Sample from THE SIGHTING
Danny Lynch kept his shoulders high and wide and then turned sharply off the asphalt jogging path, striding east now on the planks of the beach access. As his soles hit the wooden planks, he was instantly grateful for the softer feel of the boardwalk on the bottoms of his feet, and he closed his eyes for a moment, savoring the sensation as he increased his speed. He opened his eyes again and was now close enough that he could just make out the bottom landing of the stairway that led up to the ocean overlook. He turned his gallop into a sprint, determined to end this run—as every run—with the last drops of gas he had in his tank.
Danny reached the sandy landing like a wild dog, panting and dishevelled, and then began his ascent of the stairway, staring down towards his feet, shortening his steps as he pumped his knees high, deliberate with each march, careful both to maximize every muscle in his legs and to keep from slipping on the treacherous incline. He turned his focus forward now, craning his neck toward the welcoming arms of the railings above him and the dark sky that was just beginning to blossom to blue.
He reached the top of the overlook with a fury, stomping out the last two steps on the boards that formed the floor, and then unleashed a low-pitch grunt that was some hybrid of scream and growl. He put his hands on top of his head and eased into the first stages of his wind-down routine, pacing the square, boxing-ring-sized overlook, moving his hands to his hips now and thrusting his chest forward, full and proud, taking in full breaths of the cool morning air before puffing them out toward the beach. As always, he was thankful to be done with this part of his daily regimen. He looked at his watch—5:47 am.
Danny unshouldered his backpack onto one of the overlook benches that bordered the square, unlatched the fold-over cover, and pulled out his bathing suit, laying it out in front of him next to the backpack. He quickly undressed, stripping entirely naked for just a moment before stepping his legs into the swimsuit. He tied the suit tight and stuffed his clothes into a nylon bag which he left on the bench, and then began his slow descent toward the beach. He touched down on the sand just as a bright orange wedge formed on the horizon. He headed toward it, appreciating the cool dry grains that flowed between his toes as he ran.
Danny reached the water’s edge and continued into the surf without breaking stride, never giving the cold ocean a chance to make him rethink his morning dip. The salt water rushed quickly over his groin and waist, then his torso and shoulders, before Danny ducked his head forward into one of the relentless waves that had been peppering this beach for untold millions of years. He held his breath and stayed under the water for what seemed like two minutes, but was probably closer to thirty seconds, before exploding up, breaching the surface like some tiny humpback whale.
This had been Danny Lynch’s practice for five months now, six days a week, with only a few exceptional days when the weather had simply not cooperated. Otherwise, he ran the 3.7 miles to the beach, swam for ten or fifteen minutes (except on the winteriest of winter mornings when he’d barely allow time for the water to get him wet), allowed himself time to dry on the sand as he watched the sun rise, and then ran the 3.7 miles home. Living within five miles of the beach and a dip in the ocean every day: those were two things on the list of a dozen that made up Danny’s dream life, a list he’d first started compiling about four years earlier.
And now here he was doing it, living those bullets on his list, honing his body and spirit in the process, and not for anyone or thing in particular, only to increase his own feeling of self-worth. He was as fit as he’d ever been in his life. And it felt great.
The rest of his life, however, was still a work in progress. In certain ways, the money had given him freedom, but it held him back in others.
Perhaps it had come too easy. He’d written one song, that’s all, and only the lyrics mind you, not the music, which Danny always admitted was the much more difficult part of the equation. Most people he knew could rhyme a few words and create two or three double entendres, but there were far fewer who could form the melody behind those words.
But the deal was deal, right from the beginning: if any money ever came from “Full-blown Superstar,” the split would be 50/50. And when the song reached number three on the Billboard Top 40, that money became fairly significant. It was amazing what one hit could pay off over time, especially when it was used in a couple of commercials and one bad movie. And he still heard it quite often on television, playing in the background of an arena or stadium, being used as a device to pump up the crowds at various sporting events.
And the royalty checks just never seemed to stop flowing in. He wasn’t a millionaire, per se, not quite, but last year he’d cleared six-hundred thousand dollars and hadn’t really done a day’s work.
Danny stood in the water with his knees bent, keeping his shoulders beneath the surface while he stared at the horizon and the sun’s emergence beyond it. This was a gift to live this life, he thought, but then immediately shooed the notion from his mind, returning instead to the reality of the sunrise. Stay in the present and just focus on what’s happening now. He must have recited that refrain to himself twenty times a day. It was a tough path to stay on, but it was good self-advice. Life always seemed a bit better when he followed it.
He dipped his head once more beneath the water line and then propelled his body forward toward the beach, emerging tall into waist-high water, shaking off the chill as he rose.
And then he saw her.
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