"At the Seaside"
From the park a man ran along the beach, breathing hard.
With each step he left a sneaker in the sand until, arriving
at a soft drink stand, he was barefoot and also thirsty.
“What’ll it be?” he was asked. After confessing he had no
money on him, he said, “Just a glass of water, please.”
“But you pay for water.” Implacable in his white vest,
the merciless purveyor waited. He had read the papers.
He knew about this man before him: how, last year, he
had floated ten days and nights out on the waves, filmed
by sponsors, a team bringing him food and sun screen.
Afterwards journalists pressed round him for his story.
He couldn’t talk, his tongue was like fur. So his dog,
happening along, filled them in, carrying on with verve
and panache—can you believe this?— as if the exploit
had been its own, though of no interest. “In my view,”
it began, “the dog’s role in survival is preeminent. Its
presence is indispensable to man—and woman.
A dogless beach is but a somber waste, without shadow,
without substance, without even sand. . . Mark my
word—” it hit the counter with its paw—“our final
rejection of that fiction known as best friend is imminent.
Masterpiece. Disasterpiece!" —they tried to calm it—
“that’s how the world crumbles. The tactile has replaced
the cerebral, all is meaningless trepidation. And it’s not
over. Smoking ashes wiill be the sum of man’s supremacy.”
Convincing enough, but, it had to be interrupted. It was.
Tearing two buttons from his vest, the barman dropped
them in a glass of water where they fizzed. “Drink this.
You divagate.” Rumble of a storm, approaching with a
thunderclap. The sea crashed and heaved in the glass.
The dog drank the storm, restoring relative quiet as
journalists drifted away, worried about what to tell their
editors. They suspected the words of a dog would not
give any weight to their story, its human interest, and,
factless, it could not employ fact-checkers. The assignment
being costly, they feared for their jobs. An iffy situation,
at best. The barman remembered it all from the previous
summer: how the little beach had acquired a certain fame
and how quickly that had vanished. Staring at the thirsty
man, he snapped, “Last year I gave your dog a glass of
water.” At this, the man looked round for his dog, his
best friend, but without hope. There was no dog in sight.