Bones in the Sand, 2 of 2 [fiction]

Sarah held her youngest son to her bosom and calmed him. Kenny sat nearby, watching. He leaned toward them with excitement building on his face and refrained from speaking. His mom still hushed his little brother.

“There, there,” Sarah said, “a skeleton in the sand, that’s all it was and nothing more. Nothing is going to harm you, baby. It’s alright.”

“Mom’s right,” Kenny said. “The rain and the tide must have collapsed one of the old caves. Probably where the native people who used to live here buried their dead. You can find artifacts in those caves. Did you see any, Mickey? Any dishes or knives or arrowheads?”

“I didn’t stick around to see anything else. I thought the creepy skeleton was going to chase me. I was really scared. But now I know it was my imagination.”

Sarah lowered Mickey to the floor. Then she sat down in a straight oak-bottomed chair that stood against the wall and held him by the shoulders. She looked him eye-to-eye and sharply spoke with accustomed firmness. “You’re not to go to the beach again. If those caves are falling in, then you have no business down there. Promise me, Mickey.”

“But,” Mickey lowered an anguished face from his mother, “I’m not scared anymore.” He pulled the shells from his pockets. “See? I got you these, your favorites. And I could look for native people stuff for Kenny, next time.”

“No, Mickey, there will be no next time for a while. You need to mind me; it’s not safe. You could fall into a cave, be knocked unconscious, and have the tide wash you out to sea.”

“What if Kenny went with me?”

“No. You’re not strong enough to push Kenny’s wheelchair over sand.”

“Well, you know,” Kenny began gently, “I can charge up the battery and use the motor to drive my chair—”

He stopped at the sight of his mother’s face. She was deeply troubled with the situation. And added to that, her task as a single mom was not easy, with himself to care for and only Mickey to help with housework and the vegetable garden out back.

“Mom’s right,” he said to his brother, “it’s too dangerous. You’ll have to wait until the county engineers fix the damage.”

“How long will that be?” Mickey asked.

“It could take weeks. Just like when they repave the roads or fix any damage to the ferry dock, they have to haul their heavy equipment across water.”

Mickey put the shells next to aquarium, then went to the front window and peered out. “I wish Dad lived here. He would let me go to the beach. He would—”

“No.” Sarah went to him and softened her voice. “Promise me.”

Mickey sighed. “All right, I promise.”

He stayed indoors and helped his mother with chores until bedtime. He forgot about skeletons until deep in the night when the bones called him awake. Slipping into his clothes and from the house, he followed the cry of the bones and the white beam of his tiny flashlight.

The tide had swallowed the lower beach. The sand beneath his tennis shoes gasped for air before water filled his footprints. He stopped a few yards from the sea’s edge. The white stick lay at his feet. He picked it up, looked around, and said to the voices calling him, “I’m here. What do you want?”

The calling stopped. He thought he heard the sound of faraway laughter moments before the ground beneath him fell. He plunged beneath sand, into deep, frigid water.

When he came to his senses, he swam toward the water’s inky surface but something like strong, bony hands wrapped around both ankles and pulled him back down. He thrashed and kicked to break free. The hands held fast.

He directed his light at a grinning skeleton pulling him closer to a graveyard of scattered bones on the sandy floor.

He kicked at the hands. He would drown if he could not escape soon. Fire burned in his chest as his lungs begged for oxygen. He held onto his last breath and wished he could communicate with his mother somehow, to tell her how sorry he was for breaking his promise to her. He did not want her mad at him.

Some skeletons were magic and could become invisible.

The stick in his left hand grew brighter than the light of his flashlight.

They were magic because they were magic people once.

The hands tugged and Mickey kicked.

Magic people carried wands.

The light from the stick filled the water.

Wands grant wishes to the pure of heart.

The skeleton released Mickey and exploded. Even underwater, it sounded like the sharp snapping of brittle bones.

The explosion carried Mickey to the water’s surface. The light carried him into the air, across the sand, and to his front porch where it set him down and vanished with the white stick.

Mickey shivered, not because he was wet and cold—he was neither of those—but because magic was real.

He hurried inside, calling for his mother as he went.

Bones in the Sand, 1 of 2 [fiction]

It rained on the island for five days. On that fifth day, water stood in the furrows between the rows of vegetables in the garden behind the house. Although it was July, Sarah added a log to the fire in the fireplace and pushed Kenny closer to it, for the dampness inside had made the boy’s breathing worse. She wrapped a quilt around his shoulders and sighed gloomily at the rain that made her house cold and cheerless.

But Mickey, the youngest, ran and chattered and blocked the TV when he wanted Kenny’s attention. Never annoyed, Kenny always smiled or laughed at Mickey’s antics. In fact, Mickey and Kenny behaved as though they liked rainy days best. Perhaps because it was the only time the two boys spent time together. Today, they seemed to share a cheerful bond that almost annoyed Sarah. She never had a sibling while growing up. She sighed again, more deeply.

“A lot of rain,” she said, listening to it drum upon the rooftop.

“How much rain would it take to sink our island?” Kenny asked.

“Don’t make jokes,” Sarah replied a little sharply. “We may have to run the sump pump if the basement walls get any worse.”

“Yippee!” Mickey cried out as he gazed out the window next to Sarah. “We can go swimming in our yard.”

Sarah did not have to look to know the side yard was submerged. It had been that way for two days.

“Come on,” she said to Mickey. “Help me do the breakfast dishes. Then we can figure out what to have for lunch.”

“I want eggs.”

“We had eggs for breakfast. I was thinking a hot, homemade vegetable soup would be nice. Some carrots, peas, corn—”

“No broccoli,” Mickey cried out. He made a face.

“No broccoli. No. Just your favorites.”

“Potatoes, diced,” Kenny said. “Those are my favorites.”

“Yes, of course. Now come on,” Sarah said to Mickey, “let’s get going on the dishes.”

The boy followed his mother and the two spent the next hour in the kitchen while Kenny watched TV. During that time, Kenny was the only one to notice when the rain stopped. Sarah noticed when a warm, glowing sunbeam came through the kitchen window above the sink. She whistled while she prepared lunch, and smiled when she and her boys ate their soup in the living room.

Mickey shoveled away his soup and asked to go outside.

“Stay on the porch,” Sarah said.

“But I want to go to the beach. A lot of neat things get washed ashore during a storm. Maybe I’ll find a pirate’s sword.”

“Stay where I can see you. And be careful. And, by the way, I get half of any gold or silver or doubloons you may find.” Sarah winked at him. “Now take your bowl to the sink and be back in an hour. No longer. Don’t make me have to whistle for you.”

Mickey hurried his bowl to the sink and ran outdoors. Parts of the island was under several inches of water, but the water along the upper beach was receding already, and Mickey made his way on wet, sandy ground, making sure his house behind him remained in view. Along the way, the deeper sand was sopping wet and oozed between his toes.

He skipped around lots of seaweed and driftwood, examined several stones that looked like flattened marbles, and found some unbroken shells during his hunt for pirate treasure. He put the prettier shells into his pockets to give to his mother. She would likely add them to her aquarium of tropical fish that sat next to the TV.

A white stick with no bark on it caught his attention when he picked up a conch shell next to it. The stick was shy of being a foot long, and it had tiny carvings of animals on it, which were mostly birds. He carried it with him while he collected more shells, and he peered at the world through a large piece of beach glass until his watch told him that his hour was nearly up. As he headed toward home, he realized he had left the stick behind. He would have to come back some other day and find it.

Along the way home, he passed two large boulders that jutted out of the base of the upper beach. There, half-visible in the shifted sand, was a human skeleton.

He stood for a minute frozen with uncertainty. The skeleton’s jaw gaped, as though the person—man, woman, kid?—had died while laughing.

Mickey ran from the bones, his breath coming in great pants as he shouted for his mother. He even yelled help a few times when he was certain that the skeleton had risen from its grave and now chased him, determined to keep him from reaching his house.

Sunlight had dried and softened the sand already and it slowed his escape. A shaking Mickey ran out of breath when he reached the front porch steps and dropped in an exhausted heap there, terrified of the strong bony arms that would snatch him up and hurry him away, never to be seen alive again.

He sobbed and pushed his way up the wooden steps. Any second, those skeleton hands would grab him by the ankles and pull him away.

He looked behind him and saw no skeleton there. But that didn’t matter. Some skeletons were magic and could become invisible. Gasping, he crawled to the outer door and beat against its solid frame until his mother came and found him sobbing.

“There’s a skeleton,” he said when she took him into his arms and carried him inside. “A real life skeleton’s in the sand!”

 

To be continued!