In today’s New Voices, “Catch and Release”, a flash story from Grace Holtzclaw, Oliver Whigham, pitcher for the Oxnard Orioles, finds himself alone on the beach, a little too stoned. The ocean holds a special meaning for him: it was the reason his family moved here, the cause of his father’s untimely demise. And, this night on the beach, what will Oliver find if he wades out into the water?
There’s a video somewhere in the basement of Oliver giving a speech at the service, but he’s never got around to watching it. At least that’s what he tells people. He doesn’t let himself swim out deep anymore like he did when he was young.
An oil rig lights up the ocean at midnight. She’s a glowing dutchman of rusted iron and cement. The suspended crustaceans and barnacles below the surface stick themselves to the edges for an anchor. The black water knows no limit but the impending horizon.
It’s harvest season in California. The strawberries that grow in the next town over are on the cusp of rotting. Soon, the families who vacation in town for the summer circuit will hop in their minivans and go home. The beach will become badland again.
It gets dark early. The sun sets while the baseball players are still on the field. They wash the turf off in the tide pool on their way to the house party.
If one of them gets too stoned after practice, he’ll linger on the beach past sundown. He’ll lock eyes with the oil rig and recall the words to the old Morrison tune that his dad used to put on the record player. “The crystal ship is being filled. A thousand girls, a thousand thrills.” He wants to reach out and touch it.
He calls out to the friends who left him on the shore some time ago that he can no longer measure.
The tide is high to the point that he’s unsure of what’s below him. For all he knows a phantom kraken could be swimming between his legs. He catches that feeling of uneasiness that could only be compared to a ride through your childhood neighborhood where no one lives anymore. Still, there’s a greater pull of curiosity that tugs him deeper.