The Wind by Muriel Cooper
On a windy day at the Portsea back beach, Grandpa Henry, Connor and Meredith, and their children, Kylie, and Finn are walking along the sand. Henry is carrying a shopping bag.
“We shouldn’t be doing this, you know. I think it’s illegal.”
“Can I hold it?” Finn says, taking the bag from Henry. He hefts it. “It’s heavy.”
Kylie takes the bag.
“It is. Why’s it so heavy?”
“I don’t know. I was surprised too, love.”
They trudge along.
The sand needle-stings their bare skin.
“How much further?” Kylie asks.
Henry says “Not far now.”
Connor says to Meredith, “Meri remember when we used to come here every day over the summer?” He’s trying to ease things with her. “You were a real surfer chick.”
“There’s a lot of water under the bridge since then,” Meredith says, pulling her coat tightly around her. “Dad are you alright?”
“I’m fine Meredith,” Henry says.
They trudge on.
Meredith stops suddenly, pulling at Henry’s sleeve.
“I’m not happy, Dad, what if we get caught?”
“It’s not illegal Meri,” Henry says, “besides, take a look around. It’s seven o’clock on a Monday morning, and no one in sight. It doesn’t matter.”
“What about the environment,” Meri persists, “it can’t be good for that.”
Henry sits the bag down on the sand and takes his daughter in his arms. She sobs against his shoulder.
“It’s alright, love. It’s okay.” Finn and Kylie look as uncomfortable as teenagers usually do when they see their mother cry. Meredith takes a packet of tissues out of her pocket and wipes her eyes. The wild wind grabs one, and it dances over the sand and into the waves. Henry picks up the bag, and they trudge on.
“We’re here,” Henry says, pointing to a landmark in the dunes only he can distinguish. He takes something out of the bag.
“I don’t want her to be here,” Meredith says. “She’ll be lonely. It’s so far.”
“This was what she wanted, love,” says Henry. “It was where we first, err…” he looks at Finn and Kylie, who start to giggle. Then Kylie says,
“I think it’s romantic.”
“Let’s all say something now,” Henry says. He raises his voice over the noise of the wind and the waves. “My darling Rosalie, the love of my life. I hope you’re happy wherever you are, and that you’re happy to be here at Portsea where we fell in love.”
Connor says, “Yeah, Rosie, you were a great mother in law and a wonderful grandmother.”
“Miss you grandma,” Kylie says.
“Same,” says Finn.”
Meredith sobs. “I miss you so much, Mum. It’s so lonely here. I wish you were closer.”
Henry holds the urn tightly and unscrews the lid. The wind whistles and whips their clothes. Henry gauges where it’s coming from, and they all face away from it. Henry takes the urn and tips some of the ashes out. The wind is mischievous and completely changes direction, blowing the ashes all over them.
“Eww…” Finn says, spluttering and spitting, “I’ve got grandma in my mouth!” The rest frantically brush their clothes. The wind takes care of the particles of ash in their hair. Henry breaks the silence.
“Well, Rosie, you got the last laugh,” he says, and they all chuckle, even Meredith.
Connor says, “How about we dig a hole up on the dunes and bury them. She’ll be comfortable there.” They form a circle to make a shelter from the wind and all help to dig the hole. Henry quickly tips the rest of the ashes into it, and they cover them with sand.
“I’ve got something for us to leave,” Kylie says, and takes five small stones from her pocket. Each one painted a rainbow colour with the initials R.W. in black marker. Meredith cries again, Henry tears up. “That’s a lovely thought sweetie,” says Meredith. Kylie passes out the stones, and they place them around the small mound covering the hole.
“I think she’ll be pleased,” Henry says. Goodbye, Rosie.”
“Bye, grandma, say Finn and Kylie.
“Goodbye, Mum, “love you,” says Meredith.
Connor says, “Bye, happy travels.”
As they start their journey back down the beach, the wind drops for a moment before resuming its near gale-force intensity. Back at the car, Connor says “Who’s for pancakes in Sorrento?”
“Yesss!” says Kylie.
Finn, the last in the car, wipes his mouth surreptitiously with his sleeve.
“I think I’ll pass.”