“The Man on the Beach” by Josie Sigler Sibara

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Duck diving down in water with the text "The Man on the Beach by Josie Sigler Sibara"

The following is an excerpt from the latest installment in the Ploughshares Solos series: “The Man on the Beach” by Josie Sigler Sibara, available now for $1.99.

I have often paid the price of sleeplessness for my father’s crimes, the crimes of all of Germany, though I had never set foot in that country when I again encountered the idea that became so compelling to me in the summer of my thirteenth year.

On a scorching August evening in my fortieth, I was walking down Sunset on my way to a Dodgers game. I was alone. The two things I loved best about living in the States, the baseball and the uncloseted men, didn’t always go hand in hand. Especially not in 1986. Who could invite a friend to succumb to such amusements while the Reaper floated down alleyways wearing love’s clothes? Outside a secondhand shop, I stopped to examine the offerings on a shelf labeled with a cardboard sign that read: free books. The first I touched, with its glossy cover and effusive blurbs in bright yellow font, looked like it had been printed in some conspiracy theorist’s garage, but I did not put it down. It was about Nuremberg. Nazis who fled.

I tucked the book under my arm and walked on, throat tight. In the stadium, I stowed it beneath my seat. Days before, at my friend Aleks’ funeral, I had promised myself again that I would face the legacy I had spent two decades avoiding. A familiar promise, usually made upon waking from a nightmare I didn’t fully understand. By morning, I would bury again the reason I felt guilty, ashamed, deserving of death. But I had begun to understand the brittle, patient terror of knowing you will lose everyone you love in a fell swoop. I was expecting two things that week: the results of my own test and another funeral.

The Dodgers lost. It was the outcome I favored in those days. I felt rocked in common sorrow between the strangers who flanked me. I considered leaving the book under my seat. But I didn’t. I walked back home, put the book on my bedside table, stripped to my shorts, and lay down. After a failed attempt to drift off, I rose, feeling the tremors of a dam about to burst. I shook myself a martini, but instead of turning on the television as I often did, I sat in the living room before an open window and began reading. The writing was awful, but I was keeping my promise, wasn’t I? By the second chapter, which opened with a brief and stilted biography of Hitler, I found myself nodding off. I was about to close the book when a footnote caught my eye, a single word: Patagonia.

Josie Sigler Sibara is the author of The Galaxie and Other Rides, a collection of stories about growing up in post-industrial Detroit, and a book of poems, living must bury, which won the Motherwell Prize and was published by Fence Books. Sigler Sibara completed a PEN Northwest Wilderness Residency, during which she lived for six months on a remote homestead above Rogue River in southern Oregon’s Klamath Mountains. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant. The draft of her first novel recently won the James Jones First Novel Fellowship.