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Dawn Breaks Everything

By Simon Langham


Sunrise floods the Mexican village in a volley of roosters. Chance emerges from the depression next to the coals of last night’s bonfire, left behind like the empty beer bottles.

“It’s a fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning,” he says aloud,
and the church bells a block away clang with the energy of the acolyte given
the job of ringing them. Despite the assault of the piercing bells and emphatic roosters, he rises like this is where he prefers to wake up every morning, brushes the sand and sleep wrinkles from his shorts and Hooters
t-shirt.

High tide attacks the beach, scooping away wide berths of sand, chases the
lone gringo fisherman with it when he sees the surf divas coming his way on
the empty beach. He tries to stand his short strands of black hair with the frosted tips back up on his head, hoping to reactivate the gel with his fingertips. The dark stubble on his chin gives him just the right look for
this morning. He considers himself good-looking, not real tall but built, younger looking than his 28 years. He figures that must be the case because younger girls always look him over.

The half-dozen divas, that’s what he calls them, are laughing together at
the water’s edge. Then they all bend over, like dancers at the titty bars, and attach their surf leashes to their ankles. They enter the water with more laughter and immediately begin to paddle out to the break, all centered perfectly on their boards. He notices their asses slightly raised, looking as fine as the creamy yolk of a sunny-side up egg. He thinks about getting some breakfast. Only after their fine departure does he notice the young man sitting on the log behind him. The man turns a small box over and over in his hand.

“Look at that. Did you see them?” Chance points with a dismissing gesture.

“Are you talking to me?” The man on the log looks up from the box in his hand.

“The surf divas. Why do they do that?” Chance sits on the log at what he considers a macho distance from the man with the box. He pulls a coin out of his pocket and proceeds to make it appear and disappear as he shifts it from palm to palm.

“Surf?” The man answers after spotting the group of surfers in the water. Then he goes back to turning the box.

“Hang out in groups, like flocks, look like they’re having more fun without you?” Chance puts the coin back in his shorts pocket.

“I don’t know.” The young man looks up the beach, opens the box and stares
at the contents. His blonde, almost bone white hair is in tight curls next to his scalp. His hands have long fingers that try to gently close the box, but at the last moment it snaps shut.

Chance looks him over: the guy’s nose is a peeling mess; streaks of red skin wrap around his shoulders where the sun block missed; his wide-brimmed straw hat has one of those girlish tassels in the back he obviously bought off one of the beach vendors. They couldn’t look more different, Chance brown as a local and this red and white hombre looking fragile as the tissue paper hanging from wires above the cobblestone streets. This poor guy doesn’t have a clue.

“It’s because all women are lesbians.” Chance answers his own question. "All women would prefer living in a harem.”

The young man palms the closed box and reaches out his other hand. “Have we met? I’m Tony Nicely.”

“Chance, Chance Rocket.” He strokes his stubble with the back of his fingers
and looks out where the waves are breaking and the surfers bob above their
boards. “Life, it’s fucking complicated, Nicely. My wife was my best friend since middle school. I thought I knew her. The bitch tricked me. She, they, don’t know how to chill. Don’t watch the same movies, read the same books.
You got to watch everything you leave laying around, the magazines, your sox.” He takes his first real good look at the box in Nicely’s hand. “That’s not what I think it is?”

“We watch the same movies.” Tony quickly injects. “We don’t read the same
books though.” He looks down, pushing the sand around with his sandaled
feet.

The first hour of the morning ends, the hour that has no need for shade. The
beach restaurant starts to barbeque whole chickens, split in half and flattened to the grill like they slammed into it at high speed. The smell makes its way to the men on the beach reactivating Chance’s hunger, mixing with the sewered smell of the nearly dry river that empties with force here during the rainy season. Chance pulls his shirt off anticipating the heat of the day. The young man notices the shirt as Chance lays it carefully over the log.

“If they’re not all lesbians they are at least all bisexual and don’t like men. Let me see that.” Chance points to Tony’s closed palm.

Tony reluctantly hands Chance the ring box and digs at the sand with his sandals. Chance opens the box and reveals the engagement ring. Shakes his head at the ring.

“Shit, Nicely. Shit.” Then he shakes his head at Tony. Over the sound of the
surf he can hear the divas hooting to each other. The first pod of beach vendors, in their sparkling white sales clothes, settle on the malecón to wait for the late rising sunbathers and Mexican families with beach umbrellas. Come afternoon the umbrellas and their families will be laced together by tracks in the sand of the vendors. But now dogs stretch as the sun reaches and warms their cool sand. The church bells start up again announcing the next mass and the roosters think they missed something so begin their morning crows all over. Chance is spurred on by the tropical sounds of the morning.

“And they leave their hair everywhere. My wife and that blow-dryer, the bathroom was fucking gross. If I could get in the bathroom. And whenever I
mentioned my PEnis, she’d say “my cliTORis” like it was some big joke. Where do they get that kind of sense of humor?”

“I... I don’t know.” Tony looks up the deserted beach again. The fisherman has given up teasing the surf with his pole. He throws his bait to the pelicans
in formation, gliding a few feet above the waves. They dive in precision. Tony looks back to his box in Chance’s hands.

“And monogamy, like with marriage,” Chance gestures with the box. “Causes
decreased libido over time.”

“Where’d you hear that?” Tony sits up on the log and reaches out for the box.

“A study, a study on a bunch of gorillas.” Chance takes the ring from the box. “Promiscuity causes the opposite.”

“Gorillas! Not all marriages are like… Give me back the ring,” he says as a
parade of bony, thin-haired dogs walk the tide line looking for breakfast.

“Maybe they’ll clean for you once in a while. But trust me, it’s too complicated.”

“Can I have my—”

“I got it figured out finally. Why men are so open, giving, quick to share what they have, and women are so selfish and possessive. Like my wife, I couldn’t sip out of her glass, or take a bite of food off her plate. It all has to do with reproductive tendencies. With men—”

“Give me the ring.” Tony does a controlled rise from the log and holds out his hand to Chance. Chance gives him the dismissive gesture and continues with his theory.

“With men it’s to spread their semen, let it go, loose, fly. A woman’s reproductive tendency is to trap, keep, hold on to. My wife ordered à la carte at Chinese restaurants instead of sharing. No species can get around their reproductive tendencies, Nicely. You’ve got to return that ring.”

“Put it back in the box and give it to me, give me the ring.”

“Sure, sure. You want to know why we’re deep in discussion like this?”

“Give me—”

“Because we’re not deep in pussy.” He snaps the box shut.

Who the hell do you think—” He lunges for the box.

“You’re going to thank me for this.” Chance dodges Tony’s lunge and pitches
the ring box into the surf where the sea foam gobbles it up. He slips his hand back into his pocket and pulls out the coin.

“What the hell!” Tony yells as he runs to the water’s edge. He charges into the surf with his knees lifted high as if the water is going to be cold.

Chance hollers to him over the sound of the breaking wave against the beach. “Sometimes you don’t feel like washing your damn dish right then. You know what she calls me now? Her wasband! We haven’t even signed the papers.”

The wave breaks and recedes revealing the ring box half buried in the sand
being dragged over it. Tony scrambles for it, it’s open and empty. He
frantically starts searching the sandy bottom as he turns to the beach.

“Get down here and help me, Rocket. The ring—” The next wave sweeps into
Tony, knocks him to his knees and separates him from his hat.

“You don’t get it, Nicely.” Chance yells back then turns away from the water. You can get away with any thing in Mexico. Personal freedoms abound.

Maybe Chance will never go back to the states, maybe become an ex-patriot
instead, fill his mind with memories of flawless weather. He sits on the log
to ponder his latest idea. He doesn’t notice the woman standing behind the
log holding two beers in her hands until she speaks.

“What’s he doing?” She asks Chance. He gives her a very quick but complete once over. Kind of boyish looking female he assesses, but okay.

“You know him?

“Sure, he’s my boyfriend. I’m Lindsey.”

Chance looks with longing at the two beers in her hands, the brown bottles
sweating, a lime wedge pushed into the necks. Just how he likes his Mexican beer. “You’re Tony’s future ex? Well I guess number fives qualify for old Tony.”

“Rocket, get down here!” Tony yells again with his back to the beach.

“What does that mean?” Lindsey asks and takes a swig from one of the beers.

“In Alaska, for instance, you’re probably a ten. But here on the beach…”
Chance shakes his head. “He dropped something.” Chance looks from Lindsey to Tony. “Tony!”

“Hey Tony!” She yells to him and he notices her for the first time. She waves then turns back to Chance. “You’re weird.” He stares intently at the beers. “Would you like a beer?”

“Really? You don’t mind sharing? Just a sip?” He takes the beer and a long
swallow of it. Looks at her again. “And you have short hair. Probably don’t
use a blow-dryer at all. You eat Chinese?”

Tony backs out of the beach break, keeps his eyes on the next wave, his
straw hat back on his head, limp with drips that land on his shoulder. Chance watches him try to resume some dignity in the foreground on the empty beach while the divas perform backflips off their boards, as excited by the end of their ride as they are by catching the wave in the first place. Big
show-offs. He hopes their lips are getting sunburned. He turns back to Lindsey.

“You have girl parties?”

“No blow-dryer. Yes Chinese. No, no girl parties. I have five brothers. You ask the strangest—”

“My penis…” He spits the word.

“What about your penis?” She asks but doesn’t look at his crotch. When he
doesn’t answer she shrugs, takes a swig from the beer in her hand.

Chance walks down to meet Tony and says quietly to himself, “That’s nice.
Tony Nicely, lucky guy.”

Tony throws his hat down and Chance figures those curls on his head are so tight they don’t even get wet. It Tony didn’t look so stupid, Chance would
think about getting his defense up.

“You owe me a ring…I’ll never find…We’ll never…I can’t believe…”

Chance points back at Lindsey with his beer bottle. “Hey, future ex, come down here. Tony’s got something to show you.” Then to Tony, “She’s nice,
Nicely.”

“What am I supposed to show her? An empty soggy box?”

Lindsey joins them and slips her arm around Tony. “What’s in the box, Tony?”

“It was supposed to—”

“We have a surprise for you, Lindsey.” Chance cuts in.

“What do you mean, we? You shit head!”

“Let me see that?” Lindsey takes the misshapen box out of Tony’s hand and
opens it. “It’s empty. Where’s the ring? It was a ring, wasn’t it?”

“Tony lost it in the surf. He wanted to propose but the dawn breaks
everything, even the mood from the night before. Steve Martin said that.”

Tony makes a move towards Chance, away from Lindsey. “Shut up, Rocket.
Lindsey I’m sorry—”

“Oh, let me do it.” Chance says stepping between them. He takes Lindsey’s
hand in both of his, brings it to his lips and kisses it. “Steve Martin also
said, marriage brings a misery of a rare kind, the kind that loves company.”
He reaches gently behind Lindsey’s ear and produces the ring from it, then
hands it to Tony. “There you go.” He turns with the beer, takes a big gulp,
walks away just as the surf divas return to shore. The women bend over to
separate the velcro holding the leashes to their ankles, laugh loudly, and
whip their long wet hairs back over their shoulders.

 

Simon Langham is a published poet, a produced playwright, and a disillusioned physician now handcrafting yurts on the coast of Alaska. Her short fiction appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of the South Dakota Review "Dawn Breaks Everything" received honorable mention in the Radical Arts for Women Short Fiction Contest.

Image: Surfboard, by Pearson Scott Foresman, via Wikimedia Commons.

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