Fiction Leisure Travel Short stories Travel

Elsie at the Beach

A thoughtful day with pizza on the shores of Myrtle Beach.
Elsie remembers precious lost memories while she sits on the sand and overlooks the shore.
And of course, she stops for pizza.

Standing out on the soft sands of the east coast, Elsie looked out to the gently lapping waves and thought, “This would be a lot more enjoyable if I had someone here to enjoy it with me.” She reverently walked along the beach to stand near the pier. The same spot, by the same pier that her father had visited on a business trip a year ago. A few months before his accident.

“We’ve crossed paths at the wrong time; just a little too late. A year apart.” She thought. She stood where she imagined he did from the picture he’d taken that day. Holding up the photo to the pier, she felt he stood beside her, right there as a faint outline of the past. A year ago, he was here in this very spot.

She dared the tears not to come, but couldn’t help a watering of eye. She walked up to the sandy dune bank and sat, imagining seeing him there that day.

Absent-mindedly, or maybe purposely distracted-mindedly, she sifted sand through her hands as she stared out to the horizon lost in some world unknown to the passerby.

A family crossed into her view and the teenage son looked her way, as if to wonder why she stared at them; only, she wasn’t. She wasn’t staring at anything at all, not observantly at least. As in that case when you check the time but don’t notice it?

For a long while, Elsie sat there, crisscrossed or hugging her knees staring out at the sky and birds and great sea. The place where the water had washed away her father’s footprints and new sand erased him from the tablet of earth. His place would never know him, and nature didn’t care about that. Nature was just God’s eraser; especially the ocean and the ever-moving-and-settling sands. Gone he was, and gone for good.

As evening encroached and her stomach rumbled, she decided it was best to walk back to her hotel now as it was quite a ways away. A small corner pizza shop with a single employee behind the register and only two pieces of pizza adorning its warming racks was conveniently along the way. A neon sign enticing the few tourists that still roamed the city during the winter months.

“Hello, have you got any slices of just cheese?”

“We do, we’ve got one left.” She pulled it from its neighboring piece which was a pepperoni and placed it on a paper plate which was barely as large as it.

“Just one slice?”

“Yes please.”

The woman rang up $3.00 for a piece and broke the $20 that Elsie had. While she did, Elsie had to ask, “How much is a scoop of ice cream?” She pointed at the adjoining side of the building where a cooler of ice cream tubs sat.

“Those would be a separate charge of $5 each.”

“I’ll take just the pizza this time.” Elsie nodded. Stuffing the returned cash change in her pocket, and taking the plate of warm comfort food, she joined the slight but chilly wind again. The air was still, but moving, if that at all makes sense.

She’d walk along the beach for another while before returning to the street. Her hotel was still a ways away. Taking a bite of pizza, seagulls began to crow. A swarm of seagulls from just up the shoreline flew right above her, just swerving feet away in front of her. They all swelled on the sand beside her and followed her a great distance as she walked. Elsie laughed. What a funny theatrical drama they put on!

A few minutes later, she reached the beach access walkway that was nearer her hotel and she left the begging birds behind to caw confusedly and gather again in a swell on the sand staring after her.

She passed the brightly colored and eccentric tourist shops all hung about with multiple–and possibly overdramatic–window signs advertising T-shirts and pool floaties and bathing suits and other novelty items. She’d gone into two of these earlier, looking for a car decal to put in her back window. Her growing collection already included ones of Carolina Beach and the Outer Banks.

Her walk was quiet past the slow stores with zero tourists and bored desk-persons. Paused ferris wheels and closed water parks saddened the once-alive street. Her hotel came soon after the souvenir shop that was closed for construction–this had been the first shop she’d tried.

She tossed the paper plate into a garbage bin and bounded up the few cement stairs to the landing of the first floor of rooms of the Waikiki Village hotel (improperly named, because Waikiki was nearly 5,000 miles away).

Sigh. But this week was a busy week, and only this night was hers in Waikiki Village of Myrtle Beach. Sometimes, a getaway is all she needs before getting up and hitting speed again on life.

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