Dogs on the Beach

Taryn Tilton

I do not like things I cannot see the shape of: there are dogs on the beach in the distance, there’s breathing under the bridge.

It’s early morning. I’m out of breath. I’ve buried my feet in the sand. The dogs hobble and call out but I can’t be sure because I’m on the phone with my sister, who is telling me about a new kind of meditation. You tie a small weight to the end of a string, swallow it, and hold on to the other end. You wait for two days until it passes through your body. Then you have one end between your legs and the other out your mouth. She anticipates all my questions. “What then?” I ask. You can pull it, slowly. “Isn’t that harmful?” I ask. It’s just a string, she says, but I meant a kind of damage unseen.

She’s never going to do it. She just thinks it’s an interesting idea.

I look down to put my phone away and when I look up one of the dogs has fallen. “Just kidding!" the fallen dog screams, and it somersaults up and stands, running wildly to the stairs. So the dogs, in the end, are children. Two children in black sweatsuits.

There’s a vending machine on the boardwalk. On my way, I look under the bridge. There’s a woman, hunched and haggard. She says she’ll read my palm for $1.50 and I say I don’t have any quarters, though I think about this again in front of the vending machine, holding the change in my free hand, considering its weight. This could carry a string through me, sure.

There are no more dogs on the beach. I think the woman is not there either, but then I see her huddled behind a box. “Why are you here?” I ask, and she explains that it’s all very easy: she got lost and now her feet never heal. I take the change from my pocket and she says sorry, she doesn't do palm readings anymore, but she can pull a string through me for the same price. “Excuse me?” I say. Don’t worry, she says, it’s a magic trick. She takes out a needle and holds it to a lighter. “Not like that,” I say. Then how? But when I explain the meditation, she laughs. I look for a string hanging out of her mouth. There is only a gray tongue.

I go back to the hole I made in the sand and sit. I think of my sister, the events of her life, how to map them: maybe she’s lost but her feet are fine. Someone yells through the mist after a dog — or a child, I can’t be sure which.

There is a grand crone pulling the string of time through your body, sure. She sighs and threads it through you deftly, head down in concentration until the moment she looks up, winks, and snips, the newly cut string now shapeless in her hand.


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