Cherie armed herself with a pair of gloves, some cloths, and a few trowels. You never knew what was going to come in handy beach-combing. She peered carefully around the edge of the door, he wasn’t there, this was good. She glanced around nervously, seeing nothing, she shuffled to the wagon and quickly laid the tools inside. Opening a nearby wooden box, she tossed in a few sacks and one extremely rusty shovel.
“It’s your turn you know” the voice was like ice water down her back; she stiffened slightly, but quickly smoothed herself out again. She pivoted to face him.
“My turn to what?” she answered nonchalantly. “The garbage is already out”.
Ches came closer, not fooled for an instant.
“Your turn to haul the wagon, you always sneak out ahead and leave it for me to haul, it’s not just your turn, it’s way past your turn. I knew you would try it again, so I came out early”.
He grinned here, a slight twinkle in his eye, which she compared unfavorably to that of an electric eel.
Cherie tilted her head and smiled sweetly.
“You know you’re much stronger than I am, it just makes sense for you to do it. You’re so much faster than I am too. “Ches snorted, “Drop the cute act! I am not doing it. It’s your turn. Last time you not only didn’t have to haul the wagon, you claimed some of the coolest stuff before I even got there.”
Cherie paused in surprise.
“You’re more mad because I got to the stuff first, than because I didn’t take the wagon, aren’t you?”
Ches glared and didn’t reply at first. Instead he laid his own tools into the wagon and proceeded to walk toward the shore.
“Either you haul it yourself, or we don’t use the wagon today. Your choice.”
Cherie studied his back. She hated when he tried to sound like dad. “Okay, okay, but can you please help me when it comes time to take it back? It’ll be way heavier then.”
Ches sighed deeply and nodded without breaking his stride or, in fact, even turning around.
“Only if you actually help haul it back, no sneaking off like last time, and the time before, and the time before” he may have said it more times than that, but he had walked too far ahead at this point, so she couldn’t be sure.
“Brothers!” she grumbled and eyed the wagon resolutely. Putting on her gloves she shoved forward with a determined scowl and hurried her pace. Ches was almost out of sight. She didn’t want to miss the good stuff either.
The little wagon was compact and not particularly hard to move really, it was just that the smooth sand sometimes caught one, or more, of the wheels of the wagon in a sand-filled pocket. This, of course, caused the wheel to need shoving out again, which is why neither of them particularly liked hauling the thing, it took time away from the exploring part, which, let’s be honest, was way more fun. Cherie kept her head down, watching the sand flow under her feet. Sometimes she moved forward so fast it felt like it was the ground that was moving instead of her. She wondered what it would be like to live on a world that moved under your feet like an escalator. The view would always change and you wouldn’t have to move a single muscle to be headed somewhere new all the time.
Of course, Ches, had he been privy to her thoughts, would have pointed out that all the things wrong with her idea. The first being that if she stood still and the ground moved under her, that other objects built into the ground would, most likely, also be moving toward her, and would probably mean lots of painful collisions. She liked thinking about things in a certain unsolidified way, but he always noticed the details and could be counted on to comment on anything she thought up, poking holes in each idea until it resembled a pitiful shriveled balloon.
“That would not work the way you think, Cherie, “
She mocked with an expression that could only be described as Ches-esque.
She was so intent on looking below the wagon at the ground passing, that she had to stop rather abruptly when a quick glance revealed Ches had stopped directly in her path. She pulled fast on the handles of the wagon putting all her muscle into it, but was too late to prevent slam-banging him directly behind both knees with the edge of the cart, resulting in Ches falling, rather comically, into it with legs akimbo. Cherie winced and waited for the obviously deserved rebuke, only, quite surprisingly, no such comment was forthcoming. Ches merely scrambled (albeit awkwardly) right back out again, his eyes intent upon something stuck into the wet and mounded sand.
“There’s something in there.”
He knelt over the mound of sand and gestured to the glinting red glass that was all that could be seen of, whatever it was. Using his fingers he pried some more of the sand away and revealed the top of the item. It was a crocodile. The green of its face was spotted with bits of pitted metal where the paint had been rubbed or scratched away; the red glass was clearly two stone eyes.
“It looks like it has been in the water awhile, but less than a week, I’d say, since the rust is at a minimum.” He alternated back and forth between pulling on the item with one hand, whilst brushing at the sand with the other, until with a sudden give the object came free of its sandy prison.
“Hah!” Ches chuckled. “Will you look at that? The things got a head on both ends.”
He held up the sand covered croc, which, did indeed, seem to have a croc face on both ends of its body instead of the expected tail. As he lifted the croc something unusual happened. The shift in position seemed to break loose something inside it. The shifting forced whatever was inside backwards and out of the second croc’s head. The hinged jaw was clearly broken, so the object, which appeared to be a rather grey and faded rectangle, slid right out and onto the sand below. Cherie came around from the front of the wagon and studied the object before scooping down to pick it up. “I think it’s got paper wrapped around it”. She plucked at it.
“Be careful, Cherie, remember the needles.” Ches warned. The incident he referred to being the finding of a wrapped box containing a bundle of used needles that had washed up on shore a few weeks previously. The discovery, of which, almost had their father revoking beachcombing activities far into the foreseeable future when he’d heard.
“I AM being careful” Cherie huffed, staring intently at the nondescript black hinged box, “It doesn’t have the word Sharps on the side, like the last one, and it looks more like a jewelers box.”
She finally worked the waterlogged and saggy wrapping paper off the final edge and let it fall to the ground below. Flipping the lid open before Ches could issue more public service announcements, she peered into the box.
“Glasses, she announced surprise evident. “Sort of.” She held the box aloft at arms length so Ches could see. “They have 2 sets of lenses though, the second set on hinges over top of the other ones. They are shaded a bit differently than the ones set into the glasses. Kinda weird.”
Ches continued to study the croc. “He’s an automaton. I think I can fix him. I’ve never seen one like this though, except.. “In dad’s shop” Cherie finished for him.
“Do you think it’s one of dads?” He turned the croc around to its bottom side. “It’s got a makers mark, but it’s not dad’s. Cherie noted that he sounded slightly relieved. “Don’t get too excited. Even if it’s not dad’s, he might know who it does belong to, and that means giving it back.” Ches felt his shoulders drop. “Yeah.”
“So, lets not tell him.”
“Not tell dad?”
“I don’t mean to not tell him, at all…just sort of, fix it first, and then take it to him, you know, already fixed.” Cherie touched his hand lightly.
“Then, maybe, he’ll see how good you are.”
Ches colored. “I just..”
“And he won’t”
They stared at one another silently both knowing what the other was thinking.
“Mom” Spoken as one, it felt even more powerful.
Ches kicked the sand with his foot and propped the croc against his leg. Moving back just enough to lean against the wagons side “Yeah”
Cherie slid over and propped herself next to him.
“Remember how she’d sing while pushing the wagon. With that huge sunflower hat over her head.”
Ches laughed, “It was too big for her. She’d spend the entire trip trying to keep it from getting in her eyes. Wore it every single time anyway.”
“Singing the whole way.”
Together they faced each other “Oh, good morning Mr Sunshine, don’t bother about me. I’m just coming out to revel in your..vib-ran-cy” Cherie laughed and held her belly, sharing a smile with Ches.
“You look like her, you know..mom.” Ches’s voice sounded a little gruff. Like unshed tears and longing. She heard the same in her reply. “Do I? I’m not sure. I worry I am forgetting what she looked like.”
Ches took her hand with his free one. Entwined the fingers. “It’s why we take the wagon. It’s why we always take the wagon.”
Cherie felt her throat close up with unshed tears. “Promise?”
“Take the croc and fix it up. Then take it to dad and show him the maker’s mark. Show him that you can do just as good a job as the one who made him, and then maybe.” She stalled at this point. Acutely aware suddenly of how much this meant to Ches. He wouldn’t look at her, just stared into the water. He didn’t let go of her hand, so she gave it a reassuring squeeze. “He’ll notice how much you want to be his apprentice. He will. I know he will.”
Ches pushed off the wagon. “Let’s go back. Leave the wagon here. We can finish after breakfast.”
Cherie nodded, but figured it wouldn’t have matter if she hadn’t, for Ches had already gotten that look in his eye, like dad got, when he was thinking of some new project idea. Then Ches turned to her, proving her suddenly wrong, nodded at the glasses “Those are yours, it’s only fair.” Not like dad, she thought to herself, like Ches. He’s himself. She looked down at the glasses and smirked. “Gee, thanks.”