“Look at her.”
“She looks like shit.”
“Why is she even coming here?”
“Probably some retarded reason.”
They turn towards me. Jacob hands me a cigarette. What should I say, it is definitely my time to speak.
“It’s creepy,” I say as I blow out the smoke, but I should say something more. “She shouldn’t be allowed to come here,” I try, but they don’t seem impressed. I need something worse. “Why don’t we just chase her away?” I really do say that. The words come out of my mouth and everything, without the smoke this time. They are staring at me now. Surprised. Not sure what to think.
“You really think so?” Michael seems insecure.
“Why not, we should teach her a lesson,” Margo interrupts, I knew she would like it.
“What kind of lesson would that be?” Michael still seems kind of insecure, he is even more of a coward than me.
“That she shouldn’t come her,” Margo says looking straight at Michael. He looks down.
“We chase here down the beach,” I say this, I really do. Even get a vision in my head that she would jump into the water and just swim out into the ocean.
I love the beach. My mother took me here for the first time when I was five, right after we had moved. I don’t remember that much. Mostly colours. Blue sky. White sand. Waves that could be blue, then green, and then so dark that it would scare me. I come here every day now. Sometimes I meet the others here, Margo, Michael and Jacob.
“Isn’t she a little old to be taught a lesson?” Michael tries again. Margo is going to kick him if he doesn’t stop talking like that. She kicked me once. It hurt for days. Gave me a nasty bruise. “I’ve heard she comes her because of her husband,” he continues, for some reason I really can’t understand. Nobody says anything. Silence. I don’t look at Michael. Margo hasn’t said anything yet, but she is going to. «I think he is dead,» he is finished now. Micahel is finally finished.
“Shut up, Michael,” Jacob says, even though he already has shut up, so it doesn’t really make any sense. Jacob just thinks he knows how this will go, and he loves to pretend like he always wants what Margo wants. Right now Margo wants to make Michael shut up.
“Come,” she says. Leads the way. “We can catch her.”
She looks older than I thought she would look when we get closer. Walking slowly, seems like her joints hurt. Old people are always complaining about their joints, so it makes sense. Michael is walking even slower than her. He only catches up with us if Margo stops to wait for him. She wants him to be a part of this, I don’t really get why, but she wants it that way.
She turns her wrinkled face towards us. Smiles even.
“Hi kids,” she shouts something like that, “fine day to be at the beach.”
She is wearing a flowered dress, an old lady dress. Too many flowers, so long that it brushes against the sand when she is walking. We don’t answer her. She just continues walking and we follow. Simple enough. She goes first, and then we come after.
She turns her head again. Doesn’t say anything this time. Somethings wrong. She can tell.
“Michael, are you coming?” Margo stops again. Waits. Annoyed.
“Look she is walking faster,” I say, because she is. It isn’t easy to walk fast on the beach, your feet get stuck all the time in the sand.
“Fuck, Michael, this is all your fault if she gets away,” Margo points at him.
“Get away from what, Margo? What would you even do?” he says those words, and I can see that Margo is getting angry. I think she is gonna say something to him, but she doesn’t. Instead she looks towards the flowered dress in front of us.
“Walk faster,” Margo screams.
She turns towards us again after Margo has screamed, seems confused for a moment. Worried. It isn’t just her imagination, something is wrong. We are following her. She better walk faster, if I were her I would run.
“Let’s go back,” Michael grabs Margo’s hand, but she pushes him away.
“We’ll go back, when I say so, not before,” she says, and he knows it’s true. “Why aren’t you walking faster,” she screams again. I can see the old face turn towards us again, it must be for the fifth time. She should have gotten it by now. Slow learner it seems.
“It’s enough,” Michael grabs Margo’s hand another time, but this time she pushes him so hard he falls down into the sand.
“You better run,” Jacob screams, exactly like Margo would want him to. Margo smiles. Turns towards Jacob and walks faster along the beach. Michael is struggling to get up, runs to catch up with us again. Doesn’t want to be left behind enough. Not yet at least.
It is beautiful. The sun is setting. A warm, red glow spreads across the beach. The waves almost look pink. Blue with a little pink. Amazing really. Mum loves sunsets and the beach. I can’t even remember how many picnics we have had her when I was a kid, too many to count. Almost every weekend and sometimes we would go her in the midweek as well. Sitting on the beach, watching the sunset, feeling the sand run through my hands. Probably my best childhood memories.
I can see Margo pick up the rock, but she just holds it in her hand. It’s like I don’t get that she is going to throw it, before she does. The rock is hurled through the air and drops down right in front of her old lady shoes. She stops, but finally doesn’t turn to look at us, has probably given up thinking we will feel sympathy for her old face. She runs. I can hear Margo scream a high-pitched scream, as if we are at the racing track or something. She is running fast. Faster than me. Her old legs are digging their way through the sand, pushing her forward. Freaking fast.
“She is too fast,” Jacob says to Margo.
“Don’t worry,” Margo throws another rock. Margo and her rocks. She is good.
We watch her fall. Flowered, old lady dress an all, into the white sand, head first.
“Where did you hit her,” Michael screams, for once he is the one taking the lead, running towards the spot where she fell.
Somehow I was sure she was gonna cry, but when we get to her she is so quiet. Reminding me of the nature shows I have seen were the baby antelope is lying still while the cheetah is smelling it.
“Look,” Michael is pointing towards something lying in the sand. An arm. Detached from its body. An arm in the sand. Her arm. Her old lady fake arm in the sand. Her creepy looking hand far away from her creepy body.
“Fuck, how sick,” Margo is laughing. “You guys wanna get a soda or something?” she says, as if there is nobody lying in the sand like that missing an arm. There is just a hole in the flowered dress where the arm used to be. I think I can see some kind of wiring, but I have heard that they don’t have that anymore. Probably an old model. Totally makes sense.
Margo turns. Jacob follows quickly, but I can still hear her shout, “Come on Michael, we’ll get a milkshake.” He is standing there looking at her where she is lying in the sand. Still not moving. “Do you wanna get something?” he says to me. I nod. We turn away from her and walk back.
Mum loves the beach. I have tried to make a basket like she would today. I have brought the old blanket for sitting on in the sand. Our blue blanket. Still pretty filthy from the last time we went to the beach. It is hard to get the sand out no matter how many times you wash it. Mum loves the beach, but she loves other things as well. Apples. I packed five of them, two green ones and three red ones, with the rest of the food. She really likes them. She also likes to bicycle, we often used to bicycle to the beach before. I didn’t do that today though. Flat tire.
Mum likes to watch TV, not that it has anything to do with the beach, we obviously couldn’t bring the TV to the beach. I just thought of it because she always lets me pick what show to watch. Mum has always been nice that way, not all kids are allowed to choose what they wanna see. She would even let me watch the news when I was little kid, but enough about that, we never brought a TV to the beach. A radio however, we would always bring a radio.
I lay down my blanket in the sand, put the radio down and turn it on. Mum always keeps it on a channel that plays beach music. I haven’t changed the channel. I sit down and look out on the ocean. Listen to the song. It feels light. Simple. Easy. Mum loves songs like that. She would have closed her eyes and smiled if she had heard it.
And if you you you you you come on down to the beach,
we’ll play around, have some fun
She is still lying there. The flowered dress has blown up and sand is covering her feet. The arm is probably all covered with sand, I at least can’t see it anymore. I get up from my blanket and walk towards her.
“Do you need some help?” Mum has always said that I should be really careful with approaching strangers, but if I do I should be polite. Just like she raised me. “Do you need some help getting up from the sand?”
She has been lying here for 2 days. Nobody has looked for her. She must be all alone. I get my blanket, lay it down in the sand next to her. I bring the basket and the radio as well. Apples, water bottles, some sunscreen, I got all kinds of stuff in that basket. A ball even, always fun to play with when things get boring, and a magazine, an old one, but mum likes to read things over again. She says that you can discover a new meaning in a text if you just stick to it. I also packed two sandwiches, in case I would get hungry.
Oh, the winds blowing soft now but aiaiaiaiai I see the ocean come closer
I dig up her arm. It is very lifelike, and it doesn’t have wires. It still isn’t quite right though, and it doesn’t bleed. A human arm would bleed if it fell off. This doesn’t. However, it does kind of look like meat for some strange reason. Don’t know what it is made of, but something looks wrong with it, as if some components are missing.
“I have your arm,” I say and put it down in the sand next to her. “You’ll need your arm. People will know really fast that something is wrong if you don’t have an arm,” I say this a little too loudly, “and you don’t want that,” I blush at these last words. No she doesn’t want that, for sure. Some kids might chase her down the beach again, tear off some other part of her.
“I brought some apples and some water,” I look down into the basket, “and a sandwich,” I clear my throat, “You know, if you’re hungry.”
We’ll find that wave, we’ll get away, we’ll be okay,
and I’ll see you, I’ll see you
She doesn’t move. She hasn’t moved at all. I even think she is lying in the exact same place that we left her. She might be broken. Margo might have broken her, and I can’t really fix her, I at least have no idea how I would do that. “I also brought a magazine, if you like to read.” I sigh. No response. Mum would say that I should leave her alone, if somebody doesn’t want to talk to me I should just leave them alone. Some people can get angry if you try to talk to them when they don’t wanna talk to you. I know.
I can hear her move. She is moving in the sand. Turning her body. It creaks. Making sounds that doesn’t fit her human looking body. Creaking, weird sounds. She reaches for the arm. Attaches it where the hole is. Simple.
“Why did you come back?” she says. Looking at me while she is still lying in the sand, but facing the sky now.
“I come her every day.” It’s the truth. Mum has said different things about the truth. How I like it too much, sometimes the truth is not my friend. I know.
“To meet those kids?”
Margo can’t go to the beach that often, she has too much homework and her parents don’t let her leave before it is done. Probably she comes here once a week. Jacob only comes when Margo comes. Michael is here at least twice a week, but sometimes more.
“I like that song,” she says, “me and husband we used to listen to it.”
I kick at the sand, so that the wind gets a hold of some of it for a few moments, carries it away.
“But he’s dead now, isn’t he?”
She looks strange. Just lying on her back like that. Looking up. An old lady wouldn’t lie like that. Not a real old lady.
“Yeah, he is.”
“Do you miss him?”
She smiles. Sits up in the sand.
“Why are you asking?”
“I don’t know.”
“Cause you wonder about it?”
I nod. She smiles.
“How old are you?”
She stares towards the waves, brushes the sand of her dress.
“You are very lifelike,” she says, “I bet they even can’t tell you apart.”
I run, all the way home. Open the door and shout.
No answer. “Mum!”
I just need to remember. I’m sure mum has told me something. I will know what to do. Mum doesn’t say anything anymore. She used to say so many things, all the things I needed to know, but she has become silent. Every day she changes a little bit more. Every day her face looks stranger, and the room smells worse. If it goes much further I don’t think I will be able to fix her.
She is still lying in her bed. Hasn’t eaten, even though I have put a sandwich and a glass of juice by her bed every day. Her favorite. I try to get her to eat, and I always put on the TV before I go out. So that she won’t feel lonely.
“Mum, I met this lady,” I kneel by the bed. “She said something,” I can hear myself gasping for air, “I think she knows.” I look down. Mum doesn’t say anything. “I know I’m not supposed to tell anyone, no matter what,” I hesitate, “and I know what, no matter what, means, I just …” I sigh, “I just think that maybe she can help you mum.”
No answer. “I think her husband died too, and she might know some tricks on how to get you back.” A part of mum’s face seems to be just gone. The skin has just vanished. I can see the bones. “Like that time I got really sick and you said that I were dead for a month before you managed to get me online,” I can feel that I talk too fast, «It’s been 41 days mum, and it is just a long time to be dead,” I get up, “and I’m just not sure I can manage if I don’t get some help.” Nothing. She says nothing.
It is dark outside now. I am not supposed to go outside when it is dark. Never. There is no good reason to go out in the dark, but I do it anyway. I left everything at the beach when I ran. The basket, the blue blanket, mum’s radio, all the food, everything. I try to be silent, I walk as fast as I can down the road. If I hear a car I go out off the road and stand in the darkness between the trees until it has passed.
The sand feels cold against my feet. The waves, they are so dark. The beach doesn’t look the same anymore. Doesn’t look like the beach that me and mum go to. This is some other place. More dangerous. The only thing that makes it better are the stars. Lots of them. Blinking with their white light towards me.
She is still sitting there. Right next to my things, looking at the ocean. I try to avoid getting her attention as I grab my blanket, but obviously she can hear me. Turns towards me.
“Are you alone?” she says.
She doesn’t look so old when it is dark. She looks stronger, or maybe she just looks stronger because there is no piece of her missing anymore.
“No, I got my mum.”
I shove the blanket down in the basket, manage to find the radio half buried in the sand. It might be broken. Radios might not like to be buried in the sand.
“And she’s okay?” she looks at me. I can feel it. Looks at me while I’m struggling to fit everything into my basket.
“She will be.”
“But she is not okay now?”
I stop. Straighten up. I shouldn’t tell her anything. Mum wouldn’t like it.
“I think she is dead,” I finally say.
“Like your husband,” I try, hoping that this will make her start talking about him.
“Has she been dead for a long time?”
“That’s a long time.”
“I kept the room cold and put on fans to keep it dry.”
This is my chance. I look down. It is just about opening my mouth and let the words come out. “Do you have any tips?”
“Tips about what?” she looks confused, as if it isn’t obvious what I have asked about.
“About making her not dead anymore?”
She sighs. I can see her letting the sand run through her hands, just like I like to do.
“How long has your husband been dead?”
“2 years, 3 months and 5 days,” she says.
“That is a long time.”
“Uhm,” she hesitates, “But your mum she is not like you?”
I sit down in the sand. I feel wobbly. Feel faint.
“I guess not,” my mouth is dry, “Mum used to say what I should do if she got sick. Call a doctor. So I did.”
It is such a strange thing that the sun can change something so much. The beach without the sun is like a new place, a place I’ve never been before, even if I have been here every day since mum started to be dead.
“He just said that she was dead.” The doctor had been stupid. Had no tips at all. “And then he said he would have someone come pick me up so that I could go live with someone else.”
“And you didn’t want that?”
“No,” I kick into the sand even though it hurts my foot. “I was dead for a month once, and mum did not leave me to go live with someone else.”
She doesn’t say anything at first. I just kick the sand again.
“What did the doctor do?”
“He wanted to go,” I feel myself speaking too fast, can hear that my voice becomes hard to understand so I slow down, “and I couldn’t let him.”
She nods. “No, you couldn’t.”
She understands. I can see that. Maybe even more than mum. Mum didn’t get everything. It didn’t really matter though that she didn’t get everything, she was still mum.
“They can’t come back,” she just says it. Just like that. “If they’re dead, then that is it, at least if it is for 2 years, 3 months and 5 days or for 41 days. Then they’re dead. The end.”
I let myself fall backwards into the sand. Just lie there. Just like she did after we chased her.
“No, tricks to get them back.”
“Not that I know of.”
I close my eyes. Feel them getting wet. 41 days. It seemed too long. I was only dead for a month, 41 days for a human mum, I should have known that it was too long.
“Stupid,” I whisper.
“You can come with me,” she says.
I dry my tears away at the sleeve of my sweater. Try to calm myself, just like mum taught me.
“Where will you go?”
I lie there in the sand at the beach. Look up into the starry sky. It isn’t the same beach, not the same sunny beach that me and mum used to go to. This darker one is different, but I guess it still is beautiful. Just in another way.
I hope you have enjoyed “The Beach”, the story as well as the song, and I really hope that you would like to hear more songs and read more stories 🙂
About the song: Vocals/music composition/lyrics/ukulele: Therese J (Me) Bass/mixing: Dan Grubbs Drums: Raul R
If you like the images that have been used to illustrate this short story, they are all from morguefile.com except from the last one and the SoundCloud photo that I have taken myself. All the photos have been edited, the first photo in this story is by jolana05, the second photo(after the SoundCloud photo) is by thesuccess, the third photo is by rikaha, and the fourth from MarcusL.
© Hilde Therese Juvodden, MyStoriesWithMusic, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Hilde T.Juvodden and MyStoriesWithMusic with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. – Simply don’t steal my stuff 😉