Fiction from Stephanie Yu

Beach sand leading down to the ocean.

Photo: MontyLov

Sun Surf Skin Rye

The old couple is staring at the sun. Their sandwiches are Italian on rye. The air is salt and vinegar. The seals are molting on the beach. The tide is coming in.

The wind is lashing at their weathered faces. It’s flicking pieces of sand against their skin. The wind is blowing crumbs from their fingers. It’s scattering them onto the beach. It’s polishing the sheen on the rocks. It’s boring grooves into the slabs. It’s flinging bits of seal skin into the air. It’s pulverizing seal skin flakes into dust.

The sun is drawing up age spots from beneath their flesh. It’s pooling their melanin to the surface. It’s liquefying collagen. It’s rendering all elasticity slack. It’s turning the mayonnaise in the sandwiches. It’s separating yolk from oil. It’s breeding something in the lunch meat. It’s fostering pre-listeria. It’s willing the seals to shed their pelts. It’s transforming brown fur into ash.

The old couple is beginning to feel clammy and cold, but the skulls inside their heads are warm. The rocks are tumbling in the waves, but the centers of them stay ancient and dry. The seals’ skins are sloughing off, but their hearts are encased in fat. The rye is exposed and turning stale, but the meat within grows dank and rotten.

The tide is coming in. It’s pummeling the rocks. It’s warping the wood. It’s tearing seal from skin. It’s clambering up the shore. It’s lunging towards the couple. It’s spraying salt into their eyes. It’s moaning for flesh and rye.

Their shoes are getting wet. Their brows are dripping sweat. Their stomachs are churning round. Their lungs are reaching for air, but they’re breathing in only surf and skin. A half-eaten, half-curdled sandwich is floating away on the waves, the loaves the color of two mottled hands. It bobs for a moment on the horizon before disappearing completely from view.
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Stephanie Yu lives and writes in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Eclectica, Hobart, Longleaf Review, and Phoebe Journal, among others, and has been previously selected for the Wigleaf Top 50. Find her @stfu_stephanie.

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