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Location: marengo, il, United States

Sunday, May 22, 2005

An Intelligent Question

A station wagon pulls up bright and early. Just as it parks, all of the doors fly open, and the air instantly becomes filled with noise. I laze in my hammock and watch as a mob of young children spill out and run toward the surf, calling out excitedly to each other. Two women stay behind to gather up towels and chairs, and I turn my attention back to the waves when I hear a sudden piercing scream.

One of the little girls comes running through an ankle-deep wave that courses its way toward me. She has tears streaming down her terrified face, and she is shrieking and hopping around on one leg. Both women immediately drop everything to look at the wailing girl’s foot. Things then get tossed back into the wagon and the doors all slam hurriedly. Within seconds, the car backs up, turns and whizzes away, and I am left once more with only the gulls for company.

I meet lots of different types as I continue to build my sand-creature sculptures.

A motor home parks close by, and a retired British couple become new neighbors for awhile, and of course I get to sample their idea of tea.

A jovial Mexican and his family erect a large screen tent next to my day camp for the weekend. Frank invites them to join us at the bonfire one night, and as the family packs up to leave Sunday afternoon, the man stops by my pup tent. He cradles a large cardboard box in his arms, and it’s weighted down with left-over groceries.

“We just don’t have any more room left.”

I take his kind offer, and then he adds,

“Say, we are throwing away a good mattress too, if you want…”

The thing fits perfectly inside my tent.

People come, and people go.

Around mid-morning one day, a strange lady walks up, and without a word, she takes a seat next to me and begins to pack and smooth sand onto the dolphin I am working on. I sit back and stare at her before standing up and leaving her to attend to her therapy.

An angler drops off a string of fish late one evening, allowing us all to eat a good meal. Ten aluminum soda cans I pick up daily are worth the price of a burrito and a small carton of chocolate milk, so survival here is becoming an easy task.

Today I found a pair of ping-pong balls that washed ashore during the night. They might be useful for something. I place them on the sand beside me and stir instant tea into a cup of water while thinking of a new project to work on. After a while I get a whimsical idea, and with my backside facing the waves, I dig a new hole.

The questions people ask me as I work are funny.

“What are you making?”

“Is that supposed to be something?”

“Is that some kind of sand castle?”

“Where do you get your ideas?”

“That looks nice, but what is it?”

“When will you be done?”

“How long did that take?”

Where do you people get all these questions, I keep thinking.

I’ve been noticing the high tide mark since I’ve been here. The first day I set up my tarp, it came no closer than twenty feet from the two hammock posts, and it seems to be advancing by a foot or so daily . At some point during the night it crested less than six feet away, so I see no need to panic just yet.

Laughing gulls hover nearby as I carve out two small holes in the broad face of this beast. I then insert the two white balls for a set of eyes, and sit back to examine the effect. It helps a little, but I’m not too happy with this one. Starting out as an alligator, it now resembles an odd-looking salamander.

Horse and Frank come along on their way to go fishing. Horse stops to laugh, but he also offers me a cold beer from a cooler he carries. After they leave I continue to add a few more details, and in the middle of this, I hear a pleasant voice coming from behind me.

“Would you mind if I took a picture?”

I look up to see the fine shape of a female form standing before me. She is silhouetted against the late afternoon sun, and I ask myself,

“Who would resist such a polite request?”

Her name is Alicia, I discover. She, her teen-aged brother and his friend have just arrived at the beach, but have yet to find a good spot to set up their tent.

“We wanted to take a walk to check things out first. Do you know of any?”

I wave at the vacant sand all around me and my day tent, and I smile.

“Anywhere along here looks fine with me.”

One of the two teens speaks up, and he is looking up and down the beach suspiciously.

“How about girls? Are there lots of girls that hang out here?”

I lie to the boy with an assuring nod.

“Tomorrow this place will be crawling with them. It will be hard to walk anywhere without tripping over one.”

Tomorrow is Saturday, I think, so who can really say?

Alicia leaves the two youngsters with me to go get her car, and then I help them set up their dome tent not far from my hammock. Frank and Horse return just as we finish hammering in the final stakes. The pair carry fish they both caught, and after being introduced, they invite everyone to come to the bonfire later.

When the light begins to fade, and as the fire begins to flicker over near the dunes, the four of us walk over to join them. The talk and laughter there continues on late into the night, but I soon find I am hearing only one voice above all of the rest, and it belongs to the girl with the camera.

She speaks of books she has read, and she quotes lines from movies I have seen, and the firelight causes her face to glow. The others in the crowd fade into shapeless shadows as the fire roars and crackles, and time seems to slow down as I sit beside her and listen.

Someone later points to the full moon rising over our shoulders, and the two of us eventually slip away for a stroll down the moonlit beach. We hold hands as we walk, and few words need to be spoken. I cannot remember my past, nor do I see into the future -- only this moment holds any meaning.

Her gentleness makes me feel easy, and I am uncontrollably drawn to her.

Tonight, my little tent sleeps two.

Next: BREAKDOWN

14 Comments:

Blogger Gone Away said...

Run, Alicia, RUN!

Grreat stuff again, Harry, and I see you peeking through the pages now too. :)

7:43 PM  
Blogger Ned said...

:)Smiles. Such a lovely story and so well told.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Stranger Ken said...

That's a lovely tale, Harry, whether it's tall or not, and you tell it superbly. You have the story-teller's gift, my friend, you really do. I can just about remember summers when I stayed away for as long as the sun lasted and my small tent became home ... but only just. So how recent is the photo then? I seem to recall someone telling me about sunshine like that once, or was it a dream?

4:07 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

I'm going to make you work for that easy-to-find information, Ken...Google the movie I referenced.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

This is the best blog I've come across in awhile, for real. Very refreshing.

Good to see that your utilizing your writing ability :) I'll be back.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Thank you most kindly, Dan. I'm still working on the next chapter, which hopefully should be ready in a day or two.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Harry.. there's a certain a rhythm, that brings with it the pace of life at the beach... no hurries, no worries...

A tale well told, true or not, well told either way!

9:35 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

I think you described it perfectly, Bill. And thanks.

11:49 PM  
Blogger Jodie said...

Harry, it's wonderful. :)

9:27 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

Now what did you find wonderful, Jodie?

9:39 AM  
Blogger Stranger Ken said...

Too subtle for this dull limey, Harry! The beginning of your piece echoes "Jaws", but that seems much too obvious for the mind that gave us the BRASS RAT. You have no idea how many times I've re-told that story, by the way ... giving your blog full credit, of course.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Candi and Shaun said...

Awesome.. Can't wwait to read more..

-hugs to you-

8:27 PM  
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8:02 PM  

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