Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
The Summer Holidays were over. From his vantage point, little shovel in hand, Jimmy could see his parents loading the car with all belongings they had brought to the beach house, his included. Somehow, after two weeks of heated discussion, mom and dad were still convinced their young son would accompany them home. Jimmy saw no single reason why he should, though. Home meant school, chores, bullies, and a whole assortment of additional things he disliked. Here, on the beach, he could live in his palace, enjoying not a care in the world.
His project had first made the local newspapers, then the national ones, and now the international press was on its way. Everyone raved about the six-year old who had built an imposing castle on the beach, using nothing but sand and a toy shovel. Jimmy’s parents had first viewed it as a typical child’s project, something that, if not encouraged too much, would slowly fade. The group of grannies living on the beach had not shared these thoughts, though, and soon mom and dad had seen their son grow mostly independent of their care. The grannies had brought Jimmy all the snacks he could possibly eat, fresh clothes and bedding to keep in his fortress and all the compliments and encouragement required to keep him going. They did not care about his parents and whatever they thought of it, they just wanted the boy to continue building, to continue entertaining them…and to continue bringing them under the attention of the media. It was the biggest, most exciting thing that had ever happened to anyone in the coastal village, and they would not let it go without a fight. Not that anyone expected one.
Jimmy’s eyes began to tear from the continuous flashing of cameras, so he descended down the sand stairs into his sand chamber. The palace had not been set up as any other home. The boy had deemed that, since he would be living on his own, he did not need rooms. So he had created a sand bed, sand table, sand kitchen counter and stove, sand fridge, and even a sand toilet (where the sand drains led to was a mystery), all contained in one big spacious area. A large piece of driftwood marked the door, and for all intents and purposes that was enough. Jimmy felt like a king, dropping onto his sand sofa to finish the massive bag of chips his sponsors had brought him, the sand that seemed to get into everything adding an extra crunch to his beloved cheese and onion flavor that his parents never bought for him. Life was good, until he heard his mom’s voice calling from outside.
“Jimmy! Jimmy, there’s a storm closing in on the beach, we’re leaving before it hits!” There was a slight hint of desperateness in her voice, not ungrounded according to the boy. He definitely did not plan to leave and a storm would change nothing about it. His walls were strong enough to resist a hurricane, he had made sure of that.
The wind outside began to sing, and in the distance a first rumbling could be heard. Nothing to worry about. Jimmy heard the sounds of starting engines and screeching tires, people yelling at each other in their frustration to get away. No sweat. The waves seemed to draw closer and grow bigger and bigger, and still the young ‘king’ was not concerned. His trust in his construction never wavered for a moment.
Jimmy was just busy swallowing a huge hand of chips when something enormous pounded upon his fortress. The next moment water poured in by the gallons, and walls and ceiling came crashing down with a mighty roar. The boy had nowhere to run, his only escape route through the entrance blocked by heaps and heaps of sand. More was coming down around him, and would soon bury him alive. Before he had the chance to scream, someone or something grabbed him by the waist and pulled him out. “Dad!” he shouted when he recognized his father’s heavy breathing. The next moment he was planted on the back seat of the car, seat belt fixed and dad already pushing down hard on the pedals, ready to catch up with all the other escaping traffic.
Jimmy could see his mom’s face in the rear view mirror, wet, but not from the stormy weather outside. She did not look at him, and now he could understand why. He had been a lousy son, and even when he was ready to desert his parents, they had still risked their lives to save him while his ‘fans’ had run, leaving him for death. He felt like a fool, an idiot, and realized that it would probably take a lot to make up for his stupid behavior. Rightfully so, he thought.
“Mom, dad,” he said, voice shaking from excitement and regret, “I’m sorry.”