This post is an example piece, copyright Danny Dourado. It is about two brothers trying to grow up in a childish way.
The two boys arrived at the beach as the sun was about to set.
Wisps of its light still touched the wet sand. The taller of the two lifted his younger brother down in his impatience. The younger brother laughed at the squelching sound his tiny boots made.
Their eyes stung from the hissing sea winds and their coats flapped as if trying to escape from their bodies. Each boy was clutching a shoebox against his chest, and both turned their cargo away from the harsh grasp of the gale.
With the light fading everything became suspicious. The sound of rolling waves became sinister gasps. The beach seemed to stretch on too far for their squinting eyes to see. The older boy turned sharply at what he thought was a faint touch, but saw nothing except the alarmed expression of his younger brother. He wrapped his arm around the boy’s shoulders and pushed him on.
“Nick. Nick. I should’ve brought my blanket,” the younger boy whined.
“You’d just fall asleep in it.”
“Andy, you would. And I’m not carrying you. You’re getting way too heavy to carry all this way.”
“I’m not too heavy,” Andy mumbled into his coat. “I’m not.”
They found their mark further than they remembered scratching it. It was a faint ‘X’ dug a few metres higher than the creeping waves. It was hidden beside a stubborn thorn bush, and was the best spot the brothers could think to use in such a vast place.
“Five Nick steps from the pointy bush and seven Andy steps left of the funny shell,” Andy counted. He marched to his shell and counted each step purposefully, before hesitantly waiting for his brother to point out which way was left. His older brother, Nick, was already at the mark though, tracing his pale hands along the scratches. Andy stumbled over to him and sunk to his knees.
“C’mon, let’s dig,” Nick said. “You got your spade?”
“Uh-huh.” Andy placed his shoebox carefully on the sand and slowly peeled back the lid. Without letting his brother see into its depths, the boy plucked a plastic shovel from it and squeezed the familiar handle. In the light of day it would have been a bright green, but with the sun set everything was coloured a thick and murky blue.
“Treasure!” the younger brother grinned, attacking the mark with renewed vigour. Nick’s lips tightened but he said nothing, beginning to dig instead.
Nick’s digging was as constant as the waves and wind. Andy, however, would frequently become distracted by their gaping hole, and he would clamber in and out excitedly until sand coloured his fair hair and skin. Nick’s arms were shaking by the time they were halfway down, and his pile was much larger than Andy’s. Nick only stopped for long enough to pull his brother’s spade out of the clutching sand and press it into Andy’s hands. Andy hung his head instinctively as if scolded, but seeing Nick’s frame buckle from the effort made him drop the charade. He dug hard too.
The hour stayed for longer than it was welcome and both boys were exhausted by the time they were finished. Dull aches weighed their arms down, but a flush of pride warmed their cheeks. Their hole was large enough for both to stand comfortably in, with a good slope to climb up and down. Nick slipped down to inspect their handiwork. To Andy it looked like he was swallowed by the gaping hole.
“Wait a minute, Andy. Almost done here.”
The hole made Nick shiver. Inside it the wind had no voice and no spit came from the sea. Though it was shallow it was perfectly hidden from the world. It felt like a grave. The thought made Nick’s shivers violent.
“There’s no treasure.” Andy pouted and stamped a foot from above. “It’s empty.”
Nick sighed. His shoulders slumped and he didn’t turn to face his brother. “No, you’re right, there isn’t any treasure.”
“Did the pirates leave us a map? Did we find the wrong spot?
“You know what I said. It’s for our treasure.”
He held up a hand to his brother but Andy had turned away from their hole and crouched down with his shoebox. Nick had to pull himself back onto the beach, covering his chest in sand and soaking his coat. “Andy, don’t start crying.”
“I’m not crying!”
“You’re gonna cry. You said you’d be good and help me bury our treasure. Look how far we’ve come along, Andy!” Nick swung his arm out to take in the broad expanse of the beach and the heavy labour of their task. “You came all this way in the dark and cold and dug all that time. You’ve done so well! But now you’re going to stop and cry, right before the end.”
“I’m not!” Andy’s body was tensing and his small fingers curled into fists.
“You think you can just keep stopping before you’re done? Hope that if you sit down and cry when it gets hard someone’s going to pick you up and change your nappy?!” Nick’s words tasted bitter in his mouth. “Andy was being really brave, I thought. My brother wouldn’t let me down, I thought. He’ll stick to his word. He’s a good boy.”
“I don’t want to!” Andy shrieked again, barely hearing what Nick was saying. “I won’t cry, and I don’t want to bury anything! I want to make sand castles and find pirates and bury real treasure!”
“Andy!” Nick snapped. He seized his brother’s shoebox in both hands and wrenched it from him, almost toppling him. Andy screamed as long and loud as his small lungs would let him. He struck Nick’s back and shoulders, tore at his coat, pulled at his legs. His brother carried his treasure away towards the hole, struggling furiously, until Andy’s fierce grip tripped him and he fell onto his back. The shoebox tumbled over and spilled its contents tantalisingly close to the water’s edge. Andy scrambled up from the sand and over to his treasure.
Andy was crying. Nick heard the sniffling gasps from where he lay winded, his sore muscles refusing to help him up and his heavy heart holding him down. He wondered briefly if he should let the beach swallow him for making his own brother cry.
He sat up wearily. Andy’s frame seemed ghostly against the light foam of the sea, hunched over his treasure and shaking with each sob. Nick crawled up to his brother and wrapped his arms around him from behind, craning his head forward to press their cold cheeks together.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. Andy rocked slightly in the hug, but Nick held him still. “I know it’s hard. But you’re very brave. You’re braver than me cause you can do what I can do, even at your age. Right? That’s how brave you are.”
Andy didn’t nod, but he had stopped shaking.
“I don’t want to grow up,” he sighed. Nick squeezed him tighter.
“Me neither. But we have to. And this’ll help us do it. I promise.”
Andy leaned forward and plucked some of his treasure from the wet sand. He smiled a little at the squelching noise it made as the toy bear came free. Its fur was scratchy and the buttons in its eyes had been pulled out to stop Andy from eating them, but the weight was familiar and it still smelt of perfume. Slowly Nick’s arms unravelled and let Andy totter towards his toys, scattered at their feet. One-by-one the younger boy placed them back into the battered shoebox, delicately arranging each.
Nick offered him his hand as they walked back to the hole, but Andy chose not to take it. Instead they walked so close their arms were touching. Nick stopped to pick up his own shoebox and wiped the clinging sand off of its covers.
Without a word, they both descended into their hole and placed the boxes of toys side-by-side, before helping each other out. It was so dark that Nick had to feel around for their piles of sand while Andy guided him to the edge of the hole with his voice. In this way they spent almost as long filling it as they had digging it.
Once it was finished, they sat next to each other in the dark. Both brothers were sinking as far into their coats as they could for warmth.
“Are we grown up now, then?” Andy asked, looking at his hands as if expecting them to double in size.
“Sort of. We have to go back home next.”
Nick smiled at his brother. “We’ll be okay. We aren’t kids anymore.”
Andy nodded. “Can I tell mum what we did? That we’re grown up?”
“Course you can. Dad’s taking us to see her tomorrow. She’ll probably be asleep, but you can still tell her if you like.”
The two fell quiet. Nick was watching the waves washing up towards them. Even though it seemed like it was making no headway, he knew that the tide was edging closer. He realised he hadn’t felt the wind in some time, and the cold that ate at his limbs was barely noticeable.
“You ready to go home yet?” Nick asked again.
“Not yet. Just a minute.”