"How about you and Travis come clam digging with me?" dad asked.
"Huh? With my nerdy big brother, and his long skinny legs?" Matthew answered. But then, no one else was around and he liked having someone to tease.
Shy Travis would be his perfect victim today.
Caribou Island was across a bridge, about two miles north of Pictou, Nova Scotia. After parking their car, three determined clam diggers headed for the waiting ocean.
A long sandy beach left behind from the retreating tide was perfect for today's outing.
Near the end of October was the best time for clam digging, although it meant braving a cold wind. Each person carried a bucket to hold clams and something to dig with.
Matthew brought a curved shovel.
Travis had the loan of a short pitchfork.
Their dad couldn't wait to try out his new three-pronged homemade spear. He also carried the largest pail.
"Dad thinks he's going to get the most clams," Matthew huffed. "But I'm going to surprise him today."
"I hope I can get just a couple," Travis said. He was too shy to admit he really didn't enjoy clam digging. "Besides, they taste yucky."
But Matthew didn't bother answering.
Now the tide was fully out. And the sand stretched far behind them.
Above the visitors, Seagulls and Cormorants flew in circles. They too were searching for tasty clams.
Ocean water rippled nearby.
"COOL!" Matthew shouted. "Two Ocean Quahogs! Right on top of the sand! I got here first, so they're mine."
Travis remembered they were often called "'Sea Clams."
Matthew was quicker than a sea gull and pounced greedily. He rushed around searching for more. Water spouts shot up from beneath the moist sand.
They dug eagerly, searching for their prize. Both boys kept bumping into each other with their digging tools.
Matthew curled his lips, "Watch it!" he shouted. "See what you've done!" He picked up a mashed shell and held it to Travis' face.
"This is a waste of a good clam," Matthew said angrily.
He continued to grumble as he dug furiously. He had to get more clams than his dad. If only Travis would stay out of his way.
He was glad when Travis walked further along the shore.
"Now this place is all mine!" Matthew shouted. Except his hands were freezing in the cold wind. Now he remembered his gloves left behind in the car.
After awhile, Matthew looked up and noticed his dad working his way closer to the mainland. "Probably only baby-sized clams there," he muttered.
He didn't realize the tide was beginning to return.
But he kept finding larger clams in this new spot. Time passed swiftly as the boy kept digging them up. Suddenly the ocean was lapping at his boots.
Why is dad waving? he wondered.
"Just a few more clams!" Matthew yelled, wondering if his dad even heard. He continued to dig before these new waterspouts were covered from the ocean.
Why is the tide returning so soon? he said aloud.
The wind had changed direction, increasing in velocity. Sea gulls circled the returning tide. ERK! ERK! calls were warning sounds to other members of the flock.
Matthew wasn't paying attention. He was digging up a new group of clams. They did not seem to mind if the once dry sand bar was being covered in seawater.
Finally his bucket was full. Time to drag his heavy load to the car. He had collected quite a few Quahogs, Mussels, and Razor Clams.
Star-shaped and coin-shaped sea treasures lay on top, along with a few red sand worms. Matthew knew they would be useful to scare his classmates.
Once again, Matthew heard dad calling. Now he understood how much the tide closed in around the huge sandy bar. He answered frantically, "Coming! I'm coming!"
The wind carried those same words of alarm to Travis. He couldn't believe how swiftly the space between sand and shore began filling with water.
There was a scared look on Matthew's face, as he tried lifting the heavy bucket. He wasn't leaving all this work behind.
Then the force of rising tide tipped his bucket over. And cold Atlantic Ocean water sloshed over Matthew's rubber boots.
"Travis! Help me!" he screamed.
He knew he was responsible for chasing his brother away, by being mean to him. All he wanted right now was help returning to shore.
Some distance away, Matthew's dad waded towards him.
"Don't worry, dad! I'll get him!" Travis hollered. His long legs came in really handy. Leaping strides across the water made him look like a running deer.
Except Travis was rushing towards deeper water. And danger. But, he had to help his brother.
Matthew stood still in the freezing ocean, now up to his knees. He was afraid.
As Travis reached his smaller brother, one firm grip heaved him onto his back. Thankfully Matthew wasn't too heavy as Travis pushed through waist high water, towards shore.
Neither boy worried about leaving their clam buckets.
Their dad guided them back. He knew high points along the sand dunes would help both boys. Then he breathed a sigh of relief as he helped lead his sons to safety.
Everyone was wet, cold and exhausted as they fell in a wet heap on the mainland. Three sets of lungs gasped heavily.
"You're really strong," Matthew said.
"I had lots of practice," Travis answered. "I'm the one who usually carries the heavy knapsack on our family campouts."
Matthew knew dad figured his younger son had just come through a bad scare. His brother probably saved his life.
Their father wrapped a blanket over each of his sons. "Time for us to get home and into dry clothes," he said.
"Hey Travis?" Matthew asked.
"Whwhat?" Travis answered through shivering lips.
"I'm glad you have long skinny legs."
* * *
Richard & Esther Provencher 2008
NOTE: One day, Richard and Esther would like to see this story published by an E-publisher, as a picture book.
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.