If you’re a follower of this blog, you know I’m mostly a poet, but I have written many short stories and vignettes over the years too. So here is a sample of the latter that includes some poetry for your enjoyment. I love to hear your thoughts, and if you’d like to see more prose here, let me know.
Poetry on the Beach
Sam ambled down the empty beach, barefoot, with the cuffs of his slacks rolled up to his shins. His salt and pepper hair was mostly salt now and badly in need of a trim, and his unbuttoned shirt billowed in the breeze off the water like a flag run up a pole. He didn’t care. He dropped his pack on the sand and sat down beside it, then he leaned back on his elbows with his knees up and stared at the endless sea and sky that stretched out before him.
Melanie would have called it a cotton candy sky with its rainbow of pinks and purples swirled amid the puffed cumulus clouds. She would have told him he was in a Prufrock state of mind and mocked his rolled trousers with lines from the poem. She would have asked him if he could hear the mermaids singing; he would have made a silly joke about preferring a woman with legs she could wrap around him, and then she would do exactly that, laughing all the time and making him soar right along with her. This beach was her place, their place. How many times had they strolled its length, watched its sunsets, made love in the dunes under the stars? More times than Sam could count. Not enough. Never enough.
But it had to be enough.
Sam sat straighter and wiped his eyes. Damn sand.
From out of nowhere, a dog sat down next to him. Whatever its heritage, its ancestors must have been big. It was gray and shaggy, and looked like a cross between a St. Bernard and a sheepdog. It cocked its head and looked at Sam with its tongue lolling to one side.
Sam scratched the dog behind the ear, noting it had no tags. “Where’d you come from, boy?” He glanced down the beach for the dog’s owner, but saw no one. That was all right. He didn’t want anyone intruding on what he came to do, but the dog would be okay. The dog wouldn’t ask questions or spout meaningless cliches at him. The dog offered silent comfort just by being there.
The sun lowered on the horizon, casting diamonds on the water.
“I guess it’s time.”
The dog wagged its tail in acknowledgment. Sam unzipped his pack and pulled out a sealed plastic bowl and a sheet of paper, then stood up and walked to where the water kissed his toes with each breaking wave. The dog followed, its tail still wagging.
“This is what Melanie wanted,” he said to the dog. “She chose the place and made me promise to read this as I let her go on the evening breeze.”
The dog barked once, a short woofing sound, as if to say, “Then get on with it.”
Sam swallowed hard and began to read.
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts
for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says;
“There, she is gone!”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, “There, she is gone!”
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad
“Here she comes!”
And that is dying.
The last words broke on a sob. A gust of wind snatched the paper out of Sam’s hand and danced it over the water. The dog took after it for a few steps, then stopped and simply watched it fly. Sam opened the plastic bowl and set Melanie free in the wind, with the sand and the ocean she loved so much.
“Wait for me, sweetheart, and keep watching the horizon,” he whispered, then turned to walk down the beach the way he’d come. The big gray dog trotted behind him.
Elise Skidmore ©2018
Author’s Note: The poem that Sam reads is by Henry Van Dyke, American short-story Writer, Poet and Essayist, 1852-1933
So, so lovely, my friend. 🙂
Thank you SO much.
Oh how beautiful…hope this one is in one of your books.
Thank you, Lucille. Since the books have been poetry collections, it’s not likely that it would be included but you never know. One day I might do a collection of short stories. It really makes me happy to know you liked it that much.
Ooooh…a short story collection would be wonderful. You have such treasures hidden in your archives!
Along with another poetry collection or instead of one? 🙂
Either. Both. Whatever. I love reading your work and want more people to enjoy it!
A short story collection definitely!!!
That was a great story. I loved it because it leaves so much to the imagination. The dog could symbolize so much – is it Melanie? (if you believe in re-incarnation). Is it a sign from Melanie? A new best friend? Someone to help fill the void and loneliness? A sign from God? Is is just a dog? A coincidence? For those of us who are blessed to live on an Island with beaches everywhere, then you can certainly appreciate his love (and Melanie’s) for the beach – the beauty, the tranquility, and the peacefulness. I think most of us living on Long Island have their special beach – the place where they go to sit, relax, think and sort things through. This was beautiful and enjoyable. Well done Elise.
I have a typo in my comment – sorry.
It should say “Is it just” – not is is
Thanks so much, Regina! I love how much thought you put into the dog and that you let your imagination fly. I was just saying to Lisa that I was trying not to hit anyone over the head with symbolism, so your comments show me that I succeeded. I’m not sure about the dog myself, though I think Melanie may have sent him.
Maybe it’s because I am a dog lover or perhaps it was how you brought the dog into the story, but the dog suddenly appearing is what totally captured me. That moment of when you’re a bit lost and you ask God (of course if you believe in God) for some help – to show you the way – to send a sign to let you know it’s going to be okay. That’s what the dog meant to me. It was his sign that it was okay to let go and move forward. But I love that the story can be interpreted in different ways. One of your best!!
That’s what I love as well. It lets the reader take from it what they will and becomes unique. Like the dog, depending on your mindset, he could be a sign from God or the great beyond, or simply serendipity that a lost dog wandered up at the right time. Thanks again for your feedback. It means a lot.
That was so beautiful..
Thank you so much, Susan.