Saturday 24 June 2023

'Monterey, California' by Lisa Thornton

The baby strapped to the man’s chest cooed and cawed at the ocean. A woman walked barefoot beside them. Waves beat the shore of pebbly sand, cool on our ankles. The sun fried our skin, searing the pores to leave warmth in our cheeks well into the night. This, the woman seemed to say, as she picked up a long strand of seaweed and held it up to the baby’s face. Look at this! Her lips mouthed green. They made an O for smooth. The baby blinked. The man wandered, one hand on the little back attached now to his body, while the woman picked up shells and oysters and raised them for the baby to see. Look at the world, she seemed to say, let me show it to you bit by bit. I recognized a parent carefully introducing the earth to their child, as if to filter it somehow, to be gatekeeper of the green and the smooth, the pearly and the bumpy. Perched on a rock with my graying husband I remembered myself as curator, him as carrier. But what of the man with the two-necked guitar yell-singing about how we all need Jesus on the sidewalk behind us? What of the car horns and the toasty roasty smells of the coffeeshop across the street? The world inundates, allowing no motherly colander to sift it. Instantly, we are swept up in its swell. Sand, the woman pronounced as she poured a handful of pebbles into the baby’s hand, its mouth hanging open as it stared at the bright blue sky.

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