Five-year-old Scotty looked up at me with beautiful scowling blue eyes. It wasn't the first time that day.
"You told me I could play in the sand all day."
"But it has been all day, Scotty. We have to go home."
He kicked the sand, sending a spray of wet grains over my feet and into my shoes. "Don't want to go home."
I winced and counted to five. Ten took too long and I was tired. I shifted the lounge chair to my opposite hand, ruffled the silky blond locks and forced a bright smile on my face.
"Mama will be home soon and we're supposed to be there when she gets home."
Scotty plopped down into the wet sand and picked up his blue shovel and began to shovel sand into the red bucket. He ignored me.
I squatted down and watched him. "Scotty, maybe we could stop for ice cream."
He hesitated and then looked up at me, that same scowl on his face. "You said we could get a hamburger."
"Well, yes, I did. But I didn't know they didn't sell them here at the beach."
"You passed McDonald's."
"I know, Scotty. I'm sorry." Even I could hear the strain in my voice. It had been a long day. We'd left home at noon and I had packed a lunch for us, but as we pulled out of the drive he'd asked for McDonald's and I'd promised. I thought there'd be a one near the beach. There wasn't and we'd long passed Mcdonald's before I knew it.
"It was lucky we had sandwiches in the car, wasn't it?" Again I ruffled his hair.
He pulled his head to one side and slapped a shovel of dirt into his bucket. The scowl greeted my tentative smile.
"You said you'd buy me a soda." He packed the sand into the bucket, smoothing the top off the way I'd shown him.
"I know. I didn't know the machine was broken, Scotty. But the water we brought stayed cold in my little cooler. It was very refreshing."
He upended the bucket next to him and gently pulled it up, leaving a small castle beside him.
"Scotty, we need to go."
"I'm working." He began to fill the bucket a second time and turned out another sand castle.
"I know. We can do this again one day."
He ignored me and started to fill his bucket again, digging deeper into the wet sand. A wave rushed us but didn't quite reach our spot. The tide was coming in. The sun slipped a bit as I watched. He flipped out his third small castle.
"Scotty, we can't stay until it gets dark. I promised Mom we'd leave before that. And pretty soon the tide will be covering this area."
"You make lots of promises."
For a moment, I didn't know what to say. Was he asking me or telling me. "Well.... I try... I just... " I thought a few more seconds. "What are you trying to say, Scotty?"
"I have to finish this."
"But what are you making?"
He glanced to where I pointed and then looked at me for a minute. Finally, he put his shovel in his bucket, stood up and picked it up. "I reckon you just can't depend on anything these days."
I watched as he marched across the sand toward the parking lot. Waves washed over my feet and I looked down. Scotty's sandcastles crumbled in the waves.