bumping her head on a rounded stone, stunning her momentarily.
Her anger dissolved into tears and pain. She began to sob hysterically, “You rotten bastard! You've really hurt me this time! You rotten male chauvinist bastard! You hit me! You hit me!”
Jim furious, the alcohol cleared from his mind by anger, reached down and pulled her brutally from the fetus position she had curled into. “Shut up! Shut your goddam mouth! You bitch! Do you think you would still be talking if I had hit you? You wanted a fight and you got one. You're goddam lucky I didn't hit you! Do you think I'd take this kind of shit from another man? So shut your Goddam mouth and leave me alone!”
Sheila, her emotions out of control, her pride and flesh hurt, she turned from his cold hate. With tears in her eyes she blindly ran towards the beach house. Jim sat for awhile, back on his rock, feeling the fury burn red. After a few minutes, between the endless chant of lunar driven waves, he could hear the mournful wail of sorrow pulsing from the dark shape of the beach house. Sheila's misery was unrestrained. He felt ashamed. He went back to the house and found her in their bed, rolled into a ball of sobbing hurt. He reached to her shoulder, and softly touched her. She turned, looking up at him with one well-developed shiny black eye.
“Ah Sheila... I'm sorry sweetheart... I'm a monster... I didn't mean to do this to you. Darling I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please forgive me...”
Love is so close to hate when one is blinded by emotion. The boundaries shift as easily as patterns in the sand. Hate and love swirl together and definitions are blown away. Sirocco winds tear at man and woman.
Sheila took Jim into her arms and made love to him violently, abandoned, and with more passion than she understood. A wild consuming lust roared through her body. She clawed her fingernails into Jim's back and both of them screamed. Ecstasy took them into the night.