Beneath the Surface

Welcome to the Life’s a Beach Blog Hop! I hope you’re enjoying your time here. Today, I’m sharing something I wrote in response to a prompt about an unexpected spring. Even though it’s not exactly a beach, it involves water. Check it out:

“Holy cow, Monte! What the hell?” My voice carried, bouncing off the side of Monte’s house and sounding louder than it really was. “Hey! Monte!” I yelled and waved my arms.

“Hey, Louise,” he called back and cut the power to the jackhammer. “What’s wrong?”

“Look!” I pointed.

“What the…” He laid the jackhammer on its side and walked over. “When did that pop up?”

“Monte, you must’ve hit the water main or something!”

“Can’t’ve. It’s over there.” He waived an imprecise hand toward the other side of the yard. “No idea what this is.”

I edged closer. Water, brown with the stirred-up silt from Monte’s labors, swirled up from a crack in the fence’s foundation pole.

“Monte, it’s rising.”

He knelt on the other side of the fence and I could see his fingers poking around under the fence slats. “Shit.”


He didn’t say anything right away. “It’s salty.”

I stared down at the water. “That’s impossible!” I poked a cautious finger into it and tasted. Sure enough, it was salty. “Monte, there’s no ocean around here!”

“They always did say California was going to break off.”

“That’s not funny!” I snapped. “I’m serious, here! How is there salt water in our back yard?”

His knees popped as he stood. I rose and met his serious brown eyes. “I don’t know, Louise. I really don’t. Maybe we’d better call the city?”

“What do we say? ‘Hi, there’s an ocean in the desert?’”

He shrugged. “We have to report it.” He glanced down. “Your shoes are about to get wet.”

I stepped back, amazed. “Monte, what if it doesn’t stop? It’ll flood our houses!”

“We’re on a hill, Louise. Calm down. It’ll flood downtown first.”

I had visions of a wall of water sweeping down the Las Vegas Strip and almost laughed. He smirked. I realized with a slight shock he was trying to cheer me up. “Thanks, Monte.”

He smiled, his teeth very white. “No prob. I’ll call my guy at the Water District. Let’s see what he says. Maybe it’s a pipe or something.”

“A pipe.”

He shrugged. “What do you want me to say?” He looked calculating. “You got anymore of that meatloaf?”

I laughed out loud. “You need a wife,” I said without thinking.

He looked intense suddenly and then turned to his equipment. “Yeah, that’s what my mom keeps saying,” he said over his shoulder.

For some reason, my heart was pounding and I felt hot. “I’ll go make us some lunch while you call.”

He waved at me without turning around. I walked back inside to the air-conditioned hush and got out the meatloaf. Truth was, I had made it for him. But not to flirt, I just knew he liked meatloaf. At least, that’s what he always told me. What if there was more to it?

This was silly. I hit the lights half-angrily and set about making a salad and sandwiches. I set everything up on plates, got down my tray and the pitcher for tea, and made sweet tea. I glanced outside and saw him pacing back and forth by the fence, his portable house phone glued to one ear. He didn’t look happy.

I walked out and set out the tray on the table. He saw me and walked through the gate between our properties and sat down.

“Thanks, Mal. I’ll let you know.” He hung up and met my gaze. “They’ll come tomorrow at ten,” he informed me. “He thinks I’m crazy, but he owes me for some work I did on his pool last fall.”

I looked over at the water. “What if we are crazy?”

“We’re not,” he mumbled through an enormous bite of sandwich. “It’s still rising. See the trickle? There, on my side of the fence?”

I craned my neck. Sure enough, there was a little brook forming, trundling along the fence toward our neighbors down the hill. “What if it floods?” I asked, afraid again. “You know how fast flash floods happen, Monte!”

He shrugged. “What do you want me to do? Sandbag it?”

He had a point. What could we do? I ate some more sandwich and worried.

“Louise. Stop worrying. It’s going to be fine.”

I heard a splash. Monte froze, and I could see the hairs on his neck wave a little bit. Weird. ‘Hairs rising on the back of your neck’ was actually visible.

“Crap!” he blurted, spraying bread crumbs. “Did you see that?”

Truthfully, I had been staring at his neck. “No, what?”

He glanced at me, irritated, and then focused on the bubbling water. I looked over too, wondering what could capture his attention so fully.

A black tailfin peeked up out of the water and then disappeared.

I was on my feet so fast I didn’t remember moving. “Monte…” My voice sounded breathy and weird.

He joined me a second later as another ripple disturbed the water. “Get in the house, Louise. You got your keys?”

“Right here,” I said, patting my pocket. Another fin, black and pointy, emerged slowly. By the time the eyebrow ridge appeared, we were cowering behind my kitchen curtains.

“Where’s your phone?” Monte whispered hoarsely.

“You calling the police?”

“No, the paper!”

We had a brief wrestling match over the phone, which he won. He flipped it open and thumbed the camera button. He snapped two shots of the glossy black head as the thing climbed out of the hole. It was bipedal, covered in scales, and had dark purple eyes covered with some kind of web. It blinked vertically, opposite of a human, and stood about as tall as Monte.

We watched it walk down the hill, following the water trail.

“No one is ever going to believe this,” Monte murmured.

It was then that I realized we were holding hands. Monte didn’t seem inclined to let go, so I didn’t either. I watched the black creature disappear as the sun set over Sin City.

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