At Water’s Edge ~ Thomas Elson

Once, when the boy barely came to the man’s knees, when the man had to tilt to reach the boy’s tiny, soft hand, he would gently enfold the boy’s fingers into his own and guide him to the water’s edge.

Now, after years of absence and interference – separated as other’s conflicts became theirs – neglect, no word, then no words exchanged as familial berms became hills and hills mountains. With only two weeks from another separation – by the boy from his family, the man from his new family – they were absorbed by memories and changes.

It was their final time, after many times. The cool, late afternoon ocean breeze cooled their faces as they stood in the same spot near the same Cyprus tree – now supported by metal. The man, escaping his past, now bent, slow, sought merely comfort, warmth, and family. He clung to the boy and listen as the young man explained his discoveries and guessed about his future.

Reeling toward them was blue-gray water capped with white peaks. Lapping water with foam at the crest rose onto the beach higher and higher as the afternoon lengthened. Their shallow footprints grew deeper and deeper, then were buried in mounds of moist sand the closer they inched toward the coastline. Ahead a parallel line divided water from sky.

Fourteen years earlier, at this very spot, the man wore gray and the boy wore youthful colors of yellow and blue. Today, the boy in gray and the man in dark blue, his pants rolled up to avoid lapping tides on this immaculately clear day.

On this day, their final day, the boy, taller than the man, tilted slightly and reached for his grandfather’s hand. The old man didn’t notice at first, then moments later felt the boy’s large hand engulf his own and enfold his fingers. The boy gently guided him to their exact spot.

The boy so averse to contact from others, so unique in his abilities, so distant from many others, leaned toward the old man, brought him closer, then reached around to hug the man who had been with him all this time at water’s edge.



Thomas Elson’s short stories, poetry, and flash fiction have been published in numerous venues such as Calliope, Pinyon, Lunaris, New Ulster, Lampeter, Selkie, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, and Adelaide Literary Magazine. He divides his time between Northern California and Western Kansas.

Photo Credit: Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash

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