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November 2008
MARINE LIFE

Maria Allen
It was the weekend and so naturally I was at the beach with my girlfriends, Sandy, Cherry, Candy and Tina. We were doing the stuff we usually do, lying on thin beach towels, watching the sea roll in, looking out for Mr Right.
marine-allen-

As groups of girls go, we are a knockout. We are the kind of girls that all the men stare at when we walk onto the pebbly beach. We are a team of knockout girls.

We don’t get to the beach too late. We like to make an entrance. We pick our way over the cracked and splintered seashells in dizzyingly high stilettos and it takes us an hour or more to get to a decent spot. All of course done to show off our figures to their best advantage. None of us is under ten feet tall and with the stilettos, that makes us tall enough to be unsteady on our feet especially on the smoother stones. We all have the teeniest bikinis on — going nude like all the other girls is, quite simply, unprovocative — tiny scraps of material, just a fun garnish to cover the bee-stings and a little string that wraps around underneath.

We’re lucky that all of us, except Candy who has to go and see a woman about it — except I didn’t tell you that, sshh — are completely dark-hairless. Naturally so, I mean. (Except Candy). So the downy hairs that cover our bodies, that the scientists keep saying will almost certainly disappear in time — but how does that help us? — well anyway that hair is baby-chick-soft. In fact it became fashionable to remove this hair at one time but there’s a backlash against all that now and the five of us sport just a dusting of it all over, even over the scalp. But like I say we’re light years ahead of the other girls that go to the beach.

Well, anyway we were sitting on the gauziest beach towels, so that without even trying to, we were getting the best seashell impressions on our skin. If you lie for long enough, and if you are lengthy enough and thin enough, the ridges on the backs of seashells imprint themselves on you, all over, stripy-tiger-like, and for a couple of days afterwards people can look at you and think, ‘She went to the beach this weekend.’ Believe me, it takes a lot of hard work to get the right effect and we have a few tactics, which I won’t tell you because that’s part of our team secret.

I wanted to take a turn around the beach. You know how it is, see if anyone interesting had turned up this week. So I got up, slipped into the stilettos and inserted the heel between a stone and seashell and just tottered for a moment. Then I spotted another crevice and poked the tip of the heel of the other shoe in between and in this way I made my way very slowly to the ice cream stall about thirty metres away. I ordered a small cone with tutti-frutti ice cream and was about to pick my way back towards the girls again when I spotted him.

It was the kind of moment that gets frozen in memory-time. I hovered for a moment, one foot plunged to the ankle in pebbles, the other resting on my knee, stork-like. I was bending in the wind to admire him in his full glory. Well, well, well. Looks like the other girls didn’t just miss out on an ice cream.

He was beautiful. He was covered in just the glossiest, silkiest, darkest hair from the top of his crown to the pads of his toes. It fell down in undulating tresses all over. He had thinned just a little of it away, as current fashion dictated, around his eyes and off the tip of his nose and, as we made eye contact, it gave him that puckish effect that was all the rage right now. This is a man from the big city, I said. And I mean I did say it to him, ‘This is a man from the big city.’ I said it and cocked just the barest nub of a hardly formed hip curve at him.

‘Want some tutti-frutti?’ I asked looking down at him from a great height, pink shell indentations already speckling my skin. I mean, I know I looked good.

‘Are you offering?’ he said, his voice a rumble. From up here it sounded like distant thunder.

‘That depends if you’re taking,’ I said.

‘Oh I’m definitely taking,’ he rumbled again.

‘Well I’m right here,’ I said and then mouthed breathily, ‘stranger.’ I surveyed this specimen of perfect manhood for a moment before clattering to the ground in that appealingly ungainly way I’d been practicing for years.

This man was really bristling. The thick hair had been primped and shampooed and caressed until it shined. This was a man that a girl would like to stroke, a man a girl wouldn’t mind getting her fingers tangled in. I tittered, just a tinkle, didn’t want to come on too strong.

Dave, the ice cream vendor, was passing by. ‘Ices! Ices! Ices!’ he hollered. He stopped when he saw me, nodded over at the man I was with, and asked ‘How’s the ice, sugar?’

I transferred my titter momentarily to Dave — well he’s made no secret of his admiration for me – and I can be nice when I have to. ‘Cool, Dave, very cool.’

‘Tutti-frutti, right?’ he said running his eyes enviously over the man’s glistening pelt.

‘Right, as usual Dave,’ I said.

‘See you around then, sunshine,’ he said.

‘Without fail, Dave,’ I said and he turned to go, the rusty wheels of the cart bumping and squeaking over the stones. My eyes lingered a moment on the telltale patchiness across Dave’s back. Oh dear, he was definitely thinning there. Across the back too, that was just bad luck. And with that I turned my attention to the new boy in town.

He was wearing just the hint of a pair of briefs. A small, red, plastic sling-thing really, it was. Just to give him a touch of support. Very coy. Very today’s man. Some other guy happened to walk past, dangling openly like the rest of the yokels out here and I really began to warm to my new guy.

‘Got a name, stranger?’ I asked unfolding my locust legs and refolding them, making sure that my ankles ground into the stones.

‘Shaney, they call me,’ he said, ‘where I come from.’

‘Pleased to make your acquaintance, Shaney. They call me Sugar,’ I said, ‘or Sunshine. But you can call me what you want.’ I showed some teeth. ‘You staying around these parts for a while?’ I asked and scraped a perfectly manicured hooked nail along his arm. The hair felt just right, thick and silky.

‘I just might,’ he said. ‘You got some nice marks there,’ he said looking my arms and legs over. ‘I can see you hang out here often.’

‘I try,’ I smiled. ‘What else has a girl to do?’

‘You’ve got really sensitive skin,’ he said in open admiration. ‘You’re made for the beach.’ It was true. The five of us just had the type of skin that in ten minutes of sitting on a thin sheet over broken clams and crunchy shell matter, we started coming up all pink welts and bumps. We were lucky that way except for poor Candy and she struggled a bit to keep up with us, having just a tinge of olive in her skin, although we would never say that word to her. Olive. She would just die.

‘Do you know that I can see a starfish?’ he said running a hairy palm across the back of my leg.

‘You’re kidding,’ I yelped. ‘Where?’

‘It’s just the beginning of one,’ he said ‘a ghost of one. Just above the back of your ankle.’ I had been sitting on a starfish. I flashed him a winning smile for noticing. He smiled back. ‘Looks like this is your lucky day,’ he said.

Contact! I couldn’t believe it. We had it all. Passion. Love. Beauty.

When I got back to the girls, Cherry and Tina were working on their backsides, jiggling them on the towels to get the full friction effect of the sharper shell pieces that you find buried deeper under the surface.

‘Dave said you were talking to a new fella,’ said Candy, sullen now as the day wore on and her skin was resisting the beneficial effects of beach detritus. New research showed that scraping your skin against debris kept it taut and in shape and got rid of the first layer of dead skin cells. I guess Candy just suffered from thick skin. There, I’ve said it.

The other girls stopped wiggling. ‘Come on,’ they cooed. ‘What’s he like?’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘he noticed my marks right away.’

‘And?’ they said, all in a chorus.

‘His name is Shaney,’ I supplied.

‘And?’ they asked again. ‘And? And? And?’ They were swarming around me now, insistent to hear the juicy details. I paused to think. ‘And he’s new and he’s gorgeous and he’s completely covered,’ I said. ‘And’ I said, fending them off now, ‘I mean completely covered.’

Of course, they all had to go to take a look at him. Sandy stumbled that way first and came back with a positive thumbs-up. Tina and Cherry went together because Cherry had sprained an ankle walking across the beach earlier so Tina had to support her. The two of them, from a distance, pretending to chitchat with Dave but covertly eying my new man, were drooling like a couple of half famished hyenas. ‘Oh my god,’ said Cherry, as she collapsed onto her beach towel, her ankle puffed up like one of the bloater fish that occasionally washed up onto the beach. Tina followed it up with, ‘Oh my god.’

Just Candy to go then. I could tell by the way she was walking that she was a bit self-conscious. I wondered if I should profit by her absence and ask the other girls if they really thought she fitted the bill. I mean we are a team of knockout girls, we move in a pack, but I think she lets the side down a bit. But then if all went well with Shaney, I would be leaving the group soon, so what did I care whether Candy stayed or went? I could afford to be generous. I’d had a good day.

Candy was taking ages to get back. I could see her in the distance, long fingers clasped together, praying, mantis-style at my fella. Then she was making her way back very slowly, tottering. And overdoing it as usual. She always does it for just that bit too long. She makes it a little too obvious.

Anyway she got back and said, ‘Yeah, he’s nice.’

‘Nice?’ I said. This was a word I would use to describe someone like Dave, the ice cream vendor. ‘Nice?’ I repeated.

‘He’s nice enough,’ she said sorting through some bits of glass she had found along the way to insert under her towel. I was about to point out to her the rules about glass on the beach when Sandy agreed.

‘Yeah, he is nice,’ she said.

I looked at them one by one. ‘Nice?’ I was reeling from the force of that word. I looked over at Tina and Cherry. They were nodding too. They weren’t drooling anymore. I thought back to Shaney. He was covered in hair. They couldn’t argue with that. But wait. Hang on. Now I think about it. ‘Was his hair perhaps petering out around the ears?’ I asked the girls. ‘Just a fraction?’ This was important.

‘You noticed that too,’ said Cherry. Again Tina nodded.

‘And between the toes,’ said Candy. ‘Did you see between his toes?’

You’ve got to hand it to her. She always pulls back from the brink. She was back on track again. We’d all missed that one. I laughed it off. We all laughed it off. We snickered for a while over it, got close again as girlfriends will do by picking gnats off each other’s backs and then got down to the serious business of developing our beach-impressions until, sitting together, side by side, silhouetted by the first dazzle of the rising sun as it emerged from the sea line, our stripes jumbled and blended into each other so you couldn’t tell where one of us ended and the next one began.

Next time, then, it will be the five of us again. A gaggle of girls once more set to take the beach by storm. That’s what I told the girls. Candy too.

‘Is that a sand dollar I can see on the back of your arm?’ I asked her. Wow. She was having a good day.

‘Where?’ she squeaked and rolled over to find a sand dollar wedged under her towel. ‘Hard to believe,’ she said looking at the delicate imprint of it on her arm, ‘that that once lived on the bottom of the sea.’




© Maria Allen 2005
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