Thanks to the Island Writers' Network for sharing a glimpse at its third anthology of local works, "Hilton Head Island: Living the Dream."
The paperback book will make its debut at the Coastal Discovery Museum's Lowcountry Holiday Happenings at Honey Horn from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 7.
"Living the Dream" includes selections of fiction, nonfiction, humor, poetry and photography by authors and artists who live, play, work and retire in the Lowcountry. All three anthologies are available at area outlets listed on the group's website: www.iwn-hhi.org.
The Island Writers' Network was established in 1999 to encourage, inspire and mentor writers in both the craft and the business of writing. It welcomes visitors and new members. It meets at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at the Heritage Library on the second floor of the Savannah Bank Building, 852 William Hilton Parkway.
Following is an excerpt from the new book.
"Grains of Sand"
By Bob Bredin
I walk the beaches of Hilton Head Island every morning at sunrise. It's therapy. I carry a bag to pick up trash. That is part of the therapy.
Along the way I pass a lot of abandoned beach chairs. Most are old and broken, but a surprising number are new. They are usually bought on the first day of vacation and left on the beach when the holiday ends.
This chair, however, was different. It was the kind made in America twenty-five years ago, when things were made to last.
Although rust had begun to claim parts of its frame, it still had a few years left on the warranty. The original webbing had probably been white, but as pieces wore out, the owner had chosen to replace them with red and blue-colored strips. The chair was an eye-sore, but what grabbed my attention was the message, neatly lettered in black on the webbing:
In Memory Of
Harriet Margaret McCauley
11/12/1926 - 12/01/2010
BEST MOTHER EVER
I stood there reading the simple message several times, then looked up and down the beach, searching for the person who might have been responsible. I saw no one, and because the incoming tide would soon claim the chair, I decided to move it further up the beach behind the sand dunes.
But as I did, I wondered: Who was Harriet Margaret McCauley, and how did she die? Were her last days spent in a nursing home, as my mother's were? I wondered who put the chair on the beach, and why. Was it a child, or simply a friend who could not bear the thought of taking it to the dump?
That evening, looking for answers, I Googled "Harriet Margaret McCauley." I searched names, birth records, and death notices but found nothing -- not a mention. It was as if she never existed, except to the person who remembered her as The Best Mother Ever.
Two black crows were perched on the edge of the trash barrel. Both were cawing loudly. At stake was possession of a pizza crust. As I approached the barrel, their attention shifted to me, but it was not until I was less than three feet away that they hopped off the rim and joined the other crows on the sand. Was it my imagination, or were they becoming more aggressive? I looked around the beach, quickly counting a half dozen barrels and more than two dozen crows.
I was looking for seagulls but did not see any. Just black crows. Where had the seagulls gone, I wondered. And when had the crows taken over their domain? Were they now the scavengers of the beach?
That evening I Googled "Crows on the Beach" and discovered a blog written six months earlier by a woman living in southern California. She claimed that where she lives the crows were taking over the sands too. She backed up her thesis with detail about how the crows were learning from the sandpipers and plovers.
This is wrong, I thought as I read her blog. Crows belong in cornfields; seagulls belong on the beach.
Much later in the morning I saw a lone seagull perched on one leg by the water's edge. It was a pathetic-looking specimen, and as I tried to get closer, it quickly flew away.
It was a hot, humid beach day, and I was finishing my second bottle of water when I heard the voice behind me ask, "Hey, mister, do these jellyfish sting?"
I turned and smiled at the skinny, freckled boy who was looking up at me, shielding his eyes from the sun with both hands. He was no more than six and wore a bathing suit several sizes too large. Before I had an opportunity to answer, he turned and pointed to a young teenager standing by the water's edge, holding a boogie board and grinning.
"My brother said if you pee on the jellyfish bite, it won't sting. Is that true, mister, or is he lying?"
"Well, the jellies you see on this beach are called cannon balls," I said, launching into my jellyfish 101 lecture, "and they have lost their tentacles at sea so they can't sting." I started to explain how this takes place, but saw the boy was quickly losing interest.
"Did something in the water sting you?" I asked, shifting gears.
"Nah, I don't think so. Well, maybe a little," he said, turning and running off to join his brother.
"Thanks, mister," he shouted over his shoulder.
And I was left to wonder: If I had told the boy, "Yes, the jellyfish sting," would he have let his brother pee on him?
There was no sunrise this morning. The low-hanging, puffy gray clouds blocked it out. But that did not stop a ballerina, who danced and twirled over the hard Coligny Beach sands. Those who had come to see the sunrise were not disappointed as the ballerina quickly took center stage. Magically she leapt and spiraled for an appreciative audience. As she did, the beach became silent. Two dogs that had been running loose paused in their pursuit of shorebirds. A jogger pushing a baby carriage stopped. Even a lone ghost crab became motionless as the dancer glided past.
When the ballerina finished, the sun showed its approval, too, as it peeked out from behind a cloud.
The weather forecast for today, according to The Island Packet newspaper, is "partly cloudy." Whether it's partly cloudy or partly sunny is up to the individual. As for me, it is always sunny on the beach.