The west end of the beach was a picture of chaos framed by the orange of the sinking sun.
Donna watched, curiously detached, ignoring the sand that was creeping into her shorts.
The wind blew her hair into her face, and she reached for the purse she’d never wanted. Mothers’ purses were full of scraps of paper, crayons and trash. She dug through the folds of the imitation leather bag, pushing aside the comb. Her hair would only re-tangle in this wind. She was too much like her own mother, she thought, as she shoved the empty wrapper from a stick of gum into a corner. There it was. A tattered green ribbon lay twisted around a McDonald’s straw in the bottom of her purse. One never knew when they might need a straw. The ribbon was short, but it would hold her hair back for now.
She scooped up a handful of sand, plucking out the quartzite pebbles and precariously piling them on her knees. Once her collection was complete she wiggled her leg, dropping the carefully gathered stones to the sand. She felt stronger for destroying something she’d made.
The rescuers were still hard at work, their chains clanking together like so many little bells. With the sun as a backdrop, they were featureless profiles. The cry of triumph was quickly followed by one of dismay. Someone in the rescue boat held aloft a dripping empty baby stroller with seaweed dangling from the wheels.
“The Beach” appeared on Fearsmag.com in November 2001.
This was written as a challenge on the The Rumor Mill BBS, an early online gathering place for speculative fiction writers. The challenge was to write a 250-word story that included one of the following: a gum wrapper, a comb, a ribbon, a straw, or a baby stroller. As a smartass, I chose to include all five items, and then the story sold.