This was originally entered as a sci-fi Friday competition on Wattpad. It had to be no more than 1500 words and the lead in was this: A dating site inadvertently paired up androids with humans, and we had to take it from there. Needless to say, I did not even platform under the honorable mention section… LOL, but that did not stop me from writing, in my style.
A Note about the title. This was a play on a couple of things. The term, 23 Skidoo, came about from 20th century slang originating in the Flatiron District in NYC, specifically 23rd street. With the combination of building design (flat Irons) and how the avenues and streets intersect, it created some interesting wind patterns. During lunch hours, when the women workforce would be out on the streets under the scrutiny of the construction workers and their cat calls, guys would wait for the women knowing the winds can gust quickly, hiking up their skirts. The cops would come along and say to them, ‘come’on… Skidoo.’
Secondly, this is a dedication to friends and my in-laws, Maurice & Harriet Holt (God rest their souls) and to the wonderful times we had and still have in LBI NJ, where the place to be is 22nd street. I wanted to call this work 22 Skidoo, but realized only a few would be in on the play of title and I would have most likely received a lot of feedback correcting me with 23 skidoo…. so there you have it. Enjoy.
The guy smelled like urine and sunscreen. Oddly, the combination wasn’t unpleasant.
“Alexa. Note to self. Urine and sunscreen.”
“Urine and sunscreen saved to self,” repeated Alexa. Alexa was his internal symbiont. All androids these days had one.
He scrunched the pockets on the guy’s fly-fishing vest, but pocket after pocket seemed filled with every possession the guy ever owned.
“This is going to take a while,” he said to no one and rolled him onto his side so he could turn out the collar and see the label. “Alexa, add Simms vest to my shopping list.”
“Simms vest added to your shopping list.” she repeated.
He continued to search and moved onto the cargo pants. “Shit… more F’ing pockets… I can sure pick’em.” Finally he found what he was looking for and popped the double snaps to fish out a wallet, worn and scratched along the edges and bound with a crucifix and tie wraps.
“Christ,” he said, then caught his pun and started to laugh. The sun would be rising over the ocean any minute and he was running out of time. Reaching under his shirt sleeve he removed the arcKnife strapped to his tricep and hot cut through the tie wraps leaving singe marks along the leather. He fished out the guy’s plexi and inserted it into his reader.
“Benny Larson,” he said. “You look like a Benny,” he added and laughed at his own pun of how the island locals called their day trippers, bennies; a term that originated from the letters of the train stations on the Jersey Shore line: (B)ayonne, (E)lizabeth , (N)ewark & (N)ew (Y)ork. The locals, as much as they needed the seasonal revenue, felt the bennies messed up everything between Memorial day and Labor day: He loved puns. Puns were a sign of intelligence and therefore… he was intelligent.
The corpse in the dunes beside him had a face frozen in time. Eyes and mouth opened with a look of surprise. He noted the coagulation of blood on the sand; it looked like a raspberry snow cone had been dropped there.
“Alexa, note to self. Blood on sand. Snow cone.”
“Blood on sand. Snow cone saved to self.” echoed Alexa.
Rolling him onto his back, he pat Benny Larson on the chest like he was saying goodbye to an old friend. “Travel well, amigo.” He stood and brushed the sand from his knees and looked out over the ocean, raising his hand to shield his eyes from the bulk of the sun’s rays. Stepping gingerly alongside the drag marks and footsteps leading back to the beach, he was careful not to step on the dune grasses. The posted signs indicated the dunes were off-limits to people and pets and the grasses were a protected species. Violators would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. He protected things, that’s what he did, and now he would protect dune grasses.
The night’s rain had formed a thin coffee-colored crust on the sand, making it easy for him to follow the footsteps that exposed the white grains below. They led him south along the beach toward 23rd street where a foot path lined with dune fence trailed out toward the road. He passed a bench at the bottom of the path inscribed with, In Memory of Harriet and Maurice Holt, and stopped to empty the sand from his topsiders when a yellow Lab puppy, whose feet were as large as spatulas, came bounding toward him.
“Come on boy… oooh what a good doggie.” he called out and watched the puppy pick up speed with its tongue and tail wagging, almost knocking him off the edge of the bench when it collided. He held the puppy’s ears between his thumb and forefingers to keep it from jumping and smoothed its brows until it settled down. Looking up over his shoulder, he could see the dog’s owner, his date, rising over the crest of the path. She was right on cue and wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat and dark glasses that were a little too large for her face. She was athletic, shapely and carrying a surfboard under her arm. Her neoprene silky was flowered and wrapped down to her naval but still well above the bikini bottom.
“Roxy…. come’ear gal.” she called out.
Roxy had been under his spell, letting out a groan with each soothing stroke until he stood, leaving Roxy motionless and in denial the smoothing had ended.
“Roxy!” she called out a bit more commanding. Roxy’s front paws dug into the sand and she let out a bark to continue.
“Rox-eeee!” she repeated. “Don’t you even think about it!”
“Roxy loves people,” she said approaching him. There was no embarrassment in her voice. “I hope you like dogs,” she added.
He looked down at Roxy who was now on her back and sweeping out a dog’s version of a snow angel.
“I don’t know. I’ve never had one.” He was looking down, amused by Roxy’s antics.
She had been studying his features, his hair was dusty brown and tight against his scalp. He looked just like his profile image–a rarity these days on dating sites. At least he had that going for him.
He sensed her stare and looked directly into her glasses. He liked to look into a human’s eyes. The eyes told him everything about a person. He guessed she was in her late 30’s or early 40’s. No one younger cared about protecting their skin.
“I love a west wind in the morning,” she said a bit unnerved by his focus and brushed the dark hair away from her face and turned her attention to the water behind him. “I knew last night’s storm would kick up some swell.”
He turned to see where she was looking. The off shore breeze added a finish to the water, like hammered brass, and the crests of the waves were transparent with the sun behind them as they peeled left along the outer shoals.
He knew nothing of the surf or surfing. “Are those good waves?”
She let out a slight, huh? “You’re not up here checking out the surf, are you?” she asked. “Where’s your board?”
“No. I don’t do the ocean. Too many things larger than me that I can’t see coming.”
He was taller than average and looked like he could handle anything life could throw at him. “Toeachisown,” she said as a single word and began to walk around him. So much for this date.
“What was that?” he said abruptly and raised his arm slightly to halt her.
“What?” she replied and little on guard. He looked taut as a bow.
“What you just said…in Italian… that thing you just said.”
She was confused and dropped the tail of her board into the sand. Roxy caught the subtle tension and came to her side, staring keenly into his eyes.
“Italian?” she questioned.
“Yes… I heard that somewhere but could never find its meaning. I never knew what it meant. Repeat what you just said.
She reached up and pushed her glasses down her nose. Her grey eyes were striking. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
He dropped his arm to his side when he noticed Roxy’s widened stance and jowls releasing puffs of silent barks. “Seriously,” he said softly. “Repeat the last words you said to me.”
“Toeachisown?” she guessed.
“Yes! That’s it. What does that mean?”
She looked to her sides thinking she was being punked. “Are you serious?”
“Yes… what does that mean, toeachizone,” he tried to repeat with an Italian accent.
She started to laugh. It was clear to her now. “To… each… his… own….” she pronounced clearly.
His look of excitement turned to surprise then borderline horror. He burst out laughing, repeating the phrase over and over. “To… Each… His… Own… toeachhisown… toeachizone… Oh my… for the last five years, I thought it was some Italian phrase.” He was bent over, palms resting on his knees, shaking his head. Then he stood up straight. “Thank you.”
“Ahhh… You’re welcome.” she said pushing her glasses back into position. “Really.. you’ve never heard that phrase?” she asked doubting him.
“Obviously I have heard it over and over, but never made the connection.” He laughed again… “toeachizone.”
His weirdness began to weigh on her and she tucked the board back under her arm and continued around him. “Come on Roxy.” Roxy rolled over and onto her feet, then after a good shake, zigzagged with her nose along the sand. “It was nice meeting you,” she added with a quick smile and followed Roxy toward the water.
He turned to look at her. The stripes of her bikini formed a heart shape along her bottom. He called out, “Hey… One more thing.”
She turned without stopping.
“If you’re heading north as far as 13th street, you might want to keep Roxy away from the dunes. There’s a dead body up there.”
That stopped her.
He turned and walked up the path to where the wooden walkway began, trying not to add any more sand in his shoes.
“Alexa, note to self. 23rd street, dog, bikini.”
“23rd street, dog, bikini added to self” she repeated.