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.


Alison had always had a sneaking suspicion that that she was missing something. The people around her had always been able to connect on a level she couldn’t, and until today, she had never been able to figure out why. It was like she existed inside a glass bubble. She could see life happening around her, and she could interact with everything. Yet, somehow, that easy connection that everyone else seemed to have, she was missing it.

Today she figured out why.

“I have to tell you something,” Jodie, her roommate said, quietly. Her eyes were downcast suddenly the carpet. “Normal people can—oh I mean, it’s not that you aren’t normal, but well, everyone else I should say, see, they can hear each other’s thoughts.”

Alison burst out laughing. “Oh sure they can.” She gave Jodie a playful punch on the arm.

But Jodie didn’t laugh. “No seriously, nor—most people are telepathic, but there are some, like you, who are, well, handicap. That is, you can’t.” Her hands were waving animatedly in front of her as she spoke.

“So you’ve been able to hear what I’m thinking?” Alison arched her eyebrow at her.

“See, that’s the thing. Before last week, no. Most people who aren’t telepathic are also unable to project their thoughts. Which is kind of great, because it would suck if everyone could hear you thoughts, but you couldn’t hear them.” Her hands were still moving rapidly in front of her.

“Ah, I see,” Alison said. “So you can’t hear my thoughts, so none of this is provable. How convenient.” She rolled her eyes as she stood up.

“But that’s the thing, until last week, I couldn’t hear you. But today, I can.” Her voice grew quieter and quieter as she spoke.

Alison sighed as she walked to front door. “I have to get to work.” We’re not in grade school anymore. How gullible do you think I am?

“I don’t think your gullible at all. That’s why I knew this was going to be difficult.”

Alison, turned and narrowed her eyes at Jodie. Lucky guess. Obviously that’s what I’d be thinking.

“It wasn’t a lucky guess. I can hear you,” Jodie said.

Alright, why tell me know?

“Like I said, now I can hear your thoughts. I think that means so can everyone else. I had to tell you! I’m your friend. I couldn’t let you go out there without knowing the truth. I should have told you soon, but I just wasn’t sure until now.”

“Jodie, I’m sorry, but I really don’t have time for this. I have to go.” Alison huffed as she grabbed her purse and keys from the back door.

I always knew Jodie was a bit different, but now she’s going bat-shit crazy.

“I heard that!” she called from the kitchen.

Alison rolled her eyes, still not believing her. “Of course you did,” she mumbled as she closed the door behind her. “But then, you didn’t actually say what it was that you heard, now did you?”

Out on the street, she began to walk to work, when someone called out from behind: “Alison! Hi, how are you?”

She spun around and saw Edgar striding towards her looking amazing as per usual. He grinned as he approached her

You are just gorgeous. Too bad you have a girlfriend.

His easy grin flickered and he paused misstep for half a second. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Of course, why do you ask?” How bad did she look to warrant that question?

“No it’s just, um, never mind.” He grinned again.

Marry me and have my children.

His eyes widened and he started to mumble incoherently.

Suddenly, Jodie’s warning from earlier came back to her and a deep blush slowly crept up her neck.

But that’s crazy. He can’t—

“I have to go. Nice seeing you.” He tripped over his feet and nearly ran into a pole in his rush to get away from her.


She wandered into a nearby coffee shop to grab a tea, deep in thought as she went. Jodie had certainly done a number on her brain this morning. Maybe she was gullible after all.

When she got the register, the woman at the till gave her a sympathetic smile. “My niece can’t hear either.” She patted Alison’s arm sympathetically. “I know how hard it must be.”

“I can hear just fine,” Alison said, confused.

“No, I meant, oh never mind.” She busied herself grabbing Alison’s tea.

That was weird.

She stared at the woman’s back as she poured hot water into her cup. The woman was wearing a hideous stripped shirt that clashed loudly with her purple stretch pants. It was not a flattering look in Alison’s opinion.

The woman whirled around and slammed the cup on the counter. “Well, no one asked you.” She turned to the next customer as Alison quickly grabbed some nearby napkins to wipe up the slosh from the cup.

I’m so sorry!

She fled feeling embarrassed and shameful.

What was happening?

* * *

I wrote this story based on a weird fear I sometimes have when I’m talking to people. I’ll be chatting when suddenly the thought will pop into my head of, “oh no, what if they can hear my thoughts? What if everyone is telepathic, but somehow I wasn’t born with that gene and they’ve all just agreed not to tell me.”

To be fair, I said it was weird. I didn’t say it was rational 😉