Stairs in the sand

February 24, 2010

Clouds had arrived overnight, sheeting the northern Oregon coast in gray. A cold morning rain had convinced Audrey to build a fire. Joe’s door was still closed, so she nested into the good chair with her laptop, coffee and notes. The beast—the wordless draft of her novel—would have to wait.

Photo by Pam Wells ©2010

The door squeaked open an hour later.

“Morning,” Audrey said. “I can make a fresh pot—”

“I’ll do it.”

She recognized this Joe who was still a non-morning person. He’d been one of those kids who reads under the covers and wishes on stars until they move halfway across the sky. He’d learned their names, built his own telescope to see them up close. When he was done looking, he’d given it away.

He laid on the couch waiting for the coffee to brew. “What are you working on?” he asked.

“Oh, a couple of film things. Articles.”

“Reviews?” He was awake now.

“Well, they’re more personal than that. Movies from one boomer’s perspective.”

“Huh. I didn’t know you liked movies.”

“I’ve had more time to enjoy them lately. That’s what happens when your kids grow up and disappear. You still take it black?”

“Any way I can get it.” He wrapped his hands around the mug. “Didn’t you ever want to disappear?”

“From where?”

“Anywhere. Be on your own. Make your own rules.”

“Sure I did. And then I brushed my teeth and went to school. Joe—”

“I’m not like that.”

“I know. Boy, do I know. What I don’t know is where you’ve been.”

He shrugged. “L.A.”

Audrey laughed. “L.A.? What were you doing there?”

“Writing. Screenwriting, actually. I took some classes. Met a few people.”

“People? Joe!” Audrey dropped on a barstool with her hands in her head. “I haven’t, we haven’t seen you since May, and we haven’t heard from you since, what, August, and, and now you’re telling me you met some people? In L.A.?”

“San—”

“Do you know I had to Photoshop you into the Christmas card? Just your head. I got one of Evan’s friends to stand in for you. And Todd, of course, Todd wasn’t there, being that he’s in Japan and we had to build him out of straw.”

They stared at each other.

“Mom, that’s just sick.”

Now, finally, they were in the same room. Joe added wood to the fire, and they spent the rest of the day in conversation about the difficulties of creating a dream world while living in a real one.

The sun broke through in the late afternoon. They walked to the end of the street where concrete stairs, etched by the sand, led down through a tunnel of vegetation, and out onto the wide beach.

©2010 Pam Wells

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