Contest Winners Pen Short Stories about Beach Life
Disappear into this piece of fiction that takes place in Rehoboth.
(page 2 of 2)
Alex quickly brought Jim up to date on everything, beginning with her receipt of the red envelope in the attorney’s office. He, too, expressed sympathy for the death of her grandfather, and seemed bemused by her current dilemma.
“Can’t help you with that one, but, um, have you tried the Sands?” Jim said, rather cryptically.
Alex’s mouth dropped open. “Can’t help me with this one? Wait, you mean there is one you might help me with? How many people are in on this?” She glared at Jim, then at Michael, and then stormed out the door.
By the time Michael caught up with her, she was inside the lobby of the Sands. She whirled on Michael, who had a big grin plastered on his face.
“Are you in on this, too? How long had he planned this? Did he know he was going to die?” Alex frowned, trying to sort it out in her mind. “And what are you grinning at?”
“I could tell Jim wanted to offer his assistance, but he can’t because he DOES know about it, and NO, I am not ‘in on this,’ as you put it.” Michael seemed extraordinarily pleased that Jim couldn’t join them on the hunt.
“Alex!” a familiar voice rang out in the lobby of the Sands. It was Mrs. Barrows, who managed the front desk. Alex turned toward her and saw a red envelope in her hand.
“Seriously? Is the whole town in on this?” Alex demanded, near tears.
“No darling, just a number of people who care about you. You’ll have more than a history lesson by the time you’re done. Be patient, dear.” She gave Alex a quick hug and went back into her office.
Without missing a beat, Michael said, “We did it! We are close to the site of the Bright House and here’s our next clue! Open it, Alex!”
For a moment, Alex wanted to stop and feel sorry for herself, but Michael’s unabashed enthusiasm was contagious and she tore into the envelope.
Again, there was a small piece of parchment, on which was written:
The world’s your oyster, name it right.
“Huh, I don’t have a clue…” But before Michael could finish, Alex was heading south on the boardwalk at a fast clip. When he caught up to her, she had a big smile on her face.
“I know this one! In the early 1890s, Rehoboth Beach applied for a charter. At that time, the name of the town was changed to Cape Henlopen City, but the new name never caught on. In the ’30s, it officially became the City of Rehoboth Beach.”
“So where are you going?”
“Henlopen City Oyster House! My Poppa loved it there, and one day while we were sitting at the bar, he told me about the name.”
Alex strode into the popular restaurant on Wilmington Avenue, where she spotted Amy, her Poppa’s favorite bartender.
As soon as Amy spied Alex, she smiled and dipped down behind the bar. When she popped back up, she was waving a red envelope in her hand.
Alex stopped short.
“How did you know?” she asked, sitting on a bar stool while taking the red envelope from Amy.
“It’s all over your face, you silly girl! He was so excited when he planned this. Originally, it was for your 30th birthday, but when he passed so surprisingly …” Amy paused as her eyes teared and she patted Alex’s hand. “I’m so sorry—we all miss him so much.” Alex felt her eyes well up, too.
“Anyway,” Amy continued, “Bob called us after the funeral and said that the plans had changed. Your grandfather had said to him if anything happened before he could pull off the history hunt, he wanted you to experience it anyway. So he and Bob made contingency plans, and here you are. I know you want the beach house, and I know he wanted you to have it. He just wanted to have some fun with you HIS way, first! Does that really surprise you? And what better way to have HIS fun, than HIS-story!” Amy laughed at her own pun, and said, “I’m sorry—had to go there.”
Suddenly, Alex felt someone beside her and looked up into Michael’s amazing blue eyes. He put his arm around her like that was the natural thing to do, and she leaned into him while she opened the envelope.
A tent is a HAZZARD in stormy weather.
Michael threw back his head and laughed heartily. “Your Poppa was having way too much fun when he set this up. C’mon, I know where to go.”
They headed over to one of the few remaining tent houses, on Christian Street in front of the Bellmoor Inn. It was known as the Anna Hazzard house. When they got there, Alex grabbed Michael’s hand and stopped him from trying the door.
“Michael, I’m sure we’ll find another red envelope, but would you mind taking a minute to tell me everything you know about this house and Anna Hazzard? I feel like my Poppa is with us, right here, right now, and I want to savor every single second of this moment.” And with that, she put her arms around Michael’s neck and gave him a very sweet kiss, to which he responded quite nicely.
“Well, um,” Michael cleared his throat, clearly enjoying the moment. “The Anna Hazzard Museum, as this tent house is now called, was originally located on Baltimore Avenue. In 1895, it was acquired by William White of Lewes, who gave it to his niece, Miss Anna Hazzard. As a teenager, she had worked in her uncle’s real estate business in Rehoboth Beach, and from there she went on to become the town’s first female real estate broker.”
Alex clapped her hands with delight.
“Your grandmother taught you well! Thank you for being part of my historical treasure hunt!”
Alex tried the door, but it was locked. Before she could say anything, Michael was already on the phone with his grandmother.
“She says it’s around the back, near the window.”
By now, Alex had warmed to the idea that her Poppa had many co-conspirators and thought that living in a small town was sometimes a very nice thing.
They easily found the envelope and the small piece of parchment inside. It read:
Silver Ice is Very Nice
They both knew this directed them to the Old Ice House, currently the home of the Rehoboth Beach Museum.
As they headed west toward the museum, they sauntered slowly, hand in hand, as though they had all the time in the world.
“Why did he say ‘silver’ ice, do you know?”
“If I didn’t, my grandmother would never let me hear the end of it! In the late 1800s, businesses and homeowners began using ice to cool drinks and keep food from spoiling. Ice was cut from Silver Lake during winter months—hence, silver ice—and stored in small wooden buildings insulated with sawdust. John Lingo constructed the first ice house in 1912 where the museum is now located. In 1925, that building was replaced by the two-story brick structure that serves as the museum today.”
As they reached the steps of the museum, Michael’s grandmother greeted them at the door. She smiled and gave them a tour of the museum’s current exhibit before handing them the next clue. She was more than a little pleased to see the warmth between her grandson and the granddaughter of the man she truly loved. But she decided she would save that story for another time, and sent them on their way.
When they were back outside, Alex said, “Let’s have lunch.”
“What? No way, we can’t stop now!” Michael was like a little kid, totally caught up in the moment.
“I don’t want this day to end … ever!” Alex said to him, her eyes sparkling. “Let’s just grab a burrito at Modern Mixture and we’ll eat while we ponder the next puzzle.”
They got their food to go and walked the half block to the ocean so they could sit on a bench on the boardwalk. It was an absolutely picture-perfect day, with the sun sparkling on the water, a nice breeze and seagulls laughing and trying to steal tourists’ french fries. Instead of opening the envelope they’d picked up at the museum, Alex begged Michael to tell her more about the history of their little town. He was happy to oblige.
At first, he talked about the Homestead, the oldest home in Rehoboth (built in 1743) that was now part of the grounds of the Rehoboth Art League. From there, he spoke about how Rehoboth was a popular destination almost from the start, but somewhat hard to get to. You could take a train to Lewes, but from there, you’d need a horse and buggy. In 1884, when the Junction and Breakwater Railroad finally did bring tracks all the way into Rehoboth, the city grew by leaps and bounds. He told her that the boardwalk, originally built in 1873, was once a raised platform, and that strolling on it used to be a social event. People wore their very best clothes, particularly on Saturday nights. And he marveled that the Village Improvement Association, which was formed by a group of women in 1909, still exists. Because of them, Rehoboth gained a public library in 1912. This got a big smile from Alex. She liked that Michael knew all this stuff and that it was important to him in much the same way it had been important to her Poppa.
She stood at last and handed him the red envelope.
“Your turn,” she said, “you open this one.” It read:
Belly up to the Pink Pony.
They both burst out laughing.
Alex said, “Let’s go back to the Boardwalk Plaza and talk to Jimmy—I think he can help us here.”
Jim laughed when he saw them.
“I have a feeling you know something about the Pink Pony, am I right?” Alex asked.
“The Pink Pony was a popular nightclub that opened in 1954 on this very spot. It was well-known for two of its bartenders and did very well until it closed in 1971.” Jim looked smug after his recitation and handed Alex another red envelope. When she went to take it, he held onto it for just a moment before finally releasing it to her.
“If you ever want to talk, you know where to find me,” he said, leaning across the counter toward her.
“Thanks, Jimbo!” Michael scooped her to his side and said, “We’ll keep that in mind” as he swept her out the door.
They stood with heads together on the sidewalk and opened the envelope. It read:
Go home and get your Dolle.
Without even a discussion, they both headed toward Dolle’s, probably one of Rehoboth’s most iconic landmarks. When they arrived, Alex didn’t recognize anyone behind the counter.
“Michael, do you know the owner? I’m afraid I don’t.” No sooner had the words left her mouth than an elderly gentleman who had been standing nearby, stepped forward.
“May I help you? Say, aren’t you Sam’s granddaughter? I was really sorry to hear about his passing.”
“Yes, and thank you for your condolences. Did he by any chance leave an envelope for you to give to me? A red envelope?” Alex was practically dancing with anticipation.
The elderly man’s face look puzzled and he slowly shook his head. “No, no, I’m sorry.”
In a flash, Alex’s face went from hope to surprise to disappointment. She thanked him anyway and walked away feeling rather foolish.
“Hey, kiddo,” Michael tucked his finger under her chin. “We’ll figure it out. Can I give you a little Dolle history while we ponder our next move?”
“Yes, yes, of course.” Alex tried to look happier than she actually felt.
“In the early 1900s, Rudolph Dolle was a carousel builder in New York. He and his wife visited Ocean City, Md., and liked it so much that they eventually moved there and opened an amusement business. Next door was a saltwater-taffy shop that wasn’t doing so well, so he took it over and made it successful. One of the young men who worked summers at the Ocean City shop was Thomas Pachides. When Pachides settled with his family in Rehoboth Beach in 1927, he convinced his former boss to partner with him and open a Dolle’s in Rehoboth Beach. The rest is history.”
“Interesting that he built carousels.” Alex paused in thought. “I feel a little like we’re going in circles too. Do you think we misinterpreted the last clue?”
“The clue did start with, ‘Go Home,’ and I sort of skipped right over that.” Michael looked thoughtful for a moment. “Let’s go to your house, since that really was the first instruction.”
They walked to the house, the wonderful, welcoming beach bungalow, and went inside. On the walls were dozens of black-and-white pictures of old Rehoboth. One of those pictures was an early shot of Dolle’s. Michael saw it first.
“Alex—look here—it’s a photograph of Dolle’s. By the looks of the cars, it was taken sometime in the ’40s.”
She lifted it off the wall and a folded set of papers fell to the floor. She straightened them out and when she saw what they were, she inhaled sharply. It was the deed to the house, already in her name.
“Oh Michael, it’s mine, really mine,” was all she could say, and in a minute he was at her side, wrapping her in his arms. The beach house was hers, now and forever.
Deb Griffin, Realtor by day, writer by night, has been producing “The Local Buzz,” an email newsletter, for the past six years. She has taken numerous classes through the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild and is working on her first novel. Her website is sand-sun-fun.com.
“The History Lesson” is one of 23 stories in “The Beach House,” a book that resulted from the 2013 Rehoboth Beach Reads Short Story Contest. The contest, run by Cat & Mouse Press and sponsored by Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, challenged area writers to create stories linked to Rehoboth that fit the theme “the beach house.”
The theme for this year’s contest (which just ended) is “the boardwalk.” The book containing the winning entries, “The Boardwalk,” will be available by the end of this year. Books can be purchased from Browseabout Books (133 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2665)—they will ship—or through amazon.com. To learn more, go tocatandmousepress.com.