Bits of seaweed tumbled into the water, pulled by an outgoing tide. Nick felt the waves drawing him too, whispering promises of peace. The temptation was overwhelming, especially in Nick’s drunken state, yet he sensed a sinister undercurrent, didn’t completely trust the sea’s assurances.
A dozen empties lay scattered in the sand. Since Katie left, he’d spent his evenings here, trying to escape the pain. Nick lifted a bottle to his lips and guzzled the remaining liquid, knowing that in the morning, he’d awaken with his usual companions- shame and regret.
Nearby, a seagull picked at dead crabs, casualties of the changing tide. When the bird had its fill, it left the shells entangled in clumps of seaweed the ocean had coughed up. Nick’s envisioned his own, bloated body washed up on some beach and shivered.
“Hopeless,” Nick said aloud, tossing the bottle. It hit the rocks and exploded. Nick lay down feeling broken. He drifted off, watching the waves pull the pieces of glass out to sea.
Nick dreamt the tide was coming for him. He felt the water lapping at his face, but couldn’t move. Terror seized him as he realized that he would be taken under.
He cried out, startling himself awake. Blinding light hit his face and gritty sand filled his mouth. He’d spent the whole night lying there, like another piece of beach litter. Squinting, he realized that a dog, not water, licked his cheek.
A man stood holding the animal’s leash.” You all right?”
Nick spat. “Yeah. Musta fell asleep.”
“Well, good morning. Come here much?” The man stooped to pet his dog.
Nick smirked, “Every night.”
“So you’re the night shift,” the stranger exclaimed, “I’m here walking every morning. Doctor wants me to do it for my heart; wife wants me to do it my waistline. I’ll tell you a secret though.” The man whispered as if confessing a crime, “I really come to pray. Nothing like the ocean to inspire a man.” Glancing at the bottles, the man said, “Don’t suppose you come to pray?”
“Well, no matter, Nice to meet you. Name’s Paul,” he extended his hand.
Nick hesitated, then brushed the sand off and shook. “Nick.”
“Mind if I sit while Zeke swims?”
Paul picked something from the sand. “Oh, that’s a beauty!”
On his palm lay a smooth, blue rock. “Know what this is?”
“Sea glass. My wife collects it. This probably came from a broken bottle like one of those,” he pointed to Nick’s pile. “But the tide took it, sand-blasted it a bit, and now, it’s a collector’s item.” For a moment, Paul looked at his treasure, then put a finger to his chin. “You know, this reminds me of the Lord.”
Nick tensed; he was too hung over for this. “Huh?”
“God does the same thing with people that the ocean does with broken glass. God’s like the water,” Paul explained, “and people are like the glass- not good for much. If we surrender to the waves, He turns us into something beautiful. It’s like magic.”
“Yeah, well, some people are beyond fixing,” Nick mumbled, pretty sure that God wouldn’t waste any “magic” on him.
Paul looked heavenward and chuckled, him and God sharing some private joke. “It seems impossible, but God can change anyone.” He paused, picking up a piece of driftwood and tossing it into the water for Zeke to retrieve. “God saved me.”
What secrets lay in the old man’s past? Could they be like his? Had he disappointed his parents? Abused the woman who loved him? Given in to addiction?
Nick gazed at some broken glass the sea had not yet claimed and pondered Paul’s metaphor. The glass would get a second chance at usefulness, but him? He’d considered throwing himself into the ocean, but never to God. Somewhere in his soul, beneath the despair, a part of him wanted to believe that God could help him.
Zeke splashed along the water’s edge. Soon, Paul got up. “Can’t be late for breakfast. Why don’t you keep this?”
Nick took the glass, still warm from the old man’s hand.
Paul grabbed hold of Zeke and snapped the leash back onto his collar. Before leaving, he locked eyes with Nick. “There is hope, Son.”
Paul and Zeke moved away through the tall marsh grass.
Alone again, Nick looked at the glass and felt its smooth edges. Putting it in his pocket, he rose and whispered one word- “hope.”
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