Off The Shore of Galveston

May 25, 2010
The water was about as clear as it could get and the shell speckled sand stretched behind me for about twenty feet, until the commanding sea wall forced it to halt. I could hear kids laughing as they jumped around in the surf and made sandcastles out of the mud-colored, Galveston sand. Teenage girls took naps and surrendered their bodies to the sun’s golden rays while their guy friends engaged in intense games of beach football. Seagulls flew high overhead, squawking to each other as waves tumbled onto the shore. Every now and then, a foghorn would sound from one of the barges out at sea, its deep bass completing the symphony of life on the beach.

I lay on my stomach with an ear bud in my left ear, gazing out at the open ocean through the high-power mini binoculars Daddy bought me for my fourteenth birthday. I could see pretty far out, but water is water and I didn’t need the binoculars to see that the water was dark green. But there was something fascinating about the ocean that made me want to look farther. What wonders lie just beneath the surface, waiting to be seen? I didn’t know many facts, but I liked to imagine what that mysterious world could be like.

The scene would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the barges, dotted across the horizon like ugly bugs on an otherwise spotless window. I zoomed in on one to get a closer look at one. As far as I could tell, it was about a hundred feet long and thirty feet wide, with numerous crates piled on top of one another. There was a man on deck, shouting orders at a crew. I could see crewmen hurrying about, checking ropes and inspecting crates and doing other things one would conventionally do on a barge.

I noticed some ruckus up near the front (bow?) of the barge. A couple men appeared to be fighting over something, but on closer inspection, I saw they weren’t fighting one another; they were struggling with something they carried between them. Suddenly, one of the men doubled over and something jumped from between them and fled across the deck. It took me a full second to realize that it was a girl. She was hardly recognizable as a woman! Her clothes were grimy and frayed, her hair was disheveled, and her face and arms were smeared with dirt. The men immediately ran after her as she hastily wove her way between stacks of crates and startled crewmen. After a minute or two, I lost sight of her and her pursuers, and wondered if they caught her again.

“Time to leave, hon, it’s getting dark,” my mother said. “What do you say we walk down the sea-wall to that little Cajun joint for dinner?”

“Oh, um, sure,” I replied, too preoccupied with trying to find the girl to really pay attention to my mom. “Uhh… in a minute,” I mumbled. I frantically scanned the deck with my binoculars to see if the girl had reappeared anywhere. I had lost sight of her a while ago, and I still hadn’t found her again.

“No, let’s go. It’s getting cold out here,” she said impatiently.

I reluctantly put my binoculars down, upset that I hadn’t found the girl again. I looked around and realized that almost all the beach-goers had left already. The sun was sinking and a chilly breeze swept across the wet sand where we were. I shivered as I helped my mom and dad pack up our snacks and shake off our blankets. I soon forgot about the girl I had seen on the barge.

We ate dinner at this fabulous, family-owned, Cajun café and arrived back at our hotel still groaning contentedly about our full stomachs. As I waited my turn to take a shower, I flipped through the hotel’s cable channels trying to find something worth watching. Nothing good was on, so I backtracked and found the news. Even though I wasn’t very interested, I turned up the volume so I could hear it over the shower’s rushing water. The stock market improved ever so slightly… weather for tomorrow is supposed to be sunny… a cold front’s going to blow through this weekend…

“Shannon, I’m done! Get your stuff ready!” Madre called from the bathroom. “Coming!” I called back. I threw the remote at Dad and headed to the bathroom to take a steaming hot shower. If I had stayed in the bedroom and watched the news a little longer, I would have seen a report about a missing woman whose body was found in the ocean a few miles from here, only about an hour ago. But I didn’t, and the woman I saw on the barge was the farthest thing from my mind as the steaming hot water ran down my face, and spring break finally set in.





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