Creative Writing

Palaces of Sand

The rain had stopped and dark, clear blue forecast the rising sun. The sweet sound of falling water leaking through her window excited the little girl, who pulled her boots on over her pajamas, and tip-toed out the back door. The smell of the wet morning tickled her so hard she giggled madly, boulder-hopping down the crude stone steps in the gathering light, to her favorite place in the whole wide world.

Grinning so big her dimples hurt, tears welled up as she stopped at the edge of the wash, and whispered, “Helllllooooo,” to the clear water gurgling past like a happy baby. She waded in and felt a shiver of delight break loose another giggle, then standing in the middle of the fresh and beloved little stream, she pulled off her boots, and tossed them to the bank, slipping her bare feet into the swift water, and sighing gratefully as she felt the sting of the cold. Splashing upstream, soaking her PJs, as she hopped from pool to pond, from rock to stone, she finally stopped to sit on the big old oak that had fallen across the creek two winters back. She waited full of hope and anticipation, watching for the shiny nose of a little green tree frog, or the broad warty back of a big old bullfrog to emerge from the sandy bank just below her. 

“Nini, Niiiiniii.” Her name echoed off the wet hillside, and she looked up to see the sky bright, dusted with cotton-candy clouds. Leaping off the log back into the dear water, she kicked up huge sprays as she skipped downstream toward her mother’s voice.

“Mommy! The creek, Mommy it’s running, it’s running!” She screamed, stopping for a moment to kiss the head of the old dog who waited for her, wagging eagerly at the bank. She bounded back up the steps as the old dog picked her way along behind her, carefully choosing her path among the boulders that made up the rough stairs. Her dad had let her pick most of these stones herself in that very arroyo, during the hot dusty days of summer, when her creek, running deep beneath the sand, laid as dormant as her frogs, both hiding their damp joy.

~ ~ ~

All day at school, she pined. “Nini,” her teacher scolded, “Oh Nini? Where for art thou oh teeny Nini?” Her friends laughed, as she blushed, her crab-apple cheeks glowing. 

“Sorry.” she apologized, then excitedly, “My creek is running!” The kids all laughed again. 

“Huh?” Scotty said, poking her in the back, a third- grade flirt.

“It rained so hard, my creek is running.” She repeated quietly, sad that they didn’t get it.

“I’m very glad,” Ms. Taka said, “but, we’re not frogs.” The class roared again, and Nini sank into her seat. 

She did her work quietly, biding her time. Finally, the big hand jumped to the twelve, then ring, ring, ring, and she darted out into the still-clear day, running all the way home. 

Her mom met her on the road, and scooped her up, covering her face with the million baby kisses she squirmed to escape.

“Mommy, still running?” Was all Nini wanted to know.

Shaking her head and setting her little wiggle-worm down with a knowing click of her tongue, Nini’s mom smiled, “Change your clothes first!” She shouted, watching her sunshine streak down the muddy road.

Together, mother and daughter, both now in high rubber boots, walked in wonder up the center of the wide, rushing stream. The mother too loved this creek; loved the smell of wet leaves and the sound of the bubbles and stones tumbling along the rocky bottom. 

“And aren’t we mostly water?” She thought wistfully, looking down at the small fingers, pulling her upstream and wrapped so eagerly around hers. 

“Look, that big bush has washed completely away!” She said, reigning in the whirlwind for a moment to observe the new landscape the creek had built.

“And that big rock!” Nini squealed, “It’s all dug out.” Leaping on top, and spinning round to scan the wondrous scene. “And, mommy, look!” She said, flying away, splashing again upstream to her favorite spot. “The frog pond’s all dug out too!” She called back. 

Seeing her wade into the deepest part, her mom called out, “Oh Honey…” But too late, the water filling Nini’s boots as she tested the little pool’s depth.

Sitting on the fallen tree with the tiny wet boots drying next to her in the sun, the mom watched gratefully as her sprout frolicked and splashed joyously; building then breaking dams, and setting leaf boats adrift, then chasing them downstream.

Springing onto the log, she gave her mom a hug. “Seen any frogs yet?” She asked eagerly, her teeth chattering. The mom took the shivering and compact little body up into her warm arms.

“Just one.” She answered as she wrapped her coat around the poor drenched girl. “And it needs some dry clothes and a nice cup of hot caterpillar cocoa.”

~ ~ ~

The half moon beamed through Nini’s bedroom window, as her mom gave her a million more baby kisses. Lifting open the window next to the bed, the sound of the falling water gushed through the open sash.

“Listen,” her mom whispered. “Ribbet, ribbet.”

“Welcome home.” The sleepy girl muttered, the sweet lullaby of her croaking companions carrying her off to dreams of palaces of sand and banquets of bugs. 


It was low tide. Three boys in sagging baggy swim trunks stood at the edge of manhood and in the center of the bridge where Summer Street crosses the narrow mouth of the Mill River. Out on Cohasset Bay, old wooden sailboats sat lazily at anchor, and a family of ducks spread a widening “V” of ripples across the flat calm. But under the bridge the water was rough and swift: little lost raindrops, gathered over of the vast watershed of eastern Massachusetts, and tumbling now into the breast of the great Atlantic who sat waiting for them at the foot of the bridge. The boys leaned over the railing looking at the white-tossed crests of the standing waves below them.

“You go first.” The tallest said.

“No, you. I caught that cat.”

It seemed so far down to the thrashing water; the Tall One was terrified. As the tallest son of a six-foot-five-inch ex-marine, this terror was as deep a secret as the fact that he’d rather join the drama club than play Pop Warner. The water was really less than 20 feet below, which was, according to his dad, about the length of their pickup truck, but to him it looked more like the length of a semi truck he imagined plunging to its death.

“I’m not scared. I’d go, but it’s not fair, it’s your turn,” The Cat Catcher calculated honestly. He was swelling into manhood ahead of his buddies, and even before the cat, liked to show off his testosterone-enhanced beef, but that was useless against the bridge.

“Oh come on, one of you go,” said the littlest one, always the odd man out, the omega to their alpha. He liked these guys; they had lived on the same block all their lives, but he was bookish and soft and knew he would never be a man’s man, hating the way these little pissing contests had begun to wedge them apart. The other two were always jockeying for that alpha emblem that he was so consciously avoiding. They each gave him a little punch in his upper arm, as had become customary. The Omega clicked his tongue and massaged his deltoid with a sigh.

“Why don’t you go?” said the Cat Catcher.

“Me?” the Omega answered, “I never said I would go. I don’t even wanna go!” But he did.

“Pussy!” they scowled in unison.

“You’re not going,” the Omega replied, “and you been bragging about it all week. Who’s the pussy?”

The Cat Catcher punched him again in the arm, hard; violence becoming his go-to way of disguising his fear. His older brother, who had not only caught but murdered a few cats, seemed to prefer violence as his go-to way of handling everything. 

“Boys will be boys,” was all the comfort he had gotten the one time he had found the courage to tell what had happened behind the garage. He wished he could find that courage now, as a wave of nausea caused him to back away from the bridge railing.


A mini-van, crossing the bridge, slowed as a little girl, half their size, practically climbed out of the window and squealed, “Mommy, stop, stop! Look, it’s perfect!”

“Come on now, back in that seat,” a half-heartedly strict voice replied.

“No, stop. Please! Pretty please?” the girl pleaded, finally disappearing back inside as the window purred up. 

The three boys watched closely as the van pulled off the bridge into the turnout next to the abutment and the barefoot girl – she couldn’t have been more than six or seven – came practically flying across the bridge to clamber up onto the railing.

“Oh, Mommy. Check this out!” she squealed again, as her mom made her way out into center of the bridge.

“Climb down from there, kiddo,” she said as she put her arm around the little girl and led her feet back onto the pavement. 

“But isn’t this just the best one ever?” she asked.

“She loves to jump,” the mom explained to the boys who stood back, watching them warily.

The little girl quickly discarded the tiny blue jumper she was wearing, revealing her tinier pink polka-dot bathing suit with its silly little fuchsia peplum, and started to climb back up on the rail. “Come on, Mommy, puleeze?” 

The Mom led her back onto the pavement again, the sort of thing it seemed like this mom must have had to do frequently.

“You have no idea how deep it is, silly,” she said. 

Immediately, the little girl grabbed her hand and tried to pull her toward the water, “Let’s go see!”

“It’s really deep,” the Omega offered, “we jump all the time.”

“We?” the Tall One said, as the Cat Catcher punched the Omega in the arm again, harder. Once his grimace faded, the Omega shrugged to the mom and smiled.

“The guys from the college, they jump here all the time, and none of them has ever been able to even touch the bottom, it must be like a hundred feet deep or something.”

“See!” as she started to climb back up. 

“Hang on, let me go check.”

“Honest, lady, it’s really deep,” the Tall One assured her, but the mom was already heading off the bridge, back to her van and the little girl was already down by the edge of the river. 

“You wait for me, honey,” the mom called, and she did, jumping back and forth from boulder to bank as her mom pulled off her sundress, tossing it through the window of the van and revealing her own little pink-polka-dot bathing suit. 

“Come on then!” she squealed.

The boys leaned out over railing to watch the pair dive into the river: the mom going deep, and the little girl bouncing giddily through the waves. As her squeals echoed off the bridge’s massive concrete abutments, the boys ran across the road and climbed up onto the opposite railing in time to see the rapids dump her into the flat, swirling bay, where her mom would eventually pop up. 

“Deep enough?” she asked eagerly.

“One more time,” her mom answered, climbing onto the bank and chasing the tiny pink streak back upstream as the boys raced back across the road to their vantage point on the opposite railing.

After a few more passes the mom finally seemed satisfied that there were no hidden boulders waiting to crack her daughter’s skull, and as she struggled up the embankment, the little girl shot past her to the center of the bridge, scrambled up onto the rail, and leapt off, this time with a squeal so piercing the boys had to put their fingers in their ears.

All three leaned over to watch her splash, disappear under the waves, pop up in the bay, and rush back up the hill. Her mom had managed to finish her first return just as her daughter finished her second.

“Hang on, hon,” she said, “take turns,” then motioned to the boys that they could go.

“No, we was… we was all finished.” The Cat Catcher said, remembering his moment of vertigo.

“But…” was all the Omega got out before the Tall One gave him a scowl that cut him off.

“We gotta go,” the Tall One said, bitterly retreating from his defeat, as he and the Cat Catcher sulked off. 

“Come on,” they commanded the Omega, who paused.

He looked at them, then at the little girl, who stood shivering and dripping into her little puddle, waiting politely for him take his turn, then back at his ‘friends’ and said, “I guess I’ll see ya.” 

As they left him, the Cat Catcher smirked and raised his fist, promising another big bruise on the Omega’s arm, which he rubbed as the ghost of another grimace haunted his face.

“You can go,” he said to the little girl, who immediately threw herself off the bridge again. He did feel a bit afraid, but envying her uncomplicated courage, suddenly realized that he was even more frightened by all that macho dueling. 

“We’ve never gone,” he said quietly, not looking at the mom, who replied,

“There’s a first time for everything.”

The little girl was back, waiting again for him to go. 

“Ya know, I was really scared the first time on the high dive. It looked so high, but after, it was soooo fun!” she said. “Wanna go together? We can hold hands and count, that helps.”

“Well…” the Omega said as he looked to see if his friends were out of sight.

“Come on, it’ll be fun.” She held out her hand to him with a bright smile.

He took it.

“One, two, three,” she looked to make sure he was ready, he nodded nervously, 

“GO!” she squealed.