The frogs croaked in the creek, behind the house. Alli and Jan sat on the back porch, looking out into the dark yard under the navy-blue sky. Distant stars twinkled, like icebergs on a polar ocean. The lawn was ringed by trees; eventually the land sloped down into the river.

They fanned themselves in the summer heat, sipping iced tea and watching lightning bugs blink in and out of view.

“What made you come back?” Jan asked.

“I got caught in a swirling maelstrom up there. You were right about Dallas.” Alli said.

Jan looked at the woods, that eventually joined the Everglades, “I never meant all the things I said.”

“You were just upset,” Alli said, patting her hand, “We both were.”

“I just couldn’t believe she was taking my place,” Jan shrugged.

“And then she left me too,” Alli said, with a rueful smile.

Jan looked shocked, “For another woman?”

“Yep,” another sheepish grin, “First, she disappeared off to Australia. Never told me if she was ever coming back. Next thing I know, she’s stolen the girlfriend of my friend, Kaan. You remember Kaan? Then, she decamps to Thailand. Haven’t heard from her since.”

“So strange,” Jan said, shaking her head, “You probably weren’t the first one. This other woman – did Dallas leave her also?”

“As far as I know, Aspen went with her to Thailand,” Alli said, looking out into the night, “But Kaan also hasn’t received any news.”

“That’s terrible,” Jan sighed, “They’re out there, of course; they just never deigned to call or write.”

“Not me,” Alli said, “I came back to you.”

“How is your friend Nealy?” Jan wondered.

“Nealy? Nealy went to Shanghai and came back. Now she spends most of her time in San Francisco.”

“So, the old gang’s all over the place,” Jan said, gesturing with her glass.

“Yes, in New York, it’s just Kaan and I.”

“What about these girlfriends from NYU you told me about? The writers?” asked Jan.

“Oh, Beth and Ran? Yes, Ran is great. She’s going to teach me how to surf. We met on a cruise,” Alli explained.

“Well, it’s good to know that you are happy,” Jan said, leaning back in her wicker chair.

Alli frowned, “I worry about whether Ran is happy though. She seems to be going through something with her ex, Karen.”

“I wouldn’t stress about it,” Jan patted Alli’s hand this time, “Just be there for her.”

An owl arose out of the woods at the back of the house. It carried itself out over the river, holding a mouse in its claws.



Past Future

Miami synthwave, vaporwave

The smell of the sea came in off the water. They sat around a white tablecloth, on the porch of Ran’s house. Alli had put out the long, silver candlesticks. Beyond the wooden railing, tufts of beach grass flailed in the wind.

A full moon rose in the east, a crisp, silver disk floating in the pink and cyan haze, the end of another perfect summer day. Ran came out in a dress shirt holding a Merlot and two wine glasses aloft.

As they nursed the glasses, the orb of the sun slipped below their view. The evening’s last seagulls landed and pecked away at sand dollars.

They had spent the afternoon combing the beach with a metal detector, found in the basement of Ran’s house – just looking for old coins. Their search yielded an assortment of beer bottle-caps and a rusted bottle opener, “Courtesy of the patrons of some party,” Ran said.

Alli brought out the baked chicken and Ran got the baguette. She had bought the loaf at Maison Kayser, before they had left the city this morning. She cut some for the meal and broke her portion in half.

Turning the stem of her wine glass, Alli watched rabbits bound in and out of the dune grass. “What do you think about checking out the abandoned house, by the inlet?” she asked.

“Can we bring our metal detector?” Ran joked.

“Sure,” Alli laughed, “Electronic thermometers for cold spots. Radar guns. Infrared goggles. Anything.”

The last vestiges of the sun had disappeared. Only red light remained. “One day, I will teach you how to surf,” Ran said, looking out at the waves.

“Night surfing too?” Alli grinned.

Ran looked back at her, “Whatever you want.”

They cleared away the plates, folded up the tablecloth, retreated inside to the retro, floral-print couch. “Festive,” Alli remarked, “When did you get this?”

“Maybe five years ago,” Ran mused, “A going-out-of-business clearance sale.”

They sat down and watched cable on the ancient wooden set Ran had rigged up to play today’s TV. She had gutted it, cleaned out the old parts, and put the pieces of a new TV into the old case, “New wine in old skins,” Ran had explained. It still worked.

The glare of the TV shone into the night, as breakers crashed onto the shore.

so '90s


Seapony – “Blue Star”

R.E.M. – “Crush with Eyeliner”