Laurel walked on the beach every morning of her life. She enjoyed the early morning stillness, and the way light began to make its presence felt, first in the way the sky began to gray, and then the way the slowly lightening heavens reflected off of the ocean and wet sand. She relished the shrill cries of the birds, as they circled and dived, trying to snag a delicacy from the surf. She loved the salty air, and the smell of the seaweed, as it lay strewn out along the waterline.
Every morning that she walked, Laurel expected to find something unique. She just had this ongoing feeling that sometime, somewhere on a beach, she was going to make an astonishing discovery. She never felt it was going to lead to her making a lot of money. No, it was not going to be that kind of discovery, but as she walked along each morning, that thought ran through her mind.
She was working as a counselor in the public middle school located within five minutes’ walk of the ocean, here in a small NorCal seaside community. Her job was tenuous at best, and hanging by a thread even as she walked this particular May morning. Next year was going to see some changes in the tiny district, and even though she wore many hats, including several that allowed her administrator to enjoy the benefits of a vice-principal, there were not enough hats left to go around, to keep her on full-time in the district.
She had been involved with one guy for a four-year span, from junior year in high school, through sophomore year in college, long enough to see him change from party animal, to flirting-with-alcoholism, to the full-blown item, and was cautious when dating, to look for telltale signs of someone who seems to rely a little too handily on the libation of the gods. She had no intention of hooking up with anyone who had to attend meetings, in order to survive the experience called life. She didn’t mind a little reefer, because she never saw a kid get beaten by a stoned parent, and she never woke up the next morning with a hangover, after having a joint of some top shelf O.G Kush.
She wasn’t likely to find any O.G. Kush on this beach. She’d once found a backpack, with a whole assortment of books, school implements and personal items, but nothing of any value. Maybe she would find a purse, or a wallet, but then, who carries around either at the beach? You leave that stuff behind, or tuck the essentials in a fanny pack, if you absolutely must. No, she meant to be more creative than that. She meant to find something that would make a lasting impact.
And she found it that very day, as she approached the pier, the water rising and falling, as the swells followed one after another, past the pillars, and on along to the point, visible in the early morning light. Also visible, possibly because it was clad in white, was an object of some substance immediately to her left, at the base of the columns, where the water washed away, leaving the sand alone, behind. The shape began to take on form and substance, until she realized that she was focused in on a pale foot, with the white cloth billowing around the ankle like a shroud. She had found a corpse.
Stifling the impulse to scream, like the middle schoolers she supervised each day, she glanced up at the pier, out over the water, at the line-up of people fishing and put her fingers to her lips and whistled.
It took no time to get a phone call in to the local sheriff’s office, to send an officer to the pier.
After all the hoopla had died down, and that nice Officer O’Malley had taken all of the pertinent information, and had checked back with Laurel several times to make sure that she was OK, he ended up asking Laurel out for coffee. All this took place a year ago May, and they are being married tomorrow.
Laurel was right; she did find something unique on the beach one morning, but there is nothing dead about Tommy O’Malley.