“How about ‘Bubba goes to the beach?’ ” I asked.
My granddaughter Mimsy and her two sleepover friends looked at me skeptically. Their faces showed they hoped for a bedtime story with more pizzazz, some magic maybe. I was taken aback, maybe even a little insulted.
I thought they would be excited to hear the next story about “Bubba,” the nickname for Mimsy’s mom when she was a chunky baby. Maybe the two “Bubba” stories already told had been enough.
Mimsy asked: “Isn’t the beach boring to a baby? Especially one that can’t even crawl yet? We don’t want to hear about her just scooching around.”
“Can she get swallowed by a whale?”
I shushed her, and told them to relax and settle in, to just listen.
Once upon a time, a baby was swallowed by a whale … but the whale had to burp. Bubba came flying right out and landed on the beach, where she just scooched around bored for hours and hours and …
“You’re teasing, Grandpa,” Mimsy shouted with pretend anger, giggling.
Once upon a time, I took Bubba to the beach on a foggy, windy day. I should have known better.
I should have listened to the weatherman. But it had been so sunny inland, where we had started our drive. Besides, Bubba’s big brother Luke really wanted to try out his new snorkel.
We found ourselves set up in a spot close enough for me to watch Luke but far enough away for Bubba to lounge on her blankie, playing with her soft squeaky rattle, watching the seagulls swoop out of the fog and dive, fighting for whatever scraps of french fries or chips they could find.
Bubba smiled at a big gull as he hovered nearby, scouting out her rattle. She gave a belly laugh when he swooped down to grab a black, sea-soaked stick, thinking it was food.
I positioned myself between the two kids, my head swiveling like I was watching a ping pong match: Luke in the low water, Bubba on the blankie. Luke floating on his belly. Bubba trying to reach the bag of taco chips.
I went over to grab one of those chips just as a swell of water hit Luke. He was a good swimmer then but I hustled toward him, just in case, tossing the bag of chips near Bubba’s feet. I didn’t see it spill tacos in a line all the way to her belly.
Luke surfaced, coughing, and I ran to him, worried.
Bubba, chips within reach now, turned to her left and grabbed a tiny handful. The big seagulls squawked to his buddies that he had food within sight. Five circled, but pulled back when a big wave hit the shore, pushing the sea close to all the blankets nearby.
A Cabbage Patch Doll, it’s round head bobbing like a balloon in air, washed out to the ocean. Bubba thought it was a …
Mimsy couldn’t stay quiet. “What the heck is a Cabbage Patch Doll? Vegetables?”
“It’s a kind of doll that was very popular back in the 1980s. People collected them. One time, so many people went at the same time to buy them, that a big … wait. Never mind. That’s a story for another day.”
Mimsy’s friend Sh’E’Qual asked loudly? “What happened to Bubba? Did she really have to fight a whale?
“Sh-sh-sh Sh’Equal.” Once I had learned how to actually say her name (she equal) I loved saying it. Her mom and dad wanted her to know she could do anything a boy could do. I started trying to think of a plot of a story with her as the star, so I could say her name a bunch of times.
“Grandpa! The story!” Mimsy said, seeing I was staring at the nightlight on the wall.
“Oh yeah, back to Bubba.”
Well, as you might expect, I was scared for Luke more than worried about Bubba, knowing we had placed our stuff further away from the water than the other blankets. Still, the waves kept coming, knocking Luke down before he could adjust his snorkel.
I helped him to his feet, and we both got slammed by the next wave, sending us sprawling.
The gulls circled Bubba now, at least 10 of them, with one grabbing a taco chip as big as a small fish and swooping away with it. Water chased away almost everyone who had been sitting near us.
Bubba saw that Cabbage Patch Doll roll back up to the sand, waterlogged and covered in seaweed.
She grabbed some taco chips in both fists, and pushed both them behind her back. She looked like she had run into some bad Missouri police officers who thought they had to handcuff a baby.
“Whaa-aat? I thought you said police were the good guys, Grandpa?” Mimsy said, accusingly.
“Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Forget that. Let’s replace that with ‘Bubba looked like she was playing that game where you try to guess what hand someone is holding the quarter in.’ ”
“Who cares about a quarter? How about a dollar?” Sh’E’Qual said.
“Never mind. Never mind. Don’t you wanna know what happens next?”
Mimsy’s third friend, her nickname was Nellie, put her hands up to the mouths of the other two girls. “Whoa,” Nellie said.
Waves rushing. Birds circling. Me helping Luke to try to get back to Bubba. The Cabbage Patch Doll sucked back out to sea. A fat lady running away and sliding backward over a sand dune into a sandcastle.
Luke got so worried he ran faster than me toward his baby sister.
We shouldn’t have worried. Bubba had a plan.
Those hungry sea gulls had tried so hard to get to those taco chips in her hands that they dug and dug at the blankie until they saw they had to clamp onto it with their strong beaks. Then, they flapped their giant wings as hard as they could.
Away went Bubba flying in the blanket, just far enough off the ground to miss the sand dunes and to be set down up the beach, gently, away from the water. She looked like Aladdin on his carpet.
Bubba just belly laughed at me and her brother, pulling those fists from behind her back and tossing the chips to her hungry friends, the birds.
Luke laid down to give her a hug. He asked if he could try to get the gulls to take him on a ride.
Still worried but amazed, I checked the baby for injuries. She smiled so big I knew she wasn’t hurt.
Luke ran back to the surf to rescue the Cabbage Patch Doll.
Bubba pointed to the fat lady. She had started to sing.
And that, as you know, means the story is over.
“Huh?” Mimsy asked.