For Seven Years


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Thomas Elson’s short stories, poetry, and flash fiction have been published in numerous venues, including The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis, and Flash Frontie  [+]

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Each morning his face flushed as he remembered the boy's words, "I want that shovel. It's just like yours." And each morning he fell to his knees, extended his arms, then plunged his hands into the sand on the beach. He had started seven years ago, progressed to a shovel, then a metal detector, but recently returned to digging with his hands.
He always began in the last place they played, crawled a few feet, and continued until he reached the campground fence behind the curve in the beach that gave this location its name. At that point he turned and moved a few feet closer to the dune and forced his hands deeper.
They had visited here each summer. The boy and he. The boy liked to dig with his shovel; and the man liked to walk with the boy to the edge of the water, inhale that pinch of brine, feel the cold saltwater hit his feet, and, for a moment, absorb his little boy's enthusiasm.
Seven years ago they were here, and the man left—just to go to the car for a moment. Then he went to the restroom. When he returned, the boy was gone along with his shovel.
If he could find that shovel, maybe he would find his little boy.
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