A Storyby Nancy Hale
Through most of a long, sunny September afternoon, grandmother and grandson strolled past the tourist-trade shops along the streets of Rockport. The season was practically finished. A few vacationers passed—stout middle-aged women in shorts and halter, usually surmounted by a Jazz Age shingle or an imposing pile of marcelled hairdo. Several children of less than school age ran, on little bare brown feet, down to the beach in summer-ragged, summer-faded bathing suits. Here and there an artist had pitched his easel near the sidewalk and stood scowling past his canvas at the cobalt waters of Sandy Bay.
The shops were holding their sales—twenty-five percent, fifty percent off on everything. Their windows were crammed with seashell-trimmed compacts, handmade silver jewelry, enamel earrings, tiny ship models inside bottles, small, purposeless pieces of delft china, miniature oil paintings of the sea set upon miniature easels, dolls’ tea sets of imitation Dresden, green pottery in modernistic, lopsided designs, marked-down seersucker sunsuits, straw coolie hats from Korea, cork-soled sandals, a pile of sneakers tied together in pairs by the shoestrings with the sign “Your Pick—75¢,” nutcrackers in the form of a red lobster, toy lobster pots, real fishermen’s nets on sale for decorative purposes with bluish glass floats like bubbles, reels of fishing line, children’s yellow oilskins complete with sou’wester, orange life preservers in small sizes—all of it insubstantial as bits of spindrift blown off a summer wave.
Carolyn Moss and seven-year-old Marcus had only yesterday been driven down to Rockport by Marcus’s mother, Mary Bentley; so it was all new to them. They passed slowly from window to window, inspecting everything with interest. From time to time Carolyn caught a glimpse of how they looked—like the mirage of a tall slender woman with a little boy floating, transparent and ghostly, among all those concrete objects. She looked into the dark glass of what she had thought for a moment was the window of the package store she was looking for, and touched her hair. Its streaks of gray seemed only a lighter blond, in the short locks that stood up from her forehead like plumes. She had never, she reflected thankfully, lost her ability to adapt to fashion, and, aware of that crêpiness that creeps within the elbow, the knobbiness of aging knees, the flabbiness of bared backs after forty, she wore such dresses as this pink chambray with its flowing skirt, round white collar, and three-quarter sleeves.