Boardwalk

A game of skeeball costs a nickle. My father pays. You grasp a blue or yellow ball with the paint chipped off and toss it up to rings for coupons, aiming at the highest, smallest ring for the most coupons. The ball is bigger than my fist. The air smells of ocean. The waves roll in like skeeballs returning from a toss. The bullfrog who rules the arcade speaks with a friendly rasp, and his apron, tied tight around his middle, jingles with coins. My sister is in another lane, older and beautiful. I want enough coupons to buy the lamp with the rattan shade or the noisy clock that sits on a dusty shelf. I want never to leave the boardwalk, the cotton candy, the drawing sensation of the Tilt-a-Whirl I will later know is sex. One day I hold in my pee too long, and for a moment my father looks confused and almost laughs before saying, “Just go.” I am under the moon and stars on a dark stretch of boardwalk, and warm pee is sliding down my legs. Then my father says, “Run,” and we are running as I am still peeing, and my sister is beside me with a devil face.

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