'Another Day at the Beach' by Sarah Wallis
Early one midsummer morning, Melanie is trembling the surf with her daughter Sydney. Apart from a man walking his dog there is no one around to see them and Melanie is glad to be alone.
- Oh that ice cream was delicious!
- Ice cream at half-past eight in the morning? Ridiculous!
-Yes! The seaside is ridiculous! You’re ridiculous! And last one in’s a big fat loser!
- Sorry Mum! God... I love the seaside, don’t you? Look at it, it’s... totally everywhere and beautiful! And, well, there’s just so much ice cream! That’s everywhere too! Over there! Over here! Back there! Everywhere! We have to go again and try pistachio, God what is that even like? Green ice cream! Wow! Pistachio... pistachio, I like to say pistachio...
- I hope you don’t get a tummy ache and spoil the day now!
- Oh, look! A balloon man...
She’d forgotten there would be balloons... sometimes... she almost forgets to breathe and becomes suffused with something unnameable... the air is so fresh, the day still so clean... and, nothing has happened yet.
- Let’s get balloons! Can we Mum?
- Of course, we can! What colour?
- All the colours!
- You want the moon on a stick you do...
- Is that a thing that’s even possible? The moon on a stick! The moon on a stick...oh! Like candyfloss!
- Ahhhhh no I don’t think so, think of your poor teeth!
- I’d rather have ice cream anyway! Race you to the sea Mummy!
- Race you to the sea baby! We go all the way down to the sea you and me...
- Arrrgh! It’s sooooooooo cold... Look, let’s make our sandcastles instead, I love to make sandcastles...
- I know, look how you made me bring all the things... buckets and spades alive alive oh!
- What do you think Dad’s doing right now?
- Oh... probably not even out of bed! But let’s not think about him, this is girl time!
- Yes! Girl time! That’s right!
- I’ll get some balloons, shall I?
- I want to come too! You won’t get the right colours...
- What are the right colours?
- Yellow and blue!
- You were right; I would probably get red ones.
- For the beach?
- Cloudless blue, yellow beach and a red balloon drifting...
- When we make our fort and make it all right again then we have the sand and the sky... the colours are important.
- What an abstract child you are. Gonna be a conceptual artist?
-Well... the idea, sort of...becomes the machine that makes the art, the execution being the least important part... it’s all in the concept, the first idea... something like that anyway...yeah, you’re right, it’s far too early for conceptual art. I haven’t even had a coffee yet...
- You had coffee flavour ice cream!
- You don’t miss a trick do you, my darling?
- My Daddy says I’m smart as a whip!
- You sure are!
- I sure am... smart as a whip, smart as a whip, smart as a whip, smart as a...
- Yes! All right!
- That’s what my Dad says anyway... I’m as smart as a...
- And I said all right! God! You do like to push your luck!
- Don’t be mad at me Mum...
- I’m not really mad, baby... I’ll get the balloons... yellow and blue and one red, one red one for me... you make your sandcastles, ok?
The man on the beach is leashing his dog and nods at Melanie, who is a year away, holding a handful of yellow and blue balloons, and one blotch of red. He watches her for a moment, he hasn’t seen her before, and only the dog walkers come this early.
-Sydney! Come on... time to let these birds fly baby! So many balloons... Syd! Come on baby! Sydney? Empty buckets of castles of sand, there’s one who will break through the mirror and step into wonderland...
The dog shakes the water out of his coat and escapes his owner, racing back into the cold sea, barking for joy, jumping the waves, chasing the colourful balloons flung on the breeze and paddling gently back to shore with a yellow one in his mouth until it must burst.
The urgent splashes break into Melanie’s reverie and she screams in one life, lets go of the rest of the balloons in the other, until she is left with just one, a joyous scarlet trembling to be away, clutched against her heart so tight it must burst her dream of the past.
All Rights. Sarah Wallis.
Sarah Wallis is a writer based in Scotland, since moving from Yorkshire two years ago. She has work published in many journals, poetry and flash fiction, with a couple of longer pieces @EllipsisZine and has had pieces staged a number of times with Leeds Fringe/ Leeds Pub Theatre. Most recently a piece published at The Birdseed was nominated for a Best Microfiction Award. You can find out more at sarahwallis.net