Sunday, January 12, 2014

Following Her Footsteps

He had come to the beach to dig his own grave.

It was early Monday morning, or late Sunday night depending on your perspective, and the sun was still sleeping somewhere below the horizon line.  The seagulls ignored the fact he was overdressed for both the weather and the location as he wandered the edges of the waves.

His  shoes  were  getting  soaked,  but  he  did  not  notice.    His  body  was  on  autopilot, heading for the spot just above lifeguard station 22.

Even at his zombie pace, he reached the rocks in no time.  He immediately fell to his knees, began digging with a child’s plastic shovel.

By  the  time  the sun  opened  its  golden  eye,  his suit  was soaked  with sweat  and salt water.  His unkempt hair fell in his eyes, but did not deter him from task.  Deeper and deeper he dug.

When he had managed a hole about two feet deep, he stopped, removed his jacket.  He sat down in the hole as if it were a welcoming recliner, smiling for the first time in a year.    Slowly  he  began  pushing  the  removed  sand  over  his  legs. He  leaned  back, continued  covering his  chest.  When he  could  cover himself no further, he tucked his arms to his chest, still clinging to the tiny yellow toy.

As he lay there, waiting for the tide to claim him, he remembered his daughter’s hands releasing that same handle before taking off into the water without warning.  She had been seven and so sure of her ability to navigate the waves that she ignored her father’s warnings.

He had only taken his eyes off her for a moment, but a moment was all it took.  A small wave knocked her off balance.  The following wave took her breath.  The undertow had her before either of them could do anything.

The  lifeguard  had  been  nowhere  to  be  seen,  probably  off  flirting  with  bikini­clad teenagers, while  he rushed into the waves, desperately searching for  a  glimpse  of her hand or hair.  He saw neither.

Her body had washed up hours later, miles down the beach.  He knew this unforgiving beach would not hesitate to claim him as well.

They found him hours later, still half ­buried.  His face bloated from salty submersion, his hands still locked around the plastic shovel.

A.J. Huffman is a poet and freelance writer in Daytona Beach, Florida. Find more about A.J. Huffman at and!/poetess222.