A Muse Bouche Review: June 2022


Dear Readers,

Welcome to our June 2022 edition.

In this issue, we write about beaches. We have two new regular contributors: Marian L Thorpe and Joseph P. Garland. Please help us welcome them to the team.

Warmest Regards,
The A Muse Bouche Review Team

A Muse Bouche Review Logo

Feature: King and Country (Marian L Thorpe) Fiction 
Evelyn on the Sand (Joseph P. Garland) Fiction
Grains of Salvation (D.W. Hitz) Fiction 
Whirlwind Romance (Renée Gendron) Fiction
Bibliophiles at the Beach (A.P. Miller)
BBBeaches (Louise Sorensen)
Some Drabbles (Crystal L. Kirkham)
June Team Showcase

FEATURE: King and Country

by Marian L Thorpe (@marianlthorpe)

“The King’s life is drawing peacefully to its close.”

I heard the words on the radio I’d found in the shed when I moved up to the old cottage. I’d been surprised then it still worked; surprised now that the BBC still broadcast. Not all day, as they had once, but morning and evening, what news there was. Or what news they chose to tell us.

I glanced east, to where the king lay dying at his country house. High on a ridge, it had never been in danger from the floods. Floods. It wasn’t the right word: floods receded. The water that lapped at the bottom of my garden wasn’t like the flood of 1953, a year after the last king’s death. It wasn’t going to recede.

He’d cared, this dying king, but like Canute he’d known he could do nothing against the inexorable tide. Not just of the sea, but of rising temperatures, fractured societies, failed treaties. The accords he’d signed, or his ministers for him, had meant nothing. Changed nothing. Kings couldn’t.

Holbeach, this parish was called, and four hundred years past the water had lapped at my cottage’s garden too. Then some nobleman had paid engineers to drain the land and build the seawalls, half a day’s walk east. What had been saltmarsh and creek, the water coming and going with the tide, became fertile land, first for grazing, then for the plough.

Until ten years ago.

We’d seen it coming, the seawalls left unrepaired, the water making inroads with every storm. Then the same combination of wind and rain and moon that had caused the ’53 flood came again, and when the storm and the night were over, the sea had drowned fields and towns and roads. People and animals, too, lost to the rising waters, the too-late realization that the warnings were serious. There’d been so many by then: alarms about viruses, food shortages, fuel shortages, drought. People stopped listening.

But I’d watched the dog whine and pant, and I’d seen the flights of the pink-footed geese in from the sea, where they should have been resting on the waters, safe for the night, and the other birds after them. There was no one to convince, and not much to leave behind. I’d been fairly sure the cottage, on its spur of high ground, would be safe. I’d been right.

Ten years ago.

There weren’t many of us left here, in this place that wasn’t quite water and wasn’t quite land. The Beachlands, some called it now, for the drowned town and its outlying villages. Most people couldn’t survive in these marshes. But I’d been in my grandfather’s care a lot of the time as a child, and he’d taught me things. How to row a boat, how to fish; how to shoot. Fenland skills. I’d learned some more, in my stint in the army. I got by.

The tide was going out. I whistled to dog to heel, shrugged on my rucksack, picked up quiver and bow. There were paths through the Beachlands, for those who knew, paths that skirted pools where ducks dabbled, or higher spots where geese grazed, and sometimes the water deer that thrived where the native species couldn’t. I wouldn’t take down a deer unless I was sure I could retrieve the carcass; it was beyond the dog’s strength. So we ate a lot of wildfowl, along with fish, but at least we ate.

Sometimes, too, the Beachlands gave us other things, washed in or uncovered by the persistent ebb and flow of the tide. Plastic jugs, bricks, glass jars. Coins, which I hoarded for my twice-yearly trips to a distant market town. Fishing floats and driftwood. Bones from the cemeteries that lay under the water.

The sun was sinking westward; a good time for waterfowl. They’d be coming in for the night. A life was sinking too, a man who’d waited too long to be king; a prince waiting to inherit—what? Decay and destruction, another tide too hard to turn.

There were those who said the prince could turn that tide, those who would point to the date of his birth, the name he bore, slipped in among all the others. My grandfather had been one. Rank superstition, of course.  

Ahead I heard the quacking of mallards, saw a pair circling high. They’d drop down to join the others in the pool. I told the dog to sit, knelt to shed my rucksack. My eye caught something gleaming in the mud. Glass. I noted the spot, nocked my arrow, took down the duck.

On my command the dog plunged into the water after it. I dropped the bow, went to free the jar from the mud. Maybe it was whole. Jars were useful.

It wasn’t a jar. I brushed more mud away. Sat back on my heels. A stone—an emerald?—set in metal. Dull metal, filthy. I dug at it with my fingers. Uncovered more of it, an unbelieving certainty growing.

It took me an hour. Mud caked my arms beyond my elbows. But what I held across my knees hadn’t been seen for eight hundred years. Not since a king called Lackland, crossing these marshes, had lost the crown jewels of England.

I hadn’t known there had been a sword among them.

I took it to the pool, knelt. Washed the mud off it. Saw the tracery on the hilt, around the stones. The broad blade. To the west, the sun sank lower.

To the east, a king lay dying.

I got to my feet. I’d go by boat; it was quickest. Safest, too. I’d avoid the wreckage of towns, the gangs, those who called me witch. I could be there as the sun rose, to hand the sword to the prince who’d been born on the summer solstice. The prince—he’d be king by then, I was sure—who bore the name Arthur. The king who would come again, when his land had its greatest need. Whose sword I held, standing where earth and water and sky met, an unreasoning hope rising in my heart.


Evelyn on the Sand

by Joseph P. Garland (@JPGarlandAuthor)

Late on an early July morning, a woman sat on a beach in East Hampton, New York staring at the comings-and-goings of the Atlantic’s waves. She was a very pretty woman with blonde hair and a face of perfectly imperfect parts. It had rained overnight, and she’d been awakened at some time—maybe three-thirty or four; she hadn’t the energy to grab her phone to find out—but had fallen back into a deep sleep. The interruption meant she wasn’t well rested for this, the first day of her weeklong vacation.

She shared a house well to the north of Route 27 and thus well to the north of the one-percenters who populated the town, especially in the summer. The women she shared the cottage with had returned to the City the prior afternoon; the weather did not bode well for waiting to fight the traffic back to Manhattan.

Her sitting on the sand without a towel was peculiar. Who’d come to a beach without a towel and sit down, letting the dampness creep up to her ass? She didn’t look comfortable to anyone passing but seeing how lousy the weather was there was no one passing except a couple of lovebirds who looked to be heading to Amagansett, holding their hands and weaving back and forth into the froth edge of the water as their shoulders bounced against each other.

She, the pretty one, noticed them walking away and seeing them did not help her mood. Her mood? It was dark. That’s the only word for it.

Strangers envied her. Her looks. Her maroon BMW 5-Series and apartment in a brownstone in a fashionable part of the Upper East Side. A job at a prestigious bank in midtown. She was what one imagined a pretty-girl-in-the-Hamptons looked like. Probably partied late into most summer weekend mornings. The type who’d get an invite when on line at the Starbucks on Main Street for a party at the house of some Goldman Sachs or hedge fund guy, a house that overlooked the Atlantic and had plenty of booze and coke for the asking.

Type cast, she knew, and too often she went to those parties and stayed late—or left early for some passingly diverting sex before getting back to her little non-descript room in her little non-descript cottage. And more often than not, the guy she liaisoned with barely nodding to her, if that, when they again crossed paths at the Starbucks or beach or some other mansion with an ocean view.

That’s what she was thinking as she sat in the damp sand. I’m pretty and smart and I have a crap job in a bank’s back office and pay too much for my apartment and for garaging my five-year-old beamer. She had no problem getting laid—though she was smart enough to insist on protection (which she carried with her just in case)—and sitting on the beach on this particular Monday she still had a revolting memory of the quickie in the back seat of a black Escalade early the morning before, whose owner, of course, barely gave her a “thank you” when he left her after locking his SUV.

You know, she thought, maybe I could just sit here forever, counting the waves till I ran out of numbers. Then when I got up I’d be a different person, a real person. A woman who could be loved. Not like whatever she had with her fiancé, who’d broken it off the year before for reasons she never understood. That marriage, though, would have been a disaster so she was glad it never happened, disappointed as everyone was by it, her parents most of all.

It was still a bit misty and once her shorts were soaked through it didn’t much matter that she was sitting on the wet sand. Her windbreaker kept her tolerably warm in the chill air and her feet had gotten used to the soft sand and her toes had actually dug themselves into it. She wondered about a lot of things as she sat there.

I know what they were because that woman was me. I say was advisedly. There I was. I noticed that there was a glimmer of blue off in the west. Yes, the sky would clear and the beach would fill up. I’d be gone by the time the families invaded, the mothers and the au pairs with their charges crying and screaming and racing to and from the water.

What was going to happen in an hour or two hardly mattered as I returned to my obsessive staring out into the nothingness of the Atlantic. Before I got up, though, a moment of serendipity in time and place intervened. A stranger, a woman around my age who was pleasant looking appeared. Angelic, perhaps, but she was all too real. She came from nowhere on the otherwise deserted beach. She reached to touch me, and this invasion startled me. For just a moment, though. Her simple, kind touch followed by wanting to know, genuinely wanting to know why I was sitting alone in wet shorts staring out at the ocean. Her simple touch and simple question led inextricably to my finding love, life, and myself. Which is for another day.

(Note: This is adapted from Part 2 of the author’s novella, Accidently in Love.)

Grains of Salvation

by D.W. Hitz (@dustinhitz)

Nate’s eyes had stilled. The endless cosmic gallery, from the first star’s flare to the ten-thousandth—he’d seen them all, counted them all within the first second of his gaze; joined the points that made each constellation and named the celestial bodies he hadn’t known. He’d watched the cloud in the southeast threaten to rain for what seemed like a millennium now and seen the tear in Tabby’s eye reach for her cheekbone unsuccessfully for longer than he’d known her. He had taken his last bite.
The day replayed in his mind. He would have thought that after the first thousand times it would have gotten old, tired him of seeing it again and again, even driven him mad. Maybe it would have if he had any madness left to drive to. The memories swarmed into his mind as if they were the only things left in the universe to imagine.
Tabby stood beside him, Mira in her arms. Tabby covered her mouth and coughed. She hid the rag in her pocket, but Nate knew the sound. The deep, damp, exhalation. She wasn’t being polite or trying to regard some social construct, she was trying to hide the blood. She was trying to hide it from Nate and a hundred other villagers who would have pointed and screamed and called the marshals. She didn’t want to make her baby watch her get strung up and burned alive on the edge of town. Not like she’d seen her father burn back at home.
Nate had been there. He’d held her to his chest. Her tears had soaked his shirt. Her father’s ash had clung to the inside of his nose, making him smell the char of dead flesh for days.
She couldn’t let the same thing happen to Mira. Nate couldn’t let that happen to his wife. He pulled them both close, pushing her face into his chest as he had done that day.
“Cough into me if you have to,” he whispered.
She did. He felt the warmth through his shirt as her breath thrust into him. He wanted to cry for her right then, but he held it back. It wasn’t over yet, there was still hope. There was still the beach. They just had to get there.
Time moved for everyone except him. Villagers passed. They bought things, ate things, joked and moved as if there were a million years left for them to live their lives. Didn’t they know there wasn’t? Didn’t they know their time could be up in an instant? All it took was a cough. The world had ended from a cough, and then another, and then another until this was all that was left. But they moved, obliviously, and he and his wife and daughter sat and waited.
He had been told to wait at the corner and their guide would come. The guide would take them to the beach, and then everything would be okay. He’d paid everything for it–well, half of everything, the other half was in his pocket, payment upon their arrival at the water’s edge.
So he sat and watched and waited. He held Tabby. She held Mira. And the village buzzed by at the speed of light through the cosmos. Until they didn’t.
“I heard red apples were nice,” a man said as he approached.
Nate’s heart jumped into his throat. That was it. That was the man. But how was he supposed to answer?
“I always preferred the green,” he said. That was it, wasn’t it? His mind raced, checking and rechecking the memory of the bagger who’d set the thing up. Yes, that had to be it.
The man stopped and examined Nate, then Tabby, then Mira. He ran his tongue over his dried, cracked lips, caressing the edges of his shaggy beard. Nate thought he heard it make a noise, a disgusting slurping sound that caused his guts to clench, and he wondered how he could have heard such a thing over the village ruckus. He couldn’t have. It had to have been in his mind, didn’t it? A stressed-induced reaction?
The guy nodded, dirt drifting down from his frizzy hair to his tattered brown shirt. “Okay,” he grumbled.
Nate rose to his feet, bracing Tabby and then Mira. A flash of excitement crossed his thoughts. This was all about to be over. All that was left was a walk. Or, that was what he had been told.
A group of five teenage girls strolled by, giggling. The one closest to the dusty man had her eyes on her friends, and her shoulder slammed into the small of his back. He spun and cursed, and all five stared at Nate, Tabby, and Mira.
A cough burst from Tabby’s mouth. Blood traversed the air between her and the teens and splashed across two of their faces.
It took several seconds for anyone in the circle to understand what had happened. They all stood with blank faces and shocked gazes. Then one teen shrieked, “Marshal!”
A chorus followed.
“Burn her!”
And it repeated.
The strange man ran. Nate grabbed Tabby and pulled her behind him. Tabby clutched Mira and flew after him.
They dashed into an alley, and the village came alive with the chant.
“Burn her!”
They crossed a street and went into another alley. The chant followed. Footsteps followed.
“Go away!” the stranger shouted. “I can’t help you now!”
“Please,” Nate begged, out of breath, his lungs burning and his chest aching.
Tabby struggled to follow. She coughed as she ran. She just couldn’t keep it in. She ran one step and coughed through the next. It spasmed up her throat and out her mouth. It was dry and warm and wet and burning all at the same time. She locked eyes with her little girl and saw what she had done. Mira was red and dripping from scalp to chin. Her clothes were soaked in her mother’s blood.
“Goddamn,” the man glanced back, his face angry, wrinkled in disgust. Then he shouted, “Come on!”
They twisted and turned through a labyrinth of alleys and streets, the chant just behind them. It was relentless. It was hungry.
They reached a door in a stone wall and the man knocked.
The chant swelled and came closer.
He knocked again.
Nate heard a pattern to the knock. A secret code? Part of the magic of the beach? He just hoped it worked, whatever it was.
The villagers were closer, just behind Nate’s family. He heard individual voices now, curses, screams for their blood and their ash.
The door opened and he pulled Tabby toward it. He saw the gap between wood and stone widen, and beyond it, stars and… that was it. He was at the beach. He didn’t know how they had made it, but they had. It was right inside that arch. Sand glistened. Stars shined. Water sparkled like gems on a cresting wave, and he rushed ahead.
He felt tension. He pulled on Tabby, but she wasn’t moving. He pulled harder and felt hands on his shoulder, hands on his arm. They had caught up, the villagers.
Nate yanked and pulled and screamed. His gaze was fixed on the beach, the enchanted water, the enchanted sand. He just had to get Tabby there, and she would be healed. That was the legend. That’s how the human race had survived the end and the plague and the ravages of beasts that had destroyed most of the world. He saw the sparkle ahead and knew that they could make it if he just pushed harder, pulled harder; he could save his family.
He screamed and pulled. He howled so loud he could barely hear Tabby’s cough or the chant or the stranger screaming at them to get through so he could close the door.
He screamed and pulled. Scratches tore into his skin as he slipped through others’ holds. Pain in his arms and his back. But he was getting closer. He could feel the sultry breeze from the water and pushed.
“We! Must! Get! Through!” He yanked one more time and found himself past the door and tumbling down. His face planted in the sand and the door slammed shut behind them.
Tabby coughed and Nate grabbed a handful of sand. He would help her. A handful of sand, that was the legend. Eat a handful of sand and it would cure anything. You would live forever and be healed. He threw the handful in his mouth and scooped another handful for her.
He stood and turned around.
She was wheezing now. Breaths fought to pass her throat and tears gushed from her eyes. She was on her knees. Her face screamed the outrage that couldn’t pass her lips.
He crawled to her. “Here.” He cried as he moved. “Eat. It’ll help you.”
She looked at him and back to the ground, her pain unrelenting.
“What’s—” and it hit him. “Where’s Mira?”
Panic shot through his veins and the world seemed to slow. “Where’s…” but that was all he could say.
Nate slammed onto his back. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t talk. Sand filtered through his hands onto his chest and slipped back onto the beach.
“Fucking fool.” The stranger stepped over to Nate. He dug through Nate’s pockets, removing the wad of cash he was supposed to be paid, then searched for anything else of value. He shook his head and gazed at Tabby.
Through her tears, she wheezed, “What?”
He scowled. “You people are all alike. There’s no cure here. Just a chemical in the sand that makes you think the world has stopped. You’ll live forever…” He chuckled. “…in your mind.”

Whirlwind Romance

by Renée Gendron (@ReneeGendron)

Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Hailey Ward stopped her police vehicle at the entrance of Wasaga Beach. This time last year, the world’s longest freshwater beach had been pristine. Now, caravans and tents covered most of it. The fresh scent of Georgian Bay had been replaced by that of poor sanitation.

The ever-present winds battered her car window like they had every day since the beginning of tornado season. A super-cluster tornado season, the meteorologists called it. A super-cluster of tornadoes had dug massive trenches from London to Toronto through to Kingston. Southern Ontario was now a berm against Lake Ontario. Billions of dollars in damage and thousands of dead, injured and homeless. A quarter of the Canadian economy plunged into subsistence living.

Aid from other provinces was used up to deal with their own unique set of disasters.

Hailey drove past a municipal supply depot converted from storing sand and salt to food. One roof corner had been hastily repaired with two-by-fours and a tarp. A cube van was backed up to the side entrance, and men were transferring goods from the warehouse to the van. A man stood outside the door, peering into the building.

Hailey picked up the radio. “Dispatch, this is Unit 4-Alpha.”

“Unit 4-Alpha, proceed.”

“Is there a transfer of food today?”


Hailey eased off the gas and turned onto a side street.

“There is no transfer today,” the dispatcher said.

“I suspect a robbery at the corner of Bells Park and River Road.”


Hailey turned again and was on Zoo Park Road. “Unknown.”

“There’s no back-up. All other units are protecting the displaced and aid convoys on Highway 10.” The dispatcher’s voice was stoic.

“10-4.” Hailey pulled the car in front of the cube van and stepped out. Hand on her sidearm, she strode to the man peering into the window.

He had wavy black hair and was toned. His profile was familiar, the shape of his ear, the jagged scar on his neck from when he fell rock climbing, the way his shoulders dropped a little to the right.  

Colin Matheson.

Colin Matheson with effervescent blue eyes and a brilliant smile. The man who never had a bad thing to say about anyone. Voted the student with the biggest heart in high school, Colin Matheson.

That Colin Matheson.

Her heart sighed at what could have been, but duty bellowed.  

“What are you doing here?” She kept her weight on her back foot, hand near her sidearm.

He startled and faced her, and recognition flashed in his eyes. “Hailey?”

“Sergeant Ward.”

The lines around his mouth curved into the smile that had won her heart over a decade ago. “Sergeant.”

“What are you doing?”

“They’re stealing the food and emergency supplies.”  

She angled her body to view the front door and the cube van and pressed the transmitter button on her radio. “Dispatch. There is a confirmed food robbery in progress. Request back-up.”

“This is Dispatch. Request received. Standby.”  

Hailey removed the handcuffs from her duty belt. “Kneel. Place your hands behind your back.”

“Come on. It’s me, Hailey. I’m not stealing anything.”

“Kneel. Place your hands behind your back.”

Colin shook his head and knelt.

Hailey cuffed him and peered through the door window. Four men were moving boxes from the storage area to the van.

She moved away from the door and crouched by her car. “Robbery in progress,” she called Dispatch again from her shoulder radio.

“Unit 4-Alpha,” the dispatcher said. “Back up is unavailable.”

“They’re stealing food.”

“All other units are protecting and directing traffic of the convoys leaving Toronto.” The dispatcher’s voice was professional, coolly detached from the insanity of the words.

Mouth dry, Hailey leaned her back against the wall. Each thump of her heart was a strike against a gong.

The food. The food reserve and vital medical supplies.

“I can help,” Colin said. “I was a linebacker.”

Hard to forget his muscled six-foot frame in a football uniform. He always found her in the stands and flashed a handsome smile reserved for her.  

She shook her head. “How can you steal food at a time like this? We need to come together, not prey on each other.”

“I’m not with them.”

She shot him a yeah-sure-you’re-not look.

Years of training blended with experience. One breath to clear her mind, a second to rally courage, and she strode to the cube van and placed herself between the robbers and the loading ramp. “Put the boxes down and put your hands against the wall.”

One of them turned to her. He had a viper tattoo curling around his neck. The viper’s jaw was open over his Adam’s Apple. He held onto the box, his eyes calculating.

Three other robbers glanced her way. None put down the food boxes.

Hailey undid the clip of her Taser and aimed it at the lead robber. “Put the boxes down. Step towards the wall and place your hands on the wall.”

Viper Tattoo snickered, dropped the box, and reached from something behind him.

Hailey shot the Taser. The darts landed square in Viper Tattoo’s chest, but the charge didn’t go off. A jolt of life-ending panic struck her.

Viper Tattoo shot her.

The gunshot echoed in the room, and something hard hit her thigh. Stunned and shocked, she shuffled to place her back against the loading dock, ready to shoot whichever robber came to finish her. She peered down the sight, waiting.

“Let’s go,” someone said.

She drew in long breaths and stared down the row of boxes. Blood flowed from her wound, warming her thigh, and warmth drained from her cheeks.

Focus. Focus on the site and the man that might charge at her.

The robbers rushed cargo to the cub van.

The van’s engines sputtered to life, and it drove away.

Her hands trembled, her body shook, and her mind screamed for her to contact Dispatch. She hooked her Taser back in its holder and cursed herself. Now she’d be the laughingstock of the constabulary and a disgrace for wasting medical supplies.

“Hailey?” Colin’s voice cracked. “Are you okay? Where are you? I heard a gunshot.”

Hailey pressed her hand against her leg. She stared at her leg, her brain not yet processing the pain. “I’m fine.”

Colin stood at the entrance of the aisle. His cheeks lost colour, and the usual sparkle in his eye was extinguished. “Uncuff me.”

“Why?” She pulled herself up to stand, and blood poured down her leg. A sharp pain tore through her, and she stumbled back.

“I know first aid. I can help.”

“I know first aid, too.” She motioned for him to move away.

He backed away a few steps. “That looks bad. You shouldn’t be walking on it.”

“I’ll manage.” She fought the need to hobble and chewed on her lower lip to hide her grimace. She opened the trunk of her car and removed a first aid kit. “Stay where I can see you.”

“I can help you. If you’ll let me.” He leaned against the hood, and his handcuffs clanked. “There’s no back-up coming, is there?”

She didn’t answer, opened the passenger door, and sank into the seat. The throb in her leg eased enough for her not to wish for death.

The wind kicked up and moulded his shirt against his chest. His very defined chest. “How many displaced are coming?”

She removed scissors from the first aid kit and cut her trousers.

“You can’t ignore me forever. You haven’t even read me my rights.”

She glanced at him, and he flashed a made-you-look smile.

She poured water over the gash in her thigh and winced. “I’ll read them in a minute. You’ll be charged with robbery.”

“Robbery? I was trying to stop them.”

“You could have called the police.”

His eyebrows shot up. “How?”

She shook her head. Life before the confluence of unfortunate atmospheric events, as so many meteorologists called it, was sometimes a faded memory where even her worst days then were better than any day today. Tornadoes had struck daily for almost two months and blew devastation across the province. Life was a series of cascading technological, energy, environment, and systems failures. Landlines stopped working because so many telephone poles were down. Cell phone towers were constantly blown away with diminishing resources to replace them.

Only first responders, the military, and the ultra-rich had radios because batteries and generators were more valuable than gold at the moment.

She straightened her injured leg and choked back a grunt. “Why were you here?”

“I was jogging. Saw the van and the shady men. I looked in, and sure enough, they were robbing the place. You need to put armed guards there.”

“If we had any left over.”

Law enforcement was stretched so thin that the thin blue line was transparent. Cell towers were knocked out and couldn’t be replaced fast enough. Landlines were overwhelmed, and busy signals were the norm. Hospitals were swamped with injured people, and supply chains were near breaking. Lockheed Martin CC-130J Super Hercules transports dropped supplies every Monday and Thursday to compensate for ruined ports, railroad, and clogged roads. Helicopters were reserved for evacuating the severely wounded out of province and deploying military personnel.

She unrolled gauze. “And then what happened?”

“I wrote down the van’s license plate, the description of the men.” He angled his back to her. “The information is in my notebook in my back pocket.”

She eyed him. Less him, more of that delicious bottom. “Come towards me.”

He did, and she removed the notebook and flipped through it. A few sketches of wildflowers and birds, a license plate number scrawled in the margins, and sketches of the robbers.

“Do you normally jog with a sketchbook?” She uncuffed him and tucked his notebook into her shirt pocket.

“I’ve always sketched. You know that. I used to go to the Piper Glover nesting area, sit on the beach, and sketch them.”

Used to. People used to do a lot of other things, but habits of use-tos died hard. The nesting area was now part of a tent city sprawling over one of Ontario’s best beaches. People used to sail on Georgian Bay, but the winds were too fierce now and the water too choppy. People used to go to Wasaga Beach for a vacation and walk along the boardwalk when not half the buildings needed severe repair.  

Colin took the first aid kit, put on latex gloves, and examined her wound. “It nicked you.”

It hurt a hell of a lot more than a nick. “There’s glue in the kit.”

“It’ll be better if I stitch it.”

“Go on then.”

He removed tweezers and scissors and tied the first knot. “Are you this distrustful of all the people you went to high school with?”

She winced but kept her gaze on his work. “Only the ones I find lurking around crime scenes.”

He chuckled, but she didn’t.

“I didn’t expect to see you around.” Colin tied a second stitch.

She tightened her grip on the seat’s edge as the ache graduated to pain. “Why not? It’s my hometown.”

“I bumped into Joy about two years ago. She said you had taken a year off work to travel.”

“I had a lot of overtime coming my way. I was pretty much forced to take time off.”

He ran his fingertip around the edges of her wound. “How much overtime did you work?”

“I didn’t take a vacation in ten years.”


To prove to herself that she could work as hard as anyone else. To prove to her family that she was a good cop. To prove to her fellow officers that she could do the job. To serve the public. To uphold the law. To live an honourable life.

All lies.

She worked so hard to prove she was more than her trust fund. “It’s the job. There’s always a case to work, a victim of crime to support, a court appearance to make.”

His hand lingered on her knee. A gentle touch, softer than silk on satin. A reminder of what was so many years ago. “You’re more than your last name, you know.”

“I know.”

“You don’t sound convinced.”

“Look around. Even after daily tornadoes, when everything has fallen apart, the name of Ward is still on every shop on main street. Most of the vehicles still in operation have the Ward corporate logo on their doors, and the main employer in town signs pay cheques with Ward.”

“Other companies have re-opened since the first tornadoes. Some people can go back to work.” He collected the supplies and put them in the kit. “You’re still trying to prove yourself.”

“I’ve nothing left to prove.”

“Really?” His gaze met hers, at first probing, then understanding. “Don’t forget how well I know you.”

She couldn’t forget no matter how hard she had tried. Not that she wanted to forget. There had been so many good times with him, so many. Quiet conversations, cooking disasters that resulted in fast-food take-out, shared hopes and dreams, and a willingness to face the world together. She cleared her throat but tasted tears. She made to stand, and Colin helped her.

“Careful on how much weight you put on it.” He ran his thumb over her knuckles, the familiar gesture a prelude to the small circles he had traced over the curve of her hip after each round of making love.

She took one tentative step away from him to test her wound. One lunging step away from her past—their past.

She bent her knees, flexed her foot, and straightened. Pain rocked every movement. “Good as new.”

“You’re a terrible liar.”

Only to him. She could never hide her lies from him. “Thanks for collecting the information and stitching me up. Your notebook is now evidence.”

“That’s it?”

“You’re free to go.”

“Damn it, Hailey. It’s been fifteen years. That’s all you have to say to me?”

No. There was so much more to say. But not in broad daylight, not in a parking lot, and certainly not when they remained clothed. “I’m working a case. We can catch up later.”

Colin frowned, the same dejected frown he had when she broke up with him. “You’re not going after them again.”

“You’re not my boss.” She adjusted her duty belt and put the handcuffs back in their holder. “They stole the town’s emergency supplies. We’re expecting one thousand more displaced by the end of the week. The hotels are already putting six people in a room. There’s no telling how long it will take to get back to normal. We need those supplies.”

“One thousand?” He drew in a long breath. “You need back up.”

“There’s none.”

“Wrong. There’s me.” His jaw line was set, the look in his eyes as serious as an all-available-units-converge-to-a-location call.

“You?” She shook her head. Putting his life at risk was never an option. The small piece of her heart that still beat would have a heart attack. “It’s too dangerous. Everything is broken, but there’s still the law.”

His cheeks had hollowed since the last time she saw him five years ago. Age, stress, bad diet, too many workouts, she didn’t know. The wrinkles added fatigue to his already tired expression.

He rubbed his wrists. “You’re not your mother.”

The words sliced through her, ringing so true they deafened her.

She looked away, the scratches on her police car of utmost interest. “Stay in the car. Act as my eyes and ears but stay in the car.”

He smiled, and the fatigue on his features melted away. Gone was the cocky footballer, and in his place, a grown man comfortable in his skills and ability to tackle the challenge. He sat in the passenger seat.

She put the first aid kit into the trunk and hobbled around to the driver’s side. The skin around her stitches pulled, sometimes a knifing pain, other times a burning pain. Either way, pain. She lowered herself into the driver’s seat and gripped the steering wheel.

Colin smelled of lazy summer days at the beach, sunscreen, and a decision she wished she could change.

She removed his notebook from her shirt pocket and flipped through his sketches. “Any of them familiar?”

Colin shook his head. “The town’s not that big. It’s hard to forget a guy with a snapping viper tattoo on his throat.”

“What’d you make of their accents?”

“Their accents?” Colin leaned the back of his head on the headrest. “Local enough, but not local.”

“That’s what I thought too. Toronto. Maybe someplace a little south. Urban.” She unfolded the provincial road map. “Think the guy who shot me was the ringleader?”

“I think so.”

“I think they’ll be staying local. Sell back the food at ridiculous prices.”

“There’s more demand in Toronto. They’d get a higher price.”

Hailey tapped the map on Highway 10. “It’s more dangerous for them to enter the city. It’s swarming with cops. We could use a few up here. I only saw one firearm. You?”

“I didn’t notice any others.”  

“And there’s no way they can fend off a Toronto gang with one only gun.”

“Maybe they’re not working alone. Maybe they’re one crew and part of a larger organisation.”

“Any evidence of that?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“We focus on what we know. Four men broke into a municipal food store. The only known armed man was also heavily tattooed. They had one white cube van with no markings. Did they say anything else?”

Colin stretched his leg out, still muscled and still seductive. “They were in a hurry.”

“All thieves are in a hurry.”

“No. They were in a hurry to get somewhere by four.”

Hailey glanced at her watch. “That’s half an hour from now. They have a fifteen-minute head start.”

“But we interrupted them. They were loading the food and might have gone on longer if we hadn’t interrupted them.”

“You mean if I hadn’t been shot.”

“I wasn’t going to say anything, but if you insist…”

Damn her lips for twitching. She was in too much pain, and the situation of the displaced was too dire for her to laugh. But she laughed. Loud and carefree enough to break through fifteen years of loneliness. He came from a poor and dysfunctional family whose mother was too drunk to keep a crossing guard job. Hailey’s mother claimed he’d bleed them dry. Hailey chose Colin over her mother, but her mother had a way of blocking everything they did.

Mother pulled strings and got them blackballed from renting an apartment as far away as Toronto. Her connections ensured Hailey couldn’t get a student loan. Mother’s incredible reach guaranteed Hailey couldn’t ask her friends for help—a place to crash, a car to borrow, more support—because her friends’ parents were too indebted to Mother.

The strain had been too much on Hailey’s and Colin’s relationship. They toughed it out for eight months, but hardship and isolation made it impossible. Her only choices had been army or police. The police returned her call first.

Colin bumped his arm against hers. “There it is.”


“Your laugh. I’ve missed it.” 

Warmth spread through her chest. She blamed the Kevlar vest and the loss of blood from the injury, but then she was telling lies to herself.


She’d missed him. She missed him like a rose missed sunlight. “That’s a thirty-to-forty-minute window for the thieves to steal and unload the food. If they head to Wasaga Beach, they’ll be noticed and swarmed. One gun against thousands of hungry displaced won’t cut it. Anything south is out of the question because of the wave of displaced near Toronto.”

“They could be going to Midland.”

“Why there?”

“I heard some gangs are headquartered there. Far enough from the disaster areas but close enough to take advantage of them.”

She sunk into her seat and flipped through Colin’s notes. One robber wore a tee shirt. “Did this guy have a logo on his tee-shirt?” She tapped the drawing’s chest.

“Uh. I couldn’t see the name stitched over his breast. But there was a logo.”

“Describe it.”

“It was a toilet,” Colin said. 

“A toilet? From a plumbing company?”

“Maybe, but I think it was something different. Like a supplier.”

Regional suppliers had been sold out for months because of other natural disasters. An earthquake in British Columbia had caused major damage to Vancouver’s port. Wildfires across the Prairies slowed and damaged rail lines. The tornadoes that wiped out Ontario started in the American Midwest, devastating transport routes and just-in-time supply lines. Shipping companies diverted ships from the west coast to the eastern seaboard overwhelming those ports, leaving weeks’ long delays in unloading supplies.

Hailey sucked on her cheek. “What else do you remember of them?”

“They were organised. Knew what they were doing.”

“What makes you say that?” She eyed her watch and the seconds kept rolling by.

“The blond guy said not to take the boxes with peas, carrots, and chicken soup and focus on getting the boxes with meat, baby formula, and medical supplies.”

“Higher valued goods.”  

Colin grunted. He raked his fingers through his tousled hair in the same fluid motion he did when he used to remove his football helmet after a game. Still sexy as sunrises on the beach.

She was eighteen again and wanted to rush to him and throw her arms around his neck. Breathe him in, taste him, touch him, tell him she’d never leave him. “Were the boxes labelled?”

“I don’t think so.”

She rubbed her thigh. The ache stretched from her knee to her groin. “That suggests someone told them where to find the higher value goods.”

“That doesn’t get us closer to finding where they’ll drop it off.”

“Food. Cube van. A gang of four men. Where would they blend in?”

“Not the beach. Everyone on the beach knows each other. They have their local gangs.”

“How do you know this?” she asked.

“I’m—was—the captain of the lifeguards.”


“Don’t sound so shocked that I’m management material.”

“I always knew you were.”

His gaze met hers, inquisitive, intrigued and all hers. “Then what happened?”

“The family name caught up to me.”

“I was too poor?”

“Not for me.” She reached for his hand, but he moved it away.

“Then why leave?”

Cowardice. Frustration. Lack of knowing how to fit against a multi-million-dollar brand. “Fear.”

“Is that why you chose a profession with a gun?”

She laughed. “I would have gone into the army. Gotten bigger weapons.”

“You chose to serve.”

“I chose to make amends.”

His eyebrows arched. “For being wealthy?”

For the ruthless way her mother wielded wealth. “For having wealth thrust on me and not caring where it came from.”

He looked out the passenger window. “A lot of people suffered when your company restructured.” 

“My mother’s company, not mine.”

“Same name.”

Different soul. Mom took, and Hailey served. “The food. We have to focus on getting the food back.”

“Plumber. Thirty-minute window. Food delivery. One gun. Where does that leave us?”

Hungry. “East or west.”

Colin rapped his knuckles against his thigh. “My gut says east. Midland.”

Hailey turned on the engine and drove west. The vibrations of the accelerator pedal shot up her ankle to her leg and added a new level of pain to her wound. Throb met tremor, generating torment.

“You’ve always had terrible instincts.”

He laughed, sincere and sexy. “Says the woman who was convinced Elvis was a hockey player.”

“I don’t listen to rock and roll, and I’m not into sports.”

“But you trust your instincts?”

“My cop instincts.” She bypassed the beach and the town centre, taking secondary streets lined with caravans, tents, and lean-tos.

Spectres of former lawyers, construction workers, artists, and early childhood educators shuffled along the streets. Clothes tattered, faces worn by weather, defeat in their eyes.

She pressed the talk button on her radio. “Unit Alpha-4 heading west to Collingwood.”

“Why?” The dispatcher’s voice was even.

“Pursuing a band of robbers.”

“Negative. Discontinue. You have no back-up.”

Hailey ignored the message.

“Listen to your dispatcher.” Colin held onto the handle above the window.

“I don’t always throw money at a problem.”  

“But you throw yourself at the problem, regardless of the risks? That sounds a lot like what your mother would do.”  

A shot of anger rocked her. Her mother would hire mercenaries to track the thieves, steal the food and sell it back to the municipality. Hailey worked to uphold the law through lawful means. She refused to answer Colin, drove past a cluster of 1970s Silver Bullet caravans and steered onto the pothole hell of Highway 26.

Colin looked out the passenger side window. “What exactly is your plan?”

“Find the food and arrest the robbers.”

“Just drive up to them and stop them? That didn’t work well the last time.”

The pain in her leg agreed. “I want to scout their location. Then call for reinforcements. Local, OPP, or RCMP. Whichever shows up first.”

“The dispatcher said you didn’t have reinforcements.”

“I’ll take pictures of the robbers, gather evidence, and then withdraw.”

His gaze was on her, curious and confused. “Why’s this important to you?”

“I’m doing my job.”

“The dispatcher said for you to come back. I ask again. Why’s this so important to you?”

Made her feel something other than dead inside. No family, no lover, no colleagues that accepted her. “It’s my job.”

“Suicide wasn’t listed as a requirement for the job.”

She swallowed past years of feeling inadequate, of sideways glances from people on the street when she walked by, of the fear her last name evoked. “People are hungry and need food.”

“That’s not it.” His serious gaze met hers. “You’re a terrible liar.”

Only to him. She had never been able to lie to him. He had seen right through her when she told him she didn’t love him anymore. He had seen past her tears, the tremor in her voice, the wound in her heart, and held her. He’d known then that her mother had manipulated circumstances to make it impossible for Hailey to see him. If they stayed together, he’d lose everything. He would have been blackballed throughout Canada, and the only job he might land was fry cook at a fast-food restaurant.

And as for her, there was nowhere she could move that was out of her mother’s reach. Mother even had a business interest in the Galapagos Islands.

She cleared her throat but tasted lost love and quashed happiness. “I have to get to the food before mother does.”

“You think she had it stolen?”

“No. But I think she’ll steal it from the thieves and profit from it.”

“Didn’t figure you for the communist type.” There was a slight edge of humour in his voice.

Hailey shot him a flat look, but the edges of her lips curled in a slight smile despite herself. “The food is municipal property. People are counting on it.”

“It’s me.”

Two words that pulled her back over a decade. He had whispered two words repeatedly in her ear when she had built up wall after wall after wall. Two words that were a sledgehammer.

“Okay. Fine.” She turned onto the remnants of Highway 32. The tires struck pothole after pothole, jarring her and rocking the pain in her leg until it crested, rose, and crested again. The moon was less pocked than this road. “I can do this job. I can serve the community.”

“People at work giving you a hard time?”

“It’s more like they defer to me, giving me easy assignments, making sure I’m not put in harm’s way.”

“You have a talent for chasing danger.” He smiled a faint smile that imprinted on her heart.

She shook her head. “I’m enforcing the law, not chasing danger.”

“Same thing in this case. You don’t have to get yourself killed to prove yourself.”

She eased off the accelerator. “You never knew what it was like.”

“Me? Not knowing what it’s like to have to prove yourself? You’re full of it. I never knew my father and my mother was a drunk. You don’t think I had to prove myself at every opportunity?”

She pressed her lips shut. She was neck-deep in it, no need to swallow it too.

“Every teacher I had took pity on me. All my friends’ moms refused to let their kids play at my house because of my mom. I walked on stage to receive my high school diploma and university degree knowing there wasn’t anyone in the audience applauding me. I earned the little I have.”

“You’ve achieved a lot.”

“How would you know?” The hurt in his voice deepened the ache in her heart.

She looked him up on Facebook now and then when she couldn’t ignore the pull of his memory, which was every week. “We have mutual friends. They mention you from time to time.”

Rather, she asked them about him as often as she could. “I know you’re a lifeguard in the summer and have a successful kinesiology practice in the off-season. You’ve got four physiotherapists working for you.”

“I had plans to expand to two more locations, but…” Colin inclined his head towards the barn they were passing.

A wooden barn with a collapsed roof, a rare survivor of the winds, stood in the field surrounded by rusted cars and farm equipment. The wind picked up and formed a sand tornado that wobbled its way across the unplanted field. A second sand tornado formed, snaking its way to the centre of the field and combined with the first one.

She steered around a giant pothole. “You’re smart and resilient, and you’ll find a way to make it work.”   

“Congratulations on your award.”


“Hero of the Year Award you won two years ago.”

She sat taller, raised her chin, and struggled to keep the smile from her face. “Thank you.”

“It says something for your work that the public nominated you.”

Pride swelled in her but not as much as her affection for Colin. Affection was a diluted, three-months-in -a-disaster-and-all-the-bottom-shelf-whiskey-had-been-drunk word for the love she still had for him. “You’re keeping tabs on me?”

“We have mutual friends.” Admiration filled in his voice, but longing flooded his eyes.

She basked in the delicious sensation for a long moment, where almost everything in the world was broken except them. Perhaps the tornado hell had some advantages after all.

“I see the van.” Colin pointed to the left.

Hailey slowed her vehicle.

The van was parked beside another surviving barn with a rusted tin roof. The wood planks had turned ashen grey, and its stone foundation was missing a corner.

“That’s the van.” She drove a kilometre further and did a U-turn on a gravel road perpendicular to the highway. Ready to peel out of the gravel road to chase down the robbers. “Hand me the map in the glovebox, please.”

He handed her a map. “Can’t wait for the dust clouds to clear to get GPS back.”  

“Yeah. It came in handy when following a suspect.” She unfolded the often-folded map. “Food’s a hot commodity. They’ll want to sell it fast but not in a place where they’ll get swarmed and looted.”

“What are you thinking?”

“They’ll have the buyer come to them.” She turned her police radio to another frequency but got static. She scrolled through the frequencies until she picked up a male voice.

“Affirmative. Goods are in our possession.” His voice was authoritative, like he had military training.

“I’ll come to you,” a second man’s voice said. “Give me half an hour.”

Hailey ran her fingers through her hair, loosening her ponytail. She removed the elastic, smoothed her hair, and fixed it in a braid. “Half an hour. They could be coming from Wasaga Beach, Maxwell, or Creemore. Maybe New Lowell. But I doubt they’d be coming in from Wasaga Beach or New Lowell. The thieves would have driven to them instead of here.”

Colin shook his head. “They’re not coming from land.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Everything south of here is clogged with displaced, repair crews, and debris. Your dispatcher has said as much. They’re coming from the water.”

“The water?”

Colin nodded. “My bet is they’re on Nottawasaga Island using the lighthouse as a base.”

“What makes you say that?”

He tapped on Georgian Bay on the map, and she wished he would run his fingers along her bare thigh the way he used to—a silk-scarf-light touch in patterns. She missed him more than she could admit to herself. Missed how they talked in bed before falling asleep in each other’s arms. Missed how he woke up ten minutes before she did to make her breakfast. Missed how he returned after a 5k run, sweaty and so masculine and wanting to pull her into an embrace when she would turn him away and tell him to take a shower.

Never in her life did she want a sweaty hug as much as she did now.

She missed him, and the realisation clogged her heart with pain. She looked out the driver’s side window and blinked away her blurred vision. “Let’s say they’re coming from the water. They still need to travel one kilometre over land to get to the barn.”

“ATV, maybe?”

“It’s too small. They’d need to make too many trips, which would attract unwanted attention.”

“They might have a truck pre-positioned on this side.”

She nodded. “That’s possible. Still not sure how to stop them.”

“Take pictures. Get their faces, and then we leave. It will be enough to convict them.”

“No. I catch these bastards in the act. Bring the food back.”

“You’re too focused. You’re wounded. You’re without back-up.” He rested his hand on top of hers. “Hailey, please rethink this. Gathering evidence is a good way to serve the community. We have a strong inkling of where the gang is hoarding supplies. You can raid it with force later.”

She tapped her fingers against her thigh. “Not good enough. The food needs to be brought back to Wasaga Beach. There are hundreds of new displaced arriving today.”

“You can’t save everyone all the time.”  

She rubbed her aching leg. She inspected her blood-soaked bandage, and cold seeped through her.

“You’ve lost a lot of blood. Pop the trunk.”

She did.

Colin stepped out and returned with the first aid kit and a shotgun. He removed some gauze and applied more to her wound. “You’re pale and shivering. You’re in shock. You need to see a doctor.”

“Doctors need food.”

“Damn it, Hailey. Let me drive you back to Wasaga Beach. You need proper medical attention.”

“Not without the food.” She wished for the days when Tylenol wasn’t considered an essential item to be rationed. She could pop extra strength right now, maybe four. She rubbed her leg. “We take pictures, license plates, and then get the van with the food. You drive it back to Wasaga, and I escort you.”

“How do you propose to do that?”

“I’m going to ram them. Arrest the driver and passenger, and then you drive the van back to Wasaga.” She removed her cellphone from her breast pocket and clicked it open. There were zero bars available—the cellphone network had collapsed after the fourth F5 tornado in a week and was still down, but cellphones could still be used as cameras.

“What about the airbags? They deploy, and the car’s inoperable.”

“The department deactivated them until we can get replacement parts again.”

A black pickup truck drove by at high speed. The driver wore a hoodie and sunglasses.  

Hailey took a picture of the driver. “When was the last time you saw a pickup with an empty bed?”

“Not since before the disasters. Everyone’s driving around with everything they own in the trunk.”

“It’s them.” She put the car in drive but kept her foot on the brake. “Are you ready?”

He tapped the shotgun with his fingers. “I think so.”

“You don’t sound convinced.”

“It’s not every day I roam the countryside searching for thieves.”

“But you do it on the occasional Saturday.”

He laughed, a nervous, surprised laugh. “Something like that.”

“The food first. Always the food.”

“Got it.”

Ten insufferably long minutes passed. The engine of her 2019 Dodge Durango purred, ready to let the horses run. 

The pickup truck approached from her left with boxes stacked on its bed, and she snapped pictures. She snapped pictures with her phone and then slid her phone into the cupholder. “Hide in the ditch.”

“I’m staying with you.”

Years ago, she should have stayed with him.  

She stomped on the accelerator, and the car peeled out of the sideroad. She rammed the pickup truck in its side, placed her car in park, and stormed out. She was at the pickup’s side door in seconds, yanked it open, reached over the driver, placed the truck in park, and then threw the dazed driver to the ground. She knelt on his back and then handcuffed him.  

Colin came around the passenger side and yelled for the passenger to get out of their seat.

Her prisoner secure, Hailey hobbled around the front of the van, put the passenger in handcuffs, and read them their rights.

Blood pounded through her. The air smelled fresher, her legs wanted to run, her lungs wanted to gulp air, and every part of her was alive. She helped the passenger to his feet and put him in the back of her police car, then collected the driver and placed him in the back.

Breath uneven and body amped up from the arrest, the throbbing in her leg turned into a stampede. Every nerve in her leg fired in protest in a symphony of pain. “Col, can you drive the pickup?”

Colin let out a long breath and then climbed into the driver’s seat. He drove it five feet, then stopped. “Engine’s fine.”

“Good. I’ll follow you to Wasaga.” She flopped into her police car’s driver seat and put the car into drive. Her leg trembled when she pressed on the accelerator. She winced past the pain and glanced at the criminals she’d apprehended in her rearview mirror.

Both glared at her, stern and feral.

She followed Colin to Wasaga, and he parked in front of the brick police station. The law and the police station had endured battering after battering winds and still stood tall. She parked behind Colin and escorted the criminals to the holding cells. She took immense satisfaction in hearing the cell doors click shut.

“Now, will you see a doctor?” Colin asked.

She hobbled towards him, no longer able to mask her pain. “Sure.”

“What are you doing after your emergency room visit?”

“What I should have done years ago.”

“What’s that?” He looped an arm around her waist.

“Ask you to marry me.”

Bibliophiles at the Beach (A Survivor’s Guide)

By: A.P. Miller  (@Millerverse)
I left the mountains of central Pennsylvania for the shores of south-eastern North Carolina about six years ago. The only thing that changed about me was my address and my tolerance for sunburns; I still loved to read and would do it wherever I could. Now, my faithful readers of A Muse Bouche Review, I know you all are supremely intelligent beings and can fathom the problem of being a lover of paperback books with the last zip code before the Atlantic Ocean. So the problem presents itself: how does one do what one loves to do the most while keeping their books from being waterlogged? Worry no more, I’ve got your solutions!
Presented, for your consideration, and for the continued health of your library: A survivor’s guide for bibliophiles at the beach.
To start, we have to understand the unavoidable problems:

  1. There is water and everything will get wet. It is your mission to prevent water from reaching your book.
  2. Sand is going to get everywhere. You will discover sand in places for days after you’ve been there and it might be alarming.
  3. There are other people at the beach, they will be having a good time (as is the point of going to the beach), and may create sufficient noise to prevent you from complete immersion in your book. Even worse: they may want to talk to you about what you’re reading!

There are some absolute must-haves if you’re going to successfully enjoy your trip to the beach with your book. Those essentials are:

  1. A bag with a clasp or drawstring — the idea is to keep sand out, while also providing UV protection for your book. The sun’s rays are good for coloring skin, causing skin cancer, and damaging the cover of your books.
  2. Two, or more, towels — the first towel is for you to dry off after you get out of the water. The second, and subsequent, towels are to make sure your hands are dry and free from sunscreen before you pick up the book.
  3. Sandwich bags, or a water-tight container — the tide is consistent if anything. Some folks will leave their books in their beach chairs and then the tide will sweep in and get stuff wet. The problem isn’t the water sweeping your book away, but getting the sand underneath it wet. Paper and sand are subject to water in all its projections.
  4. Wet Naps or alcohol wipes — half the fun of going to the beach is packing food and then throwing it back. The problem with that is your fingers are going to be wet with saltwater, your fingertips will be pruny, and will hold onto food residue better than if you were in your living room. The wet naps will make sure that Dorito dust doesn’t make it to the pages of your book.

Learn from my experiences, there really isn’t room for mistakes. Once your book takes on a little water, there is no coming back from it. One little mistake will misshape your book forever. Get into the habit of putting your book in your bag once you put it down.
Some further advice:

  1. Don’t take your favorite book — it’s too big of a risk. Leave your first editions at home and take a book that wouldn’t absolutely devastate you if you lost it. While all books should be valued & treasured, we all have a book that would break our hearts a little more if we lost it. Leave that one at home.
  2. Make it clear to the people around you that you’re reading and you’d appreciate it if they didn’t bring any mayhem your way while you read — you’re not trying to prevent someone from having fun, but keeping them from splashing water (via water gun, etc) in your reading vicinity.
  3. Read in the shade. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the story and forget how long you’ve been in the sun. Sunburns can be increasingly nasty and it’s very easy to lose track of time when you’re in a book.

Happy reading, my friends! To celebrate this month’s subject, take a picture of yourself reading on the beach and tag us in it, so we know you’re reading in the sun safely. Let’s hope this summer is your summer!


by Louise Sorensen (@louise3anne)

“Life is a beach” used to be a popular bumper sticker, conjuring up for me at least, images of California, and tanned, muscular surfer dudes shooting the curl with droplets of ocean glistening on their skin, their long sun-bleached hair held back with a headband.

Now imagine if you will, what the world was like millions of years ago. See the first feisty little fishy surfer with short stubby fins shooting out of the water onto the beach, taking one look at the whole new world set out in front of it like a birthday cake, inhaling a huge lungful of the oxygen rich air, tossing back his finny locks and saying, “Woh. Dude!”

We’ll never know for sure what that long ago little guy thought or said, but I’m betting he was impressed.

According to geological and fossil records, life on Earth started in warm shallow oceans four hundred million years ago. That led to an awful lot of beaches.

Continuing with the image of our finny protagonist, it can’t have been easy being the first little vertebrate (creature with a backbone) wandering the beach. If he got too close to the water, the snapping jaws that drove him out of the ocean in the first place would be lying in wait for him again. He probably feared the water, but he was also brave, exploring the unknown. And what was there for a little ex-swimmer to eat on that muddy, swampy, or sandy beach?

Luckily for our hero, 100 million years earlier, plants and arthropods (ancient shelled creatures like trilobites, thought to have evolved on land into insects) had left the water and prepared the way for vertebrates. So there was plenty to eat. With little competition and few predators at the time, Life truly was once again a beach. At least if you weren’t an insect.

Since then, consider that life has not been much of a beach for the myriad of life forms that developed on this pale blue watery rock whizzing through space. It’s been kill or be killed, survival of the fittest and in the human arena these days the loudest, and might is right.    

Mountains or Beach, is a common question on social media. As in where would you prefer to live? Despite rising sea levels and the increasing intensity of storms, thought to be due to global warming, I always answer Beach. The ocean tugs at my spirit. Ancient memories pull hard, and I yearn to return to a place that feels like home. And I’m not the only one.

Poets and philosophers, and even war leaders beautifully express the feeling of ‘sehnsucht,’ (the inconsolable yearning or wistful longing for something one cannot explain or does not know).

“There is no place like home, except the beach.”
                                        ~ ~ Unknown.

“My life is like a stroll upon the beach, as near to the ocean’s edge as I can go.” 
                                        ~ ~ Henry David Thoreau, Philosopher

During the Second World War, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote a speech that is named for that famous line, “We shall fight them on the beaches.” He goes on to say, “… we shall never surrender…” The fighting spirit of both Churchill and the little surfer dude lives on. You can see it all over the world today, especially in Ukraine.   

As about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, there are plenty of beaches for people to roam, sunbathe, and enjoy. We humans litter (literally) beaches in the warm weather. 

“Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” 
                                        ~ ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Most of the water on Earth is saltwater, and for most land animals, undrinkable. We gave up that ability when we deserted the oceans and embraced the beach. I can’t say we’ve never looked back, as we love the oceans and surf, fish, and play in them every chance we get, but you’ll find whatever else they do, the majority of people end up basking in the sun, on the beach.

The Beach Boys have a song, Kokomo, in which they name places with beaches. Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahama, Key Largo, Montego, Martinique—beautiful, exotic names. We love our beaches and give them names that stir our imaginations and add to their mystique—Zuma, Waikiki, Copacabana, Navagio, Maya Bay. And one of my favourites from home, Petawawa.

There are many poems about beaches. They are all poignant, beautiful, some sad, all worth reading, but the only excerpt I found that mentioned the word beach was by Emily Dickinson. It’s a short poem, here in its entirety.

        My Garden—like the Beach
        Denotes there be—a Sea
        That’s Summer—
        Such as These—the Pearls
        She fetches—such as Me

And to paraphrase Joyce Kilmer in his poem Trees, my short poem, Beach:

        I think that there shall never be
        A poem lovely as the sea
        And hope forever in my reach
        Fair land as lovely as a beach     

Life isn’t always a beach. Sometimes the sea is rough, the sky is overcast, and the sand is cold. But Life can be a beach. And as the little finny fellow might have said, when he ventured out of the waves and threw a party, 

Rock on, Dudes

Some Drabbles

by Crystal L. Kirkham (@canuckclick)
Today I am sharing with you several drabbles that have previously appeared in other publications. These anthologies called for dark stories. I hope you enjoy them. – Crystal L. Kirkham
Message in a Bottle
      A few days ago, I found a bottle on the beach.
      A message inside. “Are you listening?”
      The next day, another. “Beware.”
      I laughed. It must be a joke.
      “It’s coming.” That was yesterday.
      Today’s said, “Run.”
      I pondered the messages as the sun slipped beneath the horizon.
      Somewhere a voice whispered, “You were warned.”
      A wave rose high enough to block out the stars.
      I ran, but I didn’t make it.
      It crashed down and dragged me out to sea.
      Struggling, starved of air, I couldn’t escape.
      Seaweed wrapped around me as the water calmed.
      I should have listened.
It Began in the Oceans
     It began in the oceans.
     A war unlike others.
     Dolphins organized the sea creatures. Whales crashed down and destroyed ships. Jellyfish sought out the swimmers.
     Soon, the seas were untouchable, the beaches abandoned.
     It was war and we weren’t going to give up. They fought dirty, we fought dirtier.
     Poison. Disease. Bombing.
     We defeated them, but we did not win.
     Our oceans were destroyed. Unusable. Fresh water was at a premium.
     Parched and choking, all living things perished.
     The empty Earth had time to heal and life could once again find a way.
     As always, it began in the oceans.
Bound for the Sea
Bad luck, a woman on a ship, but mostly for the girl who’s found.

Tied up, thrown overboard, seawater fills her lungs and the coldness seeps in. It fills her heart and soul. Transforms her. She becomes a creature born of anger, seeking revenge on those that tried to take her life.

To her, every ship is the same as the one that sent her to a watery grave. When they sail by, she sings the siren’s song. It calls and they cannot resist. Willingly to death they go, their ship sacrificed upon the rocks. Blood bound for the sea.
Below the Waves
Beneath the endless waves. Deep down in those unexplored depths, they remained hidden. Relegated to nothing more than myth and legend by modern man. They passed the time sharpening tooth and claw, knowing that it would be needed

When the oceans rose against the land, they surged forth to destroy what little remained of the landwalkers that had poisoned their home. And to show them that they were not the gorgeous fish-tailed men and women that legends told of. They were warriors and they were angry.

They did not stop until none of their enemy remained, the planet was theirs.

AMBR Team Showcase: June 2022

I Am Alex Locus and other novels and stories by Joseph P. Garland are described at his Dermody House site.

Marian Thorpe has numerous titles available; they can be found at her aptly named website, MarianLThorpe.com. Her books are at Books2Read.

Jaded Hearts, Renée Gendron

Book 1 of the Outdoorsman Series, by Renée Gendron 

Seven Points of Contact, by Renée Gendron

Heads and Tales A supernatural / mythological anthology. Renée Gendron contributed a historical, supernatural, romance. Amazon

A Law of Constants by A.P. Miller is available on Amazon

Beneath The Twin Suns An Anthology, edited by https://reneegendron.com/james-and-mirabelleRenée Gendron, available now. Find the link to your Amazon here.

Days of the Phoenix by A.P. Miller is available on Amazon

Dead Reckoning: Grave Intentions, Book 1 by Aedyn Brooks is available on Amazon

Duel Visions by Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen is available on Amazon

Heartened by Crime from Renée Gendron is available now.

In The Red Room : A crime anthology with heart Edited by Renée Gendron is available now.

Judith’s Prophecy, a Supernatural Thriller by D.W. Hitz is available from Evolved Publishing
 – Also book 2 and 3 are available + check for it now on audiobook

They Stole the Earth! A Middle Grade Sci-Fi Adventure by D.W. Hitz is available from Fedowar Press
 – Now available on audiobook!