Thursday, 9 August 2007

Sand Man

Sand Man
By Susan Vermeulen

They lay there, motionless, entranced. There was no surface movement but, just underneath, lively brains were brimming over with matters that really shouldn’t be talked about! The beach occupants were regal, magnificent and they knew it, revelling in their omnipotence and almost talking with firmly shut mouths.

All around changes occurred, progressively, spontaneously; colours, shades, tones even wouldn’t settle. The multi-coloured human bumps, quite magnificent, exclusively female followed suit, altering imperceptively with each separate moment. The sun is magical, powerful, it does not take second place, only humans can do that.

Mr. Beach sat, no he lay proudly by, grinning, feeling uncomfortably hot, for obvious reasons but wouldn’t have wanted things any other way. He welcomed each damsel with open arms, amazed by the wondrous empty space he was capable of creating; he had been doing this for so long now he’d
forgotten when it had actually started – last year, last century, last millennium! He was responsible for these creatures, he’d realised this immediately, he mustn’t slip up.

Daily, when departure time approached the ladies followed a precise routine; yawning, coming to life they demonstrated, quite un-ashamedly, that yes, their lower limbs did function and they went wandering. On their travels they un-earthed what the sand concealed. They became frantic, frenzied competitors then froze – what was their goal anyway? They’d have to work that one out so, in the meantime, the treasures were carted off to horde, to show as proof, to feel, to talk about as owners.



Each day was new, it hadn’t been there before to encounter these maidens so introductions were an on-going affair. The circumstances were never identical for we are dealing here with humans, prone to ebbs and flows of moods, of emotions. Unlike a tide they were not predictable. Joy and its opposite, (now what exactly is that?) surged up, unannounced, with or even without provocation. The prey had little chance, they were puppets, toys, adopting proffered moods at the flick of a switch. It all happened very much like a hiccup, one which was both felt and heard and, yes, more often than not, hated. Exhaustion accompanied the changes – the victims sank down, they wilted.


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One human individual had just hiccupped violently, now she felt very good. Why was that? She didn’t dare speculate, such an operation simply makes excitement tangible. What a shame!

She hadn’t visited this beach before and sat all alone, surrounded by measured, empty spaces. Spaces tend to fill up at an amazing speed on sunny, sultry days like this one so S. made the best of her allotted time, revelling in these pleasurable circumstances, feeling very fortunate, very privileged. She stole a fleeting glance at the other beach-occupants; they all shared a special expression which she endeavoured to copy but to no avail. That must be a thing acquired by time. Nevertheless she felt happy so would retain the anonymity. She closed her eyes, locked them shut but kept hold of the key. No longer feeling, sensing even the surrounding calm this female went back in time, back into time, remembering things – they were ugly, horrible.


Her name was S. – an enormous capital letter usually followed by a dot. She needed to make her name grow to a more normal length, it had to stand up straight and grin. She awoke and shivered, pulling lots of dirty, hole-infested things in closer. Yesterday, needing sustenance, as human creatures do, she’d collected apples in the park and they were sitting there beside her now, in a paper bag. Suddenly they started moving round, they clearly weren’t getting on. S. had never imagined that apples would be capable of such behaviour. She feared their shabby home would fall apart, that they’d get away so she gingerly coaxed one out and nibbled it. The others seemed satisfied at that, they quietened down, they slept, or rested any way.

The bite or rather bit she’d taken filled her mouth, it started to show off, to do peculiar things – clearly the mouthful was enjoying the adventure – pies and puddings were the norm for cooking apples – what a refreshing adventure this made! S. grimaced, pathetically, her taste buds screaming out for sweetness but none was available and she forced the mouthful down, resignedly. It arrived at its destination without too much trouble and strangely seemed to be readily accepted, it wasn’t bad at all actually!

It was an attractively coloured, lidless bin. Only dry, clean things were visible so she sat down, up close to look first with eyes then fingers. And, somehow, she remained there. The wind got up, paper floated past her face and, inadvertently she shoed the pieces away. One envelope though got stuck, it stayed with her. S. allowed it to sit comfortably on her knees for an eternity, then she opened it, that’s what you do with sealed envelopes that will not go away, or what you should do, that’s for sure.


It was lunch time. She stood on the over-peopled bright red coach. Everybody’s clothes clashed violently with this colour except her own, that was fortunate. She was sitting on her own, she liked that, she didn’t have to hold a conversation with a total stranger which usually proved very tedious. She was in fact surprisingly good at that but had to be in a certain mood and today was not the day.

Looking out of the window she saw the countryside rushing by. It was green, pale green for it was barely summer and the leaves were finding the right spaces to fill and feel comfortable in. She crossed her legs, closed her eyes and relaxed, this was wonderful, what an adventure. Someone behind her coughed and started talking loudly – she was such a bore. A long string of irrelevant details rushed out, colliding into each other and turning previous comments into ridiculous garbage. S. imagined how she would successfully shut this lady up, it could be cleverly done with surprising ease and the speaker would not even be embarrassed but then S. was very good at certain strange things. She might even make a new friend but for the moment this was simply another creature, an individual sitting behind her and she’d leave it this way.

Then there was the dog. It was a little animal with floppy ears and a quizzical expression. Not young, she (yes, a female called Stella) remained motionless, quiet and still which was lucky for S. was not happy with hyper-excited dogs which kept wandering. She got decidedly angry with owners who would coax and tease their pets like little kids, on occasion giving them even more attention than their own offspring, what a pity.

This means of moving transport or should that be moving means of transport went rumbling, rushing out to a spot, nestled in on the shore, to a beach waiting to receive yet another occupant and S. obliged. She loved beaches, she was already getting excited, anticipating the day that lay ahead, starting to plan. This was going to be her very own day away, she was going to make it work.

Long legs were stretched out luxuriously by their owner. As they inched, no centimetered forward the other letters of her name emerged, surfacing, embarrassed, taking deep breaths, clinging onto each other, separation later on would be virtually impossible and Susanna blinked her eyes meaningfully and sat up. Her name had been there all along, she’d known that but not felt strong enough to bring it out, but things were happening and she did like her name.

As well as the envelope with coach tickets, Susanna had discovered, in the bin, the entire outfit with accessories for the trip. She didn’t know what the bikini looked like on but the beach-inhabitants remained reactionless – that told her everything and then nothing at all really. She wasn’t going to worry about that though, there were oh so many things to wonder, or rather ponder over, she was feeling cool!

The towel went on for ever, it was thick, if a little narrow but she didn’t let that upset her. Then there was the sun-tan lotion and the book. She rubbed the one on and wished she could dispose of the other with similar ease – and then did as she buried it ever deeper into the sand. Books can simply be sent to blind you, to fill empty, pointless pieces of ones life, they work or they don’t work, that depends on your mood, health and the weather of course.

Why were these ladies, for that is all she saw, so wrapped up in themselves? They certainly didn’t look happy and she did know now what this adjective meant. Perhaps the lack of male companions was to blame – but why didn’t they dream, remember, plot, plan? That was what she intended doing, when she settled down, this pastime always kept her fully occupied.

When you feel good it’s nice to share with others and Susanna did start, witnessing, close by, sort of open eyes. But as her words took physical shape walls were built up around her, high and strong with look-out points. So, wisely, she resigned herself to solitary happiness, that felt good too.

An ice-cream seller came walking, distinctly resembling the beach she patrolled – yes, it was yet another female, it was impossible to know where one actually ended and the other began. As she passed Susanna proffered coins and voiced an order or rather a request. But the seller didn’t or wouldn’t hear, her eyes did twitch but she continued on her path. Susanna suddenly recalled a specific, irrelevant incident; she didn’t like or dislike it, her mind was operating, functioning wildly, in isolation, something was daring, challenging her to work it out – but what did it matter anyway? She sat on, ice-cream-less. What was occurring now was a new experience, dimensions were being added to her life in abundance, she wanted to be sure and take it all in for you never actually know when you’re going to have to use your memories, when tiny happenings are going to jump up, wave banners and help or something.


Then there was a man. He was moving, stepping out confidently, looking, seeing but not searching, vague but there. Her compatriots, for that is what they had indeed become, remained immobile, there was nothing, apparently, for them to look at for he left printless steps. His chest and head were bare, quite hairless but, luckily, the sun liked him and did him no harm. As he proceeded he captured the heat in his palms and stroked it. He was powerful. If she had been asked to describe him she could only have said, smiling, “now that is indeed a handsome man.” Most men are not afraid of being labelled in this way.

The route he followed was precise. With care he edged round bundles of bodies, disturbing no-one. Eyelids remained dead, no throats were cleared. On occasion his steps almost touched the sea but there was always one human form separating the two. He mustn’t be washed away for then many things would perish and he wouldn’t be able to do what he had come to do. Reaching Susanna he stopped. She could see him now, up close – he was very different: this is a gigantic adjective, it won’t attach blame, encourage votes it’s just there and is, it has a trillion meanings and likes being used or at least some like using it.

For a million moments the two remained motionless then he was kneeling at her feet. Toes fascinated him and he rubbed Susanna’s teasingly, provocatively but he did look serious – this was something which indeed had to take place. And then her toes were covered, they were hidden by shiny, silver gems which, in the same inkling were chased away by humming stones and the tunes were only those she recognised, that made her stronger, that gave her more confidence, music has that effect, if you let it.

Mesmerized Susanna’s throat was invaded by notes. She didn’t relish chocking so let them out, gingerly at first, then exaltingly, excitedly. He had managed to make her even happier and she tried to tell him this, for a man should be told such things, he’s not always aware of what he has achieved. A silent space emerged and she hummed her tunes, enjoying her space, singing songs secretively. Suddenly she was even more beautiful and she nearly understood.

The couple, for that’s what they had become, stood together – they were similar – heights identical, feet too, hands interchangeable, nails long and fingers with words. She had come to this beach with no expectations of what was going to occur: proudly she gazed at this man who was making her feel jubilant, exultant, another person.

“I will do that,” Susanna whispered but all those around sat up, they stared, looked angry for she was the chosen one. The silent females bore witness as Susanna made her way towards the water’s edge. She was the principal actress now, the one to come between Sand Man and the salty, lapping water. She turned, not to query but to smile, to say she’d stay but she was alone again and somehow she liked it, she understood.

The waves had acquired arms with hands which invited her to visit, to come in, get wet, maybe to disappear. She could not refuse.

Her chosen area was a misogynous one; her legs became heavy, they didn’t know what movement meant! The stones, the shells beneath her gurgled, fretted in sympathy or was that in animosity? Time stood still, only the Sand Man moved. He’d reappeared and risen above the beach and he’d grown hair, it was short, thick, shiny, silver.

Susanna’s legs moved again. She was allowed to leave the water behind her and sit in her place, no it was where he’d been before. She nestled in the spot, she waited, and she did know what for.

And then he was there again – her silver-haired Sand Man. He came quietly, bearing gifts, reaching out, giving more and more and smiling Susanna’s smile. This time they stayed with her, the silver stones and shinny trinkets: Susanna was grateful. He’d been generous but then some lives cost a lot of something!

Susanna gently placed the jewels in her towel which was suddenly, miraculously wide enough to take them all. She lifted it and took it home, to a place planets away. Sand Man, he had come to save her, to help her smile, to find her name again. And, this time, because of all he’d given to her she’d been made strong enough, she would survive.

She rubbed her eyes and opened them, wide. Susanna’s imagination was vivid, awe-inspiring, it always managed to come up with the right thing. She had started building up make-believe worlds when she was very little, when things simply weren’t working out as she would have liked; somehow she had managed to find a way out of everything. Sand Man was her favourite, he’d never let her down and she did believe, one day, she’d find her own man, one to hold her hand, to be with. Together they might actually find that beach again, become part of it, take on the relevant beach expression. All things are possible. Coloured roses can be picked, bloom (what a lovely word) almost talk but let’s stop there.

2 comments:

pedals and paws said...

Hi Susan, I am going to read your story when there is peace and quiet here, but in the meantime I wanted to make contact with you and say how fascinated I was by your profile - and guess what - we are nearly the same age - I was born in 1958. My daughter is almost entirely French. We came over here when she was 13 and though I was working abroad most of the time and subsequently left my (now ex)husband, the move was great for her. In fact so good that she wants to become a French citizen.
I write to and I used to belong to a local (English)writer's group. If you were interested in online contact, I know they would be pleased to have you.
Looking forward to meeting you both - we hope to make the move around September next year. We have to wait for Lucy to be settled in university here before we can go.

Rosalyn said...

You write very well.