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After the solstice, summer takes a sinister bend in Dewey Beach, Del. The air grows thicker, the drinks taste thinner, and everyone is a little more on edge than the night before. What we called energy in June has become entropy, spinning too fast to hold together. Little bits shake off and land in holding cells.

Josh’s fiancée was one such piece of mayhem, screaming at her soon-to-be-husband’s sister as a seasonal officer clamped a palm over her glossy black hair backloaded her into the paddywagon.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” she shrieked in between sobs. “You’re having me arrested?”

Josh’s sister watched with wide eyes and furious shallow breaths as an officer cuffed her wrists. Josh sat on the deck across from the Rusty Rudder, running his hands through his hair, sobbing uncontrollably. It was his 21st birthday.

Lt. Billy Hocker convened a scrum of full-time and seasonal officers beside the paddy-wagon. It was about an hour after closing time, and the surrounding bars were quiet and dark as crypts.

“All right,” he said on an exhale. “What we got here.” The reporting patrolman, a young seasonal, gave his sketch of the scrap: the fiancée charged the sister from across the asphalt oxbow that separates the Rudder from the Lighthouse Cove, and the two scratched and slapped at each other before being separated. But what to do with them, asked Hocker – can’t put them in the same holding cell. Can’t cut them loose.

“I think we got self-defense, there,” said Sgt. Cliff Dempsey, nodding towards the sister, now seated on the curb, wisps of her black hair whipped across her face by a stiff bay breeze. A few minutes of murmuring later, they settled on disorderly conduct. For both of them. Screw it. Cut ‘em loose with summons and get their drunk asses home.

“Onto the next disorderly conduct,” Hocker sighed, heading back to his cruiser. Hax, his K-9, studied him, copper eyes glinting in the lamplight. The fiancée’s shrieks sounded dull, muffled by the aluminum box she was locked in.

“Can I please pay for everything now?” Josh choked out. “Can I please just pay now?”

“Baby – Josh – I love you,” his sister called from the sidewalk. “Everything is going to be OK.”

“Cops – hey, cops – I’m sorry again. Can I just say a word to my girlfriend?” Josh said. Meanwhile, seasonal patrolmen were talking to his fiancée, their feet propped on the bumper as they leaned into the wagon, calming her with soft, kind tones.

“I just don’t want her around him,” explained the fiancée.

Back on the deck, Josh sucked up a nose full of snot.

“Both of you guys,” he shouted. “Why the fuck would you fight? Why the fuck.” He spat. “I feel like such a girl,” he muttered.

It was decided that Josh would pay $70 to cab his sister back to Magnolia, 36 miles away. As a Dempsey undid the cuffs, she turned head away. Zephyrs of sand blew around her ankles. He told her not to worry – they weren’t charging her with assault, or offensive touching.

By the paddy wagon, two seasonals yawned in unison.

“It’s just petty shit,” said one. The other checked his watch. Half an hour had passed. Still hours to go. Quiet night, really.