The BeachcomberS he dug her hand deep into the cool damp sand and closed her eyes. Squishing the moist grains with her fingers in the fury of the day reminded her of afternoons just laying in bed wrapped up in clean, white sheets, waiting for an answer. They gave her one of course, or else she would have never left that room, but she knew that something was left unsaid. Something was just terribly, terribly wrong, and although she couldn't seem to put her finger on it back then, she knew. The silence was okay, she could " ve lived with that. But it was the coldness that scared her; the coldness suspended in the air between them: her mommy washing dishes in the kitchen, head bent, hair swooped to the side, hiding her left cheek, and her daddy, sitting on the sofa reading the Sunday paper in silent indifference.

She was caught in the middle, with her toys scattered around her, shivering at the coldness of it all. She knew. They told her it would be fun having two houses. Imagine, two of everything! Two beds, two television sets, two dollhouses...

Her mommy's hands were trembling." But I don't want two of everything. I just want both of you." They were quiet for a moment. Her mommy stared blankly at the wall, following a crooked line of marching ants. Her eyes were swollen and red. Below the corner of her left eye were (what seemed to the little girl) smudges of pink and purple pastel crayons. Her daddy held her shoulders gently and whispered in her ear, "I love you so much princess." And as her daddy hugged her tight, she wondered why princesses had to live such terrible lives.

Pretty soon she was living in two houses with two of everything, just like they said. She lived with her daddy and Tita Carmen in Ala bang, and with her mommy in their old house in Manila. Her daddy said that Tita Carmen was very much like her mommy in Manila in that she would take care of her and love her and play dolls with her all afternoon (if she wants to). Her mommy in Manila did not say anything.

She tightened her fist filled with sand, and forced herself to think of something else. Think happy. Think happy. Think strawberry ice cream with chocolate syrup.

Think new dresses for Mimi, her favorite doll. Think one bed. No, no. Think one room in one house.

She dropped the clump of sand beside her and grabbed another handful. She held it for awhile, playing around with it with her fingers, then dropped it again. She did this over and over, thinking happy thoughts with each clump." Hey you." She tilted her head up and opened her eyes. The sun blinded her for a moment until a little boy, about her age, came into view. He was very, very brown in color and had short messy hair. He was also smiling." Yeah?" A tear made its way down her cheek.

She brushed it off quickly, slightly embarrassed." That looks like a pretty deep hole."You think?"Yeah, but there's an awful lot of sand in this place. It gets tiring after awhile."What's that?" she pointed to the plastic bag the boy was holding. It looked heavy and had a lot of small odd-shaped things in it." My treasure."I can't see it, can I?"Well... you can.

But I'm not finished yet. Will you still be here around an hour from now?"Yes." The boy cocked his head to the side and raised his eyebrows, surprise written all over his face." Isn't your mommy going to come looking for you?"I'm not leaving," she said blankly. The boy smiled once more." Well, let's see. I'll be finished by then and maybe then you can look at my treasure. What's that hole for anyway?" She looked at the hole, wondering how far she had already gone, and reached in to grab another handful of sand." Trying to reach the end," she said, looking at him earnestly.

"Well?"Well, I hope you do reach the end."You don't think it's silly?"No, not at all." She wiped her forehead with her clean hand and smiled at the boy." Thanks."Well, I have treasure to pick up, can't be bothered by reaching the end... I hope you do reach it though, I really do. I mean if I weren't picking up treasure I'd like to reach the end too." He looked at the little girl then at hole she was digging. He thought of the many people who " ve tried and failed and how he'd always see them by the beach trying, trying, trying.

He walked away with his heavy plastic bag and shook his head.