So I’ve got this rare Saturday post up courtesy of the lovely Rachel Bateman and her Beach Scene Blogfest. Click here to read the other beach entries by some really great writers.
But before reading mine, I have to remind you that I suck at naming characters. So in the interest of saving my own sanity, I simply picked some names. These names have in no way any relation to anyone living or dead. Anyway, that’s my story and here’s my entry.
A Night at the Beach
“Hey, guys.” Jack dropped another armload of wood next to the campfire. “A little help?”
“No, tanks.” Donnie V plunked the just shuffled deck down on the blanket in front of Sam. “We’re good.”
“Yeah.” Sam tapped the knuckles of his loosely curled fist on top of it. “We’re good.”
“No.” Carefully feeding branches into the fire, Jack glared at the group on the blanket. “I mean I could use a little help.”
Joe rearranged his chips. “We’re busy.”
“You’re playing cards.”
Fanning her cards out, Lola began reordering her hand. “Strip poker, baby.”
“Hey.” Jack threw up his hands, palms out. “There’ll be no stripping. My wife is here. And so’s my kid.”
“Ah, no worries, mate.” Em wagged her eyebrows at him. “I’m sure it’s nothing Annie’s never seen before.”
“And TJ?” Shannon waved a hand in the general direction of over there as she fished in the ice chest for another beer. “He’s over there poking Ray.”
Jack’s head snapped to the right. “Yo, TJ. Stop poking the nice man.”
Snagging the beer from Shannon, Annie slid up to Jack’s side. “For god’s sake Jack, give it a rest.”
“But babe, it’s already dark and time’s wasting.”
“Fine. We’re all here.” Dropping gracefully on the blanket, she folded herself comfortably, knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped around them. “Go ahead.”
Jack dropped down next to her. “It was a dark and stormy night...”
Nanse pulled her marshmallow out of the fire. “Why is it always a dark and stormy night?”
“Who’s telling the story here?”
“She’s right you know.” Courtney speared a marshmallow and poked it carefully into the flame. “All your stories start out like that.”
Jack dragged a hand down his face. “That’s because spooky campfire stories are supposed to start like that.” Chewing on his thumb, he ran his eyes around the group. “I suppose you think you can do better?”
Tara snorted. “Well, duh.”
“Fine. Go ahead. You tell the story.”
DL stepped out of the shadows. “Anybody seen my S’Mores?”
Annie lifted a hip and slid a cautious hand underneath it. “I think I found it.”
“That’s all right, you can have it.” DL waved a magnanimous hand before rummaging in the marshmallow bag. “I don’t want it anymore.”
Jack’s arms shot out and banded around her as he breathed low and harsh in her ear. “Not now, babe. Too many witnesses.”
She stilled in his grasp and settled for leveling a double-barreled glare at DL who was already happily toasting another marshmallow in the fire.
“I’ll start.” JP knocked back the last of his beer and tossed the can onto the pile at the edge of the blanket. “Many years ago, two warriors from rival villages got into a terrible fight. Knives pulled, they battled back and forth with the ferocity of hungry hounds, each tearing at the other with their knives…”
“Knives?” Reaching over, Tara thwapped DL in the head as he tried to steal her beer. “Please.”
DL made a sound somewhere between a croak and a quack as his head snapped. “What?”
“They always say knife in these things when it’s really not.” Tara held up a thumb and forefinger spaced closely together. “And then it’s some little bitty Swiss Army knife.”
She snagged a marshmallow from the bag, flicked her matte black Tanto open with one hand. “Now this?” She skewered her marshmallow. “This is a knife.”
“Who are you?” Em asked. “Crocodile Dundee?”
“Now that’s what I’m talking ’bout.” Tara held her hands up, about shoulder width apart. “He had a knife.”
“TJ.” Annie’s sharp voice split the air as she flowed to her feet in one fluid motion. “Quit poking Ray. He’s…sleeping.”
Standing and stretching, JP reached over, plucked the stick out of TJ’s tiny hands, and poked at the body with it. “I think he’s dead.”
Annie pulled the stick out of his hand and pointed to the mountain of beer cans just off to the side of the body. “He. Is. Not. Dead.”
“I’m just sayin’.” JP’s words floated back as he turned and wandered off toward the cooler.
Annie poked at the body again. Picking TJ up, she settled him on her hip, looked at Jack and shrugged her free shoulder.
Jack blew out his breath through clenched teeth. “Could we get back to the story, please?”
“Ooh. Ooh.” Courtney’s hand shot up. “I’ve got one.”
JP glared. “But I wasn’t finished.”
Courtney patted him on the back. “That’s ok.”
Jack threw up his hands in disgust as Annie settled back down next to him.
Putting her finger to her lips, Courtney shushed the group and started her story. “She lived deep in the forest in a tiny cottage and sold herbal remedies for a living.”
“Sounds like Nanse,” Portia mumbled around the marshmallow in her mouth.
Annie’s head snapped around to target Jack in her line-of-sight. Jack bumped his forehead repeatedly into her shoulder.
“Did she have a third eye?” DL asked.
Courtney’s voice rose with her eyebrows. “How do I know?”
Upending her bottle, Portia drained the last of her beer. “You’re telling the story.”
“It’s not Nanse.” Courtney threw up her hands, palms out. “Anyway, folks in the nearby town called her Bloody Mary and said she was a witch.”
“See?” Portia nodded. “Coulda been Nanse.”
“Amateurs.” Lola shook her finger around the circle on the blanket. “You’re all amateurs. Sit back and let a professional handle this.”
“But I wasn’t finished.”
“Yes, you were.” Lola flipped the flashlight up and held it just under her chin, giving her face an eerie glow. “The reports had been on the news all day, though she hadn’t been paying attention to them. Something about a crazy man who’d escaped from an upstate asylum. They were calling him Hook Man since he’d lost his right arm and had it replaced with a hook.”
“Ooh, ooh.” Summer bounced up and down on the blanket. “I know this one. I’ve seen the movie.”
Tara threw the bag of marshmallows at her. “We’ve all seen the movie. We’ve all seen all the movies.”
Shannon grabbed another beer. “Hey. I like those movies.”
“Could we get a little focus here people?” Jack leaned over and rested his head on Annie’s shoulders, lips close to her ear. “Tell me again why I thought this would be a good idea?”
“Because you always think your ideas are good ideas?” She bounced TJ on her knee.
“You’re a rock, babe.”
“I love you, too. Now hand me a beer.”
“Hand me one, too.” DL held out his hand. “I’m still shaking sand out…”
“…of your ass?” Annie snickered as she tossed him a beer.
“Very funny.” DL caught it one handed. “Why anyone would play in this sandbox...”
“Hey.” Susan thwapped him upside his head. “We play in the sandbox all the time.”
“What?” Jack’s head came off Annie’s shoulder.
“Sarahjayne and me.” Susan’s finger wagged back and forth. “You know our blog? The Sandbox Challenges.” She pointed a forefinger. “You must have heard of it. We write stories.”
“Hell, yeah.” Sarahjayne stabbed a marshmallow and waved it at Jack. “She writes romance. I’m literary angst.” She jabbed it into the fire. “Except when she’s literary angst and I’m romance.”
“Literary?” Annie rolled her eyes. “Angst?”
“I do not do angst.” Susan glared at Sarahjayne. “And I do not do dark.”
“Dude, you killed blind Jack’s dog.”
“I was blind?” Jack looked at Annie.
Annie looked at Jack. “We have a dog?”
“I was in pain.” Susan shook her finger at Sarahjayne. “You kill babies.”
“Well, duh.” Sarahjayne knocked back her beer. “And planets and…”
A huge smile split Susan’s face. “I love our sandbox.”
“I do too.” A low-rolling evil laugh erupted from Sarahjayne. “What are we gonna do next?”
“Listen to the next story?” Lola’s voice floated between them, an order not a suggestion. “Has anyone checked on Ray?”
Summer popped her marshmallow in her mouth and then reached over to poke the body. “He’s still dead.”
“He. Is.” Annie handed her squirming son to her husband and reached for another beer. “Not. Dead.”
Summer just shrugged. “Whatever.”
Shannon raised her hand. “I’ve got one.”
Sarahjayne reached for another beer. “Does it have a dead dog?”
Susan threw a stick at her sandbox partner in crime.
Shannon began her story in a voice low and slow. “A young woman lay suffering on her deathbed, her still born baby lying against her chest.
Sarahjayne jabbed Susan with the stick. “Dead baby.”
Susan rolled her eyes.
Shannon ignored them. “Her young husband crouched close, stricken with grief as his beautiful wife hummed a lullaby to her dead baby, her voice getting fainter as her own death drew near.”
“Ooh, ooh.” Summer bounced up and down where she sat. “Romance and angst.”
Jack and Annie looked at each other and scooted back a little further on the blanket.
Portia’s scream split the air as a shadow fell over the group.
“I don’t feel so good.” With those words to remember, Ray planted his face in the blanket.
TJ poked him with a stick.
“For god’s sake, Jack.” Annie grabbed her child and disarmed him.
“This is the last time I am ever doing this.” Jack winced, raised both hands and rubbed hard against his temples. “Why can’t it ever be easy?”