The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 15, No. 2

Oceanic

by Stuart Dybek

It was probably fair to say, as beachgoers did, that the Lifeguard had returned to duty too soon. Though the shark attack occurred long ago, his wounds had yet to heal. Was it to compensate for his reduced physical stature that his guard tower rose higher than such structures normally did? Its ointment-white paint peeled like a sunburn. Sunbathers avoided the shadow it cast across the sand, not to mention the furrowed trail of rusted blood between the chair and the water. After the beaches closed on Labor Day, and the crew of lifeguards turned in their emergency-orange tank tops and went back to school or to less glamorous jobs, he remained behind with the ghost crabs and shorebirds. The prints of terns and sandpipers mottled the sand around the high throne where he sat, silhouetted against an Indian summer sky, like a king deserted by his subjects, his realm of sand and water reflected across his mirror-lenses, a silent, silver whistle clenched between his teeth.

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