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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 


 

Fiction



A Quiet Moment

It was a strange position to find myself in. At long last, I was able to relax for a spell and could put all that had happened aside for the moment. I sat on the beach and watched the waves roll in, their distant crashes extending onto the shore. I watched the kids on the platform, far removed from reality and could hear the distant splashes as they jumped into the ocean without though. I remembered how differently things had felt only a few weeks before, and how my journeys through the various places Iíd explored had changed. When I looked around, I noticed many important things that Iíd never considered before. I looked past the divers and towards the distant outlines of the islands and remembered my first tentative steps into the outside perimeter, how she had been there waiting for me, and how she taught me how to dance with her. It might have seemed to anyone who was watching that we were going around in circles, but the more I thought of it, the more I knew she had been leading me on a straight line down the path towards another place. I still couldnít precisely explain what I had learned, but there was something different that changed the way thing felt. I looked around the beach, its simple clusters of sand and smattering of people, and felt myself observing the world, its heating sun beating down with the summer heat surrounding me. I looked in the other direction out towards the fishing pier. I remembered how it felt to feel someone who wasnít there tapping me on the shoulder, keeping me going in the right direction when it seemed I might walk off the path. There was always a danger that I might wander off too far, wasting everything I learned. With much patience and practice, I was able to isolate and find that distinct, soft voice often enough that I could ignore the louder ones screaming incessantly. It was a strange position to find myself and I was constantly tempted to take the easier path but I knew that wouldnít be satisfying for me to cheat in the long run.

I remembered the second mysterious figure Iíd encountered and wondered why she had chosen to take me back into the mysterious room. I felt the nervousness and trepidation return once again, slowly resurfacing. I thought of how it felt to make the second journey alone and how it felt to back here. Iíd been given another chance for some reason and decided not to waste it. I took another look onto the other side of the beach and saw a lot of kids playing on the swings and things. I was tempted to go there but decided against it, at least for that day. Instead, I watched them from a different perspective. They seemed to exist almost solely as an abstract idea. I watched them for a few minutes going back and forth, letting their motions and pushes rebound through the summer warmth unimpeded. This might have seemed like a strange choice but I knew it was the correct one. I had enough burdens going through my mind, and needed some relief. I sat there alone, feeling tired but not quite exhausted. I still had energy and there was plenty for me to do that wasnít overly taxing. The slow afternoon was beginning to reach its peak and I decided that this would a good time to think about what I could do next. I thought of going back to the mysterious building, but the walk was too far and I was still a little disoriented. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, extending my feet out over the blanket and into the hot sand. I dug down a little and the cooler grain under the surface gave me relief from the hot sun for a moment. I felt the cool grains of sand sliding between my toes then over my feet until they were temporarily buried, protected from the sun. I looked towards the water and saw the waves calm and still, the tides slowly receding backward, pushing the bigger waves out towards the ocean. A few of the other kids were still diving out there but they didnít seem to have the same energy that they had before, their splashes didnít seem like they had the same forced. I saw a few kids starting to swim back towards the beach and knew that most of them would be back before I knew it. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I needed to keep some space between us, Iíd have to keep quiet about my adventures for the time being. I felt the sun still burning on my head and twisted my feet out of their cold shield, resting them on the blanket again. I shook the sand off them and decided to let them rest on the blanket for another few minutes before Iíd get up and walk around again.

I took another moment to look around and worked my way back towards the pier with my eyes. I was dreaming in some ways, and it brought back other memories for me. I remembered how I navigated past it once, in some kind of weird dream that didnít seem possible. The pier seemed so small at that vantage point, yet so important in to me other ways, its meaning seemed to change with each passing wave. I remembered walking out to its outer edge, and staring down at the waters, seeing the sun reflected on the waves, splintering and shaking around in mesmerizing patterns. In some ways, it resembled one of the symbols Iíd seen etched in the trees on the sides of the distant forest. Some of the memories were starting to coalesce in my mind, and I wondered what the meaning really was. I took another look and tried to look up towards the sun but it was too bright and I wasnít able to linger over it too long Ė its glaring rays would burn spots in my eyes so I looked away downward again towards the shore. In its midst, there was some life starting to return after as it awoke from its early morning slumber. I sensed the summer had drawn more to the beach escape from to its unrelenting heat. The season had reached down and thrown itself into everything, there was little I could do. Eventually, the sand under the surface began to cook, which I found out the hard way when I tried to bury my feet a second time. It felt like I was putting them into the oven and this offered me no relief. I pulled them out again and they were nearly all red. I put on my sandals to avoid burning them and even these were hot. I took another look around and things had changed while I was distracting myself. The afternoon brought many more people and I started to notice more happening around me. As the sun grew hotter and even brighter, I felt things becoming louder with the passing minutes. I watched boats large and small stream past the buoys in the distance, their motors crashing over the sound. I heard more people talking, yelling and screaming Ė their voices beginning to fill the air. It was slowly becoming a busy mid-summer day and I wasnít as comfortable as I had been. More people started to arrive and before I knew it, I found myself surrounded on all sides with no path to escape.

People were rushing to set up their blankets on the beach and there was little space left. By the time I got up to leave, there were almost no empty places to speak of. I looked around and felt a little claustrophobic, there seemed to be people everywhere yelling and running around. I noticed a group of familiar kids coming towards my position and waited for them to come to me. I closed my eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. Before I knew it, they were standing over me looking me over and wondering what I was doing alone. My brother and some of the other kids had come and they wanted to go across the street towards the miniature golf course. I hesitated for a moment and shrugged my shoulders. I wasnít really in the mood and didnít have the skills to compete with them. I decided it was better to explore and find something else to do on my own. I didnít want company since others would only distract me and get in my way. I tried to feign like I was tired and resisted them, despite my brotherís persistence. I told him that I would think about it, and finally stood my ground after a few minutes. The others were slightly disappointed by they didnít seem to mind. They waited around for a few minutes and finally left me alone once my brother gathered his things for the rest of the afternoon. I waited until they walked out toward the golfing course and were safely away from me. I relaxed again and laid down on the blanket, stretching out along its side and felt the sun warm all over me. Everyone around me was still jumping around and yelling, but I decided not to let it bother me. I rolled over on my side and closed my eyes for a moment, gradually letting the sound evaporate under the sun until I could focus on what I wanted to do with the rest of my day. The commotion surrounding me seemed disappear and I nearly drifted to sleep, though it was much too hot and bright for me to do that. Instead, I let myself burn under the sunshine and soaked in the salty sea air and waited patiently for just the right moment to arrive.

The other kids were far enough away that they wouldnít be able to see what I was doing or where I was going. I looked around and it seemed like nobody else was paying attention to me, either. I stood up, and brushed off some of the sand from my feet. I folded up my towel and rolled it off the beach. I put a few other items in my duffel bag and zipped it, holding it on my back. I turned around and saw my spot had been claimed almost immediately, but I didnít care any more. I walked around for awhile following the path of the sidewalk. I walked slowly over its cracks and dips, trying not to trip over its gaps and walked around people who were standing there. I didnít make much of an effort at first, but decided to move quickly as I was tired. I walked a little faster as I moved further towards my objective. It took me a while to find a section that wasnít too crowded and it took some effort but it was worth it. At the edge of the pier, there was a barren section of beach that was too close to its railings and pilings, it snuck around the side and had intimidating clusters of sharp boulders, jaggedly knifing out from the sea. The seemed dangerous and helped in dissuading most people from camping there. However, this isolation made that under used area perfect for me. I was relieved since it looked like my plan might work after all. I had successfully reached the other side of the beach unnoticed where It was much calmer. I took a look up towards the sun and its unencumbered rule, and placed my bag over my head, to shield me from the heat. I took a long moment and made up my mind. With a strange sense of purpose I didnít quite understand, I felt something guiding me forward. I started moving closer to the shoreline to avoid everyone walking around. I waited for a moment, and began slowly walking on the surfís edge, the water lapping around my feet.

Looking around the beach, I had escaped for the moment. I felt a bit safer since there wasnít anyone I recognized, which was a relief. I didnít want to be distracted with too many questions. Thankfully, it was also peaceful and quieter in this isolated section, with only the sounds of the water splashing accompanying me. As I walked, I could see the tides were going even further out, making a shallow section of the beach where many rocks and stones were visible and within easy reach. I scooped a couple of them up from the sand and examined their streaked patterns closely for something familiar. This helped me to concentrate on what I wanted to do. I didnít see anything special in the first few rocks and put them back down. I decided to walk further down towards the water. I began to feel some interesting rocks submerged under my feet and kneeled down. These seemed to be better candidates, but I was still picky, looking for just the right size and shape of rocks. It was important to me that I was going to use. I went through many different ones until I found a couple that seemed to fit into place within the system I memorized. I took a few steps further down towards the shore where the tides had begun to recede, leaving a muddy section where the sand was suffused with water. I took some of the rocks and arranged them into different shapes. I had remembered a few symbols and attempted to make them with the rocks, some of them were only rough approximations while others were sharper. I began with one that looked like a tree, another which resembled a letter and two more shapes that sheíd shown me, but that I promised to keep secret. I waited for awhile and watched the tide roll further out. As the sun dried the sand, I tried moving them around some more, but couldnít really find the proper order. I looked up at the sun and it seemed to be nearing its peak for the afternoon and the heat began to dry the sand. The rocks became harder to move and I decided that there would be no point to trying further. I took a few of them from their formation and gathered them in my hands. I didnít want anyone else to see what I was doing. Slowly, I began to walk down the shore line, dropping one at a time into the water. After I was done returning them to the sea from where I had borrowed them I looked around. No one really seemed to notice what I was doing and it seemed like Iíd covered my tracks successfully.

I started walking back towards the more populated section of beach and ran into some of the kids who had returned from playing on the other side. Some of them asked me where I had been doing all afternoon. I took a moment to devise an effective alibi and told them I had gone down to the boats, and walked for awhile. None of them seemed to suspect what I was up to, and I decided not to let any one know what I had been up to. I decided to walk back towards the pier and slowly made my way over to that area. As I approached, things were getting a bit louder and the commotion of the gathered fisherman and their friends drowned out the sounds of the waves. I took a long walk towards the end of the pier which was slightly less crowded and took in the edge of the ocean from that vantage point. I still had two oddly shaped rocks in my pocket that I needed to get rid of. I looked around and decided that I would have to get rid of them without drawing to much attention to myself. I positioned myself towards the edge of the pier and leaned over, making sure no one was watching me. Looking over my shoulder, I took one of the rocks out of my pocket and threw it over the side of the railing. I watched it plunge down into the water and disappear quickly. It didnít make much of a splash. There was one more. I decided to take it toward the other side of the pier and walked over there carefully. I flung the final rock over the side so it went out much farther into the ocean. It took a long flight and landed with a much larger impact, causing a giant ripple as it landed into the water. After a few seconds it vanished and sunk back into the sea. Finally relieved of that burden, I took a deep breath and turned around to double check. No one was watching. Our secret was safe, she didnít have to worry. I wasnít telling anyone.

- Michael Palisano

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