Isit in the mud on the shores of the sand-clouded water. The ocean current sometimes pushes the shallow river in the wrong direction and it's flowing backwards today. I'm trying not to get mud on the seat of my pants, but oh well; my pants are already the color of dirt, so I settle in and start to work my hands into the cool, wet, sandy bank. I shape the mud into little balls of clay, working out the air pockets. I form the first ball into a misshapen gooey brick and set it aside.
A bird is rustling in the tall grass up on the bank. He's spying on me, more curious than anything. I pretend not to notice him. From the corner of my eye, I watch him hop closer and closer. I place a second lumpy brick next to the first and make eye contact with my new friend. He freezes in his tracks and we laugh at each other. The sand and the mud oozes through my fingers, I can feel the dirt climbing under my nails.
I'm 5 years old again, making mud pies with my neighbor. She has a chicken coop in her front yard. We're going to make pies and pretend they're real to see if we can trick people. The chickens are trying to fly. "Why don't they fly out of their cage?" I ask. "Because chickens can't go very high," she tells me. One flies halfway up the coop, clinging to the wire. (If it could make it that far it could fly a few more feet to the top.) The chicken flutters to the dirty floor of its pen. (Not today.)
I have a decent pile of bricks now and I flatten a small part of the bank to make the foundation. I tear off handfuls of grass from the bank, slicing the skin between my fingers on the papery blades. A layer of mud, a layer of grass, it's starting to look like a wall. Maybe I'll come back tomorrow to work on it some more, before the tide changes. I look up and the little bird is hovering a few feet from my head. He's curious about my nest and settles on an overhead branch to get a better view of things.
Traffic is stalled on the bridge to the west and I'm happily digging away. I wonder if the animals have gotten used to the road. It's like a giant wart; irritating, out of place, obstructive. "We were here first," I think. I wonder what I mean by We. I'm sure I know, but I decide not to dwell on it.
A couple on an inflatable raft is floating close to shore. I see them first but I have nowhere to hide. I smile and wave, acting natural. Or do I mean civilized? Either way I get up and grab my bucket, pretending to look for litter. I hope they don't notice my mud wall or the dirt on my pants. I'm not young enough to play in the mud without getting strange looks. Oh well, they're gone now, floating off in the distance.
I wash my hands in the gentle water and step back to admire my little creation.
Not bad. I'll be back.
M C R
This work is copyrighted by the author, Angela Perletti. All rights reserved.