[Author's Note: This was an entry for a writing challenge. The challenge provided a picture of footprints disappearing into the surf with a beautiful sunset in the background. There was a few hundred word limit; I don't remember the exact number. I can't ever go the normal route, so I let my imagination wander and came up with this.]
Benny was always an odd kid. Most people avoided him, thought he was creepy or scary, as if being too near him might let it rub off on them.
He didn't bother me too much, so I let him hang around the shop. I mean, sure, sometimes he'd get weird, sort of get on my nerves, but most of the time he was just quiet. Usually he just stared out at the ocean, but he'd never go in.
I never met Benny's parents, which was strange because most of the kids who hung around the shop brought their parents in when it was time for big purchases. Benny never bought anything large. He just hung out, watched the other kids from a distance, and stared out to sea.
I asked him once if his parents were going to pop for a board for him. He said his parents wouldn't have the right currency. I asked if they were foreign, he said no, they're from right over there and pointed out towards the beach. It looked like he was pointing towards Santa Monica, so that's what I assumed, but when I asked him if that's what he meant, he just smiled and told me his mother was the ocean and his father was the sky.
I didn't see him for another week.
Next thing I know, here's Benny at the beach with a board. He tells me he's going to visit his mom, then walks out into the water. The waves are pretty small, I don't know what he's got in mind, but he sure won't be doing much surfing.
He just walks out through the wet sand leaving a solitary trail of footprints, into the water, further out, until his head disappears below the surface. I wait for him to come up, but he doesn't. It takes me a minute, but next thing I know I'm running into the ocean towards where I last saw him, diving, swimming against the undertow, searching, but there's no sign of him. No sign of his board. It's like he disappeared.
Two hours later, the crowd's finally clearing off on the beach. We've seen nothing. The lifeguards have looked, Search and Rescue has checked, the Coast Guard. Now the sun is setting, and the tide's on its way out, and Benny is just gone. There's nothing much anyone can do.
I sit on the wet sand, right about where I'd been sitting the last time I saw him. Poor kid. Never seemed to have much of a chance in the world.
Then I notice them. Benny's footprints.
They're reappearing in the sand, one at a time, as if he's walking back out into the ocean again, but he's not there, just those footprints appearing in wet sand.
Half of me wants to chase them, but I know I won't find anything. We've all tried. So I sit and watch his phantom footprints head into the tide and I think, maybe his mother really was the ocean.
Maybe Benny's home.