Tears of the Ocean
2016, Middle School, Prose
As the first streaks of pale pink light painted the skies with the promise of a perfect day, the Artist gazed out towards the ocean. He sipped from a steaming Styrofoam cup and he thought about his next creation. For many years he had travelled the world, his sculptures drawing gasps of admiration from the crowds of tourists. Sun-burnt kids with sticky fingers thrust handfuls of coins into his tip box, but most of his money came from the art booth where his wife sold photos of his best work. They would never be rich, but as he gulped down the last few mouthfuls of bitter black coffee, he felt life was pretty good. He tossed his empty cup towards the overflowing trash can, but as it hit the rim and started blowing along the sand, he was already walking away. Now the bright Virginian sun was already breaking over the horizon, and it was time to get to work.
He knelt on the beach and closed his eyes – trying to envision today’s sculpture. The Neptune Festival was always a grand affair and today there would be stiff competition; this was no kiddie sand castle contest. In a few hours the shore would be filled with everything from 10ft dolphins to angry Sea Gods riding a crashing wave… and every one made entirely of sand. But he was bored of making mermaids and scenes from Disney movies. Everything seemed so cliché. He looked up at the Boardwalk for inspiration. A young couple walked past, holding their small son between them, swinging him high into the air every few steps while he giggled joyfully. The Artist smiled at the happy scene, but his smile faded as he noticed his wife. She had paused from setting up their craft stall, to watch the family go by. Her eyes were sad, and he knew she was thinking of their own little girl. Ruby would have been, what, 8 this year? Over the years he had almost forgotten what she looked like. Almost. Suddenly he knew exactly what he was going to sculpt today.
Now it was midday, and the Sun blazed high in the cloudless sky. The boardwalk was overflowing with thousands of tourists, who watched excitedly as sea horses and coral reefs were formed before their eyes. The Artist wiped sweat from his eyes, absent mindedly tossing the tissue behind him. He was focused solely on his sculpture, now standing nearly finished… he took the sculpting brush, gently creating each lock of hair that seemed to bounce in the breeze. Usually people swarmed around him to see his creations, but today the 12 foot Poseidon and grand cathedrals were drawing the crowds, and people walked past his little sand child with hardly a glance. Nobody noticed the perfect buttons on the front of her sun dress, or the amount of love that had gone into every detail. The Artist didn’t care – he stepped back and knew that this was his greatest work. The Sand Child’s hand reached out towards him, and he was filled with longing. He felt if he just took her little hand in his, it would warm up and she would come to life. Lightly, he kissed the Sand Child on the cheek, then turned to go eat lunch. He would show his wife this masterpiece after they tried the amazing crab cakes that everyone was talking about.
The Sand Child awoke. She looked down at her new hands, turning them over and wiggling her fingers in amazement. She held out her sun dress and laughed at the way the tiny buttons seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. She wobbled a few steps on her new legs and then tottered over to the boardwalk. There was so much to see! Stall after stall of brightly colored arts and crafts; this one had mirrors, the frames decorated in exotic seashells, while that one had jewelry shaped like dolphins and mermaids. As she pushed her way through the crowds she felt like she was in another kind of sea, one made up entirely of people. The loud chatter and unfamiliar smells made her feel dizzy, so she found a bench and sat down. Beside her, a small toddler was screeching at his mom.
“I don’t WANT ‘nilla ice cream! I like choklit! Get me choklit!” His frazzled mother took the vanilla ice cream from him and offered the cone to the Sand Child. “Here, you look hot, do you want this? He won’t touch it.”
She smiled and took a lick. It was cool and sweet and magical, and she wondered how anyone could waste such a treat. Feeling refreshed, she ran down to the water’s edge to join some children who were playing there. At first they were jumping waves and skipping stones, but then one of the bigger kids saw a seagull and aimed a pebble at it. The seagull called out in alarm, and tried to fly off, but his wing was caught in some old fishing line, and he fell over. More kids picked up stones, excited by this new game. The Sand Child was furious! She ran to the bird and shielded it from its tormenters, who grumbled then stomped off to find other mischief. The seagull was shaking, but as she struggled with the knotted line it calmed down, recognizing the touch of the ocean in her fingers. Finally the line untangled and the bird, released from its bonds, squawked gratefully and flew off over the water. The Sand Child gathered up the fishing line and went in search of a trash can.
At the place where the sand reached the stairs to the boardwalk, she saw several green bins. To her disgust, they were all overflowing, the ground all around them littered with discarded food wrappers, plastic bottles and soda cans. She noticed a roll of transparent trash bags and without hesitation she shook one out and began gathering the litter. Some teenagers on the boardwalk saw her and laughed cruelly, yelling insults to her and throwing more trash down to the sand below. She ignored them, continuing to bend and scoop up all the human debris that was spoiling her beautiful beach. As she finished her third sack she started feeling better, but then she looked along the shore and noticed more garbage cans, more trash. The board walk was 3 miles long, and as she trudged along its length she found more and more discarded waste. That glint of silver half buried in the sand was just a bottle cap, and a few feet further she picked up a styrofoam coffee cup.
On she walked, but her small legs were growing weary and the sun was so very hot. Further down the beach she found another boy, this one poking at a jelly fish washed up on the shore. Its transparent flesh shuddered as his stick touched it, and the Sand Child felt its pain. She hurried over and scooped it up, placing it gently in the water. But it didn’t swim away – it was already dead. A tear slowly rolled down the Sand Child’s cheek. As it fell into the sand it turned into a pearl.
Now the sun was setting, it’s fiery red and gold blazing overhead. Its colors raged as though the skies above were also angry at the humans. The crowds were thinning out now, as people headed home. Everywhere that they had been, the Sand Child saw signs of their presence – in the discarded grocery bags that blew along the beach and the forgotten flipflops by the water. But now the tide was coming in, and slowly the waves began to wash away the human waste. Suddenly, there was a sharp stabbing pain in her foot. She looked down to see the broken remnants of a discarded beer bottle. It was all too much. For years she had dreamed about joining the children playing in the water, imagining what it would feel like to be human for a day. Now she knew, and her heart felt heavy. She walked slowly into the ocean, letting its gentle waves caress her like a mother’s touch. As the last rays of the sun began to disappear down in the horizon, the Sand Child melted into the water, and drifted away with the sea foam.
The Artist and his wife stood by the water. It had been a disappointing day, when they had returned after lunch, his sand statue had disappeared, probably knocked down by some disrespectful teenagers. His wife never got to see his beautiful sand child, but perhaps it was best, she might have gotten that sad look in her eye again. They walked down the beach, and the moonlight glinted on a tiny object in the sand. Just a ring pull, he presumed, but he bent to pick it up anyway. It was sad how much rubbish you found on beaches these days. It was not a ring pull, he stared in awe of the perfectly formed jewel in his hand. It was not his Ruby, but a milky white pearl. He handed it to his wife.
“People say when you find a pearl, you have found the tears of the ocean.” She said.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” He replied. “She has a lot to cry about.”
He puts his arm around his wife as they walked back to the board walk. A crumpled tissue blew past his feet. He chased it down and picked it up. He put it carefully in the trash can so it wouldn’t blow away.
“Thank you!” A small voice whispered from the ocean.
You might think that the heartbreak the Artist and his wife feel over the loss of their daughter is not relevant to the subject of ocean pollution, but really it symbolizes the Ocean's loss with every animal that dies from marine waste. I also wanted to show that humans aren't all heartlessly polluting on purpose, but they might be distracted like the Artist was when he threw away his coffee cup and tissue. I wanted readers to become more conscientious of the damage humans cause our environment. Because we can't keep tossing trash into our oceans and expecting to receive pearls in return. The oceans are filled with treasures; from the beautiful coral reefs to fish that feed us. If we pick up litter when we see it, like the Artist at the end, then slowly we can start to reverse the damage we have done.