Jones Beach State Park
by Caroline Bock

Pop always approached the ocean gingerly, patting down his freckled arms with handfuls of briny, blue-grey water, letting the cold seep in, his broad back muscled tough like a turtle’s shell. He always wore green bathing trunks striped with palm trees down to his hairy knees. He wasn’t by nature a cautious man. In fact, that day, the hottest of summer by far, he drove us, his four kids between the ages of three and eight to Jones Beach, and let us loose with only a warning to stay clear of stinging jellyfish, deadly undertows, and killer sharks. “If you’re afraid, stay on the sand,” he said, abandoning his ablutions, and diving under a seawall of a wave. We couldn’t figure out what he wanted us to do, follow him, or not? The tide streamed through our toes, threatening to pull us in. We waited for him to resurface, and waited, every father looking like our father, until we were about to give up, go build sandcastles or dig holes, go eat the cheese sandwiches and peaches packed away for our beach picnic in white Styrofoam and ice, when he reemerged and called for us to join him. “The water is fine,” he said. We climbed on his back, and he carried us all out to sea.

IMAGE: Vintage postcard, Jones Beach State Park, Wantagh, New York.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Once or twice every summer, on a Sunday, my father, a single parent, packed up his station wagon and his four children, and drove about a hour or so, depending on traffic, to Jones Beach State Park in Long Island, New York. He was always the first one in the water.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Caroline Bock is the author of two critically acclaimed young adult novels: LIE (2011) and BEFORE MY EYES  (2014) from St. Martin’s Press. Her short stories and poetry have been published or are forthcoming with Akashic Press, Fiction Southeast, Gargoyle, 100 Word Story, F(r)iction, Ploughshares, Vestal Review, and Zero Dark-Thirty, Her poetry was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize and her short story, “Gargoyles and Stars,” was the 2016 winner of The Writer Magazine short story competition judged by Colum McCann. She lives in Maryland and is at work on a new novel.