From the creative commons, for non-commercial use, posted by Ashelia
The above picture was posted on The Elephant Words website under the title "Mother and Child at Sunset" and inspired me to write the following:
He didn’t like it. Just like his mother before him, he didn’t like it one tiny little bit. In fact he woke up in the middle of the night, calling out, insistently:
“Mummy, Mummy – they’re in my bed. They’re wriggling and squirming.”
The mother got out of bed, yawned and in a resigned way, pulled her dressing gown on. She knew that she’d have a disturbed night, even before she’d gone to bed. It had been a gloriously sunny day, the day before, and her husband said that they should spend it at the beach – so the reaction from her boy was to be expected. A long, hot day at the beach and ever was it thus.
But it had been a good day. It had started early and ended late. They’d found a quiet spot on a beach that was really only ever visited by locals ... not like the main beaches which were swarmed upon by the hoarding masses of tourists displaying their bright white bodies with patches of lobster red sunburn in too little inappropriate clothing. This was a beach frequented by seaside dwelling people who knew about keeping covered up and who liberally rubbed SPF30 into their sensibly tanned skins. These were the people who although didn’t know one another, were at least familiar with each other as they came to that same beach year after year. It was a beach that had, she thought, a sense of community. Children who’d seen each other the year before made bee-lines for each other this year and resumed their sandcastle building where they’d left off. This was a beach where you could catch the eye of someone sitting not too far away and nod and point at one’s towels knowing that they would be watched over whilst one went to the loo or to buy an ice-cream or to swim in the sea.
They were keen on swimming – all three of them. The husband was a strong swimmer – the type of swimmer who could frighten other swimmers by diving into a pool, only to emerge after having spent two whole lengths under water. The mother could swim slowly but for quite a long time – it was nothing for her to swim 20 lengths and the boy had taken to the water from a very young age and was, now that he was growing up, quite a competent little swimmer. They all loved the pool; they all liked the beach but only the husband loved the sea.
The mother was determined that her boy would know how to stay safe in the water and had taken him for swimming lessons from when he was really very young. And they’d been to the beach from the time he was one year old. She used to leave it to her husband to wade, waist deep into the water while she watched his strong arms envelop the happily squealing boy as he’d carry him into the cold sea. And they’d come back out of the sea where she’d been waiting with two huge dry towels to wrap them up in and rub the salty water off them.
And they did - but her insides churned and she had to get a grip on herself or she’d have happily run back to their car. She didn’t show any signs to her boy of how she felt. And before much more could be thought, they were at the water’s edge and the assault on her feet began. The tide came in and as the under swell caught her feet, they were there – wriggling and squirming and making her feel that the earth was moving away from her and leaving her behind. And she felt faint but she didn’t let it show nor did she look at the grimacing boy standing next to her.
She was busy remembering her futile efforts at consoling a much younger crying boy whose little feet had also been at the water’s edge and whom she had held whilst he stood in the wobbly way that belongs to toddlers when they stand.
She knew that although she’d hidden her revulsion so well, her boy had discovered his very own.
So when her sleep was disturbed, she wasn’t altogether surprised. She’d gone past the age when she used to dream of the toe worms but she remembered the dream very well indeed. And even if she’d have forgotten it, it would be seasonally bought back to her, when her now much more grown-up boy cried out on summer nights after long days - like yesterday - at the beach,
“Mummy, Mummy, they’re here”.