• Dzama

Coral Saint

Clemens stood on the dock, a slumped silhouette with a fisherman’s hat under a million stars. He watched as the boys got back to the beach, dragging their paddleboards up and out of the water. He stood without speaking or moving as they talked and laughed. He met them up by their pickup. You find her? he asked.

Jet stepped back. Where’d you come from?

Find who? asked Wen.

Isabelle. The Coral Saint. My daughter. Clemens’ face was in shadow under his hat but his eye glinted.

Coral Saint? I have no idea what you’re talking about, sir, said Jet.

Clemens stood as they wrapped towels around their waists to change out of their wetsuits. When they’d pulled on their dry clothes and the boards were loaded up they got into the pickup truck. Clemens got closer to the driver’s side. You could give me a ride to town, he said.

We ain’t going to town, said Wen. We’re headed to Horse’s.

You can drop me there.

If you’re heading to town that’s not even the right direction, said Wen.

From Horse’s I can get another ride, Clemens said.

There’s no space in the cab, said Wen. I’m sorry, bro. We’ll come back for ya! he laughed. Clemens made a whimpering sound, almost like a dog.

Hey, wait a second, Jet said. Here, buddy. Take my seat. I’ll ride in the back with the boards. Seriously. Take my seat. Jet got out of the cab and pulled himself up into the bed of the truck, jumping in with the paddleboards. As Clemens was making his way around the truck to the passenger’s side Wen banged on the back window to get Jet’s attention. When Jet looked up Wen waved a middle finger at him.

Don’t move that towel, Wen said to Clemens. The seat’s fucked up right there. You’ll need that towel there. Clemens sat on the towel and yanked the door shut. When they pulled out, Wen had some hard rock blasting from the already-blown speakers.

They drove for about twenty minutes, Clemens clearing his throat multiple times but never saying anything. When they got to a gas station Wen stepped out to pump some gas. He looked back at the silhouette in the passenger seat. You want to trade places? he asked Jet.

What, is he still talking about the Coral ghost?

No, he ain’t saying anything. Just sitting there and stinking. Like he died sitting up.

Wen pumped gas. Then Jet pointed. Wen looked back to see Clemens was now entering the gas station minimart. He replaced the nozzle and rushed back to the cab. Don’t do it, man! said Jet. Wen started the pickup and stepped on the gas pedal. HEY! Jet shouted. HEY CLEMENS!

Clemens turned to look up from inside the store. He watched as the pickup pulled out onto the frontage road. As they accelerated onto the freeway Jet banged on the back window of the cab but Wen didn’t look back. He bobbed his head to the music.


After he made his purchase, Clemens walked out to the pumps. He drank from a bottle of ice tea and waited under the fluorescent lights. Eventually a car pulled up. A teenage girl with a green feather boa dangling from her neck got out, pressed the buttons and slid her card in at the pump. You find her? Clemens asked the girl. She stared at him for a moment then got back in her car, texting from inside as the gas pumped away. Clemens stood next to her window. Isabelle. The Coral Saint. My daughter, he said. When the pump was finished, the girl pushed past him and replaced the nozzle. He had another drink of his ice tea as she drove away.

Inside the minimart Clemens stood in the back corner. May I help you? the gas station employee asked. May I help you? The employee had a mustache and a sweaty button-down shirt. Clemens began taking small items off the shelves around him. Pork rinds, candy bars, potato chips, and from another shelf a plastic bottle of motor oil, a jug of antifreeze. The store employee walked back and stood close to him. What do you want with all that, sir? Clemens didn’t look up. He trudged over and dumped everything on the counter. I need to use your phone, he said.

Mine doesn’t do any outgoing calls, the employee said. But there was another customer over by the magazine rack. A woman in a gingham skirt. The woman handed Clemens her phone. You can use mine, she said.

Clemens took the phone and began talking right away. Did you find her? he asked the phone and waited. The woman stared at him. Did you find her? he asked again. The store employee frowned. Just then two men came in. One of them held up a badge. Clemens Maybell? Clemens looked up. We’re going to need you to come back with us. One of the men took the phone from Clemens. The other one put his arm on Clemens’ shoulder. We need you to come back with us and identify a body, he said. I think you know who we’re talking about, the other officer said as he put Clemens in handcuffs. They led Clemens over to the double doors as the store employee and the customer watched.

Inside the back of the police car Clemens observed as his thoughts came and went, like trash floating down a flooded river. As soon as one thought was gone, three more would float by. Eventually nothing floated by and he stared straight ahead.

Inside a morgue with green light Clemens was forced to stare down at a corpse. It was the girl with the feather boa. On the next two tables rested Jet and Wen, all three bloody and pale. As he was being led to a fourth table with a sheet-covered body Clemens snapped out of his dream, finding himself still hunched over in the back of the police car.

Eventually the police car pulled up at the police station.  Clemens was led down a long hallway and then up an endless flight of steps into a very bright light.

Inside the room he turned to the police officer. You found her! he said. The Coral Saint. He walked forward to the body on the table. As a sad smile spread across his face he closed his eyes and wept.



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This entry was posted in Short Story. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.