Neil and Karen rise at seven, before their children and before his parents, and creep through the old beach house as quietly as possible, the sand on the kitchen linoleum sticking to their bare feet. On the porch, where no one will hear them, they put on their shoes and step down onto the sun-bleached shells of the driveway.
In the car, Karen rolls down the window and lets the warm wind blow over her. The beach road is still quiet, though the parking lot of the diner across from the Winn Dixie is full. As they drive past the diner, inside, Karen can see a waitress, her hair pinned into a bun, leaning to pour coffee into a fat man's cup. Karen can tell from the way his mouth moves that he is laughing. Then the car is past the restaurant, moving up the strip toward the turn-off that leads through the back inlets of the lagoons, to marshland, and to the Gulf Shores golf course.