by Cama Duke

That summer Jacob and Melissa found it hard to pretend everyone was going to live happily ever after. Each evening at one of the local parks that met her son’s standards, Melissa watched Calvin stare at his canvas, the undulations in the sand, bits of grass, footprints, dirty plastic spoons.

One minute. Two. Three. Such intensity for a little boy who was otherwise full of noise and bounce.

Then he cleared out a two-foot square as level and as pristine as a public sand box could be. He set forth to fill his paper cup, then tip it over to set up row after row, a castle wall, a fortress. He always went through three or four paper cups by the end, but Melissa had a stash tucked into her backpack. 

It was a good way to spend the time they used to spend eating dinner at home, before Jacob started pulling his vanishing act.

“I don’t know why you encourage him,” Jacob said, when she showed him a picture of one of Calvin’s castles at breakfast. She didn’t really need to take more than one picture, since they were all identical, but she did anyway. 

“It’s a talent.” It was one of the better moments for the two of them, and Melissa’s tone was light.

Jacob brushed against her as he looked at the picture again, almost the way he used to when he was about to wrap an arm around her. “Right. This kid will go pro, win the All-Star Paper Cup Castle Tournament. Maybe we should find him a coach.”

She tried to laugh but instead wondered—does talent have to make money to be a talent? 

Jacob stepped away. And kept stepping away the rest of the summer, and through the fall, until a year went by, and then it was just Calvin and Melissa.

After enough strings get cut, a woman realizes she can choose the dreams she is allowed. So Calvin and Melissa moved to the coast.

As soon as they arrived, Melissa took him to see the ocean for the first time. He looked at the endless rushing of the waves with the awe of a small boy. At his feet was soft white sand, mostly free of foot prints. A light sigh moved through him.

He set to work.


Photo by Daiga Ellaby via Unsplash