Welcome to the first Short Fic Friday! Every week I’ll be posting a new short fiction story, due to the great response to my A to Z Challenge. Enjoy it!
Alex knelt at the tide pool, her damp knees getting coated in sand. She waved at her toddler cousin.
“Look, Sammy,” she shouted to him, sinking the heel of her right hand into the loose mud. “I think there’s a crab, or something, under this rock. See?”
Sammy wobbled up behind her, holding a red, plastic shovel he refused to let go of. “Crab?”
“Yes, a crab. I think he went under there, do you see him?” She leaned over the tepid water at far as she dared. The pool was still but teeming with creatures she had a nervous fascination with. She pressed her other hand on a rock coated with barnacles. The crevice between rocks was dark, but the water was a crystal green. There was a slight shift in the sand.
“Crab? Crab?” Sammy repeated, trying to replicate how Alex was standing. He leaned his shovel against the barnacles.
“I think so. Let me try to catch it. Can I use your shovel?”
Sammy held it out to her, but just as she was going to take it he yanked it out of her grasp. She sighed, laughing.
“You got me. Fine, you want cousin Alex to get pinched, I’ll get pinched.”
Alex swallowed. She knew she wouldn’t likely get pinched, but if she did, what would she do? Her mom was way back by the towels, and Uncle Max, Sammy’s dad, was further down the beach at a different tide pool with his older daughter. Well, whatever. No going back now. She slipped her little hand between the boulders, feeling her way around the rough barnacles. She touched sand and recoiled, then went down again, feeling along toward where the crab had escaped.
Sammy sneezed, loud and adorable. Alex smiled but kept going, not looking back.
“Nose,” Sammy said, his voice muted.
“Yeah, you sneezed, buddy. Bless you.”
“Nose!” He patted her calf insistently. Alex looked under her arm at him.
His face was covered in huge boogers, gooey green and dangling past his mouth. He looked about to cry, his head hunched over so the snot didn’t touch his chin.
“Oh, Sammy,” Alex said, then a sharp pain shot down her arm from her ring finger. She screamed and fell backward out of the tide pool and onto the sand, grabbing at her hand. Sure enough, the little crab had got her. Luckily it let go quickly, but her finger was still red and throbbing. It hurt more than when she caught it in the car door last winter.
She sucked on her finger, salty and covered in sand. Sammy was crying now, scared by her scream and cranky because of his boogers. Alex fought back her own tears, smacking sticky sand off her back, legs, and bottom. She had to be the grown up now and help Sammy. No parents were around, fine. Alex was nine, now. She could do it.
“Okay, it’s okay,” she said. “Come on, Sammy.”
They walked to the ocean together, she sucking on her finger, he hunched over and whimpering. No matter what, she did not want to touch the boogers, but she didn’t have anything else but her bathing suit. She paused at the water’s edge, looking for a seashell or something to scoop his face clean.
Sammy cried at the sand, the booger long and swinging but still hanging on. He clutched his shovel.
Alex considered holding him above the water so just his face got wet to wash it away, but then thought better of it. She put her hands on her hips, her sore finger pressing hard.
“Sammy, I need your shovel.”
“No!” he howled, gripping it with two hands.
“You can still hold onto it after; I just need it to clean the boogies.”
Alex groaned and dropped to her knees. She took a breath, looked away, and snatched the boogers off his face with the tips of her fingers and thumb. She dunked her hand in the water and shook it furiously, then did it again, pinching his nose perhaps a bit too hard and then shaking it off her with vigor, gagging.
“Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew,” she chanted through the whole ordeal. Finally, he was clean.
He sniffled a little. Alex stood up and sucked on her finger again.
“I’m never having kids,” she told the snotty ocean.
Sammy hugged her leg tight. “Thank you!” he said, and offered her his shovel.
Alex smiled. “You’re darn cute, though,” she said, and reached for the shovel. He giggled and yanked it out of her reach.