I admit I struggled with End of Summer at Potts Harbor for several years. POV, cast of characters, relationships, tense, I tried variations of them all. The ending was the hardest to land. Once I’d figured it out though, I loved the story and considered it one of my best. The trouble was, few others saw its merit. It earned 31 declines before L’Éphémère Review accepted it. A year after the story’s publication, Duotrope has posted that they believe the journal is defunct.

My enduring gratitude to Evangeline Sellers, Fiction Editor for publishing it and to Kanika Lawton, Founder and Editor-in-Chief who named it a L’Éphémère Review Best of 2019 and subsequently nominated it for a Best of The Net 2020 Award. It was the first time anyone gave me those  appellations.

End of Summer at Potts Harbor

I gaze at the silhouettes of pine trees that glow across the top of the ridge. The screen door groans. It’s my sister, Liz. She crosses the deck and sits on the back steps that lead down to the shore. “Christine’s tired. She needs to rest.” The high slopes bordering the cove blush in the setting sun. She sweeps her arm across the spectacle. “Christ, I love the vastness. How the sunset stains the entire sky pink and orange.” Liz gives a rueful laugh and shakes her head, “Listen to me, getting all philosophical.”

“You’ve been living with Christine too long.”

Liz tugs on the brim of her cap. “Why would you say such a thing?” She looks up at me, a band of shade splits her face; her eyes glitter.

I heave a sigh, brush off the top step, and drop next to her. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have teased. It’s just this thing with Christine, it’s all wrong. Why did you come here? She should be at Dana-Farber.” I keep my eyes turned towards the sea.

“You think I haven’t tried?” Liz sniffs. “Grace and beauty encasing a steel core. That’s what she is.”

I snort in disbelief.

“As we crossed the harbor this morning, her hair windblown like a figurehead braving a storm, I took her face in my hands and I begged her,” Liz pounds her clenched fist on her knee, “begged her to fight. You know what she said?”

I shake my head, forget to breathe.

“It’s a gift.”

It takes me aback, this turn towards the religious. What can I say to counter it? The breeze skims over my body, causes a quick shudder. I watch the gulls preen along the ridgeline of the neighbor’s barn.

Liz takes a sip of her vodka tonic. “I think she’s right. It makes everything sharper. We get to inhale this bay and listen to the life it feeds. We get to let it fill us, make us small.”

I wrap both arms around Liz. We rock back and forth, heads tilted to watch the changing sky. After a time, I raise my glass in a toast to the blurring indigo bay. “This is it then. Isn’t it? Moments like this.”

“Like frost in the morning, darling.” Liz kisses my cheek. “Remember when we’d sleep in the bunkhouse before summer camp? I used to imagine salty fingers were curling around my shoulders inviting me to dance among the breakers.” She rubs her hand along her outstretched arm. “Sometimes I went.”

I give my drink a final swirl, tip the glass up, and swallow the bourbon in one icy mouthful. I choke down a cough. It catches in the back of my throat, on that delicate spot where the tears harbor.