Beach Towel – A Novel


Chapter 4:
A Wink Gone Wrong

Jonathan lay there, prone, cheek pressed flat against the asphalt, his mouth filling with the metallic taste of pennies. As his mind re-booted, recovering from the sudden stun, he now began connecting dots, running through all the possible reasons as to why someone should want to assail him in the parking lot of a Publix — but there were just too many recent developments to draw a reasonable conclusion.

Then Jonathan saw a woman with wildly overdone Smokey Eyes eyeshadow standing behind his assailant. “Oh, her,” he thought. “This is all a misunderstanding.

And, sure enough, it was. The events leading up to present, Jonathan sucker punched in a grocery store parking lot — his reusable shopping bag on its side, the chocolate cake he had been instructed to pickup from the Bakery skittered across the pavement in its plastic shell, the SpongeBob depicted in colorful frosting now warped and grotesquely skewed — could be traced back to a simple, harmless, miscommunicated facial gesture.

A fact that Jonathan tried to articulate as he pushed himself off ground, “This is all a misund–” But this factual basis for a resolution went unheard or unheeded as Jonathan took another blow, slumping back down to the parking lot pavement.

“You been sweatin’ my lady,” he heard the man say as he saw work boots approach. Shit. Steel-toed.

“Can you… just… wait a second?” Jonathan said, pushing himself up again. Jonathan looked up at the man. Took in his burly, sunburned arms. His eyes unreadable, but intent unmistakeable, behind mirrored Oakley sunglasses. Then again at the tattered steel-toed boots. The story his appearance told was that of a guy who worked outside, a guy who worked with his hands. Meaty damn hands.

Jonathan peered around the man, looking to the woman standing behind him — her crossed arms and expression saying: GET IT OVER WITH ALREADY. Jonathan wondered if she was not entirely pleased that her honor was being defended in this way, if her impatience hinted at an underlying feminism: don’t use your insecurity as a justification for male violence; I am not an object to be fought over. Or, was she just bored with the proceedings thus far — a jealous beatdown a commonplace occurrence in their household? In either case, Jonathan could see that she would be no help in intervening.

What a tragic turn — that all Jonathan had done to get out of his unfortunate situation since getting embroiled in this beach towel business — that it all might be undone by an unrelated incident. By what was intended to be received as a well-meaning (and not at all sexually charged) wink.

A wink gone wrong. That wink was a timebomb. And now it was going off, right at the most inopportune time, such as it would. Knowing that this misunderstanding might interfere with Jonathan’s time-table, knowing that he had to get that SpongeBob cake to Simon, and if he missed the deadline… well, that would be not good at all. So, Jonathan knew he would have to get himself out of this mess, too. Somehow. Now, while Jonathan’s mind races to find a solution, let’s pause the forward progress of our narrative to fill you in on what happened —

What happened was this: The woman with the over-the-top Smokey Eyes eyeshadow was a waitress at a diner on Las Olas Boulevard, just off the boardwalk. And not the day before we met Jonathan in Chapter 1, the very day before his life was turned flip-upside-down on the beach, Jonathan dined at that diner. Sure, he chatted up the waitress — as was his wont; we know by now that Jonathan is a loquacious and affable charmer

Updated after 310.


Theirs had been a powerful entanglement. First Love – for the both of them. That opiate of desire and pining mixed with the withdrawal of emotional dependency. All that dopamine and oxytocin, those misguided hormones flooding their brains and filling their heads with romantic overtures. The two youths learning how deep that drug dug its hooks. Learning what love meant, what they thought it meant, but leaning nothing at all – except the pain of heartbreak. You can’t find love without first having a broken heart, that’s the sad fact of it. Real love, adult love, would only come after. Only come once their naïve conception of the thing had been shattered – their hearts put through a food processor and pureed to a mushy bitter paste. See, only after First Love was broken – and they broken by it – would the pair understand what love is and, by extension, their capacity for it; their deserving of it.

A hard lesson for Jonathan, who – trained by movies and books and music – believed in the notion of soul mates – of the One. He believed that she was his One Love. But the learning found in pop culture are escapist fantasies. Betrayed by Meg Ryan and Nick Hornby and Bono, Jonathan would find that “the One” was part of that fantasy. And so he would find eventually concede that there was not just One woman out there that was meant for him. But! There could be were a Few Ones… After all, what are the odds he’d find the one, singular person on the whole planet? But a few women that he was perfectly compatible with? That seemed like both better odds and a more pragmatic, grown-up view of romance.

The more the thought about it, the more Jonathan’s romantic inner self warmed to the idea. We are all like sailors on our own boats at sea, he thought to himself. Streaming through the whitecaps – searching for dry land, or treasure. His mind drifted, bringing the metaphor to life in the whirling ocean of his imagination. I will stand on the bow, he thought, and stare across the water – through my telescope. If I look long enough, will I see another person, standing on another boat, looking back at me? Will they signal me? We are too far apart to hear – but there are other ways. His mind’s eye filled in the details: The person, holding the flags of Semaphore (the traditional language of sailors, of course) – arms akimbo, this way, then that – Jonathan consulting his trusty Semaphore manual (for doesn’t every sailor carry one?), realizing the whirling flags are spelling out a single word, over and over, like a drumbeat calling to him across the waves: “DESTINY”.

The idea brought him solace.

Lost Password

Sign Up