Waves—cold, wet and foamy—crashed near the old man with matted hair as he spoke of Anna to no one in particular. The sandpipers ate from his rough, weathered hands. He stroked their shiny necks as no one else could do. And he babbled words that no one understood. Contrary to what spectators thought, he was not intoxicated with wine. He had been a fixture on the beach forever, it seemed. Just as the winds, the sands, and the grasses were part of the landscape, he was part of it, too. His lined face and faded gray eyes constantly questioned each passerby: Where is Anna? Where is Anna?
No one answered him. No one gave the time of day to the old man resting on the sand. No one listened to him, talked to him or even smiled at him. But Anna had, and more; she had loved him like no other woman he’d known.
Anna had loved him in good faith, holding nothing back, asking for nothing in return. He owed her so much. But she had slipped away from him suddenly one night when he had no chance to call her name.
He called her name now as he sat beside the moving waters of the Gulf and wrote in the sand—letters of love. Letters that explained life and made sense to those who understood the language of loneliness.
Black clouds collected above the horizon and the beachcombers gathered their belongings in preparation for abandoning the beach until tomorrow.
Another wave crashed and sandpipers flapped into the sky, spreading messages across the blue. Messages to Anna.
He was not there on Tuesday. A cold, calm, sunny Tuesday. Not even the sandpipers came to feed. But briefly, before sundown, a dark-haired woman came and danced on the sand. And as the wind rose, slowly caressing the tall grasses, a deep voice called out, “Anna?”
“Oh, Claude. My Claude!” The dark-haired woman’s voice lifted like the soft wings of sea birds.
The wind stilled and the sandpipers cried into the dark night as two hands clasped, ending a long separation.
About the Author
Freeda Baker Nichols grew up on Banner Mountain, in Van Buren County, Arkansas. She and her husband reside in the Foothills of the Ozarks. She is mother of four grown children, and grandmother of seven, and great-grandmother to one.
An award-winning and published poet, she’s a member of Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas and author of two children’s books. Her fiction has won awards. Calliope published her short story in the Spring 2008 issue. She’s completed a novel, which will be announced soon.
Freeda enjoys spending time with her family. She also likes participating in a critique group, the Central Arkansas Writers. “Writing,” she says, “is my destiny. And I love it!”
Copyright © 2009 Freeda Baker Nichols
First appeared in Spring, 2009 issue, Calliope
a Workshop by mail.