Joseph and his wife hadn’t seen anyone since Monday. They had just gone for an afternoon swim, and their suits were still wet. A howling breeze had developed, piling the sand at their feet. “I don’t see why they left so quickly,” he said as he scanned the beach. There was a striped umbrella that had been left open on the patio of a neighbor and a puff of grey smoke rising to the south, the last remnants of the worst fire the Cape had seen in over twenty years. Mary was haunted by the persistent taste of ash at the back of her throat. The singed smell stuck to her like a shadow she couldn’t shake.
[This is the first paragraph of my short story “Sea Watchers,” inspired by a painting by Edward Hopper of the same name.]