|A Day at the Beach|
Issue #65 (April 1987)
"Let's go to the beach," the fat man said.
"By all means we must go," the thin man said. "I don't know when we've had a more perfect day."
"You'll have to make the sandwiches," the fat man said.
"And you'll have to get the beer," the thin man said.
"Let's get ready."
"By all means let's get ready."
The thin man went into the kitchen, removed a large ham from the icebox and a large loaf of bread from the breadbox. He washed a head of lettuce and peeled the crisp leaves from it into a large glass bowl. He climbed on a chair and took down a quart of mayonnaise and a jar of mustard from the top of the cupboard. On a lower shelf, he found a quart of dill pickles; this he opened and dumped into a large bowl. A carving knife for the ham, a spoon for the mayonnaise, a spoon for the mustard — these he placed on the kitchen table. He was ready to make sandwiches.
The fat man meanwhile walked down to the corner delicatessen.
"I want twenty-four bottles of beer," he said to the Negro who worked for the Jewish proprietor.
"Twenty-four bottles, yassuh."
The Negro went into the large icebox at the back of the store. The fat man waited, drumming his chubby fingers on the glass case which was filled with hams, roasts of beef, pastrami, trays piled high with elegant salads, links of sausage and frankfurters, bolognas, salamis, one hundred different varieties of cheese, white eggs, brown eggs, and butter. He wondered if the thin man would do a good job on the sandwiches.
The Negro came back from the icebox and said:
"If it's all the same to you, suh, would you take a case of beer instead of twenty-four bottles? They seems to be just twenty-four bottles in a case."
The fat man reflected. Yes, of course, if there were twenty-four bottles in a case.
"All right," he said. "I'll take a case instead." The Negro went back to the icebox and brought out a case of beer
which he set down on the floor in front of the fat man. The fat man paid the Negro, hoisted the case of beer on his shoulder and left the delicatessen. It was hot on the street and he began to sweat more than he normally did as he struggled to keep the case balanced comfortably on his shoulder. He wondered how cold the beer would be by the time they reached the beach. Well, they could bury it in the sand under the cool surf same as they did the last time they went to the beach.
He didn't carry the case up to the apartment where he and the thin man lived but left it in the downstairs hall where he could pick it up later. He struggled up three flights of stairs to inform the thin man that he had completed his assigned mission and that he was ready to go to the beach.
The thin man was putting the finishing touches on the sandwiches — gobs of mayonnaise on top of crisp lettuce leaves.
"I got the beer downstairs already," the fat man said.
"I'll be through in a minute," the thin man said.
"How many sandwiches are you making?" the fat man asked.
'Twelve," the thin man replied. "Ten for you and two for me."
"I got a case of beer instead of twenty-four bottles, but there are twenty-four bottles in a case, so there'll still be four bottles for you and twenty for me."
"That's fine," the thin man said, fitting covering slices of bread on the ample sandwiches. He wrapped each sandwich in wax paper and stowed them all in a large paper shopping bag.
"Ready," he said to the fat man.
"Let's go," said the fat man.
They had a little trouble at the subway station when the fat man discovered that he could not reach the nickel in his pocket while he was using his hands to hold the case of beer. The thin man, who had already gone through the turnstile, however, came back and put a nickel in the slot so the fat man could come through. In a moment, the subway train arrived and the fat man and the thin man, guarding their provisions between their feet, were on their way to the beach.
The beach at Coney Island was crowded as usual on a hot Saturday afternoon, for it was one-thirty when the fat man and the thin man arrived. The thin man carrying the sandwiches, the fat man lugging the beer , the thin man not sweating, the fat man making up for the not-sweating of the thin man, the two walked along the boardwalk, looking down on the sands for a place where they could stop and spend the day in the sun.
"There's a good place," the thin man said, pointing to an area about five by ten feet which was unoccupied save for a family of six.
"Looks good," the fat man agreed. "This beer's getting heavy."
The thin man led the way across bodies of sunbathers and hampers of picnic provisions strewn on the sands.
"Do you mind moving over a little?" the fat man asked the adult male member of the family of six who was half-buried in the sand.
"Not at all," said the man, moving over a little, taking his sand with him.
The fat man put the case of beer down and sat on it. He began wiping his face with a large red handkerchief.
"It's pretty hot here," he said to the thin man. "Let's get an umbrella."
"A very good idea," said the thin man. "Tell you what, I'll bury the beer under the surf while you get the umbrella."
"I'll get the umbrella," the fat man said.
The thin man buried the beer under the nearby surf while the fat man crossed the carpet of people and picnic lunches to the stand where umbrellas were rented. He brought a large red and orange umbrella back.
"Would you mind moving over a little?" he asked the man in the sand, "so I can put this umbrella up?"
"Not at all," said the man in the sand, rolling over , taking his sand with him.
The fat man put the umbrella up. The thin man came back, announced that the beer was buried. The fat man sat down under the umbrella.
"Would you mind moving over a little?" the thin man asked, "so I can sit down under the umbrella?"
"Not at all," said the man in the sand. He tried to move over but discovered that his body was now touching that of a young lady who was not a member of his family. He decided that his wife might object when she awoke. "Would you mind moving over a little?" he asked the young lady.
"Not at all," she said, rolling over the few remaining inches to the handsome youth who had been making eyes at her for twenty minutes. The man in the sand moved over , taking his sand with him. The thin man sat down under the umbrella, leaning against the fat man, the fat man leaning against him. Promptly, they fell asleep.
So they slept for three hours. While they slept, the tide went out, leaving exposed the place where the thin man had buried the beer. It wasn't long before the stick which the thin man had used to mark the place had been put to use as a lash for a naughty little boy. It wasn't long before the spot where the beer was buried was covered by the sun-thirsty bodies of another family of six.
The fat man and the thin man awoke.
"I'm hungry now," said the fat man. "Let's eat."
"I'll get the beer," said the thin man. He got up from under the umbrella and started across people and picnic lunches toward the surf. But the stick he had used for a marker was gone. And it seemed to him that strangely, the distance to the water was greater now than it had been three hours before. He walked up and down and around at the edge of the surf, looking for a trace of the case of beer. The fat man was already munching his third sandwich.
"The beer's gone," the thin man said.
"Can't be," the fat man said. "Who'd take it?"
"I looked and I looked but I couldn't find it."
"Oh well, this happened the last time too," the fat man said philosophically. We'll just have to eat the sandwiches without the beer."
They ate the sandwiches without the beer, the fat man eating ten and the thin man eating two. They decided that the sandwiches even without the beer weren't bad because the lettuce and the sliced pickles and the mayonnaise were still moist. They left the sack and the wax paper on the beach, returned the umbrella to the umbrella stand, and went back to the subway station to take the train home.
"It was too bad about the beer," the fat man said.
"Yes, it was too bad," the thin man agreed.
"At least we didn't get sunburned this time," the fat man said.
"That's very true," the thin man agreed.
"We must do this again some time," the fat man said.
"By all means, we must."
Hi is a professor of psychology and former associate of B. F . Skinner, writes us that he composed the piece "The Lions and the Fire" to ask what animals might make of a city being bombed. He adds: "Having been in one, I have a fixation about war."