James Reinebold
Beaches, Death, and Public Toilets

Hell is a Venice Beach public restroom. It is dark and covered with the writings of a rambling madman scribbled in neon orange paint. A thick green sludge lives on the floor and can never be removed. Hell has no sink, only a square metal toilet.

Sam did not see the dead man on the toilet until he locked the flimsy wooden door. The man sat slumped over with a smile on his thin lips and tan cargo shorts pulled down around his bony ankles. Scruffy, erratic patches of hair obscured a face lined with wrinkles.

Raymond Poole. The Arizona license had expired three years ago and was the only thing in the wallet besides a yellowed receipt from a flower shop and two dollars in change. The man’s left pocket contained nothing but used tissues.

There were vague protocols to attend to when you found a dead person. Call the police. Answer questions. Contact the family.

Instead Sam took the license and put it in his own wallet between an American Express credit card and his Ralph’s membership. He wondered how long it would take for someone else to find the body.

A cool breeze blew in off the ocean. Sam took off his sandals and walked in bare feet on the sand. It felt wonderful between his toes.