Fine and white, it tingles under your feet, between your toes. But under your nails it grates. Green fills the sea, foam tinges its waves; salt fills your nose.
The bright sandcastle is new and smooth, the stooped man old and cracked. The castle must be young, built so near the rising tide. The lapping water drains a sliver of sand with each gentle, relentless caress. Each wave reaches higher than the last. But it’s not a castle, it’s a house.
A simple, single-story house. The roof is lightly pitched. The sand is just wet enough to retain the finely etched features—the outline of the front door, the sills below the windows, their panes. The veined, mottled hands tremble on their way to the chimney. One holds an X-Acto knife, the other a child’s plastic shovel—small, yellow, flat. The shaking hands near the frail sand, and are suddenly steel-steady. The knife-edge scores a laser-straight line across the chimney’s side; the grains fall into the shovel’s plate, a finger’s width above the shingles carved into the roof. A small step higher, and the blade scribes again. A quiet but distinct splash—a wave-tip crests the slight dune in front of the house. Waves at sea grumble, signal the tide’s rise. The large nose, the watery pale eyes, the crevassed face remain fixed on the work: the knife’s point begins at a horizontal groove and creeps down. It stops at the next groove, the yellow shovel again catches the sandy waste. The knife hand above and shovel hand below move to the right in unison, and a second short vertical scribe completes the tiny sand-brick. The next wave plants its leading bubbles of foam at the doorstep. The knife, the shovel, the focused eyes continue. Brick, brick, brick. The chimney is finished, the house complete. A crack as the back straightens, another as the legs slowly fight gravity one more time and bring the old man to a stand.
The man turns and walks away. The next wave seeps into the foundation and steals enough sand for the house’s front to cleave and crash. The man does not look back.
— Short piece by Fletcher Goldin, electro-optics engineer working on nuclear technology, docent at the Chabot Space and Science Center, and aspiring novelist with a satirical tale of dark office politics. I enjoy what I’ve read of his novel so far – gently funny, dry style. Would encourage interested publishers and agents to look into it.