We go to Ocean Beach every summer. We rent a house two blocks away from the beach, with a driveway made of smooth stones that my sister and I sift through, looking for veins of quartz. Every day, I wake up early, before everyone else, and creep out into the darkened living room. I open a drawer and pull out a book left by another child who stayed at this house. It is all about snakes — which ones are poisonous, which ones swim in the water, which ones spit venom and which ones squeeze the life out of their prey. I read this book a hundred times, because I know I will have to leave it behind at the end of the week.
Every day, we choose whether to go to the ocean or the bay. We usually choose the ocean, because it seems cleaner, refreshing. At low tide we can wade a hundred feet into the sea, moving from sandbar to sandbar. At high tide my parents call us in, but then my dad picks me up and carries me into the surf and holds me high overhead and we jump the waves, feeling them break around us but with our heads always above water. Now and then we are surprised to find ourselves drenched in salt water, but we accept this as collateral damage.
The bay is dirtier, murkier, with tiny wavelets rippling on the beach and lots of seaweed. Still, for variety’s sake, we swim there sometimes. I can feel the muddy sand beneath my toes.
After swimming, we go home and shower off the sand, put on fresh clothes and drive down the main road to Dairy Queen or to play miniature golf. We love mini golf — we are good at it. I always hit a hole in one, and I almost always win. One day I am striking out on a two-level hole. Every time I hit it up the hill, it rolls back toward my feet. “Hit it harder,” my dad says. “Really crack it.”
I raise the golf club high over my shoulder and bring it down. The ball sails up the ramp, into the hole, reappears on the bottom level and drops neatly into the cup. Hole in one. Ace. They are all impressed. I can tell.