Sea salt

Submitted into Contest #212 in response to: Set your story in a post office.... view prompt



I had most definitely not been out, and I hadn’t ordered anything.

Yet I found myself in the line at the post office with the “you were out” note in hand.

And when I finally had the package I decided to open it straight away.

I decided to open the package still in the post office, and its contents took my breath away. The magnifying glass’s bright orange handle and green rim were worn and faded, but it was the same one I had when I was a kid.

Why would anyone post this to me?

Why was it even still around?

My childhood memory of this object was more than twenty-five years ago.

One summer’s day Dad had taught me how to angle it to cause the sun’s rays to burn holes through leaves. I remember my wonder as the circle of light began to smoke as it curled and burned.

The memory sat uncomfortable in my mind, I didn’t want it there. Since his death I had done well at pushing thoughts, feelings and memories away.

I inquired at the post office about who had sent it, but they had no information for me.

Walking home, thinking it must be my mother or sister reaching out to me after having only got my voice mail a hundred times already.

“Keep in touch” they’d told me after the funeral, as I got on the four-hour train back to my flat on the other side of the country.

They’d wanted me to stay longer but I couldn’t stay.

Words spoken to me at the funeral.

Pain on peoples’ faces.

Words spoken as if he was really gone…

Nothing made sense.

Despite me hiding it in a closed draw, the magnifying glass bothered me. That evening and the next day I found it difficult to immerse myself in video games.

Usually, when I put my gaming headset on and sat at the computer I forgot everything. I was safe, but feelings were trying to creep in. Complex ones that I didn’t know what to do with.

I did manage to get back to my comfortable routine of self isolation after a few days though. Then I got another “You were out” note letting me know that I had missed a delivery…

I was definitely not out, I never left the flat.

This was very strange.

I managed to ignore the text and email reminders that the package was there for two days, but then my curiosity got the better of me and I left the flat and once again found myself in the post office queue.

The package was a large one.

Larger than my torso, it was awkward to carry and was too big to fit on the tall tables so I laid it on the ground where there were less people.

I would put it in the bin on the way home, I did not want another repeat of the magnifying glass incident.

Knelt down, I opened it…

Yellow plastic, which was wet…

The smell of sea salt and sun cream hit me, accompanied with a burst of nostalgia.

I fought off the memory of a family holiday by the beach…

This couldn’t be that. It was impossible.

But as I pulled the yellow plastic completely out of the box and unfolded it, it became clear that it was what I had feared.

 It was the inflatable dingy that featured in the memory of that beach holiday.

I could not resist the memory this time, as it engulfed me.

I remembered the thrill of being the captain of the boat, my dad behind me, laughing as the gentle waves moved us up and down. Then the panic as a large wave approached, his voice rising behind me. I clung on to the plastic handles as hard as I could but it was no use. The large wave pushed the boat over and I screamed.

What would happen?

I went under and the world disappeared, the sea salt stung my eyes as the strong water pulled my further under…

A hand on my arm.

I felt his strength pull me up. I breathed the air and looked around wildly. He was there, laughing. Water droplets in his beard, shining in the sun.

Everything was fine, and I was laughing too.

My eyes still stung with the sea salt as the memory faded and I became aware of my surroundings: the post office.

Not the sea…


Suddenly, a rage came over me. I threw the dingy down in disgust, got up and stormed out into the street.

I almost ran into a dog.

I was being invaded, it felt like. Emotions surged through me and the confusion started to lift. I tried to push back.

I couldn’t leave him in there, thrown on the ground.

Storming back inside the Post Office I snatched up the dingy and went back out into the street, intending to put it in the bin.

I would call my mother I decided. I would find out if it were here or my sister sending me these items, and tell them to stop.

I found a bench and pulled out my phone, dingy on my lap. Mum answered first time.

“Hi my love! I’ve been trying to get hold-”

“Mum you can stop sending me things now, I get it.”

I didn’t know how to feel.

Maybe I wanted another memory. Maybe that’s the real reason I called mum. I thought about reminiscing with her and my sister.

“I haven’t sent you anything love, are you alright? What’s happened?”

Not her.

I asked if it had been my sister, she was sure that it wasn’t.


What to say?

“There’s something come for you actually,” she said.

From nowhere, the hope flashed in my mind that Dad was there, at home.

Where he should be, waiting for one of my visits.

But I would never see him again.

“What is it?”

“A letter. But it doesn’t say who from…”

I knew.

Then my will broke.

Pain rose from somewhere deep within me.

I longed to cry, to talk, to love and loved. Above all, I wanted him back, and somehow the pain magnified.


“Yes dear?”

“If I come home for the letter…” I was crying and it was hard to talk. She knew I was crying but I didn’t mind anymore. “Could I stay with you for a while?”

I heard her crying and heavy breathing over the phone.

The more I heard her cry the more it hurt.

“Of course,” she managed. “Please please come home.”

August 25, 2023 15:55

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


VJ Hamilton
19:17 May 21, 2024

I found this to be poignant, how the narrator tries to close off from his grief and yet things keep coming that trigger his memories of the central person in his life. And what kinds of things? A glass that can burn/damage, a dinghy that can save/overturn. Great choice of symbolic items. Thanks for a great read.


Show 0 replies
Malika Rosalind
23:16 Nov 13, 2023

On first glance this may seem like a mystery story. Who is sending these childhood items? How are they doing so? But this isn’t about a mystery, it’s not about the sequence events. It’s about the retreat into oneself that many of us experience, and the struggle and internal conflict in the path towards reconnection. I was most touched by the conversation at the end, with the character’s mother. He is honest about his pain - crying, for what seems like the first time in too long. The mother’s response is also to cry but it feels more than...


Show 0 replies
S Fevre
09:44 Aug 31, 2023

Very moving story. You capture the hurt and the desire to resist it very convincingly. The dingy memory was lovely and reminded me of my own memories of an inflatable boat with my own father (who is passed). I like this line "My eyes still stung with the sea salt as the memory faded and I became aware of my surroundings" and could imagine a scene with seawater and sand mixing up with the post office.


William Vickers
14:56 Sep 01, 2023

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment (my first comment in this community) :D this is the only story where I had to stop writing and contine later several times due to crying. It felt good though. The story I submitted today is my first funny/ridiculous one to balance the emotions out xD. Please see your profile for my comment on your story and enjoy the rest of your day:)


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.