leonard owens iii


The tides had been stirring up chipped shells and seaweed. We were thigh-deep in the ocean. Me, my father, and a woman he never called his girlfriend but whose name was Julie. Wading out, and even as we stood or idly floated, tangles of itchy seaweed drifted all around. The spongy line of red spanning the coast should’ve discouraged us from going out, or at least provoked my father to think twice.

Julie had first been a friend of my mother’s, before I was born and for some time after. Story goes that she was there for my birth, in the waiting room with my father, who apparently would not offer his encouraging hand for my mother to squeeze while she contracted me out of her. At some point, my dad stopped loving his wife and started fucking Julie. Mom and Julie weren’t drinking buddies after that.

Midday sun blipped off the water, and Julie was acting frisky. She joked crudely and hung all over my dad. She was drunk. On a different day at the beach, Julie’s breasts had flapped out after a tall wave crashed over her. Even though I was seven, she took pleasure in my seeing this. She guessed they were the first breasts I’d seen since my mother’s.

I’ve always liked making bubble trails with my fingertips, sometimes flicking the water up above me, watching for the drop-splashes they’ll soon make. Julie came up from behind. She pried open the waistband of my swim trunks, jamming wads of seaweed down the front, and scoured my crotch and inner thighs.

Then she stopped and laughed, and I can’t remember my dad doing much. My prepubescence was bumpy red for days. The leg-holes of my boyish underwear chafed against coarse, puffed thighs. Soaping myself in the shower burned. And for years after, Julie would wash up in pieces on the doorstep of wherever we lived, and my dad didn’t turn her away for the longest time. Even after he’d moved another girl in, he bragged once about seeing Julie on the side for quickies.

Leonard Owens III lives and works in Daytona Beach, Florida. His writing has appeared in Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Perversion Magazine, and The Talon Review, and is forthcoming in the South Atlantic Review after having won the SAMLA Creative Writing Award. He’s most irritable if he hasn’t been in the ocean for a few days, and a faded print of Garfield has hung on a wall in every house he’s lived in. It’s currently above the television.