Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: New Year (05/09/05)
TITLE: Watch Out for Sea Shells
By Matthew Morgan
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“Why aren’t you at the party?” asked a deep, soulful voice.
I jumped in surprise, “You scared me.” Squinting through the darkness, I could see the man’s broad frame as it blocked the city lights behind him. “Who are you?” I asked.
“Who are you?”
“Someone who’s not in the mood for games.” I turned and continued my walk down the beach.
He turned and walked beside me. “Someone who lacks some manners, I’d say.”
“What’s your deal?”
“What’s yours? It’s New Years Eve! You should be up there with your wife having fun at your friend’s party!”
“Psh,” I scoffed. “It’s her friend’s party, and it’s just an excuse for the idiots to drink heavily, the socialites to gossip, and the sauerkraut farmers to make an extra buck.”
“You don’t farm sauerkraut, you farm cabbage and make the sauerkraut from it.”
“Whatever. It’s still a pointless holiday.”
“Pointless? Where have you come from?”
“What do you mean?”
“Where were you before you and I stopped here?”
Looking towards the beach house, I could still see my footprints in the sand. “There. Just follow my footprints.”
“Ah, so if I follow your tracks, I can tell where you have been, right?”
“Yeah, Sherlock,” I said, the annoyance barbing my voice as I turned back down the beach.
“That’s partly what New Years is about – looking back to remind you where you have been.”
“Remind me?” I scoffed. “I don’t want to remember this year. We started out thinking we had experienced a miracle when my wife became pregnant after we found we couldn’t have children. A month later, we lost the baby. Then, for six months, we sat by my mother’s bedside watching her fight cancer. Then there was the eye disease I thought was gone coming back again. Maybe I can look back at the car wreck that nearly killed my wife just a few weeks ago. Yea! Happy New Year! Another chance to do this all over again!”
He didn’t say a word, but I could feel the man walking behind me.
Suddenly a piercing pain entered my foot. I jumped, hopping in pain. “OW! Stupid sea shell! Leave it to God to make a beautiful sandy beach and then stick sharp objects in it at random!”
“You sound like you are angry with God for a lot of things.”
“Why shouldn’t I be? Where have you been?”
“You looked at the negative side of everything that happened this year. What happened to your mother?”
“She’s fine now. She beat the cancer.”
“And your eyes?”
“The disease ran its course. It left scar tissue, but nothing that affects my vision.”
“And your wife? Did she die in that car wreck?”
“No, she had a lot of bruises, but she’ll recover. The doctors say it was a miracle.”
“And would you have been able to go through all of that as effectively if you had a child?”
“I guess not.” As I mulled over the man’s seeming omniscience, I noticed something embedded in the sand. “Sea shell,” I called out as I stepped over it.
“You learned your lesson after the first one, huh?”
“Yeah, a painful lesson, but I got it.”
The man chuckled lightly.
Suddenly, I understood. “So, because the first sea shell hurt, I learned to watch out for them. All the bad stuff this year happened for a reason and I should learn from it, right?”
I heard no response.
“So New Years is a time to reflect on where we have been. But it is also a time to look forward to hope for a better future. Thanks for listening to me, man.”
I turned around, instantly surprised. The man had disappeared!
“I guess I’ll go back and hug my wife.” As I turned to retrace my steps, I noticed something strange.
“There’s only one set of footprints.”
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