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A Week at the Beach

by Maurice Humphrey

Carol stared back at the now empty and lifeless beach cabin from behind the wheel of her small gray sedan. There were no lights in the windows or little hands waving at her. The place was empty and dead. Memories were all she had left of the week-long vacation she’d spent there.

She had been tired when she arrived last Friday morning, but the salty smell of rotting seaweed and sound of the waves lapping against the shore, brought her to life. The cabin held many years of childhood memories.

“Yay! Vacation!” she hollered. A lone seagull riding the ocean breeze squawked back at her.

After unlocking the door and getting the luggage into the bedroom, she hollered at the kids, “Hurry up, you two, get your stuff unpacked. I’ll see if the pantry is stocked.”

“Mom,” little Joey asked, “can we go swimming now?”

“Hmm,” she replied looking out the kitchen window at the gathering clouds. “Only if you hurry; I thought we might have hot dogs over a fire but, if the storm gets here first, I’ll have to cook them inside.” Across the bay she could see a flash of lightening, “Jennie, dear?”

“I’m all ready, Mommy!” the little redhead squealed. She already had her bathing suit on while her brother was still digging through his suitcase. He’d gotten his clothes off but couldn’t find his suit.

“We may have to wait till morning,” she told them when a cold breeze blew in through the open front door. Another flash of lightning and the door swung shut with a bang; the storm blew in sooner than expected. Carol got all the windows closed and latched just before the rain pelted down on the tin roof with a clatter. Then, the power went out.

“Sit here by the table,” she told them. “I’ll get the lantern.” After lighting the lantern, Carol started a fire in the fireplace and roasted their hot dogs on a stick.

The only other rooms in the cabin were two small bedrooms, one with a double bed, the other bunk beds. “All right, you two,” she told them, “time for bed. Who wants the upper bunk?”

Jennie was already up the ladder and snuggled in. When she was younger, Carol always took the lower bunk while her brother had the upper. The little redhead poked her head out from under the covers. “Can we go swimming tomorrow?” She still had her swimsuit on.

“We came here to do just that,” she told them. “Tomorrow and every other day of the week. Now get some sleep, or you’ll miss the morning.” Some odd thing her mother used to tell her. Carol never understood what it meant.

The weekend was clear skies, warm winds, and not another person in sight. However, Monday morning brought neighbors. Their solitude was now being shared with three other families. Her kids met their kids, and they were all running around together.

I’m sure they’ll show up when it’s time to eat, she thought while reclining in a chaise by the water; the sound of the waves was relaxing.

“Hey there,” a booming voice spoke from nearby. She opened her eyes, but the stranger was standing in the sun’s glare and she couldn’t see him very well. “Don’t think I’ve seen you around here before,” he remarked. “Mind if I join you?”

Carol just smiled in reply.

“Was just out for a run and saw you sitting here all alone.”

She thought about saying something in French or maybe German, but he might still understand her. “I’m on vacation,” she replied. “You live here?”

“Nah!” he replied with a grin sitting on the sand beside her, “only been here a few times. Nice spot. Oh, excuse my manners. Name’s Gordon Blodgett, I’m from Idaho. Sell farm machinery.”

Oh, good, she thought. “Carol Underwood. I’m from Derry, New Hampshire,” she replied. “I sell insurance.”

“Well, that’s nice, and we’re not neighbors,” he replied with a grin. “Wouldn’t want the neighbors talking, now would we?” They both laughed.

“Mommy.” Jennie materialized beside her and tugged on her arm. “I’m hungry.”

“I was wondering about you two,” she replied. “Where’s your brother?”

“He’s in the cabin, in the pantry, he’s hungry too.”

“Well, Mr. Blodgett, perhaps we’ll see each other again?”

“I’m sure of it.” He gave her one last grin then started running down the beach.

“Mommy,” Jennie asked, still holding on to her arm, “who was that strange man?”

“Just someone running by,” she replied. She picked up her chaise, and they walked back to the cabin. Shouldn’t leave Joey alone in the cabin for too long, she thought. Who knows what mischief he’ll get into.

Another storm blew in on Wednesday. The weather had turned colder with the north wind. Most of the day they spent playing board games from the game closet.

Her thoughts were not so much on the game, but a certain stranger she’d just met. With only a couple of days left of vacation, she was feeling lonely. I wonder which cabin he’s staying in.

Thursday morning broke clear and calm. They made a quick breakfast and headed for the beach.

“Gosh!” Joey exclaimed, “where is everybody?” There was no one around except for the pesky seagulls and a few older people with pails and little rakes digging in the sand. Carol scanned the horizon. The only sound was the lapping of waves on the beach.

“I guess everyone has gone home,” she replied. “And you know what that means?” Jennie and Joey just stared at her. “More beach for us!”

The kids weren’t sure what to make of that. “Come on, let’s build a sand castle,” she told them, while in the back of her mind: Tomorrow will be our last day.

The thought gnawed at her. She’d only seen Gordon Blodgett that one time. Had he gone back to Idaho to sell more farm machinery? He didn’t leave her his address. Of course I didn’t volunteer mine, she thought and in a way regretted it.

But regrets were like turns in the road: once you’ve made your choice, there was no going back. Everything moved on, waited for no one, and cared little for how you felt about it. At least that’s the way it seemed.

Friday morning it all ended. Vacation was over. She packed her suitcase, separating the dirty clothes from the ones she hadn’t yet worn. In the other bedroom she could hear the kids arguing over some silly thing, but that’s what kids do.

A few minutes later all was quiet. She looked at her watch. Well, I guess the kids are all packed. And it’s five o’clock. She put the suitcases in the car and took one last look around before locking up, her thoughts once more on Gordon Blodgett.

“Good evening, Ms. Underwood.” A man’s voice spoke from behind her.

“Oh, hello, Mr. Bundy, I was just leaving. I had a wonderful time with the children. Will the cabin be available next year as well?”

“Why, Ms. Underwood, you’re one of my best customers. I’ll send you the contract next week.”

Carol smiled back, already looking forward to next year. However, Mr. Bundy was still standing there with a sheepish grin.

“Was there something else?” she asked.

“What did you think of Mr. Blodgett?” Mr. Bundy asked.

Carol wasn’t sure what to say. “He seemed nice enough...”

“He’s our newest addition. If you would like, I can bundle him in with the children and save you a lot of money on next year’s lease.”

Two kids and a husband for a week, she thought. “Why, yes, Mr. Bundy, that would be nice.”

All the way back to Derry she thought about how things would be next year. Too bad I can’t keep them, she thought.

Copyright © 2020 by Maurice Humphrey

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