First published in Mirror Magazine Online (2010)
A man sits on the beach playing a dirge on his clarinet. His bare toes tap sand as white as new-fallen snow. A dateless palm mourns in rhythm with notes that sway on carefree waves. The smells of salt air and dead fish join the procession.
He tilts his head back and watches wispy clouds ride a westward current across winter’s evening sky, as if pursued by a posse. The music stops.
The man holds the instrument at arm’s length and stares at it, tilting his head first to the right, then the left, and then back to center. He returns the instrument to his mouth, and the plaintive music continues. He performs this routine twice more. Each time the music resumes it is louder and angrier than before, yet the melody does not change.
Finally, he springs to his feet and hurls the clarinet into the ocean. It disappears, resurfaces—its keys glistening in the moonlight—and floats out to sea, waving goodbye as it moves from one wave to the next. The man brushes the sand from his shorts, pivots in place like a soldier on parade, and tromps in the soft sand toward weathered beach houses. He’s whistling a happy tune. There’s a smile on his face.