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Rated: E · Other · Other · #1578920
Mr. Hemingway's title inspired me to write this story.
{Author's Note: I do not aspired to anything pretentious. There is no hidden meaning in this story, it was merely a writing exercise that turned into something half-way decent. The exercise was to write a short story based off a famous title of a book you have never read.}

The Old Man and the Sea

He sat on the seashore, stroking his thumb along the well-worn groove of a shell. How many times each minute did his thumb pass over the iridescent citizen of the sea? The minutes turned into hours of erosion and the hours became days. The days turned into years and a pattern – a habit – was born.

It was his revenge, his defiance. The old man, grizzled by life, was content to fight his last battle against a shell. It was the last battle he would win. Now his skin was calloused and hard, but the shell was smooth and soft. The groove caught the hidden light of the moon at night, causing the man to stroke at the shell further and harder, as if seeking to find the light hidden inside.

The shell bore up under the stress patiently, becoming refined. The old man prized his shell – it was due to his labor and time that the shell had become an object of beauty.

Years and years of hard labor in decades past, from the youthful hands of the old man, had created a lovely home on the beach. The unpainted clapboard sheltered a modest home. He had built it to stand against storms and stand it did. Though humble, the home was fitting and the source of the old man’s pride.

The ever-encroaching sea devoured the clapboard home. Little by little the waves drew nearer and the tide never pushed them out far enough. Season by season the old man heard his neighbors mention the coming danger, but confident in his handiwork the old man let the house stand untouched.

It fell into the sea, surrounded by swirling water and agitated wind. The old man watched from a safe distance with bitterness in his soul. The sea, the source of so much pleasure, had taken his prized possession.

Turning his eyes from the catastrophe wrought to his pride, the old man shuffled to his neighbor’s house. The sand caught in his shoes and the birds circled overhead. The world was too loud, too noisy. In frustration the old man bent down unsteadily and grabbed a loose handful of sand. With a surprisingly steady motion he threw the sand into the choppy water. There was no satisfaction in throwing sand – it disappeared from view before it reached the intended target. The old man intended to grab another handful and reclaim his land while venting his anger to the sea. But inside his handful of sand the old man found a shell.

It was a shell from the deep, a dark color. He ran his thumb down the center and then lifted his arm to throw the shell back. His arm fell without loosing the shell. If the sea could take his deeply important possession, then he could take the sea’s possession from the deep. As the old man shuffled home he ran his thumb down the center of the shell over and over again.

So now he sits, the old man. He sits on the seashore and holds his captive. The sea laps about his gnarled toes, bringing relief to the arthritis. The old man strokes his shell again, mystified by the beauty now in his possession. This beauty was created by the deep and hidden. By his hard work the old man has exposed the beauty for others to see.

The sun lulls him and the birds chatter a maritime melody. With a start the old man rouses and looks at his hand. His thumb has been stroking air. He violently sits up and searches the fading surf with his eyes, looking for his shell.


Returning to the sea is the luminescent shell, slowly extending beyond the old man’s grasp. With a cry of bitter despair the old man wrenches his eyes from the disappearing shell. His feet move slowly but steadily into the ocean. His mouth opens to voice his despair, bitterness, and anguish; only to be filled with the sea.

The waves gently lap the shore again. What was the sea’s before is now once again.
© Copyright 2009 Alexandria Lee (alexandria87 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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