My mom was afraid of the pier. It was tall and could carry us way past the breakers where fishermen tossed their lines far into the sea. From below, surfers yelled at each other and rode crashing waves toward the pilings all crusted with barnacles, star fish and bits of fiberglass from the mistimed maneuver. When the waves hit the piles the pier shook like the ocean had some hold on it. But the pier was sturdy and wide with lean white buildings sporting shiny glass windows where life guards kept watch over their flocks. The bait shop had red licorice on racks and anchovies in tanks. They flashed streaks of silver when we bumped the tub with our hips. The bait man’s tiny furry eyes did not want us messing with his fish.
Past the bait shop my mom would not venture. It was over water and there were hooks on the pavement, old men smoking, and kids casting for the first time. It was deliciously dangerous. But it was years before we could go it alone.
The afternoon beach was tuna sandwiches with sweet pickle, wrapped in crunchy waxed paper, cool crisp grapes and soft juicy plums, plus a bag or two of Fritos. The air was thick with salt spray and Coppertone.
Our cabin, the Mackerel, was tropical paradise on the outside. A patio with hand-made wooden chairs, was shaded by dry palm branches. Inside it was creaky plywood floors, painted some kind of brown, peeling from weather, and always coated with sand. Mother moaned of bugs crawling along the Formica counter, pale blue like her eyes. Hot skillet stains could not be cleaned, but it only bothered her. I saw none of this; only a room with the sound of the ocean, right across the street. Every day held the promise of another day at the beach.