by Mike Todd
“I don’t think we’re going to make it,” I said, surveying the vast expanse of scorched, lifeless earth remaining in front of us. With each step, we seemed further from our destination and closer to becoming desiccated, leathery corpses, half-buried in the windblown sand.
“Stop being so dramatic. We’re almost there,” my wife, Kara, said, pulling one of our beach bags higher on her shoulder.
I stopped to readjust the pile of plastic armrests and hollow metal poles jabbing me in the back. Although we were only planning to visit the beach for a few hours that day, my bent-over back was loaded up like a truck from The Grapes of Wrath.
“If we survive this journey, we’re going to start a new life for ourselves out here, boys. We’ll fight the seagulls for dropped French fries and work the land with our little plastic rakes,” I said to my two sons.
Zack, our three-year-old, looked at the mountain of supplies that we were lugging across Rehoboth Beach for his benefit, and for a moment, I could tell that he appreciated the hardship his parents were enduring so that he and his brother could enjoy a brief frolic in the ocean.
To express his appreciation, Zack held up his arms and said, “Can you carry me?”
Behind us, my sister and her family tottered along, beleaguered by an even longer journey than our own. To get our families together, they’d traveled from San Diego with two children under the age of three. Flying across the country with little kids is the modern version of the Oregon Trail, and while they had a predictably miserable flight, we were just glad that nobody died of dysentery along the way.
Finally, just as I’d almost decided that it would be easier to stop trudging and wait for global warming to bring the ocean to us, we all arrived at the water’s edge. We took a few moments to set up the chairs that nobody was able to sit in, since we immediately started chasing our kids around to keep them from throwing and/or eating sand. You know that thing people do with burying their kids at the beach, leaving just their heads sticking out? Bring a three-year-old to the beach for a day, and you’ll understand how that idea originated.
As we looked out at the water, my parents, the architects of this get-together and progenitors of all the chaos this side of the breakers, pulled up their own chairs. They actually got to sit in their chairs because they have earned the right.
A huge wave crashed below us, sending spray soaring into the air.
“Are the waves gonna stop?” Zack asked.
“The waves are the best part! Come on, let’s go get our feet wet,” I said.
We took a few steps toward the water, and I hoped that some attention-grabbing news was happening somewhere in the world because sharks sure seem to eat a lot more people when there’s a slow news summer.
Just then, another gigantic wave crashed and rushed up the beach. I gripped Zack’s hands as the water surrounded us and held tight as the undertow blasted against his waist, shooting water up into his face. A little higher up the beach, his brother and cousins screeched with delight, splashing in the ankle-deep water.
“Wasn’t that fun?” I asked as the wave fully retreated.
“I’m done,” Zack said, marching back up to base camp while unzipping his life vest. For the rest of the week, the only salt water he experienced came in taffy form.
Good thing there’s so much else to do at the beach, besides the beach.
You can start a new life with Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.