The hot beach

On Noah’s eighth birthday, his family flew south to a hot beach. We lived for nine months in an orange stucco house with a tiny blue swimming pool, between the ocean and a seasonal rain forest. A troupe of monkeys lived in the overhead canopy. There were colored birds and butterflies. There were snakes and scorpions and billions of ants. There were odd creatures in the sea and strange animals on land. Noah loved all of it.

We taught Noah how to type and he began typing stories about the animals in the forest. I hadn’t anticipated this. My boy wrote comfortable, interesting prose with no more than a few years’ reading history and some typing lessons. I can strain all day and never write a word. Noah ran happily to his keyboard and typed for hours.

Evan sneered at Noah’s enthusiasm for the wild stuff. He might say, ‘whoa!’ or ‘that’s cool!’ if a tuna finned through a wave in front of his face, but he called Noah’s fascination with insects ‘boring’. Evan missed his friends. He was ‘home schooling’ and he had little to do. He worked through the math book he’d brought from the States. He penciled some weekly paragraphs about his experiences at the hot beach. He spent hours each day playing his electronic piano. It wasn’t enough. He became angry and he stayed angry a long time.

Evan took a couple surfing lessons and got a board. I watched him sitting out in the swell. He would ride to the top of a wave and look down, then slide back and let the wave crash underneath him on its way to shore. Adolescence was working its way into his body and he was alone on a hot beach. Without his pack of boys, goading each other on, he stayed cautious. He liked surfing though, and went out into the breakers every day.

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