By Your Side Part 7: “Jay”

Every week I’ll install parts of this California short story I wrote three years ago for a fiction class. It’s since been rediscovered and reread and revised and unrevised for what I ultimately wanted to accomplish in this small story of a summer in between college and the growth of a youth in love. Here is part 7 for this story, and I hope you enjoy!

*If you would like to read the next part of the short story, stay tuned, or simply click above the BY YOUR SIDE page for the full story. P.K.

            It was hot and the air began to stiffen. Jay was just about ready for the road, home.
            With that attitude Noah stiffened himself and brushed off his brother for the gas. Jay took up his brother’s challenge to go out and get situated for the long-awaited drive home. Pearl Gas-for-Less took the longest to get to. It was also the cheapest. Jay smiled at the irony.
            A pretty Latina pulled up in an ancient BMW convertible and got out. She had cut off white shorts and a weird orange and purple tribal-print top. It was lace-backed as she turned around to grab her purse in the passenger seat. Jay was intrigued, having not even grabbed the nozzle to his own spot. He didn’t say anything, just stared. And she drove off in a matter of minutes without giving him a thought. It was enough for him to rethink his rush.
            After Pearl Gas he decided instead of going back to drive out towards the pier. He parked the car along Cypress Street in front of a big concrete lot cheaply fenced off. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he was there. He walked quickly across the street to some brickwork that gated around a spot of really green grass. He sat on a bench that was barely in the shade. Some sort of Spanish style brick layering—he was drawn to it.
            The sky was bright, and it seemed whiter than blue, and if it was blue it surely was pale. The buildings were low, spread out and worn out. It made Jay think of those framed postcards in Grandma’s kitchen of old surfing towns along the coast, except those had been taken in Huntington, Oceanside, all much further down the highway towards SoCal. Pismo Beach was strange, awkward in its location. You never really talked about the Central Coast, even in California.
            He did want to surf. It was why he came down with Noah in the first place, but he should have known when he didn’t see any boards or suits packed in with the luggage. There were palm trees oddly spaced out on the sidewalk, close to the long black streetlamps. One of the tallest buildings he saw in the town was right behind him, a white windowless block with BILLIARDS printed near the roof over a strip of red paint.
            He had a few dollars in his wallet. He went through the fence and cut across the cool grass towards the billiards. The grass led to a vacant back parking lot, vacant except for an old BMW convertible off to the side.
            He thought of her. He crossed the lot, but doing so he sat on the hot ground and waited, whistling. He didn’t know what he was singing, just that it came from June’s stumpy short brother who was sure piss-poor entertainment except for his whistling. Jay didn’t whistle until he met Alexander.
            Someone walked towards the car. Someone he’d never seen before, where the white cut-offs and lace back shirt should have been. Just a false alarm he laughed at, and the old man in the white wife-beater and green swim trunks stared suspiciously at the nineteen-year-old as he drove his car out of the lot. After his laugh Jay sighed, ardently missing the dark Latina he’d seen for just that moment in the gas station. He’d never see her again.
            Still it made him want to stick around, just a bit longer. He couldn’t help but hope something.

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