Longboard Larry is a beachfront fixture, as much a landmark on this beach as the lifeguard towers and the old wharf pilings. He shows up every morning with his massive, yellow log of a board, covered in dings and dripping water like a soaked towel. He hikes it down the beach to his spot not saying a word to anybody, limping and dragging the massive board along with his gimpy leg, the hypnotic rhythm of his lurch inducing stares and winces. Something happened to him in Nam, at least that’s the rumor, and it wasn’t just his leg. But no one knows for sure what triggered his silent limp, except maybe Larry, and even that is up for debate.
Even though he is always there on the beach, Longboard Larry isn’t all there. You can tell if you ever see his eyes. Glacier blue, diffusing the sunlight and twinkling like some sort of christmasy decoration. They point in different directions slightly, and you can never tell where he is looking if he has his sunglasses off. Luckily for most he wears his Oakley blades with the iridescent lenses almost constantly. Those and his dirty old St. Louis Cardinals cap, sun bleached to a pinkish hue. It tops his bald head, smooth as an egg but rimmed with a blonde tangle of hair not unlike a clown. As long as the hat is on he doesn’t look bald at all, but it is rather shocking to catch a glimpse of him without it on, and he even wears it while surfing. He always has the hat and the glasses, and the 99 cent slaps from the corner market, and the same dirty old pair of surf trunks covered in wax and sand. If it’s cold he wraps an oversized beach towel around his tan, leathery shoulders. He rarely bothers with a shirt, even in the gloomiest of fog banks.
Every day Larry comes to the beach and posts up in the same spot most of the day without speaking to anyone. He stares silently at the water like he is searching for something, or waiting for something to rise from the dark, cold ocean. He eventually paddles out and catches a single wave, no matter if the surf is two inches or two feet overhead. And every day he comes in afterward and plops down on the sand and stares at the horizon again, his icy blues burning a hole in the distance from behind his sunglasses. Every day I watch Larry from my lifeguard tower and wonder what he is looking for, if he is hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever he lost in Nam, or if perhaps he is trying to forget something that he wishes could be lost.
I tell myself someday I will get up the courage to talk to him, to ask him what had really happened to his leg, and ask him what he is looking for when he stares into the distance with his thirsty and unspoken longing. But usually I am too busy watching the tourists and valleys and other transplanted visitors trampling through the sand and leaving their trash behind, overly concerned with the safety of people I don’t really care for, people I struggle to not feel contempt for.
But that is another story.
Surf Ready (by snedegar3)
DP Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence