When we approached the host of the restaurant at the Pierside Grill, we had to tip our heads back to see his face. His long, straight hair was pulled back tight and was the same color of the sand we could see off in the distance.
“Table for four, please.”
“We have a policy that your entire party has to be here before I can show you to your table.” I looked down at the podium. The policy was posted beneath the spot where our host was resting his elbows. He held tightly onto each of his hands as if he felt the same way about the policy as we did. There was quite a crowd and almost all the tables were full even though it was pretty early in the evening. I couldn’t imagine which table we would get by the time our party was complete. The parking lot was far away, and it was probably difficult to find a parking space.
“Oh,” we said together in monotone voices. The sun was still a little high in the sky and wouldn’t be setting for a while. A hostess stopped by and ushered a complete party to their table, a table that could have been ours. My stomach moaned in protest but was only heard by me.
“He’s just parking the car. He should be here soon,” said Gran.
The host fanned some of the menus back and forth in front of his face as if he was nervous, so we scooted over to the side to make room for other customers. Some of the sunbathers on the beach were packing up, getting ready to go. I briefly surveyed some of the tables to see if others were finishing their meals and wondered who might leave next.
When Gramps arrived, our host showed us to our table.
“I saved you this table by the wall,” said the ponytailed man as he tucked a loose strand of hair behind his ear and dealt menus to each of our spots at the table.
“This is great,” exclaimed Katie. We were surprised to get a spot where we could see the waves of the Gulf gently glide along the shore. Our waitress brought water, and we ordered coconut shrimp and iced tea. As we watched the wide open space before us, it seemed as if the beach was a stage, a show for us to watch. A man rode his bike to make a trail in the sand. His parrot held tight to the handle bars. We wondered if the bird was tied to the bars or if it held tightly of its own free will.
Now that the sun was setting lower, the day felt cooler, and dogs were getting their walk along the beach. A set of black labs that resembled our family dog waded out into the water while being led on leashes.
“Don’t drink the water,” I said to them even though they were too far away to hear. It was as if they heard my advice and held their heads high, careful not to dip their heads. They must have tasted the salt of the water sometime before. Seeing the labs made me wonder how our dog Lila would have liked the beach. When I thought about her earlier that day, I knew she wouldn’t have liked going on a walk with me because it was very warm that day, in the 80s. Lila loves cooler weather, and I doubted she would want to vacation in Florida because there are snow banks.
As we sipped tea and munched on coconut shrimp, we noticed how more and more people were lining up on the pier ready to watch the sun set. Our waitress checked with us several times, but we pretended we couldn’t make up our minds as we briefly looked at the menu. We didn’t want to get ushered out of the restaurant too quickly, and we noticed many tables were empty at that time. We had gone there to watch the sun slowly slither away on its daily journey.
People of all ages and sizes strolled along the water’s edge while I watched a lady perfecting her hand stand. Sometimes she tipped right, then left, but most of the times she was able to keep her balance upside down tightly clad in a bikini. I wondered how the rush of blood to her brain must have felt as I watched a cloud stretch out to make different shapes. At first that cloud looked like a spoon which somehow turned into the shape of a bird.
We ordered ribs and burgers, which were quickly delivered and deliciously devoured. As the clouds drifted away, the sky became a pale, soft blue as if it was dimming, ready to sleep and show its stars. Getting closer to the edge, the sun set golden on the horizon turning parts of the blue sky pink as it set.
Good night soft sky. See you tomorrow. It’s always a blessing to see you.
The sky is the daily bread of the eyes. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson