This is for the fiction writing challenge called The Calliope Experiment.
Shivering as she made her way across the rocks, she wondered why she hadn’t thought to bring a sweater. It always irritated her when Jack reminded her of things like that, but apparently she needed the reminding.
She came to a place that required her to set the box down so that she could boost herself up and onto a large boulder. The rock, smooth and flat, was table-like, and standing on it afforded her a clear view of the coast all the way north to Rocky Point and then south to the old lighthouse. She could see someone near the water’s edge but from this distance couldn’t make out if it was a man or a woman. She had hoped to be alone out here, so she sat down next to the box, thinking she would wait until the person moved on.
Carefully lifting it to her lap, she thought again how surprisingly heavy the box was. She hadn’t expected ashes to weigh so much, but of course there were bones in there too. Jack had said it was silly to cremate a dog, but Bear wasn’t just any dog. Bear was her friend, her companion, her confidante. Bear was her substitute child. When people asked if they had kids, her reply was always, “No, but I have Bear.”
And now he was gone, and there was still no baby. The months of tests and shots and sex on demand; all the hoping and waiting had taken their toll on her psyche. Waiting-waiting for nothing as it turns out. The crazy mood swings and everything else might have been more tolerable if the end result had been a baby. She felt so tired, so empty, so alone. And now her pseudo-baby, Bear, was gone too.
The person was moving down the beach slowly in her direction. She could see now that it was a man. He was tall, like Jack, and had a fishing hat on. He was wearing a green sweater and jeans, rolled at the cuffs. His gaze was focused on the ground and he bent down now and then to pick something up, presumably a shell or a rock, and put it in a bag. “Move on, old man” she thought, ungraciously, but he was clearly in no hurry.
She smiled, then, as she thought about how much Bear had loved the beach as a pup and a young dog. How he’d pull on the leash and his entire body would wiggle with excitement as they approached the water. How he’d race into the waves the second he was released. He was definitely a water dog- a big chocolate lab. It had been a couple years since they’d brought him down here. His arthritis had gotten so bad that it was hard for him to walk over the rocks, and he’d tire himself out so much that he could barely make it back. He was too big for them to carry. Still, she wished she’d brought him back for one final visit, but they’d had a windy, cold spring and the time had never been right.
She’d come down here without much of a plan, and it was freezing. She thought she’d scatter his ashes over the surf, but now she could see how ridiculous that idea had been. The wind wouldn’t gently scatter the ashes, it would just blow them back in her face. She thought of the futility of it, of everything. Bear was gone, he wasn’t coming back, there was no baby, and probably never would be.
She put down the box and brought her knees up to her chest, resting her head on them and finally allowing herself cry. So she wasn’t made of stone after all, as everyone suspected. At first it was just a couple of tears but before long it was huge gushing sobs, smeared mascara, snot and all. For several minutes she gave in to the despair of losing her precious pet, and along with it, her dreams of motherhood. She startled at the feeling of an arm around her, and looked up to see green eyes matching the green of his sweater. Jack. “What are you doing here?” she asked. “I brought you a sweater,” he said.