an Amish woman creates a stir at Sarasota Beach


I heerd they was Amish ‘round Sarasota. Jis’ never thought to see any down on the beach. Like that woman in the purple dress an her curly headed boy—him playin’ with  a football by the water and her jumping up ever couple minutes to drag him back. That man with a old time, stuck-out-from-the-chin beard and suspenders holding up sawed-off pants must be his dad. Him playing catch with the kid an throwing a decent spiral. Wonder where a Amish learned to do that?


“Yeah, sure, babe.” I could put sunscreen on Lisa’s back all day long. From her buff Pilates’ shoulders, down her taut hard back—no tan marks from bikini straps for her. I love to work my thumbs into the small of her back just above the hip bones. And the way she groans, sounds like she likes it too. Then I start on her cheeks. Amazing that she has one red strap running up that glorious crack. I laugh.

“Whaat?” Lisa whines.

“Nothin’.” I just thought of Tim Allen on his handyman show saying, ‘Lay a bead of caulk in that seam,’ when a plumber bent over. But I’m not going to tell her. She doesn’t joke around about her body.

Whoa! Check out at that lady wearing a dress on the beach. I wonder what Lisa would think about that if she bothered to lift her head. See that? Only her bare feet are showing. But when the wind fluffs up her dress and you see her calves…like, what else might you see? And when she grabs her kid in the water and holds up her dress with one hand, you wonder which one she’s gonna drop first. Is she’s gonna get her dress wet, or is the kid gonna get away. Makes it interesting, know what I mean? And when she sits down and keeps trying to pull her dress down to her ankles but the wind keeps puffing up her legs, you can’t help thinking where the wind is going. What it feels like up in there.


That Amish lady reminds me of the nuns that used to teach us. All covered up like Arab women in burkas. We had such a hard time imagining a real woman under all those layers of brown wool and knotted ropes like the time our fifth-grade teacher teased our class trouble maker saying how she found new gray hair every night after a long day with him. There was instant silence as each of us tried to imagine that Sister Stella really had hair under her starched wimple. Nuns got hair? I wonder what a nun would look like on a beach? Probably something like that Amish lady. But nuns weren’t supposed to have fun…not like the rest of us, not at a beach. Same for the Amish.

See? Nothing’s the same anymore. Religion has changed so much. Nuns are riding around the country protesting and politicking. If the nuns changed, if the Catholic Church changed, at least the Amish value the old ways. But now look. There’s that Amish mother flouncing around the beach. Make up your mind lady. Either you’re not taking part in the world or you are. Don’t stop half way and make a spectacle of yourself and ruin all my respect for your way of life. Going to Florida in the middle of winter is what ordinary Midwesterners do. You guys are better than that—above all that…supposedly. Can’t count on anything anymore.


“Did you see that chick in the dress? What’s her problem? Embarrassed by those thunder thighs and baby-bearing hips? Take it off sweetheart get with the program.”

“I think she’s interesting.”

“What? A fat lady wearing a plain, ugly purple dress…? You can’t be serious.”

“Well, it’s interesting. You know. Gets your imagination going. Besides it’s, like, their religion or something.”

“If their religion says they should wear ugly clothes, then they should wear them in their ugly houses, not on a beach.”

“It’s not all bad.”

“What? You don’t like what I’m wearing?”

“Or not wearing.”

“Hey, this is Victoria’s Secret. $175.”

“And you look great in it.”

“But you prefer some chunky chick in a homemade sack dress covering everything but her bare feet.”

“I didn’t say that. It’s just interesting, that’s all.”

“Well, if she’s going to do the cover-up bit, why doesn’t she at least get some fresh workout clothes—some color coordinated tights and top and at least look like some Russian Olympic discus thrower or something. Nobody says she has to look like she raided the costume room from Les Miz.”


Now, would you look at that? When that woman turns in the breeze an’ the wind pulls that dress across her behind…I remember when we were young. God. My teeth would clench and my tongue would get hard. Haven’t had a twinge like that in a long time. God bless. I sure hope that husband of hers appreciates what he’s got. Hmm. Hmm.


I wish I had brought my sketch pad. That woman. Just the way she turned. The wind sculpting her body. So graceful. I’m thinking of that painting by what’s his name. A Romantic. The woman is wearing a white dress and has a white parasol on her shoulder. She’s standing on a hill looking off her left shoulder. Those were the days when beauty was about grace and poise and clothes. Well, this lady’s clothes aren’t grand. But she’s beautiful and doesn’t even know it. She’s like a mannikin that would dress up so fine. But of course, her…what? religion, culture, values wouldn’t allow it. What a shame.

Now she’s coming out of the surf holding one edge of her hem—Venus on the half shell. I know. I know. She’s like one of those voluptuous women in Classical Renaissance paintings surrounded by randy fauns chasing half-naked nymphs. How fascinating—Venus and Aphrodite, Madonna and child all wrapped up in one, in the middle of a holiday beach.


I really have to get some new material. What a grind, trying to punch out new gags day after day. I really need this vacation…stop pushing so hard. Sometimes you just need to see different things like that lady, for instance, wearing a full-length dress on a beach. There’s got to be a joke in there somewhere. No, but, that dress-lady’s got it right. She’s a hell of a lot more interesting than all those jiggling beauties parading around. She’s leaving something to the imagination. Like a good joke. Don’t pound them over the head. Let the audience fill in the blanks—flatter them. Less is more. Or, in this case, is it more is more?


Gotta take a piss again. Damned prostate. Cain’t go ten minutes without running for the toilet. Could jis’ go in the Gulf. Hey, I mean, sharks do it out there, right? What’s a little somethin’ from me? But, naw, I don’t feel like sitting around in a damp bathing suit for two hours. Not worth it. I’ll go to the jakes.

There’s that woman again. Only this time she’s having lunch with her husband and little kid. Cute. Lookin’ like the Holy Family—Mary and Joseph, beard and all, and baby Jesus. The husband gives me a look. Okay. Okay, buddy. Relax. I’m not staring to judge. I’m enjoying.


“Jacob, what would you think if I wore a bathing suit like our little girls do?”

“You are not a little girl anymore.”

“Just when we come to the beach, Jacob. To be young. To run free. To not be different for a while.”

“That is not our way, Rachel.”

“Yes, Jacob, of course. But couldn’t I try it just once?”

He does not answer. He takes Aaron’s hand and heads back to the water. They are so much the same—square shoulders, curly brown hair, big chest, short, heavy legs. I thought Aaron would be my son. But he is like his father. His father is like him. Forever.

There is a dark blue bathing suit in the beach shop window. On sale.


They goes that daddy and son playing catch with a football again. Wonder what happened to the mom. Well, lookee here. Here come a lady with a fine back porch.  Damn, a man could set his morning coffee on that ledge. What’s she doin’ settin’ her bag down right by the Amish folk’s blanket? Hey, jis’ a minute, now. Is that the purple dress lady? Sure is. Her in a bathin’ suit an studyin’ on her boy and man. Now she’s unpinning her hair. They’s somethin’ goin’ on here. Ha!

Now, look. She’s jis’ walkin’ away. Slidin’ into the herd parading up and down the beach. One a us. I wonder is she comin’ back or is that bag with her purple dress stickin’ out a Amish Dear John note?


2 thoughts on “Ankle Length Rorschach

  1. I enjoyed this story. It reminded me of a photo I saw many years ago of a woman wearing a long dress getting off a trolley. As she stepped down, her ankle was exposed. It was obvious that that was extremely exciting for the gawking men. Howard


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