~A Little Hardys Adventure by Lily~
The Mystery at the Beach
We’re on the Beach!
Fenton reached over and grabbed the bowl from in front of Frank, ready to give the kitchen staff a serious talking to for not being more careful. And then he saw what had probably been the cause for his son’s alarm. He tried to hold back a chuckle, exchanged a quick look with Laura, who was relieved that everything was okay after all, and patted Frank’s shoulder. “Was it something dark you saw?”
“Yeah,” Frank nodded his head vigorously. “Dark an’ creepy lookin’!”
“Well, even though it’s not quite kosher, it must be one of the ingredients for their ‘seaside noodle soup’. They’re called mussels,” Fenton explained to his wide-eyed son.
“Muscles?” Frank questioned as he looked over at his dad’s upper arms.
“No, not those kinds of muscles. The ones in your soup are shellfish…they live in the ocean, like clams and oysters.”
“YUCK!” Joe gave his opinion from across the table.
“Yeah, yuck!” Frank agreed. “It’s icky, Daddy…do I hafta eat it?”
Fenton and Laura exchanged a look. He sighed and ruffled Frank’s hair, “No, you don’t have to. We’re on vacation…it wouldn’t be much fun for you if you had to eat something yucky, now would it?”
Or for us, for that matter, Laura’s expression told him.
Fenton agreed with a smile.
“How about a meal like Joe’s?” Laura suggested.
“Yes, please, thank you,” Frank nodded solemnly. He followed his dad’s instructions to go ahead and eat his crackers while his new meal was being ordered.
Pete came over as soon as Fenton signaled him, “Yes, sir?”
“We would like another hot dog and fries meal, please. And could you take this soup back with you?”
“Yes, sir…is there anything wrong with it?”
“No, nothing other than unexpected ingredients…my son discovered that he doesn’t like mussels.”
“Oh, sure, no problem. I’ll get that other hot dog meal for you right away.”
“Sure thing.” Pete turned to go, but paused when he caught sight of the little blond boy across the table. The mother had just been putting mustard on the hot dog bun for him and now, with a big grin on his face, the little tyke reached into the bun, took out the hot dog, and took a bite of it. A few moments later he swallowed and then took a bite of the mustarded bread. Pete watched in fascination for a few moments before he realized he was staring and quickly headed to the kitchen to get the other little boy’s replacement meal for him.
The rest of the meal went smoothly for all and Pete received a generous tip for his excellent service. Fenton and Laura included the price of the unwanted soup in that tip, because Pete had generously arranged it so that they were not charged for it.
Walking out onto the beach, Fenton and Laura each held a small hand securely in theirs…the boys were so excited that their parents didn’t dare let go of them for even a moment. Frank and Joe knew to stay close to their parents, but in their exuberance to actually be at the beach, they might get too distracted and end up getting separated otherwise.
Laura decided on a small rise just beyond the reach of the incoming tide and began setting things up…while still holding onto Joe who was straining toward the ocean in an attempt to spot the dolphins.
Fenton let go of Frank’s hand and firmly told him to stay right there while he set up the chairs in a curving perimeter. The four-year-old looked around the area with delight, we’re fin’ly here…we’re on the beach!
Joe looked over at Frank anxiously, his earnest little face clouded with concern, “I don’ see ’em, Frank!”
Frank, who was wearing his own cool shades to protect his eyes just like his brother was, peered out over the water. He placed his hand above his sunglasses in the hopes of enabling him to see further as he craned his neck. “I don’t see ’em either, Joe…they’re probl’y still eatin’ lunch. They’ll come around later,” he ended with confidence.
This relieved some of Joe’s stress and he nodded in serious agreement. “Yeah, lunch.”
“Alright, who wants to go play in the ocean?” Fenton asked happily once everything was set up.
Joe jumped up and down, “Me!”
Frank remained strangely quiet as he looked over at the water. He looked back up at his dad and asked, “Don’t we hafta wait an hour?”
“Will you listen to him?!” Fenton asked Laura proudly. “My little genius! Well, to answer your wise inquiry…yes, it is best to wait an hour before going swimming or diving, to avoid cramps. However, it’s been almost an hour since we finished eating. Plus, we’ll be looking for seashells and just getting our feet wet for the first little while, so it’s okay for us to go ahead.”
“Oh,” Frank sounded almost disappointed as he looked down and then back over his shoulder at the rolling tide once again.
“What is it, son?”
“Are there…are there mussels in there?” came the nervous question in response.
“Well, sure, that’s where they live…but they won’t hurt you, Frank,” his dad reassured him.
“Don’t they bite?”
“No, never. They don’t even have teeth…they’re just a shell and that gross looking goo inside.”
Laura put a hand to her face to hide the smile brought on by her husband’s description. Grown men can be such little boys!
Frank’s face brightened, “Okay…I’m ready, too!”
“Alright! Here we go!” Fenton said as the four walked hand-in-hand down to the foaming water’s edge – Frank carrying his yellow pail and Joe carrying his red one.
After a couple of hours of playing in the ocean and sand, the Hardy family was ready for some refreshments.
“How about we go up to the ice cream truck and get something yummy and cold?” Laura suggested as she smiled at her three boys building a sandcastle.
“Yeah!” all three chorused and rose to their feet immediately.
“An’ when we come back, you’ll make the pretty tops for our cas’le, Mommy?” Joe asked hopefully.
“Yes…and I thought of another pretty design I can add to what I usually do!”
“Oh boy!” Joe smiled happily and came over to where Laura was sitting in her low beach chair, throwing his chubby little arms around her neck as he cuddled his head against her neck. She hugged him back and stood, lifting him in her arms as she did so. He raised his head and smiled at her. She smiled back as he reached out a finger to touch the tip of her nose, “I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you, too, Joe,” she said with a happy smile as her heart swelled with the abundance of joy she felt in having such a wonderful family.
The family of four wound their way through the crowded beach, walking slowly enough for Frank to be able to keep up with the adults without having to walk too fast and tire out his little legs.
Right by the ice cream truck was a wooden bench facing the ocean. Joe reached over and tapped his dad’s shoulder, “Can I sit on the bench an’ watch for the dolphins?”
Fenton looked at the proximity of the bench and the lone person sitting there. Two strides away and in my direct line of view if I stand to the right and keep turned that way. Joe never does well waiting in lines, so this is definitely a better way for him to pass the time. To Joe he replied as he lifted him out of his mother’s arms, “Yes, just make sure you sit right there until I come lift you down, okay? And if you want down before I come over…just call me. I’ll be two steps away and watching you every moment.” This last part he said as he set Joe down on the bench, so that the man sitting there could hear this information, too. Fenton eyed him, but the man in cool shades seemed oblivious to their presence as he watched a dozen girls playing a beach ball game.
“Hi!” Joe greeted the man in cheerful exuberance as his dad went to help with the ice cream purchases.
Turning his head toward Joe, the man smiled broadly and said, “Hello there!”
Joe nodded toward the ball in the air and said, “Pretty ball!”
“The one the beautiful girls are using in their beach ball game?”
After a few minutes of companionable silence the man asked Joe, “How old are you?”
“Three. How old are you?”
“Twenty-three. I was wondering if you knew your colors…like, for instance, the beach ball?”
“Sure! I learned my colors looonng time ago!”
The man smiled at Joe’s little child way of counting time. “Oh, I wasn’t trying to insult you, little friend. I was just curious.”
“That’s ‘kay. I’m not ‘sulted,” Joe assured him solemnly. He remembered the man had asked him a question so he answered it, “I know all the colors of the beach ball – red, blue, yellow, green, and peach!”
“Yeah, they must’ve left their ball out in the sun a long time like I did. Mine got all faded on one side – it used to be orange.”
“Hmmm, you’ve got a pretty good memory!”
“Yeah, I can ‘member lots of stuff! From a long time ago even…back when I was two!“
“You don’t say?”
“Yep!” Joe asserted. He swung his legs back and forth as he and his new friend enjoyed the game on the sand. Joe’s head moved in unison with the ball as it went from one girl to another. After a while, he noticed his bench buddy didn’t seem to be watching the ball at all. Prob’ly lookin’ at the girls, Joe figured. He peered up at the man’s face, noticing that he moved his head now and then, yet otherwise remained still and focused. Joe wagered a guess, “You watchin’ one girl in patic’lar?”
“No, I like all of the girls!” he answered with a carefree smile.
“Why don’t your eyes look them up and down like the other guys watchin’ ’em?”
“Because I don’t see things in the same manner that sighted guys do,” he answered easily. “I listen to the sound of their beauty…their movement, the sound of their voices, their laughter…following the sound I can ‘see’ them and the game both.”
“Wow, that’s neat! Can you teach me how to do that?!” Joe asked excitedly.
“Sure, if you want to learn,” his friend answered with a chuckle. He found it much more comfortable to talk with his new little friend than with most adults. Other adults seemed to feel awkward around him. It didn’t make sense to him – they didn’t need to feel one way or the other about it. So what if he couldn’t see with his eyes? It didn’t make him any better or lesser than any other man. Besides, he thought with a smile, there are definite advantages to not being sighted…
About ten minutes later Fenton came back to get Joe. The little boy exchanged goodbyes with his bench buddy as his dad carried him over to join the rest of the family. They had found a small shaded area just a little ways down from there. Curious as to what his son had been doing when Fenton had arrived to get him he asked, “By the way, Joe…what were you doing when I came up?”
“Watchin’ the game,” came the simplified response.
“But your eyes were closed.”
“I know – Seth taught me how to watch without lookin’ with my eyes.”
“Oh, he did?” Fenton asked, not sure that this made things any clearer.
“Yep!” Joe gave the monosyllabic answer, not realizing his dad was hoping for a bit more of an explanation than that.
“What brought that up? Why did you want to watch without looking?” he tried again.
“‘Cause that’s how he was watchin’. I asked him ’bout it an’ he said he doesn’t watch like sighted peoples…he watches with his ears, sense of smellin’, and his skin. You know, like the feel of the wind an’ touchin’ things.”
Fenton nodded in understanding, impressed with Joe’s ability to learn quickly and understand things so well. He was proud of both of his boys. He set Joe down when they reached the shaded area and leaned against the tree Laura was resting her back against.
“I got a grape twin pop for me an’ we got a cherry twin pop for you. We can split ’em like we did before if ya want to,” Frank said as he handed Joe’s icy cold Popsicle to him.
“Yeah! Split ’em!” Joe agreed enthusiastically.
Frank went over to his dad and patted his leg to get his attention, “Daddy…break ’em, please.”
“Hmmm?” Fenton broke off his silent conversation with his lovely wife and looked down at his sons, who were reaching their ice pops up toward him. With a smile, he took one and broke it in half, reached it back and repeated with the other.
“Thank you!!” they both thanked him and tore into their treats.
As Joe enjoyed his snack with his family, he looked back over at his newfound friend once more, not knowing that he had just gained some very valuable information that would help solve a mysterious crime that would soon present itself.