The Sand Dunes
The alarm sounds just after you wake up. The sun isn't up yet, and red numbers glow digital in the darkness. After turning on a few lights, getting dressed, and filling a thermos with coffee, you walk out the door, get into the truck, and turn the key. The engine is loud, and mixes with the road noise, as the truck slowly warms up. And it smells like vinyl, and motor oil. The sky begins to brighten; we stop, and exchange a few words, and make our way out to the beach. It's too loud to comfortably talk, so we keep quiet in the machine noise. Pulling over on the hard sand, we wave to the man in the tower, and listen to the radio while we wait. After a few minutes, we let some air out of the tires, and lock the hubs -and go.
The soft sand is thick under the tires, and as the truck turns out-onto the beach, the steering starts to come under control, and we move out toward the waves. The beach changes every day, and you feel the sand, and the truck, where the shoreline slips under the water's edge, and the ocean meets the sky—turning the wheel, accelerating, pushing, and pulling, gliding, and bouncing over the ripples, rising up on flat, hard expanses—windswept, and rounded—drawing us down to curves and drifts, squeezed together, warm, and moving, man, and machine. We grind gears, and move wheels, and tires, pistons, and burning oil, and gasoline—carrying hard chunks of metal, men, and lunch, to labor, and erect frames, which become protective spaces, unfinished, and crafted with gypsum dust, and wooden moulding.
The men who drove trucks, out on the beach, worked out on the beach. They didn't like each other. They didn't respect each other -and they were in a rush.
So, when the trucks left the road, and drove out over the sand, the bay would freeze over, and boats which ordinarily carried men, and supplies to Fire Island, would float in boathouses, and sit idle, on jacks, and scaffolding until the weather warmed enough to make the trip across the bay, to the beach which segregated it from the open ocean. When the bay froze, lines of trucks would take shape on the oceanside, with hard men watching the ebb and flow of the tide, as sets of waves blew in, washing up on frozen expanses of sand formations, obscuring them as they flooded the beach, and washing over the high dunes, which separated the oceanside from the protected part of the island.
The cold and wind blew across the beach, over the long line of steel truck bodies, rust-eroded by exposure to sun, and sand, and wet salt—over hot engines, and surly, impatient, working men. Thus, and there, it was, and is, that men wait, in trucks, on the beach. They are waiting for the waves to pull back from the sand dunes, and allow them to reach an abandoned beach town, cut off from the mainland by a frozen bay, and obscured from view by distance, scrub pines, and policy. It is a still, quiet place, given life by the scream and hum of motors, housed in tools held in beaten hands, and persuaded to cut, and pound materials into buildings, crafting a town—a home away for the wealthy with time to escape the city, for various diversions, and hopeful perversions, when the weather warms.
Half buried dune fence, sticks and wire, stand out from the dunes aside beach grass, and spotted deer, plover, and snowy owls. Seafoam cascades across the white, and purple stained sand dunes, light tan, and grey in the stormy winter cold.
”Look at this asshole, what the fuck is this dumb motherfucker waiting for? Get the fuck out of the way you candy-ass pussy! Fuck this, we're going around.” ”Looks like Tommy's going for it. Stupid. He's probably not going to make it.”
Down, and around the lead driver, Tommy moves out ahead, and pushes the truck up the steep side of the high dune. Driving just a little too fast, the truck blows some extra sand out, under the tires, and sinks slightly, as he ascends. The ebb between waves is short, and the first wave only runs a little under the fat truck tires, while Tommy steadies the machine, and turns a little down toward the ocean, to make the truck run parallel with the tide. The next wave comes in stronger. Tommy is high up on the dune now, truck tilting toward the waves, hot, dry air blowing from the heater, a couple of hot, sweaty men pressed up against him, pressed up against the door, nothing but water through the drivers side window, balls up, and his heart sinks, and shame begin to drape over him. Features drawn, perhaps he glanced at one of the mirrors before the truck begins to sink.
”Not lookin' too good.” ”Yeah, I don't think he's gonna make it.” ”He's startin' ta sink.” ”Ya think he'll roll over?” ”Yeah, that would be funny.” ”Somebody's gonna have to go save his ass. There's no way anybody's gonna be able to pull him outta there.” ”Yeah, he's fucked.” ”Unfortunately, we're fucked too, 'cause there's no way we're gonna get around this guy.” ”Well, you want to get out and watch while we wait, or you wanna stay in and look for a chance to get over him.” ”Might as well get out. Looks like it's gonna be a while. The tide's moving out anyway.” ”He's in deep now. Say goodbye to your truck Tommy.” ”You wanna give him a ride?” ”Nah, he'll get in with Oscar Valey.” ”This shit's gonna slow us down.” ”Man, he'd better get out of there, it's goin' in deep. Well, at least it's movin' in the right direction.” ”Alright, lets go help him get his tools out of there while we watch his truck get pulled out to sea.” ”Hmf.” ”Not lookin' too good there, Tommy.” ”No, fuckin truck's a piece of shit!” ”Right..”
And the waves keep on coming up the dunes, while we watch Tommy's truck sink, more quickly than you might think, into the ocean, and float away, all the way back, across the Atlantic, up the Gulf Stream, back to Ireland for a pint, a wink, a handshake, a grin, and a 'fuck you very much' Tommy. And the days go by—the dirty jokes, and derision, and the tides fall and rise, and the seasons pass, one after another, and the sun rises and falls, and the trucks drive up, and down, over the dunes, and through the water, and men pound nails into wood, and fight, in the cold, Fire Island winters, with the deer, and the Snowy Owls, riding in broken trucks, at the beach.