Low, Low Tide

Driving down State Highway 86, Donelli saw a sign, “Speed Limit Enforced by Airplanes.”  He started laughing.  Only in California.  He wondered if they really did that.  He pictured a Cessna coming out of the air in front of him, touching down on the pavement with a light bar on its tail.

He eased back to sixty-five and kept it there.

He watched the signs.  There weren't many.  Lots for sale.  Cheap.  A billboard said there was an Indian reservation  ahead, with a casino, natch.  He thought about stopping in when he was done, maybe try a little blackjack.  Probably not.  He was supposed to be low-profile.  Do the job and move on.  Another time.

The Salton Sea was off to his left, about a mile down.  White sand beach, powder blue water.  The sand reached way down from the shore.  It looked like low tide.  Donelli didn't think there were tides this far inland, but he wasn't sure about that.  There was a drought on.  Maybe that was it.  Had to be.

There was the sign.  Salton Sea Beach.  It sounded nice.  What the guys back in Vegas said was, it used to be.  Not now.  They kind of grinned when they said it.  That was all they told him.  He took the turn.  Brawley Avenue.  It was a straight road with small houses on it.  White stucco, one-story.  Some nicely kept up, some not.  It reminded him a little of Jersey, the kind of beach houses they had back there.  It seemed nice enough.   He had some time before dark, so he thought he'd check out the beach.  It'd be right down at the end of this road.  Maybe there'd be some girls in bikinis.  Local talent.  Place like this, there had to be some.

He passed a house with a trailer in the yard.  It looked like the family was living in the trailer. That was odd.  He hadn't seen that before.  The next block, a couple of the houses looked abandoned.  One of them was spray-painted with graffiti.  The yards were mostly bare dirt.  Then another house with a trailer in the driveway.  Another with a moving van.  The block after that was worse.  One of the houses had been torn down, the pieces left to rot in the dirt.  Now all the homes were empty.  They looked like they had been for a long time.  He was close to the water now.  He could see a marina, deserted, like everything else, the pier rotting away.  And the water looked wrong.  Something floating in it.

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