Crumbling Sandcastles

Sand sprayed over my legs and onto my towel as they walked by in their flip-flops kicking up sand as they marked. Towels were slung over their shoulders and they were loaded down with shovels, pails, bags of snacks, and a cooler.

The boy appeared to be about 7 with wild hair sticking out in all directions, while the girl looked like she was a couple of years younger and had already lost a shoe. Their mother flung her towel out in front of her and lay down a few metres from me fading into the background. Her kids were not so easy to ignore.

They dropped into the sand even closer to me than their mom and began digging up the sand with vigor scooping it into their brightly coloured pails.

As they scooped, my phone buzzed beside me alerting me to a text from Alicia, my roommate: “Where are you? Do you want to hang out?”

I could feel the muscles in my shoulders tighten. Alicia had become more and more clingy over the last six months of living together. Ignoring it, I through my phone back into my bag.

The girl was the first to fill her pail and slammed it upside down, then lifted it with gusto. Her eager face fell as the mound of sand crumbled into a small hill.

The boy was working more slowly. He carefully pressed the sand down with his fists compacting it, then added more to his pail. Finally, with his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth, he flipped his pail over. His sister watched looking worried. I couldn’t tell if she looked worried because she wanted his to work or because she was worried it would work while hers didn’t.

He slowly lifted the pail and although his mound of sand had more shape and height than his sister’s, his also was decided to be a failure. The girl’s face relaxed into relief.

“We need to add water to make it sticky,” he said.

The girl’s eyes brightened. “Good idea. You get the water and I’ll build the sand castle.”

The boy frowned. “No, that’s not fair. How about we both get the water and we both build the sand castle.”

“No.” She crossed her arms and scrunched her shoulders, “Mom!” she shouted, while still glaring at her brother.

“Derek, are you being nice to your sister?” the woman asked in a tired voice, not bothering to open her eyes. “We’ll leave if you two can’t play nice.”

Derek glared at his sister as he swiped his pail. He stormed down to the shore to scoop water into his pail.

Beside me my phone buzzed again: “You left a glass in the sink,” Alicia texted. Followed by: “Where’s the remote for the TV? I can’t find it.”

I sighed and picked up my book and became engrossed in the story, everything else fading away.

About 15 minutes later, Derek’s sister began to kick up a fuss.

“No! Not there,” she yelled.

“Why not?” Derek asked. Evidently, he seemed to think he had hauled enough water for the project and had sat down again to continue building. Unfortunately, according to his sister, he had not chosen a good spot to do this.

“That’s where the stables are going. You need to build a fence for the horses.”

“What?” He looked at her incredulously. “I don’t want to build a fence for stupid horses. I want to build the castle.”

“No, that’s my job,” the girl said, her sandy hands planted firming on her hips.

“Derek!” their mom said in a warning voice.

He sighed and started to build the sand into a wall around the perimeter of the “field” his sister had indicated.

My phone started ringing. I pulled it out and saw it was Alicia. Rather than answer it, I saw I’d also missed more text from her:

“Why are you ignoring me?”

“Did you put the milk in the door of the fridge? It doesn’t go there. How many times do I have to tell you?”

“I went into your room because I thought you might be in there hiding and I accidentally spilled tea on your bedspread.”

“Arrrg!” Derek yelled in frustration. He grabbed his pail and shovel in a fury and stormed off down the beach, sand spraying up from his stomping feet as his sister threw her arms over her head and ducked for cover. Down the beach, he settled down to build his own castle, his back to his sister who was now staring open-mouthed at him.”

“Mom” she whined.

“Derek play nice,” her mother warned, her eyes still closed. But Derek was too far away to hear. His sister stuck her lip out.

Another text came through from Alicia: “Your room is messy.”

Suddenly, I realized Derek had the right idea. I through my book, towel, and phone into my bag to do my own marching. It was time to move and build my sandcastle elsewhere.