“Kar,” John moaned, his head lolling on the pillow.
“Doctor be soon, John. This I promise.”
But John’s head only rolled harder. In mid-roll the head stopped and faced the ceiling. The rooster neck arched, the tiny Adam’s apple shuddered. “Chrisha,” the old man gagged. “Chrisha, Chrisha.”
Karl leaned closer, frowning. “John, this I now insist. Doctor Steinbaum here soon.”
John tossed his head wildly, clutching the cover’s hem and kicking his feet. “Christian,” he gasped. “Christian!”
Karl placed his big palm on John’s brow, lifted a withered eyelid with his thumb. He didn’t waste time on the pulse. He set the receiver on its cradle, immediately picked it back up, and dialed a new number without looking. “Simms! Wake! Find Cristian now! Bring here! And go hurry!” Karl’s pale blue eyes narrowed, his lips working hard as he sought words to explain the situation concisely and with finality. A storm brewing nigh on thirty years was about to break and take everything that mattered with it. He unclenched his toes, steadied his breathing, and pressed his lips against the mouthpiece.
“This,” he hissed, “is it,” and gently replaced the receiver.
Like a bright ballerina on a softly shaken carpet, a golden hump of spume was swept laterally by the tide. Wave by wave the delicate mold progressed, at last dissolving on the sand. Farther along, a new hump was born.
Twenty yards back, a quiet young man was observing this charming process as an event analogous to his own bullied existence. Like all depressives, he believed his personal fate was determined by a particularly cruel tide.
Cristian knew he too was being watched; he could feel it. He didn’t budge, he merely rolled his eyes. A glistening brown woman, wearing only a thong bikini and half a pound of cocoa butter, was studying his profile. Her hair was golden blonde, her bikini the pink of cotton candy. She was flawless.