The Calliope Experiment #3: The Beach

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. 


The Calliope Experiment #2: The Sleepless Night

Calliope’s Coffee House is a blog about books, writing and reviewing (she is a fellow reviewer at LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers group).  She recently started a writing challenge called The Calliope Experiment in which she posts a picture on Saturdays, then asks people to write 500 words about it and post it before the following Saturday (read about it HERE).  I am not a professional writer by any means, but this sounded like fun, so I’m giving it a try.  Here’s the picture and my story to go with it.  I’m calling it The Sleepless Night.  

2:48am.  Exactly 4 minutes since the last time I looked at the clock.  Exactly 3 hours and 12 minutes before the alarm is set to go off.  The storm rattled the windows and terrified the cat earlier (I’ve got a lovely scratch to prove it), but it is peaceful now, with the moon shining through the window and a little breeze stirring the lace curtains.  So where the hell is Joey?  I started calling his cell phone at midnight, since he said he’d be home by 11.  Call after call goes straight to voice mail.  I’ve asked him repeatedly to make sure his phone is on if he’s going to be out late.  Why does he insist on making me worry like this?  Even if he is practically a legal adult (8 more days), he knows I can’t get to sleep until I hear his key in the lock.  And God knows I need the rest.  

3:09am.  This just doesn’t feel right.  He’s not a perfect kid, but he’s a good kid, and it’s a school night.  He’s a high school senior, almost a man, but he’s still my baby, my firstborn.  At what point do I call the police?  Do I wait until morning?  Would they even do anything right now?  I can feel the panic rising inside.  Should I wake Ann?  Maybe he told her where he was going.   But she has to get up for school in a few hours too.  Where did he say he was going?  Or did he say?  I don’t think he did.  Who has he been hanging out with lately?  That Marcus kid’s been at the house a lot but I think he’s just sniffing around Ann.  There’s Jeff, but I haven’t seen him in months.  Sara- but they broke up, more or less.  I can’t think.  Who else?  

4:08am  I sit straight up in bed.  “Joey?” I call out.  “No, Ma, it’s just me.  I had to go to the bathroom.  Go back to sleep,” says Ann.  “Is your brother home?” I ask, trying to keep the edge out of my voice.  “I don’t know, his door’s shut,” she says sleepily.  “Honey, knock on his door,” I say.  “Ma..”  she whines, but does it anyway.  No answer.  I get up to look out the window.  His car is not in the driveway.  Shit.  Shit.  Shit.  My mind races from one scary possibility to the next.

4:27am  “Ann.”  “Ma, what??  I’m sleeping!”  “Your brother hasn’t come home.  Do you know where he went last night?”  “When does he ever tell me anything?”  

5:09am  I pace the floor.  It’s too early to start calling his friends.  Ann suggests I send text messages but she has to help me because I’ve never done that before.  She texts Marcus, Sara, Jeff, and a few others with the message, “Have u seen Joe?”  I try to check his email but I don’t know his password.  Ann checks his myspace page but comes up with nothing.  Coffee.  I need coffee.  Ann goes back to bed. 

5:48am  Headlights across the front window.  A car door slams.  Dear God, please let it be my Joey and not the police.  Please, please, please.  I fly to the front door and throw it open.  Oh, thank God, it’s him!  My baby, my boy.  “Where the HELL have you been?” I demand, as I shove him in the chest with both hands. “Ma, chill out.  I fell asleep at Sara’s watching tv.  I’m sorry,” he says, his eyes puffy and his clothes crumpled.  “Dammit, Joe, I was just about to call the police,” I say, and start to cry.  “Ma..” he says and puts his arms around me, his little mama.  He is a good 6 inches taller than I am.  Ann comes down the stairs and says, “Welcome home, jackass.”  


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