writing exercise #40: “What a time to start daydreaming”

Not sure what this is exactly. Not a story, just a collection of characters, a variety of vignettes. Happy to deviate from my relationship/dialogue standard in any case.

***

What a time to start daydreaming, flying down the coast highway, sunlight turning the Pacific gold, fruit stands and vacation condos lining the roadside. Then again, what a perfect time to start daydreaming. Anything was possible with a view like this. She laughed out loud, the wind ripping the sound from her throat to deliver elsewhere, miles down the road perhaps, to someone, she hoped, someone who could use it.

The wind tousled his hair, tickled his ears. He could have sworn he heard laughter on the breeze. He could use a laugh after a day of selling strawberries to tourists. The worst ones wanted to barter, as if his brown skin eliminated the need for the American tradition of paying what the price tag read. “How about $1.50?” they’d say, hungry to save that 50 cents. Sometimes he’d play along, say “No habla ingles,” and shrug. Game over, they’d throw down the two dollars and stomp off. He remembered a particular woman from earlier in the day, a tall blond in an oversized sun hat, god forbid she expose a single cell to the rigors of aging, who’d been dragging her Ken doll husband around the stand, poking at the melons, tsking at the oranges, beginning every sentence with, “When I was on the mainland…” She’d come up to him, tossed her hair. “Como esta?” she began. With her, he took an opposite approach. “Sorry, Miss, I don’t speak Spanish. Habla ingles?” He spoke in the clipped Boston accents of his Harvard schoolmates, the ones who’d have been shocked to see him helping out at his family’s fruit stand. What could you do? Family. The blonde’s face had dropped, her chance to show off her comfort with the natives destroyed. “Oh,” she’d said. “Just the strawberries.” He laughed, remembering how distraught she’d been.

A few miles north, the road twisted into a canyon, funneling the breeze into something heavier, a weight that blew the smoke backwards down the chimney and into her living room. Goddamn wind, she thought. Why do we live here? As always when that thought occurred to her, she took a look around, absorbed the fine wood architecture of her home, windows opening to endless pine trees and a small but bright flower bed, the boys’ treehouse and knew, again, she was doomed. She poured more Chardonnay, laughed without mirth.

He shivered as a gust blew leaves about his feet. Stupid wind. Making everything cold. Tricking a person into thinking the day was warm because the sun was out but nuh uh. Cold. And now he had to rake up the stupid leaves because he’d told his mom to shut up. He looked up as she opened the door. Maybe she’d take pity on him, but no, she was just letting his dog outside. His dog who bolted straight into the pile of leaves raked into a perfect pile, now, suddenly, perfectly destroyed, leaves blasted into the sky and drifting back down to settle into his hair, onto his shoulders, around his shoes. His dog skidded to a stop in front of him, tongue out, tail wagging, ready for love, unaware of the mess made. He had to laugh.

She hit the brake as the sun touched the ocean. Parked to face it, looked not quite exactly at the bright circle making its way into the Pacific. Turned the car off. Shut the radio down, sorry Paul McCartney, because yesterday, all my troubles seemed much closer, but today, they are so far away. The sun had passed the midway point. She looked to the side of it, above it, below it, careful to avoid direct eye contact. Lower, lower. The tip, she saw through her peripherals, hovered. This is it, she thought, please. And then the last bit of bright slipped below and bam, she saw it. The green flash. Dream into reality right before her eyes. She hollered, actually whooped with delight. And then started the car, eased back onto the highway. Hit the gas. Grinned big, giggled until the giggling erupted into peals of laughter, rolling back on the wind, mile after beautiful mile.

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