Monday, September 6, 2010

End of the World Beach

This started as a writing exercise for my Narrative Techniques class. I'm really proud of how it turned out.

End of the World Beach

I sat in the idling Oldsmobile and stared out the windshield. I stared at . . . dirt. No, not dirt . . . sand. I glanced to my left and spotted a tourist shop overflowing with seashell “art” and tacky t-shirts. I was at the beach. Definitely sand, then.

Why was I here? Oh, I remembered. There had been an overwhelming urgency to move so I jumped in my car and drove. The urgency returned so I pulled the key out of the ignition and climbed out. I couldn’t recall the drive. I didn’t know the name of the beach. It didn’t matter. I had driven to the end of the world.

The chill bit me the second I opened the door. Looking at the sand had made me forget it was winter. I remembered now as I lamented having only a thin jacket between me and the harsh wind. I almost returned to my climate controlled car but then I tasted the salty sea on the wind and it beckoned me.

I followed what planks in the wooden path I could find buried beneath the sand. I always hated walking through this same dry bank of sand that made up all beaches. My foot would sink with each step as I drag my other foot out of its hole only to create a new one. I never felt the panic of drowning more than when I trudged through that loose, white sand.

It was with relief that I reached the firm, molasses-colored sand that greeted the sea. I had the place all to myself, except for a handful of fishermen on the pier to my right and the seabirds. Looking out over the Atlantic, I noticed it mirrored the grayness of the January sky. At the horizon, I found it impossible to tell where the sea ended and the sky began. This bothered me. My eyes couldn’t separate heaven from earth, though I tried. I lost time trying.

Something shrieked nearby. My gaze tore away from its desperate mission to land on a couple of seagulls fighting over a potato chip. They screamed at each other, wings flapping, beaks open. I could no longer bear the violence so I retreated to the pier.

Faded blue paint chipped off the splintering boards that made up the pier. More white sand hid the first half of its stairs but I didn‘t let that stop me. I headed for the tip of the pier. I passed several fishermen on my way. Some nodded hello. Some ignored me. I preferred the ones who ignored me.

At the end, I gingerly rested my arms against the railing and looked down. I remembered summers in the gulf with water so crystal clear that I could view all its wonders. I found the Atlantic much more secretive. Murky, gray-green water filled my vision as angry, little waves kept the surface boiling. They walled me out. Anything and everything could be hiding just below those waves. Including the end of the world.


The directions of the exercise: Describe briefly a lake or a backcountry mountain trail (in other, words, a beautiful natural setting) as seen by a person who had just lost a parent in a sudden, unexpected death. The last time thia narrator saw the parent, they argued violently. In you narrative do not mention the death, the parent, or the argument. Do not tell a story. Simply show us what the lake or forest or street looks like to someone under these circumstances.

Do you think I accomplished the exercise? What should do to expand it? Or should it be left as is?

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