Following Her Footsteps
He had come to the beach to dig his own grave.
It was early Monday morning, or late Sunday night depending on your perspective, and the sun was still sleeping somewhere below the horizon line. The seagulls ignored the fact he was overdressed for both the weather and the location as he wandered the edges of the waves.
His shoes were getting soaked, but he did not notice. His body was on autopilot, heading for the spot just above lifeguard station 22.
Even at his zombie pace, he reached the rocks in no time. He immediately fell to his knees, began digging with a child’s plastic shovel.
By the time the sun opened its golden eye, his suit was soaked with sweat and salt water. His unkempt hair fell in his eyes, but did not deter him from task. Deeper and deeper he dug.
When he had managed a hole about two feet deep, he stopped, removed his jacket. He sat down in the hole as if it were a welcoming recliner, smiling for the first time in a year. Slowly he began pushing the removed sand over his legs. He leaned back, continued covering his chest. When he could cover himself no further, he tucked his arms to his chest, still clinging to the tiny yellow toy.
As he lay there, waiting for the tide to claim him, he remembered his daughter’s hands releasing that same handle before taking off into the water without warning. She had been seven and so sure of her ability to navigate the waves that she ignored her father’s warnings.
He had only taken his eyes off her for a moment, but a moment was all it took. A small wave knocked her off balance. The following wave took her breath. The undertow had her before either of them could do anything.
The lifeguard had been nowhere to be seen, probably off flirting with bikini-clad teenagers, while he rushed into the waves, desperately searching for a glimpse of her hand or hair. He saw neither.
Her body had washed up hours later, miles down the beach. He knew this unforgiving beach would not hesitate to claim him as well.
They found him hours later, still half-buried. His face bloated from salty submersion, his hands still locked around the plastic shovel.
A.J. Huffman has published twelve solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new poetry collections, Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press), A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing), Butchery of the Innocent (Scars Publications), Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink) and A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press) are now available from their respective publishers and amazon.com. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2400 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com.