Change of pace: a flash fiction story for you.
A Long Shot
Katie tossed aside her plastic bucket, plopped down into her beach chair, and dug her toes into the wet sand. Then she wiped the sand smooth and began to trace her name, or at least what her name used to be, into the sand. She wiped it again. Should she change her name? If she did, what would she change it to? She couldn’t go back to her old name. She hadn’t worn that one in more than thirty years. Divorce sucked! It had robbed her of everything! Should she let it rob her of her name too? Her toe unearthed a dead fish head. Ugh! She covered it back up and moved her chair back a foot or so. The tide would be in soon. Maybe it would take the fish head back out to sea to at least feed other fish. What good would her life be to anyone now?
The soft sounds of the surf and the gentle breeze in the air were supposed to soothe her frazzled nerves. So far, it wasn’t working. She’d come out in search of the beautiful seashells she’d always found here this time of the morning, but this morning, all she‘d seen was decayed seaweed and broken seashells, so like her broken relationships. At least she was on the Outer Banks, not at Myrtle Beach where all the noise and seemingly happy people would have mocked her even more.
“Hey, Lady, can you throw me my Frisbee back?”
Katie looked down to see a lime green Frisbee had landed a few inches from her beach chair. Its owner was a small, maybe eight-year-old, blond headed boy. She tossed the Frisbee straight into his waiting hands.
“Hey, you’re pretty good at this. How’d you do that?” He ran right up to her and extended his hand. “I’m Billy Baxter. What’s your name?”
She smiled and shook it. “Hello, I’m Katie Kemp. It’s easy. I had five brothers. I can pitch a football or a baseball too. Unfortunately, I only have daughters and granddaughters, so I don’t get much practice nowadays.”
He hung his head. “I don’t much like girls. They’re mean.”
She dropped his hand and chucked his chin. “Yes, they can be. But so can boys. Sometimes, it’s a mean world. But why would anyone be mean to a smart, handsome boy like you? And where’s your mom and dad?”
“My mom’s inside. My dad’s back home at work. They don’t live together anymore. I don’t know why girls are so mean. My mom’s not mean. Neither is my grandma.” He grinned. “She looks a lot like you, but she can’t throw a Frisbee straight like you can. I think they’re mean cause when I get nervous, I sometimes stutter, and they make fun of me, and call me ‘blabber boy’ or ‘mutter mouth.’ It only makes me stutter worse.” As he spoke, for the first time, she noticed the ever-so-slight stutter.
“You’re right, Billy. That is mean. I’m sorry they’re so mean to you. We all have problems. Nobody’s perfect. I’m sure not. Would you like me to tell you what they called me when I was a little girl?”
She whispered in his ear, and he giggled, but she put her finger to her lips. “Don’t tell anybody. Promise?” His little head bobbed up and down. “Tell you what. Why don’t you run back down the beach, and I’ll throw the Frisbee to you. Keep backing up, and we’ll see just how far I can throw it straight. I don’t guarantee I can get it into your hands each time, but as long as I get it close, you throw it back and back up another foot or so. We’ll see how far we can go.”
Katie and Billy threw the Frisbee for more than half an hour before Billy’s mom called him in to breakfast. Before he left, he ran back to Katie and gave her a big bear hug.
After he left, she picked up her abandoned bucket and walked back up the beach to her rental cottage. As she walked, she filled her bucket with all the sea shells she found. The incoming tide must have brought them in. She whispered a prayer to thank God for sending Billy out that morning. Her life was not over yet–not by a long shot.