From her beach chair, Clare squinted at her four young children playing in the shallow surf. They were not strong swimmers, and not the least bit cautious, so she watched them anxiously, quietly cursing the large, slow-moving men who occasionally blocked her view as they adjusted things—their beach shoes, their waistbands, their ridiculous noseplugs—before wading past the kids and subsiding into the water up to their thick necks.
The safety rules that Clare always laid out for the children when they arrived at the beach, and which they recited back mechanically while tugging away from her to get to the water, did nothing, she knew, to protect them. “Not past the belly button,” Clare would warn, but they found the loopholes—“My bellybutton is above the water when I jump,” or “You didn’t say whose bellybutton.” Her husband, on the rare occasions he skipped work to visit the beach with them, encouraged the kids’ insubordination by joking that they would become formidable lawyers someday. “Drowned lawyers don’t win many cases,” Clare would point out darkly as the children sprinted toward the water and Ron laughed.
She’d done the whole beach-preparation thing alone that morning—packing the snacks, the sunscreen, the… Read more »