The paintbrush moved with effortless control. Smoky blue sky… yellow spring blossoms… leaves glossy mint green… sunshine gold rays. Sea colors, whitecaps, warm emerald currents… Strawberry… Silly horn! Connie’s brush stalled on a pink cloud line. Her thoughts of colors and the complexity of sun and shade stopped. She looked away from her canvas toward the highway and the Volkswagen bug. Beep! Beep! Beep!
“Yahoo! I’m in love.” The driver hollered and waved frantically. Beep! Beep! Beep! A second face popped through the open sunroof. “Hel-lo, beautiful.”
The radio blared an oldies tune. “Young Love, First Love, True Devotion.” Connie blushed at the catcalls. “Sexists bugs,” she yelled. Castaway, an orange ball of fur in her paint basket, hissed. Connie smiled. She was fourteen and realized her petite body in a Catalina swimsuit was a boy-magnet.
The Volkswagen bug was passed by two girls riding ten speed bicycles. More hollering and honking. Connie waved at the girls, campers from the state park. Crescent Bay was a small community. She knew everyone, visitor and permanent resident.
The bicycles accelerated, racing along the edge of El Camino Real. The purple bug leaped forward, the engine popped, the tailpipe sputtered smoke, the speed decreased.
Connie splashed blood red blotches on her canvas. For a moment she wondered why the boy in the back seat didn’t howl like a cat in heat. She added a touch of violet to the red, carefully blending the colors together. The sunset on her canvas matched the sun bleeding colors on the horizon.
A tree rose at the edge of her canvas; a limb stretched toward the setting sun. The island cut the horizon, sea and sky a complement of colors. The tree tottered at the edge of the cliff. Ragged roots clung to the cliff face, thick fibers like fingers.
Her brush tentatively flicked forward. “Pop! Pop! Pop!” The bug exploded like gunfire. Connie jerked and smeared red paint on a white cloud.
“Nooo...” Taking a deep breath, she sighed and carefully dabbed at the mistake with a cloth. “Same story every year, the city crowd invade the beach town. Boys acting like clowns.” Connie smiled at the kitten. “Someday you’ll understand, Castaway, when the tomcats start chasing after you.”
Castaway stretched and purred agreement.
“And, I’ll teach you to love art, like me. Do you like my vortex of colors? Intrusion of purple and orange space, harmonizing blue shadows. Geometric and random shape creating depth and motion. In a simple word. Sunset!”
The kitten mewed, pleased by the attention.
She studied the details of the painting. This was her most ambitious project, Crescent Bay pier. The pier jutted straight out to sea like a ruler measuring the tide. Waves swept the ragged rocks clustered on the south point of the bay creating a natural protective barrier for the boats at anchor. Sailboats, cabin cruisers and fishing boats swayed and bobbed on the rolling tide.
A rock platform at the end of the jetty with a warning light marked the north entrance to Crescent Bay. The tide was in, only the top of the jetty was above water. Waves splashed over the rocky path to the stone platform ascending from the ocean like a pyramid with a flattop.
Connie remembered being trapped on the point one afternoon. High tide caused by a full moon flooded the jetty’s path with waist deep water. Fortunately, she was with friends. They held hands and managed to wade ashore, pausing when the waves swept the rocks. It was rare for the tide to be high enough to cover the rocks. The tide was never high enough to reach the light platform.
The kitten leaped from the basket and pranced on the black and white striped beach towel.
“Too hot, little friend?” Connie’s brow crinkled and she wiped the sweat away. The temperature was nearly ninety; a slight sea breeze cooled her face. Sunset will drop the heat ten degrees. And sunset was happening minute by minute.
A pair of pelicans circled the bay looking for dinner. The leader suddenly dove, plunging headlong into the sea. The head popped up; the beak clutched a fish. The bird tilted the beak up and swallowed. Connie added two birds to her canvas with swift brushstrokes. Flipping the brush around, she used the round point of the handle to engrave detail: eyes, a beak and wing tips.
“Tomorrow I will paint you into the canvas.” She waved the brush at Castaway. The kitten flicked a paw at the silvery threads.
Connie compared her painting to the event, the sun half submerged in a velvet sea. The breeze kicked sand around her toes. From her vantage point atop the cliff the bay before her was shaped like a taunt bow with the pier as the arrow bisecting the center of the bow. Not the longbow of Robin Hood legend, but rather the deep bow Cupid used to insure love between unsuspecting couples.
When the wind comes late in the day the people leave the beach. The girls fold aluminum chairs and bookmark romance novels. The boys jog home, darting glances at girls in bikinis. Children with buckets and balls follow moms to the parking lot. Sand castles surrender to the tide. Ambitious to catch all the detail on her small canvas, Connie labored to succeed, dabbing a flash of orange as the sun sinks below the sea. Twilight ended her work.
She folded her portable easel, the canvas still attached, shielded by plastic. The pier she was painting needed more rust color. The old pier, a sentinel guarding Crescent Bay, still standing despite the caustic elements of nature attempting to tear the pier from the shoreline and the efforts by some residents in the resort to replace the relic.
The wind and rain and rushing tide had left scars, but the pilings were reinforced a few years ago. Otherwise, the pier surely would have toppled in last winter’s El Nino storms.