A Beautiful Day by Eric Nunnally

It's like falling into weightlessness to wake softly into consciousness. Your ears and then your sense of touch tug at the rest of you. Then that yawn comes, tearing you completely away from sleep.

Oh, and there's nothing beating that morning air, fresh and clean, gently intruding, washing your face and caressing your nakedness. I sleep nude when I can and this morning was one such day.

The breeze tickled my nose a bit and I waited to see if I would sneeze. Nothing coming, I rubbed the itch away and yawned again.

My ears drank the crisp whistling melodies of birds fluttering playfully and singing to one another outside my window.

When I opened my eyes, I saw the heavenly glow of the new day sliced in strips through my wooden blinds, catching faerie's dust in its shafts of light which striped my stuccoed wall.

The same light breeze that washed my face, occasionally pushed gently through my blinds causing the wooden strips to make a rickety sound against the window sill when the breeze fell back through the window screen. I studied the window's rhythm, inhaling and exhaling into my room.

I yawned again to welcome the day - a long one that stretched my face painfully as I inhaled the refreshingly cool air. Throwing the sheets aside I sat up on the side of my bed and felt my mind bombarded with a million possibilities and things to do for the day. Shaking free of their nuisance, I hopped up and went to the washroom to, among other things, wash the sleep from my eyes.

The alarm clock was nagging when I turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. Noon already? I asked myself, but remembered I set it half an hour fast to save some more of the day for myself. Its ridiculous, when I think about it, but it works for me.

Can't do morning without music, so I searched for a station that was going to give me that extra "kick." While discriminating, I looked at my calendar and noticed my note about a barbecue. Sounds like a plan, I thought to myself. Picking up the phone, I dialed the number I had written down and searched my drawers for something to wear.

"Hello?" A woman's voice, feminine, pleasant and full of life, but unfamiliar, answered. The accent was missing.

"May I speak with Magalie?" I asked, wondering if I had dialed the correct number.

"Just a moment," she said and set down the phone on a table or something to call for Magalie.

I found some shorts and a shirt to wear but couldn't figure out where I had put all my clean socks as I waited for Magalie to come to the phone.

"Ah-lo?" A rich and familiar Haitian accent greeted me.

"Good morning!" I answered, truly glad to hear her voice, "Its Rico."

"Rico!" she exclaimed sounding happily surprised. "Are you coming to the barbecue?" the energy in her voice, when she was in good spirits, was always addictive. To tell the truth, I loved the way she said my name when I called. She spoils my ego, and when I need it stroked, she's my "go to" person.

"That's what I'm calling about. What time did you want me there?" I asked just as I found my laundry bag full of clean socks next to my sandals I was about to opt for. I sat on my bed, poured out all the socks and looked for matches.

We went back and forth about what time I should be there relative to everyone else. I had forgotten I promised her I would barbecue some of the meat and tried to gently scold her for not calling to remind me. Truth is I suffer from selective amnesia and if its not important enough for you to remind me, its not important enough for me to remember... especially if its for you. I mean, who forgets stuff they're interested in?

So after confirming that everything I needed to fulfill my end of the bargain would be there when I arrived, and double checking my list of things I needed to pick up on the way, I apologized for forgetting.

"Thank you, Rico." she said over a honking horn. "They're about to leave me... can you be there in thirty minutes?"

"Maybe earlier." I smiled to myself, picturing Magalie under pressure." See you then."

"Thanks!" she said quickly and hung up her phone.

All the stuff I needed to bring I already had, most of it seasoning specialties. I got it all together and decided to ride my bike to the beach. Once I brought the Schwinn out into the afternoon air, I was happy with my decision to ride. It was a beautiful day.

There were some kids across the street playing softball on the school lawn, and some others lighting fire crackers in a tree. As I climbed on my bike, I saw another kid run out of his house and across the street without looking. As I shook my head, he turned around and I looked back to his door and saw his black poodle jump off the porch. The little boy called to it and the dog took off for the boy as I saw the car coming. The screech of the tires, the hit and tumbling beneath the chassis... made my soul cringe. The dog crawled free and finished his last thought - to get to his little boy. Leaping into the boy's arms, the little black poodle went lifeless.

The other children and the boys parents had rushed to the boy by now. The driver's face was truly remorseful. Me? I just cussed the little bastard for being so stupid and rode off with tears of anger and sorrow in my eyes.

With the sun on my face and the wind in my ears, I prayed that little black dog into heaven, still sad thinking about the day it would never see. No more tomorrows.

The sun, blue sky and other distractions, called me back from my mourning spirit. Really it was this lady wearing something close to nothing, and wearing it well.

Some asshole busted a bunch of bottles on the bike path, which pissed me off more because I wasn't paying attention until I was all up in it. Had to be a little bastard like that kid with the dog, I thought to myself. Some spoiled little brat ain't had his ass beat like it was supposed to be coming up. Talking ain't for kids. You talk to adults. You beat kids so that when they become adults, you can talk to them.

Me and the fellas got into this round robin about how we were going to raise our kids. Everybody started off talking about the shit they hated about what their parents did. We had that bitch session all of fifteen minutes til we got down to brass tacks. Fact of the matter is, if our parents hadn't kicked our asses, we'd probably be locked up, dead, or on our way to one or the other. A little ass-whippin never harmed nobody. Matter of fact, it made you better, if it was done with any kind of love, you know, extension cords, ironing cords, broomsticks, shoes, fists, and so on.

Just as I was reflecting on it, I saw some momma wearing her child's ass out for playing near the barbecue grill. That's what I'm talking about. That is love.

When I got to the spot, there were already about fifteen people in the group and I was well received by them all. I parked my bike against a tree and joined Magalie who was at a table beside the grill laying out meat on the foil.

Sliced onions, cut lemons, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes were already prepped for kabobs. "You dressed the part." I remarked, referring to Magalie's apron and cooking mitts.

"You didn't take long." she smiled, comfortably leaning back for a kiss on the cheek.

"Almost was run over a couple of times though." I told her, sanitizing my hands in a stainless steel bowl of bleach water.

"Don't say that." she chastened as David walked up and I began seasoning some of the meat.

"What's up, Rico?" Dave greeted me as we bumped elbows.

"Whatcha burnin'?" he asked looking at the grill.

"Nothin yet but you know I got to make sure your burger's well done." I smiled, "You like yours seasoned hot, right?" I joked, reaching for the lighter fluid.

"As long as you allow me the priviledge of making your burger." Dave shot back getting a laugh out of Magalie.

"Dude, I wouldn't trust my food with anybody else..." I laughed. "You feel like heating up the grill?"

"Where's the charcoal?" Dave asked quickly, eyes gleaming with delight. Magalie and I nearly fell out laughing, and stepped away from the grill when Dave picked up the bag of charcoal Magalie pointed to.

"Oh no..." I heard someone say as Dave poured the briquettes. All of a sudden it seemed like everyone's eyes were on Dave as he poured the lighter fluid.

"Save some for next time..." someone joked, causing a riot of laughter.

Dave ignored the peanut gallery and surveyed the table. "Matches..." he said, and Magalie gave him a box from the pocket of her apron.

Magalie looked at me with a nervous smile and we stepped further back from the grill as David lit a match.

"Careful, dude." I said, not wanting to have to go through the stress of putting him out if he did catch fire.

He shot me a look of irate tolerance before dropping the match.

The flames jumped straight up and roared for a second or two before calming into a carefully structured pyramid of charcoal.

"That's what I'm talking about!" I approved as Dave exuded smugness.

The music was loud, the people were loud and everyone was enjoying themselves under the shade of the palm trees.

After throwing a second tray of meat on the grill, I found an empty hammock, climbed in and watched a fat fluffy cloud float by.

As the scent of the barbecue began to tease my salivary glands, I closed my eyes and began daydreaming. The sound of the waves slapping the rocks relaxed me even more - but suddenly I felt the sensation that I was falling out of my hammock.

Panicking, I opened my eyes, clutching the edges of the hammock. My whole body had tensed up preparing to flip onto the ground, when I realized it was only a false sensation brought on by my state of relaxation and my sensitivity to a sudden breeze.

Of course I looked around to see if anyone had noticed my jumpiness, and was immediately embarrassed seeing a very attractive woman sitting beside one of the trees my hammock was attached to. She looked at me when I saw her and smiled at me in a way that let me know she saw me jump.

"It felt like I was falling out." I offered.

She nodded her head with an amused look on her face and took a sip from her iced tea.

She was wearing a bikini top and shorts and she had the body to fill them. But what attracted me to her was her face. It was smooth and beautiful.

I sat up, remembering the meat on the grill, and saw that the crowd had grown to about thirty people. There were a couple of card tables in play, a volleyball game underway, and some good conversation going on.

"What's your name?" I asked on my way to the grill.

"Mariette." she replied.

"You're Magalie's cousin?" I asked.

"Yes, I am." she answered, standing up and dusting the sand from the seat of her shorts.

"I need to check on this meat. Don't go anywhere?" I asked.

"Okay." she agreed and climbed into the hammock. I smiled as an afterthought and attended the grill.

Opening the top after checking the vents, I was pleasantly overwhelmed with the savory aroma of the barbecued meat. I removed some chicken breasts which had a wonderful color and were obviously juicy. I also took off some legs which stuck to the grill a little bit.

"Who's your lady friend?" Keyth asked from over my shoulder.

"What's up?!" I exclaimed in surprise, almost dropping a chicken breast as I tried to put down the tongs so I could give him a hug.

"Where the heck have you been?" I asked reaching out to him.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" he doubled back, raising his beer like a shield.

"You get barbecue juice on this shirt and you're buying it!" he laughed.

"Whatcha been up to?" I asked, giving him a hug anyway.

"Shit." he replied. "Magalie called me earlier this week and told me about this little shin-dig you guys were throwing. I didn't have any appointments so here I am." he explained and promptly took a sip from his bottle.

"You still drinking that stuff?" I asked, looking at the bottle.

Suddenly he went into commercial mode and held the bottle up to his face. "This is a Molsen Golden."

"And those are Wicked Ales." I said, pointing to a cooler that was tucked out of sight.

"Always hiding the good shit." he complained, walking over and flipping the lid to take a peek.

"Um... your girl?" he asked again, perusing the variety in the cooler.

"Magalie's cousin. And don't get any ideas. You take your hazel-eyed ass over there and she'll forget my name." I laughed.

"The spoils of war." he joked. "I'm here with Christine."

"Christine? I aint never met no Christine." I reflected, looking around as I prepared the next tray of meat for the grill.

"That's cause if she saw your curly-locked ass, she'd forget my name!" he joked. "She's over there tongue kissing that big dude."

"Right." I shook my head smiling and put on the tray of meat: burgers and polishes. "Don't leave before I meet her. I'm gonna cozy up with Mariette for a few."

"Mariette?" Keyth asked with a furled brow.

"Here comes the bullshit." I anticipated.

"Ain't that a puppet?" he asked.

"Thats a marionette you fuck." I laughed.

"Language! Language!" Magalie snuck up on us.

"This is my last tray..." I remarked as Magalie and Keyth hugged.

"Thank you, Rico." she said, looking over the meat that was done.

"Looks good. Keyth, do you..." she started, but Keyth anticipated what she was going to ask of him and had slipped away amongst the crowd.

"Where'd he go?" she asked.

"Same place I'm about to go." I answered, "To enjoy myself." I put down the tongs, replaced the cover to the grill, set the vents and kissed Magalie on the forhead before taking my leave.

She sighed and scanned the crowd for the next grill man.

"I'm back." I whispered, walking up to the hammock and wiping my hands clean with a wet towel.

"You snooze, you lose." A guy's voice came from the swinging bed. I frowned up immediately and was stuck in my tracks.

Suddenly an ice cold glass touched my shoulder.

"I went and got you a cooler." the sweetest voice came from behind me.

I took the cooler and turned into Mariette. Face to face, I was struck by her simple beauty and thrilled that she was taller than my chest.

"Thanx." I said, "Where did you get a glass?" I asked, noticing the beads of water roll down the sides of hers as the sun sparkled in the ice cubes.

"I brought it from the house as we left out." she answered.

"And now you're stuck with it for the rest of the day." I critcized.

"I don't have a problem keeping up with things." she smiled.

A cool breeze came and went as the day became hotter and Mariette and I talked about everything and nothing. Occasionally I would take a look over in the direction of the grill to make sure Magalie wasn't stressing. It looked like she had gotten David to take over so I felt it was okay for Mariette and I to take a walk on the beach.

She had on sandals but I had on tennis shoes, so I took mine off so as not to get any sand in them. The sand was burning my feet so I hopped to where it was wet and cool. Mariette laughed and joined me and we watched the sailboats which seemed to be sitting on the horizon. Little kids were building sandcastles and throwing sea water on one another - one of 'em almost got me and I came really close to burying the little urchin in the sand.

When we got to the rocks, I brushed off a clean spot and we sat down and watched the sea gulls snatch fish out of the water - something I had never seen before.

"Those are albatross." Mariette corrected me.

"Albatross, seagulls... what's the difference?" I asked defensively.

She ignored me and threw a small rock into the water.

"What's the stuff on the beach that looks like slime?" I asked, remembering that we had passed a few while walking.

"Jellyfish." she told me.

"Ever been stung by one?" I continued with my twenty-one questions.

"No, but I remember a little boy almost dying back in Haiti, when he swam into a few Man o' War." she remembered.

"Manna who?" I asked.

"Jellyfish." she said sarcastically.

The ice cream man came slowly riding by chiming his bells and I stopped him. His prices were ridiculous but I really wanted some ice cream, so I dished out my hard earned money and came back with two strawberry shortcakes, which cost me three dollars.

Mariette laughed when I shared my irritation with her about feeling ripped off.

She suggested we go out on the pier where the fishermen were, so that we could watch some water-skiers do stunts off a ramp. The salt air distracted my interest in their watery acrobatics and took away from the flavor of the ice cream so we walked back to the barbecue, where we chanced upon an open card table.

Mariette and I sat down as partners against David and some guy named Lewis. Dave and I were usually partners when the game was cards, and knowing him as a card player I was nervous about Mariette's ability to play with me. Actually I was worried about snapping if it turned out she didn't have any skills and Dave started talking shit.

We lost the first hand by card's fate which had me second guessing my participation in the game. I hate losing.

Surprisingly, Mariette and I won the next two hands through skillful playing. A couple of times I caught various looks pasted on Dave's very expressive face; from actually being impressed with the flow of the game to irritation over bad plays.

The glow of inevitable victory began to shine on my face.

Dave is a sore loser also and was somewhat discouraged until the fourth hand. I could tell by his gloating and my sorry looking hand that he was holding power in his cards. The desperate expression on my partners face didn't help my disposition. Dave and Lewis ran a Boston, collecting all the books, every single last one of them.

Dave flexed like he was King Xerxes and gave me that very pleased with himself look as if questioning whether I wanted to continue after such a thrashing.

Gloating irritates me so when the next and final hand was dealt, I kept a boring expression and shouted inside. The tension was high and I loved every second of it from the time Mariette won the bid, to every complimentary card I played in her favor.

We won the game having the best three out of five hands. David was pissed but congratulated my partner anyway as I laughed.

After the game Mariette and I walked to her car and drove further up the beach where we parked under a palm tree.

"That was a beautiful game." I complimented her. "You just don't know how pleased I am."

"I got the feeling you and David have played together before." she commented.

"As partners practically all the time." I told her, "But its good to play against a partner once in a while... keeps you sharp; especially when you're as good as we are."

"That's arrogant." she observed.

"Its the truth." I corrected her.

"I enjoyed the game." she said.

"You play well." I smiled as she touched my hand with hers. Our fingers became interwoven, and when her stare fell to my lips, we kissed.

At first it was slow and gradually grew more passionate. Her hands held me tightly, as I held her, as the heat affected both of us.

Then, gasping for air, we sat back, just looking at each other as the sun filtered through the fronds of the palm tree and the breeze caressed us with its cool, fresh flavor.

"I want to see you tonight." Mariette said, leaning in for another soft kiss.

"I'd like that." I said, obliging her.

We exchanged numbers and drove back to the barbecue. The crowd was nearly gone, including Keyth and Christine. He probably figured I had other things on my mind than meeting his date. I helped clean the grill and collect the garbage before going home.

Before I left, Magalie pulled me to the side.

"So how do you like her?" she asked, an eager smile on her face.

"She's great." I smiled, "We've got a date tonight."

"Now wasn't this a beautiful day?" she said very motherly.

"A beautiful day..." I repeated and felt the sun on my back: a light and warm touch.

Here's your chance to be a critic! Please do! I welcome the feedback! Thanx again for stopping by!

Enter your name here:

Your e-mail address:

And last, but not least, your comments, including the name of the work: