Dear friend,

This week I wrote a short story inspired by the prompt for this summer’s writing contest. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it!

~

Seagulls screeched at each other over waves crashing on the sandy shoreline.

Wind whistled in Gray’s ears and tossed his light brown hair about. Damp sand slowly chilled his toes as he walked down the shore away from the family beach house. He hunched his shoulders, shifting the hoodie around his neck. The sun hovered about an hour above the horizon, painting the haze a mix of blue and orange.

He kicked a pile of sand that would have been a sandcastle yesterday. The wind sprayed the abrasive grains against his bare ankles. His left thumb brushed a few pieces from under the silver band on his ring finger.

He stood still and closed his eyes. Listening. Remembering.

When he was eleven and his best friend, Jack, was ten, they spent a week at this beach with their families. They had done it every summer for as long as he could remember. But that summer was different.

Gray and Jack had spent the morning jumping over waves and running the shoreline.

They had eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and nacho-flavored chips for lunch. Jack’s older sister, Ellie, had complained to their mothers that they were leaving sand in the chip bag. Gray’s cheeks grew pink.

“Nuh-uh,” Jack had said, grinning as he brushed off sand still stuck between his fingers. “Am not.”

“Are too!”

“Am not. We washed our hands!” Jack retorted through a bite of sandwich.

His mother had looked Gray in the eyes and asked him if they had washed their hands. He had lowered his eyes and shook his head. He had never been able to lie well. Jack’s mother ordered them to stop immediately and go scrub their hands in the outdoor shower. They did, but not without glaring at Ellie.

After lunch, Jack had suggested making castles. They made two massive piles of sand, with drizzled turrets and deep motes that led into the lake. Each wave coming in filled the motes back in.

Their swim trunks covered in patterns of sand, the boys had wandered up the beach into the dune grass. Jack had suddenly pushed Gray hard enough on the shoulder to knock him over, shouting, “Tag!”

The dry sand squeaked between their toes as they ran up the hill. They had often spent bright hot days between a particular patch of dune grass, one that was thick enough to hide in, and running back to the lake to cool off. That day, when they tunneled under the rough fronds of that place, Jack said, “We should make a time capsule and bury it here.”

“What’s that?” Gray had asked.

“It’s a box that you put stuff in and hide and find it again after a long time,” Jack had explained. “My dad had us write notes and put a toy in one when he was building in the kitchen. It’s behind one of the cupboards. He says it’s so you can look back and remember what things were like.”

The boys had scampered back to the house. They’d found pieces of scrap paper and a Sharpie, taking turns writing their notes and drawing pictures.

“It’d be cool if we put money in it. It’ll be like we’re finding buried treasure when we find it again,” Gray had suggested. They found one dollar and three cents in a quarter, five dimes, four nickels, and nine pennies scattered around the house. The boys had put their items in their damp swimsuit pockets and asked Gray’s mother for a container they could bury.

She laughed when they explained why and helped them find an empty glass Coca-Cola bottle in the garage that still had its twist-on lid. They thanked her, running back to their spot in the dune grass, and collapsed in the hot sand with their calves burning.

They’d stuffed everything into the bottle, closing it up. They’d dug for several minutes. Jack had insisted the hole had to be deep enough so that a random person wouldn’t just find it.

Gray opened his eyes. That had been a good summer, but a curious one. Jack had always laughed and changed the subject any time Gray asked what he had put in his note.

Curiosity itched in Gray’s mind. He was the only person on the beach.

It took him forty-five minutes before he found a patch of dune grass that looked like it could possibly be the same he and his friend had played near in childhood.

He got on his knees and pulled sand away from the spot. The sun disappeared below the horizon, but the sky was still light enough to see his hands. He dug around, but there wasn’t anything there.

No bottle. No notes.

Gray stood and kicked the sand with a grunt of frustration. And then a shout of pain. His toe had connected with something very hard.

He pulled it out of the sand. It was the glass bottle.

Gray pulled his phone out of his pocket, turning on the flashlight. There was a bit of sand that mixed with a bunch of warped paper. The top had come off and disappeared.

It took some time, but Gray managed to pull out the papers through the swan-neck, dumping the coins in his hand in the process. He slid them into his pocket and unfolded the papers.

He read his note with a grin. Only an eleven-year-old would consider a messy description of his favorite videogame something someone would want to know in a dozen years. He refolded it and stuck it in his pocket.

He flattened Jack’s note. His stomach dropped. He crumpled the note in his fist, throwing as far as he could towards the water. It only landed halfway between him and the lake. He took a deep breath then marched back down the dune.

He picked up the paper on his way down, walking back to the beach house. The porch light was on, spreading its welcome light out to the edge of the waves.

Gray leaned his back against the railing of the porch. He unfolded Jack’s note again.

I broke Gray’s xbox and told him it was my sister’s fault cause I know he won’t be mad at her cause he likes her.

The glass slider door to the porch opened. Ellie stuck her head out, the breeze playing with the fine blonde strands that escaped her ponytail.

“You coming in soon? It’s chilly out there.”

Gray nodded and turned on his phone and tapped Jack’s contact. The phone began ringing.

If you enjoyed this story and felt inspired to write your own, go check out the Summer writing contest hosted by The Writers Company and judged by yours truly.

Sincerely,

R. J. Catlin