“‘I think I’ll go walk the shore,’ my grandfather said.”
Sandcastle by H.W. Walker
The last thing we packed were my grandmother’s beads. There was a closet she kept them in: a closet within a closet that was meant as an owner’s closet, but they had never rented the place. The old house’s roof was battered. The yellow paint was faded, making the house look like a rotten tooth in an old, decrepit smile. The sand my grandparents once so loved was now encroaching the yard, gathering in small hills by the front door, in the windows, on the roof.
Inside, my grandfather and I sat across from each other at the long dining table. His eyes were solemn and dark. He touched his fingers to the creases in his face. I stuck my nails in my mouth and tried to look the other way.
My mother paced the house, her little legs fluttering like a hummingbird’s wings, avoiding the closet. Bare hooks jutted out of the walls. The firewood was out to sea. Any remaining bulbs that still lit were in boxes. We were going to abandon the place, let it be swallowed by the sea and hope it took what parts of us remained.
“Did you pack the towels?” my mother said to me.
“Yes,” I said. “They’re in boxes, over there, with everything else.”
Outside, the wind pulled on the leaves of the palms. The sky was turning gray. A small tropical storm was forecasted.
My grandfather looked up from the table, out the window, towards the thrashing sea. “I think I’ll walk the shore,” he said. “Lorrie always liked walking the shore.”
“Did you put them in the front seat?” my mother said.
“No,” I said, “they’re over there.”
“Lorrie liked looking for shells,” my grandfather said. “I think I’ll walk the shore,” he said.
My mother walked back across the room, past us and the boxes and the closet. She went over to a side table next to the sofa and pointed.
“Hey dad,” she said. “Look at this lamp. You remember this lamp? Mom made it.”
The lamp had a glass base that was filled with bleached shells. She flipped the switch but the light stayed off.
My grandfather said, “Lorrie found all those shells down at the other end of the island, on Sanibel. Must’ve been two bags full.”
He looked to me and smiled.
“That was two years ago,” he continued. “Remember? You came for Thanksgiving.”
“I remember,” I said.
My mother was back in the kitchen, opening the cabinets and closing them and then opening them again. She wasn’t part of the story.
“That’s when she got the shells,” my grandfather said. “The last time you came. It rained most of the time, remember? And after you left, that red tide came in and the beach smelled so bad that she didn’t want to walk it.”
“I think you’ll like the new place, dad,” my mother said. “We can get a boat.”
And I said nothing. And we were all looking away from each other.
“I think I’ll go walk the shore,” my grandfather said. “I think I’ll look for some shells.”
Sand pelted the windows, filling the house with a small flicking sound. My grandfather stood from the table. He shuffled back and forth. He looked at me and smiled. I spat my nails onto the table and grinned back. He patted me on the shoulder. He sighed, and he stuck his fists in his pockets and he said,“It’s good to be back here with you, son.”
I thought of what I should say. I wanted to say something that meant something good. But my mother came in and told me to help her move the boxes out to the truck. After that we could talk about the closet.
When we came back, my grandfather was gone.
H.W. Walker is a writer from Memphis, TN. He currently studies creative writing at The University of North Carolina – Charlotte. His work has appeared online at East of the Web and Five:2:One Magazine.