something at el matador

today my roommate and i drove to the beach. it was a terrible day to go, really – i mean the weather was perfect, 90 degrees and sunny – but this is los angeles, and today was a saturday, and also graduation weekend, and also the first very hot day of the year, so the freeway was clogged and the beach was packed and every restaurant looked like it hadn’t quite survived a war

anyway once we finally made it to el matador state beach we sat on our towels and took in the scene. a bridesmaid party in tacky white and flower crowns, a bunch of contoured girls taking modeling shots of each other, a million families and gay guys and blow up toys and volleyballs and outfits, everything from skinny jeans to thong bikinis

anyway i’m just trying to get to this one weird part, where my roommate said those kids are cute and i looked over and saw them, two emaciated little boys in matching swim trunks looking down at the sand as they pulled their parents along by the hands

yes they are, i said. they were probably four years old, and walking funny, heads down, bodies pitched forward, bones jutting out at every angle, so very very very tan and blonde, unable to walk in straight lines. as they passed my roommate whispered, they have some developmental disabilities. they’re moving like the kids i used to work with at the group home

and almost instantly one of them dropped his mom’s hand and zigzagged back the way they came, very concerned

what are you looking for buddy? his mom asked, following.

i can’t find my stick, he said, eyebrows furrowed. suddently he was walking walking straight towards me.

what’s that sweetie?

i can’t find my stick, he said again. now he was right in front of my blanket. looking at me with giant giant giant clear eyes.

we’ll find you another one, sweetie, said his mom, and gently pulled him away. poor guy, we said to each other. there are no sticks on el matador state beach. nothing but rocks and sand and water and people drinking vodka. they won’t find a stick for him anywhere.

maybe thirty minutes? an hour? later i sat up and placed my palm on my towel to steady myself. i felt something hard and lumpy underneath my hand. i folded back the blanket to see what it was.

a short, thick, knobbly stick, worn clean by the ocean, with one side covered in a row of unreadable driftwood runes.

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