Wednesday, July 13, 2005
This story is for Bede, who gave me the word "shore," and LHH, who wanted another tale about the Pertwee family.
Miss Virginia said she wanted to go to the ocean.
Mr. Pertwee was afraid of water ever since he had fallen into a whirlpool. He shivered when he remembered the rush of the tide pulling him down toward a grim cave from which there could be no return. Somehow, he had managed to grasp the slippery edge of the cave and hang on while the whirlpool raged. When the rushing of the water calmed down, he was stuck in the mouth of the cave for a better part of an hour. After he was rescued, the local papers reported that Mr. Pertwee had kept his dignity throughout the entire affair. Mr. Pertwee was pleased by all of the attention, but periodically he recalled the pull of the tide, and felt a queasiness that no amount of ginger tea could soothe. Nonetheless, when Miss Virginia said that she wanted to go to the ocean, Mr. Pertwee practiced his relaxation breathing exercises before saying, “Of course, my dear. We’ll visit the shore during the next Bank Holiday.”
Mrs. Pertwee and Master Tristan packed plenty of sandwiches for the trip. Mrs. Pertwee always worried that people weren’t getting enough to eat, and Master Tristan seemed to have a hollow leg when it came to food. No matter how often Mrs. Pertwee plied him with oatmeal biscuits and Branston pickle sandwiches, Master Tristan refused to gain any weight. “He burns off all the energy by toppling off the roof,” Mr. Pertewee said, and while this was probably true, Mrs. Pertwee continued to worry about her son’s health. A holiday by the ocean shore might be just the thing to put roses in Master Tristan’s cheeks. Master Tristan said that he didn’t want roses in his cheeks. Roses were for girls, not boys. Miss Virginia was furious, and jumped up and down upon her brother’s head until Master Tristan admitted that roses weren’t for girls either.
When the Pertwees arrived at the ocean, the tide was out. Miss Virginia cried because there was no water, but Master Tristan pointed out the bits of shell and dried coral that decorated the beach, and Miss Virgina cheered up slightly. While the children stacked coral, shells and stones into formations that vaguely resembled the ones found on Easter Island, Mrs. Pertwee set out the food for the picnic and reminded the children to wear sunscreen. Mr. Pertwee paced up and down the beach, but when Mrs. Pertwee asked him if he were nervous about the tide returning, he said, "Tush, tush, my dear. I was simply looking for mermaids."
The Pertwees spent a pleasantly uneventful day at the shore. Much to Miss Virgiinia’s disappointment (and Mr. Pertwee’s secret relief), the tide stayed so low that no one got their feet wet. "Perhaps, when we go home, you can listen to the ocean through a seashell,” Mr. Pertwee offered, but Miss Virginia scoffed, and said that everyone knew that the sound of the sea was only the rushing of the air through the whorls of the shell. Instead, Miss Virginia brought home from the shore a smooth, round stone, and kept it by her pillow. At night, she pressed it against her cheek and dreamed of tall ships sailing upon rough waters.