small textlarge text

Matthew Dexter

The Nudist Cover-up

Download MP3

The boy looked forward to the beach and wasn't going to let a little thing like a floating corpse spoil an otherwise fine vacation. It was his gym teacher, bobbing against the driftwood, her foot caught in the slimy rope from the pier. He thought about how hard it had been since the economy destroyed his father's pride. They used to take a trip every season, but this was their first in two years.

"Stay down," the boy says, poking the body with a stick he found in the rocks where he was searching for stone crabs.

The boy piles wet sand and seaweed onto the woman's head shoves her under the water and covers her with rotting garbage. He loves that teacher, would recognize those gym pants a mile away--had she worn any that day. It is different now; this is what happens in America where the river ends.

"What you got there?" his father asks.

The boy catapults his bucket a dozen feet in the air, collapses exasperated against the coral.

"You okay?"

The boy gasps, wipes sand from his lips. His father's bald head is badly sunburnt; stomach hangs over the faded bathing suit, his towel the color of every spectrum in the rainbow. In the distance penises and breasts are bouncing in the air, floating in the currents. The man leans over the sign introducing the naked beach, pondering his child and why his offspring insists on swimming naked, digging moats in the sun with men four times his age, tanned testes brushing the towers of sandcastles as pigeons scowl and seagulls swallow fish, digging their heads into the ocean.

"Hey Daddy," the boys says.

The man just watches his son walking toward him, sucking up the flesh of the sun. They hold hands and walk the shoreline like a tightrope in a perverse circus. Surrounded by areolae, the nipples are as common as grains of sand, pink and purpled by the ripples of time.

"Where you been little man?" asks a nudist.

"We need more water," says another.

The old men are building away, their penises caressing the turrets as they embed seashells in the sand. They are freshly shaven, bald like the boy, and they have come to create their kingdom out of benevolence. The father does not need to pay them to play with his son because the child is different, one of them, not like the other children in the neighborhood who fear the boy. All he wants to do is get naked. Society does not embrace it when they are so young.

"It's time," the boy says.

He lays his little body in the sand beside the castle and smiles as the men cover him with Mother Nature's warmth. A crowd gathers by the pier. Nipples are racing, butt cheeks absorb the sun as the boy reflects on how embarrassed he was when he encountered the gym teacher at the snack bar, how she hounded around him with her husband as the smell of grease made love to their nostrils: three naked bodies that never should have met.

"He can't breathe," the father says.

The boy flashes the thumbs up sign and the men continue with the construction of their pyramid, expanding the air holes around his nose and mouth. The silence in his ears, the waves against his legs, the boy disappears into the nudist monarchy. The smell of ocean is the only moment worth anything, the vacation uninterrupted.

➥ Bio