TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
She sat in her favorite spot on the porch of the weathered beach house, the salty air sticking to her skin, the oncoming storm blowing sand across her bare feet. The crisp envelope bent beneath her fingers as she laid it on her lap, and reached for the pen in her dress pocket…
Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.
I may die on this beach. That’s quite possible. The odds are not highly in my favor.
The forecasters are jittery. A little while ago, the news upgraded the storm to a Category 3. Winds well over a hundred miles an hour. If this baby landfalls anywhere near me, it could take my breath away. Literally.
At the moment, the ocean’s fairly calm. Dancing sunglints. Merry whitecaps. Distant clouds not yet angry.
But just you wait, ‘enry ‘iggins. Just you wait.
Earlier, I watched a large brown pelican arise from the shore, clearly planning on flying inland. Smart fellow. He fixed on me with astonished dark eyes. I could hear his thinking. Idiot woman.
He appeared to offer me a ride to safety in his ridiculous, fishy pouch. I turned him down. Why should I leave? I love it here.
For years I dreamed of having a house on the beach. And suddenly, thanks to the death of my aunt–I managed to get one.
This place is perfect. Isolated. Stilted high enough to see over the dunes. A unique brick chimney worthy of an English cottage. A lovely big porch for sitting to welcome the sun, savor the morning, devour the fresh air.
I have a a pretty good boat, a sturdy dock on the inland waterway side, convenient access to the ocean and to civilization. The generator is tucked far away and never competes with the surf’s hypnotic swoosh.
I just got back from a stroll. Crabs are still out and about, scuttling from hole to hole beyond the seafoam line, continually remodeling their digs. Maybe their underground habits will pay off. Storm above, snug safety below.
As always, the graceful sea oats are bending to the will of the breeze. They have no idea what’s coming. Either that or they’re extremely stoical.
Perhaps all creatures living here need a large measure of stoicism. The assault of brine, wind, and water is constant, the wearing down of everything is perpetual. Just like the ceaseless erosion in relationships.
Sands shift, lives shift.
I got your note yesterday. A handwritten note! Thank you. It’s so much more civilized than today’s electronic nonsense. It’s a blessing that email’s impossible out here. So I get to relish your thoughts on real pages. Tangible, ink-smudged lines, the cursive tremble in certain words and phrases. I love touching the paper. I love the scent of the old foolscap and the hint of perfume – lavender? – amid the tang of the ocean. Or do I just imagine the fragile fragrance? Anyway, thank you!
I empathize with your loneliness. I really do.
But, for me, being alone and being lonely are two entirely different things. When I first moved to this place, I was completely alone but never lonely. Never.
Then, when I was on a supply trip, Evan bounded into my life, Erroll Flynn, good-looking charm radiating from every beautifully-tanned muscle. He caught me unawares. Like a dogfly nails you on a windless day. Before I knew it, he’d moved in here, lock, stock and rum supply.
Nights, Evan romanced me – alas, how seductive is seduction! – and days we put to sea so he could scuba dive, looking for treasure. I’m not a diver, but I drove the boat, assured his safety. When he came up, he often looked like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. We laughed.
But as you may know, when two people are together in a remote spot, you quickly learn things about each other. Not always to the good. Evan revealed a yen for the bottle and a hurricane of a temper. Lucky me had met him during the eye of one of his storms.
I discovered that loneliness is most terrible when you’re no longer alone.
As I write, I’m watching twinkling grains of sand scud across my deck. A race to the edge. I’m betting on the fat silvery granule. The wind is up a bit. The air feels good. I sigh at the smell of kelp, salt, ozone, imagined distant shores.
So. My life out here had gone from idyllic and peaceful to fearful and frustrated. Captain Bligh announced he was here for the duration. I wondered what to do. Reasoning, pleading and even some pushing back weren’t working. Full-scale mutiny was in order.
I found the answer in Evan’s obsession with diving for treasure. No toxins in his air supply. No futzing with regulators. No pinholes in a hose. No rigging spearguns to backfire. Elegant and simple.
It was another gorgeous day. We’d gone out some thirty plus miles. Evan gave me an endearing finger and rolled over the side, doubtless salivating over Spanish galleons and doubloons.
I waited. Dreamed. Counted. Twelve fathoms ought to do it. Started the engine. Motored away.
Home. Alone again. And not the least lonely.
But what did I say about constant change? A few weeks of contentment, and now it’s another damn hurricane, this one not so easily dealt with.
I can only hunker down and hope.
While I’ve still time, I’d better slip my letter into your bottle and take it out to sea. (Yesterday I loved seeing the antique glass bobbing about!) I’ll try to drop it far enough out that the storm won’t return it to this shore. Perhaps the hurricane will provide express delivery to a current passing your tropical island.
I wish you luck, my dear Amelia. May neither of us die on a beach.
But if that happens, at least it’s where I want to be.