by Johnathan Harper
In the divide of pavement and sand stands a sign with a stick-figure drowning under white waves, the words: “Beware of Riptides.” Parents keep their children close, distract them with scarping shells from the strand, the salt grime wrapped to their fingers. Two brothers sit in ankle deep water, the one that’s seven has his arms wrapped around the waist of the younger to anchor him. They try to tug against the tide, where the ocean sucks them in, inch by heaving inch.
Last July Scott Woods drowned when trying to save a young teenage boy he spotted flapping in the waves like a bird with broken wings. In a local hotel a housekeeper rolls her eyes and tells everyone she passes, “I’m best friends with the wife, they’ve been over at my house crying for three days straight.” She laughs and says, “I’m so tired of listening to it.” She wheels her cart of cleaning supplies from the dungeon up to the messed rooms to sanitize the coming and goings of people rolling in and out of her life.
Myrtle Beach has one of the strongest concentrations of mini-golf courses in the country. A city of small Dutch Windmills and rounded dinosaurs tossing golf balls down their tails. Some offer booze, pirate ships that dolphin spit water, or the shade of a pretty woman’s face on a billboard tattooed with “MISSING.” Myrtle Beach does not advertise on their website that they are 17th in the country for violent crimes per capita. Or the police report last year that read, “Both share a baby daddy. They locked horns like bulls on the stairs to the Aquarius.”
A hurricane spun past the beach one week, its fringe clouds tipping their hat at the passing shore. We asked ourselves time and time again, “How to feel alive in a dying town?” We waded into the water to play with waves that shadowed us. We cycled and spun through them, even the ones too large that sent us somersaulting back to the sand, slamming our backs into chipped shells while the saltwater flushed blood from our cuts.
Once every ten years it snows. That winter we walked into a starless horizon, where the desolate quiet was cut by the waves lifting and rolling and pressing furrows into the gathering snow.
Johnathan Harper lives and studies in Syracuse, NY and is the co-founder of the upcoming online literary magazine Birds Piled Loosely. “The Beaches Of” was written using a blend of personal experience and local news reports of when he lived in Myrtle Beach, SC.