Cathy writes in an with an 'earthy' flair and tells tales about regular folk thrust, sometimes, into unusual situations. Her entry in the Land's Edge flash fiction contest was no exception. The Blue Swimsuit is a story about a man's memories of a little girl he met years ago at a popular Ontario beach. Let's take a short walk through this man's thoughts. This timeless story is set in 1966, but it could just as well be 2010. Heck, the beach may be just down the road from you.
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The Polaroid is like a home movie frozen on one frame in the projector.
Faded almost to white.
Even her navy blue swimsuit is faded. But you can still tell it's blue.
Her light brown hair, caught up in a strong breeze, shining in the midday sun, is lighter. But you can still tell it's brown.
Her smile is enormous. Beatific. Contagious. And she's got these crazy sunglasses on, perfectly round, clamshell pink.
He fingers the edges of the photograph. The date is handwritten on the bottom.
July 14, 1966.
A perfect summer day.
He remembers seeing Cheryl for the first time.
He is at Wasaga Beach, stretched out on a towel, a bottle of Pepsi and a John D. MacDonald paperback lying in the sand beside him, a camera in his hand. He ignores the hundreds of bright young women who walk by him in their best bathing suits, a parade of taut, tanned skin and sprayed curls, stepping lightly to impress the hundreds of young men who gawk openly as they go by.
He barely notices them.
But he sees Cheryl.
She is running pell mell down the beach, sand flying up from her feet in every direction. She is chasing a plastic beach ball, coloured like gas station flags, and she is squealing because some other kid is in hot pursuit. Likely a brother. He watches. The kid chases her for a bit, to make her happy, then dekes out and goes to where a bunch of girls are hanging out at the hamburger stand.
Cheryl takes the ball over to a young couple who might be her parents and tries to get their attention but they're talking to another couple, laughing and drinking Labatt's 50. They scold her for interrupting, then shoo her away.
Unconcerned, she picks up an orange pail with a white plastic shovel, and starts wandering down the beach.
He watches her meander further away from her parents. Nobody but him is paying attention.
He gets up from the towel and walks towards her.
When he's close enough he begins to take pictures.
He smiles as the shutter clicks.
She is so happy.
Soon she will be a headline in newspapers across the country. "CHERYL THOMPSON, 6, MISSING" will be replaced after a week by "BODY PARTS FOUND IN GEORGIAN BAY" and finally "TRAIL GOES COLD IN SEARCH FOR CHILD KILLER."
For a few minutes more she is still a little girl playing in the sand on a pristine summer day.
He walks up beside her and gets down on one knee, like he is proposing.
He is blocking her sun so she looks up.
"Hey mister," she says.