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There is nothing that pleases me more, nature-wise, than walking through a forest and coming to find sand displaced from a beach underfoot.

You smell the brine, you feel the wind going through your hair, the same wind that brought the sand there. The faint crash — a thudding diffusion — of the surf follows in your ears, and you know that if you proceed through the next copse, you’ll be at the edge of one thing and the start of something else.

I do not make my living from it. I don’t own a boat. I know no one who does, but the ocean has played a central role in my life. Little, really, has informed my life more. The music of the Beatles, probably. My quest with what I try to do as a writer. A handful of intense emotional experiences that I suspect might even be viewable upon my soul, with the right equipment, much like an EKG reveals an earlier heart attack. More… “Wishing Oceans”

Colin Fleming’s fiction appears in Harper’s, Commentary, Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, and Boulevard, with other work running in The Atlantic, Salon, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and JazzTimes. He is a regular guest on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Downtown with Rich Kimball, in addition to various radio programs and podcasts. His last book was The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss, and he has two books forthcoming in 2018: Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls, and a volume examining the 1951 movie Scrooge as a horror film for the ages. Find him on the web at colinfleminglit.com.

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Flying into Provincetown on an eight-seat prop plane, you see what Norman Mailer meant when he wrote the preface to Are We in Vietnam? — “In Provincetown, geography runs out, and you are surrounded by the sea. So it is a strange place.”

 

In the summer of 2009, I arrived at the end of geography, one of the inaugural Norman Mailer fellows — seven writers who spent a month in Provincetown and attended seminars in Mailer’s house, established as a writer’s colony after his death in 2007.

After settling into a condo a few houses down from Mailer’s, Larry Schiller — filmmaker, writer, and the colony’s enigmatic executive director — gave us the four-digit code that would allow us to enter the Mailer house for exactly 28 days, at which point the code would change and stragglers would have… More…

“Favreau.”

 

My boyfriend says my name as a warning, with a cautionary edge to his voice. I look down in the dim light of our LED flashlight to see that I am three inches away from stepping on a tarantula, furry and the size of a lime. I yelp and hop to the side as if I’m performing a move from some lost ’60s dance craze (“Let’s all do the terrified lady!”), and keep hopping as if the longer I can keep myself off the ground, the less likely I am to step on something potentially venomous. It’s some form of logic, but one that I can recognize in retrospect is also likely to startle any sort of potentially harmful creature into attacking.

It is nighttime in December, and we are walking towards a tiny beachfront Indian restaurant… More…

I could not get used to the windows in Classroom 3. They ran from floor to ceiling, lining the entire portside wall. The Pacific Ocean rolled by. Later, in other seas, there would suddenly be land when we weren’t expecting to see land, or The Voice would come over the speakers and announce the sighting of sea turtles, and we’d all have to stop what we were doing and run over to see for ourselves. After a week, the students had gotten better about not staring out at the wavering horizon; I still found those windows distracting.

“Help me close the shades,” I said, and began to lower the one closest to the podium. Collective groan. “Sorry,” I said. “We’re looking at slides today.”

I powered up the overhead projector. The ship rocked. I clutched at the podium. The first time my balance faltered, the students laughed; now it was… More…