The gentle waves rolled in and brought a jubilant ten-year-old with them. Joe’s smile was bigger than his face. He ran out to the next wave and jumped high just as it started to break. Joe loved the beach! He ran over to his parents and flopped on the blanket. September was the best time at the beach. Not as many people, more dolphins it seemed, more room to run on the beach. Three-day weekends were such a treat; Joe wanted them every weekend.
“Let’s go back to the hotel and let you get your homework done,” said his Mom. “We can come back for a walk after dinner and you will get another crack at body surfing before we leave tomorrow.”
The homework wasn’t so hot, but two more times on the beach was great. They gathered their blanket and cooler and the bag with towels and books and sand castle-making gear. “Can we make a sand castle after dinner?” Joe asked. They had just gotten the neatest tools, but the tide was still going out and the best sand castle making sand was still under water.
“Sure.” said his Dad. “Sand castles after dinner are the best. We can ask if the restaurant has any lobster, clam, or crab shells that we can have. They’re great additions to sand castles.” This idea was sounding better and better to Joe. “But first the homework. What have you got to do?”
“I have a paper on paper making, and two pages of math problems. It won’t take long, I have all of the quotes I need for the paper and the math is easy.” Joe loved math. He didn’t like writing as much, but he loved doing research. And paper making was pretty neat. They had made some in class from their old newspapers. Recycling paper was just cool. They all got to have a piece to make a card.
Back at the hotel Joe spread all of is notes out on the bed, arranged them what seemed like a reasonable order and then laid down in the middle of them and closed his eyes. “What are you doing?” asked his Mom. “That is a strange way to write a paper.”
“I always do this. I get all of the notes organized and then lie down and think about them. The noise of the waves is making me sleepy, though. I may have to hold off on the close my eyes part or I will fall asleep. And I want to finish quick so we can get to the sand castle making!” He sat up and pulled out the laptop and started working on the paper.
“Done!” he announced. “I even counted the words and have a few more than I need. That was a neat assignment. Now for the math problems. You guys better be getting ready to go. These won’t take long.”
Shortly they all headed out the door to go to their favorite seafood restaurant.
They all looked for things on the menu that might come in shells. “I’m going to get a sandwich. They come with those neat long toothpicks. They could be flag poles,” said Joe.
“I’ve been wanting lobster and they have whole ones here. I am going to spurge.” His Mom was grinning; she loved lobster!
“You know if I got the Mussels, I would have a whole bowl full of shells,” his Dad said.
“I think those things are gross. They look like dirty black shells with little bumpy tongues in them. Yuck!” Joe was not an adventuresome eater. “But they would be neat for the sand castle. We could use them for those things around the top of a tower and the could be coming out of the moat with monsters riding in them. I’ll just look away while you eat the gross things.”
The sand castle covered a huge part of the beach. It had a moat, four towers, a draw bridge with flagpoles with green and red cellophane squiggles on the ends. A huge monster claw was coming out of the moat, little black shells lined the top of the towers as well-trained soldiers. Mom found some seaweed to drape down one of the towers and Joe kept hunting little sand crabs to put on the seaweed so that they would climb up into the castle. This was by far the best sand castle they had ever built.
“Can we get a picture of this? I want to show the kids at school,” said Joe.
“And I want to show it to the other teachers at school,” said Dad.
“And I want to show it to the folks at the post office. They will think it is great,” said Mom.
They got back to the hotel and packed up everything so they would be ready to go right after their morning swim.
The drive home was always long to Joe. He kept thinking about all the fun and how long it would be before they could go back. This was their last trip until spring. He perked up a bit when he started wondering if they would have some snow this winter. “How long before it might snow?” he asked.
“Bored already, Joe. The trip is only an hour!” said Mom.
“Maybe a little.“ He wasn’t really bored. Thor would be waiting for them at the house. Thor was a great dog. He slept on Joe’s bed with him and was always excited when they got home. He missed playing with Thor, so he was looking forward to getting home.
After they got home Thor greeted them as if they had been gone for three years, not three days. Joe ran around with I’m for a couple of minutes and then they unloaded the car, put everything away, and started the laundry.
Joe hated the chores but liked his allowance, so he did his chores without complaining. That is how he got his laptop, his prized possession. His parents said if he saved up half, they would match his money for a computer. They had a lot of rules about what he could or couldn’t do on it. He tried hard to follow the rules because he did not want to lose it! But it sure was tempting. The kids at school talked about a lot of games and sites that he wasn’t allowed to use. Sometimes it was a pain to be different. But, he was already different because he liked his classes, too.
They finished lunch and Mom headed to work. “See you guys this evening. Have a good dinner.” She winked at Dad.
Dad leaned over to Joe and whispered, “Pizza!” Joe grinned.
After Mom left and the house was neat and clean and the second load of laundry was in, Joe and Dad headed out for pizza.
Still thinking about how great a meatball pizza was, Joe opened the front door and Thor was there with a piece of paper stuck to his nose. “Oh, no! My report! And I had drawn the pictures and everything! Thor, why did you have to eat my homework?”
“Do you still have it on your computer?” asked his Dad.
“I have the words but not the pictures.” Joe’s mind was racing about what to do. The paper was due in the morning and he couldn’t draw the pictures by then. Then he had an idea. “Dad, do we have an old screen and the newspaper from yesterday? And can you take a movie of me on your phone?”
“I think there is an old screen in the basement and the newspaper is in the recycle bin. What’s up?” said his Dad.
“I don’t have time to redo the paper with all the drawings, but you could video me making recycled paper! Do you think that would be OK?” Joe looked apprehensive.
“I think that is a great solution, Joe. Let’s get to work.”
Joe gathered all of the things he needed, wrote a short outline of what he wanted to do and say, and then told his Dad he was ready. His Dad started recording from his phone.
“This is my dog, Thor, Ms. Baston. He ate my homework – he really did. Here is the pile of papers that we found when we got home. I don’t have time to re draw all of the picture
s so, I asked my Dad to record this.” Joe proceeded to go through all of the steps of making recycled paper. His favorite part was putting the shredded newspaper into the blender. He even added the pile of paper shreds from his paper that Thor ate. Somehow that seemed to make this OK. He was giving Ms. Baston the paper he wrote and the pictures he drew.
“Did it all come out OK,” Joe asked his Dad.
“I believe it did. Let’s load this on to your laptop and so you can show it to your teacher tomorrow.” His Dad liked to play with computers and downloads and transfers. Joe knew a lot of it, but he still had things to learn.
“Thanks, Dad. Do you think this will be OK with Ms. Baston?” Joe asked.
“You’ll know tomorrow, but I think you’ve done the best that you could. That was pretty clever making that paper. Do you think it will be dry enough to take to school tomorrow? I will leave it under the ceiling fan tonight, that should speed up the drying.” Joe really liked that his Dad was so helpful.
“OK, Joe, time to head to bed,” his Dad said.
Thor heard “bed” and was already headed up the stairs to Joe’s room. Joe followed him. When Joe finally got in bed he looked at Thor and said, “You ate my homework and I shouldn’t let you sleep with me tonight.” Thor’s head hung with shame. “But,” Thor perked up, “I missed you while we were at the beach!” Thor jumped up on the bed and the two of them wrestled for the best spot on the bed. Joe almost lot the prized spot with the pillow, but he snatched it away at the last minute and the two of them calmed down for the night. Joe turned the lights off and settled in.
“I wonder how Ms. Baston is going to like the movie. Hmm, maybe I should become a movie director. Wow! That would be fun! I could make movies of sandcastles and all the stories in my head.” He scratched Thor’s ears. “And you could be in my movies, too.” He was getting sleepy, but this idea was sort of exciting. As he was nodding off he thought, “And maybe Francine could be in a movie, too.”
He sat up straight. Francine! Where did she come from and why was he thinking about her in a movie? She sat in front of him in Ms. Baston’s class. Maybe this movie idea was a bad one. He wouldn’t think about that any more.
He laid back down, and felt the warm comfort of Thor who was snoring by now. “Thor,” Joe said quietly, “I like you lots better than Francine.”