Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BEACH (12/05/19)
- TITLE: Edna's Final Beach Parade
By Mariane Holbrook
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Edna Billings was the most stabilizing force in Hargis. At 84 she was revered for her faithful attendance at church, her discipline in the one-room schoolhouse where she taught for over 50 years, and her head-to-head combat with the county commissioners who stubbornly and consistently refused more funding for maintenance of the only road that ran through Hargis.
Every evening, Edna walked along the beach, picking up sharks' teeth and shells for her beach jewelry. Occasionally stopping to gaze at the horizon, she often wished Jesus would burst through the pink and gold tinted clouds to gather up his bride, signifying His Second Coming.
Edna and her husband, Marvin, raised three children, all of whom won scholarships to the University Of Georgia for outstanding academic achievements. As the owner of an oyster and shrimp business on the coast, Marvin was as well-known for his exaggerated fish tales as he was for his nets full of shrimp. Sadly, he met his Maker when his trawler capsized in a violent storm 30 miles out on the Atlantic, leaving his family and all of Hargis bereft.
Five years later, Edna died of kidney failure in the county hospital 18 miles away. At her request, only a simple service was held at her gravesite because of the small seating capacity at her church.
Edna stipulated early on that she preferred to be cremated rather than embalmed, so her ashes were placed in a wooden urn with seagulls engraved on all sides. After the graveside service, the urn was placed on the mantle in Edna's home now occupied by one of her married children.
The beach community grieved for days over Edna's death. But as December drew near, someone suggested they should prepare for the annual Christmas parade, an event Edna had always directed. They once tried staging the parade on the beach but the cost of towing the fire truck from the deep sand proved to be prohibitive.
Everyone worked feverishly decorating floats, scrubbing boats and contacting previous participants in the parade.
On the Big Day, children from nearby communities joined local residents to view the parade which would stretch from the Hargis Fishing Pier to Fort McClellan which had been repurposed into a campground for tourists.
First to appear in the parade was the 1950's fire truck with the volunteer firemen tossing candy to the children who cheered them on.
Next came a shrimp trawler resting on its trailer, followed by sailboats, aluminum fishing boats and hand-crafted dinghies made of the local timber. The captains called out to their friends, hoping to drum up more charters in the months ahead.
A few horses, a float decorated by Dunes Baptist Church and another by the women of the Fishermen's Auxiliary added more variety to the beach parade. A county Drum and Bugle Corp followed the tractors, then a float decorated with fishnets, shells, oars, and buoys appeared, sponsored by Sadie's Surf and Seashell Shoppe.
The Billings family, in honor of their mother, Edna, rode on a hay wagon that had been tastefully covered with Edna's favorite shades of purple and lavender. Near the end of the wagon, so it could be easily seen, was a large, sturdy box covered with a white tablecloth. Secured tightly on top of the box rested Edna's 24" tall urn, filled to the brim with Edna's ashes. A large, hand-painted sign with "In memory of our beloved Edna Billings" was placed in front of the box.
The crowd cheered, waved and saluted as the float slowly passed by. Some were overcome with emotion and wiped tears from their eyes but soon were clapping along with the music.
Suddenly, the hay wagon hit a pot-hole in the road which caused the urn to tumble over, releasing its decorative top.
A strong, sudden blast of ocean wind blew Edna's ashes directly into the startled faces of the Marching Band which was performing directly behind Edna's hay wagon. Coughing, choking and rubbing their eyes, the band quickly disbanded, leaving only poor Santa, who in the words of Clement Moore "was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot."
True story. Only the names of people and location were changed.
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