It’s the 15th, so time for another story. Before I get to that, I have to share the great news. Tomorrow, April 16th, you can find my first published piece! It’s available from everydayfiction.com. You can sign up for their free daily flash fiction and tomorrow enjoy my first sold story! I’m a bit excited about this and hope you’ll check it out.
Today’s story is called The Sea. It was written with the memories of the beach down in Florida where my family visits. Read on and please share the story. I’m eager to hear any and all comments.
The soft glow of the day’s fading light warmed Kathryn. She used to go on these beach walks with her husband all the time. Doing so now with her son, the pain still felt so fresh. Her husband used to tease her that walking along the beach like they did would stir up feelings inside him that needed to be released. Of course, she always took that to mean something sexual, but in the end, it turned out she had the wrong assumption.
“Mom, look at this,” her ten year old son James said. He still carried a sense of wonderment to him at his age. He’d started fifth grade earlier in the year and as much as he pretended to be a big boy, he still showed glimpses of her little boy. She treasured those moments, knowing they were fleeting and soon he’d be grown and gone and want nothing to do with her. “Check this out mom,” he said holding up his hands to her. She looked down and almost jumped. “James! What is that?” she asked. She feared spiders and crickets and other creepy things and this little creature looked odd to her. “I don’t know. I think it’s some type of crab or something. Can I keep it?” He looked up at her with soft blue eyes and she almost fell for it. “No son, we can’t take that from here. I won’t have something creepy like that in my house.” He frowned and let the creature go. It scurried along the white sand and went down a hole.
The two of them walked along in silence listening to the distant birds and the soft waves on the beach. The strangely calm ocean seemed to fit Kathryn’s mood perfectly. She could stand out here all night long and just think and observe. She didn’t need constant stimulation from a television or a computer. Give her the beach and solitude and she’d be in heaven. It was James who broke the silence.
“So mom, what are we gonna do?” She stopped walking and looked at him. He looked so much like his father it hurt. “What?” he asked. “What are we gonna do? I’m serious. I can handle it mom.” She shook her head slowly but didn’t reply. Instead, she walked out to the water till it covered her ankles.
The ocean felt warm. Warmer than she expected for this time of year. Winter would be on its way soon enough, but for now, the warm breeze coming in off the water took those thoughts away, gently blowing her long curly hair behind her. She waded in the tranquil water watching as tiny fish swam around her ankles. She stepped carefully in the soft sand not wanting to step on a busted shell. James walked alongside her. “Mom,” he began again, “what are we gonna do? You know we need to do something.” She hoped to avoid this with James and enjoy the serenity of the beach, but he had other plans.
“I’m not sure James,” she began at last. “I was hoping to not think about it for now. Couldn’t we just enjoy the water and the breeze?”
He looked at her with his mouth open ready to say something, then closed it as he turned away. “Whatever mom,” he mumbled. She tried shrugging off his attitude, not wanting it to shake her moment. She breathed in the salty air, letting it fill her with hope and promise.
“James, listen, I know you want to know what our next move is, but you must be patient. I know that’s hard for you, but please, let me work it out.”
“But mom,” he started before she held up her hand to stop him. His face turned red as he stopped talking. Silently she thanked him and walked on down the beach, her feet splashing in the warm water.
About the time they reached the parking lot where they left the car, Kathryn stopped James. “OK, listen. I’m only going to say this once. Got it?” James nodded his head. “Good. Your father,” she began slowly, “he was a bad man. I don’t like talking ill of him because without him, you wouldn’t be here. But the truth of it is,” she paused unsure if she should continue. “Come on mom, it’s ok,” James urged. She looked around and for the first time noticed they were all alone in the parking lot.
“Your father, he did many bad things. He…” she paused, trying to find the right words, “he got caught up in a fantasy. He wanted to live a pirates life or something like that. He went down to New Orleans to ‘find a crew’ as he said, and when he came back, he wasn’t the same person.” James looked up at Kathryn, his face showing confusion. “I know son, it sounds strange, but in essence, that’s what happened. Remember his sailboat?” James nodded. “He didn’t have that until you were about five or so. He’d spend his summers going on long trips with his ‘crew’ and when he came back, he never would tell me all that he did or where he went.”
“I remember him being gone mom, but that didn’t make him a bad man. I knew he loved the sea and enjoyed sailing. He took me out a lot,” James said. Kathryn closed her eyes. Telling her son the truth hurt.
“Son, your father had a lot of good in him, but in the end, he gave in to his dark side and those summer trips turned out to be nothing short of real piracy. Your father was a pirate. He and his crew went on a reign of terror. I tried to shield you from it as best I could. I told you he died from a heart attack, but it was much worse.” She shifted feet, trying to steady herself. “He was killed by someone he tried to rob. Some drug lord from Mexico. So you ask about our next move? Our next move is to leave him in the past and go forward with our new lives ahead of us.”
James’s eyes went wide. “What do you mean ‘reign of terror?’” he asked. He’d never heard that used about his father before. Kathryn started to think she misplaced her trust in James’s capacity to understand the gravity of the situation. She felt like crawling under a rock. She spoke too much too soon to James. He was only ten.
“What I mean to say is that your father had problems. He’s no longer a threat, so we can be certain of our safety. We have each other now and we are safe.” James looked at her and she felt as though he bore holes right through her skull. The boy had a stare that discomforted her at times.
She noticed his gaze lost some of its strength when he looked over her shoulder out to sea. His eyes softened and he peered right past her. “Look!” he shouted as he pointed out to the water. She turned to see a faint ship shimmering across the water. The tall sail had the numbers 569887 going down vertically on the sail. The entire ship seemed to be made of a faint fog or mist as it wove in and out of view, though it was only about fifty yards from the shoreline. Kathryn’s body shivered. She knew those numbers.
“No! You can’t have him!” she shouted. She clutched James in her arms.
The boy paid no attention to her. His gaze fixed solely on the ship moving from east to west. He felt called to it as a bug to a light. He started walking in the sand towards the water. Frantic, Kathryn tried holding him back. “No!” she cried, “you must leave him! He’s not for you. You cannot take him. James, please, snap out of it!” She shook the boy but he didn’t react. He looked wistfully out to sea at the ship.
“Dad,” he whispered.
Kathryn stood in front of James blocking his path. “No James, you cannot go out there! You must turn away, now! Please son, don’t do this.” Large tears streaked down her face as she tried in vain to stop James’s march towards the sea. For a ten year old, he had enough strength to push her away and he knocked her down to the sand. She tried scrambling up but it was too late. James waded out to the sea and headed straight for the ship. She saw a figure on the deck waving as if to say hello, but she knew better. She ran to the water to stop James. She splashed as she ran and the soft sand underneath held her back. She couldn’t reach him in time.
She watched as James’s head went slowly underwater. Bubbles came up from him but soon stopped. “No!” she cried, “No damn you! That’s my son!” She sobbed uncontrollably. As she watched the winking ship, she noticed another, smaller figure appear standing next to her husband. She screamed and cried as the ship turned out to sea and calmly drifted away.