He bought a flask for the occasion.
The beach was narrow, only about twenty yards from ocean to street. But it was long. And scattered across the length were stone bonfire pits. From the sides the pits looked like wells, like they were much deeper than they were.
They poured their whiskey into flasks, got their beer, some pot brownies, a football and a frisbee. They didn’t bring much wood. Where they got what wood they had was hard to say. Probably someone with family in the suburbs whose branches were getting unruly.
The wood looked wet and fresh cut anyway.
They started the fire before it got dark. The wood was bunched together in the center and a few scraps of paper were thrown on top. Then they doused it with lighter fluid and the fire got going. He drank from his flask and watched them from the fire. They drank the beer and ate the brownies and threw the football and the frisbee. At first they chased each other, dove for catches and yelled. Then they stood in a circle, quiet, making short passes. Then it got dark and they went to the fire.
The night and the sand were cold but the fire was hot. They stood around with their arms crossed, lifting their feet out of the sand like it was snow. People talked without listening. They said things like “I just got,” or “I wanna,” or “I’m gonna get.”
He didn’t talk. He felt the whiskey and the cold of his feet, but he felt them far away. He tried to listen to the crackle of the wood and the roll of the waves. He tried to imagine the traffic going by was wind.
The fire hissed as the wet wood boiled, and the fumes from the lighter fluid weren’t so bad. After a while it died down. They had no more wood but people were high and drunk and the night was still cold, so one girl said, “hang on a minute.”
She walked to another well and stood, talking to some day laborers who came to barbecue after work. She ran her hand through her hair and came back with a fence post and three more if someone would go back and give her a hand.
The posts were pressure treated so they burned slow and quiet. Someone said something to him about the job they were going to get after they spent a few years at the job they had. He walked down to the water so his feet were in the waves as they fell on the shore. The water was cold and his pants were wet, but the cold brought him out of his buzz. And the roll drowned out everything else.
He looked out and saw black. The light from the city glowed orange on the clouds, and there were a few stars and the moon, but the water kept going until there was nothing but black.
The water smelled good. It smelled like being out so far you couldn’t see land. So he bent down and filled his flask with it.
He put it in his pocket and went back to the fire.