Is It True? by J. L., Clyde, NY
Once a little girl and her family went to the beach. They had packed a picnic lunch, and planned to stay the whole day, they spread a blanket out under a green palm tree, and the parents sent the little girl and her brother to swim in the water. The two children bobbed and splashed in the clear water. The boy tried to catch as much seaweed as he could. The girl kept squealing that a fish had touched her leg. Then the parents called them out of the water to eat. They came out cold, wet, red and extremely happy.
After the food had been eaten, the children wanted to go back in the water, but their mother said they must wait an hour. To make the time go more quickly, their father told them a story about all kinds of mythical beasts, in a far off kingdom. When he finished, the girl looked up at him with shining eyes, and said, "Dad, were there ever really unicorns?"
f f f f
Many, many years later, after the girl had grown up, another car rolled down the pitted road toward the beach. It stopped on the gray sand, and four people got out. There was a man, a woman, a girl, and a boy. The woman was the girl from so long ago. The man was her husband and the children were her own. They did not want to take off their shoes and walk barefoot. The sand was cold and dead, and there was glass and needles in it. They walked to their palm tree and spread a blanket. The woman looked around.
The tree that they were under was the only one left on the beach. Its dead leaves seemed to be begging the sky to save it from this terrible punishment. It wouldn't be long. A greenish-brown trickle of sludge ran down the beach to the water. As she watched, a smaller trickle broke off from the first one, and wound its way down. On the way it found a starfish. It engulfed the starfish and a few seconds later the starfish was no more. She warned the children away from the disgusting water, then set out the food. After they had eaten, the children begged their mother for a story, and she obliged. When she finished her story, the girl took her hand. They turned their back on the sad scene of the beach, and as they walked, hand in hand, the girl turned her eyes toward her mother and said, "Were there really ... Mom? Were there really dolphins?"
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.