I walk the beach, south to the point. Waves tease the beach with a lazy roar, sea oats rustle from the dunes. Smooth as silvered glass, the sea melds into sky, endless horizon. Here, there are only two colors: sun and water. Hermit crabs scuttle before my shadow. The receding tide leaves foam memories. I walk. Sand squishes fine and smooth between my toes, polished for eternity by God’s rock tumbler. The pack bangs lightly on my back with each step. The sun settles an inch above sea’s edge. I look back to where I was and the memory is miniscule, my footprints swirled away.
Oh Daddy… remember?
Those mornings you fished, we always walked, my sister and I. She skipped ahead, seeking the next adventure and casting sideways looks at the sun-baked boys in their bleached cut-offs. While I, the slower, more serious one, kept eyes to the ground, seeking a starfish, an intact sand-dollar, a smoothed piece of colored glass. We walked and walked, chattering about everything and nothing, stopping to poke birds and beached jellies, diverting into the dunes to imagine forts made among the stilts of unoccupied beach-houses. Oblivious to time and distance and all that left behind. Until some sound, a keening tern perhaps, or maybe a red kite swooping from the sun, reminded us how far we’d come. We’d turn around, panicked that we’d strayed too far, that you’d be done with the fishing and packed up, ready to leave without us. We’d run back, mile and miles, chests heaving, toes digging into soft sand, until the jeep distinguished itself from the endless beach, and you standing by your poles, staring to the end of the world. Mom would sit in the front seat staring at the same spot you were, that faraway place, her knitting on her lap, the dog curled beside her where you sat. Our return animated you and mom, you would smile slow like you’d been asleep for a long time. We related our adventures, gave news of the beach beyond the point, displayed our treasures proudly. You laughed, indulging us, and mom unwrapped tuna salad sandwiches in hot dog buns, celery sticks, chips, all gritty from sand.
That was how it was, each day new and yet the same, finite and never-ending.
Daddy, I wish you were here now…
The tide’s coming in, and the water churns here at the confluence of sound and sea. I walk past the fisherman and their four-wheel-drives pocking the point. From a distance, they seemed charcoal smudges: a log, a boat’s broken hull, a beached seal or other detritus tossed carelessly upon the shore by a rogue wave. Closer, details emerged, rods stuck in sand, lines tight, silver filaments set to garrote the unsuspecting who pass by. Have you ever noticed how fishing lines, when taut, sing when the world spins away from the sun? They smile at me when I peek into their white buckets filled with the bluefish, silver-scales reflecting sky streaked orange. But when I look up, into their brown wind-carved faces, I see you. Waiting for the big one.
Daddy, the blues are running...
Seagulls and cormorants squawk and dive bomb into the writhing waves. Even pelicans gather, skimming low to the sea’s surface. The men reel in fast, rods and arms quivering. I sit at the dune’s base, back pack snuggled in the sand at my feet. I withdraw the box. It’s heavy, made of wood, I know the inside is steel-lined though I haven’t yet opened the lid. The sun taints the fish-covered beach in blood. I wait. The men load their buckets, their trucks, and soon all that is left are deep treads leading away.
The sun melts into the sea, shimmering like molten lava. The box feels lighter somehow. At water's edge, droplets of saltiness kiss my face, so many tears. The lid comes off easily. The wind wisps the dust and instinctively I reach but it’s gone, it’s gone, you're gone, and I reach inside, your fire-polished ash so fine in my hand, so much finer than the sand under my feet yet as timeless, and I toss the first handful intothe air. The wind shifts, carries the dustiness of you aloft above the waves… daddy, oh daddy… the blues are running, the blues are running, and the waves will carry you, carry you, so you will be one with them… oh daddy, you’re running with those blues…