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Shells

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She walked along the shore. Seashells glistened, their luster made of saltwater and sunlight. Though salt and sun can be abrasive and caustic, water and light seem to transform them into peaceful necessities of life. One shell stood out among the scattered, shattered fragments in the sand. She picked it up, turned it in the sunlight, and examined its iridescence. It reminded her of translucent opal, exactly how she imagined the walls of Heaven would look. It was, in her eyes, a very small particle of such a Paradise. She leaned down to wash it in the receding waterline, when suddenly it crumbled in her fingers; its eye-catching beauty turned to coarse powder.


Disappointed by the ruin of her new-found gem, she brushed the sharp powder off her fingers and walked on. Another small, glistening shell caught her eye, but as she leaned down to retrieve it, a wave snatched it from her grip and took it far out to the deep. Now she was more determined than ever to find a replacement for her lost fraction of paradise, the evidence still stinging her hands like shards of broken glass. She began to look further away from the greedy water, which seemed to lazily pulse into the shells and choose the most beautiful victims. But the dry, sandy shells lacked the splendor she desired, so she wandered back to the waterline.


A larger beauty alighted on the sand a few steps ahead. “Certainly, my luck has changed,” she thought, for this time it was the water who lost a beauty that she might reap. Her hand, now jaded with a trace of avarice, hastily seized the gorgeous white abalone. But a sharp edge cut her, and she dropped it into the water. A drop of blood followed close behind. Two successive drips, one of beauty and both of loss, ignited a spark of vexation in her. Suddenly she realized beauty had turned against her.


Her eyes darted from shell to shell, and yet another dared to stand out. This one was heavy, gray, and deformed. She reached down very slowly and picked it up with a gentle hand. Laced with barnacles and algae, it fit pleasingly in her palm. She studied its oddity, stroked it, and turned it over and over, realizing that with every turn it revealed itself over again. She leaned back down to the water, washed it thoughtfully, and brought it back up for a closer look. “Perfect,” she said with a smile. It was, in her eyes, a very small particle of Paradise.




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