The moon is full on the horizon, full and dancing along the top of every gentle wave. Three feet above the low tide mark the rug doesn’t move.
The hands of the watch glide silently over the Greek key pattern in red and gold. The time reads 10:52 am. His silent protest these seven years, but no one ever looked that close. She always made sure he wore the watch because she bought it to make him appear distinguished.
The rock he sits on is half submerged and worn smooth, and he takes off his shoes. His jacket lies crumpled behind them and he has to fight the compulsion to fold it in half and then in half again. Stepping out onto the darker sand the ocean water wells up from within each successive footprint.
The moon is full in every watery footprint and in the distance the seagulls sleep along the pier. His slacks are getting wet and losing their crease. The waves wash over his path once, twice, and the third time it’s like he was never there.
The sand washes from underneath his feet and he imagines some of it swirling up and settling into the cuff, and when he looks over the waves have reached the end of the rug. He imagines the waves are slowly pulling the fabric down, washing the sand from underneath with each regress. He imagines little granules creeping in between the fibers.
The reverse image of the red and gold key pattern is soaking up the seawater. The pattern that matches the drapes and offsets the couch and loveseat. Matches the pattern beneath the pretentious roman numerals on the face of the watch.
There are no clouds tonight. The sky is deep and infinite and the wet sand glistens like the stars and with his bare feet he’s standing on top of the universe.
He glances up to the road every few minutes, but nothing changes. No one comes out at night in the winter.
His calves feel strange with every icy wave that pulls away and while he’s still thinking about this the rug starts to move. Are his knots straight and evenly spaced? Are they tight? And he hates himself for thinking it, but he wonders, maybe he should have cleaned the rug one last time.
When he tries to step up and out of the sand he falters. His palm hits the wet beach and then the water rushes up past his wrist, over the watch. He waits for another wave to rinse off the excess sand, then walks back to the rock. The watch is not waterproof so there’s water under the face.
His feet are close enough that if he wanted to, he could prop them up on the rug and recline in the space between two shoulder high boulders. But he can’t.
No feet on the furniture. No shoes on the rug. No beer in the formal living room. Then no beer in the house, so why don’t we get a refrigerator for the garage? Those pants need to be ironed and where’s your watch?
You look ridiculous.
The rug moves again as the lower half begins to slump downward where the sand is disappearing beneath, and it sounds like a seagull at first but the pier is to the west and none of the birds are stirring. The sound is too close and he needs some distance.
When he gets back from the car the water is three-quarters of the way up the rug and the knots still look solid. But there is noticeable movement.
He thinks about how he’s never had a flat tire, though he’s helped change one or two like a Good Samaritan, but never with his own tire iron. It smells like the grease on the scissor jack and the rubber of the spare tire, and the weight feels good in his hand. Solid. Significant.
He raises his arm and in that perfect nothing moment, the space between lifting up and crashing down, the moon and every last star reflects full and bright in the face of the watch.
The rug gives under the weight of the tire iron, and he bears down with all his strength once, twice, and the third time he finds the muffled, hollow crack he’s looking for. He imagines that the red and gold key pattern is turning mostly red now, but it looks perfectly black in the moonlight, and the black spreads slowly as the waves reach higher.
Now it’s quiet again except for the waves, that insatiable chorus of ghosts, and he imagines the ocean washing her away bit by bit. He sits on the rock and folds his jacket, sets his shoes neatly in front and then he waits for the tide and eventually the sun.
When the rug is just peeking out of the highest waves, he takes off his watch. It’s stopped. He sets it between the shoes, parallel to the soles. He imagines the rug laid open and the corner medallions soaking up the seawater, the red and gold key pattern bleeding into the inner labyrinth.
He thinks about her skull.
Edward throws the watch into the ocean and sits back down on the smooth rock. When the people do show up the rug is still there, peeking out of the water every few seconds and beginning to bob with the ebb and flow.
Someone screams. When the people come back again he does what they tell him. He puts his hands behind his head and he feels his naked wrist and it’s worn smooth. He kneels, and it makes him smile that he won’t have to iron these pants, and he thinks about the stupid fish staring at the red and gold key pattern of that dead watch.