The water was unsettled, tearing at the sand and pounding his limbs until he could no longer feel his feet. Others walked the beachhead, pointing and conversing as though, they too, had entered another time. Worn straw hats rested on the heads of the visitors, conjoined; he understood, by choices the sea had made for them.
Akio closed his eyes and felt the weight of the lifeless child on his shoulder, smelled his sun-kissed skin—yet again—a feeling undeniably lost to those who moved around him, peeking and pointing as though they could still see the bodies that washed ashore that day—bodies far from their homes, bodies without hope, bodies bloated with despair.
He lifted his nose, sniffing the air, trying to recapture the aroma of that day. Closing his eyes, he took in the last scent of her perfume, a whiff of petals, lighter than the small boy’s touch on his hand, a touch of joy.
They would relax—talk—maybe forgive. A break in the day to face their ever-growing chasm. His work. Her needs. It had been too long. She would explain. He breathed in again, her scent disappearing. Beyond the white mask he wore, the overpowering stench of that day surpassed what his mind was capable of acknowledging—or forgetting. Even now his stomach lurched.
She’d run to her sister’s house after her confession, then called hours later,
begging him to meet her at the beach, see the child. He’d made her wait. Unloading his
car, he’d grabbed a towel, accidently dropping the boy’s yellow sand shovel. The toy would satisfy the attention of the gleeful child who’d just learned to walk—to play—as they discussed their future.
No one saw the water move, peeling itself from the blinding whiteness of the shore. Even those standing knee-deep remained motionless, the sea backing away as though someone had pulled the plug from the ocean floor allowing the water to drain from around them, sucking at their feet like a vacuum.
Stooping to retrieve the shovel, he felt the—air—stop. He swung around in time to recognize the horror rushing at him—faces agape with open mouths and wide brown eyes. Cries surrounded him—shrieks of children’s voices meshing with fierce, wild screams of parents—all rushing toward him—shoulder-to-shoulder— running, pushing— forcing their way past taxi cabs and parked cars.
The sea rose like a blue cloud, churning toward him, devouring everything in its path. His eyes darted across the beach—searching—too late he knew—and so he ran, becoming one of the lucky—as the ocean swallowed his family alive.
Days later, he’d donned his mask hoping to retrieve his wife, the boy— wishing to lessen his guilt of being moments too long—aching to blanket the sorrow of her
revelation. In the months to follow, he walked the same path searching for solitude, craving the forgiveness he’d withheld from her—his guilt and anger eternally seeded with her lie.
Eying a fleck of newly washed yellow, he kicked at the ground, grains of sand lifting and fanning out like tiny stone fingers, suddenly dislodging a small plastic shovel. He stooped to draw it from a clod of seaweed and ran his fingers across initials scrawled on the handle. Her son’s.
Ginger Marcinkowski is a late-bloomer to the writing life, completing her MFA at the age of 58. Her award-winning debut novel, Run, River Currents was quickly followed with The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance. She is a frequent speaker at writing conferences and enjoys life on the back of a motorcycle. She loves experimenting with different genres and has recently completed her first mystery. She lives happily in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.