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Rippling Sand, Rolling Ocean
by Shubha Venugopal

The day is storybook-perfect: summer-blue skies, green grass, silky-wisp clouds. A family, glowing with sun, drives fast in a red Cadillac. The car: a convertible. Wind eddies inside. Gulls wheel overhead. Listening to bird-cries, they head for shore.
    Ahead of them: rippling sand, rolling ocean.
    The father rests, on steering wheel, delicate fingers. He is well groomed, clean-shaven, tanned. Hair tousled. He drives in silence. Then-- a waft of breeze gifts him with scent. His head jerks back. What he smells: aroma of skin-- his wife's. What he feels: a rising tide of desire. The memory of skin is strong, but is only memory. He hasn't felt her in months, in nearly a year. He'd been busy, preoccupied. Attended meetings. Traveled. Argued with her. The beach: compensation for lack, consolation for wife. Now, it is his hand that embarks: wheel to thigh, thigh to seat leather, hot leather to her cool hand.
    The mother is slim, her limbs loose and lithe. Her skin: smooth as sand, as all-purpose flour. Before this, she finished chores, packed swimsuits, tucked in towels. Brought suntan lotion for him. Prepared picnic-style snacks. Life of an all-purpose wife, she thinks. The dreams she once had: vast and endless, like seascapes that haunt her. Their goal today: the result of begging.
    Her eyelids shut. Sensing touch, she brings in her hand, fist clenched, onto leg. She no longer longs for that. Wrapping her body with cold, slick seaweed-- more appealing than dealing with him. Ready to widen shrunken horizons, she imagines releasing, forever, her feet. She will, she decides, roll away with the tide. She will kill herself. Her vision: dying in blue--fathomless, deep. In the going-home car-- empty seat, imprint of hip.
    The child sits in the back. Wind rips hair out from faux-diamond clips; hair slaps and stings her cheeks into pink. She gags, yanks curls from her teeth. Sun teases lit strands of brown into gold; it brightens dark eyes with gold flecks. Seen from afar, she appears bronzed, sturdy, well fed.
    The child stares wide-eyed at clouds; she tries not to blink. In the sky, her mother's face forms in vapor and mist. The child's cries are lost amidst calling gulls. She sees her mother's face float away, features dispersing in wind. The child cannot hold her in place.
    Ahead: rippling sand, rolling ocean.



About the author:
Shubha Venugopal is completing her MFA in fiction at Bennington College. She holds a PhD in English and recently joined the faculty at California State University, Northridge. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two beautiful children-- a toddler daughter and infant son.

Her works are upcoming or have appeared in Post Road, Gambara, VerbSap, Flashquake, Literary Mama, Antithesis Common, The Angler, Elimae, Eclectica, Mslexia, Kalliope, Boston Literary Magazine, and Women Writers: A Zine.



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Midnight Picnic
a novel by
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