They make their way haltingly, careful not to step on the fat tubes of bullwhip kelp stretched across their path like brown furry boa constrictors. The shore pebbles, gray and white and black, so rounded and smooth from the endless tumble and roll of saltwater, shift under their feet and make the going more treacherous yet. A gangly hedge of weather-felled trees and debris, bark-less and sea-bleached, hems the entire strand. The wind is a constant white rumble past Delmas’ head.
“Did you see…?” Lillian’s voice is swept up by the wind.
Delmas nods. Mergansers float out on the blue water; closer in, shiny black seal heads bob. The seals peer at the two of them with curious eyes, intelligent eyes that seem to betray a knowledge of more than swimming and catching fish. Much more.
“Did you?” she yells up at his ear.
He nods again, more insistently.
Under her green windbreaker, Lillian is wearing Delmas’ blue moth-eaten cardigan over a gray sweatshirt shed by a lover from before Delmas met her. The cuffs are frayed to almost nothing and Washington & Lee is faded to a shadowy blue arch over her breasts–her left still there though flattened and empty, the right, a puckered scar that stretches into her armpit. She no longer bothers with a bra.
The cancer is back; it has metastasized. The children don’t know yet.