A Summer's ending...

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...it was late in August, maybe almost Labor Day weekend, as a matter of fact. That Summer had been a famously hot one with hundreds of thousands of sweltering New Yorkers from the Bronx to the Lower East Side pouring out of the infernal subways into the blinding light and faintly stirring breezes of Coney Island's shore. In keeping with the "New Woman" of the Roaring 20s who could now smoke, drink hootch from a hip flask, ask a man to go dancing, and vote, young nubile lasses were now being hired to serve as Lifeguards on the shore. It was no longer considered unladylike for a girl to have a suntan, a strong toned body, and the physical capability to drag a man half-again as heavy as herself through pounding surf to safety, his desperate family, and cheering throngs! To wear the special and provocatively lusty uniform of a Lady Lifeguard was considered both a badge of honor and a mark of shame depending on who was looking on... and that's why it was especially heartbreaking when, during a ladies-only smoking break, the entire party of the Secaucus Synchronized Senior Shallow-Splashers were swept out to sea... All in their 80s, the kindly old folks were picked up "as one" by a rogue wave, and delivered into the waiting maw of a riptide that swallowed them whole before the dumbfounded crowd staring onshore. A whole minute, (or was it more?) passed before the first choked scream rose from a stricken child clutching her rubber seahorse by the throat and pointing! Had she really seen her grandma and her grandma's funny-fishy friends disappear into the roiling green waves? Her young shriek was joined by one, then another, until finally the whole seashore howled with the grief, horror, and wrath of a thousand voices, all helpless, hopeless, and horrified that something so terrible could happen while the sun shone so cheerfully, and calliope music drifted from the midway. How? How could it be real??... and where were the lifeguards that had only an hour earlier been waving and smiling, watching over everyone, protective, almost proprietary about the souls entrusted to their care? Gone... all gone. Bathers and lifeguards... all gone. Giggling smokers snuggled under the old pier, and lost loved ones... gone. But, even as the waves carelessly continued to brush across the sand, the weeks and months, and years began to wash the sharpness of that terrible day smooth. Like a bright red shard of broken glass speared in the sand, deadly even to look on, becomes smooth as the same sand and sea wash and tumble it, season after season. Finally, it lies like the perfect pebbles around it. Rounded and inviting. Only its scarlet red remains. And no one remembers the glinting edge of pain... just the late Summer sun… and the calliope music… and the whispering of the water on the sand...

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