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The Pacific stretched wide, vast and dark, the blue-green waves rolling softly and teasingly until, seemingly from nowhere, a breaker would slam into the beach, driving the tourists floating and bobbing in the shallows violently to the sandy floor. Still, they rose up coughing and snorting and, somehow, laughing. My father and I sat in the hotel’s plastic beach chairs, watching all this. I sprawled in the late afternoon sun, feeding on the warmth like a last meal before our return to winter, but my father stayed in the shade of the umbrella. The bucket of beers sat in the sand between us, linking our private worlds together. It was our third day in Puerto Vallarta, and it was already starting to feel like a mistake to have come.

“This was your mom’s favorite spot, right here,” my father said. “We would push her all the way out to the sand, and she would sit with a beach towel wrapped around her knees, still cold even in this heat. But she loved every minute of it.”

I felt him looking at me, waiting. I scooped a chunk of ice from the bucket and pressed it to the back of my neck. The ice melted in seconds.
“You remember that, right?”

He wouldn’t let it go. “Yeah. I remember.” I also remembered the extra doses of pain medication. The calls to the front desk at 3:00 a.m. for clean sheets.

“Sometimes I even forgot she was sick, at least until—”

“Do you want another beer?” I handed him one without waiting for an answer and then pulled a lime slice from the bucket and tossed it to him. It landed in his lap and the task of stuffing it into the bottle momentarily occupied him. I took the opportunity to slip on the earphones of my iPod, leaving the power off.

All around us seagulls squawked as they dove for stray bits of food tourists had dropped in the sand. A mixture of mariachi and dated American pop music poured from the cantina behind us, only to be drowned out by the crashing waves. These sounds compensated for our silence…

This is an excerpt from Joseph Downing’s short story “A Day in the Sun.”  The remainder of this story can be read in the complete book, Best of Ohio Short Stories: Volume 1.  The complete book book features seventeen additional stories.  Click here to find the book on Amazon.  E-books are also available from all major digital retailers, click here for links.

Joseph Downing was born in 1969 in Dayton, Ohio. After receiving a B.A. in English from the University of Dayton, Joseph obtained a law degree from Ohio Northern University and is currently a practicing lawyer, writer and artist. He has twice published in Flights Literary Magazine, is an Impact Weekly Fiction Contest Winner, and he writes The Abundant Bohemian blog. His nonfiction book, The Abundant Bohemian: How to Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving in the Process, will be published in 2014. Joe lives in Dayton, Ohio.