GeminiMAGAZINE
_____________
by Sandra Seamans
A TIME TO
GRIEVE
The beach should be a beautiful place.
Soft breezes, the sound of waves
splashing against the sand, and young
girls in thong bikinis laid out on bright
colored beach towels, their nubile bodies
glistening with sunscreen. Not washed
up on shore like a discarded piece of
driftwood. Or so thought Edgar Wilson.

Edgar poked at the sand encrusted body
with his cane. "You dead or alive there,
girlie?"

Sleep eluded Edgar's eighty year old
body so every morning, with the first
pink of sunrise, he walked the beach. He
preferred the emptiness of that early
hour to the clutter of bodies that littered
the shoreline later in the day. The tide
was kindly most days, washing up small
treasures that he tucked in the leather
pouch he carried. This was his first body.

"Dead I guess," muttered Edgar. "Now
what am I supposed to do with you?
Sure as hell can't tuck you into my
pouch and take you on home with me.
Can't leave you here for the gulls to pick
over neither."

Edgar dropped down in the sand beside
the girl. He wanted to brush the sand off
her face, maybe close her eyes, but he’d
watched enough crime shows on TV to
know he shouldn't touch the body. All he
could do was keep her company until
help arrived and wave his cane
occasionally to chase away the gulls.

“Probably should have taken my
daughter up on her offer of a cell phone,
but who am I gonna to call? Most of my
friends have passed on, more gently
than you seem to have done.”

He studied the girl. Long, lithe figure,
nice breasts, pretty blond hair. “You
must have been a looker before the tide
scraped you along the bottom. Foul play
or did you just get caught in a rip tide?
Don’t see no bullet holes, maybe a
swimming accident? Or did you take a
tumble off a boat and your friends were
too drunk to help or even notice that
you were missing?”

The sun was climbing higher and Edgar’s
belly began to rumble with a request for
breakfast. He could sit waiting until
somebody with a cell phone stumbled
upon the two of them or he could leave
her to the gulls. No, he couldn’t stand
the thoughts of her blue eyes getting
pecked out. Her parents ought to have a
half-way decent body for the funeral.

“It’s a helluva thing, outliving your
children,” said Edgar. “My daughters are
still alive. I’ve got three of them, but
my son, Ronnie, he was killed in the
Gulf War back in ‘91. You know I made
it all the way through the Korean War
with hardly a scratch and a fucking oil
war that barely lasted six months stole
my only boy. 'Scuse the language, but
that waste of a war...well, ain't nothing
can be done about it now. Truth is there
ain’t no way to calculate how this old
world works. I figure God sits up there
in heaven getting his jollies by conjuring
up ways to trip us up. Well, losing my
son wasn’t funny, and you, well, there
ain’t no humor in what’s happened to
you.”

Edgar could hear sirens off in the
distance. “Looks like old Mrs. Murphy, in
that cottage up back there, must have
spotted the pair of us and called the
cops. Won’t be long now and they’ll
come swooping in and cart you off to the
morgue. Then some doctor will start
pokin’ and proddin’ at your body, trying
to puzzle out what happened. Well, I
hope they do manage to get it figured
out, give your parents some peace of
mind at least. Parents need to know the
how’s and why’s. It ain’t much comfort,
but some. My boy, they said there
weren't nothing left to send back. Hard
thing to bear, not having a spot to
grieve.”

A pair of young cops came up the beach
toward Edgar, guns drawn.

"Drop your cane, sir," shouted one of
them. "Then slowly stand up."

"That might be a bit difficult, son. I can
drop the cane, but I'll need a hand
getting up. Guess I sat here a might too
long and my knees have gone a might
stiff on me."

One of the officers holstered his gun and
walked over to help Edgar to his feet.
"The lady who called in said you were
down here beating a girl to death."

"You tell that nosey Edna Murphy that
she needs to get her bifocals cleaned. I
was chasing the gulls away. Didn't want
them pecking at her body."

Deciding Edgar wasn't dangerous, the
other officer holstered his weapon. "If
you found the body, why didn't you call
it in?"

Edgar shook his head. "Don't have a
dang cell phone and didn't feel like
hiking back up the beach to make the
call. Besides, like I said, it didn't feel
right leaving the poor girl all alone out
here."

"She was dead when you found her, sir?"

"Yep, all the years I've been walking
this stretch of sand and this here is my
first body. With any luck it'll be my last.
You boys gonna sit with her until the
ambulance comes to take her away?"

"Yes, sir. Just give us your name and
address so the detectives can talk with
you if they need to. Then you can head
on home."

Edgar started his trek back up the
beach, but paused. "You boys, when you
make the notification could you tell her
folks she wasn't alone? That I sat with
her. It might give them a spot of
comfort to know that she wasn't all
alone out here. That somebody cared
enough to sit with her. There wasn't
nobody could do that for my boy when
he died over there in Kuwait, not with
his body scattered to the four winds and
swallowed up by the sand. I couldn't let
that happen to her."


Sandra Seamans is a short story writer whose work
can be found scattered around the Net in places like
Spinetingler, The Thrilling Detective, and Beat to a
Pulp. She blogs about writing and short stories at
http://sandraseamans.blogspot.com.