All is stillness and silence when you step onto the beach. Until you stop and watch and listen. Then everything is set into motion. Small boats bob gently on the water, their lanterns casting a soft glow on the rippling waves. Schools of tiny silver fish glitter suddenly across the surface, scatter and vanish. The statuesque heron lifts his great wings and leaves his post for the evening. The tide rushes forward and then recedes, with shelled creatures left scuttling in its wake. Clouds shift ominously to allow for glimpses of a full moon. Sea breezes lift the scent of a bonfire and the rhythm of my neighbor’s drum circle, transporting me to a primitive wilderness where power is drawn from moonlight above and the dark perilous depths below.
I can weave magic here, cast a line, cast a spell, break the surface with the flash of a struggling striped bass. He looks at me with round, wild eyes and I am feeling benevolent. It is not your time, I think, as I release him. He disappears beneath sea foam and bioluminescence.
I hear shouts and laughter from my brother as he jumps up and down, his clasped hands glowing green. When he opens them the fireflies fly above his head and he’s quiet, intently watching their dance pattern of blinking lights. I call out to him, he quickly turns at the sound of my voice and runs to be at my side. He climbs into my raft and I push it into the water. I pull myself inside, grab my oar and start rowing. My little brother puts his hand over the side letting his fingers skim the surface of the water. He leans, and with a sudden splash he falls in.
When I bring him to shore, he’s wet and shivering, arms clinging tightly to my neck. As we walk I spot a piece of driftwood in the sand. I point it out to him and he bends to pick it up. I tell him to find more wood so he dashes back and forth scrounging for sticks and piling them in clumps. I neatly stack pieces and place dry, dead weeds at the base. I strike a match and with small sparks it bursts into flame. Soon the weeds are consumed, and the wood is crackling and snapping as it burns. We circle the fire with smooth rocks and sit for a few moments in silence near the fire, feeling its warmth and comfort.
My brother picks up a stick and starts poking, sending showers of tiny gold and red embers over us. There’s only one thing that will interest him more than lighting sticks on fire. I send him back home for marshmallows. When he returns I hand him his stick, and he proceeds to impale his marshmallow and let it hover over the flames. He leaves it in the fire so long its completely blackened and trailing smoke as he waves it in the air. Before we return for the night, I help my brother climb the highest rocks along the beach.
The waves crash on the shore like the heartbeat of a giant in eternal slumber. Water cascades down the sides of the rock but the spray can’t reach us here. From here we can stand and survey our entire kingdom. Our small universe. From here we can reach out and touch the moon, the stars, the galaxies. From here I’ll have to carry him half asleep home to bed.
You may have heard that the nightlife on the East End is amazing. Believe me when I tell you that everything you heard is true.
This story is written by Luke Sawaya, winner of the inaugural Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction in 2015 (pictured below).
To find who who’ll win this year’s Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction, as well as the 2016 Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction competition, please come join us at the Dan’s Papers Literary Festival on Thursday, September 1, starting at 4 p.m. at the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall in East Hampton. For more information about the Gala Awards Ceremony and other events, visit DansLitPrize.com.