Friday Flash: Perspectives of Sand

My sandals!

The words jerk out of my throat the same way Mum’s pulling my arm out of the socket as she drags me across the sand.

My sandals!

But she doesn’t hear me. Neither does Dad. They’re too busy arguing and juggling bags, my bucket and spade, the umbrella, esky and towels up the beach. Too caught up in their adult stuff to notice me.

How you could not see it?

I swear I only turned away for a second.

You were watching the girls out in the water who were topless. Don’t deny it.

There’s a silence that makes me uncomfortable – hurts more than the hot sand.

How the hell can I trust you if you can’t even keep an eye on your own daughter? For five minutes? That’s all I was gone. FIVE MINUTES!

I got distracted.

You saw the chicks with their tits out, miles away in the surf, but missed the guy flashing his dick right in front of our daughter. You’re un-be-lieveable.

Then it’s quiet again. The sand squeaks as we stumble towards the car park. Behind is the crash of the Too-Big-For-Me Waves, the babble of Happy Families having fun on the beach. Back there, not up here where the sand bites.

My feet are burning and my arm feels like it’s stretched too far. I want someone to pick me up, but there’s no room for me in either of their arms.

This isn’t going to work.

I said I’m sorry.

Dad’s voice is sort of angry – sort of sad.

I left my sandals behind. They’re my favourite.

Shush, Lilianna – please. Sorry’s not good enough this time Craig. You promised you’d behave like a responsible adult. You’re a father. A grown up. And you still can’t act like either.

YOU’RE NOT LISTENIN’. Mum. Dad. STOP! My sandals.

Dad was standing beside me as I sat in the sand digging and filling up my bucket, safe in The Shallows from the Big Waves. I was happy. We were all at the beach. Actually all here together. Mum in her yellow bikini looking beautiful. Dad in his crazy orange boardshorts.

I was watching the way the sand twinkled sometimes in the sun. The magic way the water filled up where I had dug.

Then Mum swooped down, half-picking me up, screaming at Dad, half-dragging me from The Shallows, up to our umbrella. She shoved all our stuff into bags, not worrying about shaking out the sand.

I don’t want to go home. But she wasn’t listening. In a rush like the other Mums the day the storm came, only she stopped to shake the sand out then.

It’s something I’ve done. It’s my fault they’re arguing again. I want to say sorry – but my sandals.

I cry. It’s too hot for my feet. The car park bites worse than the sand. I don’t blubber softly like I should. I wail. I’m loud. People walking a dog stare.

Not NOW Lili-an-nah.

The boot is up and I’m sobbing, hopping from foot to foot.

For Christ sakes Vicki – where are Lilianna’s sandals? Here baby.

He tosses the umbrella in the boot and picks me up. Hugs me. I’m sandy and so is he. The little hairs on his chest tickle. My bikini’s up my bum and my feet still burn, dangling above the fire in the ground.

Do your feet hurt, baby?

I nod – tears wet on my hot cheeks.

Like .. eggs .. in .. the .. frypan. I’m hiccuping between each word.

I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening. He looks like he’s sorry – not like when Mum says she’s sorry.

My sandals – my favourites. They’ve got daisies on them. That’s what they are, aren’t they Mum? The white flowers with the yellow bits in the middle of them. Nanna gave them to me when you went away last time Dad.

There’s something strange in Mum’s voice – something I can’t pick. Her face which was bunched up looks less knotted.

Is that what you’re crying about Lilianna?

I nod and the car park is quiet until a loud car drives past.

Crazy driver!

I sound just like Mum. She looks at me with her serious face on.

You’re crying because we forgot your sandals?

My feet were burning and you were just ignoring me.

She sighs and looks confused, then after a while begins to laugh. I want to be angry with her because it is not funny that my feet hurt, but tiny fairies fly out of her mouth when she laughs. I wish she would be happy more and angry less.

Dad starts to laugh too and we’re all laughing. Mum gives us both a hug.

Family Hug!

I say it and smile. I don’t feel uncomfortable any more. My face tingles from smiling and my feet ache a bit as Mum slides me into the back seat. She does up my seatbelt and we wait in the hot car, with the engine running and the air conditioner on, waiting for Dad to come back.

I think about tits and dicks – wondering what I missed. I’m not sure what they are but they sound like ‘bum’ and I know I get in trouble for giggling and singing songs about bums, so I don’t ask about tits and dicks. I just want everyone to stay happy.

I say thank you as Dad puts my sandals on and he winks at me. I giggle. And Mum lets him kiss her on the cheek.

As we drive home I sing loudly to Snow Patrol and no one tells me to be quiet. Dad has his hand on Mum’s leg and I see fairies peeking out of her smile when she turns to look at him at a red light. I swing my feet back and forth, careful not to kick the seat in front. My favourite sandals, the ones with the white daisies on them, dance in the space Mum and Dad never see.

This story was originally written on February 8th, 2009 as an entry written for Write Anything’s Picture This #10. and at the time was read by two people! Since then it’s been revised and given a new coat of pain. It was rejected for the Miscellaneous Voices first anthology of online work in January this year. Any critical comment is welcome. I hope a few more people get to enjoy it.
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13 thoughts on “Friday Flash: Perspectives of Sand

  1. Oh, hooray! I wanted so much for this little girl to have some kind of happy ending. It’s so painful to see how her well-meaning mother terrifies her just wanting to protect her… the parental argument so much more scarring than any flash of dick might be.

    Critically, I might say that the story could end at “I think about tits and dicks – wondering what I missed.” The rest makes me feel good as a reader but it’s not entirely necessary… though I adore the final line, dancing in the place her parents never see.

    • The final line is a relatively new addition and it ran around in my head for ages before I finally put it in.

      I am so glad that the message was obvious. I get so angry at parents (and have to keep myself in check) for putting ‘their stuff’ on their kids… and the fact kids and adults see the world in a different way – see things each other doesn’t see.

      And in an effort to protect our children we can actually injure them more… thinking how painful it must be to be forced across hot sand.

      Dylan and I were actually caught out at the beach two summers ago without shoes and had to cross a large patch of sand that was burning hot. We ran and then when dylan realised half way how hot it was, he stopped and started screaming… and me with feet burning, didn’t go a good job of getting him to move on, yelling etc. I felt like complete cow afterwards. If it wasn’t bad enough to have burn feet he’d had to deal with a mother going ape shit at him. Not one of my proudest moments.

      I’d like to go for a re-write with your suggestion. I always tend to ‘run on’ and cut a few lines at the end. I guess was wanted to show things could be happily ever after… for now!

      Thanks for reading… going to suss out if you have anything this week.

  2. Man I wanted to cuff those parents in the head. I love the feel good ending. (I actually got a little misty. I’ll deny it if you start telling anyone about it though. 🙂 )

    I’m sort of the same mind as Jen with the ending. I would have ended it with “And Mum lets him kiss her on the cheek.” I think allowing the reader to build their own happy ending would have been stronger. Having said that, I absolutely love what is behind “dance in the space Mum and Dad never see.” and adore the idea of her seeing faeries in her mother’s smile. It really hammered home her innocence.

  3. I just want to scoop up this little girl and give her a big hug! Sounds like the parents are having some serious issues, but even minor squabbles can leave a huge impact on a child. A slipped comment here or there can be remembered forever by a child. At the end of the day, parents are people too and nobody is perfect. The important thing isn’t entirely in the being perfect, but talking about blow-ups with kids and treating them with respect.

    So, although the ending for me is somewhat feel good, i am left wondering whether the little girl is going to be sitting there wondering when the next blow-up will happen. With the mention of the fairies again in the last paragraph is seems like all is forgiven and forgotten but that might be a little too neat & tidy. Real life is a bit messier.

    I love the way that the story gets into the head of the little girl – it seems very believable to me. And the dialogue is very realistic. My only issue is with the ending. I also very much enjoy your writing style, Jodi! 🙂

  4. I enjoyed this very much!

    Of course, I’m no expert but I agree with Chris about ending at “And Mum lets him kiss her on the cheek.”

    The sentence above has little girl wanting family to stay happy. The letting him kiss her on the cheek gives hope that, for now anyway, it’s at least going to be a nice ride home.

    But last paragraph IS lovely, and doesn’t detract.

  5. Great use of voice here, Jodi – favourite bit has to be:

    ‘I think about tits and dicks – wondering what I missed. I’m not sure what they are but they sound like ‘bum’ and I know I get in trouble for giggling and singing songs about bums, so I don’t ask about tits and dicks.’

    You really capture the child’s point of view – not fully understanding but getting there.

    As the others have pointed out I would trim the ending. Keep the last line just ditch the rest of that paragraph, putting the last line on the paragraph previous so it reads :

    ‘I say thank you as Dad puts my sandals on and he winks at me. I giggle. And Mum lets him kiss her on the cheek. I swing my feet back and forth, careful not to kick the seat in front. My favourite sandals, the ones with the white daisies on them, dance in the space Mum and Dad never see.’

    Also, the tense shift in the middle felt a bit clunky. Either start the story earlier with the info in the flashback bit, or trim it completely as it may not be necessary – you can show all this in the conversation between mum and dad and the fact Lilianna doesn’t really know what is going on. That way you keep the story moving forward rather than flipping back in the middle before moving on. For me that little section broke the spell a bit in an otherwise brilliantly narrated piece.

  6. This story caused a real range of emotions, from feeling sorry for poor Lilianna, to getting mad at the parents but understanding how they could react like they did, and then Lillianna finally getting her sandals back and getting the kiss from her dad. I really liked the start with those first two words. That drew me in; yeah, what about your sandlas, who’s saying this etc. The you give us the picture very clearly in just a few lines so the second time I read, my sandals i immediately heard the urgency in her voice. But it was this line that really touched me line: but there’s no room for me in either of their arms. I enjoyed this a lot, thanks.

  7. Jodie there is so much so good in this piece. – I got a little distracted at…” half-picking me up, screaming at Dad, half-dragging ” Could this read – ‘half picking me up, half dragging me – screaming at Dad” ? But really it’s probably just my personal way of reading and to most people it probably sounds right!
    This year Aust Day – I stayed off the beach but saw many people doing the crazy burning feet dance. ouchie.
    You have such a natural voice in your writing.

  8. At the risk of sounding like a kiss-ass, I thought the story ended just fine, just the way it was!
    I like leaving it thinking of the little girl in the back seat, her thinking of good, childish things like faeries, rather than sexuallized body parts.
    Really enjoyed the ending, and your comments. Sometimes being a good parent – and not dumping your baggage on your children – is the toughest job of all.
    Strikes a chord with me.
    Good job.

  9. Tense and frustrating! Poor girl. I loved the fairies being laughed and smiled out, but this line stole the show:

    “My favourite sandals, the ones with the white daisies on them, dance in the space Mum and Dad never see.”

    Lovely.
    Simon.

  10. You got the kid’s voice spot on – ah, that “not now, dear” when for once it IS something important, and not just “look at me on the swing”… how frustrating it was!
    Loved the last line

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