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This story is undergoing a major revision. Stay tuned!
I was walking barefoot on Cannon Beach with my girlfriend Hailey. The cold, wet sand squished between my toes. It was foggy. Seagulls were cawing. The ocean smelled fresh and sweet. My jeans were rolled up to my knees. Our golden retriever, Eloise, was twenty yards ahead of us examining an empty crab shell. Her head was tilted-- the way dogs heads tilt-- and she was letting out small, concerned barks. Puzzled. This was her first time at the beach.
Hailey had just moved here from Phoenix and was also experiencing her first journey to an ocean beach. I reached in my pocket and felt for the jewel case. I couldn't wait for sunset so I could present it to Hailey.
“I wanna see a starfish,” she said to me, beaming.
I glanced at my watch. “It's low tide. We can probably make that happen.” I squeezed her hand and she kissed my cheek. Her lips were a soft contrast to my rough skin.
We continued walking leisurely, holding hands and enjoying the feel of each others skin. We approached Haystack Rock. “That's it,” I said to her. “That's the Goonies rock. The rock Mikey lines up with his skull key as he and his fellow Goonies seek One Eyed Willie's Treasure.”
She giggled and clapped her hands. Goonies was her favorite movie. “Oh. This is rad! Corey Feldman has stood where I'm standing now.”
“Yeah. Corey Feldman.” I was more of a fan of Chunk. “This is also the tide pool.”
I'd seen the tide pool a hundred or so times in my life but it was especially magnificent on that day. We could see bright colored sea anemones waiting for their food to come and attempt to eat one of their sticky tentacles, barnacle covered rocks, tiny trapped fish swimming in tiny pools of water, a family of fiddler crabs exploring the underside of a hollowed out piece of driftwood. Some seaweed splashed ashore and wrapped around my legs. I flinched and let out a yell, startled by the cold and slimy aquatic plant. Hailey started to laugh. Eloise, hearing my scream, lost interest in the crab shell and began to sniff at the seaweed and growl quietly.
Hailey's eyes widened. “I'm going in!” she exclaimed. “And you can't stop me!”
“You wanna bet?” I replied. This was our game. We pretended to boss each other around, but, really, we were both far too passive to actually be controlling of the other.
She rolled up her jeans and kicked off her sandals. I admired her perfectly shaped legs and her cute little feet and began to have lustful thoughts about her, hoping I would get a chance to act on them later. She got up, kissed me on the cheek and bounded to the tide pool like a child to the tree on Christmas morning.
Hailey was collecting shells-- sand dollars, crab, mussel-- and putting them into a pile in the sand next to her sandals. She told me she was going to laminate them into a collage later. She was still looking for the elusive starfish skeleton. The only ones she'd discovered were ones that were still living on the rocks in the tide pool and she refused to peel these away, despite my insistence that they didn't have brains and were non-sentient beings. “They're still living and they're happy. It's not my right to kill them just because they're stupid,” she argued. “Besides, you don't know for sure that they don't have brains and can't feel stuff.”
“Sure I do,” I smiled, knowing I was right but not wanting to press the issue.
I had grown bored of the tide pool and was by the shore building a sandcastle. I was putting the finishing touches on it using an old trick my dad had shown me which was to take wet sand, put it in a bucket, take a handful of the sand and then move your hand in a circular motion over the sandcastle wall while letting the sand drip through your fingers, and letting the wet sand pile up in spirals which resembled people. The end result would be miniature sand sentinels futilely guarding the sandcastle from the malicious waves bent on destroying it.
I had just posted my last sentinel when I noticed Eloise. She was at the far end of the Rock, just inches from falling into the ocean and being swept out to sea. She was barking and pawing at the rocks. I became concerned and called to her. “Eloise! Eloise, come here girl!” She looked up at me, only for a second, her tail wagging nervously, and then resumed her barking duties. Hailey looked over at me without concern.
“Let her have her fun, babe. She's fine,” she hollered at me from across the beach. She was bent over, her perfectly round ass protruding into the sky, her tongue licking her lips in concentration, her hands apparently digging into the sand. I think she was looking for sand crabs.
“I'm worried she'll fall in. I don't think she can swim.”
“Don't be silly. All dogs can swim,” she stated, without looking up.
“I'm gonna get her.”
“Whatever makes you happy,” she grinned.
I got up and started walking over to the edge of the rock. Eloise didn't look up, but continued to whimper and growl. I couldn't see exactly what she was barking at, but I did see what appeared to be a red flannel shirt just below her nose. “It's okay, girl. Just someone forgot their shirt is all.” But, still, she wouldn't come. She continued to bark and growl and paw at the rocks, trying to dig out the shirt. I grew somewhat concerned. She was normally such an obedient dog. It was completely out of character for her not to come when I called her. I climbed the rock, reached Eloise and grabbed her collar. “C'mon gi--”
I froze and screamed. “Hailey! Hailey! Call the police. Now!”
There was a clenched human fist sticking out of the sleeve.
Fifteen minutes later, the first officer arrived on the scene. By then, Hailey had stopped throwing up and I had managed to catch my breath and had Eloise tied to a rock, near Hailey's shell collection. She was yelping wildly, and I was concerned that she might die from fright.
The area was being cordoned off with yellow police tape and a healthy crowd of onlookers had gathered, rubbernecking and speaking in hushed tones.
The first officer on the scene was an officer Brigman and he informed us that a body had been found up the coast in Seaside, twenty miles away, missing an arm and dressed in a similar shirt. He suspected that the arm we'd found belonged with that body, but he wouldn't know for sure, of course, until a DNA test had been performed. It was probably the missing hiker we'd been hearing so much about on the news. He took down our information and said they probably wouldn't need to ever contact us, but it was procedure. I told him we understood. He asked if Hailey needed any medical attention.
“No. I think she'll be fine. Nothing a little Jack Daniels won't cure, anyway.”
Brigman chuckled, “Fair enough. But, this is a potential crime scene now, so, I'm going to have to ask you to vacate.”
“Alright, Officer. Thank you.” I reached out to shake his hand, as if he'd just done me some great favor. He took it and nodded. Hailey was huddled next to her shell collection, hugging her knees, and rocking herself back and forth. She was still barefoot. “Come on hon, let's go.”
She looked up at me, a blank look in her tear filled eyes. “I didn't get my starfish. That guy's arm. He lost it. It won't grow back.”
“I know, hon, I know. Let's go. You'll be fine.”
“I didn't get a starfish,” she sobbed. “He's dead. That guy's dead. The Seaside Guy's dead. His arm. Eloise found his arm.” I helped her to her feet and untethered Eloise, who had finally stopped yelping and was now looking with great concern at Hailey.
“She'll be fine, El. She'll be fine,” I said as I patted her head. We walked back up the beach as the tide began to come in and the sun was setting, the waves erasing our footprints as we walked.
The preceding is copyrighted by me, the author, Justin w. Price. The content is my property and is protected by all applicable Copyright Laws. No part of my work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from me, the publisher/author.