Toes in the Sand
By Lannie Stabile
She knew summer was over when the feet started washing up on shore.
Bloated, like the underbelly of a sow. In sleek running shoes and expensive, heavy-duty hiking boots. Most extending just above a white, bony ankle. Some with a touch of decomposed calf.
It was late, and the sun was beginning to droop in the sky. She walked the pier with slow, deliberate steps. Walked west, toward the blinding light, so that the line of retired fishermen dozing in worn camping chairs were pushed to her periphery. She welcomed the slight burn on her retinas. At the end of the pier, she pivoted away from the sun, and scanned the deep blue water.
The local news had covered the discovery of the first foot at both 7 and 11 for a week. A size 10 in a scarlet Premiata washed ashore on the first of August, as if ushering in the hot, relentless month. The goatskin of the boot, combined with a decomposing extremity, smelled eerily like trash day in Daytona Beach.
Next, a size 9.5 olive green wader was seen bobbing in the water, until a curious boy in floaties pointed a puffy orange arm, and said, Look, Mommy!
She turned back and headed for the comfort of the beach.
Gone were the days of teeth cutting unhurriedly through perfect corn tortillas damp and fat with pork. Gone was ambling along the boardwalk, the distant sounds of hip hop blaring on the sand. Hours before curfew and not a care in the world, except whether sending that peach emoji to the cute food truck guy was a little too forward.
When the national news got wind of the newest flotsam, coverage ran on loop, 24 hours a day. Nosy tourists flocked to the beach then. More so than the usual tourist season. Local businesses could hardly keep up with the demand of such hungry obtruders. Food supply ran low, and vendors were forced to make emergency orders from the mainland.
Her stomach growled, and she thought again about the food truck guy. He had a toothy smile and large hands that could palm two diner baskets each. Could also palm the back of her cutoff jeans, clutching the meaty flesh like his life depended on it.
She wondered if the third, fourth, and fifth foot had invited a new wave of curious outsiders, or if it was residual bottom feeding from the first incident. All she knew was, by mid-September, kids were back in school, but the line to her favorite taco truck was still wrapping itself along the beach like police tape. And it irked her.
The sun met the horizon, and its pink reflection reminded her of blood in the water. An aroma of chorizo carried in the breeze, causing her stomach to rumble once more. Barefoot, she drilled her feet into the sand. The cold, white grains spilled over the tops of them. Burying them.
Lannie Stabile (she/her), a queer Detroiter, is the winner of OutWrite’s 2020 Chapbook Competition in Poetry; the winning chapbook, “Strange Furniture,” is out with Neon Hemlock Press. She is also a back-to-back finalist for the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 Glass Chapbook Series and back-to-back semifinalist for the Button Poetry 2018 and 2019 Chapbook Contests. Lannie currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Barren Magazine and is a member of the MMPR Collective. Find her on Twitter @LannieStabile. The piece was the winner of a flash fiction challenge, with the prompt being 'Identity.'