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The morning sun's rays studded the window with a diamond glare. I blocked it with the palm of my hand as I wiggled my sandy toes into dirty pink flip flops. The waft in the condo was salty and crisp. I closed my eyes and breathed in the heavenly perfume. I slipped on a thin cover-up over my bathing suit. It billowed at my knobby knees and glided relentlessly around my stomach in the fresh breath from the patio. I felt natural and delicate, though my morning was hair bundled atop my head and not an ounce of makeup had touched my face, I felt flawless in the ambience of such a breathtaking littoral morning.
Silently, I opened the parching white front door to the parking lot. The path to our rented family van was paved with rust brick, accenting the green sky high banana trees whose leathery leaves swayed sleepily to the distant lullaby of crashing waves. We climbed in the maroon van, one by one, and strapped our seatbelts with a click. Soon I was reading a withered sign with cracked paint: 'Boat Tours'. We slide the van door open and walked up onto the dock. Our footsteps on the wood boards made a mysterious hollow thumping. Across from us sat the grand sea; A bed of navy resting below the bright sky. The water lapped noisily at barnacled beams and a constant pull and push invaded the quiet ship deck.
We found our tour boat. The sleek lines of the mast rolled down to the front where it edged into a shiny point. Thick ropes held on dearly to the dock to keep it from escaping. The boat's sides moved glittered patterns as it rocked on the water. My sunburnt brothers leaned on their stomachs over the posts of the dock until the heels of their tennis shoes lifted off the ground. The youngest began to ask a question, but his voice was muffled as he doubled back over the side. Then they began to wander aimlessly around, gazing at all the coastal wonders that were far from our home, analyzing each one. Curious and inquisitive, they begin to speculate the depth of the water. Anticipation nibbled at me, but as the oldest as I had to set an example, so I stood still soaking the view in.
My Mother warns my brothers to stand still. They can't take the enduring of anticipation with the boat simply sitting there, waiting to be driven, calling out to them. Questions like, "Where is our captain?", "Why isn't he here?", and, "Where are we going?" are answered countless times before the complaints of itchy toes and heat gets to them. The small boys stick their little legs through the posts into the water for relief. After that loses their attention, they begin to question why the tourists beside us are talking in a different language. Luckily our captain is finally here.
On our way out, my brothers see the pelicans in the trees. Shouts of glee and wonder are executed as they point and hang over the edge to get a better look. You would have thought that through all this question asking and glee yelling their voices would be raspy by now. But nevertheless, they carry on. "Look a shark!" and, "That wasn't a shark!" and, "Oh yes it was!", is the motive conversation. The simplest wave in the water raises them with excitement. A bird in the sky, a boat on the sea- to little boys are all great discoveries. They cling to the boat and squint against the water's glare. "I think we're almost there!" they yell happily. What an adventure this is to them. Riding on a speedboat to an island...to find the coveted treasure trove of sand dollars. Awaiting them is the excitement hidden in each shell they'll pick up.
After looking out in every direction, at every viewpoint of the boat, they come over hot and tired asking for water. Finally they lay down beside me, asking only to be disturbed if there is a shark in the water.
When we reached the island, we all went shell hunting right away. Before long, my big toe hit something thin and strong. I wedged it in between my toes and lifted it out of the water. Out protruded a grayish sand dollar. I smiled and added it to my bag. I knew I already had found more than my little brothers. Inside my plastic bag were five perfect sand dollars, and a slightly chipped one. I felt like a little kid at an Easter egg hunt, and I had already found five golden goose eggs.
Shortly, I joined my brothers. We waded through the shallows on our stomachs, taking handfuls of sand and throwing them into the ocean while discussing who had the best sand dollars. My youngest brother claimed that he had found a pirates sand dollar, because it had an 'X' on it. The sun glistened on his hair, and his cheeks were rosy as he held on tight to his bag as if someone might try to steal his great treasure. The sight made me feel lighter. I was sure I did that when I was little too.
After hours of shell searching, I sat down with my brother. He was staring out at the horizon watching the gulls swoop down into the ocean.
"What are those birds doing?" he asked.
"They're gulls," I informed him. "They're eating some of those big fish we saw."
The little boys' dark eyes widened. "Really?" he asked.
"Yep. Really." I answer.
"But- wouldn't the gull choke?" he inquires, showing me a choked face.
"Nope," I reply.
"How? The fish are so big!" my brother leaned closer.
I squint my eyes against the sun, "I don't know...Just the way God made them."
"You always say that," he said looking away for his bag of shells.
"That's because you always ask questions." was my reply.
Zach suddenly stood up.
"Look! Look what Jared found!" he yelled pointing at my running brother.
"What is it?" I ask, half interested.
"It's a starfish!" he yells incredulously. Zach's eyebrows go up to his hairline.
"A starfish?!" he asks amazed. "Lemme see! Lemme see!" he jumped up to see the discovery in his brother's hand. "Wow! Just like pirate treasure..." Zach whispered.
"Look at this...right there. See those? That's mermaid hair." Jared explains.
"No it's not." Zach says.
"Yeah-huh! Look at it!"
Zach leaned closer. "How do you know?" he asked looking at his older brother.
"Because this is where the mermaids live," he gestured to the ocean.
"Did you see one?"
Jared looked down. "No," he glanced out at sea. "But, I do have proof!" he said putting the starfish back in the water.
"What?" Zach asked. Jared looked at the sunset reflecting on the water.
"See that?" he pointed to the horizon.
"The sun on the ocean." Jared explained.
"Yeah?" Zach looked at Jared. I watched and listened closely.
"That," he announced, "is because of mermaids." Jared walked into the water and Zach followed.
"You see, the mermaids have mirrors because they like to look at themselves because they're pretty, right? So, at sunset they all get out their mirrors and look at themselves because they look good in the sun's light. But then, the sun goes through the water and shines on the mirror and comes back up on the water." Jared said in his most scientific sounding voice.
"No. That's not how it is." Zach walks and sits down beside me. "God does that," he said matter-of-factly looking up at Jared. "God paints it on the water."
"Hmmm," Jared speculates. "Could be...but what does he use for paint?"
Zach's eyebrows went up. "Paint?" he murmured. The little boy pursed his lips together and looked out to sea...