Preferring a hike through the mountains Penny finds a smile through
gritted teeth and makes a promise to at least try. This lasts
approximately twelve minutes. It’s 38 degrees and the sand is hotter
than Hades. She’s semi-naked and expected to relax whilst setting up
base camp amongst throngs of beachgoers. She swats away three march
flies after being stung by one of them, and feels a welt developing. She
applies sunscreen to Oscar and Daisy, who squirm and carry on so by the
time she applies her own, it also acts as an exfoliant. Paul’s already
in the water. Breathing, not drowning, thinks Penny.
Penny dips her toes in the water once, before slimy seaweed wraps around
her ankles and she’s out hopping and squealing. She spends the remainder
of the day, on the beach, with a book open on her lap accumulating sand
in the margins of the same two pages, watching for heads to pop up after
a wave, reapplying sunscreen, handing out sandwiches, biscuits, pieces
of fruit, and drinks. I am nothing more than a vending machine, she
She washes away sand flicked into Oscar’s eyes and suggests Daisy
cartwheel near the water’s edge. Daisy begins collecting beach treasures
and Penny keeps an inventory. 1 Limpet, 1 Port Jackson Shark egg casing,
1 cuttlebone and some Neptune’s necklace. Great, I now wear the
delicate perfume of dead fish, thinks Penny.
Penny agrees to bury Daisy’s legs to become a mermaid and drapes her
with seaweed for effect. This occupies Daisy for five minutes. Daisy
then begins choreographing a dance to her favourite pop song. Shit, the
kid’s twerking, thinks Penny. She looks at her book but instead spies
two stray pubes poking out her bather bottoms.
Paul continues to man the intertidal beach area, standing in the water
to his shins, arms folded, watchful. But Penny doesn’t trust him when
the children are in the water. His eyes wander, playing tennis with
bikini clad women. You’re a fucking perv, thinks Penny.
She helps Oscar look for the perfect shell to top his sand castle, and
watches as Daisy snaffles it. She settles the dispute by finding
another. She races with Oscar to the carpark toilets, not once but three
times, throughout the afternoon. You need to hear the story of the boy
who cried wolf, she thinks.
Penny manages to take a reel of photos, children playing in the waves,
the sandcastle, the mermaid, the back of Paul, the beach collections, of
everyone but herself. Am I even here, she thinks. She calculates
another possible seven beach days before the school holiday’s end and
considers digging a very big hole.