“The Red Colossus” by Russell Richardson

On vacation, two married couples visited a busy, white beach, with ocean and sky both a spectacularly picturesque blue.

The men, wearing shorts, were Geoffrey and Frank. They removed their shirts reluctantly before sitting in beach chairs that wobbled on the sand. They had hairy bellies, big, goofy hats, and zinced noses.

The wives, Rebecca and Helen, also paired up, angled their plastic chairs and lay prostrate upon them, while removing their bikini tops carefully to sun their backs without tan lines.

The men discussed sports and politics and films with intelligence——somewhat, because the beach’s views distracted them: primarily bouncing and bronzed young women and their brief swimwear.

Occasionally, Geoffrey glanced at the wives and a momentary fixation would seize him. The beach chairs’ slats revealed the top and bottom arcs of the women’s pressed breasts, indeed like flattened melons.

Behind her sunglasses, his wife, Rebecca, noticed his ogling and scowled. Geoffrey looked away.

The women had been exploring gender issues and politics, and exchanging gossip from the office where recently they’d begun working together.

An enormous resort hotel dominated the landscape——their hotel. The couples, relatively new friends, had taken a gamble to vacation together. But, each partner decided, life was short.

Close to noon, Frank, their group’s most lethargic member, suggested lunch. All agreed. The wives gracefully sat up and swiped their tops over their breasts. “Don’t worry,” sassed Rebecca, catching her husband’s eye. “I won’t show anyone the goods.”

Insulted, Geoffrey scoffed and asked, “What do you mean?”

From her seat, Helen, pugnacious in nature, was unabashed to say, “I’m amazed you allowed her to wear a bikini, period.”

Touching his fatty chest, Geoffrey turned to Frank and found no ally. “Why’d she say that? I’m not that way.”

Oh yes you are,” said Helen, chuckling mirthlessly. She leaned forward and said, more directly, “Don’t you dare scowl at her, either. I know all about you.”

Geoffrey jerked his confused gaze between the wives. Through her semi-transparent lenses, Rebecca was bulge-eyed and appeared as though choking on a chicken bone.

What did you tell her?” Geoffrey demanded.

Don’t raise your voice,” said Helen, “Mr. Tells-her-to-change-into-decent-clothes-everyday-he-gets-home-from-work.”

Geoffrey stood abruptly and stomped the three steps across unsteady sand to Rebecca’s chair. He pounded his torso, drumming the attention from the now quiet cluster of strangers surrounding them. “What did you say? Why would you say that?” he bellowed.

Rebecca’s hands cupped her bare knees. Her mouth flared, mutely. Helen began to rise. Stopping her, Geoffrey snapped, “Shut up. She’ll tell you. It’s a lie!”

Well,” Rebecca managed to say, meekly. “You . . . that time. . . .”

But her words faltered, overpowered by Geoffrey, now bent over her and yelling. “Why would you say that? Why would you say that? I never did that. Why would you say that?” And he repeated the refrain, growing red-faced and frothy.

Suddenly, everybody fell to silence, including Geoffrey. The beach waited for his next move. Coolly he regarded Helen’s recoiling grimace. “Once,” he said. “Just once I told her to change. And that was because she’d dressed like a goddamned peacock.” He spun and jabbed his finger at Rebecca dramatically. “Just once!”

Quietly, Helen asked, “Is that true?”

Rebecca lost a tear. She nodded, swept her cheek, produced another salty drop, and heaved a sob.

Why would you tell me otherwise then?” asked Helen, remaining frozen and delicate. Gulls could be heard ripping debris in the hotel’s parking lot. The ocean groaned, shifting its weight. Building courage, Rebecca whispered, almost inaudibly through the breeze, “I wanted you to like me.”

See!” exploded Geoffrey, throwing his arms up from his sides. “There you go!” First he addressed Helen, then the conspicuously mute Frank, and finally his wife. “Slandering me to make you the victim. What’s wrong with you?”

Frank motioned to Helen and they folded up their chairs. Still above Rebecca, Geoffrey said, “Well. They’re leaving. See what you did?” To the departing pair, he said, “Don’t go yet. Let’s straighten this out.”

As he trudged off, Frank shook his head slightly. Already past him, Helen wouldn’t look back, but Frank did to say, “See you at the hotel.”

Rebecca took the opportunity of Geoffrey’s distraction to stand and collect her own chair and towel. Geoffrey snatched for her arm, saying, “Where are you——?”

But Rebecca yanked herself free. “Don’t touch me,” she hissed. She wasn’t crying now, yet seemed even more sorrowful.

Fine,” Geoffrey growled, arms flailing again, a birdman. He watched her rickety gait as she followed the first couple’s tracks to the hotel. “This isn’t over,” he called. “Make me the bad guy?”

He felt the judging stares from everyone around. Heavily, he sat into his chair and lowered his hat, trying to hide. Yes, the weekend wasn’t over. Not by a long stretch. There’d be lunch, dinner, a luau, drinking, dancing, sex (if she wasn’t too drunk and he wasn’t to limp), breakfast or brunch (depending on drink quantity and quality the previous night), plus a volcano excursion he’d been anticipating, then lunch with locals, light shopping, supper at the swankiest restaurant they’d find, an unplanned evening entertainment, and a departing flight, altogether, Monday morning. The itinerary was meticulously plotted——that was, until Rebecca screwed everything up. And what a nervy mouth that Helen had. And what a wimpy puss was Frank.

Like a red colossus Geoffrey sat in his chair and stared ahead, projecting anger and hate into the sea.

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One thought on ““The Red Colossus” by Russell Richardson

  1. Pingback: The Red Colossus – rxdx productions

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