The low, front wall of a squall line rolled in above the rumbling surf. It picked up sand, flipped shells, sent small crabs skittering. Volleys of heavy rain ripped out of the sky. They pattered the room’s sliding glass door in sheets of sideways pellets. The Boy stood behind it, listening to wind whistle through the insulated seams.
Some few things, the Boy knew, he could control, or at least affect. Most, he knew, he could not. Life was like that most times. Weak choices led to harder consequences. Above all, he hated to let people down. The endless worry made his head spin, but there was only so much he could do.
“Do what you can,” he could hear the Old Man say. “Be up front about the rest.”
One thing experience had taught him for certain: nothing lasts forever, neither bad nor good. Some times were great for remembering, for enjoying. Others could be dealt with and overcome in their turn. What the remainder left was best set free, allowed to wash away.
On the beach below, he and his little girl had spent a morning building sandcastles. He’d smiled as she filled buckets with sand damp from the sea, picked up bits of sand dollar and cheerful, curling shells for decoration, dug a moat and smoothed paths among and between.
They’d spent hours alternating between ocean and pool, splashing there, building here, entertaining themselves with a shared imagination that painted monochromatic walls with rainbows of wonder. They’d constructed lives of the tiny people who dwelt there, filled in outlines of their days with magical melodies of whimsy.
Above, birds of black and white floated through a tropical breeze that hinted of dark clouds building far offshore. Now, indoors, the steady hum and welcome lift of robust air conditioning cooled skin colored by the sun. On soft pillows and crisp, clean sheets, the little girl slept soundly, resting the way only innocent creatures know. Old dogs and small children could always flop down and slumber, he thought, untroubled by demands they could not meet.
Outside the storm would pass, leaving behind a cooler, cleaner world. The dunes, thick with sea oats, would keep the big waves back. The palm and banana trees, whose limbs quivered inland now, would ride it out just fine, and the surf would erase the morning’s efforts. It would wash away the creations born of youthful imagination, but it would not touch the heart and mind that slept on, peacefully abed high inside.
Some expectations are simple. They demand, at the same time, both very little and all we can give. That he would be there for her, be present, be engaged, to laugh and smile and offer an encouraging hug, that was all the child really wanted. It was so very little. Also, it was everything.
What would become of missteps born of shortsighted ambition? They would disappear, he knew, either soon or late. The storm would blow and pass. Rain would fall and drain away. Eventually, the bright sunshine would return. The sun was still up there, they both knew, up above the clouds and rain, same as it ever was. They only needed to weather the weather, bowing to the need to hold on a while, waiting for it to pass.