In the dream, Faith was lying on the beach in Nice, one of her favorite getaways. Topless women in their eighties, their breasts hanging to their waists like leather purses, sat under umbrellas, rubbing themselves with oil, as hairy fat men in Speedos walked by, leering at Faith.
“In your dreams,” she said to the men, “not mine.”
This caused the old women to cackle and nod their heads, and the fat men to shuffle off as quickly as they could manage on the stony beach.
“Buh-bye,” she said, offering them a weak wave of the hand. When they had moved a few yards down the beach, she sat up, reached for her sun tan oil and began rubbing it on her bare breasts.
“Enjoy them while you can,” clucked one of the crones.
“Your breasts,” the old woman said, grabbing her own, lifting them, and then letting them slap back down against her stomach. “Enjoy them—while you can.”
Faith smiled back at her. “Oh, yes, I will.”
“You know,” said the woman, “I was beautiful once, just like you.”
Faith found that hard to imagine. “I’m sure you were.”
“Now, of course, I’m not, but you know what?”
“No, what?” Maybe I should move to a different spot.
“There’s a certain freedom to it, this loss of beauty.”
“Yes, young lady.” She began rubbing a little more oil on her arms. Loose flesh hung from them like flounders. “A woman can become imprisoned by her beauty—it can encage her true self.”
“Uh,” Faith said, not knowing what else to say and wishing she had moved farther down the beach. “Well, thank you, I’ll try to remember that.”
The old woman stared quietly, quizzically, at her for some moments, and then glanced up at the sun.
“I love the beach,” she said finally. “The intense heat on my body. It rejuvenates me.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“It awakens me, makes me yearn for a man, some young Adonis from the sea, coming to ravish me on these rocks.”
“Old?” the woman offered. “Yes, those days are gone for me—but not the feeling. You never lose that. The body fails but the maiden lives on inside, cloaked in this crusty old shell.”
“I didn’t mean . . .”
“I know, I know.”
Faith smiled weakly back at her.
“People should be like crabs,” said the old woman, winking at Faith. “Yes, crabs. What I wouldn’t give to shed this shell and have smooth skin, full breasts, and a body like yours again . . . if only for a single day.”
“But what about your freedom?”
“Fuck freedom.” The crone threw her head back and cackled.
Excerpt from SKELETON: A BARE BONES MYSTERY (E-book, $2.99)