It was one of the nicest days for going to the beach. The sun was out, there was a cool breeze and the bike show downtown was keeping most of the tourists away. It was the perfect day for the Lancaster kids to be exploring the beach.
The Lancaster’s moved to the lake town earlier in the summer. It was a quiet little town far away from civilization. The family moved there because their dad had gotten a great new job opportunity. He was a real estate investor. He had been given a tip on a mountain resort he could pick up for a very good price. There was just one catch, it was really a broken down shack that used to be a restaurant, bait shop and general store all rolled into one. Sure, there were cabins but they too were in disrepair.
Brandon Lancaster had moved his wife and kids all the way across the country for this investment opportunity. It wasn’t entirely his fault. His brother Carl tipped him off. Now it wasn’t the first “business opportunity” Carl had gotten them into. But Brandon was determined to make it work. His family was going to get to live right by the lake and he was going into business with his brother. It was going to work.
The three Lancaster kids spent as much time at the beach as they could get away with. It was basically the only thing they had to make the new move tolerable.
There was Lester. He was the oldest. Lester had his 12th birthday on the road trip so he was already bitter. Next was his younger brother, Phillip. Phil was an 10-year-old glasses wearing walking Encyclopedia. He was the annoying kid in school with his interest in wild life, science, and books. Lester figured he was a dork.
Then there was Sally, the youngest. She was 7. Sally was the tomboy trying to get her older brothers attention while also being the rudest little twerp on the planet. Sally and Lester would often gang up on Phil. Although the two boys had more in common genetically speaking, Lester related more to his tomboy sister than his nerdy little brother. Despite the childish games the three kids went everywhere together.
Sally was the first to notice the cave. It was visible along the rocky side of the cliff past the safe zone. There were barriers preventing people from swimming out there. The cliff was too rocky to traverse so it was determined the cave was out of reach. That wasn’t going to stop these three for exploring.
“Okay so we’ve been coming to this beach every day for the last month. We all know school is going to start before too long. If we don’t plan an expedition to that cave before school starts we might as well not even bother.” Lester said.
He was sitting there in his trunks looking down on his baby brother. Phil was covered head to toe in every bit of safety gear his mom could scare him into donning. He was wearing a life vest, arm floats, goggles, and flippers.
“There is absolutely no chance we make it to that cave alive without serious assistance from the grown-ups.” Phil said in his matter of fact tone that drove Lester crazy.
“Man up wuss.” Sally retorted. She was wearing nothing but her little blue bathing suit. Her sandals had already been discarded, her feet exposed to the sand.
“Name calling is not conducive for a constructive conversation. We really need to find something else to do with our time.” Phil said.
This was about the time Lester had enough talking. He walked out into the water to get away from the kids. He began swimming towards the roped barrier. Lester knew the other two couldn’t swim all the way out to the ropes so he knew he would have some solitude. He loved swimming out to the ropes. He could walk along the rope by himself and think clearly.
He leisurely looked over towards the cave. Ever since his sister had brought it to attention he couldn’t get the cave out of his mind. He would day dream about the adventures they would have. His imagination ran wild with images of buried treasure, exotic animals, and best of all, the total solitude.
Later that afternoon Lester swam back to shore. His mind was stuck on that mysterious cave. He noticed his brother was building a sandcastle on the beach. Sally was nowhere to be found. He began looking around. He figured she had to be around there somewhere.
Just then a dog splashed by Lester. He looked at the raggedy little beast. It was the ugliest dog he had ever seen. It was a shaggy dog with long hair, floppy ears and lopsided cheeks.
He heard a voice.
“Buttons, get back here!” a man called to the dog.
Lester looked at the man. He wore a long trench coat. Had a wool cap on his head, a long scruffy beard and a cigar hanging from his lips. He had some sort of bottle in a brown paper bag. He smelled worse than the dumpster behind the old Chinese restaurant they used to eat at back home.
“Buttons, I said get back here.” the man yelled again. Buttons swam right passed Lester, stopped to lick his face and ran to the beach to his master. Lester was mesmerized by the bum and his dog. He watched the guy fall to the sand with his dog by his side. The animal laid his head on the bums arms as he clearly passed out.
Lester walked over to his younger brother. He kicked sand in Phil’s face.
“Hey cut it out you Neanderthal!” Phil shrieked.
“Grow up you dork.” Lester replied.
“Where is Sally?” Lester asked.
“She was talking to the coconut man over there.” Phillip pointed towards the road.
“What coconut man?” Lester asked. He was starting to get worried about his sister.
“The coconut man, he comes by every day and tries to sell coconuts. You’re so naive you never observe anything of significance.” Phillip retorted.
“Shut up geek. Talk normal for once. We have to find our sister. You were supposed to be watching her you dork. If we lose her mom and dad will kill us both.” Lester snapped.
Phil finally looked up from his sandcastle. He looked around with actual fear for his sister.
“She was right there just a minute ago. She was talking to the coconut guy. He was showing her his coconut cart.” Phil said.
The two boys walked over towards the direction Phil had last seen Sally and the mysterious coconut man. Lying in the sand right by her sandals was a single, tiny coconut shell. It looked as if it had been opened up and all the goodies inside had been devoured.
Suddenly Lester went into a panic mode. He and his brother began frantically searching the beach for their missing sibling. The two followed the path to the road in the direction Phil recalled seeing the man and is cart materialize each day. Lester was freaking out so he ran back to grab his sister sandals before he could head home to his parents. Suddenly he looked a little deeper in the coconut. There was a tiny piece of paper inside he missed before. He unfolded the piece of paper and saw is sisters hand writing in coconut grease.
“I went to the special cave with the coconut man. I’ll be back soon. Love Sally.” the note was the last sign the boys ever found of their lost sister.
Every summer Lester would return to that beach scouring the landscape looking for clues of his missing sister. He even got the courage to take a canoe out to the cave in hopes he would find some clue. The police never found any evidence of the so-called coconut man. Phil grew up to become a marine biologist. He never showed any emotions regarding his sister’s disappearance. Not Lester. He became so obsessed he grew up to be a detective for the local police department.
One night Lester was sitting at the bar of his father’s whole purpose for dragging them out. He transformed it into an island paradise facade. Complete with coconut cups. Despite the taboo in Lester’s mind, his father insisted on a Hawaiian theme.
He sat there drinking a tall glass of the house beer. Suddenly he felt a tug on his shoulder. He looked over and there stood a young woman a few years younger than he.
“Hi brother.” she said and threw her arms around Lester, tears flowing down her face.