Three weeks after Fourth of July Bradin was in the surf shop rearranging some
of the wet suits, when he overhead two guys talking. The two guys were in their
early twenties, and were talking about surfing at night. Bradin had never heard
of this, so he stuck around to eavesdrop on the conversation. The first guy
said, “The surf was great last night.”
“You went out? Are you crazy?”
“Don’t be such a pussy. It was the best surfing I’ve ever had. There was absolutely no one else there. I mean no one even on the beach, and the waves were perfect. It was the best. I’m telling you, you’ve got to try it.”
“No thanks. I don’t have a death wish.”
“Oh please. With all the hotels on the beach, it’s bright enough to be daylight out there, and with the leash tied to my foot, I can’t drown.”
“The hell you can’t.”
“Okay, if I was a moron, I could drown, but since I’m not, all I’d have to do is grab the line, and pull myself to the surfboard if I got disoriented. I’ve done it twice now, and it was amazing. It gave me such a sense of freedom and power. It’s like nothing matters but me and the waves.”
“You’re gonna get yourself killed, and there’s no way your talking me into it, so quit trying.”
“Great comeback Steve. You said that already. I think maybe the waves are killing off your brain cells.”
The first guy walked out and Steve followed him. Bradin stood there thinking about it. He wasn’t taking surfing lessons from Erica anymore, because he was getting pretty good on his own. Surfing at night sounded kind of fun to him. He went over to Jay who was finishing up with a customer at the cash register. Once the customer was gone, Bradin said, “Hey.”
“Have you ever been surfing at night?”
Jay laughed and said, “No, why?”
“I just heard two guys talking about it, and I’d never heard about it before.”
Jay smiled and said, “That’s because the people who do it don’t live long enough to tell stories about it.”
Bradin asked, “So it’s dangerous?”
Jay handed him a box and said, “Open that one and set out the new surf wax.”
Bradin nodded and went out to do that. He kept thinking about night surfing and wondered what it would be like.
Later that day Erica came into the store. She kissed Jay and started helping
out. When Jay went to have a lunch break, Bradin went to Erica and said, “Hi.”
“Hi Bradin. How are you today?”
“Okay. How about you?”
“I’m pretty good.”
“Cool. Hey, there were some guys in the store today talking about night surfing. Have you ever heard of that?”
Erica smiled mischievously and said, “I did it once. My mom had just left, and I was really angry and confused. I’ve known how to surf since I can remember, because my dad used to teach it, so I wanted to try something new and more dangerous. I got out there, and I was so scared I could barely get up. The ocean is different at night. But I did get up, and I made it to the shore.”
Bradin was really interested in the story and when she paused he said, “What then?”
“My dad had noticed me missing, and he was walking on the beach when he found me. I was sitting in the sand crying next to my surfboard. Kind of pathetic huh?”
Bradin looked down and said, “No. I understand.”
Erica squeezed his shoulder and said, “I’ve never tried it since, and I don’t plan to. It really was terrifying. Dad said I was lucky to make it back to shore, but I thought that was a little overly dramatic.”
“Was he pissed?”
“Oh yeah. I couldn’t go surfing at all for a month. It was torture.”
Bradin nodded and went to help a customer.
Bradin thought about night surfing the rest of the day. He couldn’t
get the idea out of his head. He knew it was a bad idea. He knew it was dangerous,
and as far as he knew he didn’t have a desire to kill himself, but he
still kept thinking about trying it anyway. After dinner that night he went
upstairs to read a book, and ended up still thinking about it. He knew for sure
that none of the adults in the house would let him do it, but he still wanted
That night Bradin had trouble getting to sleep. He had been trying, and he was sure everyone else in the house was asleep. He sat up and looked out his window. He could see his surfboard down by the pool house. Since the incident when Derrick nicked it, Bradin had decided not to keep it in their room. He thought to himself, ‘Maybe I’ll just go out to the beach, and see what it looks like.’
He walked downstairs and out the back door. He was still in his pajamas, but he didn’t think anyone else would be on the beach. He walked out to the beach and sat to watch the waves for a while. They were hypnotic, and looked inviting. He did see a bonfire down the beach with a few people around it, but they were too far away for him to hear. Half an hour later he went back home and was able to get some sleep.
The next day he found himself daydreaming about surfing at night off and on.
He didn’t have to work at the surf shop, so he had the day to himself.
He was hanging out at the beach enjoying the sun when his sister Nikki came
up and sat next to him. She said, “Nice day.”
“What are you doing?”
They were quiet for a few seconds, and then Nikki said, “Do you want to go have lunch with me?”
Bradin looked at her and said, “Sorry Nikki. I just want to be alone.”
Nikki looked down and barely had the courage to say, “Are you thinking about them?”
Bradin was surprised to realize he wasn’t. He said, “No actually I wasn’t.”
Nikki looked sad and said, “Oh. Okay then. See you later.”
She stood up to go and Bradin caught her wrist before she could go. He could tell she was sad, and they had been close before their parents had died. He said, “Sit with me?”
She smiled and nodded. They sat together in comfortable silence both with their own thoughts. Bradin had the stray thought that maybe he couldn’t get night surfing out of his head, because he didn’t want to keep thinking about his parents. Then he decided that even if it were true, he really didn’t care.
That day before any adults came home, he stuffed an overnight bag with his
wetsuit, and a towel. He stashed it under a bush by the house. Later after everyone
was asleep Bradin went out to the beach again, but this time he brought his
bag and his surfboard. This night there was no one else out on the beach that
he could see. There was a huge piece of driftwood that was more like a large
tree trunk that had washed ashore years ago, and was now in the middle of the
beach. He had sat on it many times, and the whole family used it as a landmark,
because it was close to their house. Bradin looked out to the waves and again
felt they were calling to him. He turned around 180 degrees, and saw no one.
He shrugged his shoulders and got undressed right where he was. He put on his
wet suit, and attached the leash from his surfboard to his ankle. He stood there
a few more minutes looking at the beach, and headed towards the water.
When the water first hit him he was shocked at how cold it was. With no sun out, the water seemed much colder, and it took him a few minutes to get all the way into the waves. Once he was all wet he got on the surfboard and paddled out. When he got to where the waves were starting he turned around and looked to shore. He felt a moment of panic when he couldn’t really see where the beach was. He could see the lights of the hotels, but not really where the ocean ended and the sand began.
He sat on his board and closed his eyes. He smelled the salt water, and felt the waves under him. He opened his eyes and said to himself, “You can do it.”
He looked back and waited for a good wave, and when he saw one he got up on his board and road the wave all the way in. By the time he got to shore he was exhilarated. He felt powerful and brave. He smiled huge and gave a victory yell. He looked back to the ocean and decided to go back out. He paddled out again and this time instead of panic, at not being able to see the shore, he felt excitement. When a good wave came he got up on the board and started riding. Then he crashed. He had crashed many, many times, but this time was terrifying. He felt disoriented and couldn’t figure out which way was up for a second. He felt his ankle and pulled on the string. He got himself up on the surfboard and lay there for a second breathing hard. The next wave came, and he just stayed on his stomach letting the waves wash him towards shore. When he got to shore he got out and stood there thinking about what he had just done. He slowly walked over to his bag, and put his board down. He looked around again and didn’t see any people. He took off his wet suit, got dried off, and put his clothes on. He packed his stuff up, and headed back home. He got back into his room without anyone seeing.
The next day Bradin felt more confident than usual. He was working at the
surf shop for the day, and right before lunch Jay said, “You sure do seem
to have a lot of energy today.”
“I feel good.”
Jay smiled and said, “You want to watch shop for me while I take Erica out to lunch?”
While Jay and Erica were out, a couple of girls came in the shop. They were about Bradin’s age. They smiled at him, and he went to help them.
Bradin said, “Can I help you ladies with anything?”
The first girl said, “We’re just looking around.”
Bradin gave them a smile and said, “Looking for anything in particular?”
The girls looked at each other and the second girl said, “Not really. Do you know of anyplace good to eat lunch?”
Bradin struck up a conversation with the girls, and flirted with them. About fifteen minutes later a man came up to Bradin and said, “Do you work here?”
The man pointed to the cash register where there were three people waiting, and two of them looked exasperated with waiting. Bradin was a little embarrassed to realize he had forgotten he was the only one there, and he went over and helped the first person out while apologizing for the wait. The second person in line was pissed at having been kept waiting. She immediately said, “I want to speak with the manager.”
Bradin said, “I’m sorry he’s out to lunch. He should be back in about fifteen minutes, or half an hour.”
The lady glared at Bradin and held out the surfboard wax she was buying. He said, “I’m sorry about the wait.”
“Well you should be. If I had known you were the one running the place I would have interrupted your little get together over there, and made you come help me. How old are you anyway? Are you sure you’re legal to work?”
Bradin got angry. He said, “Look lady, I don’t know what your problem is. I said I was sorry for the wait, but I was helping a customer….”
The lady interrupted again with; “Those little tarts you were talking to didn’t buy a thing, so I don’t think they can be called customers. Please just ring up my wax, I’m late for an appointment thanks to you.”
Bradin bit his tongue and rang up the wax. The woman paid and then after Bradin handed her the bag, she said, “I’ll be back later to talk to your manager young man.”
Bradin said as belligerently as possible, “Are you sure about that? You look too old to remember you were even here in the first place.”
The lady gave a huff and left. Bradin closed his eyes and thought that hadn’t gone very well. Bradin didn’t have any more problems, and by the time Jay was back, Bradin was feeling better again. Jay said, “Thanks for minding the store. Any problems?”
“Yeah. There was a lady who had to wait for like five minutes for me to help her, and she yelled at me. She was really mean.”
Jay put an arm over Bradin’s shoulder and said, “Some customers are jerks. Nothing to be done about it besides ignore them the best you can, and forget about them once they’re gone.”
Bradin nodded and Jay said, “I’m back now, so you can take off for the day.”
Bradin said, “Okay.”
Jay noticed that Bradin just stood there, so he said, “Was there something else?”
“The lady…she may come back. She said she wanted to talk to the manager.”
Jay waved him off and said, “Most of those trouble makers don’t actually go through with that threat, and if she does come back, I’ll try to placate her.”
Bradin smiled and waved goodbye as he headed out to the beach.
Later that evening Ava and Nikki were cooking dinner, and Bradin was sitting
on the couch watching TV with Derrick when Jay came home. Everyone said hello
to Jay. Jay went and sat by Bradin. He said, “The lady did come back.”
Bradin didn’t look away from the TV when he said, “What did she have to say?”
“Quite a lot. She gave me a headache.”
“So, were you off talking to two girls instead of watching the store? And did you let the paying customers wait for half an hour before you helped them?”
Bradin sounded defensive to Jay when he said, “I was helping two customers, and I made some people wait for maybe ten minutes.”
Jay shook his head. He figured the truth was someplace between the two stories, but he really didn’t think it was all that bad either way. He smiled and said, “Were they at least cute?”
“The girls. Were they cute?”
Bradin shrugged and said, “I guess.”
“Well then it sounds like it was worth it to me. Just try not to let it happen next time. I always try to do my flirting by the cash register, just in case.”
Bradin looked at Jay and gave him a smile. Jay patted his shoulder and went to talk to Ava and see what was for dinner.
That night Bradin thought he would be able to sleep, but the lady’s
words kept coming back to him about being old enough to work there. The mental
answer that kept going through his head was, ‘I’m old enough to
bury my parents, so I guess I’m old enough to work here.’
He knew that the statement wasn’t really true, and didn’t make sense. Derrick had buried his parents too, and he wasn’t old enough to work, but Bradin wished he had said it just to wipe the mean look off the lady’s face. The more he tried to not think about it, the more he thought about his parents, until finally he had to get up and do something. He thought about surfing, and he thought it would get his adrenaline going, and that would help him to forget.
He had rinsed out his wetsuit right after work, and now it was in his closet. He very quietly got it out of the closet, and went to get his surfboard that was by the pool house. He made it to the beach without anyone noticing. He looked out to the waves, and again felt them pulling him. He looked around and saw no one out on the beach. He got himself undressed by the log like he had the night before. He got on the wetsuit, and put on his leash. He picked up the board and got in the water.
Jay had been asleep when he heard a knock at the pool house door. He stumbled
out and opened it to see Erica on the other side. He could tell she had been
crying and said, “What’s wrong?”
Erica said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t bug you. I didn’t think you’d be asleep.”
Jay put a hand on her arm and said, “Hey, it’s always okay to wake me if you need something.”
Erica smiled and said, “Thanks. Could we talk for a few minutes?”
Jay opened his door wider in invitation, but Erica shook her head and said, “Could we walk on the beach instead?”
Jay nodded and went to get a shirt. They walked hand in hand to the beach, and Erica said, “It’s been eight years since the first time she left. Eight years ago today.”
Jay had known Erica for a long time and he knew she was talking about her mother. He squeezed her hand in comfort and said, “I remember.”
“I hate her.”
“I miss her.”
“You miss the idea of a mother more than you actually miss her. You know that when you see her things go badly.”
Erica nodded. She stopped them and hugged Jay and rested her head on his chest. He held onto her and said, “I’m sorry she hurts you. I wish I could make it better for you.”
Erica nodded again and pushed away from him a little so she could look at him when she said, “Thanks Jay. It always makes me feel better when I can talk to you.”
Jay kissed her forehead and said, “I’m glad.”
They started walking back towards Jay’s house in a companionable silence. Then Erica pointed out to the ocean and said, “Oh my God. Do you see that? Some idiot is actually surfing!”
Jay looked out to the water and could barely see a figure in the water. He said, “You want to go sit on the log and watch the moron? Maybe tell him he needs to get some help when he gets out?”
Erica swatted his arm playfully and said, “Why do you assume it’s a guy?”
Jay laughed and said, “Sorry. We’ll tell the person they need to seek mental help.”
Erica smiled and they walked over to the log they had sat on hundreds of times, only to find clothes right beside it. Jay looked closer and said, “I don’t believe it.”
“This is Bradin’s bag.”
They both stood there stunned for a second. Then Erica said, “He asked me about night surfing, but I never though he was thinking about doing it.”
Jay looked out to the ocean and saw that Bradin was up on the board and getting close to shore. He said, “He asked me about it too. Don’t feel bad about it.”
Jay bent down and picked up the towel that was on the log. He turned to Erica and said, “I need to talk to Bradin alone. Will you wait for me in the pool house? I should be there soon.”
Erica looked closely at Jay. He looked different but also familiar to her. She nodded and said, “Okay. I’ll be waiting.”
They kissed and Erica started back to the house. Halfway there she realized Jay had reminded her of her father. When he was looking out towards where Bradin was surfing he had that same look of disappointment and determination that her father had given her sometimes. She shook her head thinking about Jay being a father type. She would have never been able to picture it before tonight.
Jay stood there thinking about what Bradin was doing. He thought about how everyone would be affected if Bradin died. Ava would never forgive herself. She would be so unhappy, she would turn into a shell of her former person. Derrick and Nikki would most likely be catatonic at loosing their big brother so soon after loosing both parents. Johnny would see it as a failure, and would probably leave to isolate himself from the pain. Susannah would be lost trying to help her friends, and then not being able to help would hurt her in a permanent way. The more Jay thought about it the more angry he got that Bradin was out there doing something he knew was dangerous and foolish.
Bradin was up on his second wave, and was getting close to shore when he heard
shouting. He looked to shore and saw someone jumping and waving at him.
As he got closer he could tell it was Jay. He felt kind of sick to his stomach at the thought of Jay telling Ava or Johnny what he had been up to, and he was kind of pissed that he had gotten caught. It had been exhilarating again, and he was looking forward to doing it whenever he needed to. The wave was done, so he jumped off the board, and was able to touch his toes on the sand. He waved to Jay to let him know he had seen him and started swimming to shore.
When Bradin got close enough to hear, Jay said, “Get your ass out of that water right now Bradin.”
Bradin stood and walked slowly to the shore. Jay just stood there with his arms crossed waiting for him. Bradin walked up to him, and Jay handed him the towel. Jay started walking over to the log where the rest of Bradin’s stuff was. Bradin followed while drying off. Jay stopped at the log and turned to look at Bradin. He said, “Just what the hell did you think you were doing?”
Jay blinked and then yelled, “At Night?!!”
Bradin had finished drying his hair, and had tossed the towel on the log. He was tired and still upset that his secret had been found out. He said, “Yeah.”
Jay took a couple of deep breaths and thought about how wrong this was. He needed to make sure Bradin knew what he did was dangerous, and that he would not be allowed to do it ever again. He knew that Johnny had spanked him once, and at the time he didn’t want to have anything to do with it. But now that he saw Bradin was doing something deadly he was considering it. He said, “Get your wetsuit off and get dressed. I need to calm down.”
Bradin thought Jay was being a little ridiculous, but he did change while Jay paced around thinking. Once Bradin was back into his tee shirt and sleep pants, he stuffed his wetsuit into the bag and said, “Okay I’m done. Let’s go home.”
Jay said, “Oh no mister. You sit down on that log. You and I are going to have a chat.”
Bradin rolled his eyes, but did sit down. Jay said, “I can not believe you are out here doing something so dangerous. How could you do that to your family?”
“It’s not that dangerous. I’ve done it before.”
Jay yelled, “You What?!!”
Bradin jumped up and said, “That’s right, I did it yesterday too. I was fine then, and I’m fine now. I am perfectly capable of deciding what I can handle.”
Jay shook his head with disbelief. He put a hand on Bradin’s shoulder and said, “You’re obviously not capable of deciding what you can handle since you were out there surfing at night like an idiot. Do you want to hurt yourself?”
Bradin yelled, “So what if I do?! It’s none of your business!”
Jay “It’s my business because we’re family!”
Bradin tossed Jay’s hand off and said, “No we’re not!”
Bradin started walking towards the house, but only got two steps before he felt a hand on his upper arm. He tried to shake it off again, but couldn’t.
Jay was past the point of wondering if this was the right thing. Now he just wanted to make sure Bradin knew that they were family whether Bradin liked it or not, and that his family would not accept him hurting himself without a fight. Jay pulled a struggling Bradin over to the log. Jay sat down and pulled Bradin face down over his lap.
Bradin never thought that Jay would spank him. Jay just seemed too easy going and laid back to do that. He said with panic, “Jay? You don’t want to do this man. Let’s just go tell Aunt Ava about it, and let her deal with me.”
Jay had paused to listen to Bradin once he was over his lap. Jay said, “You’re right, I don’t want to do this, but I’m going to anyway.”
Bradin yelled, “Nooooo!”
Jay started spanking Bradin hard and fast. Bradin screeched and tried to get away. When Jay started he had his hand on Bradin’s back, but as Bradin started to flail, Jay had to wrap his arm around Bradin’s waste and pull him up against his stomach to keep him in place. Jay didn’t say anything while he spanked. Bradin was noisy, but most of what he said was incoherent. Jay caught a couple of ‘please stops’, and some ‘I’m sorrys’.
Jay didn’t stop until he heard less yelling, and more crying from Bradin. He stopped as suddenly as he started, and shook out his hand which hurt. Then he loosened his grip on Bradin’s waist and rubbed Bradin’s back for a few seconds. As soon as Bradin realized it was over, he pushed himself up and off Jay’s lap, and kneeled in the sand next to him because standing seemed too hard. Jay got down and sat in the sand with his back against the log.
After a few seconds Jay said, “You better never try this crap again Bradin.”
Bradin was still crying but nodded that he understood. Jay said, “Maybe you can’t see it, but you’re an essential part of our little family group. If something happened to you we would all be lost. How can you be out taking risks with your life when Nikki and Derrick need you? How would they be able to go on with you gone along with your parents? And the only thing that keeps Ava going since she lost her sister is the three of you. I don’t know if she would recover very well if she lost one of you guys too. Johnny wouldn’t be able to cope with the pain, and would probably have to leave. Susannah and I would both be so busy trying to help the others get through their pain that we would push ours aside. Then when we realized we couldn’t help, we would have to deal with that pain along with our own pain from loosing you.”
Bradin was still crying and Jay sighed and said, “Come over hear and lay on your side for a minute. Rest your head in my lap, and we can both look out at the ocean while you calm down.”
Bradin shook his head no, but Jay pulled him down anyway. Once Bradin was lying down, Jay started rubbing soothing circles on his back as they both watched the waves
Ten minutes later, Bradin was done crying, and he was just staring off into space thinking. Jay said, “What are you thinking about?”
“That you spank a lot harder and longer than Johnny.”
Jay was surprised at that statement. He thought for a few seconds and said, “I kept picturing how everyone would look if you died. I wanted to make sure that I never really see it.”
Bradin said, “Are….are you going to tell Aunt Ava?”
“Yes, and Johnny and Susannah too.”
“Why? They don’t need to know.”
“Because we are a family, like it or not. If your dad found out that you did something wrong that was dangerous, would he have kept it from your mom?”
Bradin wanted to say yes, but he couldn’t. He said quietly, “No.”
“And I know that you want to be able to make your own decisions, and I know you think you’re ready to be an adult, but your not. You still need all of us to help you make the right choices, and surfing at night was not the right choice. I still can’t believe you did it twice.”
Bradin said, “It felt good. It was exciting. It made me feel….powerful.”
Jay shook his head and said, “Getting that adrenaline rush can be exciting, but there are better, safer ways to get it. If you ever do this again, I’ll spank you, and I’ll take away your board until I think you can handle the responsibility again.”
Bradin didn’t say anything. After a few minutes of silence Jay said, “We should get home. Erica is waiting for me, and you need to get some sleep.”
Bradin pushed himself up, and Jay stood too. Bradin picked up his bag, and Jay picked up the surfboard for him and they headed back. Once they made it back to the house Jay set the surfboard against the pool house and pulled Bradin into a quick hug before he said, “I’ll see you in the morning, and we’ll talk to Ava, Johnny, and Susannah together.”
Bradin hugged Jay back and headed up to his room to sleep.