The Perfect Beach Weather for Every Gender

"Daisies" by Marne Litfin, recommended by Halimah Marcus for Electric Literature

Introduction by Halimah Marcus

“Neither of my girlfriends would take me to the beach.” So begins “Daisies” by Marne Litfin, in which the narrator’s friend, Miller, drives from Binghamton to Philadelphia to do what their girlfriends won’t, which is take them down the shore. The narrator is the third in a relationship with a married couple. A throuple, one might call it, but they prefer the term “murder,” as for crows, because “throuple and polycule were straight people words that sounded like science projects.”

Litfin writes with the energy of a perfect summer day: bright, fun, cathartic, and satisfying. Though the weather may be perfect, the beach is nonetheless fraught. The narrator’s complicated feelings about their gender are intensified by the sartorial expectations of the swimsuit. They have purchased “a one-piece spandex thing,” sold to them by the algorithm. “Instagram, I eventually admitted, knew more about my gender than I did,” writes Litfin, with characteristic sardonic precision. Miller is further along in their transition—they take testosterone, they’ve had top surgery—and together they discuss their changing identities and bodies with a fluency that can only exist between great friends with shared experience. 

The murder is glum and losing steam (the keystone marriage is falling apart) but the platonic chemistry between Miller and the narrator fuels the story. Miller is the kind of friend anyone would be lucky to have; from the moment Miller arrives, their conversation is alight with inside jokes and effortless irony. The narrator is free to misspeak, and to recover, to bumble around in confusion, to get held down by a wave, and to come up for air. To read “Daisies” is to be invited inside that friendship, and to be reminded that the greatest gift in any relationship, romantic or otherwise, is the freedom of being loved while also being yourself.

– Halimah Marcus
Editor, Recommended Reading

The Perfect Beach Weather for Every Gender

Daisies by Marne Litfin

Neither of my girlfriends would take me to the beach. When I told Miller, they yelped into the phone like they’d broken a toe: But it’s summer! That’s what summer is for! And you live so close! Their voice cracked, on summer and summer and close. I heard them bend down and whisper to one of their chihuahuas: can you believe that? The chihuahua tippy-tapped back. Two days later, they put the dogs in daycare then drove three hours down from Binghamton.

I watched from a window while they parked their dead grandma’s Camry in front of a fire hydrant. They strolled up my porch steps already grinning, already giddy, already preparing to sell my town a boatload of invisible musical instruments. Well well well, I said, flinging open the screen. Their mustache wriggled. Picture the underside of a caterpillar, dancing.

We hugged. I laughed, too. How could I not? Miller and I are always thinking the same thing: I’m so glad you found me. It’s ridiculous that we were born on opposite coasts. It’s ridiculous that we only met three years ago at a feminist podcasting conference—I’ve never recorded a podcast in my life. We’re both skeptical of mass gatherings; I’m not really a woman anymore and Miller hasn’t been one since way back. Life is a stupid, beautiful miracle. It’s rude and homophobic that we didn’t get into any of the same grad schools and have half a mountain range between us now. We should’ve been brothers. We would’ve made great small dogs.

Hey buddy, they said. You gotta learn to fuckin drive. Their arms soft pretzeled around me and the words were warm and muffled in my shoulder. I don’t like touching my friends, Miller especially (it’s like touching one of my actual siblings; a little too close) but we hadn’t seen each other in six months.

I’m leaving! I yelled upstairs. Someone, either my girlfriend or her wife, shouted down drive safe. We were already sprinting to the car.

The trunk was crammed with a boogie board, pool noodles, two-liters of Mountain Dew, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beach blanket. I pointed to the blanket when I popped my bag in. You are twenty-nine human years old, I said. I know, said Miller. Isn’t it great?! In the front seat, they handed me an open bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Hold these. Ambient techno shit exploded against the glass. Absolutely not, I said. I set the Cheetos down by my feet to reach for the stereo. Do not forsake our holy snack! Miller shouted, batting my hand away. I made us a playlist. They pulled out their phone and the noise evaporated. I was just waiting for you so we could start from the beginning.

 I picked up the Cheetos. I am ready. See? Play me my playlist.

Good, they said. I sat obediently while they programmed the GPS, and then “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” by The Beach Boys clinked on. Brian Wilson, as we pulled away from the curb, thought it would be nice if we were older. Then we could live together in the kind of world where we belonged. Wouldn’t that be nice? I think it would. Brian Wilson, very sadly, was never a gay transsexual.

I hummed along. I liked watching Miller drive. Driving is a private act. Watching someone drive is like watching them groom their genitals. They’re vulnerable. They can’t make eye contact. You need to give them total concentration. Also, I don’t drive.

I thought about Miller pointing their car towards me that morning, winding through the Poconos, watching the fog burn off. I imagined them writing weird little poems in traffic, texting their wife good morning from a gas station, chugging vanilla draft lattes by the can. Three empties rattled in the cupholders, which I interpreted as love notes for me: I’m here. I am with you. I am ready for anything because I am extremely caffeinated.

How’s the murder? Miller asked. We sat in traffic on 76. Same same?

They’re fine, I said. They both want to quit their jobs. Miller waited, giving space for me to say more. I wanted to unload—we never got to see each other during the semesters—but it was complicated. My girlfriend had gotten obsessed with miniatures and was wasting her evenings hunting down collectible toys, mostly Funko Pops. She stalked eBay auctions at night, fell asleep in front of digital estate sales alone in our shared office. A month ago, she had, without telling me or her wife, paid a thousand dollars for a vinyl figurine of Sloth from The Goonies.

Her wife retaliated by deciding to build a kayak. She wasn’t very handy, and tried roping me in at first, getting moon-eyed while describing its unique construction. Look at the plans, she said. There are no nails, no screws anywhere. I didn’t get it. How will it stay together? I asked. With  pegs and lashes, she said. We can steam the boards together in the backyard. I had no idea what that meant; I didn’t think she did, either. She took meandering field trips to various lumber yards, kept coming home with the wrong kinds of wood. After three or six or seven of these failures, she hired a handywoman, a “rent-a-dyke” whose woodshop she’d been disappearing to every night.    

And we did all the right things. We ate breakfast together. Had sex. Between us we shared six Google calendars, went to therapy, hosted a bi-weekly movie night. I didn’t know what to do. Mostly I was doing a lot of laundry, waiting for them to come to bed. I moved dishes along, from the sink to the dishwasher to their homes in our cabinets. I cooked dinners with too much butter, delivered full plates to the office and labeled leftovers for the freezer. At the start of the pandemic, we’d seen footage of cruise ships floating at sea, bobbing beyond ports where they couldn’t dock. We’d held onto each other while the clips cycled over and over again on CNN. We thought lucky us, we will never be stranded like that.

I used to think of us as a constellation, as individual fires connected by unseen forces. That’s what we should call us, I’d said—the Little Dipper. Throuple and polycule were straight people words that sounded like science projects. My girlfriend’s wife suggested The Triangle (since we’re all equal). I don’t remember when one of our in-laws joked about us being a harem. We vetoed him immediately, but then someone said the thing about the group of crows. After that, everyone called us the murder.

They’re really stressed right now. I think maybe they see me and hear me talk about you and wish they could be back in grad school, too. How’s Priss?

She’s good, Miller nodded. Gets out next week. Counting the seconds ‘til we’re both on break. We’re taking the dogs camping.

Cool, I said. Miller’s wife was a stressfully hot flannel femme and decorated swimmer who taught second grade. In the past I’d wondered how much time Miller spent worrying about Priscilla waking up one day like, Oh shit, how the fuck did I end up marrying this nebbishy trans sadboy, why has god abandoned me, but then one day I just straight up asked and Miller was like, Dude I literally do not think about anything else.  

You should’ve said something, I said. We could’ve waited until her school year was over, I would’ve loved to see her. Miller did not acknowledge I was lying. She’s been a bunch of times. And today’s more of an us day, they said. Two little guys, right?

Right, I said, Two little guys. But next time? A little plausible deniability would be good for us—Ocean City is big into cop shit. Like, get ready for ‘family friendly’ fun. You can’t buy alcohol. They like Nazis and baseball. They want to see good American women in bikinis.

Whatever, Miller said. I don’t care; it’s one day. I love the ocean, I’m a delight—you’re a delight—we’re gonna swim and take naps and no one’s gonna talk to me about their fucking dissertation. I didn’t even bring a book. I’m gonna get a hotdog and think about nothing. These motherfuckers—

They don’t know a thing.


As we rolled off the Atlantic City Expressway, the sky spread out for us. Blue, blue blue; light, high and hopeful, like the sun had gone for a ride in a balloon that would never come down. The horizon was patchy with pale clouds. We rolled our windows down, and I blasted Miller’s playlist all the way down Asbury Avenue, a synthpop track about self-control that sounded vaguely Swedish and gay. The chorus was the word “self-control,” over and over.

They don’t know! I yelled over the music.

Absolutely fuckin not!! Miller yelled back.

I knew Miller would lose their mind the second they saw the boardwalk. Ocean City was fully committed to pastels. All fonts were nostalgic, every shop window ripped straight from a hazy memory of an unexamined childhood. Underfoot, each plank sat tight against the next, all solid hardwood, pressure treated and feathered with bike lines. Police officers dotted the path like candy buttons; American flags hung everywhere, as if today and every day was the Fourth of July. It had none of the scruff and grime of Atlantic City, eleven miles to the north (the beach the murder preferred when they weren’t too depressed to drive; we were the least weird things there). Signs pointed us towards sand toy shops, saltwater taffy, clean bathrooms. In the distance: the ocean, unbothered, roaring like the white noise machine outside my therapist’s office door.

What do you want to do first?! Miller asked. Their backpack bobbed behind them, bright pink and patterned with flowers, a homosexual bullseye. You want to get ice cream? Hotdogs? God, this place is amazing. Look at that Ferris wheel! They have carnival games?? Dude, you didn’t tell me! I gotta win P something. I’m—oh my god, holy shit, look, they have frozen lemonade. We have to get one, I haven’t had that si—

Let’s get a spot first, I said, pointing to an area between lifeguards. We passed families in Tommy Bahama chairs, spread out like honey on toast. Clean, blonde heads on clean blonde sand. There was no one like either of us anywhere. Trust me, I looked.

Underneath my clothes was a new, red singlet. A one-piece spandex thing, kind of like what Greco-Roman wrestlers wear, from an online-only gender-neutral swimwear brand, Captain Beefhart. It didn’t have a built-in binder but came with the next best thing: a thick double lining that smoothed breasts into something less breast-y. The algorithm had dangled it across my social media every summer for years. Instagram, I eventually admitted, knew more about my gender than I did.

It looked great, but I’d only pranced around in it safely at home. The murder adored it. Ooh, look at my little muscle man, my girlfriend whooped. She said it with the set of implied air quotes we used to refer to all genders and pronouns in our house. She was kidding but also not. It was a joke, but also it wasn’t. I writhed for my audience. That’s my Baywatch boyfriend!

Miller stripped immediately and zoomed around the blanket, pulling out sunscreens and a hat. They tucked the edges of the blanket under our shoes. I’d never seen them undressed before. They had so much chest hair. Their bathing suit was a tiny pair of black, glossy, flamboyant speedo shorts, covered in white and yellow daisies. The trunks were tiny—no bigger than the microfiber cloth I wiped my glasses with—and so tight, you could’ve shot them from the back of a classroom like a rubber band. They were stupefyingly faggy and made them look like a 70s gay porn star. Their bellybutton was an outie.

Their bathing suit was a tiny pair of black, glossy, flamboyant speedo shorts, covered in white and yellow daisies.

I didn’t know you had so many tattoos, I said, freezing with a hand on my zipper. What’s that one? I pointed to a bluish stick-and-poke blob below their collarbone. It’s supposed to be the Shade from Hollow Knight, they laughed. Prissy’s friend did it in undergrad. Hollow Knight was a video game Miller played compulsively back when they were still doing “dyke with bad posture.” They’d walked through it for me on Twitch after my prelims. The Shade looks like the shadow of the main character, the knight, but it’s an enemy. It spurts out of the knight’s body whenever you die. When you restart, your Shade is waiting there for you, ready to attack. You have to kill it before it kills you.

Here, this one’s better. They turned around and pulled down one side of their shorts. On their ass below the seam was the Shade in a solid, professional outline, now a real ghost floating in deep black, a four-inch tentacle body with glowing eyes. A nail—the knight’s signature weapon—stuck out of its back. Wow, I said, T gave you a lot of ass hair.

Shut the fuck up, they laughed, pulling their suit up. This is all me—100% homegrown, Armenian body hair, baby. When I was a girl, it was a fuckin’ nightmare. My mom tried dragging me to electrolysis when I was like, nine. My littlest sister still practically lives there.

You grow that Robin Williams chest nest yourself, too? I asked. I couldn’t help it; I pointed. You can barely see your scars! Miller slapped a pat of sunscreen on one arm. Dude, that’s not a compliment, they said.

I squinted at them, pretended the sun was in my eyes. I knew Miller was thinking about whether they wanted me to apologize, or if they should silently forgive me, or say some small thing to remind me that we weren’t the same. I stared down at my feet, unzipped my shorts and slid them off. People were looking at us, probably looking at both our chests, trying to figure out who and what we were, wondering if we were homeless or some kind of vintage cosplayers. I kept my head down.

I don’t think I want ass hair, I said, finally. I don’t want to look like the men in my family. My father and brother were bushy, like Brawny paper towel men. I folded my shirt into my backpack, away from the sand. I hoped Miller would say something.

Cute suit! they said. But T body hair isn’t genetic, you don’t know what you’ll get.

Well, they both have acne too, I said. Do you want to swim?      

Acne isn’t genetic, either, said Miller. And I knew they were over it for now, at least enough to turn this into a pep talk if I wanted, but I didn’t, not really. I didn’t want anyone standing on the other side of the thing I was so fucked up about to help me, especially Miller.

And anyway, it wasn’t the right time. A teenage boy wearing an official-looking fanny pack stepped onto our blanket and asked for our beach tags.

What the fuck are beach tags? Miller asked me. The boy pointed to a sign.

Ten dollars? Miller said. Ten AMERICAN dollars?

I got it, I said. Get me a hotdog or something later. Do you take cards? I asked the kid.

There’s an ATM just up on the boardwalk, ma’am.

I blanched. I’ll be right back, I said. I sang “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys while I walked to the ATM and back, replacing all the lyrics with ma’am.

You can take Accutane, Miller said, after I gave the Ocean City foot soldier our money. He handed us two pink pins to stick on our bags.

Does my suit look weird? I asked.      

I already said the suit is cute. It’s so cute! Do you need me to say it again? It is very cute! Let us swim.

I took their hand. The sun was white and still and achingly full. It floated directly above us, still on its hot-air ride. I know I said I don’t like touching my friends, but I wanted us to rush towards the water together, so we did. We’d never held hands before and I was surprised by how I felt, how much I felt. It was like holding my girlfriend’s wife’s nephew for the first time, getting totally overwhelmed by his infant perfection. Everything in our lives, whoopsie daisy, was such an intricate practical joke. 

Miller’s grip tightened. Their nails were immaculate. I LOVE THIS! they yelled as we crashed in. Peak Miller. Sometimes I only realize I’m feeling something after I hear them say it first. I’m not actually sure how it would feel if we ever lived in the same place. It might be too much. But I love the ocean, too. Water has always been my favorite body part.

We kept holding hands. I don’t know why; it just felt good to jump up and duck down together when the waves came. Each time, Miller yelled a little louder: I LOVE THIS! I LOVE THIS! Me too, I thought. I wanted to make a joke about the ocean being our biological mother. I wanted to say I love this and I think my girlfriend and wife hate each other and I think I want top surgery, and I’m sorry, but I just watched them yell into the sea. The water was fucking freezing, and I let it tighten around my brain.

I loved my friend so much. I couldn’t even make words, I just kept holding their hand, tighter and tighter, tight enough to accurately take their pulse. I took deep breaths, trying to make my heart beat together with theirs. The waves kept hitting us, the next and the next. The rhythmic bashing—it all felt so good. Different groups of children kept coming and going, joining us and getting tired, disappearing again.

I was trying to work out a joke about bottoming for the sea when a big wave hit us out of time. We misjudged it. It was too fast and we were too close; the crest collapsed over our heads. We were thrown apart—we had to let go. I tumbled. All the way, ankles over neck over who the hell knows. The crotch of my suit filled with sand and I cut my foot on something, a shell or some rocks. I clawed for the surface, but nothing. Just nothing. I tried again. I started to get scared. Don’t panic, I thought. I searched and reached but couldn’t see; everything was murky and brown and liquid. There was nothing to hold onto. It disappeared; I disappeared. And then, a second later, I found it. The bottom. My feet planted on sand, sweet and solid, like it was the easiest thing in the world. I stood up.

When I broke the surface, I hit the air coughing and snorted out everything I’d swallowed. Saltwater burned the bones behind my face.

Miller was a few feet away, already upright, floating like a beacon. I swam over and grabbed their hand again. Then I opened my mouth and screamed in their face. They smiled, with their dripping, sandy moustache, and screamed right back.

I’ve seen an album of Miller’s old photos. At eleven they looked more like a horse than a girl, chaotically gendered and gay as fuck, a wild colt, the kind that lives on a beach and won’t let a single human get near it. If we’d grown up together, I would’ve hated them. And then what? We wouldn’t have gotten to experience the Stand By Me corndoggery we were enjoying right now. Miller and I stood there like Yellowstone’s last two wolves. When the waves came for us there in the shallows, we threw our backs against them and screamed. I screamed until my throat burned. They screamed even louder. It’s really hard to stop screaming, once you let yourself start.

The sound coming out of my mouth wasn’t joyful anymore. Miller said something. I think it was, You okay, buddy? I stopped moving. One wave hit me hard, then another. Miller gave me a good shake. Hey. HEY. Do you need to get out? They grabbed me with both hands. I think we should get you some water. I stopped screaming, and nodded. Yup, they said. Definitely water time.

They led me back up the beach and sat me down on the blanket. I collapsed next to my bag and waited to be handed the Mountain Dew. My throat was swollen and raw. My uvula felt like it was full of splinters. But instead of the hot soda, Miller pulled a pair of thawing, frozen water bottles from their backpack. I was saving these, they said, unscrewing both caps. P was like, “you cannot only bring lukewarm Mountain Dew for an entire day at the beach, that is chaos” and you know what? She was right.

God bless wives. I drank the entire bottle, then sucked at the cold air around the last strands of ice until the plastic crackled in my hand. Thank you, I said.

Thank Prissy, said Miller, taking the empty. I got worried, I’m glad you’re okay.

I’m okay.


Hey Miller?


Some people get really fucking ugly when they go on T, don’t they?

Dude—they snorted.

Right? I’m not making that up?

Yeah, no, I know, they said. But likescars are beautiful. For real. Like, I love mine. They’re hot. I worked my ass off for them. I want guys who are looking to be able to see them. I like that—    

I know, I know.      

No—you don’t. I love you, but you literally cannot know, not until you do it. And if anyone hears you you’re gonna get cancelled so fucking hard, I’m gonna have to pretend I don’t know you, it’s gonna be like Mariah Carey pretending she doesn’t know JLo—    

No one around here has any idea what we’re talking about, I said. It’s just us.

Miller looked over their shoulder. Touché.            

I mean, some people get hotter. Mostly, right? Like Elliot Page.

Hell yeah, off the charts; that’s our guy—

But like, there’s this dude I follow on Instagram? Who started HRT over a year ago? He was so hot before, and now he looks like a werewolf, and it’s just…embarrassing? Like he’s a total mess. His beard is awful, he’s got, like, tufts. He looks like the cover of an Animorphs book.

Oh my god, they laughed. Shut the fuck up. He’s HAPPY, that is sick—

But funny?

Yes, they said. Very funny, but—

It’s just that YOU look really good, and how would—

Excuse me, a voice interrupted. A woman stood over us, a tall one with a long shadow. Standing beside her was another woman, also tall. Both wore jewelry and were tanned to a shade of raw leather. Can we talk to you for a second? Neither of them was looking at Miller.

Me? I said.

Our friend over there just wanted to ask you something.

I was confused. The women looked at me, then pointed to someone, a woman sitting under a striped umbrella twenty feet away. She was wearing a halter-top one piece with a straw hat and sunglasses. She stood up, smiled and waved. I looked at Miller for confirmation.

I’ll be right back, I said.

You absolutely will, said Miller.

Once I got up, the women walked towards their own camp fast; I was a foot shorter and had to jog beside them. None of them looked queer. You never know, though. Maybe the woman on the blanket had a nonbinary kid and clocked me and wanted to ask me where I got my bathing suit. Maybe she’d met a lesbian recently and was about to mistake me for her.

Hi, I said when we got to their blanket.

Are you okay? said the friend.


We just wanted to make sure you were okay, she said. We saw you fighting with that guy. He grabbed you really hard—

He shook you, said one of the other women. You looked like you were crying.

Oh, no, I said, He didn’t—

He did, said the woman on the blanket. We saw. He was screaming at you.

No, that was just—

It’s okay, said the woman on the blanket. I know. It’s like, it’s almost nothing. But it’s not okay for him to do that. If he touches you like that in public, it’s only a matter of—

No, I said. We were just—we were having fun. He was helping me.

Honey, she said. I’ve been there.

Thank you, I said. I really appreciate it. This is actually really cool. The women looked at each other. But we’re fine, I was just freaking out. Everything’s fine.

They looked ready to throw me in the trunk of their car.

They looked ready to throw me in the trunk of their car.

Can we call someone for you? one asked.

No, no, you guys are great, I said, taking a slow step backwards. Shit, shit, shit. This is really sweet of you. Please do not call anyone. That is my friend over there; we were just having a shouting contest. We were having fun, that’s all. I took another step.

I’m giving you my phone and my email, said the woman on the blanket. Don’t go anywhere. She rooted in her purse and plucked out a business card. She had fancy, shiny nails. Her card had a photo of a McMansion on it. Stacey something. A realtor. You’ve got my cell and my office on there too, just in case. Tell him I thought you might be interested in buying locally. The other women clucked with affirmation. If you need anything. Okay, honey? An-y-thing.

Thank you, I said.

Can I give you a hug? Stacey was already standing up.

I don’t really do hugs, I said. I’m sorry. I backed off their blanket, elbowing one of the standing women in the process. She was wearing a mesh caftan; I got caught in one of the holes.

Ow! she said, grabbing herself.

Stacey’s cardboard card wilted in the sweat of my fist. Thank you again so much! I said, turning around. I’m sorry! I ran for a while in the wrong direction before realizing Miller was back the other way.

Dude, we need to move, I said when I found them. I was out of breath. Now. I grabbed my backpack and shoes. I’ll explain, but we should go. I’ll buy you a lemonade.

I did not like their vibes, said Miller, solemnly. They swooped up the blanket and beach toys over their shoulder like Huck Finn. Let’s lemonade.

So they thought I was trying to domestic violence you? they asked once we were off the beach, speed-walking past the boardwalk off-ramp that led to the parking lot.

Yeah, they wanted to call the cops. Do you think we need to go? Your car’s that way.

Wow! Miller said, puffing up.

Okay, I know you’re excited that they thought you had it in you, but I need you to focus—

I mean, they laughed. Come on. They couldn’t have looked that hard.

That got me. I stopped to laugh and catch my breath.

No way we’re leaving now, they said. They pointed to their wrist, to where they wore their imaginary watch. It’s Miller time.

From there we slowed down. We wandered through a busy part of the boardwalk flush with old-timey carnival games. I looked over my shoulder every few feet, just to make sure. The midway was a good place to disappear. It was easy to camouflage ourselves in the gauntlet of gentle grifting: pyramids of milk bottles and rows of goldfish in tiny bowls. Noise, lights, mirrored ring tosses, crane games, water gun races, kids, kettle corn.

Can we go a little further? I asked. I just want to be sure.


We kept wandering until Miller stopped in front of a basketball toss staffed by an old man. Older than all of our parents—the man should’ve been basking like a potted plant on a sunporch, or shuffling across a parking lot with a flock of great-grandchildren toward Old Country Buffet.   

I was a shooting guard in high school, Miller said, staring at the plywood backboards.

You told me, I said. You want to do it? I’d love to see you shoot hoops.

I wondered if the old man had a family in Ocean City.

Five for five, he said. Get a ball in the hoop, win a prize. He gestured to the wall behind him; the stuffed animals were too big to fit through the doors of Miller’s car. Easy peasy.

Miller handed the man a bill and took the basketball. Bonk; a miss. They looked down at their feet and adjusted their stance. I saw them at their all-girls’ high school, shooting threes alone all afternoon. I don’t think it was easy, being a horse at an all-girls school.

Bonk; off the rim. Bonk. Whomp, off the wooden backboard, into a stuffed hippo. I still like you, I said. I patted their back.

I really want to win you something, they said.

You don’t have to do that. You really don’t. We definitely don’t have room in our bed for one of those giant animals.

Maybe let the lady have a go? the old man suggested.

Ah yes, Miller said. The . . . lady. They handed the last ball to me.

Naw, I said and shook my head. I’m terrible. I hate basketball. You can do it. You do it.

I just missed four in a row, Miller said. Take a turn. Win me something. 

I stood in front of the hoop and squared up. Deep breath, I thought. You can do this. Two little guys. I closed my eyes.


Aww, that was pretty close, the old man said. Thought you had it. Try one more. On the house. Let’s see what you got. He handed each of us another basketball.

Get ready, Miller said. You’re taking home a ten-foot gorilla.

I can’t wait, I told them. And then we took our shots.



Oh well, Miller said. We tried. That was fun.

It was, I said.

Wait, the old man called. He slowly stood up off his stool, then turned around and bent over. I like you two. You’re sweet. Good to each other. I like that. He rummaged around. Let me see . . . ah, here we go. He handed Miller a stuffed animal, a fat little dog the size of a lemon.

I love dogs! said Miller. Thank you so much! Their voice cracked, on love and thank.

You two have a good night, said the man. Take care of her.

We will, we told him.

When we drove home later (after a nap, two hot dogs, an extra-large boat of crinkle-cut fries, and a couple seconds of Miller frantically gesticulating at a random guy with top surgery scars we saw tossing a football like a Jersey Shore Ken Doll), we were too tired to sing along to the playlist. The road was quiet; we were quiet. The sky turned a darker blue; the sun would set after all.

Want to stay over? I asked. We were getting close to the city. We have plenty of room.

I want to, but I shouldn’t, Miller said. I want to see Prissy. Plus, I don’t want to leave her alone with the dogs overnight, they’re a handful. Last week one of them ate, like, a foot and a half of carpet.

Right, I said. I get it.

We kept driving. I can’t believe that guy gave you a stuffed dog, I told them. That was magic. Like, how he knew. The dog didn’t look like either of Miller’s chihuahuas, but in my head, I already was sure it meant something.

Just before we got to the city, we sped past a family of deer eating grass on the shoulder behind a metal rail. They perked their heads up in our headlights as we got close, a cluster of adults with a couple of babies; they dove back into the brush and disappeared as we passed.

Hey, I wanted to say—Miller said, when we took the exit for my neighborhood. The murder should take you to the beach sometimes. Either of them. Or both of them. It’s not that far.

I know, I said.

It’s not even an hour. That’s a thing they should want to do. 

I know, I said. I know. Thanks.

There was no salt in the air when I opened the car door in front of my house. It was just a dirty city on the edge of a short night. The lamplights were chemical, and a kelpy funk tumbled out of the car with me. It was hot and staticky on the street. The sand in my crotch dug at me. I wanted a shower. I looked up at my house. None of the lights were on. Girlfriend #1 was probably in the office, staring into the blue light of her laptop. Girlfriend #2 was still out, somewhere under the rent-a-dyke’s jigsaw.

This was great, I said, reaching in Miller’s window to hug them one last time. I didn’t know when I’d see them again.

Anytime, my friend.

I know, I said. Then I turned back to my house and walked inside.  

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