The inspiration driving this tale was to use only one setting: a beach. And the challenge I set myself was to give Sandcastle a twist that would be so shocking that a reader would gasp and begin reading the story over again from the beginning to see how each action followed another in natural fashion. All of the pieces came into place when I imagined a balloon floating up, lost, over a crowded beach, and the pouting cries from the little girl, Jane, who let the balloon escape. All the other characters came into view after that, and quite quickly. The end too. Bam. Right at that moment.
Brenda watched the orange balloon float into the air above the beach. Dipping and circling in the hot breeze, it reminded her of the time her ex-husband had filled her bedroom with three hundred balloons to surprise her on their first anniversary. She was very glad she’d never have to see him, the brutish shit, again. Four years gone, wasted, her married years had been as predictable as her parents told her they would be. Sometimes she imagined her parents were part of an ancient coven, where her future mistakes were played with like bitter fortunes tossed into a black cauldron.
Jumping up and down, tugging at her mother’s hand, Jane, a little girl in a tutu-styled bathing suit, started to whine.
“I want another balloon.” Jane’s mother in the turquoise bikini flicked the girl’s hand away.
“No, Jane. Go play in the water. Danny Richards is down there. Do you see him? Go play with him. I have to rest. And don’t bother me. You mind Danny’s mother.” The girl’s mother sighed, wondered if the people lounging close to her on the crowded beach could hear her, picked up a bottle next to her and slathered sunscreen all over the little girls arms, shoulders, face; she then put her adult-sized hands firmly on the little girl’s shoulders and said, “If I’m not here, if I’ve gone to the restrooms, what do you do?” The girl couldn’t squirm out of her mother’s grasp. “Stay with Danny.” The girl’s mother glanced over at a concave-bellied boy, a toddler very much the same age as her child, twenty yards away, closer to the waves rolling in, and spotted a woman in a ridiculous white-feathered one-piece swimsuit. She waved to this woman, a polite wave to someone you know but don’t want to know well.
From a beach towel space away, Brenda took the scene in. She found herself enjoying the discomfort in their close conversation; she almost laughed out loud when Jane’s mouth opened like an outstretched bow. The kid deserves what she gets, Brenda thought.
“But . . . I want my balloon.”
Brenda, her pistachio-colored beach chair squeaking when she moved slightly, noticed a string of saliva dribble from Jane’s mouth and down her chin. Jane’s mother tilted her octagon-shaped sunglasses above her forehead and stared, her eyes somehow cold and reflecting nothing, at her daughter. “What did I just say to you, Jane? Forget the Goddamn balloon. I told you I didn’t want to buy it for you . . . you’re blocking my sun. If you don’t leave me alone and go play, you’ll find yourself at home right now. Be a big little girl for Mommy. If you can do this, I promise I’ll give you another swimming lesson later. Your dog paddle is coming along fine. Go play.”
To find out where Brenda’s thoughts take her, please read the rest of Sandcastle in Sandcastle and Other Stories — available at Amazon now.
The painting of the boy on the beach was painted by my father, George Bogdanovitch, part of his Jersey Shore Boardwalk 1930’s series. Find more of my father’s and mother’s paintings and drawings by pressing HERE.
For another sneak PEEK from Sandcastle and Other Stories, this time from the tale The Virtue of Minding Your Own Business, a tale of murder, lost love, regret, and psychological epiphany, please click HERE.
Enjoy the last waning days of Summer. A new solstice is on the horizon, and we’re about to enter into my favorite season . . . it’s almost the witching hour.
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Another great story, Justin. And your parents paintings are amazing. What a talented family you are:)
Thank you Jane, as always and I’m sorry I had to use your name (even though this was written well before we met LOL). I’m always updating older, newer, recent work and this one seems steeped in the nineties era, the full-on aerobic age.
Ooh, so good, I had to read it twice! The imagery is amazing, the characters brutal. Killer (haha) ending. Wow. Love it.
Getting to the heart of a character sitting there, probably escaping from home, another berating, thinking about how a baby never saved her . . . and then she snaps. Thank you very much for reading, Rachel.
Beautiful, Justin. I also enjoyed your parents artwork, particularly the Antarctica series. Wonderful.
Very cool, Kelly, and I thank you most kindly . . . and I’ll pass on your compliment to my father as well. I love his Antarctica series and have several hanging on my home walls (and the fish painting) . . . I wouldn’t want to mess with Brenda after this day.
You have given me goosebumps! That was such a well told story and the ending, well! I think I’m still in shock. I second what Jane said 🙂
Goosebumps are good in my book 🙂 The ending is that twist I was hoping for, something that makes sense with all that has come before and even points in that direction from very early on when Brenda thinks the girl deserves what she gets.
WOW i didn’t know this side of you Justin! To be honest i like this story more than i should LOL
The End….. it was a shock for me but it was also the reason why i love it so much.
This story is so different for everything i read from you so far….is like i’m reading a new writer.What i like more in this story is the way you make us see this character….and almost understand (i said almost ) i think this is my favorite story of yours Justin..
of course i will aways remember the Santa LOL …
Staury, you can’t tell Stuliana this story! Please LOL Your words resonate and make me very happy. It’s a favorite of mine too.
I knew I didn’t like the beach for a reason. Amazing!
I’ll protect you from Brenda 🙂 Thank you very much for commenting here.
Justin this is a brilliant short story piece.
The voices are so crystal clear. Sometimes you write outside your head and I am sure you have done this here. You can feel it in the words.
Normally, I don’t like descriptive prose but yours meant something within the context of the story. I am truly inspired by this and proud to have you as my Twitter friend.
Long may King Justin reign over his (quite-creepy) writing mind.
Oh, and did I mention it was brilliant. 🙂
I’m absolutely floored by your comments (both!), Susan. I wanted no wasted words and this story has gone through so many edits/drafts & I’m catching more word choice things I’m debating on changing even now. Thank you very much.
The boy looking at the waves painting is hanging on another family member’s wall so it is not for sale, but I am going to make my dad’s day by telling him you like his work (it will cheer him up).
Oh, forgot to say, the painting is stunning. Is it for sale? What a talented family.
Your father’s talent is awe inspiring. Great short story really enjoyed it.Say hi to the animals from us here in New Zealand!
Thank you Liz. Kipling and Zippy would love to meet all of the members of your menagerie, as would I. I love your farm.
Justin, you have the most wonderful imagination, and the painting from your dad is simply beautiful. Talent runs in abundance in the family, I see. 😉
Amberr, your comment slays me, in a good way 🙂 and I really thank you very much for reading and taking the time to let me know what you think. I grew up watching how my father would change the subjects of his paintings, put on new Art Shows, Gallery openings with vastly different themes: Antarctica abstract landscapes, Abstracts, Figures, Requiem series and I’d love to have even a tenth of his creative drive.
OMG! She just, her kid just, that lady just…that guy! Wow! Incredible story and such raw grit to the characters making them seem more real without over dramatics. Perfect dynamics flow of a family long standing argument. Superb!
Dee, your comment hits me well and good. Is Brenda a sympathetic character? I wanted to pull the rug out from under any reader’s expectations. Thank you very much.
I found your blog via my Twitter friend Ian Makay. I read the cruise ship story (the one Ian recommended), your personal story on Rachel’s blog, and now the Sandcastle. I should have not been surprised by the ending, as I noticed a hint of wicked (the old woman almost drowning looking for her sunglasses, the man in Hawaiian shirt reaching for freedom by jumping overboard), but i certainly received quite a jolt.
There are several sandcastles in your story, and even though my heart breaks for Jane, I can’t afford not to cry for Brenda, too.
I am looking forward to reading your stories and tonight Mr. John Irving will have to be extremely patient while I abandon his prose for yours.
Thank you, Lana, for reading and commenting on my short fiction. Your take gets my creative engines going and I hope to continue writing and sharing more of my short fiction in the future.
This was definitely one of my favorites. Absolute shocker!
So fun to think about what inspired a story. Thank you for your generous support and for being a friend, eden.