Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Blue (10/08/09)
TITLE: The Last Day at the Beach
By Jill Fisher
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I helped her from the car when we arrived at her favorite seafood place. Her thin blue-veined hand clutched mine in a combination of fear and discomfort as she struggled to remove her legs from the car. Those slight movements triggered a spasm of pain that shimmered across her face and went down her hand in shaky tremors. Leaning heavily on her cane and my arm, we inched down memory lane and into the restaurant.
The scallop roll in front of her seemed more routine obligation than sustenance. Her hands fluttered over the soft roll and slid pinches of white bread into her mouth with distracted automaticity. The scallops, crisp and golden, lay where placed by the kitchen staff—tantalizing but untouched. The coleslaw had been slid across the table to our plate, and the lemonade sat in a puddle of its own condensation on the table. Her eyes swung with remarkable regularity to our child, her only great-grandchild, systematically devouring a stack of crusty fish and crisp fries with the zeal and intensity of young children. He seemed untouchable; his shining youth impenetrable by the swirling gloom of illness and sorrow that hovered around us. He would not remember this visit. Swallowing down the finality of this trip with the last of the fish, we continued on to the beach.
“Slow down, not so fast,” she muttered in a half-whisper with hands quivering anxiously around her chest.
My husband’s eyes met mine in the rearview mirror as he obediently slowed to a bare creep and edged near the beach. Chairs of woven nylon were removed from the trunk to set up on the sand and we gently lowered Bobka into one.
Our boy played in the sand at her feet. Salt-tanged sea air lifted grains of sand from his outstretched fist and deposited them in shallow arcs around him. He squealed with delight as the sun hit the quartz specks and refracted shining light into his face. Bobka smiled at this, but turned pensive as she gazed out into the rippling gray-blue expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The mild ebb of the ocean waves lapping at the shore and the mournful squawk of the distant seabird filled the yawning silence.
“He won’t remember me, will he?” she said in an anguished whisper.
I looked at the ravages of cancer and old age that had hollowed her cheeks and stooped her back and turned to gaze at that place where the ocean touched the sky. Somewhere out beyond that horizon was a place of peace without pain and I dug deep into my faith for the assurance that death cannot be the end of a soul.
“He might not,” I answered after a long moment, “but we’ll teach him.”
She nodded at this response, satisfied for the moment, and wrapped the velour sweater more tightly around her thin frame. Exhausted from the day and breathing heavily, she looked out to see our boy walking with his dad along the shore, gilded by the warmth of the afternoon sun. With a sigh and a nod she shifted in her chair.
“I’m tired. I think I’m ready to go,” she murmured. She adjusted her cane and placed her hand on my arm to rise and finish her journey.
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