The sun is out and the beach is crowded but we found a spot, we found a spot! It’s not too close to the water but not too far, either. It’s not too far from the café but not too close to the garbage cans, either. It may be a little too close to the soccer game, but Wife promises me I won’t get hit by the ball so that’s where we lay the blanket.
And yes. Yes, there is a soccer game going on close to us. They’re playing barefoot on a dirt field, the kids and their fathers. The shirtless children are brown and browner, some by birth, others turned brown by the scorching sun. The fathers hop around trying to figure out how hard to play, whether to let the kids get the ball easily, or whether to use their bodies to separate them from the ball, so they experiment with their own kids.
I hear laughter all around me. There’s a group of people sitting behind me, laughing at a joke one of them just told. There’s a group of people in front of me, laughing at the little girl chasing a piece of paper which the wind moves a few inches, just enough to move it out of her reach just as she’s about to grab it. Her family’s sitting on a blanket, also laughing, and shouting, “A-F-V!” But they’re not filming it, so they won’t be sending it to America’s Funniest Home Videos. It was their private AFV moment.
There’s another family to the side of me – I’m now lying on the blanket, reading Jamie Ford’s “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” – and I hear them laughing now, and
DAD! Somebody screams next to me. It’s Daughter. Her teeth are chattering and her lips are blue and she’d like to have her Hello Kitty towel. I sit up and give her the towel.
There’s the guy sitting on a chair in the middle of the beach, leaning back, but keeping an eye on everything. There’s always a guy like that. It’s different guy but it’s the same guy. He’s sitting on a chair, and the back rest has the Swedish flag pattern on it.
People are eating. They’re eating simple things, and they’re eating more advanced meals. Some are eating strawberries, and ice cream. Others are eating sandwiches. And the man by the edge of the beach is grilling sausages and cooking potatoes.
That’s where we always used to be, too, Dad and I, back in the day. Back in the day when I was just a kid, but not big enough to play soccer on the beach. Back in the day when Dad was young and out of work so he took me to the beach to kill some time, we had our spot next to the bushes, in the shade, and far from the water.
DAD! I hear somebody scream and I put the book away, again, and I sit up, and I see ten other fathers stopping and listening hard, and squinting and looking towards the water with their hands on their foreheads to block the sun so they can see if the call was for them.
MOM! I hear somebody scream, and I know twenty mothers just dropped whatever they were doing, so I don’t get up. I also know that my children’s mom is in the water with the kids. Instead, I just adjust my summer hat so I get a little shade over my eyes, and I continue reading.
In the next instant, I’m back in the 1940s Seattle and I’m running through the streets of Seattle’s Chinatown and I hear footsteps coming towards me. But I’m also on the beach and I can hear footsteps closer to me. Closer and closer. And closer. I turn the page, and at the same time, I feel sand on my arm, so I turn to look, and I see a kid standing next to me, with his foot on a soccer ball. His father is waving to me from the dirt field behind the kid.
“That was close,” he yells. “Sorry about that.”
The kid kicks the ball back into play as I wave back to his father to say it was fine. The man in the Sweden chair looks at me and nods.