It takes seven hours
to drive from the airport to Sanabel and all we see is water.

What I Did Over Winter Break

On the beach, we are up to our knees in shells. We each fill two buckets the first day. I fill mine carefully because Dad says we can only fly home with the two hundred most perfect shells. Marc fills his bucket with clams. Mom says, "Why don't you get some snail shells or conchs? You can get clams on Lake Michigan."

Marc stops where he is and sits down on a pile of shells. He slowly dumps out all his clams. "I'll just use some of your shells," he tells Mom. He puts him empty bucket in his lap.

I give him some of my cracked conchs to make him feel better, and then I wander down the other end of the beach looking for perfect shells.

Dad follows behind me. While I'm crouching on the wet sand, Dad walks up to me with a big smile. He puts a shell up to my ear. "This is the ocean," he says. "Do you hear it?"

"How did you get the ocean?"

"It's magic. I 'm giving it to you," he says. I hold on to the shell all day. I don't put it in my bucket because I don't want it to get mixed up.

We fill our buckets until the tide gets high. Then we go back home to the condo and we find lizards everywhere--in lampshades, in garbage cans. Hundreds. Mom screams, and when she screams, Marc and I scream. Dad screams, "Don't scream. You're scaring the kids."

"Well do something!" Mom yells.

Dad takes a broom and wooshes them off the walls and out the door.

When the lizards are gone, Mom cooks our dinner and Dad cooks our shells, to make sure all the animals are dead. Marc and I stand by the stove to watch the animals float to the top of the boiling water.

After dinner, Marc and I can't move. Our skin feels like it will break. Dad says we are sunburnt. Mom says we are all sunburnt. We are so sunburnt we don't have to take showers. We are so sunburnt our clothes scrape our skin, so the next day we don't wear any.

We stay inside the whole day, and we all have headaches. Mom sits on the beach in a turtleneck and pants. Dad helps us to put Noxema all over ourselves because it feels so cold. We eat cold things for dinner. We go to bed cold on the outside and warm underneath.

Mom wakes us up in the middle of the night. She says it's low tide, and we can go shelling in the dark when the sun won't hurt. Dad carries Marc to the beach. I carry Marc's bucket. Mom lets Marc collect. Mom brings extra buckets for us to fill because in the dark we might not see cracks in the shells , so we'll need to get extra. I have to dump out some shells to carry my buckets home.

The next day we wake up late. Dad cooks shells. Marc and I sort the good shells from the cracked shells and we put water on the good shells to make them shiny again. We put Noxema on each other to make us cool again. Mom comes back from the beach with pages and pages of writing that she won't read to us. They are letters to herself. She is not going to send them.

She kisses me goodnight but she looks away and misses my mouth and gets a little piece of my bottom lip.

I turn over in bed to see what she was looking at. It's a lizard. I know she won't want me to know. I crawl into Marc's bed.

"Why are you in my bed?" he asks.

"I want to show you something," I say. And I reach under the bed to get my shell, and I say, "Listen. It's the waves. It's magic, and we have it right here, to ourselves."

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