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The last house of all the houses is Topside, a tall blue boy on stilts, shading the cracked cement carport’s sandy assemblage: shack-shower and scaling board, a scatter of spades to dig to China. The China-blue of the sky dishes the sea.

Not a sea, an ocean. Not Pacific— no family rentals are. But Atlantic as Atlas, groaning under summer’s burden, on the Outer Banks of an American memory. The beach is where families come to be broken, worn down, sandblasted.

Mornings, Mama and I went striding down beach lip— her thundering stride slowed to my endless tangents stooping in search of angel wings, periwinkle, slivers of smoothed shell that shined only when wet. My zigs and running zags brought such broken bounty to her emptied coffee cup, smelling of saltwater cream.

In dry sand our feet made no mark, only indentations, lost in waves where others had passed. Tire tread rippled, its finned pattern crunched soft as caked sugar underfoot. In wet sand I leapt from crescent to crescent, following the eyelash moons left by her tall arch, stamping each with my smaller, blunt rectangle.

Going back, years down, my step flattens into my father’s hammer-toed plank, not fit for dancing, not fit for running the long shore. I walk slower, but still stoop to each shiny thing—broken spiral, glinting claw, smooth of lavender in the shallows. The coffee cup still serves as keeper.

I’d like to dig down under the water-light dazzle rimming the surf, bury the bivalve clamp of my body in dark quartz grains— chug-chug, chug-chug—like the periwinkle, hiding an electric-violet center till death—to open, splay-winged on blinding sand for a child to find and shatter in delight.