Thursday, January 21, 2016

Asleep on the Beach

This is a shorter short story that I dreamed up while sitting out on the beach a couple of summers ago. It could happen..

“Unseasonably warm temperatures for today,” the weatherman said. “Expecting a high of sixty-five degrees.”

I knew I had to make a way to get outside today. The last couple of days had been overcast and chilly, keeping me indoors doing boring housework. Today, it seemed to take me extra long to get David dressed, fed and ready for his bus. Spina bifida had knocked the socks off our little happy family nine years ago, but now that David was older, he was able to leave everyday for school, as they called it and life seemed a little calmer. Having the break gave me the chance to recoup a little and have some time to myself. I valued the times David was home as I loved him intensely but I also had to admit - having the daily help was a godsend. Anyhow, this was not the time to think about David. This was my time to relax for about the next two hours.

I threw a load of wash in the machine and did a quick vacuum in the living room. The windows really needed a washing as the salty brine was constantly clouding them up, but I decided to wait until warmer weather came. I only needed my blanket, an apple, a bottle of water and I was set.

The walk to the beach was only about half a mile and most of the way was along a gravel road that led to an old boathouse set off in the woods. There was an opening that I knew from memory where I could cut through some bushes and over a rocky area to get to a beach. It took me only about twenty minutes to get down to my spot.

I looked up and down the beach to see if anyone else was around and was pleased to see that I was the only one on the section of beach that I could see. There was a curve where the rest of the beach closer to town was hidden from my view. It was not as if I needed total privacy but I did like having the beach to myself. If there was someone else on the beach, I rather liked to prepare myself so I didn’t feel weird if they came walking by while I was napping or sun tanning.

Dropping my blanket on the sand, I knelt down and straightened it out in a little cove where the rocks formed a natural barrier to the constant wind. I pulled off my sweatshirt, hoping that my tank top would be warm enough with my shorts to keep me comfortable. I was planning to get a little sun if it wasn’t too chilly. There was still a bit of a cool breeze so I grabbed a few rocks to hold down the edges of my blanket. 

I stretched out on my back and closed my eyes in the bright sunlight. My thoughts jumped sporadically from David to Eric to Chloe. Eric would probably be home from work around five o’clock and Chloe didn’t have basketball practice so she would be taking the bus home a little after three o’clock - so that gave me about three hours of free time, I remembered that I had forgotten to take the chicken out of the freezer.

Stop it. I told myself. This is a time to forget all that and relax! I could feel the chill as a cloud passed in front of the sun. I turned over on my blanket to hug the ground for a little more warmth. Just listen, I told myself. Consciously, I made the effort to shut my brain off to the constant nagging of my life’s demands and just listen to my surroundings. It was so peaceful on the beach. 

After a few moments with my eyes shut, I focused on hearing just the waves, then a jet overhead, some seagulls, a crow a little farther off, some leaves rustling close to me in the cracks between the rocks.

The warm sun felt good on my back. 

“Hey Karen,” I heard my voice being called. I twisted around to see who would be calling me and there was Eric a few hundred yards out on his kayak. He was waving at me. “Bring the dinghy out by the island,” he shouted. “Someone capsized and I can’t help them in my kayak.” He was shouting to me over the noise of the waves.

“Okay,” I answered. “I’ll be right out.” I was a little confused. I thought Eric was at work - but then I remembered I hadn’t brought my cell phone so he had probably called me. He always liked getting out to do a little fishing when the weather was nice like this.

Thankfully, the dinghy was just a little bit up the beach. I left my stuff to get when I came back since getting to the island wouldn’t take me more than a few minutes. In a couple of minutes, I had pushed the boat out passed the beach and into the deeper water so I could start the outboard motor. It started right up after the second pull and I steered the boat around toward the island.

Although the island was in plain sight, it was probably close to a mile out from land. The distance was deceiving. It was a deserted island and a fun place for kids to explore or for Eric and me to take a break after kayaking.

Eric was nowhere in sight. I thought for sure that I would have caught up with him but I decided to head straight for the island and meet him there. If someone was in trouble, I didn’t want to make him or her wait. I couldn’t see anyone when I pulled up to the first point of the island so I went back out into the deeper water to get to the backside. There were many hidden rocks along the side of the island that would hit the bottom of my boat if the tide wasn’t high enough.

Sure enough, I could see a couple of people on the beach trying to pull their boat in. It was just a small sailboat and it looked like their sail was messed up. I guided my boat to an opening along the beach and cut the engine, letting the boat coast up onto the sand.

“You guys need help?” I asked. There was an older man - maybe in his late fifties and a younger twenty-year old or so girl helping him drag the boat. Neither of them was wet so I figured they must have been able to stay on top of the boat when the sail went over. They didn’t look familiar to me but then again, I didn’t know everyone in our town yet. We had only lived there for a little over a year.

“Yeah, if you wouldn’t mind giving us a lift back to the mainland.” He had a raspiness to his voice as if he was a chronic smoker. “We kind of messed up our sail in the wind today. Thought it was going to be a warm calm day, but Mother Nature got the better of us.” He laughed with a nervous laugh. His eyes were looking me over and I suddenly regretted not putting my sweatshirt back on.

“We could pay you, too,” his girlfriend added. She also had a raspy voice and was missing a front tooth on the right side of her mouth. She pulled her bleach blonde hair back into a ponytail using a band from around her wrist. “We don’t want to bother you or nothing.”

I pushed aside my misgivings about the couple. They needed help and the least I could do was giving them a quick five-minute ride back to the town. Besides, Eric was going to be along any second.

“It’s no bother. It’ll only take me a few minutes to get you back. Come on in,” I said, still wondering were Eric was. I couldn’t very well ask them to wait for my husband. “I guess you saw my husband, Eric a while back?” I asked, just making conversation.

“Was that your husband on that fancy kayak? Yeah, he come up here and told us he had to get his other boat. Nice guy. Yup, real nice guy,” he said as they approached my boat.

I tried to steady the boat while they climbed in. The guy sat right next to me, kind of creeping me out. His girlfriend sat farther forward in the boat, but facing me instead of forward. Nothing felt right and I looked around again for Eric.

“Nice motor you have here.” He put his hand on the tiller, reaching over me.

I looked at him wondering why he was acting so friendly to me in front of his girlfriend. His actions weren’t normal I decided as he sat there and grinned at me. I turned away and ignored him determined to get to land as soon as possible. I pulled the starting rope and the engine started right up. After adjusting the throttle a little, I steered the boat out into the deeper water, increasing the speed as I pulled away from the island. 

“Would you mind if I gave it a try?” he was leaning in close to me and had his hand over mine. I pulled my hand away immediately, and then tried to act nonchalant. The boat swerved as the tiller swung wide. He pulled it back and looked at me, “I didn’t mean to startle you, honey.”

I was unnerved by the touch of his hand on my skin. “Oh, sure, it’s pretty easy,” I said. “Just keep pointing it straight and heading for those tall trees.” I pointed towards the section of beach where I had started from just about half an hour earlier. It already seemed so long ago. What had I gotten myself into? I was only too happy to scoot away from him. I glanced at the girlfriend and she was watching me with a strange smile on her face. These people are giving me the creeps! I thought to myself. I really hoped I could get to land fast and get away from them.

“Do you come out here often?” she asked me with a southern twang to her voice.

I had an inkling of hope that maybe she was all right, just acting strange from being around the creepy old guy. “Well, when the weather is warmer, we come out here a lot. It’s just been too chilly so far this spring,” I answered. I was getting pretty chilled in the cold wind.

“Guess you live close then,” she asked again. I wasn’t sure if she was getting at something or if she was just conversing with me.

“Yes, we live in one of the beach houses on this side of town. We have been there just about a year. Are you from around here?” I turned the questions over to her.

“No, honey, I ain’t from around these parts. I’m from down south in Alabama. We just come up here looking for work. You know with the economy and everything,” she laughed. “You folks up here got it easy with your big houses and fancy boats.”

I wasn’t sure how to answer so I rather turned her last phrase. “Yes, we really love it up here. This stretch of the ocean is so beautiful.”

She had no idea what kind of life I had. How can she just judge me by the boat I have or the house I live in. The amount of work that Eric and I had gone through to create a peaceful home for our children. The house was an inheritance gift from Eric’s dad. Before that, we had lived in an apartment. Most of our married life had been spent going back and from the hospital with David.

I decided to keep the conversation light. “You can see our house over…” I paused as I looked over my shoulder to point out our house but then stopped as I realized we were not heading into the shore as I thought. “You must have turned the boat in the wrong direction,” I said as I turned to face the guy. He was looking at me with a grin on his face.

“Took you a while to notice. Guess you wasn’t payin too close attention. We are going for a boat ride, honey, I am going in the right direction,” he said with his cackle of a laugh again.

I first felt the boat rock as the girl stood up but before I could turn around, I felt her arms grabbing my arms from behind. I struggled and kicked as much as I could but between the both of them, they overpowered me. By the time they were finished, my arms were tied behind my back and my ankles. I was so furious that I was having a hard time thinking straight. My voice hurt from screaming at them.

“So how smart is the pretty lady, now?” he asked me. 

I refused to talk. I wanted to kill the both of them and throw them overboard. They were both at the back of the boat laughing at me lying on the bottom of the boat. Anger was boiling in my veins and I wanted desperately to find a way to get out of the boat. If there was some way I could get them to drive into the rocks, it would probably flip the boat or make a hole in the hull and I could get away. Even if I couldn’t swim because of the ropes, I could probably still float on my back and kick my legs to get to land. Then I thought that if I rolled over, I might be able to get on my knees and then push with my hands on the bench to lift myself up. Once up, I could jump over the side.

What are they going to do with me? Why are they doing this? Dreadful thoughts raced through my mind. Rape, kidnap, or murder. Are they thieves? Maybe they want to hold me for a ransom. I was so used to my quiet home life, this thinking was surreal. I was the one who always tried to help everyone live better and now these people were attacking me. Why? What is the point of this? I tried to look over the edge of the boat to see where we were heading.

“Hey, you stay down there. What do you think you are doing?” the girlfriend shouted at me, standing up and then putting her foot on my stomach to push me down. 

I refused to look at her and give her the satisfaction of knowing that she was making me angry. I tightened my stomach muscles against her weight.

“Just stay down and shut up,” she said.

I had to smile a little because I hadn’t even said anything.

“Come on now girls - we don’t want any fighting,” he said with a sneer in his tone.

I hated how he included me with his girlfriend, calling us girls. I was not his girl nor was I going to be friends with his girlfriend. I was almost nauseous with my disgust for him.

“Debbie, you come back here and steer the boat so I can talk to our captain for a minute.”

My heart sank in dread as I saw them trade places. He came over to the bench next to me, straddled the bench and looked down at me. “You look a little worried now captain. Life is not so fun when you ain’t in control,” he laughed. “You do have pretty skin - you shouldn’t be out here in the sun.” He ran his fingers down the side of my face.

I turned away from him, totally disgusted and then just as quick, I spat at him. “Don’t you touch me, you pig!” I said between my clenched teeth.

“Oh, so someone has a little temper,” he said standing up.

This had to stop. I couldn’t take another minute of the torture. I pulled hard against my ankles to loosen the ropes, twisting my hands and pushing them apart to get out. I twisted my body with all of my strength and felt a sudden release.

I felt the cold sand on my face. I knew I was free. Those awful people. Where was I? I was cold.

The realization hit me that the whole nightmare was just that - a bad dream. I sat up on my blanket, safe and sound on the beach with no one around me. I grabbed my sweatshirt and slid it over my head and shoulders. I shivered in spite of myself, both from the cold and from the dream. The sun had gone behind the clouds, but other than that, everything was the same. 

I chuckled to myself after I took a drink from my water bottle and started eating my apple. I must have looked pretty funny twisting and turning on my blanket trying to get out of my dream. It was nice to hear the seagulls and the noise of the waves. Naptime was over but I was exhausted. I set my apple down and lay on my back to enjoy a few more minutes of quietness, pulling my arms under my head as a cushion. This time I wasn’t going to close my eyes. The duties of home were calling me but I figured I had earned a few extra minutes of rest after all the exertion of my nightmare.

2016 copyright. Use only with permission.

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