Monday, March 14, 2011


As many of you already know, I have been in Florida for the past few weeks. The first week I was here, I featured The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with all of its grand details and exciting rides. 

This weather turned ugly as I made my way east to the shores of the Atlantic. Rain, cold, and gray skies dampened my time at the beach.

But the bright blue skies returned along with the white puffy clouds this weekend. I'd like to share with you an excerpt from my short story, THROUGH SHADES OF GRAY. The character sees through my eyes the wonders of a day at the beach. I hope you all feel the warmth in the cold north. Something we can all use in our tragic times of earthquakes, tsunami's, and floods.

This is a larger excerpt than I normally post so I apologize for its length.

A lonely sparrow sings at the day break of dawn. I listen for a moment, then drift back to sleep. Hours pass. The first light of day streaks across my shoulders, rear, and calves, heating my exposed skin. I open a sleepy eye and glance at the bedside table, hoping for any indication of the time. A digital clock reads eight thirty-five.  

Okay, move your lazy ass. You haven’t worked out in two days. My muscles put up a good fight as I wrench myself from Gabrielle’s thousand thread-count sheets. After a quick shower in the “spa,” I towel off and look in the mirror, brushing my long shaggy hair out of my face. Catching a glimpse of milky skin, only my pitch-black pubes keep me from fading into the white tiled wall behind me. She’s right. I do look like a vampire.

Grabbing the boardshorts I had set out yesterday, I quickly put them on and rummage through my backpack for the iPod. On the way out, I pick up the paper with the security code. 

The intense light blinds me as I open the door. I’m not one to workout with shades. A chill in the air lift goosebumps on my chest and arms. I begin my run.

Sprinting down the beach, I notice a few fisherman casting lines out to sea. Seagulls circle the beach, while tiny sand-pipers skitter away from the incoming waves. Nature’s creatures far outweigh the number of humans this lazy morning. How different this scene is from the thousands of jet-setters flocking to Miami Beach’s south shores. 

One of my earphones comes loose and falls out, revealing the sound of gentle ocean waves collecting at my feet. As I continue to thump on the dampened sand, the seagulls’ cries pierce the air, disturbing the lyrical sounds of the sea. Sweat begins to trickle down my face and neck, slipping into the crevices of my core. No longer am I imprisoned by nature’s shades of gray. With each new stream of sweat, I feel a small part of my soul come back to life. 

Returning to the house, the reality of the place I had left behind is visible in my car’s appearance. “It’s your turn now baby.” I have to banish every reminder of those oppressive shades of gray. 

My routine hardly differs with each passing day. I feel fit, and a slight ruddiness tints my pallid skin. Make no mistake, this is not a tan, that would take weeks. I still hadn’t written to Gabrielle. She, too, had been unnaturally quiet; her plan remains a mystery to me.

Saturday morning, I decide to lift weights in lieu of my run. I eat breakfast and flip on the news. I cringe. “ANOTHER OIL DISASTER! Wasn’t the gulf spill enough? This country will never learn!” I grab the remote, and turn off the set. Scowling, I go downstairs to work out my frustration.

The bright afternoon sunshine beckons to me. Racing up the stairs, I look for sunscreen in the “spa.” I’ll need it today. After applying a skim-coat, I grab my Ray Bans from the dresser, and as an afterthought my Nikon. 

Stepping onto the beach, I make it to the waves, drifting north on my odyssey. The beach vibe is altered today, as the human to wildlife ratio shifts. After a mile or so, I perch on an obscure sand dune. Several joggers pass by, but not the hardbodies I’m accustomed to seeing. Average middle-aged men and women smile at me as they continue enjoying their run together. I take a quick pic. 

A young father calls to a little boy, who is just a bit too close to the surf. A moment later, he rushes toward his son, scooping him into his arms, smiling, as his son giggles. The father’s patience and playfulness with the toddler intrigues me. I had always wanted kids. I take more pics as they play in the sand. The sound of a boom box distracts me.

Latino music washes over the beach as a group of teens dance. Passersby move to the pulsating beat. I click away at the random sites around me and then slide down the dune to continue my jaunt. The sun is high, and the heat of the day is peaking. 

The Ray Bans slip down my nose, as sweat pours from my face. Running to the shore with the Nikon held high, I step through the waves and a shock of cold rips through my privates. I’m breathless as I sink lower into the ocean’s depths, groaning.

I wade toward the shore after the impact and zero in on a small group. Teenage boys in over-sized boardshorts lift their bodyboards for another round with the surf, while bikini-clad girls watch in awe. I meander closer to them as the water shallows. 

Concentrating hard on my next shot; water-weight pulls my shorts down just below the equator. One of the teenage girls laughs as I awkwardly grope for the waistband.

“You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, honey,” a woman old enough to be my mother said. I must have turned crimson because she smiled, and then winked at me. I ran, kicking sand on the innocent bystander next to her.

I found another sand dune, and waited for the sunset. As the orange fireball’s lowering in the sky, I hear a couple hidden in the brush. They step out onto the beach hand-in-hand; they hadn’t noticed me. I zoom in on them, and see the vestiges of their former youth, but time had been kind to them. He gently kisses her, as streaks of gold illuminate their faces. I leave, letting them enjoy their private moment.

I hope you enjoyed it. I'd appreciate your comments. Thanks.


  1. Aw...this is sweet and I love the way you've laid out the description. Nicely done.

  2. Glad the weather finally cooperated for you!

  3. Wonderfully written. I loved this!! Long or not you have a gift my friend!

    I'm with Alex, so glad the weather got better!

  4. I like your interweaving of nature and man in this piece. You have set yourself up as observer, neither one nor the other, not a part of them but on the outside fringes. Nicely done. I love sandpipers.

  5. I'm a sucker for beach images, and you have some beautiful ones here.

  6. I love the theory, anyway. Enjoy the rest of your vacation. Hope the weather cooperates. Thanks for sharing your short story - beautiful imagery.


  7. You packed a lot of emotion into those beach work outs. I don't know why, but reading about the couple at the end made me sad.

    I'm so happy the weather turned for you! Last time I went to the Atlantic (Jacksonville) it was crappy all week and then gorgeous and sunny the morning we left! We should've stayed one extra day. :/

  8. You write so well Michael. The entire piece flowed so naturally. I really enjoyed this.

    I'm glad you are finally having good weather. Have a great week :)

  9. Makes me want to go to the beach, Michael (instead of rainy old Seattle!!) Lots of good images in here. My favorite sentence: "With each new stream of sweat, I feel a small part of my soul come back to life." I know just how that feels!

  10. Well done, Michael. I'm immediately drawn into the story. The writing is tight and the story has moments of humor to bring the reader a smile. The only thing I would check for in future stories is to layer in the 5 senses.

    You have:
    Sound and
    If you layer in 'smell,' you will take the story over the top.
    The only other one is taste.

    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium, Special .99 through April 30

  11. I've never actually seen a real beach except from the window of the airplane.

  12. Hi Michael,

    A lovely excerpt and I didn't think it was long at all, very nice. You had me at vampire, showers and pulling on board shorts!! ;-)

    Hope your holiday in Florida is fun!


  13. A beautifully written scene, Michael. May Florida heal you in all the ways you hope. Roland

  14. Beautiful writing! I enjoyed reading this piece.

    I'm glad the weather cleared up!

  15. Love the beach. Glad you had some good days and they weren't all rainy and cold. It's SNOWING right now, even though like, 2 days ago it was almost 70 and it's supposed to get up to 70 in an other two days.

    Nice piece Michael, very descriptive.

  16. very nice, and yep, the beach is so inspiring. Which is why I'm crushed to be leaving... :o\

  17. Hi Michael - you've got some lovely description here. I agree with Linda - loved the "With each new stream of sweat, " line. Awesome.

    It sounds like your trip is giving you what you need ~ :) Continue to enjoy!

  18. Great excerpt Michael. I hope the weather is improving and you're having a great time. Fancy poor MIchael Offutt never really seeing a beach, surely he jokes! I'd find life pretty pointless without the beach.

    The 'tour' seems to be going well. I'll get across to Jodi's soon. I see J C Martin is posting on Mar 23.

    I ended up winning the Race contest. Thanks for voting.


  19. Lovely writing, Michael and so evocative. A warm beach feels a long way from a bright but chilly SW England! Your descriptions are tender and intimate. I could read on and on...

  20. I like how you use the setting to create emotion.

  21. I really enjoyed this. I was momentarily inspired to go exercise before I got caught up in playing in the surf. Lovely.

  22. Very idyllic scene and great image painting with words. I think you should get paid for the product placement though.

    Tossing It Out