Account for Every Grain

And now, a randomly generated scene …

Nouns:  salt, decision, cause, earth, number, minute, sea

Adjectives:  roasted, vigorous, boiling, colourful, obsequious

Verbs:  upgrade, bargain, foster

Adverb:  brutally


The teacher found the boy kneeling on a colourful towel with a handful of sand. What had begun as vigorous counting, every number uttered in anticipation of the next, had dwindled to a monotonous drone of ever-increasing figures as the day squirmed on. Now early evening, his skin was roasted black.

‘You could count minutes instead of sand,’ the teacher suggested, sitting carefully beside him. She didn’t wish to knock a single grain from his palm. Keen as she was to foster development in her student, to ease him from his consuming fixations towards true, deserved childhood, she knew that would upset him terribly. ‘That way you’d have time to play in between each number.’

‘I’m on the beach. I have to count sand.’

The reply was matter-of-fact, disquietingly so. What on earth was the cause of this malady? What had emblazoned numbers in the boy’s mind to the exclusion of all else, trapping him, even as the names and insults brutally hurled his way progressed to cruel shoves and blows?

‘Doesn’t that look like fun?’

The teacher indicated the other students. Most frolicked in the shallows. Those more confident in the sea had upgraded to swimming, and stroked happily. A small group up to their knees in water kicked a rubber ball between them with noisy splashes, white sprays of foam flying up beneath their feet.

‘If you go and play for five minutes, I’ll mind your sand for you,’ she tried to bargain, offering her hand.

The boy lifted his eyes to his classmates and the early stages of sunset, backdrop to their play. He studied them, eyelashes showering salt as he blinked. The crystals had embedded in the soft curls over the hours, carried by waves and the breeze. Momentarily he was absorbed, but having counted every child and gull that winged overhead, he soon returned to his sand, prodding granules across his palm with utmost care.

‘I’m counting.’

‘You could make the decision to stop,’ she told the poor boy.

He glanced up again, this time at her. A moment ago an obsequious slave, now he appeared uncertain.

‘No, I can’t.  I have to count.’

He waggled his hand, indicating the tens of thousands of grains. He wouldn’t feel settled until every one was safely accounted for.

‘I have to. Don’t I?’

‘You don’t,’ she replied, boiling with resolve to see him freed. ‘You can stop. You may feel like you can’t, and it may be hard. But if you want to, you can.’

The boy’s eyes. She had never seen them so alight. But then, his head dipped, her heart alongside.

‘Maybe later. I have to finish here, first.’


4 thoughts on “Account for Every Grain

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