Stuck hard in the rocky terrain and glistening from the sun’s rays resting on contours was the shovel. Long, shiny, silver handled. The young girl felt the warm metal, slightly rusted and buried in the rocks, hot and jagged. The breeze, which had tangled her light brown hair, held its breath as the girl folded her fingers around the silver handle. Twice her attempts to loosen the handle failed and silence engulfed the beach as the gulls watched from above. Then with ease it slid from its prison to shatter the humid air.
A wave reborn reached to kiss the beach as the girl raced through golden gusts of wind to climb the high sand mounds. The girl’s feet sank into deep holes, but she laughed, flashing her treasure.
At last, kneeling on the beach, she scooped the shovel into the brown mess on the shore; its load made a wet pile on the drier sand – a little more made a bigger pile and finally grander. Faster and faster, she dug into blacker ground, carving a large circle, forming a tall, black, majestic mountain.
The young girl wanted to make something out of the mountain, but she was not sure what to create until, at the top, her fingers smoothed the rough contour into a squared-off mass. She made similar shapes in four more places. Towers, she thought, castle towers.
The castle, growing with each brick of the maiden’s soul, stood firm, stiff, solid. Little sticks became brave knights, standing to defend their fortress; finger holes became deep, dark windows; pebbles joined together, became cold stone walls; a flat piece of driftwood became a splintered bridge over the water-filled moat.
The lapping waves whispered subtle sounds of sleep and the exhausted young maiden, her shovel at her side, dozed soundly by her completed castle in the late afternoon sun.
Out of the mist, on a handsome steed, she was approaching the heavy drawbridge. Beautiful ladies in waiting greeted her, and strong knights in blood-splashed armor followed her. As trumpets played, she was hailed as King and gifted a grail made holy by her virtue and courage.
It came, stealthily at first, but then suddenly loud, cold and frightening. Overhead, the dark gray conquered the blue, and a mounting wave roared at the screaming gulls. It was a hungry giant, dark green, foamy, attacking the immovable beach and shattering the formidable fortress in a clap of thunder. Satisfied, the beast subsided into the lake, leaving the shovel standing firm in the hot, jagged rocks. Long, shiny, silver-handled.
Copyright © 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard
This piece is revised from a short story I published years ago in the Woodsrunner, a quarterly which is no longer in print. The original version of this story was in Vol 1, NO. 4, Summer 1971. (Yes, that ages me!) Originally, the protagonist was male. I also improved the descriptions.
Image: 189 best images about Sand Art…on Pinterest/ Sand Painting