The sun began to rise, a golden hue of lush light shone on the sand. Frank Miller enjoyed these mornings more than anything. He sat on the rock which he always did, and soaked in the view. The water reflected the sun’s rays in it’s own shimmering, awe inspiring way. Every small wave in the surf reflected a bright, flashing tone, similar to a camera’s flash bulb. The stones and shells speckled the beach like calcified freckles, all the way down to the transition of muddy flat.
As he sat admiring this wonderful display which nature was putting forth right in front of his eyes, his mind wandered. It wandered back to a time when he was able to enjoy simple pleasures in life, such as this, with his late wife. At sixty-eight years of age, his main goal in life, now, was to keep his mind occupied. He had quite a few ways in which to do so, but shell fishing was, by far, his favorite.
Today Frank was digging quahogs. Quahogs occupied his time the most, for a few reasons. One reason was that he was very selective of the size he wanted, so it took a lot of time, and a lot of walking to complete the task. Another reason was that he had numerous culinary options with them. He could make stuffed quahogs, which everyone enjoyed, and took the better part of a day to make. He could make his locally famous clam chowder, which was far less taxing to prepare. He also made a great clams casino on the grill with them. And, of course, good old fashioned raw cherry stones.
Frank resided in a fifty-five and over neighborhood community. He very much enjoyed sharing what he made with his friends and neighbors. They also enjoyed having him share with them. Once a month they had a pot luck get together in the community center. Frank was preparing for tomorrow evening’s get together, stuffed quahogs, and chowder were to be his contribution. Today, the basket must be filled, and he was quite happy with that.
Frank hopped off of the rock, and grabbed his basket and rake. He donned breathable chest waders, and comfortable wading shoes. Most guys sported heavy rubber hip boots, but, Frank far preferred comfort. He strode towards the flats, wading through the soft sand, the sound of shells crunching under his soles. A gentle sea breeze softly caressed his face. The odors of the sea permeated his nostrils, filling his senses with the complex mixture of smells.
It was a cool morning at forty-eight degrees, but the sun warmed his face and body. The more he walked, the warmer he became inside his green and black patterned flannel jacket. Frank dug quahogs by sight, unlike most of the others that either raked randomly, or felt for them in the water. He never understood these other methods, but, to each his own. They were showing very well this morning, it was clear that this would not take very long before the basket was heaping full.
As Frank dug quahog after quahog, he noticed that no one else was digging this morning. He was happy as hell to have the section of beach all to himself. He continued along the flat, sighting for the small marks in the mud that gave away the quahogs location. He froze, did someone just call his name? He looked around, the beach and flats still totally empty. He shrugged his shoulders and continued on. The basket was now full, he could not fit another in sideways, at least without making the warden suspicious of being over limit. He walked out in to the water to wash his haul, he froze again. He heard his name, or so he thought, again. He glared around quickly, nope, no one here.
He finished up washing the quahogs, while questioning his sanity at the same time. He headed back to the parking lot, the whole time he had the strange, nagging feeling of being watched. Suddenly, the hair stood on the back of his neck, he clearly heard his name. Goosebumps covered his skin, the voice, it was that of his wife, he was sure of it. He froze in place, somewhat unnerved now. He waited for a few minutes, but nothing.
He shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs. He must not have gotten enough sleep last night, that had to be it. He removed his waders, and slipped on his sneakers. After shaking the dried mud and sand from everything, he began to pack everything in to his trunk. Just as he closed the trunk, and started for the drivers door, it happened again.
It was terribly loud this time, only it was not his name, it cried, “help me!” Frank was on the verge of tears, he was now scared, he was clueless as to his next move. His mind raced at a million miles per hour, he acted on instinct and hopped in the car. His hands were shaking, he was having difficulty getting the key inserted in to the ignition. He finally got it in, started the car, and took off like a bolt of lightning.
It took all he had just to maintain his composure enough to manage driving. Nothing has ever happened to him, in his entire life, quite as disturbing as this morning had been. He kept thinking to himself that he had finally begun to lose his mind. Alzheimer’s possibly? Early stage dementia? This had to be able to be explained medically, it had to.
He managed to make it home, somehow. The ride was a forgotten journey, as his mind was so occupied with spastic thoughts. Before he knew it he was sitting at his kitchen table with an open beer in front of him. No matter what he did, what he told himself, he could not stop the swirling confusion that ravaged his brain. It was almost to the point of being more than he could tolerate.
He went to the refrigerator for another beer. Frank has always had an issue with alcohol consumption when facing any sort of anxiety. After his wife died, he battled with a bout of depression, he almost took his own life on more than one occasion. He seemed to always turn to beer as his crutch, and it always seemed to ease the pain. He cracked another, his mind still wandered aimlessly. He grabbed the box, which housed eighteen cans, and plopped it on the table in front of him. Today was different, no matter how many he drained, that old depressed feeling would not subside, even slightly.
A brand new thought squeezed it’s way edgewise in to his mind, and joined the swirling storm. The gun, the .44 in his night stand. He could end this madness, end it all with one squeeze of the trigger. He knew this was the start of something big. Hearing voices was just the beginning, what would be next. Maybe it is brain cancer. He had seen relatives die of the disease, he did not want that for himself.
He pulled himself out of the chair and stumbled to his bedroom. He sat on the bed, and opened the drawer in the oak night stand. Like a siren to a sailor, the cold, black steel sang an enchanted melody. He reached in and simply ran his finger over the barrel, and over the smooth wood grain pistol handle grip. He thought of relief, and nothing else as he gripped the weapon, and lifted it from it’s roost. Using his thumb, he flicked the safety. There was already a round in the chamber, relief was a simple trigger pull away.
He lifted the gun and pointed it to his temple. His finger slowly began to apply pressure to the trigger. Tears began to well, and then break over his lower lids, and trickled down his cheeks. He heard a voice, seemingly, from nowhere.
“Frank, don’t do this. This is not what you want, not what I want.”
A shiver shot down his spine. It was his beloved wife’s voice, yet again. He mustered only a muffled, raspy, barely audible voice. “Linda, is that you baby, is that you?” He sat silently, awaiting a reply.
The reply came shortly after. “Yes Frank, yes, in a way.”
The reply made him, almost involuntarily, lower the pistol, and set it back in the drawer. He hopped up from the bed and began to frantically search the house. He cried, “Linda,” as he desperately searched. He tried over and over to elicit another response, none came. He fell to his knees in the middle of the living room, and sobbed uncontrollably. He had never felt so helpless in all his life. He waited for hours to hear her voice again, but he never did.
Frank did more thinking that night than he ever had. He contemplated every scenario in which he could imagine. Unfortunately, no answers would come to him, at least none that made a shred of sense. He came to the decision that this was something that he had to deal with. He would not deal with it by a bullet in his brain, or going completely psychotic. He would simply accept it, accept it as part of his life which he could not explain. Frank was overcome with exhaustion, and finally drifted off to sleep.
He awoke the next morning, and started fresh. He still had obligations with the food that he promised for that nights get together. He occupied himself for a good portion of the day preparing his specialties. Frank could already feel himself becoming stronger in coping with the situation. It is amazing how the human mind works, he thought.
Frank had a fantastic evening. His stuffed quahogs and chowder made everyone happy. He did not hear any voices that evening, and, eventually, he was even able to forget about everything and relax. After the events that transpired, he deserved it.
He slept like a baby that night. His alarm awoke him before dawn. He was going to the flats today, since he had so many requests for more of his culinary creations. He got out of bed and performed his normal morning rituals, and packed up his car. As he neared the beach, the burning nausea of nerves swirled in his gut. He began to feel hot and tingly, and his extremities moistened with sweat. The airy, light feeling in his head returned, as it always did when he became paranoid. Would he have another experience? This place now conjured up memories of what happened. He began to fear that this would no longer be his sanctuary, no longer his escape from reality.
Frank pulled on his waders and shoes, grabbed his gear, and headed down to his rock to await the outgoing tide. With the tide being a bit later today, it was already light out, no sunrise today. He sat upon the rock and lost himself in the surf. The trickling and splashing sounds caressed his ears. His eyes followed the flashes of light on the breaking waves. Deep inside, deep down inside, Frank had a nagging feeling that this would be the last time he saw this place. A burning in his chest warned him of the tears that were about to form in his eyes.
He could feel a presence, he could not see anything, he was completely alone, but he could feel it. The cold breeze lapped his face with an icy and refreshing feeling. The tide was starting to ebb. Suddenly, a calm peace tingled in his soul. He had no idea what this feeling was, he had never experienced it before. Although it was rather cold, he felt as warm as being under the soft embrace of his bedding on a cold winters night.
Frank closed his eyes while breathing the fresh air in deep. Visions began to play in his mind. It was as if his life was playing on a movie screen in chronological order. His childhood, his school days, his ups and downs, but mostly, his wife. The last years had been extremely difficult without her, barely livable. Vivid images of her danced through his mind’s eye like a beautifully choreographed ballet. He could see himself dancing with her on the beach, he could feel himself doing it. They danced a beautiful duet to the water’s edge. Frank then scooped her up as he did on their wedding day to carry her over the threshold and begin a new life together. They gazed into each other’s eyes, as the dance continued from the edge of the surf, and into the water.
Frank never felt so alive, so free. He never wanted this moment to end, his eyes stayed locked on hers as he continued into deeper water. He squeezed her tight in a locked embrace. He slowly moved his face to hers, and softly kissed her lips. A feeling of warmth and happiness overtook his body. He leaned back, and stared into her eyes once again, this time, it was the last.