“Fort Awsome,” the sign read. In all actuality, it wasn’t a “fort” and “awsome” was spelled wrong. Both were mortal sins in her book and she felt no remorse in ripping the shoddily made wooden plaque off the rickety beach shelter, placing it in the garbage bag she carried.
Virginia was a creature of habit. Every Sunday without fail she walked to the local coffee shop near the harbor and read the newspaper over a pot of black tea. Then she walked the two mile stretch of beach, picking up litter and washed-up trash with her gloved hands.
She seemed trite and cold to all she encountered but had a vivid imagination that she shared with no one. She wondered at the odd bits and pieces that she found, conjuring tales in her mind that eventually would become additions to her stacks of journals holding unpublished short stories. Today’s haul included the usual items, which always elicited the same questions muttered under her breath as she picked them out of the sand.
Cigarette butts: “Why would anyone waste money on these damn cancer sticks?” Yet they evoked characters with deep, throaty voices sharing smokes off the deck of a fishing vessel far away at sea.
Condoms: “What kind of moron can’t dispose of his bodily fluids properly?” She’d created dozens of erotic stories of lovers sharing their bodies on white beaches under starry night skies.
Fast food wrappers: “You fill your body with garbage and wonder why you’re fat and lethargic?” Fun scenes of children and parents sharing fries and a milkshake or a simple teenage first date came from these styrofoam products.
Plastic in all forms: “What’s wrong with wood and metal and things built to last a lifetime?” A water bottle held life’s elixir for a man dying of thirst in a desert and discovered by an archeologist on a treasure hunt.
Virginia picked up a glass medicine bottle, noticing something inside. Bottles, broken and whole, were a regular find. This bottle was small, looking much like those holding cough syrup. The label had been torn off, leaving a gummy remnant on the surface. She twisted off the childproof cap, tapping the bottom to withdraw the note.
“Hi. If you are reading this please say a prayer for my Mama. She is sick and I am skared. I bilt a fort for her but she said she can’t walk to the beach anymore. She is the awsomist person I know and I love her. Thanks.”
The bottle hadn’t made it farther than a few yards down the beach. Virginia walked back to the little structure and peeked inside. Soft, dried grasses covered the sand and seashells adorned the propped-up pieces of driftwood. She sat down and thought about the child and her mother, wishing she could help. So she prayed.
Outside, she pulled the sign out of her garbage bag and wiped it off. Carefully, she placed it back above the opening adding a teeny little “e” to correctly identify the shelter as indeed “awesome.”
Written for To Live & Write in Alameda’s October Flash Fiction Challenge #7, “Fort Awsome.” We had three days to write a 500 word short story and share with our group.
If you have a writer’s soul and live in Alameda, please join our group! No experience necessary … members range from those who dream of writing the Great American Novel to published authors. No dues, many free daily/weekly meet-ups, reasonably priced workshops and focus groups and retreats, and tons of encouragement and support.
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