They were driving to their long-planned weekend at Ponsett, Sams ocean place. The weather forecasts had turned pessimistic and the blue sky was now the thick white of milk gone sour.
Laura, not Sam, was at the wheel. Sam seemed incapable of steering himself, let alone a car. He spent most of the trip staring into a Kleenex, on emergency lookout for blood. Hed mentioned that his father had died from some kind of cancer above the neck; and that he always remembered the blood seeping out, just flowing from his father's nose and draining into the old man's saliva. As they drove in silence she watched him in the passenger seat, fixated over a wad of tissue, spitting and looking, spitting and looking. She imagined him as the future father of her child, doing this in the stall of some hospital men's room on delivery day, and she found herself almost hitting a tree.
Spilling out of the speakers was one of those public radio feature stories that can either etherize you or enchant you. It was about a group of Buddhist monks that viewed the sand as meditation and the sea as the universe. The monks would wait for the tide to roll out and they would gather in small groups on the beach, holding special spoons that enabled them to each scoop up a single grain of sand at a time. One grain only was allowed - two were considered excessive and beside the point for which the meditation was intended. With these single grains as bricks the monks would build exquisite, intricate sand castles, castles worthy of preservation, display and awed appreciation by each day's new onslaught of beachgoers. But on purpose, the monks sited their painstaking constructions just beneath the high tide line, so that the inexorable return of the ocean would obliterate every turret and arch, and the uplifted grains of sand would become deluged and cease to stand out from the mass of sand in any discernable way.
With the next low tide they would gather again with their small spoons and start over. Just as the tide itself starts over. Laura parked in the frozen rutted dirt that led to the high rocks over the sea and the cabin, actually an old fishermans shack. It stood partly on the rocks and partly on weathered poles, like stilts, sunk into the water. They climbed out of the car and walked towards the door, Laura several steps ahead of Sam, not wanting to look back at him. The ocean was loud and the sky was definitely in a mood, about to be loud. Laura remembered the old salt, the wharf rat who sold bait, coming down one day boasting about hundred year storms, doing what townies do when they try to scare the paying customers. Such storms occur, he said, and when they do all bets are off, there's no telling anything about anything. Could the sea rise up and claim an old shack on flimsy poles, knocking it down and swallowing it whole? Of course it could, although it hadn't happened yet, not in his seventy years. But if if did happen it would work like this: the waves would roll in like mountainous gray battleships on the attack, slamming against the rocks and the seawall at unthinkable speeds. If you were inside you would hear the water bounce off the ramparts, rear up in a thundering rage and explode against the exposed bottom of the shack, battering it from below until the floor split like balsa wood. As it often is with a drowning, the whole demolition might only take moments, and then not a trace
Only the poles would be left standing, pointlessly aiming upwards. Four corners that once were a box.
Recalling this conversation, Laura thought of destruction and renewal and the Buddhists and their spoons. She looked behind her and saw Sam, stuck in a wicker chair, eyes locked on a new Kleenex, a frozen frenzy in him. She pressed against a window and studied the sky, which had blackened, really blackened, and she saw that the ocean was on the move, bubbling like tar. Laura checked her pocket for the car keys. Then she moved close to the front door and smoothed her hair, as though expecting a guest.