Mark squeezed a handful of sand. The wind tugged at his elbow. Sounds from other bathers drifted noisily across the beach.
He scrunched the sand ball until all the water drained away. Then he attached a new chunk to the wall. His sand fort resembled a small village. It was built to withstand the slap, slap of waves coming in from the ocean.
One great outer wall stood a foot tall, as it circled around Mark. Inside were shapes for buildings. A courthouse stood in the centre of the great fort.
Mark was a very imaginative boy.
The community arena became a favorite place where everyone gathered. A store and other businesses prospered in the protected village. People came in usual shapes and sizes. Retired folks. And middle aged. Children too.
Observation posts on the walls were manned. A watchful eye was kept on the weather for any possible danger from the waves.
Mr. and Mrs. Spears enjoyed it here in this village. On their way home, wild talk about the fierce coming storm frightened them. They hurried across the square to their children.
Mayor Bill Matheson had just left a Town Hall meeting to discuss the situation. And was now on his way home. He didn't like the remarks about the poor quality in the wall construction. He also felt his council was doing it's best in this emergency.
Why were the people so angry? "Construction crews were out three hours ago working on the walls," he had told the crowd. Council would make sure there was no danger.
The storm was coming across the sky in black swirls. It appeared to be gathering strength over open water. The wind was doing its best to encourage the white caps below to charge recklessly forward.
One of the observers on the western wall excitedly noticed the turmoil. He called Mr. Matheson at home and said the village should be warned. The coming storm might be worse than expected.
Eleven-year old John Spears was late getting home again. His dad had warned him about disobeying his evening curfew. Nine o'clock was too late to be out. He was really hurrying now.
A new warning was broadcast at 9:30 PM. Most people who heard the radio news felt disaster was rapidly approaching.
The first roll of waves thudded into the outer wall. A heavy pounding on the protective barrier around the village had begun. Lashing winds pushed millions of gallons testing the strength of the fort. The sea was whipped into frenzy, as it smashed forward, again and again.
Cries came from the lips of excited work crews. They frantically brought new sand to try and stop the first leaks.
After an anxious night the outer walls were severely strained. Rescue boats began to evacuate sightseers who were almost trapped after getting closer for a better look. Further warnings were announced and residents began to abandon their homes.
They retreated behind the secondary wall.
But, here too, water began to seep through the reinforced protective barrier. Volunteers were called in to try and stem the flow in a desperate bid to save the village.
Unknown to the villagers, all this was watched with anxious eyes. The castle builder felt the pain and saw the fear in the eyes of adults as well as children. He noticed how the large gap in the outer wall was slowly widening as the water level between the main wall and the secondary wall rose.
The mayor was in charge of operations. He used the school to house people displaced from their homes. This was a moment of crisis.
Mrs. Spears kept looking out her window watching for her husband's return. She did not know he was one of the first volunteers to be injured.
Young John was also in the hospital with a badly bruised arm. He kept calling out for his parents who didn't know where he was.
The castle builder watched carefully and marveled at the sacrifices and concerns each villager had for one another. He ran his finger from the outer wall to the ocean. This drained away most of the extra water, which had begun to threaten the lives of everyone in the village.
Two large scoops of dry sand soon filled the outer gap. In one quick motion the wall was strengthened and now held back all the water. This gave the villagers a welcome chance to repair damaged walls.
Suddenly the crisis was over.
"Mark! Mark!" The calling of his name drifted across the beach.
The boy asleep on the sand awoke. He wiped sand from his eyes and saw the repaired outer wall on his fort. Water flowed away from one side. He slowly rubbed his eyes. Was it a dream?
His parents called impatiently, "Mark!"
"Okay, Okay. I'm coming! He looked up at the sky, and the calm sea.
Mark smiled to himself.
* * *
Richard & Esther Provencher 2008
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