It was Donna who brought up the odd change in the air. I had noticed too, but I hadn’t said anything about it. There was something in it, an aftertaste that shouldn’t be there after a gulp of it. Metallic, like aluminum would taste if you put it on your tongue. She thought it seemed thinner, too. It might have.
It smelled like fish.
She stopped in when she was done her walk for the day. She beachcombed. Such an old-fashioned name for it, sounding very blue and green and smelling like salt, peaceful and quaint; it was more like a reconnaissance mission or the act of a militant, scouting for signs of the enemy.
I was on the porch and saw her coming long before she called hello. My house faced the water, just as hers did, six hundred feet to the east.
Donna got all the way to the post at the end of my “yard,” the one with the fake seagull gruesomely nailed through the feet to the wood, before she looked up and saw me through the screen.
“Air tastes funny,” she said. She stopped at the foot of the steps and took a big breath. “Like metal.”
I nodded. I was sitting with my notebook, playing, not doing much of anything, waiting for a time when I could pour myself a drink. There was still propriety. So I got up and pushed the door open as if I was going to give it a sniff.
“Just come on up.”
She looked around up at the sky and down the beach where she’d come from and then did come up. She was tanned, her teeth unnaturally white against her skin. Outside the door the air was still. The only sound was the slapping of the waves against the shore, against each other. No birds. Not for weeks now.
The wood seagull was the only one I’d seen since June.
“Tastes like metal,” Donna said...