Friday, March 4, 2011

RDC: Normal at the Beach

      This week's Red Writing Hood meme: Water gives life. It also takes it away. Write a short piece - fiction or non-fiction - inspired by one or both of these statements. Word maximum is 600.    

      I've been playing with this character Michaela, a young widow, and her family on and off for a while. I'm hoping some day they'll come to life in a novel. Here is the first time they've appeared in public. Constructive criticism welcome!

Normal at the Beach     

“Mommy! Look at the size of the fish I caught!” yelled Brianna. She led me over to the old pickle bucket that held the day’s “catch”—minnows, tiny shrimp, hermit crabs and periwinkles. One minnow, slightly larger than the rest swam in frantic circles around the edge of the bucket.
            “Wow, Sweetie. He’s huge,” I said. She grinned at me her and eyes nearly disappeared into her chubby cheeks—the last bit of baby fat left on her. Brianna was getting leaner and taller by the day and leaving babyhood behind.
            “Mom! Can you help me?” called John. “I need to build a moat and make the wall stronger. The tide is coming close to my sandcastle.”
            “Can I help too?” asked Brianna.
            “Yeah, come on! We need to hurry,” he yelled.
            We followed John as he ran through the salt marsh back towards the beach.
The rising tide was only five or six feet away from the thick walls of his castle. A moat and a retaining wall would buy his structure a little time. John, our seven-year-old foreman directed us where to dig and where to pile the sand higher.
My mother, as usual had been right—it had been a good idea to come here. After this winter, we needed to just play in the sun for a while and try to find a new version of normal.
            “You should go down to the cottage as soon as school is out,” she said to me. “Take the first two weeks of July.”
            “I don’t want you losing out on renting it for July 4th weekend Mom.”
            “This is more important than some rent money,” she insisted. “You and the boys need a break. They need to go somewhere they can just be kids—play in the sand, eat pizza and fish and chip, see some cousins, get some air. And you need it too Michaela. You’re too thin.”
            That caught me off guard. My mother had always noticed when I gained weight,. I couldn’t remember a time in my life when I was too thin. But then, I had never been a widow before. Barry died in September and we limped through the school year. Sometimes pretending to be a normal family and sometimes not even bothering to pretend.
            John piled more and more sand on the retaining wall while Brianna and I dug the moat. “Do you think this is deep enough John?” I asked him. He scrutinized the trench we were digging.
            “Yes,” he decided. “It’s deep enough, but I think we should make it go around the perimeter of the castle wall.”
            I smiled at his intensity and his vocabulary—so much like his dad. I thought about the last time we were all here together. The two of them working side-by-side all morning building a Cape Cod Camelot. Barry had made sure the castle was built further away from the water—something I had failed to do this time. “Come on Mom!” John insisted. “We need to dig all the way around for protection.”
            We got back to work until the moat surrounded the castle. Tired and hot, we rested on our blanket while the water swirled into the trench. The castle was safe from the tide for now.
            “Thanks Mom. Thanks Brianna,” John said. “I couldn’t have done it alone.”