the best of 52|250's fourth quarter

Week #45 – Broken shells

Week #45 – Broken shells

Staten Island Ferry Terminal by W. Bjorkman
Latecomber by Chelsea Biondolillo  
She sure is wailing; shrill as a gull over the surf.

This little girl, maybe six, just fell on the sidewalk and skinned the holy hell outta her knees. The little caps—I can see them from here—are slicked bright red.

She was running like crazy up the wooden steps from the beach after her grandpa had hollered at her. Her grandma was taking pictures from the railing. You can see the humped black rocks, majestic with that poetic looking surf around them just fine from up here, so most folks never even go down the stairs. They snap one, two, three shots and pile back into their cars and head south for the Trees of Mystery or something.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not staring: I come to watch the waves. The girl was just in my line of sight, poking around the tide pools. She gathered pieces of shells, sea-smoothed wood, pebbles. All the good stuff got snatched by beachcombers at sunup, but she didn’t seem to care: picked up the shards just like they were whole. It was them shells caused her so much agony. She caught her toe at the landing, and didn’t want to let any of her handfuls go. She had to drop hard on her knees to catch herself. Even now, while her grandma fixes her up, I can see her little fists, closed tight around them. She’s looking over that railing, like she’d go back down and do it again.

Shell by Catherine Russell
The girl ran inside, the rain drops spattering her coat where they missed her bright red umbrella. She retracted the canvas, shaking off the excess, before placing it in the stand near the door. Approaching the tiny window, she signed her name and took her seat.

Within minutes, she was called and shown to her room, a lone cubicle of bare white walls. Soon only a thin sheet of paper shielded her from the cool vinyl bed of the exam table. Upon the doctor’s appearance, she bared her body and soul, her tears falling like the rain outside the window.

The probing instruments and cold steel exposed her, transported her to a different place, a different time. The thin shell of her life shattered with the memory.

The exam over, she covered herself with cotton garments, dried her face, and walked outside.

As she walked, the sun played upon her flushed face and swollen eyes. A passing motorist noticed and thought her the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

Keepsakes by Martin Brick  
“Mommy, shells!” the girl called with elation, bringing them forth for viewing.

“Those are pretty.”

“I want to take them home.”

The girl’s older brother moped several paces behind, still upset that they took lunch at some seaside crab joint instead of McDonald’s. Just because of Mom’s childhood memories of the place.

The father lagged still further behind, upset that the son didn’t even touch his lunch, just picked at bread. Upset at his wife, who refused the doggy bag. “Where will we put it? It’ll just stink up the car.”

The son threw stones, aiming for innocent seagulls.

“These shells are broken,” the mother told her daughter. “Let’s look around and find whole ones.”

“But I like these.”

“You’ll like the others too. Start looking.” She tossed the broken ones into the sand and the daughter all but dove for them.

“Just let her keep the broken shells,” the father interjected.

“But they’re not pretty. I want her to have nice keepsakes.”

“She’ll put them in a drawer and they’ll get broken anyhow.”

“No, I’ll put them in a shadowbox or something. You saw the ones I have from when I was a girl.”

A gull squawked and lifted angrily after suffering a direct hit.

“I guess I just thought you bought those, or they were gift.”

“No. Those are mine.”

Through the Looking Glass: Humpty Dumpty 2011 
by Kim Hutchinson  
Humpty Dumpty sat on a fault.
Humpty Dumpty had a great shock.
All of the king’s men
Now have to take stock.“I don’t know what you mean by ‘safe,’ ” Alice said.Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”

“But ‘safe’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’!”

“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all. Words have a temper, some of them—particularly verbs—adjectives you can do anything with—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability!”

“Would you tell me, please, what that means?

“Now you talk like a reasonable child. I meant by ‘impenetrability’ that we’ve had enough of that subject.”

“But does ‘safe’ mean free from harm?”

“It means that it’s generally regarded as meeting the legal standard of safety by the current panel of experts upon evidence published and compiled by the industry in question, but the standard changes depending on conditions and the ability of said industry to meet it.”

“That’s an awful lot for one word to mean,” Alice began, but she didn’t have a chance to finish her sentence, for a heavy crash shook the forest from end to end.

Back to Wk #44 – Crowd
Forward to Wk #46 – Another world