She was on the couch devouring a novel, her warm little brown dachshund cuddled up against her. He was nestled in the crook of her arm, sleeping with the peace of the innocent. Occasionally she could feel his stubby legs stirring against her as he dreamed, perhaps of chasing but never catching rabbits in a sun-dappled meadow or just running long, triumphant laps around the neighborhood park where she sometimes took him, everything an adventure. The whisper of the book’s turning leaves called and answered with his quiet, sleepy breaths. She wished she could ever be as perfectly contented.
I picked up the spiraling, liver-speckled white shell and, with a start, dropped it as I saw frantically wiggling legs emerge from it. The hermit crab I had not realized inhabited it scuttled indignantly away, coming to a rest a bit further down the beach, his legs sinking into the sand. I hoped he would forgive me. I liked collecting shells, but them being homes for creatures was not something I’d counted on. I wondered what it was like to live inside them, the sides surrounding you simultaneously hard and delicate, the sound of the ocean roaring towards you always.
I swear they were up to something, and it creeped me out. So many of any one thing working in perfect unison was terribly unnerving. I felt a little ridiculous about it and attempted to convince myself that a mound of insects couldn’t be plotting to overthrow the government, say, but I still went to bed every night a little shaky. They were slowly spreading across our big backyard, and every distressingly huge mound we successfully flattened was soon replaced by two or three more. Maybe some of them were ghost ants, out to avenge the deaths of their brethren.
I watched her. She was fearless. She dove off the dock into the lake without a moment’s hesitation, a 13-year-old silhouette against the dusk sun, hanging in the air for what seemed like far longer than it should have been before hitting the water with a tremendous splash. She bobbed up above the surface, laughing and pushing back her soaked wavy hair. She ducked back under the water and I saw it moving as she swam towards the island in the middle of the lake. An adventure. I wanted an adventure. But my heart would not let me follow her.