Crazy Pants at the Beach

The sun is warm and my skin is covered with that dry sand that is so lovely to brush off. I’m partially shaded by a beach umbrella — my head and shoulders protected but the rest of my body, blissfully sun-drenched. On my left is a low table with a woefully ignored novel and an overly well-attended umbrella drink — I haven’t spoken in hours. The sounds of the beach have faded into a muted hum, the conversation between gulls and surf pleasant and amicable, and even my thoughts have finally quieted. Occasionally I find myself aware that I’m dozing, and when conscious enough to notice, I mark the sweet contrast between the heat of the sun and the cool-edged breeze. Or I remember back in my room…

Robin’s jangling cry startles — . I jump up from my desk, nervous system registering the whine, and go into the front room. “I can’t open the back door! It’s locked!” My head swivels right, and I see the front door, wide open (no one shut the screen door). My voice flat, I say, “Go out the front door.” He continues to whine and cry that he wants to go out the back door but I just can’t care. Figure it out, I think. I want a lot of things. Briefly my mind flashes on the scene, earlier, with the beach and the warm, and the easel waiting after a long day of nothing — I guess it’ll be there later. I don’t know. At least I wrote it down. Control Save.

Now I’m back; the children, napping. In my mind I cover our bank registers and even after the expense of the flight, and the condo stay, and the missed work, we’re flush. Sum after sum comes up black, in all our accounts. So no worries, there. Sighing, I lie back, reach over without opening my eyes and sip a tiny cold drop onto my tongue. It joins the other sips at the base of my brain and the alcohol migrates lazily through my veins. My body remembers making love to Hugh last night, and my throat remembers the soft thrumming sounds of…

The phone! I open my eyes and I’m indoors again. My first, fleeting thought is to ignore it. But I can’t, the children, it’ll wake them. Angry, I curse under my breath. Now hurrying, so the machine doesn’t beat me to it, and broadcast the caller’s voice through the house. Of course I stub my toe on the high chair in my haste, just missing the machine by a hair’s breadth and then, anxiety up, holler into the phone, “Just a sec, lemme — ” Now it’s my voice broadcasting, and in stereo, on high volume, through the house, my own and the machine’s. And now I’m cursing at top volume, and of course the caller’s hung up. Predictably, Sally’s little voice chirps from the top of the stairs, “Mommy?”

The picture, hidden in my mind, with the beach, and the drink, and the easel, shatters. I sigh, then pitch my voice up, and happy. “Hi, honey! Did you have a nice nap?” This time, though, the noise of the waves and the shrill cries of the gulls obliterates her answer. Still smiling, I snack her, and, not hearing her, I answer. Not hearing her, just the gulls, crying to the sea.

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