Word Count 451
By Jane Malin
The wind was unbearable. She grabbed the railing for fear the pier would give way. Rain slit her face like tiny horizontal blades. She was sure the water was washing away the blood. The seagulls had long since disappeared. They had tumbled across the sky earlier like sheets of paper as they struggled against the wind. They were no match for it. The kids should have been home hours ago. Their insufficient years made them at once vulnerable and superhuman. Idiots! Why couldn’t they just once listen to her? Weathermen had been predicting this storm for days, strong currents and gale-force winds.
She paced on the pier that stuck out into the blackness, only showing itself in the flashes of lightening. Waves crashed against the pylons, and the entire structure shook with the thunderous landing of each wave. The lightening made it feel almost like an old-time movie, just colorless flashes of pictures. Staring at the sand, she could tell the tide was coming in. The sand was smooth, but the waves were relentless. They boomed, over and over again, each one receding to whence it came leaving a shiny wet canvas of sand and froth at the foot of the pier.
Lightening flashed, and she saw something on the beach – driftwood? Hmm, not surprising with this storm. The beach would be littered with oceanic debris in the morning. Wait, that thing wasn’t twisted enough to be driftwood – an oar maybe? She ran down off the pier and onto the beach. Yes! It was an oar! Ohh,… it was just an oar. Then her stomach heaved like the wave that nearly consumed her. For long minutes, she stared into the darkness praying for the next flashes of light. Nothing else had been belched onto the sand – just an oar.
The storm was beginning to subside, but the ocean continued to roar. She watched for what felt like an eternity. Nothing; just smooth, glistening sand. The lightening seemed to stop and so did the opportunities to inspect the beach. Were the kids gone forever? She refused to accept it. Lost at sea? Just an oar to memorialize them?
She dropped down on the sand, weeping. Her tears melted into the raindrops. She buried her face against her knees and wrapped her arms around her legs. A loud thunderclap startled her to look up. Lightening streaked across the sky, and she saw them. There were single, deep footprints coming out of the sea, passing right by her, not 20” from her bare feet. Only one set of prints. How? Could it be? But, …only one? She pushed the seemingly enormous weight of her body to stand, slowly turning toward home. But,… only one.