Emma clutched her towel in a bundle under her chin. She watched the woman disappear over the dune, her long black dress billowing in the breeze.
‘She’s a witch,’ said Emma.
‘No such thing,’ said Josh.
Down by the shore they dropped their towels and splashed through ripples of whitewash. Josh waded to deeper water, then dived under. The cool current tickled his body. He surfaced and flipped onto his back, floating and bobbing gently.
Gulls soared above. Wings spread wide they drifted on the breeze, sending out the occasional caw.
Josh spread his arms out, copying them. He glanced over to check on Emma and saw she had left the water to build sandcastles.
‘What are you making?’ he asked, when he knelt beside her.
‘A witchy castle,’ answered Emma.
Sand scrubbed at Josh’s fingers as he dug a moat around her castle. He raced to fill his bucket with water. As he poured it carefully into the moat he noticed a gull close by, peering at him.
‘Shoo,’ said Emma, waving both hands at it.
The gull did not fly away. It only took a few steps. The feathers on its face were soft, snowy white but its eyes were beady black.
‘Go on.’ Josh stomped towards it. It scurried further off, then paused, waiting. Waiting for what? Perhaps the woman had good reason for telling them to beware.
‘It’s footprints look like Egyptian writing,’ said Emma. ‘Let’s build a pyramid.’
‘Egyptians buried their kings in tombs to keep them safe forever,’ said Josh.
‘Maybe an Egyptian king was buried in a pyramid and that gull is its ghost,’ said Emma.
‘Witches and castles, tombs and ghosts,’ huffed Josh. ‘You’re being silly.’ Still, he kept one eye on the gull as he began to build a new sand model. ‘Sharks are better than pyramids.’
Emma agreed and joined him.
Before long, their monstrous shark lay long, damp and shiny. They dusted sand from their hands and headed to the kiosk to buy a snack to share.
The scent of hot chips wafted over them as they waited for their order to be filled. The gull perched on their sand shark and watched.
Once ready, Josh and Emma sat their small bucket of hot chips between them and each took one. Josh raised his to his lips and blew on it to cool it. The delicious smell was too much. He opened his mouth to drop the chip in. In a flash, the chip was snatched away.
All Josh had left was salty fingers.
Emma covered the bucket of chips with her hand. ‘Should have built a pyramid to keep our chips safe,’ she said.
‘Should have listened to the lady,’ said Josh.
©Emma Cameron 2011, image credit
Bedtime Stories downloadable tales for children are an AWO initiative, run in support of the National Year of Reading 2012. We encourage you to print and read these stories with your kids, and revel in the joy a wonderful story can bring. All stories are original and have been penned by established and emerging Australian authors. Every month, we will publish four stories running to a central theme, each on a Monday morning. See here for more.