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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Perfection of the weather on the beach takes a different turn in the water.


A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran


Polly Waters, a tall tanned blonde woman of twenty-four, stood knee-deep in the Pacific waters off Ocean Beach. Warm sunshine flickered off the soft curls of the languid waves. There were no clouds on any horizon; an occasional zephyr, but no wind; temperatures in the low seventies, and an overarching Blue Angels’ deep blue sky.

As a long-term San Francisco resident, Polly knew conditions like these were very rare—particularly in February. She took a mental health day from her job as a doctor’s receptionist to absorb the spectacular weather. She and her two roommates correctly perceived this to be one of those days; a day when perfection in nature underscores the imperfection in man. Nothing of man—nor man-made—could cobble together all the elements of this exquisite exhibition of natural perfection. The dazzling day beckoned not only the young women but also thousands of other inhabitants of the City to take the day off; a free day, a ‘sick’ day—any breed of day—to luxuriate in the boughs of nature’s bounty.

Polly felt something brush her leg. She looked down at the sliding wave next to her leg and for a moment glimpsed what looked like a glass disc, slightly submerged beneath the soft emerald sea. She shot out a hand to grasp the object, but just as quickly withdrew it before she wondered why. She immediately felt an inner chilling sensation somewhere nearer to her heart than her stomach, an early warning system, an essential signal she was not picking up.

She turned and called to Megan Myers, a wiry, shortish, brown-haired woman of twenty with twin tattoos of wings on her ankles. She ran for the California Sun racing team.

“Hey Meg . . .” failing to get Meg’s attention, “hey Meg,” waving while beginning to walk toward her friend.

Polly’s other roommate, Arielle Gunderson, faintly heard Polly’s yell, but did see her waving, and took this as a sign for Arielle to join her. Arielle was a twenty-three year-old shapely blonde Swede of middle-height who spoke with a sultry accent while advising retirees about their health benefits.

The three young women conspired to roll a number of white lies into a black one . . . well, at least a dark grey one—one that enabled them to burst the bands of bureaucracy and hit the beach, where they ran into the Pacific to feel the wussy waves tickle their thighs.

Megan and Arielle, initially twenty yards or so up the beach to her right, now stood next to their friend.

“Hey, look guys . . .damn, where did it go?” Polly did a 360 and dropped her chin in a frown, “it was right here; a strange-looking thing; like a disc; just, well . . . just there; here,” turning again, “ well, it was here; I wanted you to see it and see what it was.”

“Well, why didn’t you pick it up yourself, Polly?” Arielle’s Swedish melted-brown-sugar voice contained neither fear nor reproach.

“Yeah, Polly,” Megan studied her friend’s finely tanned face for some signal; some reason—or even a motive, for not just grabbing the disc and seeing what it was herself, “why didn’t you just grab it and see?”

Sounds of other beachers and bathers reflected off the still waters while bummed out surfers tossed Frisbees. Splashing each other was the number one activity; that, and making angel’s wings in the sand. The snowbird contingents from Minneapolis and Toronto lay motionless on the hot sand, while their kiddies—and those of the locals—flung sand pails—and sand—at anything they saw, mainly dogs and jelly fish.

The entire length of the beach was a glittering celebration of unbounded glee and aquatic abandon.

Polly was silent. The waves crept higher. The tide was coming in.

“I don’t know, guys . . . I just had this funny feeling; well, you know, not funny; not funny ha ha, that’s for sure,” pausing and moving her hands about in the water, “it—I . . . well I had this creepy feeling—all over; that’s why I called you. Not because of the disc but because I felt really alone; even here . . .with you,” waving her right arm, “even with everybody in the City out here.” She lowered her eyes. Her friends thought she might cry.

Arielle stepped to her friend and hugged her. Megan was moving to hug her friend from the other side when her elbow felt a slight tap. She stopped and saw a disc, still slightly submerged, bobbing under the surface. She instinctively grabbed at the disc and felt a round shape touch her fingers. With a “Hey guys, here it is,” she easily drew the object from the ocean and flourished it in front of her friends. It was a green glass Coke bottle, a relic these days. In fact, two of the three never drunk a Coke from a green glass bottle.

Polly stiffened. She stared at the object with a look of perplexed dread. An invisible cloud of foreboding was rapidly replacing the blatantly joyous ambiance of the fun-filled beach. She felt herself surrounded by a sickening panic.

Wow,” exclaimed Megan, “this is a real oldie . . . hey, look; it has a cork and all.”  The ‘all’ was a green Coke bottle from decades ago, filled with air, and corked with a wine bottle cork. It contained what looked like a roll of paper.

“Let me see it,” asked Arielle in a diffident tone, “wow, that is a real relic; from the thirties or forties, I think.  My grandfather had a whole collection of Coke bottles—even one of the originals. He collected them like, well . . . stamps, you know, like—or coins . . . and look; there’s something in it,” holding out her hand to Megan and giving her the bottle, “yes; look; it looks like paper; maybe a note; what do think Polly?” turning to Polly, holding out the bottle. Polly drew back in an attitude of terror. Frowns and furrows of naked fear streaked her minute-a-go radiant face.

“No; no.” She turned, and as quickly as the sea would allow her, waded to the shore where she ran up on the beach to their towels and jackets and buried her head among their belongings. Arielle and Megan arrived in moments and bent to console their friend.

“Polly.” No reaction. “Polly? What is it?” implored Megan, “what’s the matter?” Polly remained with her face buried in the clothes and sobbed. Arielle guessed it was something about the bottle that unhinged their friend.

After minutes of infuriating labor—and not a few remarks of the cursing kind from Megan—the cork finally popped. A roll of paper slid out.

Polly heard the noise of the dislodged cork. She dropped the garments from her face and gave Arielle and Megan the look of death.

“I put a message in that green bottle eighteen years ago. My father loved the idea and we launched it—or whatever you say—from the beach,” Polly’s tan had vanished. Tiny welts of white speckled her face, “I can still . . . I clearly remember that Dad put my name next to his at the bottom of the note. I remember us jamming in the cork. Then he threw it as far as he could, out into the sea,” thinking, wondering, feeling that same chilling stab poke in her gut, “but we threw it in the ocean . . . in Florida.” 

Her two friends looked at each other and then at Polly.

“Are you sure it was in Florida, Polly?” Arielle leaned in closer to her friend. “Well, this is probably not your bottle, Polly; this is the Pacific, kid . . . I mean . . .” Megan broke off, only because there was nothing more to say.

Polly looked at them with green eyes shining like those of a sooth-sayer. Curiosity and fright shot flashes across the cool green irises.

“No . . . guys, it’s mine. Just look at the paper.”

Arielle had the roll of paper at her side, forgotten in the moment. She blinked,  raised the paper, and read it. She dropped the paper, screamed, and threw her arms about Polly. Arielle began to shake before exploding into tears.

Megan, her face by now wearing rapidly changing expressions of confusion and fear, picked up the paper and read: Dear Tom; received your bottle with the cork still tight and your note about your family—and especially, your loving words about your daughter. Sincere condolences. It is always a tragedy when a child dies before their parents. And only twenty-five. I know you did everything to keep Polly alive but so often there is nothing that helps. May God be with you and your wife, as well as your other children. I just put this in the bottle as is, because your note had no return address.


Forton Henry, Sydney, Australia.’



Submitted: February 07, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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spˈɔːn ɒv sˈe͡ɪtən

Very good read. Going to give it another read.

Sun, May 16th, 2021 7:06pm


Hey there, pardon my late reply to your kind comments.
Hope there are more stories you will enjoy.
Most of all, thanks for taking your time to not only read the story but also to take the time to send me your encouraging words.
Welcome to Bookie. They are the best.

Wed, May 19th, 2021 4:38pm

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