The Voice of the Sea

When he cried in the car, Mommy promised the two weeks would fly by. She told him he would love the seashore. She said he'd have so much fun at Grammy's, he probably wouldn't even want to come home. He stood at the edge of the ocean and let the warm water rush around his ankles and wash the sand out from under his feet. He thought he saw a giant spider, but Grammy said it was just a crab. She told him there were thousands of them on the beach. Then she walked away, sat down on her towel and began digging in the sand with a long stick. He wasn't sure what to do, so he stayed right where he was and watched the waves. He was glad when Grammy called him.

"Come here, honey. Look what I found."

He scampered across the hot sand and squatted beside her.

"Oh my," she said. "Look at the size of this seashell. Isn't it beautiful? Pick it up, dear. Go ahead. Now hold it to you ear and listen. I think you'll be surprised."

At first he didn't hear anything. Then the seashell spoke.

"Put me down at once," it said. "I do not wish to be disturbed. You'll be sorry if you don't do as you're told."

He let the shell slip from his fingers and drop softly onto the sand.

Grammy laughed and picked it up. "You heard it, didn't you? That was the voice of the sea." She grabbed his wrist, pulled him closer and pressed the shell to his ear. "Listen again."

"I'm going to teach you a lesson," the shell gurgled. "I haven't decided exactly how or when I'll do it. But rest assured, it will be soon and it will be very unpleasant."

He took the shell from Grammy and carefully placed it at the water's edge.

"That's a good idea, sweetheart. Let the surf rinse it off for a minute. There. It's clean enough. Put it in your sand bucket." Grammy smiled. "Go ahead, honey. Put the seashell in your bucket. We'll let it dry on the balcony this afternoon, then we'll sit it next to your bed. If you miss your Mommy and Daddy again tonight, the voice of the sea will help you fall asleep."

The Lake

The lake didn't look right when I got up. It was green. The sky was green too. A sailboat was out on the water. It was small and wooden, red and blue. It looked like an old-fashioned toy boat. But it wasn't. It was real. I'm not sure how I knew that. But I did. The wind whistled around the tree trunks and shook pine needles into my hair. The boat bobbed and turned and almost tipped over. It bounced back up and headed toward the shore. Toward me.

The hull scraped and screeched over the rocky beach as the boat slid out of the water on its own. I walked toward it. But just a little way. It didn't look right. It looked like a French painting. A man climbed out. He was my father and he was dead.


Three crows glide over the telephone lines and land in the tree next to the garage. They peck each other, beating their wings and squawking until black feathers shower onto the roof. I hear my mother's truck coming down the road. I don't look. I don't need to. I know the sound of that truck's engine better than I know my own name. As she pulls into the driveway, the crows screech and scatter. I stand staring at my feet. The truck door slams. I listen to her tiptoe across the crunchy brown grass. She taps me on the shoulder and tugs my hair. I ignore her and begin gathering the newspapers that have blown all over the yard. I try to read the headlines on a yellowed scrap, but the letters won't form words.

She's right behind me. I can smell her lipstick and feel her cool breath on the back of my neck. Maybe I can trick her. Catch her off-guard. If I'm lucky, I'll be in the house with the deadbolt locked before she even gets to the porch steps.

I whirl around and heave the newspapers at her. The pages flutter momentarily in the dying breeze, then vanish. I look at the empty driveway and wonder if it's all a dream until I notice my fingers, black from the newsprint and the crows' feathers on the roof of the garage.