She thought about the way water shapes stone. Face it, stones take a battering over time. She wanted to put the stone on his tongue, but instead she put it in her mouth and sucked on it. It tasted of the sea and every element of the sea—-grit and rain and brine and live creature, fish, cousins to fish, snails, kelp, microbes, algae, a living universe that swims to reach light.
“Why have you so many ideas of violence?”
“Yes, you do. When an expectation is created your head, you prepare yourself for assault, blood, mayhem. When really, all that’s around the corner is disappointment, is love.”
“You make it sound like those are the same thing.”
She raised her eyebrow, held her tongue, bit down on her next words to keep them hid.
“Maybe it’s my career in law enforcement,” he said.
“Maybe you don’t want to be happy.”
“No, I do want happiness.”
“You seem to avoid it.”
“I do not.”
She let him hear himself.
He paused, and said, “You don’t know me like you think.”
“This could be true. I can admit that. So inform me.”
She motioned him toward her but he knew it was a gesture meant to go with her next words.
“Give over something important. Something I can begin building you on in my unconscious. A base, a foundation, a pedestal, something you-true that won’t erode.”
“Now that sounds esoteric.”
“You think so?”
The way he cut a glance to her and away, the thrust of his profile insisted, “You know it does.”
She guessed it implied “Quit harassing me,” but she wasn’t about to quit. She was just getting started. And she wouldn’t call it harassment anyway. Again, she’d call it love.
She even spoke this aloud: “I call it love.”
“What?” The very word flailed. She’d pitched him into the middle of a sea, water over his head, choking salt and gulping for air. She did that, she stole his share of breath.
She’d been talking around the stone in her mouth, a pretty neat trick. She had an adept tongue and good concentration. Thoughts didn’t sidetrack her, but emotions might. The stone was to help her focus. The stone was enduring.
She took it out of her mouth and closed it in her fist. She tugged his arm to make him stop walking this beach, to stand still with her. With her hand at the back of his neck she drew his face down to hers and kissed him. When they stopped kissing to breathe she again reached to his face, the back of his jaw. She ran her fingers along the line to his chin, pulled his chin down. She curled her fingers over his bottom teeth and pressured him.
His slackened jaw felt like it might widen and engulf the sea. He would not resist the need to lick her knuckles.
She set the stone in his mouth, on his tongue, a squid-like sea creature as it appeared to her. She closed his mouth, that gaping trap.
In the stone, he tasted her, he tasted the first earth, the first waters, the angels and hell. He tasted what was cast out, what was cast away, what was saved; the violence she abolished in him, her salt, his own blood. He tasted the New World and the seas that spanned her globe.
This was only their first day on the beach. There would be more. They tallied blocks of language and suffering and desire, not numbers, and so they abandoned the tools like calendars and diaries, that documented gain and loss. They counted on nothing. They had one stone between them.
Donna D. Vitucci lives and works in Cincinnati, Ohio, helping raise funds for local nonprofits. Since 1990 her stories have appeared in dozens of print and online journals. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Front Porch Journal, Juked, Night Train, Ginosko, Insolent Rudder, Smokelong Quarterly, mourningsilence and Another Chicago Magazine. Abacus was written after walking the shore of Lake Michigan during a very special artists’ retreat this past September.