“Look at all the little shells – why’s the beach all mixed up with shells,” the little boy asked inquisitively; football balloon tied to one hand, a man he looked like he had no business being with dragging him toward the shore with the other.
“The beach is all shells, ground up and washed ashore, called Coquina, ” I wanted to tell him, when his question when unanswered and completely ignored; but remained silent instead, keeping a watchful eye, as something about the situation gave me an unsettling vibe.
The man stood and watched for a while then made his way back up to his rusted El Camino, got in and lit a smoke; leaving the little boy alone, toppling over and under at the force of the waves, coming up smiling and laughing each time, when they just as easily could have carried him away.
The man finished his smoke then made his way back down to retrieve the boy, not saying a word as he excitedly asked, “did you see me…did you see me!?”
Hours later I gathered my things and reluctantly made my exit from the beach; deciding to take the short route back, instead of scenic A1A. I passed the castle house and gazed in awe, which after seventeen years I still always do, then slowly approached the corner with the carousel, tempted to stop and take a lone ride; and that’s when my stomach turned, as he came into sight.
The little boy with his deflating balloon and a cardboard sign that said;
“I’m HUNGRY – Need MONEY for FOOD!” standing alone at the 3-way intersection; and the man in the distance laying in the grass, cigarette dangling from his disgusting mouth, leisurely relaxing under the shade of a tree…
image & prose ©2012 Jill Terry