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Millions of them Washed Ashore

The long stretch of beach toward the tip South Padre Island was known for its shimmering white sands.  My sister and I would play in the sand dunes and slide down as if it were fresh-fallen snow. Then, most days, we would run along the beach and bob in the water’s soft, translucent, green waves. Under our toes we would feel the hardness of sea shells and reach down to pull them up. Some would have turquoise and pink stripes, red sunbursts, blue spirals, yellow and chartreuse edges—all specimen to behold in our tiny hands and carry back to the pile on the beach’s edge. Now and then, in our collection of treasures, a shell or two would unexpectedly get up on its legs and walk away, making its way back to the pull of the ocean. Once in a while, we would find that we’d pick up a small crab, and its pincers would instantaneously let us know that it was not up for grabs. 

The summer that I was five, however, there was an invasion of jellyfish. Thousands upon thousands of them floated toward the edge of the beach and, by the end of the first week, millions of them had washed ashore, and they lay beached upon the scorching sand. We stood back from the wet tide line and looked at the gelatinous clusters of them studding the sand between us and the beckoning ocean. Some had long-since expired and shrunken in like warped plastic but, those that were still alive could send a sting to incapacitate a dog or small horse. Clear and rubbery, they were dug into the hot sand like ready landmines awaiting a momentary lapse in our attention. Our parents told us, “Whatever you do, do not step on them,” and so we held each other’s hand for balance and tiptoed through the zone of hell toward the siren call of the softly breaking waves.   


Abigail Jardine has taught and written for many years. Her stories focus on gender, family dynamics, and American culture. She lives in California.

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