Ricky’s dad pulls the tiny car up to the sidewalk next to the bank of fog that covers the beach, “Okay, this is where I’ll be at four fifteen.” Sally disappears into the mist. Ricky lets his dad give him a hug while I pull my sweatshirt on over my tee shirt. Ricky zips up his hoodie as his father goes through the gears heading back to the highway. We walk down three concrete steps and poke our way through sand until we get to the waters edge.
“Sally!” Ricky screams. She appears out of the gray already wet and covered with sand. She makes sure Ricky is wet and covered with sand before she disappears back into the fog that covers the space between beach and ocean. We just run on the packed sand in the area the waves come and go. Sally checks in every few minutes. Until the sun breaks through we have the sand, the ocean and most of the town all to ourselves.
“We’re going to need this bucket,” I pick up some kids blue plastic bucket, left behind yesterday, and swing it back and forth as we walk. Ricky accepts my statement without comment. Sally has finally tired herself out and walks behind us a few feet. The sun is a bright spot in the clouds now; it’s going to be a glorious day! We scan the beach for just the right place.
“This is about as far out as it’s going to get,” Ricky says while watching the water reach a spot in the sand.
I run up the beach a ways and stop, “I’d guess about here!” I shout to Ricky.
Ricky sights along the beach, looks toward the seawall and concrete walkway, looks back to where the water is breaking, “a little farther!” he yells. I back up toward the town another twenty feet. “There!” Ricky hollers and I drop my bucket to mark the place. “And then closer to the pier,” he adds. I pick up my bucket and move, crab style, parallel to the ocean and toward the wooden pier watching Ricky the whole time, when he nods I drop the bucket again.
Ricky starts throwing sand at the spot we marked, Sally catches on right away and does her best to direct a flow of sand in that direction. I start running back and forth to the water with my bucket, it’s a long run now but it will get shorter as the day progresses.
“What’s it gonna be?” a kid about our size stops to watch our industry.
“Castle,” I give him the obvious answer and then fill him in on the details, “Walls here, here, and there,” I point as he studies our layout. “Gatehouse, a tower here and here.”
“Keep back here?” he steps off the distance showing he has a feel for the scale.
“Great!” I say as I dump my bucket of water on a pile of sand that will be a tower.
“Can I help?” he starts pushing sand in the right direction, proving his worth.
“We need more buckets, and maybe a shovel.”
“Be right back!” he takes off running toward town just as a little girl with a kid sized bucket and shovel, she couldn’t be more than five years old, comes to the spot where the back wall will be and sets to work without instruction or permission.
“Make sure she knows what she’s doing!” I yell over my shoulder as I go for more water. The fog has all burned away. The ocean goes on forever. People start setting up umbrellas and laying out blankets. Every family brings new laborers to our task. As our work force grows, the height of our towers grows, a bucket brigade forms, there must be ten good-sized buckets carrying salt water from the ocean to our site. Ricky and I eat sandy hot dogs, not wanting to leave the work unsupervised during lunch. Our work force changes as the day moves on, as parents call their kids and new kids show up. Most of the labor comes from kids but one old chubby guy with a real construction type shovel starts work on the mote. He shovels like a real professional, willing to take direction from us kids as to where the spoils will be most useful. A shout goes up as water starts to seep into the Mote, we will no longer need to scoop water from the ocean, the work force on the castle doubles! Battlements appear on the top of the wall. A kid that lives in town drags a plank from home down the beach and places it across the mote giving us a path from the Barbican to the Gatehouse. The first kid to join us has spent the entire day on the Keep. He has kept the sides straight and true while cutting arches into the walls, it stands three feet across and as high as any of us can reach. The chubby old guy is called upon to build its Battlements; he’s the only one tall enough. Just as we finish with the details the tide reaches the Mote and fills a circle of water all the way around the castle. A shout goes up, even parents on near by blankets cheer. We sit back and enjoy the fruit of our labors; everyone is tired and covered with sand. The tide continues to cover more beach until the Barbican starts to crumble, it’s like a mighty army that cannot be stopped. The Mote is completely swamped and most of the kids have gone home when the tiny Honda N360 comes to a stop near the concrete walkway. It’s better this way, we have no desire to see the walls cave in and our castle destroyed. We pile into the car and head for home.