“That year, like every year, the ocean lapped up the shoreline. Its hunger was an enormous force, and a patient one.” Our story for this week is Sarah Walsh’s “The Developer,” the honorable mention in our 2022-2023 Winter Short Story Award for New Writers! “The Developer” explores the narrator’s relationship with Jaime, a local she met at the beach who takes a job bartending at their favorite dive. When Jamie begins dating the shady owner, Julio, everything seems to shift permanently. Dive into “The Developer” at the link below.
Jamie took the bartending job at La Casa almost two years back. It was a seedy place, the lighting always fever-red, the music always too loud. There was a strip club in the basement, though Jamie assured me that was a totally separate affair.
That year, like every year, the ocean lapped up the shoreline. Its hunger was an enormous force, and a patient one.
Sometimes, you’d confront the enormity. Waves might flush theatrically over the street. Palm trees might splinter. Houses might crumble like sugar. Power lines might collapse into the flood and turn even the still water to something electric and worthy of fear.
More often though, things were quiet. The hunger never for a moment subsided, but it went unnoticed. Local families sunned on the shore to the tune of Música Cubana, to Today’s Top 50. The tourists nursed their tallboys, guarded their crumbs from the gulls. They paid the erosion no mind. I watched it all day long, perched on a lifeguard chair.
It continued all through the night, after I’d left. No one around to save two skinny dippers who had moved to make love on the sand. For them, this force registered as nothing more than the white noise of waves. Something hushed by the smallest ecstasies.
This force inspired no retreat. Development pressed on towards the waves, no matter how the waves pushed back. As long as there were people to buy the buildings, the buildings would be built.
Condos, developments, seaside hotel-bar-restaurant-casinos were underway, the pace breakneck. Weatherproofing was perfected. New insurance policies were dreamt up each day, old ones disregarded. Stilts were constructed for the houses. As if their knees would not soon buckle like cranes.
But this was only the periphery. It didn’t take me long to leave the shoreline, to find a new job at an indoor pool. Once I did, the Miami I knew rarely happened here, at the collapsing edge of the world. Even then, there was always the sense it was encroaching. Always the sense the solid ground beneath me might give out, open up to a sinkhole.
Mostly, though, I had better things to worry about that summer. For instance, Jamie was dying.