Saltwater Tea by Thomas O’Connell

For obvious reasons, the vampires prefer the beach in the off-season. The nights are longer and the crowds have dispersed. From the bus stop it is only a few blocks through the boarded beach houses, passing over dune grass and stray bottle rocket sticks to get to the low moonlit waves. The vampires crawl into the surf like dogs, jaws lowered to gulp the salt water. They grow giddy, rolling in the slight surf like children and drinking, always drinking, the salt water. They splash each other and play Marco Polo, they knew him, and pretend to have a tea party sitting on the sandy, sloping beach shelf. They do not leave the water until it is time to climb back up the beach so as not to miss the last bus home.

When we were young, we would have tea parties on the bottom of your uncle’s pool. On Sunday, after Mass, our parents melted into the rubber strips of their chaise lounges at the poolside. We wore goggles and sat under water in the shallow end, pretending to pour an imaginary kettle and scoop sugar from a bowl, if our held breath allowed. When we were full, we would walk around the deck, checking the filters for trapped frogs. We really have been alive forever.

Thomas O’Connell is a librarian living on the banks of the Hudson River in Beacon, NY, where he happened to be the 2015-2016 poet laureate. His poetry and short fiction has appeared in Jellyfish Review, Elm Leaves Journal, Caketrain, The Los Angeles Review, Hobart (online), and Blink-Ink, as well as other print and online journals.