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he has been there for so long that the girl sometimes wonders if he is part of the beach, if the seaweed and shells fuse themselves to his ankles at night and grow over his browned legs like ivy. he is always still, so still, eyes focused on something distant in the waves that the girl can't quite see, though she tries. the man has a face like a creased paper bag and she finds herself wishing that she could see inside his head.

she watches him all day from the corner of her eye but no one ever joins him in his vigil. he is alone in casting shadows that grow longer and longer as the sun sets. the girl wonders what it is like to be so alone and decides she'd rather be lonely on the beach than spend all her time with people, particularly the people she knows who seem to be full of incessant questions and sharp elbows.

the man is waiting, and so instinctively she waits too.


the girl is the only one to see him cut his palm wide open on a shell. she watches the red droplets fall heavily onto the sand beneath his chair and feels sick without really knowing why.

"are you okay?" she asks tentatively. he jumps at her sudden appearance, clutching his hand protectively to his chest.

"i'm fine," he says. "it's just a little cut."

"you should rinse it off in the water."

he pulls his hand closer to his chest. "no, no. i'm fine, really. i don't ever go into the water, i'd rather just look at it."

"can i look too?" she asks, and he wipes his hand on his shorts and nods. they stare at the ocean together, though the girl is too shy to ask what they are looking for. when the the day grows too hot she slides into the water, rinsing away the sun. the man doesn't move a muscle and is still sitting patiently when she returns.

"why won't you go into the water?"

"sharks," he says seriously, squinting his eyes to look up at her. "and whales. there are all kinds of wee sea beasties that want to swallow me whole and spit out my bones."

the girl frowns. his words sound like a ghost story her mother might tell, and it makes her wonder about the man's family. he looks like he could be a grandfather--his hair is greying and the lines around his eyes look like scars. for a brief second she imagines that her own grandfather didn't die before she was born, that instead he went into hiding by the sea, waiting for the day she'd come and find him. maybe this man is her grandfather.

"you're afraid," she says. warm saltwater drips down her ankle and it feels uncomfortably like blood.

"yes. i'm afraid."

no, there is no time for trumpet-blaring, angel-singing fantasies about lost grandfathers. this man is weak. her grandfather would have loved the ocean like she does. he would have held her hand through every wave.


he isn't her grandfather but she wishes that he were.

"what do you do?" she asks the man offhandedly, stabbing at the sand's crust with a stick she found. he watches her for awhile before he answers.

"i'm a waiter."

"like at a restaurant?"

"no. i mean that i just wait out here on the beach."

"oh," she says. "i see." but she doesn't see, not really.

"and what are you?" he asks politely.

"i'm nothing."

"everyone is something. isn't there anything that you like to do?"

she can feel his eyes on her, expectant and honest, and her cheeks flush red in response. "i play soccer but i don't really like it. i've never scored a goal in my life. and i guess sometimes i try to write stories--but it's stupid really."

"a writer?" the man nods. "you look like a writer."

"but i'm not. i can't. the words, stories, they're in my head but when i try to write them down they just, they just, i...i don't  know. i don't want people to laugh at me."

"you should write me a story," the man says, "i won't laugh." the girl forces a smile but her heart drops, bumping every rib as it falls into her stomach. she can't write him a story, even if he won't laugh. there is nothing she can tell him that will be good enough.

but now is not the time for worrying. the man is growing tired with the conversation; his eyes are half-mast against the last stubborn rays of evening sun.

"i'm leaving," she tells him. the girl does not expect the man to answer her--and he doesn't. she avoids glancing at his face as she gets clumsily to her feet and uses the stick to carve her name into the sand before them, each letter painstaking and jagged.

"i'm not a writer," she says defiantly, unsure of whether she is trying to convince herself or the man who sits before her, a statue on the beach, a waiter by the waves.


it becomes like a game to her, waking up earlier and earlier each day to see if the man will be there. it's almost too easy to slip out of her room, to walk down to the beach while the sky is still dark and the ocean heaves before her like some sort of dark, panting beast. he is always there though, no matter how early she comes.  

as the girl walks to the man's chair, she finds herself idly pondering stupid questions. when does he eat? does he ever use the bathroom? she opens her mouth to ask him these things but accidentally asks something else.

"do you have a wife?"

the man looks up at her and his paper bag face collapses before quickly composing itself.

"yes," he says carefully, shifting in his seat. the girl watches the man press furrows into the sand with his feet and considers the white, wiry hair on his arms. there is a story in him, she can feel it. it crawls and frets beneath the surface of his skin. the girl knows that it is wrong to press him but she can't stop herself.

"is that who you're waiting for?" she asks, "your wife?" she immediately wants to kick herself for her intrusion, but it's too late. the words float in the air between them, glittering and shaking, impossible to ignore.

"sometimes," he says, and his face slowly breaks into a half-smile. "but right now i'm just waiting for your story."

"no," she tells him. "no stories." he opens his mouth to respond but her body is already moving. the girl's legs take her to where the waves lash against the sand and she dives beneath them, swimming out, out, out to where the ocean floor slopes away and the man and his honest eyes cannot follow her.


she meets him at his chair the next day, refreshed and full of purpose. "come to the water," she begs. "just to the edge." he shakes his head no but she can see his muscles twitching with the promise of movement. "just to the edge, i mean it."

as he stands his bones and joints creak and pop; he is a robot covered in sand from the knees down and she is a water nymph dancing before him, a siren calling him into the rolling sheets of water. he stands with her in the shallows, letting the ocean break against his shins.

"i'm sinking," he says, staring down at his feet. he sounds surprised.

"yes, when the waves leave they take the sand with them." the man nods and watches the beach disappear from underneath him, quietly letting the ocean swallow him inch by inch.

"you don't need to be afraid anymore. it's not so bad, now is it?"

"no, it's not so bad."

she feels unnecessarily proud of him standing there, proud of his pale, vulnerable feet and sun-reddened nose. the feeling overwhelms her from the inside out and makes her brave. "maybe i could try writing you a story," she offers. "and i could read it to you while you wait for your wife. so you won't be so lonely."

"maybe," he says, and the water grasps at his legs with hungry fingers.


it's barely five o' clock in the morning and the beach is far too empty. the chair is gone. the man is gone. the only thing she sees is a pair of footprints that lead to the water and abruptly disappear. she puts her own feet into the indentations and wonders when her life became defined by fear. where is he? are the footprints his?

does it even really matter?

her life is not a novel. if it were, the man might rise now from the foam like some sort of roman god and stand before her, casting off seaweed. or maybe he'd appear from behind the dunes, simultaneously laughing and sputtering apologies for having frightened her. but no, no. she can instinctively tell that there is no clear-cut beginning, middle, or end in sight. no dramatic climax. just the sound of sea gulls and tidewater as the waves lap away the footprints, erasing the evidence than anyone ever stood there before her.

she waits for him.

when the footprints are gone she takes a stick and begins writing a story into the sand, letting the cold water eat away at her finished words:

"he had been there for so long that the girl sometimes wondered if he was part of the beach, if the seaweed and shells fused themselves to his ankles at night and grew over his browned legs like ivy--"
i wanted to call this "the old man and the sea" but hemingway got there first.

what are you so afraid of?
Add a Comment:
Bros-Key Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I am afraid of being nothing.
NaughtyEvilcom Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2013
Very Nice!
yraahov Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2012
i love your stories..
Kaeldra-1 Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2012
I am in love with your writing. :)
adxlynn Featured By Owner May 4, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
What a great story!
estallidos Featured By Owner May 5, 2012  Professional Writer
adxlynn Featured By Owner May 5, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
your welcome:)
kryzteenah Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Dayum, I wish I could write like this. This is seriously amazing :heart:
estallidos Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012  Professional Writer
thank you for both the kind words AND the favorite :)

and hey, it might be cheesy but i consider writing like a muscle. work it out regulary and it can take your further!
kryzteenah Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
That's exactly what I'm trying to do haha! Me and my friend are collaborating on a novel at the moment :P
estallidos Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012  Professional Writer
ah cool!

i've thought about doing some kind of collaboration project but i think i'm far too selfish and bossy, haha. i'd want it all done myyyyyywayyyyyy. how do you manage that?

or maybe you are nothing like me and it's easy to do? heh.
kryzteenah Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
We only just started. She's written a lot more than me in her lifetime (:P) and so while I've written one and half pages, she's gone and written approx. 3 chapters. Whoops haha.
Think I'm gonna need to catch up :P
enamel-hearts Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2011
oh god this is beautiful. this is so, so beautiful. honestly if you wrote this and published it i would buy twelve copies and sit there all day just reading it. even if you don't expand this i would still do it. i will sit on the balcony reading this over and over again when the internet doesn't work and i can't read it online and when the first copy wears out from use i will move on to the second copy, and i will laminate each page because this is just too glorious. thank you for writing this. it's beautiful. you're beautiful. thank you thank you thank you.
estallidos Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012  Professional Writer
i guess i need to find a way to get this published somewhere so that i can hold you to your word and you can backpedal frantically!

enamel-hearts Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012
yes. you really, really do. xD
SimoneTutti Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2011  Hobbyist Artist
Damn Hemingway ;) I love all your work but this is exceptionally beautiful. I'm afraid of never beginning my life. I'm afraid of losing another baby. I'm afraid my family will never get along and will always put their bitterness before their love. What are you so afraid of?
estallidos Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012  Professional Writer
this comment is really late, but i just wanted to extend my sincere condolences about your lost baby.
SimoneTutti Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
Wow thank you so much. Your writing has been wonderful for me through some of the painful times. I love the melancholy of it. It's oddly cathartic. I have been extremely fortunate to have a healthy baby girl since my loss and we are all well now :)
laapdance Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Girl, please, stop being such a big inspiration.

I want to paint everything you write. I want to make music out of every one of your writings.

I wish I could make films out of them.

Too bad Im not talented enough : )
estallidos Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011  Professional Writer
i would kill to see any and all of those things.
laapdance Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, i will most likely draw something related to it, so if you want me to I'll let you know
zigzagzero Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2011
Growing up. I'm afraid of growing up.
Forgottenangel777 Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2011
EsotericHeart Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2011
oh yes. this was perfectly lovely.
i wonder where he is now?
TwistedAlyx Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
This was a delightful read.
enamel-hearts Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2011
oh god, i really want to leave you a good long comment but i'll just botch that up~ all i can say is this is beautiful and slightly heartbreaking and thank you thank you thank you for posting this. ^^
Captianareyoudrunk Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2011   Photographer
I've read your other stories but this one is by far the best one yet the best story I've read in a long timme, don't ever stop writing, don't ever deprive the word of your magical words :)
ILikeSkarfs Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2011
wow... its kinda like a story that never ends~!
urban-lingo Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
i'm worried im just trying to do things but that all id do is fail.
gracelette Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2011
i wish i had a wonderful, detailed, well thought out comment to add to here, to properly do justice to your writing.

but i don't.
from-ashes-to-asher Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2011  Student Interface Designer
life is anticlimactic. suppose we're all afraid of realizing that.
ragged-ashes Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I am afraid of days that end before I begin them.
LupeSjiler Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2011
I would like to make a intelligent sounding comment, but the only thing that comes to mind is "Oh. My. God." and when I dig deeper it kinda continues with "whoa" and things like "I love it" and "its beautiful", but I think you hear that all the time. Still, I wanted to let you know exactly how much I love your stories and I kinda envy your ability to write. I've been writing for ten years now, but I don't have written anything that can even hold a candle to this. Just ... whoa.
PaperBoatDreams Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
I'm afraid that all those times they told me with faces full of encouragement that what I wrote was "really good", they were just saying it because as everyone knows the people that read and tell the author "wow that really sucked" are too few. That is why the people who are told "wow that really sucked" and use that to propel their writing forward, are even fewer.

I fear failure.
Crystal-Starz Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
i really liked this, and to answer your question, i'm afraid of the dark and of loneliness.
cellcraft Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2011  Student Writer
This is completely and utterly beautiful.
almcdermid Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
How about "another old man and the sea" :)

I really like the last section (especially, 'if it were . . . '), which of course would be meaningless without all the rest. I like how she is and isn't fulfilling a promise, and how she's doing it in the sand.
englandrain Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
I'm afraid of getting in the water. I haven't been swimming in forever; I'm afraid I'll drown or the pressure from the water will crush my lungs. I like the rain, though. It feels nice having droplets splash again my skin.
kokutan-tenshi Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2011  Student General Artist
Even with so much going on around me at home, this sucked me in one-hundred percent. I almost felt the water on my feet again.

Thank you.
upside-round Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2011
This is the type of story that beginnings are made. That make a person want to try new things, to find themselves and their own adventure.
Thank you for writing it.
Linney69 Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
i like this because i was once in a midst of writing a story about a girl and an old beggar by the street.
Linney69 Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
i like this because i was once in a midst of writing a story about a girl and an old beggar by the street.
seabats Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2011
;_; this is amazing omg
WSLaFleur Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Kelsey, i wish you would write a story about your name for me someday. this story made me want to cry.
guagna Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2011  Student Writer
beautiful. as always. every word rings true and draws the reader in. i love the ending, especially the realization that life is not a novel.

and your author's note made me smile :)

ipunchbabies Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2011
This is beautiful. You are beautiful. All my secrets hold my fears. I'll keep them close to me.
0freak Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
i like it
kind of tickles my mind
really like it
FloweringRebel89 Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2011  Student General Artist
I really love this piece. I always seem to love every single word you write on a page. Your writing is gorgeous and the emotions always, always speak to me and inspire me. I love it when I check deviantart and there's some of your writing here waiting for me. Thank you for writing and I hope I get your book for my twentieth birthday in July. You inspire me.
Doreda-Lorinda Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2011
that's. wonderful.
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