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

At the beach, a little girl jumps into the brilliant sunshine. Near her, another family slips into the darkest of shadows. A duet of sacred and profane; joy and dread; life and ruination.

Submitted: February 20, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 20, 2016




A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran 


Before anyone could stop her, little Alice Dement jumped.

Her skinny five year-old body hung in the air as though she were about to take flight. Her red and white polka dot sun-suit with the wide pink tie around her neck was unruffled.The absence of any wind held her golden ringlets in the perfect pattern that her mother had carefully arranged for her, before the family bunched their beach belongings into the old Ford Escort station wagon.

The blistering heat of the August sun as well as the cries of gulls, paused.


John David Bryce was coming out of the Blue Ice Gelateria with a cone in each hand.

As a result of ordering four scoops per cone, the normally simple action of putting one foot in front of the other quickly became a balancing act to rival The Great Wallendas. Gingerly, would be a good description of John David’s stepping motion.

The cones were for his wife Alexis and his step-daughter Kristen. John David was on yet another diet and was fairly drooling between the two cones.

They had wanted to talk somewhere away from any of their friends, a sunny place like . . .

“The beach.” Kristen had suggested.


Tommy Thurston was the purveyor of all the edible items on this particular section of the beach. Something else that he was presently purveying was the drop zone for Alice Dement.

Tommy hadn’t seen the kid until she was airborne.

How the blazes did that little girl get up there?

Up there was—or, more correctly—had been, the launch pad for the little tyke.


The two women had been watching JD, and Kristen rushed to relieve him of one cone.

As Kristen approached him, Alice Dement entered John David’s peripheral vision to his left.

As though he had stalled time, he stared at the little girl—the staggering beauty of the young lady.

John David continued to plod through the sand, mouth agape as he drank in the exquisite glamour of the child; her legs and arms; slim body; her flashing teeth.


Would she land in the  popcorn overflow bin beside the popcorn machine?

There was also that hot dog maker lazily turning the finest wursts ever served.

A landing there would be more spiky than spicy, with some sears that would bring tot-tears; possibly in floods.

The bouquets from Tommy’s offerings were mixed and somewhat mellow as they hung in the windless late summer afternoon.


JD withdrew his eyes from Alice’s cute form and concentrated once more on the structural integrity of cone number two.

John David Bryce was in the process of a possible reconciliation with his second wife after only six months of marriage. Now thirty-nine, but looking much younger, he had already trashed one marriage and lost the kids; and the same probability was up to bat again in the present.

John David was willingly paying both alimony and child support to the members of his first disaster. In addition, he had scrupulously adhered to the visitation rules set down by the court.


Alice, and her gorgeous giggling lips, appeared to be suspended against the deep blue sky that arched from horizon to horizon, marked only by the sizzling sun and squawking seagulls.


Whenever he had some extra cash, John David sent gifts and flowers. Moreover, he missed neither sporting events nor school functions.


There was also the taffy apple display, sporting freshly dipped Granny Smith  apples.

Where are her parents? Where are her four siblings? Where are Granny Jones and Grandpa Dement?


His first wife, Adriana, considered John David the perfect ex-husband, as well as being a loving—and caring—father to Vanessa, sixteen,and to Paul, who had just turned thirteen. 

John David had retained all the friends from his first marriage, and had easily acquired another rather large band of new ones.

Both men and women regarded him as a ‘really good guy.’


Hmmm; she must have shimmied up the pole with the pennants; but how did she get to the top of my striped tent without someone noticing? 

Tommy began to seriously worry about Alice’s landing spot, which was clearly going to happen very soon.

Nine months ago, Alexis Whalen had literally swum into John David's ken near the floating dock off the shores of  Lake Rondeau. They were both staying at Harvey House for the Labor Day weekend, and they were both alone.  

Alexis had parked her fourteen-year-old daughter with her best friend, Kylie Wentworth (a practical nurse and a MSW) for the weekend.

Alexis’ mind and body craved a timeout from her job running three hardware stores in downtown San Gianni.

Both were very good swimmers and an instant race began to the floating dock some fifty yards away.

JD lost, Alexis won.  

They both laughed watery gurgle laughs with a frankness possessed by those friends who have known each other from grade five.

When Alexis motioned for JD to go ahead, he did and turned to help her up the ladder. What he saw prompted him to raise a mental erection and ask her to dinner. 

Once seating arrangements had been shifted about, the two settled into a memorable dinner and an even more memorable discussion of just about everything except sex. That occurred after dinner on the last night.


Now the distance between Alice and a hard landing was rapidly decreasing


JD was a rep for a string of drug companies. This brought him to doctors’ and dentists’ offices in a two hundred mile radius.  

He had met many attractive women sprinkled among these offices but he had never met one like Alexis. 

Both were divorced. Alexis volunteered the usual reasons for divorce and JD gave the same reasons for his—with one exception. That omission had been the explosive charge that split the otherwise happy couple.

Within three months JD and Alexis were man and wife; a wife with a teenage daughter. Now their merry trio was on the verge of rupture that centered on the unrevealed reason for JD’s first divorce.


Alice couldn’t remember when she had enjoyed anything as much as this jump into the air. Another giggle gurgled its way past her open smile.


When John David was only a few feet from his wife, he caught another glimpse of the darling Alice. He stopped and stared for a nanosecond—while he pondered her little thighs and her very becoming bottom—before continuing toward Alexis.

As a very handsome man of five-ten with all his still-black hair, JD had realized too late that most of his problem lay in the fact that almost all women found him very attractive and he, in turn, was drawn to them. Therein lay most of the problem. Scrolling across John David’s inner eye had come scenes of arguments, accusations, denials—threats to call the police.

That certain part of the problem was to be the topic of discussion between the three of them as soon as JD delivered the cone to Alexis.


Alice continued to float in arrested time; giggling; throwing out her tiny arms in a carefree glee; showing her tiny white teeth to the bemused sky; kicking her feet at the stunned sun. Here she was in all her girlish glory: sailing; gliding, but also falling.


As soon as John David Bryce sat down beside his wife he instantly looked for Alice, who by now had reached her apogee and was turning the spatial corner for her re-entry.


Tommy Thurston screwed up his face to look into the sun. He hoped the kid didn’t shatter his M &M counter display; or even the—oh no; not the—oh no; surely not.

Tommy had to cover his eyes, sun or no sun; it was just too; well; too . . . unthinkable.


When Alexis took her cone from John David, she smiled an accommodating  smile. It was open; frank; willing to listen. However, her husband was looking undeviatingly at the little girl in the air over there who was about to land in . . .

“JD . . . darling,” Alexis saw John David staring into space, but directly at that little girl.


Immediately upon achieving their exit from the Tunnel of Love, Jack and Jane Dement heard screams coming from the area of the confection stand. Between the stand and the limp waves stretched the blinding white sand of the curving beach. Against the warm blue sky, they saw what looked like a Raggedy Ann suspended in the summer air. Instantly they recognized Alice. Jjust as quickly they gasped, cried out, attempted to scream, but found their cries jammed in their throats.


John David’s gaze horrified her and instantly poured fright on the sickening fire that now was consuming their marriage. Suddenly Alexis guessed two facts. The first was that the darling little girl would land safely. The other was the real reason for her husband’s first divorce, and was certainly the root of the present problem facing them.


Now scores of eyes were focused on little Alice as she completed her leap from the highest point of the confection stand roof.

Tommy groaned. Jane and Jack gawked in arrested dismay. Gramps and Granma—everyone---ran while they wrung their hands and tried to remember their Senior Swimming Badge First Aid instructions. 

Converging on a moaning Tommy Thurston, they saw that the poor man simply could not bear to watch Alice’s landing. He had buried his bald head and pointy ears in a razzleberry pie next to the taffy apples.

Suddenly, everyone stopped moving, as if facing the halting palm of the Lord—and stared. Then they laughed—some couldn’t restrain the tears of relief, mixed with the warm feelings of a life preserved. 

Jane and Jack, as well as the grandparents slowed their approaching step toward Alice while they laughed with relief. They scoured their minds for the best plan to extricate her from the tub of pink cotton candy.

Alice was literally up to her neck in a very sticky wicket of the candy variety. She was upright, and between giggles, she ducked her head and hair, as well as her pretty dress and golden ringlets, into the surrounding billows of unending confection for the ten minutes required to unstick her.


Two uniformed officers passed unnoticed by a large group clustered around the convection stand. The group was laughing, weeping, and whooping about something in pink.


John David Bryce immediately rose and approached the officers. He told them who he was. They said they knew. They lowered their heads somewhat while they showed him a piece of paper and a few photos. He could not bear to turn around to face Alexis and his stepdaughter. He simply sighed and thrust out his hands to be cuffed.

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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