April 6, 2012: Story, 2. CWE 188

man questioning gloves and jolley trolley money from Ian…walked home on beach night she was scolded

the point: Jaime works at a candy store. She is insecure and panicky. An old man yells at her for touching the fudge. She walks home on the beach, which isn’t safe.

She spun cotton candy that summer in a soundproof booth overlooking the boardwalk. It was the summer before she left for home for college, and she hastened the leaving by moving to the beach with her friends and landing a job at a candystore. She left the house each day at 2:00 and walked along the beach to make it to work by 3:00. Families layered the beach with sheets and blankets and towels and portable cribs and playpens. The ocean foamed over the sand while children shrieked and parents called them in closer to the towel, the sheet, their legs. Families were set up like wolf packs along the ocean’s edge, herding children back to the blanket where coolers spilled ham and cheese sandwiches and juice boxes. Wet hair was pulled into licks around the children’s faces, and their bathing suits dried in minutes and picked up the sun’s heat. They held cookies in their hands, the chocolate chips melting. The sun was so bright. The sky was the bluest blue she’d ever seen, and her toes pressed into the wet sand as she walked.

Long afternoons passed while she twirled paper cones around the metal vat, winding the hot threads of sugar into pink clouds. The booth was kept cool so the sugar poured into the giant metal vat didn’t gum up the motor. She watched the vacationers walking the boardwalk through the cube of windows while the metal vat whirred. Small children pulled their parents behind them like wagons, running to the games and rides. College students in striped aprons and visors manned the ticket booth blinking with racing lightbulbs. They bleated through megaphones, calling the children to their games. Tin racehorses pulled closer to the finish line when water from a gun streamed through the hole. Plastic rings bounced over rows of glass bottles, and green frogs floated on pink lillypads. Roulette wheels clicked as they spun wildly. Hawkers hawked, children’s laughter rang like bells, and parents groaned against their fists when the children burst into tears minutes later.

Jaime didn’t hear any of this from the soundproof booth where she spun cone after cone of cotton candy. Yellow August sun simmered on the the bleached boardwalk and laid hot handprints across the beach goers’ golden shoulders and foreheads. Sweat beaded on their faces and limbs, and the people looked lit on these summer afternoons, as though each had swallowed a small piece of the sunlight. It was quiet and cool in the booth, and she watched the families, like a silent movie in slow motion.

Jaime’s father had finally moved out when she was a junior in high school. He didn’t leave willingly. Courts and lawyers and cops were involved. The family spent her senior year exhilirated at his absence but weary from feigning normalcy, from finding new ways to walk through the house. The stress of it all made the windows hum in their frames and the plates clatter quietly in the cabinets. The house didn’t shake and tremble any longer. The chimney wasn’t crashing through the fireplace and the stove wasn’t catching on fire, but the quiet, persistent buzz was unsettling. They were a small colony of bees, humming around one another in the paper hive. Jaime had jumped at the chance to move to the beach to escape the humming in the last months before college. Now that she was here, she found that the humming had followed her to the small house on St. Louis Street a block from the beach. The whirring of the cotton candy machine drowned out the hum, and she loved the hours spent twirling clouds.

That night, Jaime worked the counter with the rest of the girls. Lines of people snaked around tables holding tubs of saltwater taffy separated by pastel colors. The girls behind the counters ran around the store’s perimeter. They weighed fudge on sheets of waxed paper, piled chocolate covered pretzels into giftboxes, and shoveled sour watermelon slices through the narrow necks of cellophane bags.

When her shift was over at midnight, Jaime waited on a white bench on the boardwalk for the Jolly Trolley’s last trip into Dewey. The beach was too dark for the mile long walk. Tall street lights dropped small yellow circles of light on the boardwalk. The beach stretched black and endless beyond the lights. The backs of the white benches lining the boardwalk could be flipped so the sitter could watch the beach or the ocean. While she waited for the trolley each night, Jaime listened to the ocean breaking apart across the beach behind her. She thought about flipping the back of the bench so she could face the ocean while she waited for the trolley but was afraid she’d miss it or that the trolley wouldn’t see her and would drive past. It wouldn’t be safe to walk the mile home along the pitch black beach.

Begin to move into specific night…work out timing of background and actual event. Maybe there should be no background at all. Riding the Jolly Trolley home with the drunk vacationers each night was a ten minute party. Men singing Journey…women acting as tour guides…skin glowing with sugar…

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