If you need to hide under a massive canopy at the beach, maybe don’t go to the beach.
I’m alone at the Jersey shore.
Zero clouds hover above, and the sun is pissed today.
Thousands of people litter the sand.
A family of seven is constructing a condo on a tiny square of sandy real estate.
Sunblock and sweat flood my eyes, making it difficult to watch the group of strangers struggle with erecting their home away from home.
I go back to reading my book, and when I look up again, the structure is complete.
All that’s missing is a table to fan out pamphlets about health screenings or unload boxes of Etsy-ready necklaces.
Olivia Newton-John wails out Magic from speakers in the distance, and the song immediately transports my head to moments in childhood I’m uninterested in revisiting.
The song is attached to unspecific moments. The song is unlistenable. I’m not sure if I don’t like it because I associate it with lengthy car rides stuck in soft rock hell or because it just sucks.
Two kids – both under four – suddenly accompany the canopy brigade making the awning a little more forgivable. The location of the kids during the building process, I have no idea, though both could have been hiding in the Mini Cooper-sized coolers.
The tribe lines the massive chests through the middle of the overhang, like a makeshift dining room table. I’m tempted to ask the specials for the evening and if accommodations for a party of one is available.
Time passes, the number of beachgoers doubles and I’m suddenly fenced in by Tommy Bahama chairs and blankets as big as boat sails.
I’m into my book and really don’t mind the crowd.
My concentration on the lives of comedians is broken by a father frantically shouting his daughter’s name.
His 6-year-old daughter is lost. She’s wearing a polka dot bikini.
Half the crowd watches him while the other half stands and scans the beach.
At that moment, we all turn into Sabrina’s parents. Our concentration and focus on finding the little girl while pushing our hearts down and out of our throats and ignoring the passing thoughts labeled worst-case scenario.
Finally, beach police escort the family on ATV towards the boardwalk.
Sabrina is safe.
The family of seven resumes the unloading of Sterno trays from coolers.
The entire ordeal might have lasted about fifteen minutes. It felt like fifteen hours.
The search party resumes sunbathing and making every effort to look suave while tiptoeing across the blazing hot sand.
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