So I’m doing something new. Thought it would be fun to mix things up. The title pretty much explains it. Stock photo. Story to follow.
The wind tossed her hair into scatters. She tucked it behind her ears and looked, but he still hadn’t turned away from the ocean. Like this, the two sat on separate beach towels for a moment.
Squint wrinkles in the corner of his eye flexed into a W. Through the small space between his face and his sunglasses, she could see his stock-still eyelashes in profile.
Doesn’t that hurt your eyes? she finally asked. They get dried out when you don’t blink.
I don’t really think about it. Why is it always the little things with you? he said.
I’m a noticer, that’s all.
He shook his head.
She slid off her wedding band, put it in her jeans pocket for safe keeping, and felt the beach. The wind blew some sand onto his blue towel; he looked down and brushed it away.
The sand’s just right for it, she said and smiled. And it doesn’t have to be a sand castle. It could be a sculpture, she smiled. Kind of like the kids used to make. Remember the time Brendan made that baseball field in the sand? It had dugouts and players. It had everything.
That was a long time ago, he said. And it looked like a triangle with dots.
The tide was out. Small breakers, like white party hats, played peekaboo out in the deeps. It wasn’t altogether impossible to ignore the early winter temperatures and allow the other four senses to say, Summer, in unison.
She pushed up her sweater sleeves, exposing a few small sunspots, and took one of the granola bars from her pocket. While she chewed, she held the wrapper above her head, let it flutter for a moment, and released it. It rose and dove in the breeze then skittered along the sand. The further it got, the more it looked like someone walking away from them.
So we’re littering now? he said and jumped up, chasing the wrapper down. He nabbed it and fell sideways into the sand.
She giggled. It’s only one wrapper. Trash can be quite pretty sometimes, she said.
Dammit, I got sand in my pants, he said while walking back. And one wrapper is one too many.
You should take your shoes off; it’s easier to walk that way, she replied and waited. He sat back down, again focusing his attention straight out, past the beach and the water and the horizon. All I’m saying, she continued, is that we can make anything. Remember those amazing sand sculptures we saw at my parents’ that time?
No, he said.
She played with the frayed edges of her pant legs.
It was Thanksgiving and we watched my dad’s old sixteen millimeter movies. There was one of me and Mom down at Santa Monica beach surrounded by all these beautiful sand sculptures. Sea turtles, mermaids, cars. Poking up all around us. The film color had faded to orange, like it was sunset all the time.
He smiled but didn’t face her. She stopped fidgeting and waited. I don’t remember that, he said.
She pulled herself up and grabbed each of the shovels she’d brought: the red, the green, the yellow, the blue. She fanned them out in the sand together, all pointing the same direction, toward the hope of a buried treasure X.
The point is we could make something cool for us to remember. She looked down, watching the sand sting her feet. I mean we could make a dog or a pirate ship… Or a stethoscope, for you.
He grabbed a granola bar and fought with the wrapper. His knuckles cracked.
Get it? That’s doctor humor.
Yeah, he replied.
Or something funny, she said and drew an outline in the sand with her heel. He gave up on the granola bar. She asked, What about a big, open book?
We’re not professional sand sculptures, he said. Ours would look like a square. Or just a mound in the sand.
That’s okay, she said.
No one would like that.
We have to leave something behind.
It’ll get washed away.
But that’s what you do at the beach. You leave something behind, something in the sand. And even if it washes away, you know it was there. She paused. I brought the camera.
She stopped and looked at him and the wind stung her eyes.
Couldn’t we try? she asked, the sound coming slowly like her last bit of voice.
He tousled the edges of his grey-tipped hair. Sure, he sighed. Why don’t… Why don’t we leave the shovels right where they are? That’ll be our contribution. It’s like a work of art, one of those abstract sculptures you enjoy so much.
She wiped the sting from her eyes and said, Okay, but we have to get pictures. She pulled out the camera. First, we’ll get one of the shovels alone, then we can take some of us. Okay?
Yeah, he said. She smiled and he smiled. Their smiles looked the same. Then we can go, he added.
She cradled the camera in her hand, guiding the focus ring. She tried kneeling and standing, moved near to far, angled high and low. Coaxing the shutter speed and f-stop just so. Waiting for the sun to clear a cloud. And eventually, everything overlapped and the shot was the best it would ever be. With her eye pressed against the camera she whispered, Okay, let me get this picture.
Then she depressed the button, and the camera went click. By that time he was halfway to the car.