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Rated: E · Short Story · Biographical · #2292234
A last drive along the California coast. WC, 1000


he rain made tapping noises on the skylight over the garage-cum-small artist's studio. The elderly woman with fine streaks of gray in her light-brown hair was sitting at a small folding table, nibbling on a breakfast sausage.

         "How about we drive along the coast? It's been awhile since we saw Cambria. Maybe go all the way up to the sea-lions," a male voice said.

         "I don't like to leave the house," the woman replied.

         A heavy - set man entered the studio with a plate in one hand and a bottle of iced tea in the other. He sat the small table opposite the woman.

         "Is that a bagel? You know I don't like bagels," the woman said.

         "I know that is why it's for me, not you. You got your eggs and sausage."

         She glared at him, then turned her attention to her last sausage. They ate in silence for several minutes before she said, "I do miss seeing the ocean."

         There were work tables along two walls, a sewing machine along another, and floor to ceiling shelves along the North wall. The North wall also had two doors, one going into a small pass through kitchen and the other into a small bedroom.

         The shelves on the North wall were packed with cloth dolls of all kinds: Mermaids, witches, Grand Viziers, Harry dolls, dolls dressed as Victorian ladies and scantily clad dolls lounging on couches. On the top shelf were small bird cages of various kinds. On the West wall was a glass paneled door and a wide window next to it. The window looked on to a large backyard with hanging bird feeders scattered around. On the window sill were rocks painted to look like houses. The room was cluttered with scraps of cloth, paint brushes and small bottles of paint.

         "I really need to clean this room up before ..." the woman said, then her voice trailed off.

         "Time enough to worry about that," the man replied.

         When a ruckus erupted in the backyard, they rose to look out the window. Two pigeons were trying to break into a bird feeder made for much smaller birds. Another flew in and ran into the window they were looking out of.

         "Straight out of 'The Birds' movie!" the woman said, then added. "Greedy pigeons."

         They returned to the table, and he finished his breakfast, then cleared the plates. She went through the door into the small bedroom. While he cleaned up the minor mess in the kitchen from making breakfast, she changed into her day clothes.

         Once finished in the kitchen, he sat again at a chair in the studio and put on his shoes. She came out of the bedroom and sat at the worktable that was set up to paint rocks. She touched a few items but didn't pick anything up.

         He stood and asked, "Let's go. I think, heading North, we can get a break in the rain. That would be nice, yes?"

         "I told you I don't like to leave the house," she replied without much conviction.

         "Yes, you did. Now put your outdoor shoes on and let's go," he said firmly but kindly, then added. "Don't make me get the rope! I can tie you up, but I ain't got the strength to lift you anymore, so I'd have to drag you out to the car."

         She looked like she was going to cry but sighed instead and said, "Eric, this is why nobody likes you."

         She reluctantly returned to the bedroom and came back with slip-on shoes. Eric held a soft jacket that he helped her put on. He had already opened the door to the driveway where the small sedan was parked. She hesitated at the door and started to cry.

         Eric whispered to her, "It's OK. The car is right there. Just make it to the car."

         She gave a small sob but started walking again. Once at the car, he helped her with the seat belt, then walked to the driver's side by passing behind the vehicle. He knelt and retied one of his shoelaces. While he knelt, tears welled up in his eyes, and he whispered, "Not now." After he dabbed his eyes with his sleeve, he stood up and continued around to the driver door.

         Once he was in the driver's seat, he quickly put on sunglasses, started the car, and backed out of the driveway. He wound out of the tiny neighborhood and, rather than get on Highway 1, he followed a frontage road long side it.

         They pasted a small shop selling second hand stuff. Along one side of the shop could be seen piles of driftwood.

         "He just takes a piece, cleans it then glues some crap to it and sells it as art," the woman said with derision in her voice.

         "Does it sell?" Eric asked.


         They drove in silence as Eric navigated the car on to the freeway. After only a few minutes, the blue of the Pacific Ocean appeared on the left. They passed the village of Cayucos and continued along Highway 1. They passed beaches where wetsuit clad surfers floated on the water waiting for the perfect wave, and the crashing surf brought seaweed and foam to the shore.

         The road wound inland, passing through the village of Strawberry and the town of Cambria, then back out to the coast, eventually reaching a parking area near a sea-lion mating area.

         Once out of the car, they walked slowly to the area where the sea-lions could be seen on the beach below. The woman smiled and said, "Thank you, this is lovely."

         They watched the seal-loins in silence for a time. The wind started to rise, and the woman turned to Eric and said, "I love you."

         Eric turned, and said, "I love you too, mom."

         There was no-one there, just the wind, the ocean, sea-lions, and a few scattered tourists. He carried the urn back to his car and drove off with tears streaming down his face.

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